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Chez Panisse


Who knew that it was harder to get a reservation at Chez Panisse than the French Laundry? I had no idea that it was still so popular. We attempted to reserve a table for my birthday about 3 weeks prior but they were fully booked. The reservationist said I had to call exactly at 9am one month in advance, to the calendar date so that’s what we did. To Mike’s disdain my usual 1 week birthday would now last 2.

Chez Panisse is a Berkeley institution where famed chef Alice Waters creates her fabulous farm to table feasts. In the 70’s Waters pioneered the concept of preparing meals using fresh seasonal ingredients that are produced sustainably and locally. The restaurant is located in an Arts and Crafts style house on Shattuck Avenue that is small and intimate. Each night they serve a new 3-4 course menu so you won’t know what you are being served until the week you have a reservation (you can check the website). If you are a picky eater and don’t like quail, duck or rabbit eating here may be a gamble for you. Mike and I are down to try anything so this was not an issue for us, but we ended up with a pretty safe menu.

Menu

Nov 19, 2011

An apéritif
Grapefruit champagne cocktail
Course 1
Bellwether Farms sheep’s milk ricotta with fall vegetables and coriander vinaigrette
Course 2
Roasted halibut with savoy cabbage and lobster butter
Course 3
Spit-roasted Piedmontese beef rib eye with Beaujolais sauce, potato cake, chanterelles, and Cannard Farm salad
Course 4
Black Mission fig tartlet with Chartreuse ice cream

Dishes were rustic and simply presented but service was a little stiff. I’m a meat and potatoes girl so course #3 was my favorite. They made beef melt in my mouth and a basic potato cake taste scrumptious. Mike and I both loved our meal. Chez Panisse lost its Michelin star in 2011 to many people’s dismay. If they are not deserving then I tend to question the guides’ ratings because it was more than a meal, it was an experience.

Note: if you are looking for a less formal (and less expensive) meal check out the upstairs cafe.

Rating:

Website: http://www.chezpanisse.com/

Chez Panisse on Urbanspoon

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Homeroom Mac + Cheese

Rolled up for brunch on a brisk Saturday afternoon. Didn’t take much time to figure out what we wanted because the menu is limited to MAC + CHEESE! This is probably the only restaurant in the area where you will find that. I went with the Breakfast mac (only served Sat and Sun, 11am – 3pm) which includes classic mac with bacon bits and an egg on top.
Mike had the Gilroy Mac – gouda, sharp pecorino and just the right amount of roasted garlic plus he added broccoli (I guess to make him feel healthy). As you can see I added toasted breadcrumbs to mine and Mike didn’t. We both agree that you want to add breadcrumbs no matter what! It gives the mac a little extra crunchy dimension. It may look like it’s not creamy but once you break through to the under layer it is ooey gooey. Both were delicious but super rich and filling. We could only eat half but we also wanted to save room for the peanut butter pie which was amazing.

Mike really wanted to try the homemade Root Beer but they said it was not ready yet. Say what? 3pm on a Saturday and you can’t get root beer. Somebody needs to get up earlier and start brewin’.

Note: No, they don’t have a sampler option where you can try a variety of macs. I have requested it but it looks like they want to get you to come back instead of trying it all in one visit. Boo!

Website: http://homeroom510.com/

Homeroom 510 Mac & Cheese on Urbanspoon

Sato Sushi


I’ve eaten at a lot of Japanese restaurants and I gotta say this is my favorite if I’m in the mood for Teriyaki and Tempura. This was my go-to birthday/special event dining spot while growing up and every time I get a chance to go back I do. The food, decor and sweet female owner remain the same. I feel at home whenever I return.

Usually I go to sushi joints for the rolls but here (for me) it’s all about the Teriyaki combination dinners. Sato does it right! Before the meal starts you are presented with a hot towel to clean your hands. LOVE that. Then comes the hot tea and salad with a wonderful ginger dressing. Next, Miso soup with green onions and tofu. Then, a bowl of white rice is placed next to a plate with Teriyaki. I chose steak which was cooked perfectly and has a sweet sauce. Finally the HOT (trust me you will probably burn your tongue) Tempura is brought which has 2 giant shrimp and a bevy of veggies. This is not your typical Tempura heavily breaded and cold from sitting under a heat lamp. This is super fresh and arrives at the the table the moment it’s removed from the oil. Wow, I’m kinda drooling just thinking about it. Anyways, you get the point. Sato ignores all the fancy gimmicky stuff and instead provides simple, consistent, delicious yet economical (prices have only increased a few dollars over the last 20 yrs) cuisine.

Oh…don’t let me discourage you from ordering the sushi…it’s good too. Mike ordered a combo platter.

Sato was one of the first Japanese restaurants to open in Pleasanton and I hope it remains forever.

Address:
3015 Hopyard Rd
Pleasanton, CA 94588
Website

Rating:

Sato Japanese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Scharffen Berger Chocolate Factory Tour

chocolatefactory

Mike and I headed off to Berkeley to take the Scharffen Berger Chocolate factory tour. Scharffen Berger is a boutique chocolatier specializing in dark chocolate. Don’t expect a wild Willy Wonka adventure but a low key highly informative romp through the chocolate making process from bean to bar. This isn’t something for the small kiddies as 90% is spent sitting listening to a verbal presentation while looking at old laminated pieces of paper (super low-tech but interesting). The last 10% is allocated for the tour of the facility. Unfortunately we went on a day in which no chocolate was being made so none of the equipment was in use but still cool to see.

mike

NO HAIR IN THE CHOCOLATE! Mike with his hairnets

Throughout the FREE, 1-hour tour we got to sample 5 different chocolates! My favorite was the milk chocolate something Scharffen Berger just began to produce due to public demand. Even though we didn’t see a river of chocolate or any umpa lumpas we still had a great time.

UPDATE:  Sad news…I just saw online that the live tours have been discontinued and it was announced that Hersey’s is closing the factory sometime this year. We must of been one of the last groups through. Scharffen Berger was bought by Hersey’s in 2005. They say they plan to move operations out of California to save money. You can still take the virtual tour.
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Zachary’s Chicago Pizza

chitownpie
Zachary’s has won over 100 best pizza awards. That’s what brought Mike and I in for lunch. There claim to fame is a Chicago style deep dish pizza. I love pizza. I could honestly eat it every day without issue. When we arrived at the cutely decorated small pizza joint on a Sunday afternoon it was pretty packed, but we were still seated immediately. We ordered the special and 35 minutes later our meal arrived (the wait was LONG but normal for a deep pizza). Now, I had eaten a real deep dish pizza in Chicago so I had some expectations. Here are my reactions…
chitownpizza1. The pizza wasn’t very deep. I mean I ate 2 slices and wasn’t full. That wouldn’t happen in Chi- town.
2. The sauce was really saucy. I recall it being more chunky and zesty in flavor. I know we ordered a pie with sausage,onions & peppers but all I could taste was tomato sauce.
My overall feeling was that the pizza was a interesting change to the normal thin crust variety but I wouldn’t go out of my way to have it again. If you’re in the area give it a try.

Website: http://www.zacharys.com/

Zachary's Chicago Pizza on Urbanspoon

The Cheese Steak Shop

I don’t usually blog about chain restaurants but I’m going to make an exception for the Cheese Steak Shop in Pleasanton. I have been going to this place since high school– so over 18 years! I have never been able to find a restaurant without “cheesesteak” in the name that can do it like they do. Establishments that don’t specialize in the sandwich just don’t make it right. This cheesesteak has so much flavor and so few ingredients it amazes me every time I eat one. Inside the soft roll is well-marbled steak, white American cheese, onions and sweet peppers from a jar. The shop claims to serve “Original Philadelphia Style Cheesesteak Sandwiches”. It’s so juicy and delicious, makes me want to move to Philly. All I know is if by the end of the day you still can’t smell that cheesesteak on your fingers you haven’t had the real deal!

Website:http://www.cheesesteakshop.com/

Gimanelli Deli

Whenever I’m in my old stompin’ grounds and I’m craving a turkey sandwich, I stop by Gimanelli’s. It’s a fantastic little Italian deli with a variety of sandwiches, homemade soups, pastas and salads. It is located in downtown Pleasanton and is a little hard to find but is worth the search. Cruise by if you’re in the area around lunchtime.

 Address: 915 Main St. Pleasanton, CA

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