For years, I was convinced that Chez Panisse was an A-list restaurant merely coasting on its reputation as a groundbreaking, locally sourced innovator. All that changed last year when I stopped by for lunch, which was at once exquisitely crafted and charmingly simple, offering a creative spark that never veered into culinary silliness. Simply put, it was the best lunch of my life: honest, clean, and delicious.
As head chef at Chez Panisse, Mr. Tanis has my attention, and his 2008 work, A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes, is a must for any holiday gift list. Christopher Hirsheimer, perhaps the best food photographer in the business, has contributed top-notch, luminous compositions, and the quiet, thoughtful layouts partner nicely with the straightforward recipes, among them Goat Cheese with Honey, Sliced Tomatoes with Sea Salt, and Orange Salad with Dates. The problem, as any astute reader will immediately gather, is that Mr. Tanis is using world-class ingredients and the rest of us are shopping at Safeway. Well, we can dream, can't we? And the imaginary world of Chez Panisse is as close to the Garden of Eden as I will ever get.
Founder and Editor, America's Test Kitchen