Berkeley, December 17, 2012—LUNCH IN TOWN — well, let's be honest: midday dinner, with an old friend, actually a colleague, a fellow I worked with in this town, nearly fifty years ago. We somehow met again a few years ago, and he e-mailed to say he'd be in town again this week — he lives in Portland — so since we're in town anyway, why not meet here for lunch. Dinner, I mean: midday dinner, or as Lindsey and I say to one another, Principle Meal of the Day.
What a menu! I began with a cardoon salad with half a hardboiled egg — a beautiful egg, I might add — and toast spread with cannellini-bean paste, liberally drizzled with new fresh olive oil. Cardoons: what a delicious vegetable. We have an enormous plant quite ready to harvest, and I don't harvest it, partly because it's so beautiful to look at, mostly because I'm too lazy to figure out what to do with it: maybe tomorrow — no, tomorrow's fast day — maybe Wednesday it'll be time to give it a try.
I went on to a very different course, yet one that followed very nicely: sliced roast beef with horseradish butter, served with very young turnips, greens still attached, and shoestring potatoes. Simple, and very very good.
Dessert: a few dates with a cappuccino. To me dates and milk make an oddly perfect combination, like beef and horseradish, or cardoon, egg, and olive oil; and if the milk's a part of a good cappuccino, so much the better. A very satisfying midday dinner, leaving nothing needed this evening but a bowl of soup and a grilled cheese sandwich…
Biancino, Valli Unite, Costa Vescovato: bright, soft, full. Grignolino d'Asti, Agostino Pavia & Figli: full-bodied for a Grignolino (a favorite grape of mine), not at all thin, ruby-colored, tasty.• Café Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510-548-5525