Chez Panisse, an adoption conference, and finally some good coffee

Chez Panisse, an adoption conference, and finally some good coffee

A couple weeks ago I traveled to Oakland, California for the Alliance for the Study of Adoption and Culture (ASAC) conference. This conference, like the Adoption Initiative conference, happens every two years. Luckily, this year both conferences were held together.

Two years ago I attended the Adoption Initiative at Montclair University, where I received the Pre-Doctoral Dissertation Award. It’s hard to believe that only two years ago I was just starting my dissertation and now I’m already thinking about turning it into a book length monograph. Time truly does fly (whether you’re having fun or not!).

Wendy Laybourn at Adoption Initiative Conference 2016 holding Pre-Dissertation Award

I was super excited to attend ASAC not only because of all the fabulous adoption scholars that I would be able to (re)connect with, but also because one of my good friends, Kati, also a sociologist, lives in the Bay Area. We hadn’t seen each other since earlier this spring when a conference brought her to DC. Since both Kati and I have a healthy appreciation for delicious eats, I knew the weekend would be filled with yumminess.

Kati ever so graciously picked me up from the Oakland airport and we made our way to Chez Panisse. If you are a food lover, you may be familiar with Chef Alice Waters, the first woman to win the James Beard award and the visionary behind Chez Panisse. Chez Panisse prides itself on putting the ingredients first. This means only the freshest produce and meats and that the menu reflects the seasons. While Chez Panisse can be pricy, its upstairs cafe offers all of the same locally sourced and finest ingredients at a more reasonable price, providing the perfect opportunity to enjoy the artistry of the kitchen without breaking the bank.

outside doorway to Chez Panisse
the doorway to deliciousness

nurEven though we were a bit late to our lunch reservation (Bay Area traffic can be a beast!), after a brief wait we were seated. As I perused the menu, a few tempting options immediately jumped out at me – gulf shrimp remoulade with Little Gems lettuce, cucumbers, and pickled beets (I do love beets! and pickled beets!!), pizetta with tomato sauce, spicy eggplant, and basil (three of my favorite things), fettuccine with wild mushroom ragu (how could you not want to order pasta with wild mushroom ragu!), autumn vegetable tagine with couscous, harissa (yum!), and chermoula – but I quickly settled on the menu du jour. Salad, fettuccine, and dessert for only $33. Unbeatable.

Chez Panisse daily menu

As we awaited our first course, our table was greeted with warm, freshly baked bread. Y’all. This bread was so good! As we were enjoying our bread, our salads arrived. I knew the garden lettuces would be crisp and flavorful but I was unprepared for how tasty the salad dressing was.

Salad from Chez Panisse

Next came the fettuccine with wild mushroom ragu, gremolata, and parmesan. The pasta was perfectly al dente (of course would you expect anything less from Chez Panisse?). The flavors were well balanced – richness form the ragu but a brightness from the gremolata. People often think of pasta as a heavy dish but this pasta was light and flavorful.

Fettucine with mushroom ragu from Chez Panisse

I really wanted to order a coffee to accompany the dessert course – Flavor King plum sherbet and cardamom ice cream with candied orange peel and a gingersnap – but Kati had already assured me that she would take me to get some coffee from one of her favorite coffee shops after lunch. To be honest, I did not expect the dessert to be as good as it was. So many flavors and textures but together they were a delicious end to an equally delicious meal.

After lunch, we went across the street to Philz Coffee. I remembered that there was a Philz in DC on the waterfront, and indeed they do have excellent pour overs. (Memphis has not quite mastered the pour over).

Then we popped over to one of Kati’s favorite bakeries, also right down the street – Cheese Board Bakery, where I made the difficult decision between a Ginger Cookie or Chocolate Chip. I finally decided on the Ginger Cookie (which turned out to be a very good hotel room snack).

Only a few hours since touching down in Oakland but already I was off to quite a tasty start.

Chez Panisse
1517 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94709
(510) 548-5525

Cheese Board Bakery
1504 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94709
(510) 549-3183

Philz Coffee
1600 Shattuck Avenue #100
Berkeley, CA 94709
(510) 705-1083