Lunch at Chez Panisse is always one of my happier experiences in life. It's comforting to know that chefs and restaurants don't have to show off all the time to stay relevant. Use great ingredients, work hard, keep tasting, smile and voila! (Easier said than done, I know.) When I visited the Bay Area recently to judge confections for the Good Food Awards I met some old friends and new friends at Chez. It was packed that mid-week afternoon with familiar looking regulars, Japanese tourists and people still seeking out simplicity and deliciousness in their meal. For Alice Waters, the connection between cook and farmer is a constant. Of course a certain amount of technique is valued, but bottom line: Ingredients make the meal. My lovely little green salad with goat cheese and the lamb tagine with poached eggs were truly sublime. And the classic apple galette called for nothing else, but a pot of tea perhaps.
I came of age eating at Chez Panisse in the 80's when walking by the restaurant and reading the posted menu was a daily occurrence. I would ponder what I'd order if I could afford a meal there one day and then continue on to my early morning German class at Cal. Little did I know that I would one day lunch with Alice, help her launch Edible Schoolyard in LA (twenty years back) and write cookbooks for some of her chef alums. As I sipped my tisane of lemon verbena and mint, I experienced a strange sense of a long history with place. A rare and profound feeling.
I'm inspired still by Chez Panisse and their allegiance to quality, organic ingredients and keeping the magic going. At T Project, I hope you don't expect whistles and bells (and artificial power ingredients) but instead can learn to appreciate a tea for its own sake. Tea, in its own right, is a quiet drink that lingers long and deep. Like Chez Panisse has with me, I hope that T Project will stay with you too. Bon Appetite & Happy Sipping.