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Apr 10, 2007 04:55 PM

Goat Feast at Chez Panisse

We enjoyed another spectacular Monday night dinner at Chez Panisse last night. Attracted by the description of Chevreau Printanier on the website, I called just a week in advance and got a table for 3 at 8:30. As soon as we entered the dining room, we spotted two (cleaned but very recognizable) goats rotating on spits above the open fire. There is a visceral, almost spiritual reaction that occurs when one sees a large animal being slow-roasted over dancing flames. We sat down with great anticipation.

We were served some salted radish slices to whet (tease?) our appetite, and invited into the kitchen to take a closer look at the goats. They had been roasting for 2 hours and our server said they would soon be coming down. Of course we took him up on the offer, and were barely able to pull ourselves away. We also spied bowls full of gorgeous purple asparagus and green artichokes and knew they too were destined for our plates and tummies.

After re-sitting we recevied our appetizer, a delightful crostini with mashed potatoes and line-caught cod, served with a salad of rocket, celery root, and thinly shaved asparagus. The flavors were all light and the vegetables, as one would expect, were deeply flavorful.

With appetizers out of the way, our excitement grew. After a seemingly long wait that could not have been much more than 10 minutes, our plates finally arrived. On one side were the nettle flan and the spring vegetables (peas, artichokes, chard). On the other side was a large pile of assorted goat meat in a pool of vibrant juices. Each of us recieved a nice assortment of different cuts, highlighted by a double rib with crispy crackling skin on one side and moist meat falling off the bones on the other side.

The lone woman among us initially thought she would not care for the goat ribs, perhaps put off by the unmistakable anatomical connection. After eating the rest of her meat, he asked the other two of us (whose plates were licked clean) if we would care for her remaining goat. We foolishly suggested that she at least try the rib meat, which she did, promptly deciding that she had no interest in sharing with us and within moments had devoured each morsel and was sucking on the bones.

When the waitress came to clear our plates, we hopefully inquired about the availability of seconds. Unlike the Cassoulet night 6 weeks ago, this request met with a knowing smile and a promise to "See what she could do." Several minutes later she came back with a communal plate for us to share, complete with a flan, some vegetables, and some new cuts of goat that had different textures to our first servings but were no less delicious. All the goat had a deep, rich flavor that was something like lamb but both lighter and more interesting at the same time. Most of the goat I have eaten in my life has been older goat, typically stewed or braised with strong spices (ie Caribbean or Malaysian dishes) but I came away a big fan of young spring goat. We drank a very reasonably priced Westrey Pinot Noir (Oregon) that was juicy and balanced and went very nicely with all the food.

Dessert - tangerine sherbet and blood orange granita, with some delicious tangerine segments - risked being a bit of an anti-climax, but managed to be appealling and refreshing in its own right, a nice mix of tartness, sweetness, and even a little bitterness.

We left as happy with a meal as can be - a completely unique and special feast at reasonable prices and with minimal fuss and formality. We vowed to return soon, and certainly hope to be back for the same meal next year!

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  1. Great report! My mouth is watering...I'm hoping my next meal at Chez Panisse will be a Mon. night dinner...

    2 Replies
    1. re: Carb Lover

      I jumped at this after reading the OP.

      One of my mates just checked. Next Monday is Veal, the one after that is spring lamb. The one after that is seafood stew.

      1. re: osho

        The menu changes daily. They post the Monday dinners at the beginning of each month--by which time the first couple may already be booked up.

    2. Your writing really put me there....thanks. As with you, my previous experience with goat has been with spicy preparations (Mexican, Caribbean and Nigerian). I will now seek it out, hopefully, to that level.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Dan Wodarcyk

        Really ... good for CP for upscaling goat ... the next restaurant trend?

        Thanks for the wonderfully-written delicious post and a heads up. I'll keep an eye out ...

        "There is a visceral, almost spiritual reaction that occurs when one sees a large animal being slow-roasted over dancing flames. "


        So if CP serves goat, can garrobo (igana) be far behind?

        1. re: rworange

          I had goat there several years ago, at a book dinner for Fergus Henderson. Best I've ever had.

          Is there a source for sustainable, organic iguana?

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            According to El Tazumal in Richmond/El Cerrito, the iguana they use is farmed and sustainable, I don't know about organic, though.

      2. This is where CP excells . . . thank you for a truly great post.

        1. Hmph. I could spit roast a whole goat myself. Sounds like more boring "home cooking" at Chez....

          I kid! What an amazing meal! I really need to try Chez on a Monday.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Morton the Mousse

            "I kid"

            Was that on purpose?

            Anyway Robert, in general iguana from Central America is farm-raised and sustainable according to the East Bay Express review I read on El Tazumal.

            1. re: rworange

              Next thing you know free-range or wild iguana will be all the rage. You know, better flavor, healthier, etc.