Dinner Inspiration: Chez Panisse Menu

Saturday, August 7 $95

An apéritif
Heirloom tomato carpaccio
Chanterelle mushroom tortellini al pesto
Grilled Magruder Ranch pastured veal with green beans, spinach soufflé, lemon, and capers
Wild blackberry ice cream pasticcini with Suncrest peaches

Chez Panisse only serves one fixed menu every day. Fridays and Saturdays are their more elaborate nights, hence the hefty price tag.

Thankfully, this swank meal is actually a breeze to recreate. Though you may not specifically have Magruder Ranch veal or Suncreast peaches at your disposal you can still serve your guests a meal fit for Chez Panisse.

And it only takes 30 minutes to prepare.

Quick Cooking Tips

If you are short on time, gadgets, or skills, the following pre-made items can streamline your preparations:

  • blackberry ice cream
  • pesto (go with Barilla if available)
  • frozen choux pastries

Shopping Tips

Mushroom tortellini should be available in the refrigerator section of most grocery stores. If you have a fresh pasta store in your town, you may even be able to get a hold of chanterelle tortellini. There is also a great Italian brand that comes dried, though it is usually only available at Italian grocers.

Heirloom tomatoes, peaches, and green beans should all come from your local farmers’ market if possible. It’s the best way to emulate Chez Panisse’ fresh-from-the-garden flavor, and they are all in season now, so you really have no excuse.

If veal doesn’t float your boat or is too hard to find, chicken or halibut would be an appropriate substitute in the context of this meal.

Prep Cooking

You want to get the souffle and pastries (pasticcini) in the oven before guests arrive. I have provided recipes that cook at the same temperature, so you can make both at once.

Once those items are all set, you can grill the veal and let it roast and make the green beans and the pesto. Assemble the carpaccio and you are good to go.


Greet your guests with an apéritif, preferably on the patio, if you have one. Pastis, is the French standby, but Cinziano Bianco with some soda is also great in the summer. It has a dry, gin-like quality, but more fruit-filled.

Welcome your guests inside or to the table with a brilliantly colored plate of heirloom tomato carpaccio and their choice of wine. While the guests are pouring their wine and divvying up the tomatoes, sneak off to the kitchen periodically to boil the water for the tortellini, pop them in, and then plate the tortellini. You’ll want five or six per plate with a drizzle of pesto and a healthy dose of olive oil.

Once the carpaccio is polished off, bring out the mushroom tortellini al pesto. Sit for a bit to soak up your guests accolades about your cooking prowess and then nip into the kitchen to plate up the veal. Two stacked, criss-crossed chops per plate can frame a square of souffle and the green beans can artfully arc around the other side.

Allow your guests a little space between the pasta and the meat dish. Once you sense an appropriate lull in conversation, serve the grilled veal with green beans, spinach soufflé, lemon, and capers. Once you have had your fill of the veal, pop into the kitchen to prep dessert. Cut each pastry in half and fill with a scoop of ice cream and store in the freezer till needed.

Everyone will say that they are stuffed after three courses, so take your time bringing out dessert. Once guests are ready plate up the blackberry ice cream pasticcini with peaches but placing two pastries and two to three peach slices on each plate.