Menu from November 16-20, 1976, at Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California. Founded in 1971 by Alice Waters, Chez Panisse was the cornerstone of the Berkeley “gourmet ghetto” and the center of a movement that expanded across the country, inspiring a renewed commitment to sourcing and presenting food that was fresh, local, organic, seasonal, and delicious.
Reflecting Waters’ interest in French culinary traditions, the menu lists meals for each day in both French and English. It features dishes such as Moussaka with watercress, Snail cassolette, Sorrel consommé, and Salmis of squab—offerings that would have seemed unusual and perhaps exotic to many Americans, who were just beginning to explore new culinary experiences at the time.
The week’s menu is also a celebration of a new, local wine produced by winemaker Walter Schug for Joseph Phelps Vineyards, which had been established in Napa in 1973. The featured wine was the 1976 Gold Rush Zinfandel, produced from grapes grown in Amador County, an area east of Sacramento in the Sierra foothills.
Although Zinfandel had been grown in that area since the Gold Rush, the wine was made primarily for local consumption. Winemakers rediscovered the old Zinfandel vineyards in the Shenandoah Valley of Amador County in the 1960s, and, in 1968, Sutter Home vintners produced wine from the old vines for Sacramento wine and food expert Darrell Corti.
Corti’s embrace of the varietal helped propel Zinfandel wine into wider acceptance. The Zinfandel Dinner became an annual event at Chez Panisse, an acknowledgement of the new excellence of American wine that emerged in the 1970s. Darrell Corti donated this menu to the National Museum of American History in 2011. #FoodHistory #WineHistory #SmithsonianFood