May 9, 7:00 P.M.
When the nationally
acclaimed Babette in Sonoma, California, closed its doors in 1999
(the owners, husband-and-wife team Daniel Patterson and Elisabeth
Ramsey, had lost their lease), foodies across America mourned. Happily,
the couple re-surfaced the following year in nearby San Francisco,
where they opened a restaurant that's got the whole country talking
again. "The exquisite harmony between the stylish dining room
run by Ramsey and the pristine contemporary fare prepared by Patterson,
makes their restaurant my favorite among the city's extraordinary
crop of newcomers,"USA Today wrote last year in a characteristic
spoke as if with one voice, and the acclaim was universal. The restaurant,
Paul Reidinger wrote in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, "combines,
like a Swiss watch, the elements of elegance, precision, and beauty."
Meanwhile, San Francisco Chronicle reviewer Michael Bauer
favorably compared Patterson's sweetbread ravioli to internationally
revered chef Paul Bocuse's truffle soup. The ravioli, Bauer wrote,
is "a dish every bit as memorable." Bauer awarded Elisabeth
Daniel three and one-half stars and gave the restaurant top honors
in a roundup of his favorite restaurants for 2000. And in his own
three-and-one-half-star review in the San Francisco Examiner,
Bill Citara noted that "each of [Patterson's] elegant, sophisticated
dishes has been pared to its essence, stripped of anything that
detracts from the purity of the ingredients and the chef's vision."
Last year, we
at the Beard Foundation added our own voice to the chorus, nominating
Elisabeth Daniel for Best New Restaurant. That it lost to multi-Michelin-starred
Alain Ducasse can hardly be considered a reproach. Patterson has
a French connection himself. Raised in Boston, he spent his boyhood
summers in France, sharing, as he wrote in his résumé,
"long, lovely meals with French families." He began working
in a neighborhood restaurant when he was 14, and later dropped out
of Duke University to pursue a cooking career. By 1997, Patterson
had earned a berth on Food & Wine's list of Best New
Chefs. Previously at Babette's and now at the eponymous Elisabeth
Daniel, he and his wife share a vision of quietly impeccable food
with atmosphere to match. A couple of years ago, Patterson was asked
by San Francisco Focus how he constructed a particular dish.
He quoted Michelangelo: 'I chipped away everything that wasn't David."