What's old is new

Thomas Lifson
Hold on to your hats. Guess what the latest trendy beverage is at the hippest of temples of California cuisine?

Tap water.

Carol Ness of the San Francisco Chronicle
writes,
At a small but growing number of sustainably inclined Bay Area restaurants, bottled water has become as much of an outcast as farmed salmon and out-of-season tomatoes. Instead of bottled water, diners now are served free carafes of -- gasp! -- tap water. It's filtered and comes still or sparkling, fizzed up by a soda-fountain-style carbonating machine.
Presidents, prime ministers and potentates have dined at Berkeley's temple of gastronomy, Chez Panisse. It happens to be in my neighborhood, so I occasionally catch a glimpse of the likes of Bill Clinton or Prince Charles stopping by to sup on the food there, which, I have to admit, is uniformly excellent. Chez Panisse is both a restaurant and a movement: organic, local, fresh, and preferably small (as in baby vegetables). The key buzzword for the past few years has been sustainability.
"Our whole goal of sustainability means using as little energy as we have to. Shipping bottles of water from Italy doesn't make sense," says Mike Kossa-Rienzi, general manager of Chez Panisse. Management hopes to complete the switch from Santa Lucia acqua con gaz to house-made sparkling water this week at both the restaurant and upstairs cafe. Chez Panisse stopped offering bottled still water last summer.
What makes this trend all the more remarkable is that bottled water, like most beverages, is a very high margin item. So it is inevitable that the old free glass of water will sooner or later become a menu item, priced at a level that will replace the lost profits on bottled water. The Chron article does not indicate whether or not Chez Panisse charges for the carafes of filtered and (optionally) carbonated it is serving instead. However, given the trouble to which they are going, I bet it won't be free for long, even if it is now. The restaurant uses
a $400 carbonator the size of a big toaster, which Kossa-Rienzi found online. It's basically a tank of carbon dioxide and a water line connection. The carbon dioxide is injected into the water, creating fizzy bubbles.

Chez Panisse's was delivered last week, and installation involved little more than hooking into the reverse-osmosis charcoal filtering system already in use, and running a plastic line from the carbonator to a tap at the bar.

Selecting just the right decanter was almost more complicated. But Chez Panisse hoped to be in the sparkling water business in time for World Water Day -- tomorrow.
This is fine for places like Berkeley and San Francisco, which have high quality supplies of tap water. But in Los Angeles or my home town of Minneapolis, where the local water is awful, they are going to need more than a toaster-sized filter, I think.

I actually like the taste of certain brands of sparkling water, especial Pellegrino. But it has always seemed a bit silly to me to use bottled still water.
Hold on to your hats. Guess what the latest trendy beverage is at the hippest of temples of California cuisine?

Tap water.

Carol Ness of the San Francisco Chronicle
writes,
At a small but growing number of sustainably inclined Bay Area restaurants, bottled water has become as much of an outcast as farmed salmon and out-of-season tomatoes. Instead of bottled water, diners now are served free carafes of -- gasp! -- tap water. It's filtered and comes still or sparkling, fizzed up by a soda-fountain-style carbonating machine.
Presidents, prime ministers and potentates have dined at Berkeley's temple of gastronomy, Chez Panisse. It happens to be in my neighborhood, so I occasionally catch a glimpse of the likes of Bill Clinton or Prince Charles stopping by to sup on the food there, which, I have to admit, is uniformly excellent. Chez Panisse is both a restaurant and a movement: organic, local, fresh, and preferably small (as in baby vegetables). The key buzzword for the past few years has been sustainability.
"Our whole goal of sustainability means using as little energy as we have to. Shipping bottles of water from Italy doesn't make sense," says Mike Kossa-Rienzi, general manager of Chez Panisse. Management hopes to complete the switch from Santa Lucia acqua con gaz to house-made sparkling water this week at both the restaurant and upstairs cafe. Chez Panisse stopped offering bottled still water last summer.
What makes this trend all the more remarkable is that bottled water, like most beverages, is a very high margin item. So it is inevitable that the old free glass of water will sooner or later become a menu item, priced at a level that will replace the lost profits on bottled water. The Chron article does not indicate whether or not Chez Panisse charges for the carafes of filtered and (optionally) carbonated it is serving instead. However, given the trouble to which they are going, I bet it won't be free for long, even if it is now. The restaurant uses
a $400 carbonator the size of a big toaster, which Kossa-Rienzi found online. It's basically a tank of carbon dioxide and a water line connection. The carbon dioxide is injected into the water, creating fizzy bubbles.

Chez Panisse's was delivered last week, and installation involved little more than hooking into the reverse-osmosis charcoal filtering system already in use, and running a plastic line from the carbonator to a tap at the bar.

Selecting just the right decanter was almost more complicated. But Chez Panisse hoped to be in the sparkling water business in time for World Water Day -- tomorrow.
This is fine for places like Berkeley and San Francisco, which have high quality supplies of tap water. But in Los Angeles or my home town of Minneapolis, where the local water is awful, they are going to need more than a toaster-sized filter, I think.

I actually like the taste of certain brands of sparkling water, especial Pellegrino. But it has always seemed a bit silly to me to use bottled still water.