Sunday, May 22, 2016

Dog at the park

Eastside Road, May 21, 2016—
WENT TO THE CITY today for a ball game today. (Our team lost, 5--3. But seeing a ball game turn out badly is better than seeing no ball game at all.)
"Dinner", then, was just an Italian "hot" sausage on a bun, mustard, pickle relish, sauerkraut, red bell pepper à la grecque. 
Beer: Lagunitas IPA on tap 
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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Roast chicken

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Eastside Road, May 20, 2016—
HERE YOU SEE the beginning of it: a half chicken, which I salted and wrapped loosely yesterday when I got it home from the market. (In fact I got two halves, though not of the same chicken for some reason: both were from the left side. This makes me a little nervous.)

I heated a little olive oil in the black iron skillet and browned the chicken on both sides over fairly high heat; then threw in a half dozen spring onions, split lengthwise, and a couple of potatoes chopped into dice, a few unpeeled cloves of garlic, and a couple of good-sized sprigs of rosemary.

Then the pan went into the oven for half an hour or so, until everything was done. I deglazed the pan with some cheap Pinot grigio (what else: oh: some cheap dry Vermouth; we're running low on both) and poured the result over the plated servings.

A little romanesco and a green salad; applesauce for dessert.

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Carignan, Preston of Dry Creek, 2013

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Salade lyonnaise

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Eastside Road, May 19, 2016—
ANOTHER OF THE Hundred Plates, which is to say, indispensable.

A new supermarket opened in our town today, with a very big section of organic produce, and what should I find there but a head of frisée. Naturally one of my favorite salads suggested itself.

I bought some local bacon, and cut a few slices into smallish squares and browned them fairly slowly in a bit of olive oil. With them, an unpeeled but slightly smashed clove of garlic.

That done, I removed the bacon and browned a good handful of cubes of bread in the bacon fat. I made a mustard vinaigrette, using red wine vinegar, adding a finely minced shallot to it, and tossed the frisée in it with the bacon and the croutons.

I poached two eggs to set on the individual plates of salad, and set stalks of steamed asparagus on the side. A very nice hot-day supper!

Carignane, Preston of Dry Creek, 2013: it's hard to find a good wine to go with this salad, let alone with asparagus; this was a perfect companion.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

One more catchup

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Eastside Road, May 18, 2016—

NOTHING LIKE HOUSE-GUESTS for a pleasant distraction from the routines of daily life: but now it's time to get back down to brass tacks. Here's as much of the last week as I can recall:

May 12: To Cornerstone Gardens, south of Glen Ellen, a fascinating place in whose cafe I lunched on the “Best Adult Grilled Cheese,” seen here. In fact it was quite tasty, and I liked the pickled carrots that came with it, along with cucumbers and tomatoes and a bit of thinned mayonnaise dressing.

That night, fettucine bolognese at a staid Italian white-tablecloth restaurant we like to share with friends. The pasta was house-made, I'm sure, and cooked to just the right degree, and the bolognese was thoughtful, meaty, aware of carrot and herbs. With the decent Caesar salad before, a Negroni; after dinner, a Nardini grappa.

•Ca'Bianca, 835 2nd Street, Santa Rosa; 707-542-5800

May 13: Friday the Thirteenth, and I don't remember.

May 14: Farm market in the morning; salmon for dinner… I have to say I was alarmed at the price of salmon: it's gone up thirty percent since last year. It's local, of course, and line-caught, and fresh and tasty and undoubtedly good for us; and what's our money for if not nourishment. But I wonder how often we'll be eating salmon this year…

Cook fixed it in her now usual way, a recipe from Nancy Hachisu's fine book Japanese Farm Food: just a dot of butter on the fish, and a scallion, and maybe a drop of sake or vodka; wrap it in foil; cook it under the broiler until barely done…

May 15: Picnic lunch at our favorite winery. I should reveal that Lou and Susan Preston are old friends: their organic and biodynamic operation is comfortable, friendly, authentic, and beautiful. The wines are favorites of ours: we had a bottle of this year's rosé, with a loaf of Lou's bread, some cheese, some olive oil, and crudités our friends brought.

•Preston Farm and Winery, 9282 West Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, California; 707-433-3372

IMG 7213In the evening, this magnificent soufflé at the neighbors down the hill: half a pound of cheese, half a dozen eggs, extra egg whites, masterfully cooked. With it, green beans and tomatoes. What a dish that is! It took me back seventy years: my mother used to put a can of tomatoes and a can of green beans in her Pyrex baking dish, tear up some Wonder bread (or was it Langendorf?) and strew it on top, and bake it until the bread burned. This was not like that: the beans were cooked al dente, the tomatoes had flavor, and the dish was gluten free.

May 16: After an early-morning drive to the airport we stopped off for breakfast in Larkspur at a place we're fond of. The cappuccino here is beautifully made, and the croissants — called "brioches" here, in the Italian style — soft, buttery, flavorful.

•Emporio Rulli, 484 Magnolia Avenue, Larkspur, California; 415-924-7478

Then, in the evening, at home, a rice pilaf and Franco's delicious sausage.

Yesterday was a fast day, our first in three weeks. Tonight we dined on a plate of Romanesco; then a delicious dish of lentils, potatoes, scallions.

I apologize for the lack of information about wines. They've ranged from Syrah and Viognier from Preston to cheap ordinaries from elsewhere. You can be sure we've not neglected them.

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Sausage and pilaf Slow-braised Romanesco Lentils, potatoes, scallions

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

My pork chops; browsing about; party time

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Eastside Road, May 11, 2016 —

FIRST, ON AN ENTIRELY personal note having little to do with cuisine, let me record my thanks to Cook the Contessa for fifty-nine years of wedded bliss. That's a lot of meals shared!

There have been many distractions these last few days, and I've been kept from the computer, the mail, the log. Facebook friends have some awareness of this, but you can't all be Facebook friends. Here's a quick recapitulation:

Last Thursday I cooked Pork Chops My Way for dinner — dinner for seven, I think it was. I've described the recipe before: fennel seeds, salt, and garlic in the mortar, the paste moistened with olive oil and spread on the chops, which are then cooked quickly in a hot black iron skillet. (Two skillets, in this case.) With them, Cook's long-cooled potatoes, cipollini, favas, and Romanesco: a brilliant combination.

Afterward, green salad; then, vanilla ice cream with preserved sour cherries. Wow.


FRIDAY WE TOURED Petaluma, the former "Egg Basket of the World," now like so many small towns living on a modest mixed economy among which tourism and leisure activity plays an important part.

Here we are partial to an ice cream parlor. The ice cream's not particularly special, tough it does run to interesting flavors — it's the ambiance we like, and the modest size of the smaller sundaes. I was content with a root beer float, with bourbon and butterbrickle ice cream instead of vanilla; it was delicious.

Afterward, to another local favorite, a butcher whose work and sourcing are beyond any reproach, where we laid in some duck rillettes and some salame. Those were set aside for later: back home, we were content with buttered barley pilaf for supper…
•Lala's Creamery, 134 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma, California; (707) 763-5252
•Thistle Meats, : 160 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma, California; (707) 772-5442


IMG 6929SATURDAY WAS GIVEN over to a fourteen-mile walk. (Increasing longer walks are one of the distractions keeping me from work: the reason for them will become evident this summer.) Meanwhile, Cook and our houseguests were at the opening of the Healdsburg Farm Market, an event I was sorry to miss.

No salmon yet, but Dave's stand provided some tasty local cod. Cook fried it lightly and served it with braised broccoli again, a dish I'm coming to enjoy very much. After the salad, strawberry shortcake.


SUNDAY, MOTHER'S DAY, was one of those marvelous days: all three of our children were here, and three grandchildren and a great-grandson, and others, a real family gathering. We cooked hamburgers and sausages on the grill; a daughter-in-law made a big rich complex delicious potato salad, there was green salad of course, and ice cream… a fine Sunday on the patio.
IMG 6959MONDAY WE LUNCHED in Healdsburg, our houseguests and we, and I had a very nice salad-tartine: bocadillos with chopped celery, shaved radishes and carrots, and lemon aioli, with a fine affogato for dessert. In the evening, nothing wanted beyond those duck rillettes on toast, with a little bit of cheese to follow.
Home Farm Rosé (Dry Creek Valley), 2015
•Healdsburg Shed, 25 North Street, Healdsburg, California; (707) 431-7433
YESTERDAY'S GRAZING was the least responsible of all, though quite delicious. We'd gone to San Francisco for a Bonnard exhibition and settled in afterward at a favorite spot of ours for lunch. I had a fine Reuben sandwich garnished with delicious pickled carrot, and then the four of us divided pastries: an Esterhazy; a Dobos torte; a Russian honey cake, a cherry strudel. Oof; but what a delightful way to prepare for a subsequent Fernet and soda!
Plavac, Pelješak Peninsula (Croatia), 2012
•20th Century Cafe, 198 Gough Street, San Francisco; (415) 621-2380


WHICH BRINGS MEto today, another meal out. Porchetta for me, leaning a bit toward Santa Fe with a subtle chile rub — a very substantial serving, garnished with braised green garlic and preceeded by sautéed greens. Couldn't manage any dessert…
Teroldego, Foradori, Dolomiti, 2013
•Peter Lowell's Restaurant, 7385 Healdsburg Avenue, Sebastopol, California; (707) 829-1077

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Saturday, May 7, 2016

Catching up…

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Eastside Road, May 4, 2016—
PRETTY, DON'T YOU THINK? It's a favorite springtime dinner here, salmon and asparagus. In truth the salmon could have been better: this was "previously frozen" Coho, said to have grown wild; but it didn't taste as fresh as I'd have liked, though the texture was perfectly acceptable. Cook fixed it en papillote, dotting it with butter, setting a green onion shoot on top, and wrapping it in foil before cooking it in the broiler. The asparagus was simply steamed in buttery water, with salt and pepper, in the usual way.

That was day before yesterday, May 2. The previous couple of days we also ate at home, and I'm afraid I can only recall one of those evenings, when we had Cook's delicious hominy-chorizo casseroles.


LAST NIGHT we ate in Berkeley, taking our Australian house-guest for a treat. It was a marvelous dinner:
olives and pickled watermelon radish
"Prosecco basilicato"

California halibut carpaccio with artichoke salad andd fried capers

Melon, Lieu Dit (Santa Maria Valley), 2015

Pasta al forno with porcini and morels and greenpeas

Secco Ca' del Merlo (Veneto), Giuseppe Quintarelli, 2014

Grilled duck breast and confit leg with favas, chard, turnips, and parsley sauce

Duluc de Branaire-Ducru, Saint-Julien, 2009
Frozen cassata with strawberry sorbetto
Moscato d'Asti, Scopiio

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By "basilicato" I simply mean the Prosecco was infused very lightly with basil leaves and a bit of Meyer lemon zest, makimg a very nice aperitif. The halibut carpaccio was a marvelous plate, strewn with nasturtum-petal chiffonade, the raw fish quite taming the earthy Melon.

The pasta was a sort of baked package, filled with mushrooms bound in a crème fraîche sauce, substantial and rather serious; and the duck was perfectly cooked and, again, very substantial, with fava purée, dark well-cooked erbette chard, and delicate glazed spring turnips, a classic dish. The wines, served as pairings, were exactly right.

•Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, California; 510-548-5525

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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Conchiglie, red sauce

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Eastside Road, April 29, 2016—

VERY UNUSUAL : not penne tonight, but conchiglie, shells. To my taste they're even better at holding the sauce, and this sauce is worth holding: Last summer's tomatoes, made into sauce and canned by my marvelous Cook; and of course the soffritto of onion and garlic; and bay leaves from the tree in our dooryard, and salt and black pepper, and that whiter-than-innocence heap of grated parmagiano. Yes: let's promote pasta with tomato sauce to the Hundred Plates.

Green salad; then a tangerine.

Salice Salentino, 2012

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