Thursday, May 25, 2017

Beans. & salami

Eastside Road, May 24, 2017—
ANOTHER SIMPLE MEAL, as Cook's been away, Gardener having taken her place for the day. Those are the Corona beans Cook prepared yesterday, just as good today. Green salad afterward, of course, and a fine tangerine.

     🍷Bianco, Grifone

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Another roundup: fish, pizza, cheese, beans…

Eastside Road, May 24, 2017—

SATURDAY WAS FARM MARKET day in Healdsburg. The market only opened last week — it's seasonal — and is somewhat changed this year; another change to adjust to in my declining years. There seem to be more stalls for artisans (ceramics, olive-oil producers, rose oil) and take-away prepared food than there used to be, and fewer stalls for local farmers. But of course it's early in the season and it's been odd weather: let's reserve judgement for a few more weeks.

In any case Middleton Farms was there with beautiful favas. Cook found spring onions somewhere, and we tried, for the first time, the rather large sea-food stall that's replaced Dave the Fish Guy this year, as Dave has apparently been unable to find enough fish to justify maintinaing his own stall.

I miss him, and mistrusted his successor, who seems to me to offer far too big a selection to guarantee freshness and authenticity. But that's a prejudice, not knowledge, and friends whose word I find reliable tell me this purveyor is to be trusted. So we bought some rock cod fillets, and tonight Cook breaded and fried two of them, basically meunière style, and served them with a version of vignerata, a braise of potatoes, onion, artichokes, and favas. Very very good.

     🍷Cheap Italian white, Grifone

ON SUNDAY WE DROVE up to Laytonville, a hundred miles north, there to visit with the son and his family. We stopped en route to continue the Margherita investigation, but a pizza carried sixty miles in its cardboard box, then eaten cold, is not a useful specimen for critico-analytica purposes.

It was delicious nonetheless. Better, under the circumstances, was a specialty of the house, made with mushrooms and piquant sausage. (I think this is Franco Dunn's sausage, as he has a connection with the establishment.) Memo: a trip to this fine place for lunch one day soon.

     🍷Chardonnay! we'd forgotten to bring a red…

After the pizzas, a fine cold potato salad. Thanks, Meadow!

In the evening, once home, bread and cheese. I do very much love these Dutch cheeses, bought there: a Remeker, I believe, that we bought in Amsterdam quite a few months ago, and a nagelkaas brought to us by friends. These aged boerkasen, "farmer's cheeses," with a nutty, caramel-like quality are dense and sometimes faintly marked with crystals, like their cousins the aged Parmesans. When you have walnut levain bread from Berkeley's Acme Breads, as we seem to this week, they can't be beat…

     🍷Cheap Italian white, Grifone

•Diavola Pizzeria & Salumeria, 21021 Geyserville Avenue, Geyserville; +1 (707) 814-0111‬

MONDAY NIGHT we ate in front of the television set again, watching the Cubs do battle toward their eventual rise to the playoffs. I hope that doesn't jinx them. We'd bought some Moroccan-style chicken sausages from Franco Dunn at the Farm Market, specially made for a couscous, and that's what Cook did with them: grilled them in a skillet on the stove and served them with couscous. The latter were a new type to us, though, Israeli, not Algerian, and not to our taste — I thought they resembled little pearls of tapioca, not pasta. They were white and faintly mucilaginous. Nice bitter broccolini overcame this deficiency, though, and the sausage was delicious, complex in flavors and textures and rather piquant.

     🍷Cheap Italian white, Grifone

CORONA BEANS last night! Not many things we like more. These giant beans need little soaking before cooking — overnight, then the next morning. Cook serves them flavored with olive oil and, tonight, marjoram. (I think I'll get her a sage and a summer savory to plant someplace in the informal herbarium.)

Continuing the icebox cleanout we polished off the last of the giardiniera before, along with a few boquerones on buttered bread, and a couple of small heads of fennel from Saturday's market. As customary these recent weeks, dessert was a tangerine and a couple of chocolates from See's. Life is good.

     🍷Bottle-ends: Cheap Italian white; Primitivo

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Saturday, May 20, 2017


Eastside Road, May 19, 2017—
THIS IS HOW I like them: a thin coating of mustard, a good-sized hamburger patty pan-fried medium rare, a couple of thin slices of onion, ditto dill pickle. No, no tomato: we're far from tomato season. No, no lettuce: there'll be a green salad to come. (Though a single small leaf of crisp lettuce is nothing to object to in a hamburger sandwich.)

     🍷Rouge, La Ferme Julien

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017


The grand finale: St. Honoré (photo: Emma Monrad)
Eastside Road, May 11, 2017—
NOTE THE DATE: I'm late getting to this. It was a very special day, our sixtieth wedding anniversary, and dinner was a party thrown by our three children, with the help of a couple of theirs. That, of course, makes it a difficult thing to write about, and that's why I've waited a week.

It's trying enough to write about dining with friends; it's more trying, as I've noted on a number of occasions, to write about dining in their homes. In fact I've made it a rule not to do it at all. But this was such a splendid feast it seems wrong to ignore it, even if it seems like boasting a bit…

There were a dozen of us at table, spanning four generations, with a guest list limited to close family with only one exception, the old friend whow was responsible for the whole thing because she had introduced me, her college buddy, to the Contessa, her college roommate. At the time she had misgivings when love at first sight did its dirty work, but in time she's come round.

Our daughters and daughter-in-law chose the menu, I think, ruling out any cooking as much as possible, and making the occasion an invitation to summer. We began al fresco with five dozen oysters from Hog Island, served on the half shell with mignonette and lemon wedges, absolutely delicious. And with them, cold cuts, and salads, and salmon, and marvelous anchovies which I ate on slivers of very thickly buttered bread, with a lemon wedge on top, peel and all — a novelty to some others at table, but one quickly adopted.


Later we moved inside for a more formal seating underneath banners and garlands, with corsage and boutonnière for the guests of honor. Here too the meal was cold, as suited a hot pre-summer day: hard-cooked eggs, green salads, potato salad, prosciutto and salumi, flatbread and cheeses…

and then that splendid St. Honoré cake, twenty inches across, made with love by our friends at Downtown Bakery and Creamery. What a day!

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Another pizza, another couple of days…

The Ashlanders (photo: Mac Marshall) Paul Arenstam and his Margherita
Eastside Road, May 18, 2017—
YOU WILL HAVE NOTICED, Constant Reader, that things haven't been normal around here lately, whatever "normal" is around here. I've been laid up; Cook's been busier than usual tending to me; we haven't been going out much. Nothing to worry about: just an acute lower back thing. Still.

So it's been a few days of catch-as-catch-can, when it comes to the dining department. And this has been aggravated by a continuing sense of what-the-hell, of what difference does it make, as Chebutykin repeatedly says, without even the justification of a fool heading his government. (Or maybe he did. My Russian history's a bit shaky.)

But then I notice that, whether I post here regularly or not, scores of people wind up looking at this page every day, driven by Hermes knows what kind of curiosity, so why not continue to post. Yesterday, then, it was cheese and potato salad, salad left over from Monday's fine picnic out at Lou Preston's winery with the rest of the Ashlanders, four couples including us who used to gather for a week in the summertime to see and argue about a number of plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Alas, only six of the original eight remain; but they know how to have a good time…

     Grenache blanc, 2014; Red, L. Preston, 2014
Preston Farm and Winery, 9282 West Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg;707-433-3372

It's an interesting salad, lacking eggs and mayonnaise, depending on the potatoes and the water in which they're cooked to supply the binding agent, flavored with parsley, mustard, and celery — an unusual approach to a picnic standard, and one I like a lot.

Wednesday required a trip to the East Bay, and we took advantage of the trip to stop at Summer Kitchen, extending my profound research into the classic Margherita pizza. I continue to think this the best version, in my experience, this side Naples. Alas I had to wolf it down in the car with no red wine to supplement it: them's the breaks.

Summer Kitchen Bakeshop, 2944 College Ave, Berkeley; (510) 981-0538

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Monday, May 15, 2017


Eastside Road, May 14, 2017—
MOSTLY NIBBLING TODAY, at leftovers from the Thursday party I still haven't told you about, and other things: carrot, apple, cheese, that rabbit terrine…

The terrine came from the marvelous butcher shop in Petaluma, now under new ownership but just as careful and enterprising as before, perfectly bearing out the Slow Food injunctions Good, Clean, Fair.

We'd chosen Petaluma as midway point to meet Oakland friends for lunch, I chose an arugula salad with Parmesan shavings, a favorite of mine, and a Margherita pizza, because, well, that's the pizza I tend to order. The pizzas here have a thick crust and I prefer thin but that's a small matter when the dough is good, as it is here.

The basil leaves seemed absurdly big to me, but picking up a quarter of this pizza and folding it in half across the leaf made it make a certain amount of sense. The flavor was definitely basil-heavy, but the tomato sauce was good, and the (locally made) buffalo-milk mozzarella delicious. No complaints.

     Barbera, Vietti, 2014: no; no complaints at all!
Rosso Pizzeria & Mozzarella Bar, 151 Petaluma Blvd South, Petaluma; +1 (707) 772-5177
Thistle Meats, 160 Petaluma Blvd North, Petaluma; 707-772-5442

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Saturday, May 13, 2017


Eastside Road, May 12, 2017—
COOK HAS HER WAY with risotto and there are no complaints from me. The chicken stock was from the bones and restess of the store-bought roast chicken of a week or so ago; the onions were bronzed in both oil and butter, the rice cooked with a couple of Franco's sausages, special ones he makes from time to time to be put into a risotto. She crumbles them up, the sausages I mean, and adds them as the onions cook, as I believe; then the rice, cooked and stirred until the grains grow transparent around the edges; then white wine and stock, I no longer try to influence the sequence, adding stock slowly, stirring, stirring, until done.

Green salad afterward, and fruit…      Rosé, La Ferme Julien

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017