Saturday, October 22, 2016

Hominy and chorizo

IMG 2682
Eastside Road, October 21, 2016—

FIRST DINNER AT HOME in over a month, and no one was in a mood to make much of a thing about it. Cook sweated some onion in some olive oil, then added some crumbled-up chorizo to the skillet. While that was browning she opened a can of hominy. Some things don't suffer from having been canned.

She minced a good-sized handful of parsley leaves to sprinkle on top. I made our usual vinaigrette for the green salad. A banana and some dark chocolate served as dessert.

Cheap Pinot grigio

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:  2016 (soon to be brought up to date)       2015

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Two uitsmijters


En route, October 20, 2016—

WRITE IN the airplane, a comfortable Airbus 330; in eight hours or so we'll land at San Francisco where this post and the previous will take their flights into cyberspace. 

A day in the air rarely provides much material for this blog, but we managed to schedule this flight better than usual. We were able to breakfast at Schiphol Airport, where continuing last night's theme we ate echte Nederlands

My companion had a pannekoek nature, with butter and stroop, that sticky light molasses that mediates Lyle's Golden and blackstrap. The pancake seemed on the thin side to me, more like a crêpe, but I didn't hear any complaints. 

I'd planned on a pannekoek too, but was seduced by the promise of an uitsmijter, the Dutch openfaced sandwich involving bread (preferably brown), ham, cheese, and a couple of fried eggs. The eggs must be sunny side up, and the yolks runny. A leaf of lettuce doesn't hurt. 

It was airport food, but it was cooked to order, substantial, and satisfactory. 

Orange juice; cappuccino (Douwe en Egberts, could be better)

Dutch-Delicious, Schiphol Airport, Netherlands

FEW HOURS LATER we were in Keflavik Airport in Iceland, and it was time to think about lunch, for our cut-rate airline doesn't give us a meal. 

Iceland's expensive, but we splurged on open-faced sandwiches, shrimp and hard-boiled egg for the Contessa, gravlax and garnish for me, with honey-mustard sauce on the side. 

An Icelandic version of the uitsmijter, I reflected, as I tucked into it…

White wine, Sicily, 2014

Hunter style


Schiphol, October 19, 2016—

A FASCINATING TOUR of Europoort ended at sunset with a beer in a hunters' restaurant, so gezellig that we all decided to stay for dinner. 

It turned out to be a traditional Dutch meal, of the sort we haven't seen in a restaurant for years, since we were walking the Pieterpad. Meat, potatoes, vegetables, sla. 

From the limited menu I ordered entrecôte, rare. It came naked on a plate, garnished with a couple of thin half-slices of orange slices, a grape split in half, a wedge of tomato, a few parsley leaflets, and a sphere of red mousse-like substance I first feared to be beet but turned out to be made instead of sun-dried tomato. 


Soon the rest arrived, served family-style in bowls: rich brown gravy, French fried and rosti potatoes, carrots, greens, cole slaw. 

It was all quite tasty. There was more than we could eat, of course, and I for one skipped dessert. 

A glass of red wine

Restaurant Schietbaan, Krabbeweg 125, Rotterdam-Maasvlakte, Netherlands; +31 (0)6 53125343

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Return to Marius


Amsterdam, October 18, 2016—

AN EASY FLIGHT over the Alps brought us back to my favorite airport, Schiphol; a quick Dutch train took us to Zaandam for an afternoon with friends we hadn't seen for years; then Krijn drove us to Barentzstraat where we dined at our favorite Amsterdam restaurant with the chef's parents, with whom we'd just recently toured Liguria.

Marius: such a cozy dining room; such a pleasing, simple but inspired menu; such masterful technique in the kitchen. The only problem we had was entirely my fault: in the confusion of departure I forgot to bring along the menu.

The menu at Marius is a single sheet of paper announcing the antipasto (present when you're seated), three first courses (one of which, vitello tonnato, is always present), three second courses, or the Grande Bouillabaise (which, containing schaaldieren as the Dutch call crustacea, is off limits for me). 

(Schaaldieren: an interesting word. Dutch translates the English "shellfish" with its own word schaalvis, a cognate; schaaldieren then is literally "shellanimals" or perhaps "scaleanimals". I wish English would stop using the ambiguous word "shellfish," which too often applies to everything from periwinkles to lobsters.)

I started with a delicious serving of cod with artichokes, beets, and greens, in a fine olive-oil based salsa verde.

 From there, the échine and épaule du porc, varkenrug en -schouder I think: I'm not sure what pork spine would be in English. (The menu is entirely in Dutch, and in the chef's handwriting, making my visual memory even less reliable this morning.)


This came with a mix of corn kernels and small potato dice; apple may have been present; I was too busy talking and enjoying to take notes, and write this next morning. The pork was tender and succulent, and the bed of celery-root puree gave a fine textural contrast.


Dessert: hangop. Hangop is a kind of fresh cheese, an old Dutch farm wife product: you hang up a cloth bag filled with cream (or in this case cream and yoghurt blended, I think) over the sink for a day or so, and flavor the resulting product (the one in the bag, not the product that's dripped away) with raisins, little dice of candied fruit, perhaps citrus peel, and so forth. This is a delicious thing, very delicious. Of course Dutch dairy products are remarkable.

Roussette de Savoie, Altesse, vintage? (full-bodied yet light and fresh, delightful)

Pinot nero, Bottega Vinai (Trentino), 2014 (wonderful fruit, smooth and pleasant, almost rich)

 Marius, Barentszstraat 173, Amsterdam; ‭+31 20 422 78 80

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Another dinner at home


Rome, October 17, 2016—

A FRIEND'S HOME, that is; an apartment in the Prati, crowded with moving boxes full of a lifetime's collecting books and scores. The paintings are yet to be moved. A monumental job, begun only a week ago, but it hadn't hindered Jeanne from preparing a marvelous midday meal almost entirely from their country seat on the Tuscan coast.

We began with a type of pilaf: long-grain rice, perfectly cooked, with chopped vegetables: onion, tomato, pepper, and greens. Then a coniglio, beautifully flavored with white wine, rosemary, sage, and thyme — each flavor individually distinguishable, but all blending thanks to the wine and olive oil.

(A fine, green, fragrant oil from their own olives, supple and not at all catch-at-your-throat, that Tuscan quality I don't particularly favor.)

Contorni: what seemed to my companion to be broccolini, but Jeanne insisted was long-leaf green cabbage; perhaps both were involved, long-cooked in the slow Italian way. Insalata verde. 

Fruit: first, Fuyu persimmon — not my favorite fruit, but better than the slimy variety — with alarmingly blue sugar-sprinkles, what the Dutch call hagel. Moscato grapes from their vineyard.

Grillo (Sicily); Chianti (Brolio, Ricasoli, 2014, very nice)


Afterward a marvelous gelato down the street. As usual I had fior di latte and crema; both outstanding, the crema a deep yellow.

Gelateria Roma da 1947, Via Cola di Rienzo, 2, Roma, Italy

Monday, October 17, 2016

Roman staples


Rome, October 16, 2016— 

MIDDAY MEAL today out at the end of the tram 8 line in a trattoria new to us but much discussed. We ate on the terrace, seated by the hostess and her eight-year-old daughter apprentice, waited on by rushing servers in black and white, after scanning a menu much given to Roman stand-bys only slightly tweaked for the new century. (Well, it's no longer quite so new, is it.)

We started, the three of us, one of them a Zivny (Francesca, that is), with anchovies. This was simply a plate of salted anchovies, lots of them, drowned in very good olive oil. Fortunately there was enough bread to sponge up the oil after we'd had our way with the fish.

Another fish: the contessa and I could not turn down a filetto di baccala, perhaps the tenderest and purest expression of salt cod we've found yet, served very lightly breaded and fried, in a paper sleeve, with half a lemon. Pure pleasure.


I continued with tonnarelli alla gricia, because after all I had cacio e pepe yesterday. Tonnarelli are square-cut long pasta; I know them as maccheroni alla chitarra; alla gricia is simply cacio e pepe with the addition of bits (in this case quite generous) of guanciale. It was delicious; but the contessa's cacio e pepe was purer, more focussed, altogether the best I've tasted, though I'll always be faithful to da Lucia, over in Trastevere.

Cesanese da Piglio, Casale della Ioria, 2014

Trattoria Da Cesare al Casaletto, Via del Casaletto, 45, Rome; +39 06 536015

AFTER A MARVELOUS concert of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater and Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante, conducted by a friend, we gathered at a late-night eatery (they're all late-night) for a pizza.


I had Margarita, of course, pizza at its purest: tomato sauce, cheese, olive oil. No distracting basilico here! The pizza was first-rate; so was the conversation.

Red wine in carafe

Trattoria Arancio d'Oro, Via di Monte d'Oro 17, Rome; +39 06 86981209

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Contemporary Rome


Rome, October 15, 2016—

ANOTHER RETURN to a place we've liked before, a modern version of a Roman trattoria, with a fairly short menu of mostly characteristic Roman specialties, many of them tweaked a bit to bring them toward the kinds of tastes informed by cuisine magazines.

Thus my first course:  Battuto di Scottona Marchigiana, Pinolo Parmigiana e Lampone Ghiacciato. This is my old friend steak tartare: Scottona is a breed of beef cattle raised in the Marche. The meat was coarsely knife-chopped; it tastes different from the Piedmontese beef — not so sweet, for one thing — and has a less silky texture (but is still far from rough between the teeth).

It came with a garland of arugula and a trace of mustard sauce, and the cylinder of beef rested on a bed of what seemed like heavily toasted chopped nuts with perhaps a slight bit of coarsest ground coffee mixed in. Most surprising, though, was the spread of what I took to be frozen watermelon granita on top of the dish. Lampone, the menu said, raspberries; but it tasted like watermelon to me.


Next, spaghetti cace e pepe, a Roman classic, the pasta flavored only with butter, grafted pecorino (or Romano), and black pepper. The latter was too finely ground and too sparsely used, to my taste, but the whole was a fine version, and I'd order it again.

Dessert: I skipped through the list, which included something involving veal brains of all things, and lit on the semifreddo, a very hard-frozen custard robed in dark chocolate and garnished with whipped cream, smooth ricotta, and a sprinkling of ground pistachio. Interesting, professional, rewarding.


Pecorino (the white wine, not the cheese) in carafe

L'Osteria di Monteverde, via Pietro Cartoni, 163/165, Rome; 06.53273887