Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Eastside Road, January 16, 2018—
TODAY WILL BE a fast day: it's Tuesday, and long overdue. But what have we been eating these last three days?
Saturday, having noticed the preponderance of meat in the diet of the last few days, Cook decided to make a sort of braise or stew of vegetables. Brassicas constituted much of the melange, and while I'm fond of brassica leaves, those parts of the plants found underground are not to my personal taste.

I do like carrots, and celeriac, and radishes: otherwise root vegetables taste mostly like dirt to me. Except for potatoes, tubers are out of the question. ditto corms and rhizomes. Alliums, of course, are not roots at all, but bulbs, and essential to my diet — though Cook was, I thought, perhaps a bit too extravagant in the use of garlic in this particular dish.

I'm not complaining. Everything doesn't have to be to my personal taste.

Sunday: Ah, Cook served a marvelous pasta tonight — tagliarini, the one I've been buying online, dense and flavorful, tossed ith anchovies, parsley, thin-sliced lemon, and croutons. The flavors were fresh and pointed, the textures crisp, chewy, and interesting. Why do people eat roots and tubers, anyway, when they can have food like this? Of course it's true pasta must be manufactured and anchovies netted and trucked, but what else is civilization for?

     🍷Cheap Pinot grigio

Yesterday, Monday, though the weather has been warmer lately, Cook bethought herself of a good thick winter soup, like one we'd had in Portland a week or two ago — split pea soup, based on a corned-beef broth she'd found in the freezer, with little cubes of boiled ham, onion, carrot (ah there!), thyme, a bay leaf, garlic…

Gee, this was delicious. I drew a critical remark for gobbling, and it's true, I should curb my enthusiasm. But it was so good.

     🍷Aglianico

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Friday, January 12, 2018

Barley; Standard Fare

Eastside Road, January 12, 2018—
YESTERDAY WE DINED at home — the second consecutive evening we dined at home, just the two of us, for the first time in weeks. A pleasure.

And we dined simply: first a bowl of romanesco, cooked slow and long in the Italian style, with garlic; then a bowl of barley pilaf, buttery and enlivened with chopped scallions. This dish always reminds us of the beautiful, intelligent, good-humored Marion Cunningham, a brilliant cook and author and good friend; it was her recipe, and we have it often and remember her generosity and gratitude.

     🍷Aglianico, Epicuro, Beneventano (Calabria), 1915: cheap, tannic, black, a little dull but serviceable


TODAY WE WERE in Berkeley at lunchtime, so stopped by a favorite spot for a sandwich and a plate of hummus. The scents of the kitchen took me right back to Portland, where we spent the previous week or so — specifically, the Portland of meat: bacons, grilled steaks, but sharply scented side-dishes as well.

You can't do better than this place. The menu changes daily, I think, and includes soups and salads, sandwiches and stews, with delicious pickles on the side. Today I had a roast beef sandwich on focaccia bread: grass-fed beef, long braised and tender, in a herb sauce, with pickled beets, roasted nappa cabbage, aioli, and ruby streaks — I had to look this last item up: a kind of mustard green lending bite and body to the sandwich.

The hummus plate came with endive, radish, fennel, green olives, and the sweetest, most flavorful carrots I've had in a long time — from Capay, of course, where there must be some pretty special soil.

We love this place, not only for the food which is clean and nourishing as well as immensely tasty, but also for the marvelous sense of purpose, style, and sheer enjoyment expressed by the whole busy staff. You can look at the menu online, call ahead, and pick up your order to go, if you like; I'd rather sit in the sun outside, or better yet at the counter inside where I can feast my eyes on this kitchen. What a pleasure.

Standard Fare Kitchen & Pantry, 2701 8th Street, Berkeley; 📞510-356-2261

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Portland week


Giovanna's potatoes, onions, mushrooms
Eastside Road, January 11, 2018—

NOTES ON A LONG WEEK eating in Portland, Oregon — a particularly rewarding city for food and drink, and not only because my daughter, a fine cook, is our hostess there.

Monday, Jan. 1: breakfast at Country Cat: a "French 79" — gin and prosecco — and then bacon and eggs on pancakes. The bacon was really extraordinary, meaty, deep-flavored, the right thickness, lightly smoked. And the pancakes were light but structural enough to support the protein.

•The Country Cat Dinnerhouse and Bar, 7937 SE Stark Street, Portland; 📞+1 (503) 408-1414


Tuesday, Jan. 2: lunch at the Cheese Bar, whose cheese case offers a fine small selection of cheeses, so thoughtfully selected it's hard to avoid the overworked word "curated." More on them later.

I've already described the evening's Hopping John.

•Cheese Bar, 6031 SE Belmont Street, Portland; 📞 +1 (503) 222-6014


Wednesday, Jan. 3: Lunch at Provador, a thoughtful small grocery with cheese, pasta and deli counter — the former PastaWorks participates in the operation somehow. I was content with a focaccia, piquant with tomato and pepper in a Calabrese style.

•Provador Fine Foods, 2340 NE Sandy Blvd., Portland; 📞 +1 (503) 232-1010

In the evening, jazz and rye whisky at a nearby club, 1905.


Thursday, Jan. 4: Lunch at Suzette, a crêpe specialist. My favorite is what I think of as a classic: Gruyère, spinach, and egg, sunny side up of course, with the proper drizzle of crème fraîche.

•Suzette Creperie, 3342 SE Belmont Street,Portland; 📞 +1 (503) 546-0892

Dinner at home: a fine braised chicken with potatoes, turnips, onions, and mushrooms. And afterward, Cook's magnificent syllabub.

🍷Côtes du Rhone, Famille Perrin, 2015


Friday, Jan. 5: Lunch: beans on toast, with a poached egg and plenty of parsley — a quick, solid, satisfying meal we're going to have to introduce to the repertory at home.

•Oui Presse, 1740 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Portland; 📞 +1 (503) 384-2160

Supper at home: this fine cheese board from Cheese Bar. The "Leonardo" was a particularly interesting cheese: cow's milk from Piemonte; white; very slightly crumbly, related I think to Castelmagno.

🍷Cortese, Castelvero, 2016


Saturday, Jan. 6: This was the morning we poured concrete — repairing sidewalks and driveways in front of four neighboring houses, including ours — well, my daughter's. This led to a substantial mid-afternoon supper of hearty bean and lentil soup. In the evening, too tired to dine, we were content with bread and cheese…


Sunday, Jan. 7: Dinner at Ox. Portland does love its meat-and-potatoes, and this restaurant is well named. We shared the dinner, the five of us — the Contessa and I, our daughter and son-in-law, their local grown daughter. Spiced beef, green olive, and raisin empanadas; fried oxtail terrine with caramelized shallot aioli, frisée and apple salad, and a soft-boiled egg; grilled house-made chorizo; Uruguay rib-eye, red cabbage with chestnut cream, duck jus, and poached quince; fried potatoes with horseradish aioli and dill; roasted cauliflower with raisin vinaigrette, mint, and roasted peanuts; desserts.

🍷Martini; Quinta dos Roques, Dao (Portugal), 2013

•Ox Restaurant, 2225 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd., Portland; 📞 +1 (503) 284-3366


Monday, Jan. 8: A cappuccino and serious muffin with said local grown daughter; then lunch with her mother and my Companion: at a Scandinavian-themed place we like where we could survey a few drinks and focus on
•Courier Coffee Roasters, 923 SW Oak Street, Portland; 📞 +1 (503) 545-6444
•Broder Nord, 2240 N Interstate Avenue, Portland; 📞 +1 (503) 282-5555

Dinner: penne rigate caccio e pepe at home; collards on the side.

🍷Pinot grigio, Villa Borghetti (Veneto), 2016


IMAGE SHORTRIB Tuesday, Jan. 9: Portland-Ashland by car. Lunch was a sandwich from the bakery that is always our last stop in Portland before leaving, as the Contessa does love their gibassiers.

•Pearl Bakery, 102 NW 9th Avenue, Portland; 📞 +1 (503) 827-0910

We took dinner in the hotel, at a place self-styled "the best restaurant on Highway 5" — a determination that could use fine-tuning, but this isn't the time or place. I had a small serving of braised short rib, and it was quite good.

•Luna Cafe + Mercantile, 2525 Ashland Street, Ashland; 📞 +1 (541) 482-3372


Wednesday, Jan. 10: breakfast at the hotel — one of those self-made waffles; a cup of nvg coffee. The cappuccino from Case Coffee was much better. Lunch was a favorite sandwich: boiled ham and thyme butter on a baguette, perfectly done by a local shop we like.

•Mix Bakeshop, 57 N Main Street, Ashland; 📞+1 (541) 488-9885
•Case Coffee Roasters, 1255 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland

And then dinner at home! Cook found one last meat pie made by our Laytonville daughter-in-law, filled with rich beef bound with raisins and spices, encased in a short, tender crust. Gotta get the recipe. With it, nice buttery sauteed carrots.      🍷Cheap Nero d'Avola

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Christmas week

Photo: Eric Monrad (edited)
Portland, Oregon, January 2, 2018—

NO WEEK SO IRREGULAR, when it comes to dining, as Christmas week. In our household it's complicated further by two birthdays, one exactly a week before Christmas, the other exactly a week later, on New Year's Day.

We have a fairly large family: three married children, eight grandchildren, four great-grandchildren. They're spread out, geographically, and it's rarely possible to find them all in one place. This photo shows our own dinner table on the day after Christmas, when the fairly local were able to gather — those living within a hundred miles or so.

We'd seen other family members a week earlier, in Denver, and a month earlier, in Rome. And a couple of days after the dinner in the photo we drove up here to Portland for the New Year festivities: the traditioal dinner with a couple of old friends — that tradition is forty years running by noww — and the youngest daughter's birthday, yesterday.

In between there was a fine lunch at home with a couple of old friends visiting from New York, and a couple of their friends from southern California.

Another complication: in such circumstances note-taking seems out of place — even lifting the iphone for a quick casual shot seems intrusive. (And, to tell the truth, I'm usually too involved in conversation to think of it.)

So what have we been eating and drinking? Well, lots of meat; lots of wine. At the photographed table you would have found meat sliced from an eight-pound goose — far too small for the company — and a ten-pound prime rib beef roast — rather too much. The goose was from Salmon Creek, a local farm specializing in duck and goose. The beef was raised by our son's neighbor, a Scottish Highlander (the steer, not the neighbor), sustainably fed and raised. The meat had been carefully aged, too. Paolo cooked it over grapevine wood in our Weber, covered part of the time, and it was tender and delicious.

     🍷Cava: Bohigas, Reserva, nv; Bourgogne, Domaine Michel Gros (Côtes de Nuits), 2014; Port, Fonseca, 1970


Christmas Eve we'd gone down the hill to the neighbor's house and feasted on lamb chops grilled in the fireplace, after a long pleasant prologue with appetizers: almonds, cheeses, tapenades, capers, crackers, boquerones and such. With them, Cava; with the chops,

     🍷L'Arnot Negre (Garnacha/Syrah), Terra Alta (Spain), 2016; Valpolicella ripasso, Corte Saibante, 2013

The Contessa, in her role as Cook, had provided the dessert: Timbales Elysées! These are cups of langue de chat pastry, which she had filled with soft vanilla ice cream with blackberry and mulberry garnish, and covered with spun-sugar cages — fun and festive, perfect for a party.


On the 27th, the day after our feast with the family, we were content with leftovers. Goose and beef, of course. But also those delicious prunes that had stuffed the goose — prunes cooked in white wine, then stuffed themselves with foie gras. How had they not all been eaten the day before? But no one's complaining!

With the meat and garnishs, tagliatelle in thinned goose-gravy, and dark, long-cooked, buttery green beans.


Our New York guests and their friends arrived next, on the 28th, with bottles of wine. We were able to sit on the patio with a bottle of Cava, then another, of Grüner Veltliner, with chicken-liver mousse and crackers and other such things, but the real fun came next, when we all moved inside for the boneless pork tenderloin Cook had roasted in the oven. It was topped with a mustard sauce and served sliced with its jus, a Bavarian-style potato salad with mustard vinaigrette, and a green salad afterward.

     🍷a Tuscan red whose name and vintage escape me; Beaune, Giboulot, 1er cru Clos du Roi, 2015: authentic in the present style, fruity and delicious (Thanks David!)


New Year's Eve we had a fairly early dinner at a restaurant new to us — one I would return to, except that there are so many places to try in this marvelous restaurant town. We shared a couple of plates of fine grilled Brussels sprouts, the six of us; then went our own ways — though many of us agreed on the grilled New York steak, which came with truffled mashed potatoes, broccolini, and a butter sauce brightly colored with, I think, mostly parsley. This was a good cut of meat, tender, flavorful, perfectly cooked to order.

Dessert: I couldn't resist a flourless Black Forest cake with ice cream and brandie4d cherries. The ice cream was delicately flavored with brown sugar and malt, a flavor I particularly like.

     🍷a Martini; Barbera d'Alba, Mauro Molino, 2016

•Altabira, 1021 NE Grand Avenue, Portland, Oregon; 📞503-963-3600


Which brings us to last night, New Year's Day and our youngest daughter's birthday. Ham, brined here in house; Hopping John; collards. The traditional New Year's dinner, and may it bring us all good luck throughout the year!

And green salad, of course; and birthday cake: a chocolate ganache-with-raspberry, store-bought but very good indeed…

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Polenta

Eastside Road, December 23, 2017—
LONG TIME since our last polenta meal — one I quite enjoy. It often awakens two memories: of the "corn meal mush" we occasionally had when I was a boy, usually with sugar and milk — a very different proposition from what Cook does with it, with her Italian heritage!

And a remark made probably forty years ago by Kori Lockhart, then the press representative for San Francisco Opera, a bright, laconic, occasionally ironic woman, lantern-jawed and wide-eyed and good-looking, a native of Slovenia. Polenta! she exclaimed. Can't abide it! We had nothing else to eat when I was a girl!

Usually Cook serves it with sausage and tomato sauce, but tonight she sautéed mushrooms in butter — polenta forestiere, I suppose. In any case, delicious.

Green salad afterward; then a tangerine and a couple of chocolates…

     🍷Nero d'Avola, Epicuro, 2015

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Ham and cheese

Eastside Road, December 22, 2017—
IF YOU PLEASE, grilled ham and cheese.

Well, not grilled, really, more toasted under the broiler. I just shaved some Gruyère onto buttered slices of bread, placed sliced ham on top of the cheese, smeared a light coating of good mustard on the ham, set the top piece of bread on, and toasted them on a sheet pan under the broiler.

Well, Cook toasted them — kept an eye on the time, flipped them at the right moment. Ham and cheese: one of the Hundred Plates.

The oven was on anyway, because Cook had previously baked a Black Walnut Cake. This is a delicious thing, baked in a loaf pan, a yellow cake studded with bits of black walnut, which arrive every year a little before Christmas, always as a complete and very welcome surprise, from a cousin I hardly know who lives in St. Paul. Thanks, Mike! Let's share this cake one year!

After the sandwiches, and before the cake, green salad.

     🍷zinfandel, Preston of Dry Creek, 2014

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Friday, December 22, 2017

Soufflé

Eastside Road, December 2o, 2017—
SOMETHING GAVE COOK the idea to make a sourrlé for dinner, and I for one would certainly not discourage her. As you see, it rose beautifully — and the oven helped to heat the house, which had chilled down to 59° while we were away last week.

I don't know what recipe she used. We buy organic free-range eggs, and organic milk; the cheese was Gruyère, as it should be, think I. We bought the soufflé dish decades ago, from a potter who worked in Larkfield at the time; we've always been fond of his plum-colored glaze…

Green salad afterward; then some fruit.

     🍷Cheap Pinot grigio

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017