Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Berry time

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Eastside Road, June 29, 2015—
BERRIES — FRUIT in general — have been a recurring theme the last few weeks. What a fine lunch they make! Here, strawberries from Preston of Dry Creek, mulberries from our tree, apricots ditto. It's the first time our apricot tree has fruited, though we set it out a good three years ago. And you see most of the crop here. But how delicate and floral they are, how fresh.

The mulberry tree went in much longer ago, and has taken on good size in spite of lack of water and fertilizer. It's now too tall to harvest completely, even from my tallest orchard ladder, so we just leave lots of berries at the top for the birds, who then — so runs theory — leave the lower fruit, more hidden within the foliage, to us. Of course these birds are messy eaters, and I suppose contribute fertilizer of their own production to the tree.

We discovered, by chance, the one important rule about buying a young mulberry tree: buy one with fruit on it, so you can verify the quality. This is (as you see) a purple Persian mulberry tree, and the fruit is indescribably good, perfumed, rich, deep, suggestive.
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Duck breast at Zuni
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Zuni's Wedding Cake
SUPPER QUITE LATE at Zuni, after hearing Terry Riley's long and eventful string quartet Salome Dances for Peace played by Kronos. I had a duck breast salad, a fine confection of perfectly cooked duck sliced and served cold with roasted apricots, mustard greens, mustard-seed gremolata, and bee pollen; and, afterward, this little individual "wedding cake," a white cake with buttercream and raspberries, surprisingly filled, beautifully prepared in honor of marriage finally available to all. (Well, all but the already married.)

My companion had another marvelous plate: warm purple tomatoes with green beans, spring onions, bagna cauda, orange zest, and fried bread. The bread turned out to be more like sopaipillas, bringing Zuni closer to Zuni than I've known it to be since its very early days…
Merlot-Tannat, Domaine Chiroulet "Grande Reserve" (Gascony), 2010: deeply flavored but long in the tooth
• Zuni Café, 1658 Market Street, San Francisco; 415.552.2522
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's RestaurantsIMG_1455.jpg

Hominy again

Eastside Road, June 29, 2015—
I FORGOT TO MENTION the other day, when I was thinking about hominy during my childhood, that on a few occasions we actually had fresh hominy. Freshly processed, I mean. In late August 1944, when I turned nine years old, my parents, my kid brother and I took up residence in Welch, Oklahoma, a small town in the northeast corner of the state. It was a bit of a lurch, I suppose, but the previous few years had been so unsettled anything seemed not only possible but fairly certain.

We were there to help out my father's mother, whose second husband had recently been killed in an accident. She lived in a big two-storey clapboard house on the edge of town, with a barn, a milk cow, a dog, a few cats, and neither electricity nor running water. That was our purpose, to wire and plumb the house, as I understand it. Dad worked at a synthetic rubber factory producing Jeep tires; Grandma worked in the local hospital; Mom I guess took care of the household.

Among the most vivid memories of that year is the taste of freshly processed hominy. Corn was sliced off the cob and set to soak in a mixture involving lye. I'm pretty sure the lye was home-made, from wood ash saved from the winter fires; I remember the hominy tasted soapy. Come to think of it the soap was home-made too, also from wood ash, and it burned like crazy. And the laundry, and the "clean" clothes that came from it, had that same wood-ash-lye-soapy-grey-water smell.

We had hominy again tonight, a can of it, and some fresh corn from the freezer, mixed into the onion soffrito and the chorizo (thanks again, Franco), all garnished with chopped cilantro, and it was delicious. Green salad. Fruit.
Rose, La ferme Julien (var), okay.
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The weekly salmon

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Eastside Road, June 27, 2015—
WE'VE SETTLED INTO the Saturday routine: to the Healdsburg farm market in the morning, where we visit our favorite vendors: Dave for fresh-caught local king salmon (actually it's his daughter, I think, or perhaps a granddaughter, who's there most often; he's generally out on his boat); Franco for his marvelous sausage or, perhaps for a change, some chicken-liver mousse; Burt and Mary for their unique dark lettuces and sweet carrots; Renee for radishes and maybe another head of lettuce; Yael for her indispensable Rose de Latour garlic; no peaches today from Dry Creek because our own tree is sufficient for the moment; Middleton Gardens for favas; our neighbors for eggs (but the hens aren't laying yet!); Lou for a conversation about olives and maybe some vegetables or a loaf of bread…

Then in the evening, after the Saturday Martini, I build a little fire of fruitwood prunings and cook the salmon. Cook's got it ready, covering it with two or three grape leaves I've picked and put to soak. I let the fire die down to coals and grill the salmon in a "grill basket," a skillet-like pan with many perforations. Cook prepped the favas while we watched the news with our cocktails, which make the news easier to deal with. Green salad afterward, and some peaches and berries for dessert. Summer's here.
Rose, "La ferme Julien" (Var), nv
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ham and cheese

Eastside Road, June 25, 2015—
A QUICK BITE tonight, after attending an interesting panel discussion on emigration from Asian countries — Vietnam, Japan, China, the Philippines, even Hawai'i, through personal stories. But to the table: We were hungry afterward, not having eaten before, but it was late by local standards. With our friend, then, to a favorite place of hers, where she has a pizza, my companion a plate of calamari, and I a good old ham and cheese. Overworked here, I thought, involving some kind of gloppy sauce, but filling and nourishing and, I admit it, tasty. Yes, Companion and I split a romaine salad as well. And so to bed.
Albariño, Columna Rias Baixas, 2013
• Monti's Rotisserie and Bar, 714 Village Court, Santa Rosa, California; (707) 568-4404
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Hominy

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Eastside Road, June 24, 2015—
HOMINY ALWAYS TAKES me back to my childhood; we had it fairly often. It was always canned, and it seems to me it came in large cans and was not a standard brand — was it from Habitat? I'm not sure. Mom simply heated it and we ate it as a side dish, with the inevitable garlic salt sprinkled on top. I haven't tasted garlic salt since 1954, but I do still like hominy Tonight it was mixed with chorizo sausage, crumbled into the black iron frying pan to join an onion soubise. On top, Cook sprinkled raw cabbage-onion-and-lime relish, and chopped cilantro — a very tasty combination. Green salad afterward, and plenty of fruit — our peaches, mulberries, and plums are hitting their stride.
Cheap Pinot grigio
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Bar and grill

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Eastside Road, June 22, 2015—
EVERY DAY CAN'T be a total winner.Tonight we settled for a pretty ordinary (though grass-fed, according to the menu) hamburger, on sliced sourdough bread, with sweet tomato catsup, a grilled onion, a slice of routine tomato, greasy french fries, and a bit of green salad with a sweet vinaigrette. We had an excuse: we'd been to a Little League baseball game. We lost.
Ale, Einstök (Iceland): clean and bitter
• Railroad Station Bar and Grill, 236 South Cloverdale Boulevard, Cloverdale, California; 707-894-4779
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Monday, June 22, 2015

Penne, peas, and pesto

pasta with pesto
Eastside Road, June 21, 2015—
IT'S REALLY A springtime dish, I think, but it works just fine on the solstice: pesto. I read something the other day by a food writer who said he'd never seen the point of pine nuts, and substituted pecans for them when making pesto. Turned out he'd never had any but rancid pine nuts. We buy expensive ones, when we can't eat the ones from our own trees — laziness and forgetfulness interferes with that project, which is season-specific and labor-intensive. We buy expensive ones, and keep them tightly covered in a little jar in the freezer, and so far haven't had any trouble with them going rancid. Garlic and salt, smashed together in the marble mortar, with a wooden pestle. Then the pine nuts, all smashed to a smooth paste. Then the basil leaves, pounded in their turn out of all recognition. Last of all grated Parmesan cheese, not too much. I pack this into a narrow-mouthed jar and float enough olive oil on top to cover it. It keeps a few days in the refrigerator. Green salad, of course, and mixed peaches and apricots for dessert.
Cheap Pinot grigio
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants