Saturday, August 27, 2016

Downstairs again

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Berkeley, August 25, 2016—

SINCE I HAVE, in the current inelegant phrase, a dog in this fight, I've decided from now on to suppress all adjectives from comments on this place, and simply list the courses, with photos when possible:

IMG 9580 amuse-gueule: Smoked salmon rillettes, chervil
apéritif: Prosecco infused with charentais melong and mint
IMG 9581 Fried squid with tomatoes, saffron finaigrette, basil, aïoli
Rosé de Provence, Château Pradeau, 2014
IMG 9584 Sheep's-milk ricotta gnocchi with Jimmy Nardello peppers
Mataòssu, Vigneto Reiné (Liguria), 2014
IMG 9588 Grilled duck breast with peach mostarda, sweet corn and shell beans, watercress
Bourgogne (Pinot noir), Domaine de Montille, 2013
IMG 9594 Red currant, raspberry,, and blackberry clafoutis
Jurançon, "La Magendia Llapeyre", Jean-Bernard Larrieu, 2012
I will say it was a delicious dinner and a visual feast.

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

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Friday, August 26, 2016

Rillettes

Eastside Road, August 24, 2016—

WE'RE GOING OUT tonight; no time to prepare dinner; no inclination to eat out. Quick, then! Franco Dunn's delicious pork rillettes on toast, a green salad…

Carignan: Preston of Dry Creek, 2014

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Baccalà again

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Healdsburg, August 23, 2016—
LUNCH WITH my daughter in town today, a monthly affair we both enjoy. I'd thought to go to a Yucanateco place we liked a week or two ago, but it's not open Tuesdays, so we sauntered across the main drag to a Portuguese place I've neglected these past few years.

There we split a tasty Salada Portuguesa composed of chopped tender kale, slices of linguiça, corn-bread croutons, local São Jorge cheese, with an anchovy vinaigrettes — a complex, tasty affair — and then went on to, what else, bolinhos de bacalhau. There were a number of attractive items on the menu, but they all seemed to me more like dinner items than lunch fare; I still had some work to do today.

And who can resist salt cod? Not, as Constant Reader knows, me. This version was quite different from yesterdays, though it featured to same two basic ingredients, salt cod and potatoes. Yesterday's was whipped, creamy, sophisticated, ultimately Venetian; this was chopped, browned-crisp, vernacular, certainly Portuguese, garnished with nicely hard-cooked quail eggs and black olives. And, in the final analysis, as sophisticated as the other.

Vinho verde, Ribeira
•Café Lucia, 235 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg, California; 707-431-1113
IMG 9569SO FOR DINNER nothing needed beyond a nice farmer's omelet: A red onion chopped up and browned in a few small pieces of bacon, half a dozen small potatoes quartered and thrown on top to steam-cook under cover; half a dozen beaten eggs at the last minute. And green salad.

And, for dessert, a red Bartlett pear and a Seckel pear and a pluot from the garden, and a delicious late white peach from Dry Creek.

Rosé, La Ferme Julien

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Let's eat out!

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the photo doesn't do it justice…

Berkeley, August 23, 2016—

OUT IN THE back yard, that is; and not ours, Curt and Mary Jo's, friends of ours Who Cook. Curt has just built himself a deck kitchen — you see one corner of it in the photo, at the left. It houses a Tuscan Grill on the right (the movable grate's wooden handles jut out discreetly in the photo and a ceramic egg-type smoker-oven on the left; both burn either wood or charcoal.

What a feast! We began with Prosecco Negronis, then moved on to a delicious baccalà mantecato, I would say, baked in the ceramic oven. He'd poached the salt cod in "milky water" (or was it "watery milk"? I forget now), then after lifting out the fish cooked potatoes in the same juice until tender, and then creamed the whole affair using, I suppose, an immersion blender. An herb was involved as well, but again I plead forgetfulness.

That was the primo: Curt, like me, was just back a couple of weeks ago from Torino. Next came the secondo: fine Italian-style sausages grilled over wood, served on a bed of long-cooked greens. With them, delicious white beans, and fresh corn, on the cob, roasted back in that ceramic oven and finished on the grill. Ingenious. Brilliant.

Rosé, Ermitage de Pic Saint Loup, 2015; Garnacha, Laya
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baccalà sausage, beans, greens, corn

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A balanced diet

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Eastside Road, August 21, 2016—

COOK DOES HER BEST to keep me healthy, she really does. One of her weapons is fish, which we try to eat at least once a week; and the presence of Dave the Fish Guy at the local market makes that relatively easy.

When we're down in Berkeley, though, she often stops by Monterey Fish. That's where the clams came from the other day, and that was the source of tonight's local flounder, which she floured lightly and fried, serving it with lima beans from Middleton Gardens and tomatoes from … well, somewhere else; not exactly sure where; local I'm sure.

Meantime my own thoughts had strayed in another direction, and I was the one who'd gone to the market yesterday — directed to buy only those lima beans. (Get at least two pounds!)

Our friends Bert and Mary had a basket of pimentos at their stand. It's the season for peppers: Padrones, Jimmy Nardellos, long Italians and Hungarians, and all the rest. I am particularly fond of the pimento, which Larousse Gastronomique considers a generic word describing just about any red pepper, but which I think of as essentially red, relatively round but with a pronounced point at the blossom end, sweet, but with more flavor than the ordinary bell pepper — and somehow a little smoky.

IMG 9532I got half a dozen of these little guys, each no bigger than the palm of my hand, and cut them in half lengthwise and grilled them dry in the black iron skillet, then added a little water and a little olive oil, reduced the heat, and covered them, to steam-cook them tender. (I later wished I had peeled them after grilling them: I was too impatient this evening!)

When they were done I set them on toasts and filled them with pork rillettes, yes I did. I suppose the rillettes countered the efficacy of the fish, healthwise, but I didn't really care.

Bellinis first; then rosé, La Ferme Julien

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Birthday dinner

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Santa Rosa, August 20, 2016—

HAVING SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED the first year of my tenth decade it seemed appropriate to celebrate, and with whom better than the Contessa and the dear old friend who introduced us to one another over sixty years ago.

Friend lives nearby, and suggested a hot new restaurant everyone seems to be talking about. We met early, at 5:30, when it was still possible to converse for a while, and warmed up with Martinis.

Then it was time to order. The Contessa and I split a Caesar salad, declining the waitress's offer to withhold the anchovies; and I went on to the pork chop you see here. I learned a valuable lesson: when the waitress asks how you would like it cooked, do not answer "no more than necessary." I don't like to order pork rare; it strikes me the result might be in fact rare pork; I like it rosy. This, as you see, came quite thoroughly cooked: the meat had good flavor but was dense and dry. My fault, the Contessa's expression seemed to say.

No matter: we're celebrating tonight. The succotash on the side was a nice touch, and we had an old favorite for our beverage, a wine we used to drink fairly often, when it was still affordable, but which we hadn't had for decades — and which turned out to taste just as it used to:

Chablis, Jean-Marc Brocard, "Montée de Tonnerre," 2014
and an Armagnac for dessert…

•The County Bench Kitchen + Bar, 535 Fourth Street, Santa Rosa, California; 707-535-0700

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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Clams

IMG 9495
Eastside Road, August 19, 2016—
ALMOST AS GOOD as mussels. Well, cooked like this, quite as good as mussels. Cook outdid herself tonight.

And the recipe came from Martha Stewart's magazine — which has been the source of a fair number of good dishes over the years. Here's what's in that generous bowl: a clove of garlic, an Italian sausage, a few small potatoes cut in half, a small bulb of fennel sliced up, a leek also sliced, some Pernod, a little clam juice, a pound or so of clams, a tomato cut into wedges, tarragon.

It all got cooked in the black iron skillet, and it was delicious.

Green salad; then a nice version of Flo Braker's buttermilk cake as baked by Mary Jo. Decked out with strawberries from Lucero Farm, bought yesterday at Berkeley's market.

Carignane, Preston of Dry Creek, 2013
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RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:  2016   2015