Sunday, November 29, 2015


Eastside Road, November 28, 2015—
IT'S A FUNNY photo, confused as to dimension — vertical? horizontal? raking? But if you look closely, you'll see Thanksgiving dinner and all its trimmings: sliced roast turkey, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, stuffing, quinoa and Hubbard squash — and no, not a scoop of chocolate ice cream: a crabapple I pickled myself ten years ago, still meaty and fruity and deeply flavored with vinegar, cloves, and cinnamon.

I can't tell you much about the cooking: as you might suspect, I kept my distance. Cook brined the turkey for a couple of days; then roasted it to perfection. The potatoes were mashed and strengthened with butter and milk. The neighbor down the hill prepared the Brussels sprouts, halving them, laying them out on a sheet pan on a little olive oil, and roasting them: they were magnificent. She did the quinoa too.

Buttered rolls, of course, and green salad, with a lemon juice vinaigrette. Pumpkin pie, you bet; hard sauce, of course. A couple of days late, yes: but four generations at the table, and plenty of good cheer and conversation…

Zinfandel, Preston of Dry Creek, 2013: deep, fruity, full-bodied.
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thanksgiving week

Eastside Road, November 27, 2015—
YES: THANKSGIVING WEEK; and nothing recorded here since Sunday.

Monday, five days ago now, we drove down to Berkeley on business, and lunched in the café. Look at this Yellowtail "crudo"! It was a delicious piece of fish, dressed with olive oil and lemon jiuce flavored with mint, and came with a marvelous salad: I could eat this happily at the beginning of every meal except perhaps breakfast.

Chablis, Christophe et fils, 2014 (delicious)
• Café Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510-548-5525
THAT EVENING, dinner with a couple of dear old friends at a favorite place of theirs, though I've almost always found it a little stiff and slightly out of whack. The menu was vaguely Piemontese, and didn't at first seem to offer anything really attractive: most of the dishes were a little out of whack, with too many flavors or textures pulling at them.

IMG_2082.jpgOh, but look: a simple plate of house-made pasts, tagliarini in fact, served simply with butter and white truffles. Can't go wrong there; and the gianduia afterward was very nice indeed.

white; but what?
• Oliveto Restaurant and Cafe, 5655 College Avenue, Oakland, California; 510-547-5356
THE NEXT TWO DAYS, I'm sorry; they're a bit of a blur. One of them undoubtedly brought the last of that delicious chick-pea stew that first appeared last Friday; the next day, Wednesday, we had a decent hamburger with French fries and a glass of red at a pleasant local:
• Brody's Burger and Brews, 3135 Cleveland Avenue, Santa Rosa, California; 707-526-4878
YESTERDAY, OF COURSE, was Thanksgiving, the day that turns all Facebookers into food bloggers. I didn't take a single photo. We were invited to a friend's house; there were eight of us at table; we began with Martinis and then sat down to a traditional table: roast turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, Brussels sprouts. Afterward, a green salad; then delicious pies, apple and pumpkin-caramel. To drink, Lou Preston's Red.
IMG_2120.jpgWE COME NOW FINALLY up to date, with another of the "prefab" dinners we've been experimenting with, sent to us by Sun Basket. The neighbor down the hill introduced us to this concept: pre-prepared complete dinners sent in a box, nothing for us to do but the actual cooking and eating. It seems wasteful, somehow, all that packaging and shipping, but the containers are recycled, the shipping's not expensive, and the ingredients are organic and sustainable.

Tonight we had a fine-grained, quite tasty pork steak, with onion confit and an improbable but in the event delicious dish of kale and bosc pears. And why shouldn't pears be used, for example, in place of potatoes? I'll bet the long centuries before potatoes got to Europe saw many such dishes: I'm glad to have this one tonight.

Afterward, another helping of that delicious apple pie — hard to believe there was a little to bring home with us last night!

Garnacha/Monastrell, Laya (Almansa), Old Vines, 2013
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Monday, November 23, 2015

Home beats bistro

Eastside Road, November 21, 2015—
YESTERDAY, AFTER FINISHING the marmalade I told you about, and after finishing the Martinis, the three of us settled in to a bowl of one-dish meal, a chick-pea stew, rich and piquant with north African spices, and afterward a green salad: a perfect way to end a challenging day in the kitchen.
Garnacha/Monastrell, Laya (Almansa), Old Vines, 2013
TODAY, THOUGH, WE DINED with friends at a convenient middle point between our two homes: Petaluma. Petaluma, Inez said, has become a restaurant capital, and she'd mentioned three or four from which to choose.

One called itself a bistro, and recalling a small bistro on the main street I happily made a reservation for a one o'clock lunch. In the event, though, I can't really agree that it's a bistro. There was no steak-frites, no duck legs, no cassoulet. It is perhaps a brasserie at the most.

Oh well. I settled for a perfectly adequate croque-monsieur — well, in fact, too cheesy a Bechamel sauce —, which came in a hot little black iron skillet, with a bowl of green salad topped with pickled onions, a nice touch; and the small serving of French fries was quite good too.

Ca' Momi Bianco di Napa, 2014: vaguely a Rhône type, small but sound; Ca' Momi Rosso di Napa, 2014: rather deep, full-bodied, satisfactory but lacking acid
Dessert: Apple tart with pastry cream. This was nice. Routine, but nice.

IMG_2045.jpg   IMG_2049.jpg

• Bistro 100, 140 2nd Street, Petaluma; 707-981-8228
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Mar-Mar 4.0

Eastside Road, November 20, 2015—
HERE STANDS COOK at her work-table at the end of the second stage of the annual Mar-Mar event, when we get together with Alta (away this time) and Donna and a load of Yuzus to make marmalade and drink Martinis. Many hands make light the work, my grandfather used to say, and while some of us look forward to the event with somewhat mixed emotions, we all wind up having fun.

We had about twelve and a half pounds of fruit to deal with, and here's what we did:

day one:
• cut the Yuzus in half, crosswise of course
• using a silver dinner fork, punch the recalcitrant seeds out of the flesh, setting the seeds aside
• using a silver teaspoon, scoop the membranes and flesh away from the halved fruits
• using a sharp stainless-steel knife, cut the halved shells into strips of citrus peel
• tie the reserved seeds into a cheesecloth bag
This gave us three quarts of pulp, including what little juice we got, and seven quarts of peel
• put peel, flesh and membranes, and (bagged) seeds into a large container, adding cold clear water — we added nine quarts of water, giving us fourteen quarts of mix altogether.
That was the first day: an hour to seed the Yuzus, another to cut the strips, a half hour for mixing and cleanup. We set the mix aside to soak overnight, and relaxed with a Martini.

day two:
• divide the mix, which will have become quite thick and slimy, into lots small enough for your pots — we used two large copper preserving pots: one held six and a half quarts, the other seven and a half
• add sugar. We use organic granulated cane sugar, and the ratio is important: in this case, eight and a half pounds in the smaller pot, nearly ten pounds in the larger
• cook at a quiet rolling boil to the setting point (keep a small saucer in the freezer: trail a bit of the hot marmalade onto it to see if it sets)
• ladle finished marmalade into clean hot jars and seal in the usual way
That took us from quarter of five until seven o'clock, after which we relaxed with our Martinis. The yield? Almost four gallons of marmalade, distributed among fifty jars of various size…

Thanks for the fruit and the help, Donna! It's always fun!

pulp and peelpips and peel

IMG_1999.jpg IMG_2028.jpg IMG_2040.jpg
peel, pips, and pulp the mix on the fires the finished product

Cook and Donna do the filling
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Friday, November 20, 2015

Hominy, chorizo

Eastside Road, November 19, 2015—
NOT MUCH MORE need be written here; the subject of hominy and sausage has been pretty well covered. The hominy, I remind you, is canned; the sausage tonight is, once again, Franco Dunn's — a "green chorizo" this time, so called for its generous inclusion of herbs. Cook sprinkled chopped parsley on top, and served it to the partial extended family (one child's line, four generations in all). Green salad afterward, and then ice cream and salt-caramel sauce (thank you, Alma Chocolate of Portland, Oregon). Best thing of the evening: watching a one-year-old respond gleefully to chorizo, vinaigrette, bread-and-mashed-garlic, ice cream…
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Thursday, November 19, 2015

San Francisco new style

San Francisco, November 17, 2015—
IT SEEMS A NEW style of restauration has been emerging in the last few months. Among the characteristics: smaller places; table-d'hôte menus, the end (or the erosion) of tipping. It will be interesting to see where this leads.

Tonight, having time to kill between a visit to the museum (Motherwell show, small but inspired) and another to the airport (picking up a friend), we decided to postpone fast day to Wednesday in order to try out one of the newcomers. We arrived a little after five and were the only customers. We couldn't take a table, though; they were reserved for later diners, and besides you can't eat à la carte at the tables. So we took comfortable stools at the counter separating dining room from the open kitchen.

The à la carte menu offered little that interested me: oysters (well, sure, but nearly four dollars each); mackerel; sea urchin; squash soup; chanterelles with pickled huckleberry; poached egg with pomegranate vinaigrette; abalone, omelet…

We settled on a "Wood-Fired Trout for Two," and watched it grilled over the flames in a wire basket. The cook then presented it and asked if he might go ahead and bone it out. Meeting no objection, he added a heavily grilled half lemon to the plate, and several dollops of cider sabayon foam.

I liked it. The foam soon subsided, giving up its postmodern fashion statement and settling into the very pink flesh of this fish — I wondered what the fish might have been fed, then put the question out of my mind — and adding some welcome moisture to what might otherwise have been pretty dry flesh. The lemon juice helped, too.

IMG_1982.jpgThis restaurant is assertively Breton, I think: the cooks were wearing blue-and-white-striped aprons, and the beverage list included three ciders, one of which came by the glass. Bol, actually; heavy salt-glazed pottery handled bowls. (I ordered a glass of white as well.)

Dessert: "Nun Puff", a couple of bite-sized creampuffs stacked vertically, filled with coffee-flavored pastry cream, belted with very nice dark chocolate, and sporting a jaunty chocolate beret and ready to roll a hoop of the same material. Fun.

Macon blanc
• Le Petit Crenn, 609 Hayes Street, San Francisco; 415-864-1744
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

That cabbage; brunch; pizza…

Eastside Road, November 16, 2015—
SATURDAY NIGHT, after a wine-and-canapé reception honoring a friend's 80th birthday, we came home to the second half of that stuffed cabbage, which was even better for its day in the icebox.

Sunday we went to see the Globe Theater perform Much Ado About Nothing over in the next county. It was a two o'clock matinee, and lunch before was preferable to dinner after — but, damn, it's Sunday; this is the Napa Valley; every place we were interested in was already booked, and what was left was serving brunch, a meal I never really enjoy.

Oh well. We had Bloody Marys to start, and then eggs: Benedict for the Contessa, corned beef hash and for me. I have to say the food could have been worse: but oh dear was it expensive!

• Meadowood Grill, 900 Meadowood Lane, Saint Helena, California; 707-531-4788
TODAY WE LUNCHED with our new octogenarian and her Brazilian exchange-student "daughter" from a few decades past, visiting with her daughter from Rio; and we returned for the occasion to another tourist destination hereabouts — one I thought I'd not return to when I last wrote about it. Like much of the Napa Valley, Francis Ford Coppola's obsessively manicured and somewhat self-conscious winery-restaurant-museum makes me uneasy; I feel out of my element and somewhat oppressed by unabashed display of wealth.

But I ordered better this time, choosing a simple pizza named for the director's daughter, the Sofia: simply prosciutto, parmesan shavings, and arugula. Not bad at all, and not expensive, either. That's it you see in the upper right corner of the photo, as I finished it this evening for dinner, along with a slice of my companion's mushroom-and-sausage pizza, some Middleton Ranch lima beans, and sliced tomato.

"Pitagora" (red Rhone-style blend), Francis Ford Coppola Winery, 2012: a bit sweet, fruity, sound, unexceptional
• Rustic, 300 Via Archimedes, Geyserville; 707-857-1400

I've been remiss in not mentioning an occasional dessert we've been enjoying these last few weeks: strawberries from Preston of Dry Creek, simply sliced and sprinkled with a bit of sugar. I used not to like strawberries very much, but the Healdsburg Farm Market has changed my mind over the years…IMG_1970.jpg

Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants