Friday, October 20, 2017

Back to The Raymond

Pasadena, California, October 20, 2017—

I THINK IT'S A PLACE to have a drink, the Contessa said at the end of the evening, and then go on somewhere else for dinner. And I guess I agree with her: but I do think this is a pleasant, rather romantic little place. If only the menu were a little more interesting, and perhaps not quite so complicated.

We started, after a decent Martini, by sharing a big garden lettuce salad. The leaves were quite big and not at all torn. They were dressed with a little lemon juice; a bottle of gloppy ranch-style dressing came with them — not a very inspired salad.

I went on to a pretty nice hanger steak, grilled, served with fingerling potatoes cooked with a slice of bacon, a poached quail egg, and a spoonful or two of nice English peas, undercooked in a pleasant way.

     🍷Cuvée Sabine, André  Brunel (Rhone), 2013: very rich and rewarding

•The Raymond Restaurant, 1250 Fair Oaks Avenue, South Pasadena, California; 📞+1 (626) 441-3136

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:
2016      2015     2017

Union forever

Pasadena, October 20, 2017—

VERY QUICKLY, and subject to revision later this weekend, a report on last night's late supper after a performance (of an adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities) by a favorite theater company of ours down here, at Union, a restaurant that never lets us down. I think it's in the running for Five Restaurants classification.

We began with bread, butter, and giardiniera — very piquant pickled vegetables, certainly a Calabrian version of a specialty I always associate with the other end of the Italian peninsula, Piemonte. (By way of the Contessa's paternal aunt Victoria, whose homemade version was my introduction to giardiniera, so many years ago.)

Then a simple arugula salad, but such beautifully chosen leaves, and so well dressed, and sprinkled with good Parmigiano with, I suspect, a discreet amount of Pecorino as well.

Then Bucatini cacio e pepe, dressed with grated Pecorino Romano and black pepper and topped with a poached egg that our stylish, professional server mixed into the dish at the table.

All this was perfect. It was late, and by the time we finished we were the only ones there. Union can be very noisy; it's popular and small. On this trip it was romantic. We'd never been there after a show before; we will again. It seemed so Italian!

     🍷Nascetta, Diego Conterno (Piemonte), 2015

•Union, 37 E Union Street, Pasadena, California; 📞+1 (626) 795-5841

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:
2016      2015     2017

Friday, October 13, 2017

Uncertain times

Eastside Road, October 13, 2017—
THESE HAVE NOT been normal times. Wildfires are burning near us as I write this. We have been lucky; the nearest fires are five or six miles away. But abrupt changes in wind patters could find us vulnerable. The most important papers and hard drives are packed in the car, in case we have to evacuate. Thousands are already evacuated, other thousands have already lost their homes.

We have only been inconvenienced, so far. One of the groceries we depend on is gone. Some supplies are running low in other stores. I've been watching the news almost obsessively. But life goes on for us, though many less fortunate have died.

It's too late to retrieve the meals since last I posted. I'll simply note repetition, at home, of favorites — ceviche, sausage and potatoes, and the like. We had one restaurant meal, in San Francisco: Beef Wellington, very nicely prepared except that the lean roast beef itself was curiously bland. Unsalted, I suspect.

     🍷Chinon, Charles Jouget, 2014

•Maybeck's, 3213 Scott St, San Francisco; 📞(415) 400-8500

Last night, delicious hamburgers at the neighbor down the hill, a birthday party for our great-grandson…

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Saturday, October 7, 2017


Eastside Road, October 6, 2017—

AFTER A BUSY DAY in the city we were home too late and too tired to think much about dinner. Something quick, yes?

I made omelets in my usual way, cooking them in olive oil rather than butter, filling them with chopped arugula and grated Parmesan cheese before folding them over. Cook handled the green salad. — just arugula tonight, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.

     🍷Cheap Italian white

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:
2016      2015     2017

Friday, October 6, 2017

Vitello piccata

Eastside Road, October 5, 2017—

LATELY I'VE BEEN CRAVING lemon, peppers, vineggar, pickles, capers. Don't know why. A friend tells me it's a sign there are insects within: I hope she is mistaken. I've seen no signs of infestations.

In any case, charged by the Contessa with coming up with an idea for dinner, I bought a couple of thin slices of veal, a jar of capers, a package of Rustichella "trofie," a pasta I particularly like. Lemon we have; also parsley. Salt and pepper, check; olive oil, of course; white wine, no problem.

Cook handled the pasta-cooking and washed the lettuce. I seared the veal — I'd salted it when I got it home, of course — in olive oil, in the stainless-steel skillet, and after turning it scattered chopped parsley and capers on it. Salt and pepper. Lemon juice.

After plating the meat and pasta I deglazed the pan with white wine, reduced the sauce, and poured it over the scallopine and the pasta. Delicious.
     🍷Cheap Italian white wine

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:
2016      2015     2017

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Red sauce

Eastside Road, October 4, 2017—

LAST FALL — just about a year ago, I think — Cook put up several jars of tomato sauce. She used a recipe from one of Alice Waters's books, which calls for roasting the whole tomatoes slowly in the oven, then running them through the food mill and canning them in the usuual way. Salt, of course, and a little olive oil, but no other ingredients, as I recall.

She put up a lot of jars, and probably doesn't need to repeat the process this year, though of course it would be a good idea, you can't have too much of a good thing put aside for rough times.

She has the habit of never quite finishing a jar, and leftovers accumulate. Tonight she put two little containers of them together, with a bay leaf, pepper and salt, garlic, and a dash of red wine, and we had her favorite whole wheat penne with red sauce. Parmesan grated on top. Green salad afterward, of course.

     🍷Red, "Guadagno," Preston of Dry Creek

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:
2016      2015     2017

Popeye the sailor man

Eastside Road, October 3, 2017—

MY WIFE AND KIDS know: I do love spinach. To the extent that I even like canned spinach. When the kids were little Cook used always to keep a package or two of frozen spinach in the freezer for quick meals. I haven't seen frozen spinach in forty years, I think; and it's probably longer since I last had canned spinach. But I can still taste it.

Seems to me my mother used to cook an egg atop canned spinach somehow. I haven't thought about that for over sixty years, but I'm sure she did, somehow, probably on evenings when Dad was unaccountably absent from the dinner table and she could get away with a meatless dinner.

Anyhow tonight Cook prepared a spinach side dish — just fresh spinach leaves gently cooked in a little water and some butter. The main dish was one of Franco's sausages — Toscana, I believe — and a delicious sauté of potatoes and cipollini onions. Another thing about spinach: no need for a green salad!

     🍷Red, "Guadagno," Preston of Dry Creek

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:
2016      2015     2017