Monday, September 29, 2008

That potato salad

LEFTOVERS TODAY, quite all right with me. Lindsey had made a lot of that potato salad yesterday.That kind of salad only improves with a day's rest; the flavors deepen and perhaps merge a little more, yet retain individual qualities. The textures, too, keep their bite and interest.

The recipe was from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, a magnificent compendium. (One of these days I have to make a semi-serious survey of the cookbooks here.) It involves capers, celery, marjoram and thyme along with the more predictable onion, vinegar, salt and pepper, and potatoes of course; and Lindsey also added cubes of hard-cooked egg. Truly a fine salad; I'm sorry I didn't photograph it.

With it, a few lima beans from a few days back; and afterward a tossed green salad, and a bit of bread and salami; and to wash it all down,

Cheap pinot grigio.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Grill on the patio

grill.jpgWELL, THIS WORKED OUT rather nicely; I congratulate myself. For some time I've been trying to figure out how best to grill on the patio, not that we do so often. Years ago we were given one of these "Tuscan Grills": a frame with sets of pegs into which you insert an iron grill at one or another elevation over your fire. The grill has two handles and is held in place by sheer balance against the pegs; it's an ingenious design.
But it requires a firebed. I suppose it was originally designed to be set inside a fireplace. Last time I used it, I simply laid firebricks on the patio and built my fire on them, Afterward I thought of having a frame welded that would stand say waist-high and have inverted T-section crossbars in the right places to hold the firebrick.

When it came time to clear the thing off the patio I loaded the bricks on a hand-truck we use otherwise for moving big potted plants around. Today when a couple of friends drove up from the city, bringing with them a nice beefsteak and a handmade sausage, I wheeled the handtruck back to the patio, and suddenly realized I had my frame: the hand-truck. I set the brick out a little more carefully, on a sheet of weathered plywood; set the grill's frame on top of the brick, and we built our fire. Now I can wheel the thing out of sight when it's not in use, and move it around on the patio to just the right place. Nothing could be simpler.
steak.jpgOh, yes: dinner. Almonds and figs, bread oil and salt, steak and potato salad, a nice tossed green salad, Lindsey's remarkably delicious chestnut-honey ice cream, Mary Jo's deliciously remarkable short cookies and almond tarte. Delicious food, entertaining conversation, dear friends. We do live well.
Rosé, Château la Canorgue, Luberon, 2007
Old vines Zinfandel, Lou Preston, Dry Creek, 2006

Saturday, September 27, 2008


SATURDAY; MARKET DAY: Salmon, grilled and eaten with lemon; lima beans. Tossed green salad.
Cheap Pinot grigio

Friday, September 26, 2008

Baseball: hot dogs

LINDSEY WAS BORN on the South Side: for nearly 70 years she's waited to see her team go past the playoffs. We watch a lot of baseball these days, and tonight the Cubs were on TV again, playing the rival Brewers.

Hot dogs, then, on Downtown Bakery buns, with mustard, relish, and chopped onion.

Cheap pinot grigio.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Downstairs at Chez Panisse

DINNER WITH A VAGUELY exotic quality:
Tomato and roasted pepper salad with fresh ricotta and olives
Vin Gris de Pinot Noir, Robert Sinskey, Carneros 2007
Pan-seared yellowtail with green coriander and preserved lemon
Verdejo 'Conclass' 2006, Galicia
Rack, loin, and leg of Cattail Creek Ranch lamb with eggplant à l'orientale and green bean and shell bean ragout
Edmunds St. John Zinfandel, Amador County
Wine grape sherbets with Champagne gelée

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Penne with peanut sauce


YESTERDAY YOU SAW our usual lunch: toast with peanut butter, fruit. Tonight the peanut butter made a surprise appearance at dinner in a pasta sauce. Lindsey whisked sliced scallions, a little soy sauce, some rice vinegar, a crushed clove of garlic, and a fair sprinkling of cayenne pepper into peanut butter thinned with boiling water, tossed the whole-wheat penne with the sauce, and garnished with sliced cucumber. Odd, not an everyday dish, but interesting. Green salad, too, of course.
Cheap pinot grigio

Tuesday, September 23, 2008



LUNCH (almost) EVERY DAY: a slice of toast with peanut butter; nice ripe figs from our tree; the last of the red Bartletts, also from our tree. Well, we can't have our own fruit year 'round, but we sure can in September.
Pomegranate juice

(Dinner was a pan-bagnat: tomato, onion, basil, olive oil, vinegar, anchovy tuna, on sliced ciabatta: be sure to weight the sandwich down with a heavy black iron skillet for half an hour or so. Green salad.)
"Maison Rouge" Michel-Schlumberger Dry Creek Valley 2004

Monday, September 22, 2008

Leftovers, salad, cheese…

THERE ARE SO MANY PEARS to be picked, we have to empty the refrigerator. It's normally pretty full. Two people, lots of odd lots, a taste for (or at least what seems to be a proclivity toward) chutneys, jams, relishes, nuts, ketchups, pickles, cheeses, salamis, and so on, not to mention the bottle of Vermouth, the milk, the pomegranate juice, the seltzer bottle, the orange juice… well, you get the idea.

And now we have to condition the pears. The Comice are gone, but the Duchesse d'Angouleme continue, and the Seckels; and here come the Nellis and the Bosc. Pears from the tree need to go into cold storage to complete their maturation; don't ask me why. I guess they want colder climates: then why are they so damned fruitful here, this year?

So tonight Lindsey liberated a couple of those little plastic boxes: lima beans, chard. I looked through the cheese, and found two really delicious ones. The green salad, thank Demeter, absorbed all the lettuce, half the wild arugula, the two little avocados. Now we can start over. Or pick more pears.
"Maison Rouge" Michel-Schlumberger Dry Creek Valley 2004

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Staff picnic

EVERY YEAR ABOUT THIS TIME Chez Panisse throws a picnic party for the staff out at the farm — Bob Cannard's farm, that is, where so much of the fresh, flavorful produce served at Chez Panisse is grown. This year we went to a new site, not his Glen Ellen operation on Sonoma Mountain but Green String farm, just east of Petaluma on Old Adobe Road.

Two goats were splayed out on racks, roasting in front of a fire;

elsewhere, Bob had built an ad hoc oven for foccaccia, pizza, and at the end of the afternoon a delicious galette.
Nothing to it but firebrick floor and walls, a sheet of iron across the top; ordinary bricks to bulk the oven out, and a few wheelbarrows of crushed rock to cover the thing. I've got to do something like this next to the patio, I think.
We had some delicious pans-bagnats, too. (Checking the spelling has brought a curious website to my attention.) Well, not quite authentic, but extremely delicious and very simple: bread, sliced tomato, arugula, aioli, a soak of olive oil. Just make sure, as Chez Panisse does, that the ingredients are the best you can get.

Oh: the galette. Bob's brother was presiding over that course, but as you can see here Lindsey stepped in to help roll out a few shells, wielding a wine-bottle for a rolling pin. The filling was sliced apples, quartered fresh French prunes, and chopped walnuts were involved, and pieces of butter, and a generous sprinkling of nocino; and the galettes were baked in a very hot oven that brought out an amazing complexity and depth of flavor.
Wines too numerous to mention

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Salmon, chard, lima beans

SATURDAY: TO THE FARM MARKET, then, in Healdsburg, there to buy the weekly lima beans from Nancy Skall, and a bit of salmon from the fishmonger. The limas are from Nancy's garden, and are absolutely delicious, with complex flavor and a fine chestnutty texture. The salmon is from the Klamath River: none of that phony farmed cat-food salmon colored, I suspect, with shrimp skins, not for us!


Lindsey cooked the salmon quickly in the black iron skillet, the limas longer in water with a bit of butter. I cut the chard from our garden at the last minute, but simmered the cut-up stalks in water quite a little while, until tender; the sliced-up leaves went in at the end. Salt and a lemon from the patio tree. No need for salad.

Cheap pinot grigio

Friday, September 19, 2008

Po' Boy

Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar, 403 Healdsburg Ave. Healdsburg CA; 707-433-9191
TO TOWN FOR LUNCH today: Healdsburg; Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar. An overnight guest wanted to see what the town's like these days. There are so many possibilities these days for lunch, but we hadn't been to Willi's Healdsburg for a little while. What a nice simple lunch! I had a Po' Boy, fried oysters on a roll with celery-root remoulade; John and Lindsey each had a lobster roll. A side order of pommes frites.

Dessert: three Artisan cheeses: a delicious brie-type with truffle honey; a chevre; a sheep's-milk faintly blue with quince marmalata. Excellent.
Riesling Loosen Bros. Dr. L, Mosel, 2006

Thursday, September 18, 2008


A NEW PLAYER on the block: Eloise, a garden-based restaurant south of Sebastopol, in the country joint formerly occupied by Chez Peyo and then, for a short time, Bistro V.

It's a serious place. Nice room, small interesting wine list, attractive menu. We had:

  • Amuse-gueule: croustade with lima bean puree, black truffle oil
  • Puntarelle with bacon and egg vinaigrette
  • Cassoulet
  • Baba au rhum
  • and everything was quite fine; I'd go back tomorrow.
    Viogner Copain 2007
    Bandol La Bastide Blanche 2005

    Wednesday, September 17, 2008

    Penne in tomato sauce

    NICE FRESH RIPE TOMATOES, sweet and just acid enough. Lindsey diced them and cooked them in oil with a bit of salt and a little crushed garlic; then tossed cooked penne in the resulting sauce. Parmesan on grated on top; a grind or two of black pepper.

    Green salad.

    Bourgueil 2007 "Jour de soif"

    Tuesday, September 16, 2008


    AFTER FIFTEEN DAYS on the road, we're home: dinner from our own kitchen for the first time in two weeks. An omelet and a green salad.

    For fifty years or so I always made omelets the same way: whisk a couple of eggs in a bowl with a fork; salt them a very little bit; melt a piece of butter the size of half a walnut in a pan; heat until nearly brown; throw in the eggs; quickly rotate the pan to move the eggs around; flip; invert them onto the plate.

    Of course the devil's in the details: what pan, how hot, how shaken, etc., etc.

    And two or three years ago a movie changed my method. In the closing sequence of Big Night a cook makes an omelet in an Italian restaurant. The scene plays in real time: he mixes the eggs, warms the pan, cooks the omelet. The soundtrack is nothing but the sounds of the preparation: no music, no dialogue.

    And instead of butter he uses olive oil.
    Cheap pinot grigio.

    Monday, September 15, 2008

    Yet another Niçoise

    Marché: 296 E 5th Ave, Eugene OR; tel. 541.342.3612

    CAN YOU HAVE TOO MANY Niçoise salads? And by the way just what the hell is a Niçoise salad, anyway?

    Today's, at Marché, a very good restaurant in Eugene, Oregon, was described on the menu as:
    tuna seared rare, French potato salad, olives, hard-cooked farm egg, cherry tomatoes, green beans, aïoli & mesclun greens. No olives; no celery; no shrimp, as once happened to me in Maastricht. (Served me right, I suppose: Provence in Limburg?)

    A nice lunch. With it, a nice rosé.

    Sunday, September 14, 2008

    Caesar salad

    EATING TOOK BACK SEAT today to Portland's "time-based art" festival: fascinating dance performances in three city parks, a quick Caesar salad at South Park wine bar, then the film "Z", a soccer game seen entirely as it centered on one player, Zenadine Zidane. Maybe the performance will make The Eastside View; maybe not. This is it for the Caesar salad: it was okay.

    Arneis 2006

    Saturday, September 13, 2008

    Simpatica Dining Hall, Portland

    Simpatica Dining Hall, 828 SE Ash St., Portland; tel. 503.235.1600

    QUITE A DELICIOUS place, another real find in this city of delightful cuisine. Simpatica is in a sort of basement on an unlikely street, open for dinner only Friday and Saturday nights, with a fixed-price table d'hôte dinner menu with suggested wine pairings. We had:
  • almonds warmed in oil, with salt
  • "tempura" deep-fried fennel
  • Frisee salad with cannelini, cherry tomato, onion, oil-poached albacore; tarragon vinaigrette
  • semolina tagliatelle with corn and basil
  • pork loin with sweet peppers, onions, mint and preserved lemon
  • nectarine crostata with blackberry ice cream

  • All of which was quite tasty and correctly done. The chef gave a little talk before dinner, crediting the farmer who'd grown much of the produce — he was seated at one of the five tables (two 12's, three 6's). Could anything have been improved? A little salt in the tart pastry. Would I go back? You bet. The pork was nicely brined; the produce flavors were right at the front of the mouth.
    Martin Codáx Albariño 2007

    Friday, September 12, 2008

    Pasta with anchovies

    SLICE UP A FEW anchovies; warm them with crushed garlic; cook the pasta; toss it with the anchovies; sprinkle chopped fresh parsley on top.

    Cheap pinot grigio

    Thursday, September 11, 2008

    Roast chicken

    CHICKEN WITH FORTY CLOVES of garlic: one of the first recipes we learned from Julia Child, back in the 1960s. Forty years ago.

    Lindsey put the chicken in a Pyrex baking dish, surrounded it with potatoes cut into cubes a big inch across, tossed in a number of cloves of garlic, unpeeled, and roasted it all until done. There's not much more needs to be done. Afterward, a tossed salad.
    Louis Preston Barbera 2006

    Sept. 10: Risotto

    Dried porcini, soaked in chicken stock. Chopped onions sweated in oil; add Arborio, cook slow, stirring; stock added a little at a time, a little white wine, a little salt; keep stirring until rice won't take any more liquid; add the porcini.

    Tuesday, September 9, 2008

    Coffee and pastries

    Mix Sweet Shop café and bakery: 57 N Main St
    Ashland OR 97520; tel. (541) 488-9885

    Ken's Artisan Bakery: 338 NW 21st Avenue, Portland OR 97209; tel. 503.248.2202

    HOORAY! ASHLAND NOW HAS really good coffee and croissants, a necessary combination that's been lacking until now. Mix is on a strategic corner down by the triangle where the Lithia water flows (yes, that's made a long-desired reappearance); it's run by the pastry chef of the restaurant Amuse whose founding chef, a Berkeleyan, made his adolescent run through the kitchen of Chez Panisse quite a few years back; it serves Portland's Stumptown Coffee with which it makes absolutely delicious caffè latte; and all the pastries are made on site, from excellent ingredients, and baked until they have both color and flavor.

    We stopped in for a latte to go yesterday morning, and I mentioned we were on our way to Portland, to visit Ken's. "One of the best there is," said the proprietor of Mix.

    , in Portland, has the best bread in town, and that's saying a lot: Pearl, running a close race, is also an excellent baker of bread. Ken's a little farther from our digs, but unlike Pearl Ken's also bakes canalés, those soft, crunchy, dark, pale, sweet, solid teacakes that are quite unique. (Insinuating, too: a fascinating blog of three years ago collected quite a number of reponses from canalé fans around the world.)

    Last month for my birthday I was given an ideal present, a whole box of canelés, a couple of dozen I think: fortunately, they hold well; they needn't be eaten only fresh. Today we brought a half dozen home, with our bread; after supper — a delicious potato salad with sweet onion and tasty homemade vinegar — we had them with our tea. The Cubs lost, 4-3, but the canalés helped dull the sorrow.

    Monday, September 8, 2008

    Salads, again

    THERE ARE SALADS and salads. Today at a friend's house we had a delicious one of potatoes, tomato, olives, and hard-cooked egg, served nestled on romaine leaves and dressed very subtly with a very light vinaigrette. There was also baba ganoush, green beans in pomegranate-molasses vinaigrette (Lebanese Balsamico?), and red peppers à la grèque, along with ciabatta he'd baked, and delicious Interlaken green seedless grapes from his backyard grapevine. A wonderful lunch.

    And then for dinner here in Portland, at Giovanna's, another salad, I think you could say, but a warm one: orecchiette with red and yellow tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, olives, and minced basil, dressed with a little olive oil, garnished at the table with migas, slightly toasted bread crumbs, and grated Parmesan cheese.

    What makes a salad? Mac's dictionary says it's "a cold dish of various mixtures of raw or cooked vegetables, usually seasoned with oil, vinegar, or other dressing…"; but of course it can be warm as well as cold, there are plenty of warm or wilted salads. For me it's the composed nature of the dish, the tossed-together quality, and of course the dressing, that makes a dish a salad. And the salt: "from Old French salade, from Provençal salada, based on Latin sal ‘salt’."

    Sunday, September 7, 2008

    Dinner at New Sammy's

    New Sammys Cowboy Bistro
    2210 S Pacific Hwy, Talent, OR
    Tel: (541) 535-2779

    A SPECIAL BIRTHDAY DINNER for a special friend, at one of the best restaurants I know.

    Green salad with dried sour cherries and feta cheese

    Lamb stew with mushrooms and risotto

    Rose ice cream cone (upside down) with caramel sauce and raspberries

    Rosé "Pink Floyd", Chateau Miraval, 2007
    Vin rouge de Marsillac, Philippe Teulier, 2006

    A splendid dinner.


    Ashland, Oregon, September 6—

    IT WILL BE IN THE NATURE of this blog to be repetitive; that probably applies to most blogs. I apologize for this now; I'll try never to repeat the apology.

    It never takes long when we're on the road before we miss our salads. This time we brought oil and vinegar along, and one of Nancy Skall's delicous Walla Walla onions, and yesterday we visited the Saturday farmer's market here and bought a head of lettuce and a bag of small lettuce; and, at the community supermarket, a couple of avocados.

    I diced up a bunch of red-and-white ("French breakfast") radishes to add some texture and complexity, and made the usual vinaigrette but without garlic, since Lindsey was making garlic toasts. Alas I couldn't find decent salt in the cupboard; we settled for run-of-the-mill. After I brought the salad to the table, though, Margery, who had been looking for something else, found the Italian sea salt I'd bought last year, so that got added at the last minute. What a difference good salt makes!

    Dinner was a "lamb-burger" at one of the local brew pubs; okay, not much more than that.

    Friday, September 5, 2008

    Pizza ordered from away

    NOTHING TO BRAG ABOUT here; we ordered pizza to be delivered. First, of course, a considerable discusison concerning parameters:

    Obligatory: dough; tomato; cheese; anchovies;…
    Forbidden: pineapple, chicken, ground beef…
    Permitted: garlic, artichoke, peppers…

    Of course it all came as unexpected; we'd begun with Martinis and such. Can't be helped.

    Thursday, September 4, 2008

    Lunch at New Sammy's

    New Sammys Cowboy Bistro
    2210 S Pacific Hwy, Talent, OR
    Tel: (541) 535-2779

    A TRIP TO A WINERY this morning: Cowhorn, out near Jacksonville, here in southern Oregon. It's a small young vineyard-winery operation, with a total production of less than a thousand cases in 2006, its second year of production. We tasted Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, and Syrah; the dedication is entirely to Rhone varietals and Rhone-type wines.
    The dedication is also to biodynamic production, and the winery is associated, through one of its owners, with Demeter® USA, "the only certification agent for Biodynamic® farms", as its website points out: so from now on you're going to have to put that little encircled "r" after the word biodynamic.
    In any case (and there are very few cases) the wines were delicious, delicious to the point that we actually bought a couple of bottles for special occasions later on. And then we went on to New Sammy's for lunch.

    Here is Charlene's garden, or rather a corner of it, out behind the restaurant, which is in the country about halfway between Ashland and Talent, Oregon. It's not a great photo; I took it with my telephone. And it doesn't begin to convey the garden's fragrance.
    Charlene's cuisine makes great use of responsibly raised (or caught) beef, lamb, fish, and poultry; but it is rooted in, based on, the garden and its vegetables and herbs. Today I had ravioli, one filled with wild mushroom, the other not. The plate was a riot (meant in the best sense) of vegetables: red and yellow tomato, eggplant, corn, pepper, onion among them, each with its own bright flavor, all coexisting happily on the plate as they do in the garden, all contributing to a sensual delight.
    Pinot grigio Collio 2006

    Wednesday, September 3, 2008

    Back to Piatti

    BACK TO PASTA PIATTI (see yesterday) for another salad: this time "Caesar," in quotes because 1) no anchovy 2) no raw egg. I'm resigned to the latter; the stupid salmonella police have ruined things for all of us. But why no anchovy? Bogus; bogus.

    On the other hand I just came home from what may have been the definitive performance of Othello. I think I'll never go see another production of it. I hope to write about it, and other plays seen this week, over at The Eastside View: it's two weeks now since I've been there.

    Tuna and beans

    Ashland, Oregon, Sept. 2—
    THE USUAL BREAKFAST and a fried egg; half a pastrami sandwich for lunch; a long drive; dinner at Pasta Piatti, an Italian restaurant around the corner.salad.JPG
    The menu's too long, I think; it has to depend on bulk set-ups. But some at least of the produce seems fresh and local, the wine list is interesting, and the setting's nice enough, particularly if you're eating outside in pleasant weather.
    I see now I ordered exactly what I had a year ago, tuna-cannelini salad: as then, the tuna nicely grilled but in two large slabs; deficient in chopped onion. I'm not sure a classic Italian salad like this is improved by the addition of sesame seeds, but there they were.
    With it, a glass of Monica Argiolas 2005, very nice. It's a good wine list.

    358 E. Main St., Ashland, Oregon; tel. (541) 488-5493;

    Monday, September 1, 2008

    Pasta al pesto

    WE'RE GETTING READY for another trip, a short one — a short week in Ashland, another in Portland. There'll be some interesting eating, no doubt. Today, though, nothing fancy: it's time to clean out the refrigerator. We had grilled Poblanos and broiled sliced eggplant; penne al pesto; and a nice Charentais melon for dinner.

    The eggplant? It was Thérèse's invention quite a while back: slice the eggplant pretty thin — lengthwise is best, I think — brush the slices with olive oil, salt them, and lay them out on a cookie sheet; set them in a medium oven and bake until browned and a little crisp. You don't need as much oil as usual, and there's no bitterness.

    Cheap Pinot grigio, comme d'habitude…