Saturday, May 31, 2008

Petrale again

Petrale sole; baked potato; favas; green salad; Black Tartarian cherries


SATURDAY IS MARKET DAY in Healdsburg, as I probably mentioned a week ago, and we eat from the market that day. The sole was cooked much as it was last week, and was as delicious, subtle, actually fragrant (I write of the cooked dish, not the raw fish) as it was then. I like my baked potato with olive oil, not butter, and good sea salt and Tellicherry black pepper. The favas were cooked in a little butter and salt, with chopped sweet onion and a little mint from the steps to the garden — we don't know what kind of mint it is, but we like it.

Black Tartarians. When I was a boy they were the first to ripen, and I'd spend two or three afternoons in the trees, eating cherries. They're still my favorite sweet cherry.

Cheap pinot grigio: and, afterward,
gnole I made a few years ago by steeping sour-cherry pits in Everclear.

Friday, May 30, 2008


Lentils, olive oil, onions, garlic, rice, salt, cumin, pepper; lettuces, vinaigrette; raspberries


IT WAS THELONIOUS MONK, I think, who suddenly asked, while riding in the back seat of a car to some job or other, What make the car go? And someone who I imagine was riding in the front passenger seat started explaining all about carburetors and spark plugs and crankshafts and transmissions and all that, and then Monk interrupted, and said

I know all that, Monk said, What I want to know is, what make the car go?

Which is how I feel about chopped onions sweated in olive oil. It's perfectly simple: you put a little olive oil in a frying pan or a skillet, you heat it, you chop the onions (I have my way, Lindsey has hers) and put them in, maybe a little salt. Then something happens.

Of course onions are loaded with sugars: they darken the onion as it cooks, and convey sweetness. The oils carry the flavors. The whole thing marries, integrates. We say of love — of sexual attraction — that it's a matter of chemistry. Same is true of sweating onions in olive oil.

In any case, that's what Lindsey did, until the onions were crisp; and scattered them atop the pilaf:

Boil the lentils in water; simmer until tender; drain. Brown (gild, actually) the onions with a little minced garlic in olive oil, stirring often; add the rice, salt, cumin, and pepper, stir until the rice turns color (and this is hard to describe: it's like making risotto: it doesn't really color, it changes its degree of translucency).

Stir in the lentils and add water; bring to a boil; cover and simmer until done.

They were our own raspberries, the first of the season. The cherries are beginning to color, too: I set the toy rattlesnake out on one of the branches today to discourage the birds; tomorrow we have to flash-tape it. I had to prop the nectarine, too. Ça commence.
Cheap Nero d'Avila

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Fusilli; [canned] tomato, onion, olive oil, black pepper, bay leaves, Parmesan cheese; green salad


THAT'S REALLY ABOUT ALL you need to say about it, just the ingredients. Lindsey likes to sweat the chopped onion in olive oil at a high enough temperature to make them crisp and quite dark, some of them, around the edges; then she squeezes in canned whole tomatos from between her fingers, adds a couple of leaves from the bay tree on the patio, and a few grinds of black pepper.

The pasta cooks in salted water, is then drained, and the sauce added. The Parmesan is grated on top of each serving.

Red and Green: the green salad follows, with a slice of bread for me. (I always think of Lindsey's father, who turned to me one day, when I served the salad, with the simple query: Got any bread? He was quite right: salad sans bread is unthinkable.

Preston Vineyards Carignane 2005

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Meat and Potatoes

Skirt steak; potatoes; corn, green and red peppers, onion, sour cream; green salad


TO HEALDSBURG TONIGHT for dinner with friends. How delicious! Skirt steak from the grill, with nicely roasted little potatoes also from the grill. Meat and potatoes: I grew up on them, and crave them these days, now that I'm training for the long walk next month...
Protein. Protein.

With them, an interesting variation on creamed corn, another memory from childhood: but made with sour cream, not the clabbery milk Mom used to mix with Jolly Green Giant canned Mexicorn...

Green salad; strawberries and vanilla ice cream. Delicious; absolutely delicious.

Private issue Syrah; Ravenwood Zinfandel 2006

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hot dog

Frankfurter, bun, onion, dill pickle, mustard


ONE OF THE IDEAS of this blog is that after a year the Hundred Great Dishes will have emerged, the hundred items, whether entrées (plats principaux) or hors d'oeuvres or even desserts will turn out to be the things without which civilized dining will not be thinkable. Well, maybe it'll take more than a year.

Surely the Hot Dog will be among them. It is perhaps the one quintessential American main course, drawing, of course, as do all things American, on sources behind and beyond and beneath our national consciousness.

In any case the Cubs were on television tonight, playing the hapless Dodgers, and one doesn't like to watch a ball game, even on television, without the appropriate meal. So: Frankfurter from Niman-Schell (beef, sustainable one assumes); bun from Healdsburg's Downtown Bakery & Creamery (soft, made with milk in the dough, tasting of milk, wheat, and yeast); a sweet onion from the Farm Market; dill pickle from a delicatessen; Maille old style Dijon mustard.

Broil; toast; spread; eat.

Preston Vineyards Carignane 2005

Oh: Cubs, 3-1.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Kale and ceci

Kale, ceci, garlic, cumin, coriander, red pepper


WHEN I WAS A KID they were always canned, and we called them garbanzos. The correct English word is chick pea, of course, but somehow I can never call them that. In Italian, ceci. Tonight's were canned, too; canned organic garbanzos; I don't know where Lindsey got them. She'd chopped the kale pretty fine and steamed it, I imagine, in chicken stock, until done, with the garbanzos and spices. It's amazing how meaty a dish like that can be: even after a day's work, well, not that hard, two servings, with some nice toasted walnut bread, was enough for dinner.

Barbera d'Alba "La Loggia" 2005

Sunday, May 25, 2008

From the market

favas; potatoes with green garlic; petrale sole in black butter; garden salad with spring onions


WE'RE LUCKY HERE IN HEALDSBURG to have a fine local farm market. Saturday morning we bought favas, spring onions, and green garlic from farms close enough almost to walk to, and Petrale sole caught the day before out in the local Pacific. No salmon this year, and that's a pity: the season's been shut down the entire year, in hopes the salmon will recover. But halibut and sole are running, and they're delicious.

Lindsey cooked the favas in water with a little butter (and salt, of course), and smashed up the potatoes with the green garlic and a little olive oil. The fish was pan-fried in the black iron skillet in butter that she'd let go dark, then dressed with a Meyer lemon from the tree out the kitchen door. An absolutely delicious dinner.

Bianco di Custoso Corte Gardoni 2006

Red meat

San Francisco, May 24--
Agretti with goat cheese and harissa; grilled beef and potatoes

YOU CAN'T REALLY COUNT boiled ham in a delicatessen cellophane-wrapped sandwich: so, I say, tonight was the first red meat in eight days, which is probably good for me.

It was at a friend's house in San Francisco. We began with agretti (Google it: in English, it's apparently called saltwort), odd green stalks that grow in salt-marshes, tasting something like pea-pods, something like asparagus, something like nothing else in the world, with a hunk of nice goat cheese and a dollop of harissa to spice things up.

The beefsteak was enormous, surely four inches thick, perfectly grilled on the charcoal. It was followed by four cheeses, including an amazing Graystone from Wisconsin, stinky and smooth; and for dessert cherries and raspberries. I won't mention the five wines (there were six of us at table); it'll arouse envy.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Home for salad

Fusili with anchovies; green salad


IF YOU HAD TO ASK ME what my favorite vegetable is, I suppose I'd have to say "lettuce," that is, if "lettuce" qualifies as a single vegetable. And this is something of a surprise to me: I hadn't thought about it until tonight. I would have thought it would have been asparagus, or artichokes, or fava beans: the triumvirate that says Spring. Or it might have been leeks, or fine young carrots. Onions, of course. Certainly not corn: even at its best it's just too incidental.

We're home, and while we've eaten well on the road this last week, and God knows had our share of salads, the thing I looked forward to the most was my own little lettuce patch -- oakleaf and frisée, mâche and arugula. It had thrived nicely; the rabbits hadn't found it (probably the big arugulas that had bolted hid it from them). They were tender and succulent.

I should probably have dressed them with nothing but salt and olive oil, but I'd missed my own vinegar, too. And garlic! When we're on the road we never get enough of it. So it got dressed the usual way, lots of garlic, good sea salt, decent olive oil, Eastside Zinfandel vinegar. A slice of bread to mop out the bowl. What a delicious dinner!

Barbera d'Alba "La Loggia" 2005

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Berkeley, May 22 --

Minestrone soup; braised chicken with carrots and potatoes

Camino: 3917 Grand Avenue, Oakland CA; tel 510.547.5035

Dinner tonight at a new restaurant in Oakland: Camino, open only a few days. The owners are ex Chez Panisse: Russell Moore, who was co-Cafe Chef there, and Allison Hopelain. The building is capacious, beautifully appointed in a sort of loft postIndustrial Craftsman, with long tables. The menu is restricted to four or five each of appetizers and main courses and three desserts, and the wine list is similarly short but extremely well balanced and thought out.

I ate without my Lindsey, which is quite unusual, but with a couple of friends, at the end of a tiring day driving up highway 5 through winds and dust-storms.

No matter: a Martini (sans olives, but with a drop of Fernet from my flask) set things right. The bread was that delicious epi from Acme. The minestrone was rich, deep, and resonant, with cavalonero and borlotti and white beans in a fine stock suggesting beef and marrow.

The chicken was meaty and juicy, beautifully cooked, flavored with celery and carrot and its own juices, and accompanied by diagonal-cut slices of rather large carrot and nicely done small potatoes.

Desserts: since there were three of us we had them all: a cherry tart, a nice apricot clafoutis, and a marvelous nougat with shortbread cookies on the side. I'll be back, next time with Lindsey.

Cotes du Rhone

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ahi salad

Ahi, lettuces, carrot, cucumber, onion, olives; wasabi vinaigrette

Red Car Brewery: 1266 Sartori Ave., Torrance, CA; tel. 310.782.0222


WE WERE IN TORRANCE to see an exhibition of photographs by a friend, Jim Farber, at the Torrance Art Museum: he met us there to discuss them with us (and a splendid show they made, by the way), and then it was time for lunch. Idea #1: The Depot, said to be really quite a good place -- but closed at 2 pm, and it was three minutes past.

Not far away we noticed the Red Car Brewery. We never eat enough fish -- one of the few things I miss from Berkeley is Monterey Fish: there just isn't anything like it in our neighborhood. But here was ahi on the menu, and in a salad, and with wasabi. Sounded good, and wasn't bad.

Sorry about the photo.

Zabaco Sauvignon blanc

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tre Venezie

Insalata di uva; tortelloni al rabarbaro e prosciutto
Trattoria Tre Venezie, 119 W. Green St., Pasadena; tel. 626-795-4455

OVER THE YEARS THE RESTAURANT THAT CALLS ME MOST SEDUCTIVELY in Los Angeles is a small, comfortable, quiet, fragrant place on Green Street in Pasadena, just off the main drag. It's easy to get to; it's easy to park; best of all, it's easy to sit in this civilized dining room with its books and bottles, with its detailed and expansive menu, with, ultimately, its intriguing, authentic, unusual cuisine.

Simply approaching the restaurant on the street is reassuring. It's a quiet street with a narrow, tree-shaded sidewalk, and the entrance to the restaurant is from a dogleg through a small courtyard: you're slowed down by steps as you approach the restaurant.

The Restaurant is Tre Venezie, specializing in the cuisine of northeast Italy, a cuisine that triangulates among Italian, Slavic, and Austrian cuisines. Wikipedia explains:
The terms Tre Venezie or Triveneto (literally "Triple Veneto"), refers to the three regions of Veneto (before 1947 Venezia Euganea, united to Friuli) Trentino-South Tyrol (once Venezia Tridentina) and Friuli-Venezia Giulia.
There's a good review online: take a look at it. Notice particularly the final paragraph: this restaurant is steeped in humanity. It's not about making a statement, or even making a dollar (though I'm sure that's important). It's about living well.

There were five of us at table, ordering four first courses, four pastas, one meat course. Every dish sounded fascinating on the menu; each one arrived as described but revealing unexpected pleasures. For one thing, every dish announced itself with its fragrance: Sarah's linguini subtly scented with cinnamon, my tortelloni with their cheese and prosciutto; Lindsey's bigoli.

We didn't order many desserts: too bad. Sarah had gelati, mango and strawberry; Lindsey had a kind of half-bonet-half-crème brulée. They were absolutely delicious. I had a Nardini grappa flavored with almonds. Delicious.

Pinot grigio, Collio, 2005

Monday, May 19, 2008

Chaparosa Grill

Coronation chicken salad; filet of Dover sole in creamy basil sauce; chocolate ganache

Chaparosa Grill, 2449 Park Avenue, Tustin; tel. 714.259.9888


AN HOUR SOUTH OF GLENDALE, with a lengthy detour to Upland and environs p have dinner with good friends recently transplanted to Irvine from Brooklyn. I know: the geography's a bit daunting.

It was even more so for us, as Chaparosa Grill is
• on a street too new to be found by any GPS system, including Mandy who lives in the dashboard of our car;
• in a shopping center apparently designed to suggest a small Italian village surrounded by vast tracts of parking-lot.

Don't get me started on the follies of this kind of commercial town-planning.

We did ultimately find the place, and understood what Beth and Rusty see in it. Comfortable, capacious, interesting menu, good bar and wine list. Tonight, though, we were there for a monthly Monday special: owner-chef Tony Corke gave a demonstration of the three-course dinner outlined at the top of this page, distributing the recipes; and we ate that dinner, with a couple of glasses of Chardonnay, at a fixed price of thirty-five bucks plus tax and tip.

The salad involved a lettuce chiffonade, diced poached chicken breast, diced bananas and mango, chopped green onions and shelled peanuts, and a dressing that might give you pause: mayonnaise, curry paste, and peanut butter. It sounds terrible, and it is English (as is the chef): its title derives from its having been improvised at the coronation of Elizabeth II, by or perhaps for exotic members of the Empire. But in fact it was pretty tasty, especially on a hot night.

The fish course was more straightforward, more conventional: fillets rolled up, skewered on toothpicks, and poached; pesto made in a blender, then reduced with cream in a saucepan. This was served with rice and vegetables, and while uninspired in its hotel-school way it was nourishing and unobjectionable. I don't know why you'd want to tame pesto with cream, or for that matter why you'd serve sole with pesto -- a slice of lemon, or a nice beurre noire, is a more logical treatment. But as I say it was unobjectionable.

The ganache was a chocolate tart on a graham-cracker-crumb shell, flavored with Grand Marnier and raspberries. Again: Swiss-hotel cuisine. Again: solid and unobjectionable.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Bombay Cafe

lunch: Masala Dosa, Naan, Sambar
Bombay Café: 12021 West Pico Blvd., Los Angeles; tel. 310.473.3388


WE WERE INTRODUCED TO THIS PLACE a few years ago by our friends Jim and Lisa, and it's a place we return to -- especially if we're going to be in the vicinity. You don't go to Bombay Café for the atmosphere. You go for deep, rich flavors, naan and dosas with perfect textures, and a relaxed time. Nothing's more casual. We started with a ginger-beer Pimm's Cup, and it all worked out just fine. Cheap, too.


Then we imposed on an old acquaintance not seen in years for dinner: fish skewered with peppers, tomatoes, onions, and zucchini, with yellow potatoes, all on the charcoal grill; and a fine salad, heavy on the mâche; and mango-blood-orange Ciao Bella gelato, with a bottle of Fess Parker viogner recalling Chateau Grillet. Los Angeles has its delicious evenings.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Bar Celona

Patatas bravas; tortilla; boquerones
Bar Celona: 46 East Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; tel. 626.405.1000


HOT; HOT; HOT. Too hot to think about eating in the middle of the day, but we're seeing more Shakespeare tonight, and won't want to do that on a full stomach. What to do?

Well, since we're spending the afternoon at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, let's drop by a tapas place I recall from a couple of years ago. The waitress has just stepped out of a Pedro Almodóvar movie; there's a curious family from the Philippines at a nearby table; next us, a courtly elderly fellow eats with his wife, both a little unfamiliar with tapas and eating chicken salads instead.

I do love patatas bravas, fried roughly sliced potatoes with chile peppers and such. You could taste the lard on these, subtle for lard; they lacked salt I thought, but that's easily rectified. The tortilla, a thick egg-and-potato omelet, was fine, if not up to the tapas bars of Sevilla.

And the boquerones! Four slices of baguette, heaped with sweet pepper purée, two of them red, two green, with crossed sweet anchovies on top, and thin-sliced onions beneath... delicious.

Aires de Arosa Albariño 2005

Friday, May 16, 2008


lunch: chuleta de puerco. dinner: caesar salad.


up until midnight last night; up early this morning; a concert at the L.A. Philharmonic; another play at A Noise Within (see the other blog for details): not much time for eating. Lunch was at El Cochinito (3508 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles; tel.. 323.668.0737), a recommended Cuban storefront in a strip mall, and it was pretty good: one of those thin flat porkchops like we had when I was a kid, with a mound of rice made better by a side of delicious black beans. (Corona beer.)

Dinner was the salad you see above, liberated from a plastic box bought at Trader Joe. Surprise: the slasaus, as the Dutch might call it, included anchovy, so even though I mistakenly bought the chicken version, it could have been worse.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Too hot to eat.


AFTER A LONG HOT day's drive, a lamb sandwich from Andronico's deli was about all any of us wanted.

What to drink? I bought a bottle of rum, some limes, and a small box of sugar lumps. We have ice cubes in the freezer. We're here for a week, and it's not going to get any cooler.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tuna heart

Maritime East: 2826 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94707 ; tel. (510) 848-9299

THE AMBIANCE, a friend warned; the ambiance; no matter how good the food, the decor -- oh well, you'll see.

And indeed it does look like one of those places where they kept running out of materiel, or technique, or maybe ideas. Each wall seems to be covered in a different material. There's enough blue and green to give you the idea of a fish restaurant; otherwise, not much riding here on a sense of ensemble.

Oh well: you can't eat atmosphere. The menu was promising. Ann had mussels (late in the season, I thought to myself). Lindsey had a cheeseburger and french fries -- that'll surprise some of you.

I had a pizza with artichoke, fennel, and "Sardinian tuna heart." The pizza was undercooked, but who'd stand that long in front of a wood-burning pizza oven on a night like this?

The artichoke-fennel was food-processed to a paste; the tuna "heart" turned out to be like bottarga, dried and shaved over the pizza, and some kind of lemony mayonnaiselike stuff was squeeze-bottled out over the whole contraption.

Martin Codax Albarino, very nice...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Martini and grilled tuna

GRILLED TUNA sandwiches tonight, broccoli on the side. Since we're out of cheap white wine, let's have a Martini first -- even though Friday's three days off!

The grilled tuna sandwich is another old favorite: bread, a little mayo mixed in with the (canned) tuna, thin-sliced (white) onions; grilled tonight in the black iron frying pan. Green salad, naturally.

Today's photo and blog were e-mailed to the Internet, an experiment in lightweight technology -- since I'll be on the road this next week, and have to make sure things will work during the longer trip this summer.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Gibassiers to sardines

Beginning the sixth month of Eating Every Day
breakfast: gibassiers from the freezer; café au lait

dinner: barley soup; sardine sandwiches; green salad


I'D FORGOTTEN TO PICK UP a loaf of bread yesterday: what to do for breakfast? Why, break out the last two frozen gibassiers, brought back last month from Portland's Pearl Bakery. Oh, I said, no, let's have them for tea; I'll make pancakes. No, Lindsey said, I think of them as a breakfast pastry, let's have them for breakfast.

Gibassiers are a sweet bread from Provence; more specifically, Nice, I'd bet. The word appears in neither my Grand Dictionairre Encyclopédique Larrouse nor the Larousse Étymologique, which concerns me: I thought those references were more reliable, more all-embracing than that. Pastry is too often treated frivolously by the serious. They are a sweet bread, and — in the Pearl Bakery incarnation, at any rate — flavored with orange peel, anise seeds, and orange blossom water; and they involve olive oil: but they are a yeast pastry, rather like brioche.


Dinner was a more earthy affair, appropriate to a day largely spent in the garden and the vineyard, or at least thinking about them. Lindsey sliced leeks into some chicken stock and simmered barley in it; after the soup we had delicious sardine-and-sliced-onion sandwiches on five-grain bread from the Downtown Bakery. Green salad, of course: a mix of little lettuces and that curious big-leafed tender and mild "Dutch" arugula.

The last of that René Barbier Catalunya 2004 white wine.
Looking at it more closely, I notice it's imported by Freixenet: I bet it's the low-alcohol white wine they use for their low-priced sparkling wine. It's good.


May 11, 2008: our fifty-first wedding anniversary
Niman-Schell hot dogs with relish, sauerkraut, and mustard; green salad

SUNDAY BREAKFAST was our usual soft-boiled egg with toast and café au lait; then a two-hour drive. Lunch was a fourme d'Ambert sandwich and an apple, on the trail — eight miles today, in about three hours, with the pack on.

So we were hungry at dinner time, but too tired to eat. I picked up a couple of packages of hot dogs at Trader Joe's — Lindsey likes the Niman-Schell beef hot dogs, nothing fancy, baseball park fare. She broiled them in the oven, and warmed up some Downtown Bakery buns, and I went out to the garden and picked lettuce.

Now and then I change my usual salad strategy. Tonight Lindsey had crushed garlic in oil, but instead of vinegar I whisked in the end of the bottle of pickle relish: and after throwing those delicious little leaves in the bowl over the dressing, I top-dressed them with another drizzle of olive oil and sprinkled more salt on top. We need salt, after a hike like that.

Pomegranate juice

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Fourme d'Ambert

zucchini; toasted bread; olive oil; Fourme d'Ambert


EVERYONE KNOWS THERE ARE THREE great blue cheeses, and that they are: Stilton, from England; Roquefort, from France; Gorgonzola, from Italy. But my own favorite has always been bleu d'Auvergne.

A couple of weeks we drove back from Portland, and Giovanna, who came with us, brought, without my quite realizing it, a pound or two of cheese that had been given her by a friend who conveniently imports foods from France and Italy and other such places. In fact we'd tasted this very cheese at Giovanna's while we were visiting, and I'd commented on it: how good it was, how incredibly good and, for all I knew, nonpareil. So, dutiful — or, better, fond daughter that she is, she brought a pound or two with her, and tonight it provided the evening protein.

It's not simply a generic bleu d'Auvergne, of course, though those are quite good enough: it's a Fourme d'Ambert, a blue cheese with a very long pedigree indeed, and one uniquely suited to the wine I ultimately provided it.


Lindsey steamed some sliced zucchini from the market and toasted a couple of slices of wheat-grain bread from the bakery, and we drizzled olive oil on some of the toast, and cut generous slices of cheese on the rest. Nothing to it: and delicious.

Wines: I forgot to mention that last night's wine, at the new restaurant, was an interesting Nero d'Avola from Sicily with a curious name: Nerojbleo, 2004 — nice to have a wine with a little age on it. And tonight, after a short glass of the usual cheap Pinot grigio,
René Barbier Catalunya 2004 (!) white wine, 11.5% alcohol, vanilla and lemon, floral without a any phony chemistry: If I ever remember where I bought it, I'll get a case or two for the summer. Delicious.

Friday, May 9, 2008

New restaurant in town

artichoke and parmesan salad; lamb chops with spinach and favas
Scopa: 109A Plaza Street, Healdsburg, CA 95448; tel. 707-433-5282


THERE ARE NOT MANY FINER SALADS than this: tiny artichokes, the points and outer leaves removed, the artichokes then halved lengthwise and sliced thin crosswise, dressed with a bit of lemon juice to keep them from discoloring, tossed in a bit of good olive oil, topped with thin shavings of good Parmagiano and maybe a sprinkle of chopped parsley.

That's what I had tonight at Scopa, a new home-cooking Italian restaurant that opened just yesterday on Healdsburg's central plaza. The town isn't exactly short on restaurants; you may wonder how another can be justified. But judging by the menu (which I forgot to bring home; sorry) and especially by tonight's meal this is a different kind of place. Much of the menu is Piemontese, to begin with; a corner of Italy (the northwest corner, to be specific) that's been neglected in this country (is in Italy too, for that matter). The menu features a number of attractive items; we joked that it would be fun to eat every night here, eating through the menu, and then not come back until they change it — though in fact there are several items I'd eat more than once a week.

The place is relaxed, fun, and easy; and the prices are right. After my salad I had lamb chops with a Piemontese polenta fritter speckled with chopped herbs and a healthy serving of spinach on the side, nicely dressed, along with a scattering of succulent fava beans. The lamb was from New Zealand, not Sonoma county; you could tell by the meaty sweetness — I love Sonoma county lamb, but it's a different animal in general, wilder-tasting and smaller on the bone. P1010620.jpg
This was the serious lamb chop, and there were several of them. We sat with a couple of friends at the table on the sidewalk, and were joined by a couple of strangers: it's a communal table, a feature I really welcome.

Dessert? Given the choice of strawberries and balsamico, an affogato, and a cheese plate, I opted for the affogato: vanilla ice cream in a bowl of espresso, served with three or four ripe fresh cherries on the side and a couple of biscotti. The coffee was quite delicious; ditto the ice cream. We'll be back.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Cannelini with pancetta and onions, fresh herbs, Parmesan, and olive oil
Pizzetta with bagna cauda, mozzarella, Kalamata olives, red onions, and fresh herbs
Ravenette Café: 117 North St., Healdsburg, California; Tel: 707-431-1770

HEALDSBURG HAS BECOME a restaurant destination; people fly up here from Los Angeles now for the food and the wine and the expensive hotels. Another new restaurant is opening this week, and we'd intended to eat there tonight, but the place was already jammed, so we walked a block uptown to Ravenous.

Small room seating twenty or so; small kitchen with room for two; pleasant and enthusiastic service; an enterprising menu with reasonable prices; a good local wine list. Not much not to like: and, in fact, it's a favorite of locals.

(The name? It's next door to the Raven Theatre, formerly the Aven, itself named for its founder's wife, back in the 1930s. Originally it was called Ravenous, but when another space was found for the restaurant, around the corner in a spacious bungalow, the owners decided to keep this space as well: hence Ravenette.)

I'd expected the cannelini to be a salad but they were in fact, as you see, a soup, and an unctuous one at that. Nicely cooked, rich with herbs and pancetta, smooth with glorious olive oil.


The pizzetta had a fine crust, not too thin but certainly on the thin side, crisp and flavorful in itself. The mozzarella rather overcame the bagna cauda, I thought, and oregano added another dominant note; but I liked the contribution those olives made, mushroomy in texture and depth. All in all, a rich and pungent dinner: I think I'll have a Fernet and soda before tonight's tea. But don't get me wrong: it was a good dinner, and I'd go back to Ravenous just about any day.

Unti Segromigno 2006 (80% Sangiovese, 20% Barbera, local and biodynamic)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Caesar salad

Lunch: a burrito with chile verde from
Gordo Taqueria, 2989 College Ave., Berkeley, CA; tel. (510) 204-9027

Dinner: Caesar salad and a glass of rosé at
downtown, 2102 shattuck avenue, berkeley; tel. 510.649.3810

A CAESAR SALAD, as far as I'm concerned, deserves the name only if a few minimum conditions are met: it must be romaine; it must include anchovy; there should be garlicky croutons; it must be dressed with raw egg. These conditions are rarely met these days, and it's not only because of the salmonella hysteria: widespread fear of anchovy is another villain. The best Caesar salad in the vicinity is that at Zuni (1658 Market St., San Francisco; tel. (415) 552-2522), but we were not in San Francisco; we were in downtown Berkeley to see a play. We were eating early, wanted to stay awake through the play, and had an hour's drive afterward, so must eat light.

downtown — the restaurant is averse to capital letters — serves a Caesar salad that's routine. You could argue that this is both expectable and justifiable, since a relatively small kitchen has to satisfy a large number of diners in a short time before a play (Berkeley Rep and Aurora Theater are both within a few yards of the restaurant). But that's equally true at Zuni. Still, a routine Caesar is not a bad thing, and offset the bad karma attendant a lunchtime burrito.

With the salad: a glass of Corbières rosé, 2006

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Baked potato

Potato; asparagus, favas, garlic scapes; olive oil, salt, pepper; lettuces, arugula


THERE ARE NOT MANY BETTER THINGS than a baked potato. Lindsey likes yams; I don't: I'm a baked potato guy. Bake it; slit it; squeeze the ends to open it; pour in some olive oil; crumble in a good pinch of good sea salt.

But we need vegetables, too. Lindsey sautéed a mess of fava beans, asparagus, and garlic scapes, a specialty of this season, subtle and assertive at the same time.


And salad, of course; more lettuce and arugula from our own garden. It's a nice time of year!

Cheap Pinot grigio 

Monday, May 5, 2008

Redsauce again

Tomato (canned), onion, oil, garlic, bay leaf, salt, pepper; pasta; Parmesan


REDSAUCE IS WHAT WE CALL IT, and we have it fairly often, though perhaps not as often as we should, as it's supposed to be particularly good for what ails you, and by "you" I mean me. I've never understood Lindsey's way of dicing an onion, but I generously let her do it her way: she cups a half onion in her left hand, makes parallel cuts through from the cut surface to nearly the end, then turns the thing ninety degrees and makes parallel cuts again; then slices off the resulting dice. Me, I put the onion on a board and dice it the usual way: but then, I'm not a pastry chef.

Whichever way, you brown the onion in the olive oil in the stainless steel skillet (this is one thing the black iron skillet won't work for), maybe add a little garlic, a can of tomatoes, salt and pepper, and cook it all down nice and slow while watching the Sox lick the Tigers. Toss it with the boiled pasta and grate good Parmesan cheese on it; complete your meal with the usual green salad. Green and red.

Tonight's salad came partly from our garden, first time this year -- a few leaves of curly lettuce, oakleaf, and a soft "Dutch" arugula. Nice.

The rest of the Preston Cinsault

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Just for the halibut

Halibut cheeks, fava beans, garlic toasts; green salad

ONE FIXTURE AT THE HEALDSBURG FARM MARKET is the fish guy, who goes out fishing every week off the Sonoma coast. Last year and the year before we depended on him for our salmon, and he never let us down. We had salmon almost every week that we were in town.

This year, though, no salmon. The season was cancelled for lack of fish. It's a disaster, one of the worst years on record for salmon. Some people blame the sea lions; some blame over-fishing; some blame the spoiled and insufficient rivers: probably all these things contribute to the problem. The fish guy says Well, one thing, we've seen this world at its best, that's some consolation. Not much, though.

But if he's not able to provide us salmon he does have some nice fresh halibut. Lindsey sauted it in olive oil, then used the pan scrapings as garnish on top, along with a nice Meyer lemon fresh from the tree. With the fish, our first favas of the season, in a little butter; and garlic-olive oil toasts, and afterward our usual green salad.

Pinot grigio

Saturday, May 3, 2008

First of the season

and yet it was simply: tomato-red pepper soup; fourme d'Ambert; green salad


THE HEALDSBURG FARMER'S MARKET FINALLY OPENED this morning: an event we look forward to for many months; ever since Thanksgiving. There are other farm markets hereabouts: the one in Santa Rosa, for example, is said to be open year 'round. But we are loyal to our own, and happy to find it open once again.
I'm sorry the photo isn't better. You see lettuce from the Kiffs; Spring onions from Burt and Mary; ramps and leeks from Nancy Skall. There were other things too, but they're out of sight.

And yet: for lunch, the customary fruit: apple, banana, tangerine. For dinner, since I'd been driving two or three hours, and it was late (especially after the Martini), Lindsey had fixed: soup from Trader Joe (not bad, and organic, or said to be); a fourme d'Ambert we'd brought back from Portland (gosh it is good); a baguette (really a batard) from Downtown Bakery & Creamery; and the usual green salad. Alas I overdressed it tonight: the Kiff's lettuce is so soft and tender, and my vinegar so assertive... but what can you do...

Louis Preston Cinsault. Why not?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Back to the routine

AND SO, AFTER A NUMBER OF DAYS of traveling and entertaining, we return to our more humble daily routine:

Breakfast: a couple of cappuccini. We're drinking BlueBottle PNG these days, because I forgot to re-order some Roman, and at their café in San Francisco on Tuesday I was introduced to this blend, and we really like it — I think I'll order it next time. (Well, no, I won't: It's not on line.) PNG: Papua New Guinea. With it, a slice of toasted walnut bread, no butter, no honey, no jam.

Lunch: an apple, a banana, a glass of pomegranate juice.

Apéritif: a Martini; a handful of almonds.

Dinner: broccoli; pasta with anchovies and garlic; green salad.
Pinot grigio — Nero d'Avila

Eating in Berkeley

Eccolo: crisp fried artichokes; French fries; chopped salad: lettuces, pine nuts, blue cheese, Parmesan, oil, vinegar, salt…; rhubarb crisp

Chez Panisse: garden salad (lettuces, oil, vinegar, salt);
braised lamb shoulder with greens and a gribiche toast

Berkeley, May 1—
WELL, WHY WOULDN'T YOU EAT in Berkeley if you had the chance? Careful consideration led us to Eccolo for lunch, partly because we knew we could count on the food, partly because we suspected we could eat outside, where we'd have a chance to converse. Dining rooms are so infernally noisy these days.

We did get a table on the patio, and plunged into little halved artichokes cooked in hommage to carciofi alla giudia, though not quite that crisp; and absolutely delicious French fries cut like fettucini, and Chris's chopped salad, old-fashioned and delicious. It's the sort of thing makes you believe in the possibility of an utterly American bistro.


And then ice cream at Ici, smooth and full of both flavor and that sense that you're actually being nourished; and then on to dinner Chez Panisse, where the salad was its dependable perfection, the braised lamb was meaty and substantial in its complex and rewarding juices, and the dessert — fruit compote with gelati and a puff-paste twist — both classical and enterprising. P1010506.jpg

I suppose there are other ways to eat, but this suited me fine.

with dinner: Green & Red Zinfandel, 2006