Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pasta anchovies and garlic

Eastside Road, December 30—
NO DOUBT IT'S shown up here before; I think it is close to the Hundred Plates. While the water's heating to cook the pasta — she usually likes fusili for this dish — Lindsey crushes a few anchovies with a clove or two of garlic and heats them in olive oil. When the pasta's cooked and drained she blends the anchovies in, tosses the pasta, and sprinkles chopped parsley on top. Delicious. Green salad.
Cheap Pinot grigio

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sand dabs

Eastside Road, December 29 —
HAVE I WRITTEN ABOUT this before? It's one of my favorite dinners. One of our favorites, actually. And it's something I developed all by myself, years ago, with no recourse to any printed recipe: I'm so pleased with myself.
What I do is make a sofritto of onion — tonight I used to small-to-medium yellow onions and a couple of good-sized shallots. I slice them thin thin thin and separate the rings, then sweat them s-l-o-w-l-y in olive oil with a little salt until they're transparent. Meanwhile I soak half a handful of raisins, golden by preference, in white wine and a little Balsamic vinegar. Tonight I forgot to put in the pine nuts; they're pretty important. You add the raisins and their liquid, and the pine nuts, and a couple of bay leaves; and then you put the sand dabs on top, cover the pan, and steam-poach the fish until half done, then turn them and finish. Oh boy this is delicious. May I nominate it to the Hundred Plates?
With them, tonight, leeks and carrots — the carrots split lengthwise and cooked in oil, salt, and water; the split leeks added a little later, the combination steam-sautéed. And some leftover tartiflette, warmed in the oven. And green salad.
Chablis, Jacques Bourguignon, 2008

Monday, December 28, 2009


Eastside Road, December 28, 2009—
HENRY IS STAYING with us a few days. I asked him what he'd like for dinner: well, he said, eyeing me familiarly—
Tartiflette, I said. Yep.
A little over a year ago Henry and I walked, with our friend Mac, from Geneva (well, nearly Geneva) to Nice, a five-week walk up and down over a hundred thousand feet of elevation change. In the first three weeks we had tartiflette nearly every night: it's a specialty of Savoie. Neither of us had really had it since, but every time we've been together we've recalled it fondly.
Trouble is, it's made with Reblochon, a fresh cheese, no more than a few weeks old, made with unpasteurized milk. It's no longer legal to import it into the United States, hence unavailable.
We peeled a couple of pounds of potatoes and cooked them in water until half-cooked; then sliced them as thin as we could. I made a soffrito of one onion, chopped, and a couple of handfuls of bacon cut into small cubes. We layered the potatoes and onions in a go-to-oven terrine. Over the top I put half of a fromage de Jura, as close as our local cheesemonger could give us to Reblochon. I cut it in half, crosswise, and laid the halves rind side up on the potatoes; then added a small glass of white wine and say half a cup of crème fraîche.
This went into the preheated oven, say 350°, for half an hour or so, until done:
it was delicious. A few scraps of leftover grilled lamb; broccolini, green salad.
Cheap Pinot grigio


Eastside Road, December 27—

WOULD YOU EXPECT anything else two says after Christmas? We're coming as close as we can to fasting these days, knowing holiday meals will be feasts. So today, after our Sunday breakfast of soft-boiled eggs and buttered toast, it was the last of the turkey soup for lunch, green salad and Monviso on toast for supper. Enough, and tasty.
Cheap Pinot grigio

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Turkey soup

Eastside Road, December 26, 2009—
WHEN DID WE COOK that turkey? Doesn't matter: not all that long ago, I guess. There was a quart of much-reduced turkey stock in the ice-box. I diced one carrot, two celery stalks, and three leeks and softened them in olive oil, then added the stock, some water, the last of the pesto, and a sprig of thyme, and let it simmer half an hour or so. Not bad. Green salad.
Cheap Pinot grigio.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Roast lamb

Eastside Road, December 25, 2009—
ONE OF THE GREAT meals: roast leg of lamb. It was about a three-pound roast, boned; Thérèse gave it about an hour of oil, garlic, and rosemary, and then instead of rolling it back up and roasting it Eric left it butterflied and grilled it in the fireplace. Absolutely delicious. With it, cauliflower with celery-root and onion, and gratinéed potatoes. Green salad, of course.
Cheeses: Roncal and Blu del Monviso, not quite up to a Castelmagno, but a very delicious Piemontese cheese.

And the dessert! Something I've never had before, an invention of the moment: Thérèse rescued some year-old fruitcake by combining it with some dried figs and sultanas and making a pie of it, with a delicious short buttery crust. A first-rate dinner.
Red wine, "L Preston" (Dry Creek Valley), 2006

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Laytonville, California, December 24, 2009—
"A PERFECTLY EDIBLE ANIMAL but rarely used in the kitchen," says Larousse Gastronomique, which goes on to some particularly silly paragraphs on bear's paw, going so far as to quote Mencius. We did not have paw tonight: we had roast haunch. I had never eaten bear before, and was looking forward to something quite different. I suppose I was thinking about how different elk and antelope are from beef and lamb. Bear, at least this bear, turns out to taste very much like good dense grass-raised beef, perhaps a little sweeter but not as sweet as horse. There was no fat at all; the texture was fine-grained and not at all stringy; the finish was clean.
Paolo said it was not a large animal, say three hundred pounds. Bear are increasing hereabouts; one walked through the town of Petaluma a few months back. Paolo told us of a neighbor of his who was grilling salmon on his patio a couple of summers ago; he forgot something and went into the house for it, and returned to see a bear standing by his grill eating his salmon.
With the bear, mashed potatoes; snow peas; Brussels sprouts and chestnuts; sautéed peppers, onions, and zucchini; dinner rolls. A full plate.
Rosé, T&T (Dry Creek), 2008; Carignane, Louis Preston (Dry Creek), 2006

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Penne al pesto

Eastside Road, December 23, 2009—
I KNOW: YOU HAVE the feeling you've read those words before. I'll do a quick search before I go on. Ah: it was exactly a month ago that I looked it up, on Nov. 23: "Only five times since September 2008," I wrote then; "I would have thought there'd been at least a dozen occurrences."
That same litte jar is in the refrigerator, its contents carefully covered over with a film of olive oil; Lindsey again "boiled up some penne; I threw a vinaigrette together, and hey presto we're home again."
Tomorrow will be different, I'm told; tomorrow we're eating bear. I can hardly wait.
Oh: Green salad, of course.
Cheap Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Soup of the evening

Eastside Road, December 22, 2009—
WHO CAN SAY WHEN he first read Lewis Carroll? I'm sure it was before I was ten years old, probably before I was eight. And the passage that interested me the most intensely, moved me the most profoundly, was that concerning the mock turtle soup, with Tenniel's mysterious illustration of the beast who told Alice and the Gryphon "in a deep, hollow tone: ‘sit down, both of you, and don’t speak a word till I’ve finished.’"

I don't know when it was explained to me that mock-turtle soup is made of veal stock, hence the calf's head in Tenniel's illustration. Certainly we never had turtle soup when I was a boy, mock or otherwise; I'm not sure I ever have tasted it. It fascinated me, later, when sophistication began to charm me, and I read somewhere that one splashed a bit of sherry into the soup while cooking it.

We did have soup, though; never turtle soup, and certainly never with sherry in it. We had mostly tomato soup, sometimes home-made, just as often out of a can. Later, when I lived in town with my grandparents, we had all kinds of soups, nearly always home-made. Gram was a deft hand with the stock dishes of her Missouri childhood; the weekly chicken always gave us a pot of stock when most of its flesh was picked away. (Earlier, when I was a very little boy, I was terrified when occasionally she soldiered out into the back yard, grabbed a handy Rhode Island Red, and wrung its neck.)

We do love our soup around here, and particularly on cold damp gloomy days. Tonight it came not from a can but a box: red pepper soup from Trader Joe. It's organic, so that takes some of the sting out of eating from a box. Lindsey didn't add a thing. You could float a bit of finishing olive oil on it, or even a drizzle of crème fraîche — but it's perfectly okay as it is. With it, a slab of TJ's naan, its garlic a little bitter, I thought; afterward, the green salad.
Cheap Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

The Mock Turtle's song, parodying a popular song of the day:

Beautiful Soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Beau - ootiful Soo - oop!
Beau - ootiful Soo - oop!
Soo - oop of the e - e - evening,
Beautiful, beautiful Soup!

Dobos torte

Eastside Road, December 21, 2009—
INSPIRED BY SEEING the movie Julie and Julia, our friend Becky said she'd always wanted to cook a certain recipe from Lindsey's book: Dobos torte. Perfect, I said; I used to make one for Thérèse's birthday in the old days; let's get together and surprise her with one.
Well, of course, it didn't work out that way. Lindsey's retired now and has time to make such things herself. Besides, I think Becky was happy to have the chance to study at the side of the master. So while I reconstructed my user folder, lost to a poorly executed backup strategy, the women spent the afternoon making a cake.
We first met the cake in the pages of a pamphlet of Hungarian recipes, issued in a series on international cuisine that we collected from used-book stores back in the innocent 1960s. In a fit of madness Lindsey got rid of all those pamphlets years ago, but later found an assembled collection of most of them to replace them.
Needless to say, I hadn't looked at the recipe in decades. I remembered it as being layers of génoise, assembled with hazelnut buttercream, topped with caramel painfully sliced into wedges. It's not génoise, it's an egg-butter-flour cake; it's not hazelnut buttercream, it's chocolate with a few crushed hazelnuts; and it wasn't the Hungarian pamphlet, it was on page 50 of Cakes and Tortes, published by the Culinary Arts Institute of Chicago, Illinois, in 1957. Lindsey adapted her version of the recipe from that source. I haven't compared the two, but of course I'd recommend her version as her book is undoubtedly more easily found.
What you do is make six thin cake layers, sandwich them with frosting, then cover the side with frosting, then pour caramel on top and quickly, while it's hot, cut it into serving-size wedges. When I made this cake I always beat the eggs by hand, with a whisk, and creamed them with the sugar, then flour the same way; but the women used an electric hand mixer today and I suppose the result was indistinguishable.doboscut.jpg
It's an absolutely delicious cake: my favorite, I think. Its textures and flavors maintain their individuality yet merge beautifully, and the finish is deep and rich. It would be delicious with a demitasse or a dram of the right liqueur, but tonight we made do with a cup of Lapsang Souchong: that wasn't bad, either.cabbage.jpg
What? Oh, right: dinner's more than cake. Becky made cabbage rolls from a recently published vegetarian cookbook; I didn't get the title. Instead of the authentic kielbasa the stuffing involves brown rice, pecans and cashews, and dates; the cabbage rolls are then baked with a tomato sauce covering. I thought them quite delicious, but couldn't eat more than two: I was looking forward to dessert. (There were seven of us at table.)
Gerwurtztraminer, J.W. Morris, 2007; Cabernet sauvignon, Chateau Souverain, 2003 (in magnum: thanks, Paul)

Monday, December 21, 2009

That lasagna

Eastside Road, December 21, 2009—lasagna.jpg
LINDSEY SLOWLY READIES the refrigerator for the holidays. "Slowly"'s not the right word; "methodically" might do her more justice. She's not a slow woman, Lindsey, except perhaps sometimes when she's eating; I've often thought her uncanny taste sensitivity might have been formed in childhood by her slow, methodical habits at the table. But I digress.
Last night what should come out of the icebox but the last of the lasagna she made for John, over two weeks ago. I won't say it was better for the hibernation, but it certainly wasn't worse. Bolognese is a wonderful thing; Bolognese and Béchamel is one of the many fine moments in Italo-franco relations. (Most of them, I suppose, in the kitchen.)
Cheap Nero d'Avola

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 19, 2009—
BEAN SOUP AGAIN tonight for dinner, exactly as last night; also same salad, same wine. That's just fine with me. The concept of never repeating a dinner across two or even three consecutive days doesn't make a lot of sense to me: but then I grew up in the country among people of modest means. (Come to think of it, lots of folks these days probably eat the same thing night after night; that's what keeps the fast-food franchises busy.)
What was different today was the Martini. Actually yesterday's was different too. I read somewhere last week about the really correct way to make a Martini, and decided to put it to the test. In the past I've made them three to one, gin and dry vermouth, shaken with ice cubes fifty-six times.
All wrong, according to the expert. Four to one, or even up to six or seven to one, depending on the brands of gin and vermouth, seems to be the right thing. Ingredients should start out at room temperature, and be stirred, not shaken, with ice cubes, from forty seconds to a full minute, depending on the temperature of the ice.
So today I stirred Lindseys Notini — equal parts gin and vermouth — for forty seconds, in a two-quart Pyrex measuring pitcher; and then I stirred up one for myself, three to one. And, you know, it makes a better drink. Yesterday I thought it was a tad wet, but as Lindsey pointed out it was a lot smoother. Today I thought more about it, and realized that while it seemed wet — I mean watery — at first, a few sips in that quality had disappeared altogether. The drink lasts longer, for some reason. Not that it stays cold longer; it doesn't; next time I'll freeze the glasses ahead, and I'm going to continue to keep the gin bottle in the freezer. It's not that it stays cold longer in the glass; it's that the drink is smoother, better integrated.
It helps, too, that this week we switched to a new vermouth: Donin. I think it's the best I've found. We're still drinking New Amsterdam gin, I almost blush to say; it's bottled by Gallo, and I feel a bit of a traitor, but it's inexpensive and smooth and nicely flavored in the Dutch style, not the English; with a hint of citrus and, I think, another hint, very subtle indeed, of vanilla. In any case, we like our Martinis, and we like them more this way.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cassoulet; bean soup

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 18, 2009—
A RECENT COMMENT to this blog stated that I am a bean counter. Well, not really; I haven't counted the items on my plate since I was a ten-year-old, when I did precisely that to be sure my little brother didn't have one or two peas more than I did. I don't count beans; but I am no Pythagorean; I do actively enjoy beans, and why not? Flavor, protein, fiber, texture, aroma. And they soak up whatever liquid they deal with (as do I, I suppose), adding to the rich plurality of bean nature.
So I was not reluctant to order cassoulet at lunch — I was joining three others in a restaurant meeting — even though Lindsey had said she'd be making bean soup for dinner. After all, it's winter, and December; time for hearty eating. And I had a special reason to order cassoulet, one of The Hundred, and a dish I have trouble resisting on any occasion: this would be my first Mark Malicki meal in his new digs, the French Garden Restaurant.
I've tried to avoid restaurant reviews on this blog, for the most part. This particular restaurant has been plagued, in my opinion, by a succession of chefs who didn't seem to work out. And Malicki, who is truly a genius, one of the best chefs within a hundred miles (and that says a lot), has run through a number of restaurants of his own. I remember fondly Truffles, which he ran in Sebastopol twenty-odd years ago; and Café Saint Rose, which closed maybe three years ago in Santa Rosa, went on to a roadhouse west of Sebastopol, then closed there a few months back.
Today's cassoulet might have worn quotes: it's not a search for authenticity. The beans looked like Coronas, not the small flageolets you expect; and the presentation wore green: I don't associate cassoulet with vegetables. (The bean is not a vegetable, in my opinion.)
But it was a delicious thing, with goose confit, and pork shoulder, and garlic, and just a hint of tomato. It nourished a fascinating conversation about opera and theater, art and community. It kept me happy for a couple of hours.
Lindsey's bean soup was quite different, using Giovanna's* recipe: Borlotti beans with chopped onion and garlic, covered with a few inches of water and cooked slowly; then seasoned with chopped fresh sage, salt, and pepper; served with toasted Como bread, grated Parmesan, and drizzled with good olive oil. Very nice indeed. Maybe I'll have some for breakfast tomorrow.
Cheap Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
  • French Garden Restaurant, 8050 Bodega Avenue
    Sebastopol, California; tel. 707-824-2030

  • *Giovanna's busy making cookies

    Thursday, December 17, 2009


    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 17, 2009—
    LINDSEY LIKES THE PRODUCTS of a fairly local firm called Primavera, and so do I. They refer to their line as "Organically Inclined, Traditionally Inspired," with commendable shiftiness; and their tortillas and tamales do seem authentic in flavor and texture, and do seem as nourishing as they are delicious. Look at the label on these BBQ Chipotle Bean & White Cheddar Tamales: beans, organic corn flour masa, white cheddar, tomatoes, onions, Worcestershire Sauce, brown sugar, salt, spices, butter, baking powder.
    No stabilizers, no preservatives, nothing you can't pronounce; nothing but good things. Butter, for example: butter in tamales. Now there's a surprise.

    Alongside them, kale from the garden, a few leaves spared by what must have been God's Wrath of a locust swarm or something like that; on returning from a week away I found only the veins on almost all the kale leaves. It's time to put the garden to sleep for a few weeks, I'm afraid.
    Green salad, of course.
    Cheap Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009

    Lunch chez Panisse

    Berkeley, December 16, 2009—
    ANOTHER DELICIOUS LUNCH upstairs in the café today:
    Frisée, tardivo (radicchio), hardcooked egg, garlic and anchovy in a perfect dressing; then
    braised short ribs with little turnips, mashed potatoes and celery root, and salsa verde. Comfort food. And dessert: panna cotta flavored with bay leaf and drizzled with huckleberry coulis, two words I never expected to juxtapose.
    Rosé, Lurton (Semillon, Merlot, Cabernet sauvignon), 2008; Zinfandel, Green and Red, ?2008

    Tuesday, December 15, 2009

    Those Coronas

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 15, 2009—
    THEY'RE ABOUT HALF the size of my left thumb, though considerably thinner, and white and shiny as a piano key in good condition. Corona beans: we get them from a friend who imports them, I'm not sure from where. Lindsey soaks them for a little while, then cooks them gently in water, drains them, and tosses them even more gently with chopped shallots, olive oil, marjoram, salt, and pepper. Not many things are better.
    Cheap Nero d'Avola

    Monday, December 14, 2009

    Portuguese discovery

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 14, 2009--
    LUNCH TODAY WAS unexpected — we were planning to skip it, just drive straight through from our (delayed) breakfast of caffe latte and croissant in Ashland to dinner at home. But we stopped for gas in Orland, and I noticed a Portuguese Plaza — a good-sized stucco building out by itself at a freeway offramp next to a cutrate gas station. I took a quick look at its deli counter and bakery case, bought a piece of fry-bread and a cookie, and told Lindsey what I'd found.

    She allowed as how we had time to stop in for a light lunch — seduced, I think, by my mention of salt cod — and we wound up with a cup of caldo verde apiece and a platter of cod croquettes: potato, cod, onion and parsley, rolled in crumbs and deep-fried. I'd have liked a glass of vinho verde with this, but it wasn't on the lunch menu.
    We had a nice talk with Margarida, who'd cooked our lunch, and who then took us upstairs to see her most amazing Christmas-tree setup; it filled a large room with figures, crêche, mills, electric train, marching band, aerial cablecars, mechanical ice-skaters, airplanes — I can't begin to describe the amount of detail: thirty years of collecting has gone into it, and the result is a joyous excess of detail in tin, plastic, glass, high spirits.
    I like everything about this place, so unexpected, so down-to-earth, so unpretentious yet so proud of its heritage and its place. I want to go back, have dinner, spend a night nearby, and return next morning for breakfast. Steak and eggs, I think, with a glass of red.
    eating.jpg And here we are, for no good reason except that someone snapped us a few days ago, eating again. It was nice to be in Portland for almost a week; it's nice to be back home.
  • City Gates Restaurant (Portas da Cidade), 1165 Hoff Way, Orland CA, tel. 530.865.5552

  • Sunday, December 13, 2009

    Bouillabaisse redux

    Roseburg, Oregon, December 13—
    KNOWING WE WERE SPENDING the night in this town, simply because we'd get no farther from Portland by stopping time, and that we would be unlikely to find a satisfactory restaurant, we elected to repeat last Monday's success and stop at Marché. I started with half a dozen oysters on the half shell and a small basket of very good bread, then went on, with Lindsey who'd warmed up with bean-and-bacon soup, to our Bouillabaisse, exactly the same as Monday's.
    The photo doesn't do it justice, of course: I took it before shelling the mussels and clams and tearing the croutons into pieces to stir the whole thing up into a smooth, hearty fish soup. Authenticity mavens will complain, of course; the fish isn't served dry and separately, the broth in its tureen. But the flavors and aromas are authentic; you'd almost swear you were in Provence. This is a dependable, enjoyable, healthful, delicious thing, this Bouillabaisse chez Marché; what more could you want? (Well, a bottle of rosé…)
    Pinot gris, Kuentz-Bas, 2008; Beaujolais nouveau, Georges Duboeuf, 2009
  • Marché, 5th Street Public Market, 296 E. 5th St., Eugene, Oregon;
    tel. (541) 342-3612
  • Saturday, December 12, 2009


    Portland, Dec. 12—

    LUNCH, IN FACT; it was nearly noon. As I sometimes do, I ordered the least attractive thing on the menu, just to stretch: catfish hash, with two poached eggs and toast. It came with some kind of Cajun sauce, a distant relative of rouille, and it was pretty good.

    Bridges Cafe, 2716 NE Martin Luther King Jr
    Portland Oregon

    Friday, December 11, 2009


    Portland, December 11—
    THEY'RE JUST A LITTLE too, well, casual, or something, to register among the Hundred Plates. Well, I take that back: they belong to the Family of Pancakes, and that family surely qualifies. Three crèperies stand out in my disorderly cabinet of culinary recollections: the crèpe stand on the Boulevard St. Michel at the entrance to the Jardins de Luxembourg, of fond memories from the 1970s; a curious and not altogether (otherwise) memorable visit to Montmartre not long after (which was no longer there the next time we visited, also not long after); and Chez Erik, a crèpe-truck on the beach in Papeete, perhaps the most authentic-seeming crèpes I've had, with very authentic bols of cider.

    But then, I've never eaten crèpes in Brittany, so what's the point of all this?
    There's also Ty Couz in San Francisco; I've enjoyed them there; and Crèpes-a-Go-Go in Berkeley, which I like more than do others in my family.

    Years ago, getting on toward forty, a dear friend of ours wanted to open a crèperie in Berkeley. She made very good ones; we used to walk down Francisco Street to her apartment for a dinner of them, and then we'd all walk back up to our apartment for dessert; and so Chez Panisse was born. But that's another story.
    Today we went to Suzette for lunch, and I had one of my very favorite dishes, a classic crèpe filled with spinach, gruyère, and egg. Suzette's new, installed in a former carriage-house — in fact hardlyr more than a double garage, pierced with enough windows to light it, cheefully painted, hung about with cute mismatched bathroom chandeliers and set with a number of mismatched, comfortable chairs and tables. (Some of the seating seems to be ripped out of a former movie theater.) The kitchen's out back, in a small Airstream trailer. The menu runs to sweet and savory crèpes, onion soup, quiche, salad, and the like; and a small, effective wine-and-beer list. (And cider, of course.) Lindsey had a delicious prosciutto-and-onion crèpe, and we finished with a fine Grand Marnier crèpe. We might have been in Paris. Well, on the outskirts.
    Red wine

  • Suzette, 2921 NE Alberta St., Portland Oregon

  • Thursday, December 10, 2009

    Andina; Zuppa alla Valpelleunenze

    Portland, December 10—
    LUNCH TODAY DOWNTOWN at Andino, a place Simon really likes because the cuisine is Ecuadorean/Peruvian, and he spent a year in Ecuador, and has a bit of what he calls gastralgia, a nostalgia for tastes past. (That's how I refer to it: the search for taste past; I find "gastralgia" a little too medicinal sounding.)
    We began with pequeños platos: jamon y chorizo, both very nice indeed, the ham smoky and dry, toward the classic Serrano taste; the chorizo hot and dry. With them, three sauces: peanut, papaya, chile verde. Then I went on to Seco a la norteña, lamb shank slow-cooked, flavored slightly with peppers, and served on noodles; almost exactly the way Richard Olney prescribes it. A delicious lunch, with some fine conversation.
    Apaltagua Pinot Noir Reserva, Curicó Valley, Chile, 2009
  • Andina Restaurant, 1314 NW Glisan, Portland OR; tel. 503.228.9535

  • pap.jpg

    DINNER AT HOME: Lindsey made a Zuppa alla Valpelleunenze from a book Giovanna had brought home from the library, Diana Henry's Roast Figs Sugar Snow (New York: Octopus Books, 2009). This is essentially pap, bread soup, though heavy also with cabbage and fortified with cheese — a real cold-weather mountain-resort kind of dish. Bread and cheese — Lindsey used Taleggio — are layered in a casserole, flavored with garlic butter, soaked in chicken stock, and baked; then butter-sautéed cabbage is stirred into the resulting soup, which is sprinkled with Parmesan and gratinéed further. For dessert, Lindsey's Chocolate Cake, vanilla ice cream on the side.
    Barolo d'Alba, Plan Romualdo, Prunotto, 2000

    Wednesday, December 9, 2009

    Boeuf daube

    Portland, December 9, 2009—
    IT'S ALWAYS BEEN one of my favorite dishes, and certainly belongs to one of the Hundred Plates — beef stew. The Provençal version requires a fixed but controversial catalog of ingredients, as does Bouillabaisse or Cassoulet. It begins with beef, of course: I bought stew meat at Laurelhurst Market -- grass-fed but (alas) grain-finished beef from what they said was the Piedmontese race of beef-cattle. Piemontese beef are a special thing, more so of course in Piemonte where they eat the grass they've lived with for centuries, at the altitudes and with the water they know. I salted the beef pieces when I got them home and let them stand an hour or so while I went shopping for the rest of the ingredients, then browned the beef in a mixture of butter and olive oil and removed them to a cast-iron cocotte. Then, in the same skillet, I cooked the vegetables,
    a classic mix of aromatics: one big carrot, one big celery stalk, and three good-sized cipollini. After they were pretty well browned I dumped them on the kitchen floor, gathered them up with considerable help, rinsed them off in a colander, returned them to the skillet and cooked them some more; then added them to the beef, along with most of a bottle of red wine (Luberon, "Vielle Ferme"),

    photo: Emma Monrad
    the zest of half a good-sized orange (de rigeur in a Daube), and a bouquet garni.
    That simmered for hours. Toward the end I added a few cloves of garlic, pressed, and a handful of little mushrooms. A pound of egg noodles supported the stew at the table; a green salad came after; and then three cheeses: Fourme d'Ambert; Cabot cheddar; Ossau d'Iraty.
    Espiga, vihno regional Estremadura, Casa Santos Lima, 2008; Mas des Brousses, vin de pays d'Oc, 2007


    Portland, Dec. 8—

    I'VE WANTED to eat at Genoa, in Southwest Southeast Portland, for years, but was never able to talk Lindsey into it — too staid, rich, and expensive to suit her. Then, last year, it closed, and I figured my chances had run out.
    But it re-opened last week, with a new young chef and a reconfigured format, and today we were there for a very satisfying lunch, four of us.
    We split fritto misto, foccaccia, and cannelini-and-kale toasts; I went on to a stinco di maiale with beans. Dessert was a fine almond and apple tart with vanilla ice cream. I suspect I'll be back.
    Sangiovese di Toscana, Az. Agr. Silla D., ?2007

    Monday, December 7, 2009

    Bouillabaisse chez Marché

    Portland, Oregon, December 7, 2009—
    PRINCIPAL MEAL of the day. Most often that's put as an interrogative: we're sitting at a lunch table, as today in the fine restaurant Marché in Eugene, and we look at the menu, and lift our eyes toward one another's: Principle meal of the day? Oh yes, Lindsey usually answers, and we order accordingly.
    Bouillabaisse was on the menu. I dearly love it, but usually cannot eat it; all too often it's a shrimped-up version — one day I'll explain that term — with lobster or crab or shrimp themselves, and those I cannot eat. It's a bore to have such a problem, but there it is: I can't eat shellfish with legs. Bivalves are not a problem, as long as they're fresh. It's the arthropods give me trouble, those things with legs, and copper in their blood instead of iron.
    But the very capable waitress assured me there would be no pedestrian shellfish in this bouillabaisse, and indeed she was right. Rockfish, mussels, clams, tomato, potatoes, fennel, onions, saffron, garlic, a bit of orange zest and, curiously, lemon juice. Toasts, of course, and rouille, nice spicy aïoli red with cayenne. A delicous thing, a good bouillabaisse! One of the Top 100.
    Beaujolais Nouveau: Georges Duboeuf; Joseph Drouhin, both 2009
    Then, here in Portland, chez Zivny, the sub-principal meal of the day: polenta with sausage-tomato sauce: onions sweated in olive oil, a pound or so of Italian sausage crumbled in; tomato purée added and all of it cooked down. Green salad, of course.
    "2 Copas": Malbec-Tempranillo (20-80%), 2008

    Sunday, December 6, 2009

    Porter's, Medford

    Medford, Oregon, December 6, 2009—
    WE ATE HERE ABOUT five months ago, and needing to break yet another trip to Portland — on a Sunday night, when New Sammy's is closed, alas — I thought, well, why not go there again. You can stay in Medford at a perfectly acceptable motel for fifty or sixty bucks, and Porter's isn't disgusting.
    But tonight, a very cold night by the way, there wasn't anything on the menu that really spoke to me. Well, the beef beckoned, but Lindsey pointed out it was grain-fed, and who knows where it comes from. She ordered fish and chips, but it was too cold for beer or white wine for me, Zinfandel called, so I ordered the pork tenderloin, stipulating that it be divested of (or, rather, never invested with) an irrelevant blue cheese, and that it be prepared as rare as their lawyers would allow. It was okay. Before it, a "Caesar" salad, the quotes meaning: innocent of egg; innocent of anchovy.
    Ridge Vineyards "Three Valleys," 2007
  • Porter's Train Station , 147 N. Front St., Medford, OR; tel. 541-857-1910
  • Saturday, December 5, 2009

    Ca’ Bianca

    Healdsburg, Dec. 5—

    A PLEASANT, QUIET Italian restaurant; a couple of dear friends: a find way to end a week at home, and welcome the first really cold weather of the year. We split a green salad; I went on to a nice sprezzatini — braised beef with aromatics, polenta on the side.
    Arceno, Toscana, 2004

    EARLIER, LUNCH with another old friend visiting from New York: oysters on the half shell, braised spinach with sesame seeds.
    Sauvignon blanc, Dry Creek Valley, 2008

    I've made a few little corrections here, spurred by my dear wife who dislikes inaccuracies

    Friday, December 4, 2009


    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 4, 2009 —
    IT'S NOT A THING we have often, lasagne; in fact, I can't remember when we've had it last, either away or at home. Certainly the last time was away. Lindsey says she made lasagne twenty years ago or so, but I don't recall it. It's a favorite of mine, of course, though not, I think, of hers. What's not to like? Pasta, Bolognese; Bechamel -- three of the most delicious things in the world. And in this case, all (except the pasta) home-made. You'll have to ask Lindsey how she made it: it involves ground beef, onions, carrot, spices, maybe a little garlic. What's Bechamel, John asked -- John had come to dinner and to spend the night. Flour, milk, butter, Lindsey said. Basics, I thought to myself; three nouns. The dictionary of sufficient cuisine could be a very slim volume.
    Green salad, of course. Vanilla ice cream and applesauce.
    Carignane, L. Preston (Dry Creek), 2007

    Thursday, December 3, 2009

    Les restes

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 3, 2009—
    IT SOUNDS SO MUCH nicer in French, don't you think? Leftovers. We began tonight with a bowl of last night's soup, and I can tell you how it was made: brown little cubes of bacon in a skillet; remove them and brown onions and carrot, diced; combine them with split peas that you've soaked and cooked; flavor with salt, pepper, lemon thyme, and bay; scatter with croutons and the bacon pieces.
    Then it was on to turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry sauce. Green salad, of course.
    Last night we finished with vanilla ice cream with applesauce; tonight pie is promised…
    Nero d'Avola, 2008

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    Pea soup

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 2, 2009—
    I'M NOT SURE how she made it; I know it involved browning some bacon, and shopping today there were onions and, I think, dried peas. In any case it was the right thing for a cold, clammy, foggy day, the first one we've kept a fire burning all day. And it didn't help to have the neighbors up from down the hill.
    Cheap Pinot grigio; red wine "L. Preston" (Dry Creek Valley)

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009


    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 1, 2009--
    EXACTLY THE SAME as yesterday: turkey sandwich, green salad. No more roots, though.
    Nero d'Avola

    Monday, November 30, 2009

    Turkey sandwich

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, November 30, 2009—
    IT WAS INEVITABLE: to each Thanksgiving dinner, its subsequent turkey sandwich. I'm not complaining, not a bit.
    We'd brought a loaf of Como bread home from the Downtown Bakery — it's our favorite sandwich bread. Just enough breast meat left on the bone, and just enough gravy left to warm up and soak the sandwich. As you see, there were still some of those roasted roots, too: I confess I find the parsnips daily less enchanting.
    Green salad with shallot vinaigrette.
    Syrah Sirah, Louis Preston, 2006

    Sunday, November 29, 2009


    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, November 29, 2009—
    I TOOK A PHOTO, but, as Lindsey said, the plate wasn't terribly photogenic. Mostly browns: cold turkey, warm stuffing and mashed potatoes with delicious gravy, just a bit of Richard's cranberry sauce to liven things up. The plate was terribly crowded; chefs I know would have been offended by the presentation. No matter: it was pretty damn delicious. Is there still some left? Probably.
    Cabernet Sauvignon, Villa Peline (Alexander Valley), 2005

    Saturday, November 28, 2009

    Roots and salmon

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, November 28, 2009—
    I'VE MENTIONED IT BEFORE: parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, beets — I loathe and detest them all, all those chronically chthonic underground roots. Bulbs are another matter altogether: onions, garlic, leeks — they're quite delicious. I even like carrots and radishes, if they're small. (Carrots have to be cut lengthwise to be palatable: cut crosswise they're fit only for stews and the like.)
    And yet, and yet. Again tonight Lindsey diced rutabagas and parsnips quite small, in say quarter-inch cubes, and sweet potatoes and celeryroot as well. Sweet potatoes and yams aren't strictly speaking root vegetables, but I don't like them either. Celeryroot — well, in my francophile days I learned to love remoulade; and anyway isn't celeryroot technically more like kohlrabi, a disorder of the stem, not really a root?
    Anyhow she cubed them, she did, and tossed them in olive oil, and sprinkled marjoram and lemon thyme on them on a baking sheet, and roasted them in the oven: delicious. The objectionable texture is changed utterly, and the flavor's somehow tamed and transformed.
    With them, salmon grilled in the iron skillet; afterward, green salad and a little pumpkin pie with hard sauce. We'll get back to the turkey tomorrow, I'm sure.
    The dregs of the Prosecco

    Friday, November 27, 2009

    Thanksgiving dinner

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, November 27, 2009--
    A DAY LATE, Dad used to say, and a dollar short. But better late than never: tonight we had a couple of friends over to celebrate Thanksgiving, as follows:

    relishes: olives, cranberry sauce, pickled beets, crabapples, celery
    prosecco, Martini, or nero d’Avola
    roast turkey
    mashed potatoes ~ stuffing
    Brussels sprouts with chestnuts and pearl onions
    sweet potatoes
    dinner rolls
    grenache blanc, 2008; syrah sirah, 2006; Louis Preston
    green salad with shallot vinaigrette
    pumpkin pie with hard sauce
    whisky or grappa

    I peeled and decorticated the chestnuts yesterday while watching the news. The usual procedure: slit the shells, cover with water, bring to a boil, peel; return recalcitrant ones to the hot water; repeat until done.

    Lindsey took care of the rest — what a woman! — except for the vinaigrette, made the usual way though with shallots instead of garlic. Oh well: I made dinner yesterday, and tomorrow we'll have leftovers.

    Thursday, November 26, 2009


    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, November 26, 2009—
    DE RIGUEUR, OF COURSE, to offer thanks on this Thanksgiving Day. Okay: to the Redwood Meat Company of Eureka, California, for the frozen grass-fed beefsteaks I bought at the Healdsburg Farm Market a few weeks ago and forgot about, first of all. I meant to make a boeuf daube from them, thinking they were stew meat, but remembered the butcher's advice, and pan-fried them instead.
    But first I recalled the pretty little purple-black potatoes I bought from Murray Family Farms on Monday, as we were driving up from Los Angeles — thanks also to them for their goodness and their commitment. I cut them up and browned them in olive oil. And then there were the five promising little cipollini I'd bought from Anstead's, excuse me, Shelton's now, in Healdsburg, and thanks also to them for providing organic, sustainable, and often local food to us.
    Fragrant and sweet, but not bland like Vidalia onions, these Italian-origin bulbs look hard to peel at first. There's a trick: I hold them in running cold water and scratch at the peel, just below the stem end, with my thumbnail: before long the skin starts to peel back toward the root. I leave them attached there for the present, and set them in with the potatoes, root end down up. Don't forget to sprinkle some salt over those potatoes!
    Meantime Lindsey has diced up some horrid root vegetables — I detest those things, parsnips and turnips — and roasted them in the oven. Surprise! The texture is utterly changed; the flavors have been tamed!
    I cook up a few leaves of chard and a couple of leaves of red lettuce — thank you, birds and rabbits, for letting us have a few leaves of lettuce; and I thank also the glorious dirt that grows such delicious chard. (And I think fondly of Lindsey's father, who supplied so much chard from his garden in the old days. And — why not? — I think fondly of her mother, too, and thank the powers that be that I knew them, and that they gave me their daughter.)
    At the last minute I remove the potatoes and onions to a couple of warm plates and cook that steak, a couple of minutes on each side in the black iron skillet; and then after putting them on the plates I pour in some red wine and deglaze the pan, and pour the juices over. And there's our Thanksgiving dinner.
    At the first bite, Steak, Potatoes, and Salt, say I thankfully, what could be better.
    Nero d'Avola; Central Coast Syrah

    Penne, redsauce

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, November 25, 2009—
    ’TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE Thanksgiving, we had penne, tomato sauce, green salad.
    Syrah, Central Coast, 2007

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    Pa amb tomàquet

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, November 24, 2009—
    A COUPLE OF DAYS ago, as I reported then, we lunched at an upscale tapas bar in Los Angeles; there we had pa amb tomàquet, and I decided that would be a good, simple thing to make for dinner tonight, since we'd spent the day in San Francisco and neither of us really wanted to cook.
    According to Wikipedia, it's just bread rubbed with tomato, drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with salt. (There's the stuff of Metaphor there, I'm sure.) We've done that before, plenty of times. At Bazaar in L.A., though, the pa amb tomàquet was a little more evolved, and I thought I'd try reconstructing it here at home.
    I cut the heels off a baguette and divided the remainder into three, cutting each of them in half crosswise. I dribbled some olive oil on the cut surfaces, then laid a slice of Manchego on each slice of bread. I minced a good-sized shallot and a clove of garlic with a couple of celery leaves and sprinkled that mixture on the cheeses, then added a slice of tomato — not a very good tomato, I'm afraid; it's too late for that, but a heritage tomato with a certain amount of flavor. I sprinkled the tomato with salt and slid the whole thing under the broiler for, oh, five minutes or so, until it looked like this:
    toasted enough to melt the cheese, bring flavor out of the tomato, and merge the flavors of the shallot and onion.
    It was just as good as the one at Bazaar. Green salad afterward, of course.
    Nero d'Avola

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    Penne al pesto

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, November 23, 2009 —
    HOW MANY TIMES, I wonder, have I recorded penne al pesto here? Oh: simple enough to search, up in the little box, upper left. Let's see: "penne al pesto". Only five times since September 2008. I would have thought there'd been at least a dozen occurrences.

    I'm not complaining: it's a delicious supper, especially after driving three hundred fifty miles on a not terribly good croissant (Porto Bakery, Glendale) and a quite good apricot turnover (Murray Family Farms, not the best coffee but a delicious pastry). We found a good-sized little jar of pesto in our refrigerator on getting home; Lindsey boiled up some penne; I threw a vinaigrette together, and hey presto we're home again. It feels good.
    Nero d'Avola

    Sunday, November 22, 2009


    Glendale, November 22—
    THE TRENDY PLACE down here in Los Angeles seemed to be Bazaar, more properly "The Bazaar by José Andrés at Hotel SLS," which opened just a year ago in a Philip Starck-decorated hotel lobby on South La Cienega in Beverly Hills. Basically a tapas restaurant, its menu divides neatly between "traditional" and "modern" entries, the latter nodding in the direction of Ferran Adria's famous El Bulli in Catalunya. I had mixed anticipations but high hopes for the place: on the one hand I was afraid we'd get a succession of tastes not building toward any sense of an integrated meal; on the other I was curious to see what exquisite surprises might come our way.
    In the event, today's lunch was surprisingly ordinary. Refined, with interesting departures, but ultimately quite traditional in its effect. We shared our tapas, Lindsey and I, and we had:
  • "organized Caesar salad": wraps of soft thin bread containing chopped romaine and anchovy, a raw quail egg atop two of them, grated Parmesan atop the other two.
  • Pa'amb tomaquet: Catalan style toasted bread with Manchego and tomato
  • Olives modern and traditional (the latter green olives stuffed with anchovy and pimento; the former bubbles of olive emulsion)
  • Ensaladilla rusa: potatoes, carrots, mayonnaise, tuna belly
  • Gazpacho estilo Algeciras (a delicious traditional gazpacho with a dribble of Balsamic vinegar)
  • Ajo blanco: a "white gazpacho" of almond milk with tomatoes, grapes, raisins, and crab
  • Butifarra Senator Moynihan: Catalan pork sausage with small white beans
    Of all this I liked most my gazpacho and the salad.
    The entire series worked out to a perfectly satisfying meal, and ended with the best espresso I've had outside Italy, made with a coffee new to me, Intelligentsia Black Cat, roasted in Chicago.
    Albariño, Burgans, Rías Baixas, 2007; Barbera, Le Orme (M.Chiarlo), 2007
  • Rojo y Blanca at SLS, 465 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills; tel. 310.246.5555
  • Another brasserie

    Glendale, November 21—
    THE CULTURE CAFES here in Los Angeles seem all to be run by either Wolfgang Puck or Joachim Splichal: of the two, I lean to the former. We ate tonight at the latter, though, thinking another brasserie might make an entertaining comparison with yesterday's meal. And besides, we were going to a late concert in Disney Hall, and Kendall's Brasserie was right next door. Alas, it wasn't up to yesterday.
    I had an okay salad with a sliced of St. Nectaire atop; then a half roast chicken with french fries. The chicken did not taste chickeny, to use Julia Child's word; it tasted feathery. I don't think I'd go back -- sorry, Kendall.
    Decent Martini; forgettable red wine

    Friday, November 20, 2009


    Santa Monica, Nov. 20—
    BROWN WOOD PANELLING, mirrors, shelves of bottles, oysters, banquettes, tile floors, long aprons. You're in a brasserie. You expect a short menu, a comfort level, quick quiet service. On our way over, steak frites, I thought, then remembered I'd had a fine steak just last night. Well, maybe chicken.


    But we were not in Paris; we were in Santa Monica, at Anisette. I had a chicken sandwich with a side of fine French-fries, thin-cut and well salted. When the waiter asked doubtfully if I'd like catsup with them I joked that I'd prefer aïoli. I'll bring some right away, he said. It was stiff, creamy, and quite garlicky, just the way you'd want it. Lindsey had a butter-lettuce salad with a nice vinaigrette and some pumpkin-filled ravioli, not exactly brasserie food to my way of thinking but, she said, delicious.
    Pacherinc du Vic Bihl, Mas de Felines, 2008

  • Anisette Brasserie , 225 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica; tel. 310.395.3200
  • Thursday, November 19, 2009


    Glendale, California, November 19—

    A NEW DISCOVERY tonight, brought to our attention last night at dinner by a friend who knows the restaurant scene down here: Bashan, a forty-seater storefront owned by a young couple, wife working the house, husband running the kitchen. In two years they've apparently developed quite a following, placing high in a curious, sweet new category in Zagat's panoply: Restaurants Owned by Couples.
    We'd heard they're particularly attentive to the quality and provenance of their ingredients: but in the event this attention was matched by the resourcefulness and expertise of the kitchen. We had the three-course "tasting menu," which simply allows you to choose from among five or six first courses, five or six entrees, and two desserts.
    First, though, we were brought our amuse-bouches: a little shot glass full of thick, creamy cauliflower soup and a shallow glass dish with finely chopped Marcona almonds, salt, piquant peppers, and lime zest. As instructed, we merged these two to make a delicious soup.
    I went on to a green salad with tangerine sections, red onions, cherry tomatoes, and Reggianito cheese, creamy and pungent and dressed discreetly with a white Balsamic truffle vinaigrette.
    Then a wonderful version of grilled hanger steak in an authentic but unctuous molé sauce, garnished with chayote, Marcona almonds again, cipollini, and caramelized figs. Truly enterprising, with wide-ranging but nicely balanced flavors and textures, and the steak grilled perfectly. Dessert was a fine chocolate bread pudding with a spoonful of soft, delicate vanilla ice cream.
    I particularly like it when a running theme emerges in a meal like this, when it's handled subtly, as it was here: the almonds, sliced in the salad, finely minced in the steak garnish; the chocolate in the molé, then the dessert. We'll be back, for sure. Thanks for the tip, Sarah!
    Pinot grigio, ?Isola, 2008; Malbec, Alamos (Mendoza), 2008
  • Bashan, 459 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale, CA; tel. 818-541-1532
  • Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    Tre Venezie

    Glendale, Nov. 18—
    THERE ARE PLENTY of rewarding restaurants down here in Los Angeles, and among them there are four or five I always look forward to revisiting. But one of them has a special place, because, well, its menu is simply so interesting. It's a comfortable room, a bookcase at one end, nice prints on the wall, well spaced tables; you can converse with your companions. And the kitchen, well, the kitchen is interesting.

    It's an Italian restaurant, but unlike any conventional one, because the cuisine is from the three northeastern regions of Italy: Veneto, Friuli, and Alto Adige. Veneto, the region of Venice, has its own special cuisine much beholden to the products of the Venice Lagoon and the Adriatic. The Alto Adige's cuisine looks north toward Austria; that of Friuli hearkens to the Slavic lands to the east. Nothing in these tre venezie, these three Venices, pays much attention to Tuscany, or Naples, or Rome, or even Piemonte.
    This restaurant looks deep into the regional cuisine. The menu is full of dishes you've not likely heard of, given names that don't look Italian: Casunziei; Gargati; Bigoli; Cjaisons; Blecs. There are surprising flavor combinations: Lindsey's pasta featured chocolate and cinnamon.
    For all that, a recent tweaking has opened the menu slightly to less strictly regional fare. One dish featured a trendy New Zealand honey, made by bees permitted only three flower sources. I ignored it and ordered a salad of pheasant breast with frisée, lightly dressed with a delicate olive oil; and then the Blecs, squared of kamut pasta with long-cooked beef cheeks flavored with carrots and wine, thickened slightly with bread crumbs.
    Companions in the food business had fish soup, a sort of Adriatic cioppino, and found the fish — pompano, branzino, cod, mussels, prawn — particularly good. And we all sampled desserts: a delicious, subtle, supple sage-flavored custard; a chocolate Pavé studded with hazelnuts; and a very curious pudding-cake, smooth and creamy and more memorable, alas, than its name, which I neglected to write down.
    Schioppettino, Dorigc, 2006
  • Trattoria Tre Venezie, 119 W. Green St., Pasadena; tel. (626) 795-4455
  • Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    Piemonte in Ojai

    Ojai, November 17—
    FRANCO'S AMAZING Piemontese sausages tonight, with cabbage & potatoes, & Lindsey made a crisp with 3 or 4 different kinds of apples from our trees -- delicious.
    Arneis, Ceretto, 2007

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    Fish restaurant

    Morro Bay, California, November 16—
    A BEAUTIFUL DRIVE of three hundred miles here, through November colors, visiting a couple of missions, traveling a secluded road romantically winding through coastal valleys to this once isolated, now busy and crowded town.
    On the way we stopped at Gayle's Bakery and Rosticceria in Capitola, to buy a chicken sandwich, a delicious Florentine, a loaf of bread for tomorrow. And tonight we ate at Dorn's Original Breakers Cafe, because I've been hankering for sole meunière for days. We began with a shared plate of deep-fried artichoke hearts, because we'd driven through Castroville earlier in the day — the artichoke capital of the world. Then an incredibly garlicky salad. Alas, sole was not in today, so I had halibut instead, sautéed rather too long in butter — I'd thought of asking that it not be cooked dry, but I always hate to do that, it's like I'm telling someone how to do his job. Shoulda.
    Pinot grigio, 2007
  • Dorn's Original Breakers Cafe, 801 Market Street, Morro Bay, CA; tel. (805)772-4415

  • Sunday, November 15, 2009

    Weird ratatouille

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, November 15, 2009--
    WE HIT THE ROAD tomorrow, traveling south for a few days, so we've been cleaning out the larder, the pantry, the icebox. Lindsey's been working on the apples and the quinces; she rescued the beefstock to make that delicious Futurist soup; but she wondered aloud this afternoon what to do with a strange yellow eggplant she'd picked from my neglected vegetable patch a week or two ago.

    I chopped up an onion and sweated it in olive oil, then added the sliced eggplant and a small quince, cut into fairly small pieces. I juiced the three pomegranates that had been aging in the kitchen for a month or so, and added some of the juice to the stewing ratatouille, for such it proved to be. One last tomato was involved, too. The result was good. Cucumber salad, soup, ratatouille, green salad.
    Nero d'Avola

    Saturday, November 14, 2009

    Samedi soir

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, November 14, 2009—
    ANOTHER SATURDAY, another market menu: I bet you know what it is by now.
    But first, crudités as the French call them, raw vegetables served as an appetizer: cherry tomatoes from the garden, pungent fennel and an Armenian cucumber from the farm market, the latter in white vinegar.
    And then the salmon, pan-seared with salt, with Nancy's delicious limas on the side (I wish I knew what they're called; she seems to have misplaced the name) and potatoes diced, steamed, and finished with a little salt, pepper, and olive oil.
    That Central Coast Syrah, cheap and to tell the truth not very good, 2007

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    Salad and soup

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, November 13, 2009—
    I'M ALWAYS WRITING toward the end of these entries: green salad. Sometimes, green salad, naturally. We take it pretty much for granted; I hardly even see it. But when I set the bowl down today I saw it, and saw how pretty it is.
    It was the usual salad: greens from a local farmer (my garden is between lettuces at the moment) in vinaigrette, which I make by crushing a clove of garlic in the empty salad bowl, mashing it up with sea salt, using a dinner fork, then covering the crushed garlic with olive oil and letting it stand while we eat dinner. I add the vinegar — our own, from Zinfandel — just before tossing the salad, and drizzle a teeny bit more oil on the leaves, and a judicious sprinling of salt.
    The Italians, I'm told, say it takes four men to make salad: a generous man with the oil, a stingy one with the vinegar, a judge to measure the salt, and a maniac to toss it all together. In our house, Lindsey's the maniac.
    Oh. Soup, of course. C'est pas possible, diner sans la soupe, is how that story about the soup ends.
    Syrah, Central Coast, 2007

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Soup and salad

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, November 12, 2009—
    ONE OF THE HUNDRED indispensable dishes, no question about it.
    I sneaked a rib as we left the Futurist Banquet at the San Francisco Museum a while back, and made a little beef stock out of it — I had to make it in the fish poacher; no other pan would accommodate that rib. Lindsey combined it with some leek stock made with the green tails of the leeks she cooked last week, and then made a nice vegetable soup, with cannellini, potatoes, carrots, chard and tomatoes from the garden, and pesto I'd pounded up a little before dinner. Soup and a green salad: delicious. Some day I'll tell you about the old man and the soup.
    Cheap Pinot grigio

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009


    Berkeley, November 11, 2009—
    THE WEEKLY FISH FIX at lunch today, not dinner: but first, a delicious curly endive and radicchio salad with anchovy, garlic, and hard-cooked egg. The fish was Yellowtail jack, about which Wikipedia helpfully states " Opinion on the eating qualities of kingfish varies from person to person": in winter it's a bit oily, but this quality was softened by the aïoli that was served alongside. Fine green beans and boiled potatoes to go with the aïoli, and the flavors lifted with savory, an herb too often neglected.

    2007 Rueda Blanco, Basa, Telmo Rodriguez

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    Those lima beans

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, November 10, 2009—
    SINCE WE HAVE THEM so often these days, I thought I'd let you see exactly what these delicious lima beans look like. We get two different kinds from Nancy Skall's Middleton Gardens; last Saturday they were the only reason we drove in to the farm market in Healdsburg — well, also to show it off to out-of-town guests.
    Nancy has at least two kinds of limas these days, the little flat green ones you saw yesterday, delicately flavored and green as springtime, and these bigger ones:


    which Lindsey patiently shells while we watch the news. These are quite bigger and turn very dark when cooked:

    darker, in fact, than they look in this photo. They're very meaty, with a deep flavor, a little reminiscent of chocolate, of all things, and maybe even calf's liver. After them we had penne in tomato sauce, made with fresh Roma tomatoes also from the market, and of course a green salad.
    Cheap Pinot grigio; Nero d'Avola

    Lamb shanks revisited

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, November 9, 2009—
    HOME AGAIN, to leftovers, and Friday's lamb shanks were better than ever. Ah, winter: our first fire since April, maybe March; bog-man cereal the other morning; braised meat, noodles and gravy.

    Nancy's lima beans brought a nice chestnutty texture to the plate, offsetting the tender noodles. Green salad with shallot vinaigrette.
    Nero d'Avola


    Berkeley, November 8, 2009—
    IT'S ALWAYS SEEMED to me a strange meal, brunch: too late in the day for breakfast; too early for supper; too breakfasty a menu for lunch. But we were in town; we'd been too distracted to think about where we were going to eat; it was Sunday and choices were limited; and we had a play to go to at three o'clock. So we would up eating brunch.
    And it was okay, in its breakfasty way. The menu had an Italian accent, since we were after all in an Italian restaurant. I had "Omelette salsiccia house-made sausage, mozzarella, peppers, spicy calibrias," as the typo-fraught menu has it: a three-egg omelet cooked in butter, not the olive oil I'd have preferred, enlivened with the peppers and sausage; and before it a…
    …Fernet and soda
  • Trattoria Corso,1788 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; tel (510) 704-8004

  • Ethnic food

    Healdsburg and Berkeley, November 7, 2009—
    TAMALES FOR LUNCH, bought from Mateo Granados's stand at the Healdsburg Farm Market. Delicious. We took 'em home, frozen; steamed 'em and warmed up the red sauce and ate them greedily. Mateo was at one time chef at Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen, in the Hotel Healdsburg; I'm glad he's set up on his own; he's much more accessible, and what a cook.
    But where to eat dinner, in Berkeley, on a Saturday night, the streets crowded after a home football game, and having go go on to an eight o'clock concert? Our friends declined a second Mexican meal, so Picante was out; Corso was jammed; Bistro Liason was jammed; Chez Panisse was ruled out for the same reason. We would up at a place new to me, Cioccolata Divino, not terribly comfortable seating but okay salad and pasta (wide tagliarini, loose sausage) and an interesting wine list.
    Montepulciano D'Abruzzo, Cantina Tollo Valle D' Oro, 2005
  • Cioccolata Divino, 1801 Shattuck Avenue, Suite C, Berkeley

  • Friday, November 6, 2009

    Lamb shanks

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg; November 6, 2000—
    ONE OF THE HUNDRED GLORIES of French cuisine, according to Robert Courtine, is lamb shanks. photo.jpgEssentially what you do is put them crowded into a heavy pot with a close-fitting lid, along with a dozen or so unpeeled garlic cloves and a teeny bit of olive oil; lid them; cook them very slowly until they sizzle (an hour or so), then remove the shanks to a platter, remove the garlics to a food mill, purée them, deglaze the pan with WHITE wine, put back the garlic purée, assemble it all, serve it with noodles. This is what Lindsey did tonight. We had a green salad, of course, and tomatoes for a first course.
    Cheap Pinot grigio; Zinfandel, Louis Preston (Dry Crek), Old Vines, 2006

    Thursday, November 5, 2009

    Two Days Running

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, November 5, 2009—
    THERE ARE PEOPLE, I'm told, who dislike eating the same dinner two days running. There are those who refuse to wear the same outfit two days running, too. (I write of outer clothes. But still.)
    This may be part of what's wrong with our world, this excessive fastidiousness, or tendency to restlessness. (Perhaps those are synonymous.) After a first course of tomatoes

    we moved on to a repeat of yesterday's pasta al pesto. Even better tonight, of course; complex deep flavors nearly always improve after a day or two.

    Green salad, of course — with our vinegar, as usual; yesterday we strayed; I used lemon juice instead.
    Cinsault, Louis Preston (Dry Creek), 2007 (also somewhat better today)

    Al Pesto

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, November 4, 2009—
    GREEN BEANS TONIGHT, those thin ones I always think of as haricots verts, cooked I believe in a bit of butter; then penne al pesto, which I'd pounded up in the usual way but which turned out particularly good, don't know why. Good as it was, though, I was even more struck by what it did to the wine. On first tasting it I was a bit put off; it seemed brash and thick-headed. After the first taste of the pesto, though, it was delicious. Goes to show.
    Cinsault, Louis Preston (Dry Creek), 2007

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

    Healdsburg, November 3, 2009—
    DINING WITH FRIENDS tonight at their home. Becky doesn't eat meat, but she sure can cook, and Paul and Chezo turned to with some help, and the source was the bible: Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Now Deborah's an old friend, so I'm hardly objective about this: she's funny, intelligent, dedicated, and disciplined; she writes a neat blog, and she's a loyal friend, like Paul and Becky. Beyond all that, I think she's one hell of a writer, and we wouldn't be without her books — even though we're hardly what you'd call vegetarians. (Nor is Deborah, for that matter.) In fact I kidded Deborah after V C for E came out: she should have left the first word out of the title.
    Becky, though, is a vegetarian, and she relies on Deb's book. She showed us her copy: the pages are spotted and wrinkiled, the wrapper's gone, the inside is detaching from the binding. This is a book that's seen service.

    Dinner was first-rate. We began with some almonds and delicious little toasts with cheese and sautéed little peppers, piquant and full of flavor; then we went on to a pasta with lots of, well, vegetables; tomatoes, zucchini, winter squash, eggplant, onions, all long-cooked in olive oil. It took me back to Capalbio, where years ago we lunched with six or eight other people on a couple of field-lugs of fresh vegetables slowly cooked in a couple of gallons of olive oil.
    After the salad, a remarkable pear upside-down cake, also from Deborah's book, I think, and a cup of Moroccan tea — a knowing, subtle combination. Love it.
    Viogner, Souverain, 2007; Sirah Syrah, Preston Vineyards, 2006

    Monday, November 2, 2009

    Past Taste

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, November 2, 2009—
    OVER AT HER FOOD BLOG our daughter Giovanna writes today about food nostalgia — the longing for the familiar food of another time, another place; often of our childhood. She's more prone to it, I think, than I am; her childhood offered more to long for, perhaps. She wonders why there seems to be no English word for food nostalgia: I don't think it's surprising, given the comparatively recent development of food worth longing for in anglophone cultures. (I generalize, I know.)
    And what should Lindsey make for dinner tonight but fried egg sandwiches! They loom large and leaden in my childhood; a fried-egg sandwich often nestled in dubious taste against a peanut-butter-and-honey one in the lunchbucket I carried to school. Cold fried-egg sandwiches have little to recommend them, particularly on home-made bread that rarely found the right state — it was either overly leavened and full of holes or completely unleavened, chewy and tough. (The honey had bee bits in it, too, but that's another story.)
    Lindsey's fried-egg sandwich is delicious. She fries the eggs in olive oil, congealing the whites but leaving the yolks soft; she salts and peppers judiciously; the bread tonight was Como bread from the Downtown Bakery.
    With it, as you see, tomatoes from the garden, and little green beans cooked with chopped shallots, yum.
    Pouilly Fouissé, Louis Jadot, 2007


    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, November 1, 2009—
    GUESTS DROVE UP from Berkeley today, and they were hungry for tacos, so we drove into Healdsburg to one of our favorite local eateries: El Sombrero. I don't know when we first went there: it must be twenty years ago. It's changed a little bit over the years, getting spiffier, offering a wider range of beverages. But the basics haven't changed, and they're important. First, the food is very tasty, and the servings ample. It's one of the cleanest restaurants I've eaten in, dining room and kitchen both. The clientele is amazing: farm labor, dotcommers, wealthy wine-biz types, tourists, all democratically sitting down at the Formica tables. Oh: another thing: everyone working here is handsome, earnestly handsome.
    I usually have the burrito, but lately it's just too much. This time I followed Lidsey's lead: two soft tacos, one al pastor, the other carnitas.
    Tecate in the can, with lime and salt
  • El Sombrero, 245 Center St., Healdsburg, CA; tel. (707) 433-3818

  • Saturday, October 31, 2009


    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 31, 2009—
    THING IS, LIMA BEANS were always one of those vegetables not to my taste. Partly that chestnutty texture (though in fact I do like chestnuts), partly the faintly grassy flavor, mostly the fact that Mom always burned them without, somehow, altering the mushy texture she'd given them by boiling the bejeezus out of them first.
    Along came Nancy Skall and her beans. Two varieties are particularly wonderful: willowleaf and musica. These are the musicas, very flat and thin, beautifully smooth, a little bit grainy on the tooth, deep with flavor. Lindsey cooks them in olive oil; I'd swear she put a bit of butter in with them too. It takes longer to shell them than to cook them.
    Otherwise tonight, an ear of corn, a hunk of salmon, braised chard and kale. If only the Phillies hadn't lost.
    Pinot grigio, "Vivace", Contadino, 2008 (only 12%, and quite effervescent)

    Friday, October 30, 2009


    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 30, 2009—
    I OFTEN FEEL GUILTY posting to this blog: we eat so much, so easily; others eat little or sometimes nothing. We drove down to Berkeley today listening to a woman talk about providing food once a week to poor people in Haiti. I stopped in at Summer Kitchen for lunch to go: a couscous salad, a potato-fines herbes salad, a muffaletta, a roast beef sandwich. We ate the sandwiches in the car, driving home in the afternoon.
    Dinner tonight: after our Martini, the two Summer Kitchen salads (delicious and complex, as were the sandwiches), with some peppers à la greque (I hope they never end); then on to
    a mixture of chard and kale from the garden, sautéed; delicious little Merguez sausages from Franco, and little potatoes sautéed slowly, slowly with whole unpeeled garlic cloves and rosemary and salt. Oh la la; this is eating. I'm sorry about the Haitians, and I just bought 35 meals for them online. (What we need is a way to do this automatically, rotating among Haitians and other people similarly in need.)
    Tempranillo, Brick Kiln Cellars (Los Angeles), 1997; much better tonight.

    Grilled tuna sandwich

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 29, 2009—
    WHAT WITH ONE THING and another cooking dinner wasn't an attractive option, one thing being a late-in-the-afternoon event in town that dragged on, the other being the second game of the World Series. So Lindsey fixed grilled tuna sandwiches, one of my favorite things. Artisan's nine-grain bread is not one of my favorite things, but L. likes it, and I have to agree it makes fine grilled sandwiches. Superb canned Ortiz tuna. Little chunks of dill pickle. Just the right amount of chopped onion. Grilled between two hot cast-iron frying pans. Green salad afterward. The only improvement would have been a second Phillies win.
    Tempranillo, Brick Kiln Cellars (Los Angeles), 1997 (!)

    Wednesday, October 28, 2009

    Chicory; tomatoes and eggs

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 28, 2009—
    OH BOY, THAT WAS a fabulous dinner tonight. To begin with, cicory. The other day at the farm stand (Tierra Vegetables) the counterwoman smiled brightly as we were leaving: Oh! Did you know we have pane di zucchero today, too?
    Immediately I saw Mrs. Bertolli in front of me. She was our back neighbor on Curtis Street in Berkeley when we moved in there in 1973, certainly at least eighty years old at that time, thin as a rail, always wearing a sober print dress, a cardigan, long grey stockings and sensible shoes, spending virtually the entire day in her huge vegetable garden that occupied a double lot: favas, cabbages, broccoli, leeks, onions, tomatoes, peppers, with a few scrawny trees — lemons, figs, an apple I think. A typical ancient Italian immigrant.
    One day I asked her about some strange lettuces she had, huge oval leaves. Pane di zucchero, she said, try it. I soon discovered the leaves were all that was missing from the sandwich I had until then thought completely perfect: mortadella, galantina, butter, bread. No: you need also a leaf of pane di zucchero.
    It isn't lettuce, it's chicory. The Tierra lady warned us of its bitterness: It took me a while to get used to that, she said. But I knew about that. While it's delicious with lunch meat — the mortadella's sweetness offsets it — it's even better as Lindsey served it tonight: chopped, sautéed in olive oil, flavored with lots of crushed garlic. A glass of red wine perfected it.
    Afterward, a recipe from the September issue of Sunset: Paprika tomatoes with poached eggs. She ground coriander, cumin, paprika, garlic, and salt in a mortar; browned a chopped, seeded, and skinned poblano on some oil; added the spices and some tomato paste, then water and halved Roma tomatoes; then poached four eggs in the mixture, and served the whole with some bread to sop it up. Absolutely delicious. (The recipe is here.)
    Tempranillo, as yesterday; cheap Pinot grigio

    Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    Lunch and dinner

    San Francisco, October 27, 2009—
    TO THE CITY TODAY for a meeting, a fascinating one: the Bakers Dozen, Lindsey's professional (and in the best sense amateur) organization, where we and a hundred others listened to Harold McGee and Shirley Corriher talk off the cuff about Food Science — principally, about leavenings. This is tremendously interesting stuff. I was particularly impressed with McGee's revelation that he'd somewhat dismissed Julia Child's mention of the importance of copper pans to the beating of eggs, because it had been dismissed by the few scientific investigations he'd found twenty years ago, but that he then put it to the test and found out through hands-on experimentation that of course she was right. This is an interesting story I'll relate another time, another place.
    Shirley Corriher is a hoot, a very funny woman with a southern drawl, a suspect taste (she likes aluminum baking powder and commercial vanilla paste), and a razorsharp scientist's approach to Truth. Beat the fool out of your batter, she said more than once. McGee, is how she referred to Harold McGee; I half looked round to see if Molly was nearby.
    But the lunch! We were at the San Francisco Culinary Academy, and had a sort of Caesar salad, and braised lamb breast with couscous and cumin-cooked garbanzos, and breads that really weren't very good, and carafe coffee. Dessert was the best thing, I think, poached apple slices in commercial puff-pastry shells with pretty damn good ice cream, or maybe I was just grateful by then.
    Home, it was tamales for dinner, tamales from Primavera in Sonoma. I don't know when Lindsey bought them; she found them in our freezer. They were delicious.
    Tempranillo, La Granja 360, Cariñena, nv

    Monday, October 26, 2009

    Market menu

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 26, 2009 —
    MARKET MENU, a day or two later than usual, since we ate out yesterday. These days,
    sliced raw tomatoes
    peppers à la greque
    "Musica" lima beans from Middleton Gardens
    salmon, baked, with shallots and lemon
    green salad
    cheap Pinot grigio

    Earlier, Crane melon and pears.

    Sunday, October 25, 2009

    Dinner al fresco

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 25, 2009—
    HERE IT'S ALMOST November, and we ate at outside this evening, watching the fabulous evening light go to black, Jupiter ascendent near the increasing moon, a balmy autumn night in Healdsburg.
    And what a delicious dinner, cooked for us by friends. We began with tequila gimlets of a sort, with considerable heat from chile pepper, and extraordinary raw tuna tossed with chiles, scallions, ginger and a little sesame oil; and halved figs warmed with pancetta, I think — I should have paid more attention, but the conversation trumped.
    That was in the kitchen, while Jeff finished things at the grill: nice small prawns (though not for me, alas); long red peppers; halibut wrapped in grape leaves with grilled lemon slices as a garnish; and a festive salad with tomatoes and chiffonaded lettuces. Lindsey'd fixed the desserts: butterscotch puddings with sprinkled chopped toasted pecans. A marvelous evening: thanks, Jeff and Ina!
    Panilonco, Chardonnay-Viognier blend (Chile), 2008; Merlot, Peju "Province" (Napa), 2000

    Coco beans

    Eastside Road, October 24, 2009—
    IN BERKELEY TODAY TO VISIT friends visiting from Hawaii (I know that's complicated; they hadn't time to drive up our way), and remembered the Saturday market on Center Street, so stopped to see what was to be seen. We used to shop that market every week, but it's twelve years since we left Berkeley; it's getting to where I hardly know the streets any more.
    What should we find but those excellent black nearly spherical beans David Tanis had put in his faux-cassoulet Monday night, so we bought some, of course.
    Lindsey wasted no time shelling and cooking them for dinner. Delicious. Tomatoes, broad beans, Coco beans. Maybe it's Koko; I could get to them plighted.
    Malbec, "La Finca" (Mendoza), 2009

    Friday, October 23, 2009


    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 23, 2009—
    ONE OF THE DIFFERENCES between Lindsey and me is probably the reverse of what most of the people who know us would expect. When I fry onions, preparatory to a sauce or whatever, I sweat them very slowly. My aim is to make them translucent, with no color at all. When I make a risotto, for example, I sweat them as slow as possible, and after adding the stock I stand there and pick out the darkened bits of onion, eating them on the spot, so my risotto will have as little caramel color and taste as possible.

    Lindsey, on the other hand, tends to leave the pan to its own devices, turned down low for sure, but cooking away while she knits, or reads, or watches the news, or talks on the telephone, or does any of a number of things. I shake my head sadly at this: the onions will be burned, the dinner will be ruined.
    What happens, of course, is that the onions get very dark, very crisp, and very delicious. So it was again tonight: she browned the onions, added some leftover lentils, and made another perfectly delightful dinner. I have so much to complain about.
    Malbec, "La Finca" (Mendoza), 2009 (not very good)

    Thursday, October 22, 2009

    Boeuf Bourgignon

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 22, 2009—
    DINNER WITH OLD FRIENDS tonight: Gaye was Lindsey's college roommate, and in fact introduced us to one another, so I owe her a lot. And it was her husband John's birthday. Gaye made Boeuf Bourgignon in honor of the occasion. I knew Gaye before I knew Lindsey; we met in 1952, in the literary club at our junior college. Five years later, Lindsey and I were married. Not long after that, Lindsey made her first Boeuf Bourgignon, from Julia Childs's recipe I imagine. I remember that on its way from stove to dining table it somehow slipped from her grip and fell to the floor. Nothing to do but scoop it up, spoon it back into the serving dish, and bring it to the table. Oh well: it was just our friends Kendall and Ruthie to dinner.

    So tonight old friends who in fact haven't met came together, over a classic dish from the French canon. Gaye served it over polenta, an avant-garde idea I really like; it made the dish somehow Piedmontese rather than Burgundian, and Lindsey's half Piedmontese and not at all Burgundian. And afterward a good salad, and after that a nice complex cake involving chocolate.
    Cabernet sauvignon, Sebastiani, 1973 (!); Merlot, private label

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009


    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, October 21, 2009—
    FIVE SERVINGS A DAY, I'm told, is what it takes to keep us healthy; I think (I hope) that's vegetables and fruits, not just vegetables. Here are three of today's: heritage tomatoes from the farm market — what a nice tomato season we've had. Broad beans from Nancy Skall's Middleton Farms. Delicious chard from our own little potager. Afterward, leftover lentils. We had Crane melon for lunch, and there'll be our apples and pears for a bedtime snack.
    Sancerre, André Vatan "Les Charmes," 2006

    Tuesday, October 20, 2009

    Dining in the kitchen

    Berkeley, October 20, 2009—
    DINING IN THE KITCHEN downstairs at Chez Panisse is a particular pleasure. The table is small, the light bright, the ambiance distracting, I grant you: but that's the point. You sit between the pastry kitchen and the salad-pasta table; a little further is the line, the stoves, and the hearth. Dishwashers shuttle quickly and smoothly between kitchens and dishroom. Waiters hustle in, chalk up orders, pick up plates. Bussers fetch bottles from the wine room. The pastry staff quietly and intently go about folding lattices of pastry across tartes, whisking sauces, plating desserts.
    We dine downstairs at Chez Panisse rarely; it's always a specal treat. We're tolerated in the kitchen because we know these people, have worked with them for nearly forty years. We still feel honored to be there.

    This dinner began with these leeks in vinaigrette with prosciutto, egg, capers, and cornichons, a spray of chervil on the side. The vinaigrette was thick, verging toward a mayonnaise. Leeks from the restaurant's Sonoma valley farm; egg and prosciutto with flavor that manages to be both delicate and deep.
    Afterward, "tea-smoked Bolinas black cod" — don't ask me how that's done — with spinach and wild mushrooms: complex, spicy, smoky, certainly exotic. Then grilled duck breast with duck-leg confit and a faux-cassoulet (my term, not the menu's) featuring fresh shell beans, at least four different kinds each maintaining its integrity. And then an apple-quince tart with Calvados ice cream. Quite an amazing dinner, no matter where you eat it.
    Sancerre, Les Monts Damnés, Chavignol, Thomas Labaille, 2007; Morgon, Côte du Py, Jean Foillard, 2008; Touraine, Domaine La Grande Tiphaine, Damien Delecheneau, "Côt, vieilles vignes", 2008