Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tuna salad

Berkeley, April 30—

A LIGHT SUPPER at a friend's in Berkeley, where we spend the night before driving down to Los Angeles. She served a nice tossed salad with a can or two of tuna inside — good lettuce, chopped red and green peppers, nice oil, good tuna. Bread from Healdsburg's Downtown Bakery & Creamery.
Strawberries and ice cream with a florentine for dessert. Nice.
The rest of the Salice Salentino, Feudo Monaci, 2003, bought yesterday in that funny liquor store in Willows

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Nancy's Airport Cafe

Willows, California, April 29—

WILLOWS SERVES as a cheap night between Portland and home, but where to eat? I'll tell you some other time about the dirty cheese Italian restaurant, where we had one of the funniest dinners of our life, many years ago. We certainly don't go back there. Nor do we go again to Casa Ramos. We also don't go to Macdonald's, Denny's, KFC. fish.jpg
Nor, I think, will we dine again at Nancy's Airport Cafe, open 24 hours, breakfast all day and night. A look at the impossibly long and spotty menu suggested only fish and chips. It was edible. The cole slaw was sweet but also edible.
Salice Salentino, Feudo Monaci, 2003 (in the motel room)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Steak and potatoes

Portland, April 28—

EATING AT HOME is so satisfying; why do we eat out? Tonight I handled the steak and salad dressing; Lindsey took care of the broccolini; Giovanna worked the little fingerling potatoes. At least I think that's how the girls divided things; I was busy at my end of the meal. Not that there was much to it: I salted the hanger steaks when we got them home, made the usual salad dressing, then after the potatoes were ready I got a black iron skillet good and hot and put the steaks in it, dry. Seared them on both sides, then cooked them until done, lifted them out and sliced them up, deglazed the pan with a little red wine, added a little butter and reduced the result, squeezed some lemon juice on the steak and spread the pan sauce over. Delicious.
Sangiovese da Puglia, I Molini, 2007

Roux, Portland

Portland, April 27—

WE VOTED ON IT, and I won: dinner tonight at Toro Bravo. But when we called for a reservation the one table they had big enough — there are seven of us — was already taken, so we went instead to Roux (1700 N Killingsworth St., Portland; tel. (503) 285-1200). And it was fine. I began with a classic Sazerac (Cognac, Peychaud bitters, and Absente); then moved on to a half order of muffaletta salad (romaine, cold cuts, provolone, olive relish and vinaigrette, with a savory beignet) before tackling two more half orders: rabbit pappardelle with cipollini and mushrooms; grilled asparagus. No room for dessert. I like Toro Bravo, but I like Roux just as much.
Rioja, Vina Izadi, Crianza

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Elk liver and such

Portland, April 26—

OH WHAT A DELICIOUS dinner. Every time we're in Portland I look forward to the farmer's market, so different from ours in Healdsburg, and not only because of all the bakery stands. How can one city support so many bakeries? But that's not what interests me. What interests me is the meat man. If I'm lucky, he'll still have some elk liver.
Today we were lucky: we got the last one, about a pound and a half of elk liver. I Googled a recipe and came up with Mario Batali. I didn't really need it; I know how to cook liver alla veneziana. Still.
I sliced four good-sized onions very thin and sweated them for an hour in butter and oil, then removed them to a platter and sautéed the liver, cut into thin strips, just a few seconds on each side. Deglaze the pan with a little white wine and some lemon juice; then pour that over the liver and onions, sprinkle with a few drops of Balsamico, ed eccolo.
But that was by no means all. In the meantime Lindsey and Giovanna, inspired by a recipe in Deborah Madison's Local Flavors, whipped up a casserole, I guess you'd call it, of beans, kale, and cabbage, with leeks and parsley, and garnished it with a few sausages sliced up. Absolutely delicious. No salad, what with all those leaves sliced up; but a fine rhubarb fool for dessert.
White Luberon "La Ferme Julien"; red wine from Chile; Pinot noir from the Rheingau

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pasta with potatos

Portland, April 25—

NOT THE MOST INTUITIVE combination, pasta and potatoes, but a good one. This recipe came from Chez Panisse Vegetables, and involves potatoes sautéed with rosemary and garlic and onions, then combined with the cooked pasta and wilted arugula. Salt and black pepper.
Barbera d'Alba, Paolina, 2006; Nebbiolo, Vietti, 2004

Friday, April 24, 2009

Lunch in Corvallis

Portland, April 24

LUNCH AT DOUG'S today, always a special treat. Everything is so pure, clean, and focussed. He'd baked my favorite bread, ciabatta; on it we spread a concoction he said was a recipe of Virgil's: pecorino (and a little mozzarella) grated and combined with chopped lovage, cilantro, and rue, in declining proportions, bound with very good olive oil. With that, a tossed green salad.
I don't know where this might have been found in Virgil; probably the Georgics. I have to look through them when I get home; also find where Lindsey's planted lovage. What a fine herb it is!
Pinot noir, Oregon, 2004

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Ashland, April 23—

ON THE ROAD when restauration's uncertain I often gravitate toward salads, of all things. Salads are just as delicate as any other course, but mediocre greens are better than no greens. So today at the brew pub I had a salad: arugula (commercial, tame, clean and sturdy, not bad) dressed with olive oil and "balsamic vinegar" and a few pine nuts (Chinese, no doubt of it at all) and domestic cheese masquerading as Parmigiano. Cheap pinot grigio.

But for dinner we stopped in at Amuse, which I think of as the area's second restaurant, New Sammy's being first. I started with a nice clam chowder, an unconventional one, clams with bits of bacon in a savory broth with bits of potato. Then — another salad: arugula with shaved fennel, feta, and pine nuts, with a creamy lemon dressing. Delicious.

It'd been days since I had a glass of red wine, so I asked for the Côtes de Rhône. It was absolutely terrible. I sent it back and asked for a Pinot noir instead. But the waitress brought me another glass of the Rhône, and it was fine. The first had come from a bottle that must have stood open for days. An odd flaw in a restaurant otherwise quite attentive to detail, both in the kitchen and on the floor.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New Sammy's

Ashland, April 22—

IT TURNS OUT there is one thing better than dinner at New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro in Ashland: lunch there, followed by dinner there. Charlene Rollins is a wonderful cook and baker: a deft hand with braises and sautées; a knowing handler of fresh vegetables; a dedicated and enterprising pastry cook. Lunch was spinach-and-goat-cheese ravioli in a vegetable broth with shiitake mushrooms and shaved Reggiano, with a beautiful glass of Pinot grigio from Collio; dinner was a green-garlic custard accompanied by a ragoût of artichokes, asparagus, and the fluffiest of gnocchi, washed down with Philipponnat. Fabulous, absolutely fabulous.


Ashland, April 21—

A LONG DAY'S DRIVE brings us to the Shakespeare Festival here in Southern Oregon, where with one or two exceptions it's been difficult to find a really satisfying dinner. Today's attempt was back at Tabu, a "nouveau Latino" walkup just off the main street. We relaxed with a Caiparinha, small but refreshing, and a bowl of pretty good guacamole — if only they'd smushed up all the avocado, instead of leaving a couple of huge chunks at the bottom of the bowl.
Then I had a daily special: a lamb chop, with slices of leg, on a bed of polenta, accompanied by a rissole of julienned vegetables — zucchini, carrot, pepper. The lamb was honey-mustard glazed and dredged in chopped pumpkin seeds; I liked it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Left over leftovers

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, April 20, 2009—

THE FUNNY THING IS, leftovers or not, it turns out to be the sixth day running that we eat fish, because there was a teeny bit of fusilli with anchovies left over, and some potatoes and carrots, and of course we had green salad. And tomorrow we're on the road, a couple of weeks or so of eating elsewhere.
Côtes du Ventoux rouge, "La Ferme Julien," 2007

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Grilled salmon

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, April 19, 2009—

FISH AGAIN TONIGHT, the fifth day running. Curt and Mary Jo were up from Berkeley, and brought with them a nice hunk of Arctic char. He grilled it on he Weber, over charcoal, after dredging it with a chop of myrtle, lavender, and calamondin peel, all from the garden. Mary Jo steamed some delicious snap peas; Curt and I fried potatoes, carrots, and garlic; I made the requisite green salad, using the first lettuce from our garden. Mary Jo's prunes in fenugreek, with spice cake, for dessert. A delicious meal on the patio, first of the year.
Sauvignon blanc, Louis Preston, 2006 2008

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Pasta with anchovies

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, April 18, 2009—

COMPANY OVER for drinks; why not stay for dinner? I washed lettuce and made salad dressing and set water to boil; Lindsey cooked whole-wheat fusilli and dressed it with anchovies and garlic. With our Martinis we'd had Comté and Heublumen, the latter new to me, floral and complex but overshadowed by the Comté.
Red wine: Trione, "Geyserville Ranch", 2005

Friday, April 17, 2009

Fish again

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, April 17, 2009—

OUR SECOND FISH DINNER from Monterey Fish: sole "dabs," local again of course, breaded and fried, with some Meyer lemon to squeeze over, and broccoli again, because it's good for me. Green salad, too.
Sauvignon blanc, "Viñas Chilenas", Chile, 2008


THE REAL NEWS, though, was tonight's invention of a new drink. Necessity is the mother of invention. It's Friday; I'm hot and tired from mowing, and though I had the good sense to fill the ice trays and put Martini glasses in the freezer this morning, I hadn't realized that we were out of Vermouth. Out of Vermouth.

Lindsey said she'd settle for a Corenwijn on the rocks, to cut it, so I gave her a couple of jiggers of Corenwijn, moderately shaken fifty-six times with ice cubes, then poured into her cold Martini glass and garnished with the regulation olives.

This made me think: what on earth am I going to have? I'd thought of a Fernetini, a drink I like sometimes, a regular Martini made with Fernet Branca substituting for the Vermouth — but I wasn't in the mood. There was that Corenwijn at hand, and there equally at hand the ice-cold bottle of "ordinary" American gin, Amsterdam brand (lightly flavored with citrus; made by Gallo). Why not try equal parts of both, shaken? I did. It was delicious.

Corenwijn is Dutch gin, made by the old Dutch house Bols, lightly aged in oak, just under 80 proof, smooth and delicious. I used to use it for Martinis, always with Boissière Vermouth (white, of course), always three to one, as I always make all my Martinis, even my Fernetinis. (Lindsey's drink is the exception, which is why I refer to it as a Notini: she likes equal parts gin and Vermouth, believe it or not.) I don't use Corenwijn for Martinis any more; it seems too shy for that; it wants to be drunk neat, either very cold or even at cool room temperature. It's delicious with a raw herring.

Cod, Lindsey's way

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, April 16, 2009—

LOCAL COD. Yes, we were in Berkeley a couple of days ago; yes, we dropped by Monterey Fish for, what else, fish. It's so nice to know you're buying something that's absolutely correct in every respect. Alas, as things worked out, we couldn't eat the fish the same day. Yesterday, a day after buying it, Lindsey baked the cod, resting it on a base of green Thai curry mixed into olive oil, Kaffir lime leaves and slices of lime on top of the base, then the cod; and served it with chopped shallots and cilantro. (If you think I made a guacamole to have before dinner, you're right.) With the fish, wonderful diced potatoes, almost lapsed into mashed potatoes, and broccoli.
Sauvignon blanc, "Viñas Chilenas", Chile, 2008

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Berkeley, April 15, 2009—

LUNCH IN THE CAFÉ at Chez Panisse today. I'm biassed, of course; we've been associated with the restaurant for nearly forty years. But I do think it is extraordinary. The materiel is optimal; the treatment is careful and caring; the service personable and competent. I could happily eat there every day.
halibut carpaccio with frisée, radishes, and horseradish crème fraîche
poached halibut with artichokes, asparagus, cardoons, and aïoli
Entre-deux-mers, Château Bonnet, André Lurton, 2007

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Lamb hash

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, April 14, 2009—

GOD KNOWS, Lindsey said, when I asked how long those leg-of-lamb leftovers had been in the freezer. I suppose I could look back in the archives here, but I'm not going to bother. Lindsey hacked them into bits and cooked them with salt and pepper and potatoes and onions, probably easing things along with a little olive oil, in the black iron skillet. Green salad, of course. It's nice to be home.
Côtes du Ventoux rouge, "La Ferme Julien," 2007

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dutch lunch

South San Francisco, April 13, 2009—

LUNCH IN AMSTERDAM today. Well, Café Amsterdam, at the National Gallery in Washington. We were there to see a fine little exhibition of Dutch cityscapes, and the NatGal has a new tradition of adapting its café to the big changing exhibit show, so there we were with a Dutch menu. We could have had Kalkoen met appels en saus, or Gestoofde rundeerlappen, or Gebakken vis, but we opted instead for the

Rode kool
Kip uit de goudentijd
Gebakken groentjes

which is to say, bean and sausage stew; braised red cabbage; braised chicken rubbed with spices, roasted turnips, celery root, and parsnips; fresh pears and apples; "traditional Dutch apple pie" more in the American style than the Dutch, but not bad. Cheeses, of course.
Côtes du Rhône, rouge, 2007


And, late tonight, after landing, another Caesar salad at another Houlihan's, at another Holiday Inn…

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Chicken at Kinkead's

Washington DC, April 12, 2009 —

AFTER A COLD AFTERNOON walking the cherry-blossom trail we were pretty tired, cold, hungry, and thirsty. We asked Zagat what was close, good, and open: Kinkead's. It's a fish restaurant, so Lindsey finally had her crab cake: but I ordered a dish that looked more interesting than fish, a poussin grilled, dressed with olives, and served on a socca bed along with spinach sautéed with garlic. It was as nice in the event as it had been on paper, though the socca was more like a slab of polenta than the thin crèpe I'd expected.
Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon, Penedès, 2007

Saturday, April 11, 2009

New Heights

Washington DC, April 11, 2009—

AFTER A DAY ON OUR FEET it seems reasonable not to stray far from the hotel this evening. Martinis, then, in the hotel bar; dinner, then, around the corner, at New Heights. Zagat gave it 22 for food, and it looked nice enough, so we made an eight o'clock reservation.
Lindsey was content with just an entrée: halibut, sautéed and served with artichoke hearts and Meyer lemons and wheat risotto.
I had the three-course prix-fixe, which you build by choosing from a number of alternatives for each course. In my case, three oysters on the half-shell with salmon eggs; a nicely braised lamb shoulder with wheat risotto — frumentotto? granotto? -- and three cheeses: Red Hawk from our own Cowgirl, pecorino romano, and a hard goat cheese from Italy: sorry, don't have the name.
The oysters, from British Columbia, are already on their way to a month lacking an "R," I'm afraid. But they were tasty and I didn't regret them. The lamb was quite delicious if a little oversalted: corned, I'd say, flavored with mustard and pickling spices, nicely done, tender yet substantial.
Prosecco, Montelliana; Lemberger, Shooting Star, Washington State, 2007; Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, Ken Forrester, 2007

Diner breakfast

Washington, DC, April 10—

BREAKFAST IN A DINER seemed the logical approach in a small town University town at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We did the usual online research, Googling "best breakfast charlottesville," and settled on the Blue Glass Diner, where we had biscuits, eggs, and grits, and that legendary bottomless cup of coffee. Could have done worse.


DINNER, after a day at Monticello and a two-hour drive back to Washington and search for the Hertz parking garage and the quick subway ride, was in the Palena bar, and not really dinner: all we needed was a snack. I had my reliable Caesar salad, which comes in quotes on this menu, perhaps for its lack of raw egg and anchovies. Still, a nice crunchy quarter of romaine, good croutons, a nice dressing, and a chunk of seared tuna; on the side, a plate of deep-fried shoestring potatoes, Duchess potatoes, lemon slices, and onion rings, with a spicy mayonnaise. I wouldn't mind going back for dinner, on the restaurant side.
Martini, three to one, olives, up

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Terroir in Charlottesville

Charlottesville, VA, April 9 2009—

WHERE TO EAT? Two or three recommendations, one of which mentioned local farms. On, then, to Hamilton's in downtown Charlottesville. Wasn't hard to choose from the menu: Polyface Farms chicken breast on risotto. We began with a nice green salad, small field lettuces with a slightly sweet vinaigrette and a couple of pieces of (as far as I'm concerned) irrelevant apple on top, and a glass of Virgina wine: Wineworks Viognier, a little sulfury at first but quickly turning fragrant, perfectly expressive of the grape (though the terroir eluded me).
The chicken breast was a bit overcooked and dry: too bad. Fine flavor and grain; I'd like to taste it moister. The risotto, on the other hand, was really quite wonderful, just slightly underdone as I like it, not all'onda (though I like that too) but chestnutty in texture, with lots of flavor from peas, tomato concassée, and a hint of mint.
Aforesaid Viognier; Four Vines Zinfandel. Oh: and a glass of Wasmund single malt Virginia whiskey, dark amber, nuts and caramel, serious.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Komi, Washington D.C.

1509 17th St NW 202.332.9200
Washington, DC, April 8, 2009

DINNER AT ANOTHER highly recommended restaurant here tonight: Komi, 1509 17th St NW, tel. 202.332.9200, recommended by two acquaintances who know how to eat: Odessa Piper and Terry Theise. We had a chef's tasting menu:

Shima Aji
Pickle / sweet shrimp
king salmon
caesar "salad"
black truffle gelato
A date, with a "'smore," and a puff, and a cracker, and gelée

Then we had tagliatelle with morels, and strozzapreti with pea pesto
gnocchi with lamb ragù and mint
roast suckling pig

And then rhubarb and lemon
passionfruit tapioca
meyer lemon and olive oil cake
greek doughnuts

and root beer lollipops, except that I brought mine back to the hotel to have tomorrow, one can only do so much.

Champagne, Pierre Peters 1997, Cuvée speciale (in magnum); Riesling, Jungfernlese, Nikolaihof, 2002; Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Steinertal, Alzinger, 2004; Schewebe Kabinett, Geil, 2006; Rioja, Lopez de Herida, Viña Bosconia rossa, 1981; Muscat Beerenauslese, Messmer, 2001

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Washington D.C., April 7, 2009 —

ONE OF MY FAVORITE restaurants — I'll write the history of this over at The Eastside View tomorrow — Obelisk is small and comfortable, serving forty or so diners a prix-fixe five-course dinner impeccably Italian. It was good to see the kitchen maintains today standards I noticed fifteen or twenty years ago. We began with antipasti chosen by the kitchen, which turned out to be:

  • Marconi almonds warmed with finely ground sesame seeds; burrata with honey and salt, peppers à la greque, sarde in saor, a smooth paté of rabbit and duck livers, and very nicely made polpettini fragrant of veal and nutmeg.
    And the other four courses followed:
  • Pici (handmade noodles) with duck gizzard ragù (L.); Gnocchi with castelmagno and chives (C.)
  • Culotte steak with rapini and cippoline (L.); Quail with vignarolla (C.)
  • cheeses: Raschera, cravanzina, and cinerino, with fig jam
  • Tangerine granita (L.); Fior di latte panna cotta (C.)

    and no green salad. Details will appear tomorrow at that Eastside View.
    Arneis, Roero, 2007; Carmenere Piu, Inama, 2006 (C.); Arte, Clerico, 2005 (L.)
  • Monday, April 6, 2009

    Herndon Houlihan's

    Herndon, Virginia, April 6, 2009

    AFTER A FLIGHT only momentarily interesting — when a woman decided she needed a cigaret when we were over Kansas, and got belligerent when told to cut it out right now — here we are on the ground in Herndon, VA, because it's too damn late to go on into Washington. The hotel restaurant is called Houlihan's, which of course makes me think of Lovely Houlihan's in Portland: but it's nothing like.
    Still, a "Tuscan salad" (greens, canned white beans, tomato concassée, "balsamic" vinaigrette) and a fettucine Alfredo with chicken breast atop, that takes the edge off hunger.
    house Pinot grigio

    Sunday, April 5, 2009

    Yesterday… and tomorrow

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, April 5, 2009

    TO LAYTONVILLE YESTERDAY, there to see grandson Henry play the role of Oscar (the Walter Matthau role) in The Odd Couple (which he did very well, of course, as he does everything): but first to have a bite to eat. He lives with his parents in a straw-bale house our son built on a high pasture south of Laytonville. Meadow, Henry's mother, had made a nice potato salad: boiled potatoes, slipped out of their skins and quartered; hard-boiled eggs (probably from her own hens), ditto; a little vinaigrette, some very thin-sliced white onions, a few capers. A loaf of bread from Downtown Bakery & Creamery. Pickled peppers; fresh tiny tomatoes (God only knows where they came from).
    Local Zinfandel, 2005; private party


    Outside the cattle and sheep waited for their own supper; Billie Jean the Jersey cow, twelve years old, snuffled up blades of grass at the doorstep; I went out into the pasture to try to find the kildeers' nest, but they lured me away as they always do.

    TOMORROW WE FLY to Washington, D.C., there to be tourists for a week. We'll eat Tuesday night at one of my favorite restaurants: and I haven't been there in years. But tomorrow we'll be eating at the airport and in the air, and I don't look forward to it.

    And tonight? Tortellini, broccolini, green salad, a little red wine…

    Saturday, April 4, 2009

    Chou farci

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, April 3, 2009

    IT SOUNDS SO MUCH better than "stuffed cabbage," don't you think? It's a dish I've always loved. I generally make it from the first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, where you dismantle a Savoy cabbage in hot water, then reassemble it in a proper-sized bowl, interleaving it with the farci.
    Tonight we ate at a friend's house, and he made his from Simca's Cuisine. I don't find the book on our shelves, and Lindsey thinks it possible she deaccessioned it, which would annoy me greatly, but there it is, you can't do anything about such things.
    In any case it tasted much like Julia's recipe, and of course Simone Beck was a co-author of that first volume, so perhaps it is. I see online a reference to "Petits choux farcis" in Simca's Cuisine, and that sounds like what Tom must have made. The cabbage wasn't re-formed and carved at table, as the one I cook is; instead it was served loose, in broth, so in fact it wasn't really "stuffed" at all, but accompanied by the mince of, I'm guessing here, pork and sausage and, yes, Tom said Canadian bacon — a note that seems just a little louche; I'd have used a mild ham or maybe Mortadella. In any case it was delicious, and a glass of two of Riesling didn't hurt.

    Thursday, April 2, 2009

    Tortelloni; chard

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, April 2, 2009

    PESTO-FILLED TORTELLONI from Trader Joe tonight, dressed with grated Parmesan we bought last November in Milan — not a Reggiano, an ordinary Parmigiano, young, creamy, and saporoso. And after, in place of the usual green salad, chard, just picked from the garden, chopped and sliced in the usual way and cooked in a bit of the water the pasta had cooked in, so tasting of pasta and olive oil and the good salt I'd sprinkled onto it, as well as the earth of the vegetable garden.
    And afterward, cake: because we're going to a friend's house for dinner tomorrow; they asked Lindsey to bring a dessert; and if you're making a cake, why not make two?
    Chardonnay-Torrontés, Argentina, "Fuerzo"; Côtes du Ventoux rouge, "La Ferme Julien," 2007

    Wednesday, April 1, 2009

    En papillote

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, April 1, 2009

    LINDSEY WAS DOWN in Berkeley today, and came back with some Skipjack, also known as Bonito, though if you look that up you'll really be confused. Skipjack's not automatically politically correct, or rather the eating of it isn't, but Monterey Fish is quite reliable, as well as entertaining, instructive, and budget-friendly if you're careful, so we ate it in comfort.

    And how did Lindsey cook it? En papillote, that's how: she put the fillets on sheets of parchment paper, sliced shallots on them, salted and peppered them and sprinkled a bit of tarragon on them, and then folded the papers in half, crimping the edges, and baked them in the oven. They made a delicious sauce of their own, which little cubes of steamed potato soaked up happily; and they were delicious. Green salad.

    Chardonnay-Torrontés, Argentina, "Fuerzo"