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