Saturday, May 30, 2009


Middelburg, Netherlands, May 29—

BAKED MUSSELS for lunch today, with vegetables and a bottle of rosé. I wish they'd been steamed instead, but it's too early in the year. Still.

Dinner at a local Italian restaurant: insalata mista, more copious than usual since this is after all the Netherlands where one does demand one's vegetables, and pizza Napoli: tomatoes, anchovies, capers, cheese. Not bad at all.
Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, "Barone Montella," nv

  • Ristorante Pizzeria La Piccola, Damplein 46, Middeelburg tel. +31.(0)118.674780;

  • Friday, May 29, 2009

    Pub Food

    Middelburg, Netherlands, May 28—

    A HARENGBROODJE for lunch: a raw herring, boned and gutted, sweet as milk, nestling in a bed of chopped raw sweet onions in a soft white bun.

    Dinner in a bruinbar, one of those traditional Dutch pubs, cozy and woody, full of locals: the Mug (pronounced "mookh," and meaning "mosquito"). I had gestoofde varkenfilet: cubed pork, breaded and praised and served in a cream sauce. On the side, French fries, fat and happy, and a cucumber-chives-lettuce salad.
    House wine, Merlot (South Africa)

    Eten bij tante Koosje

    Nijmegen, Netherlands, May 27—

    A FANCY RESTAURANT for a change, recommended by Petra's sister. Eten bij tante Koosje: Eating at aunt Cornelia's, I suppose. We began with olives and bread; then I had a buffelmozzarellasalade, arugula with mozzarella, very nicely done, and then roasted rack of lamb, say eight or so tiny chops, beautifully roasted, glazed with a subtle honey sauce, and served on a bed of herbed risotto. And, exceptionally for me, an espresso after dinner. A very comfortable, pleasant, relaxed place, with a fine kitchen and excellent service.
    House wines: Riesling, 2007 (Germany); Merlot, 2007 (France)

  • Tante Koosje , Nijmegen; tel. +31.(0)204.322.2750;
  • Authentic Asparagus

    Gennep, Netherlands, May 26—

    EVEN AFTER THE DISAPPOINTMENT of the Wolfsberg dinner, I was immediately drawn to the traditioneel asperges in the Hotel Kroon. The bar and dining room were so authentic: the tables lacked only the hairy carpet-like tablecovers, the people at the next table lacked only their cigarettes, to have convinced me we'd slipped a few decades.

    The bartender-maitre d' was fortyish, a little bent already, lean; and he boasted a magnificent curly mustache: he looked like a benign clerk in a Tintin book. The waitress, a sixteen-year-old girl, fresh and friendly and a little timid, could have stepped out of an old painting.

    I had a genever to start, then the aspergesarrangement: four or five fat white asparagus stalks, boiled ham, a perfect egg perfectly hard-boiled, with beautiful little boiled potatoes on the side. A little cup of Hollandaise sauce, a pitcher of drawn butter, and a dish of powdered nutmeg completed the dish. Absolutely delicious.

    Dry white wine (house wine, sound and crisp).

  • Hotel-Restaurant De Kroon , Markt 11, Gennep; tel. 0485-511.612
  • Asparagus Season

    Groesbeek, Netherlands, May 25—

    ASPERGES, as the Dutch call them, those fat white asparagus stalks that grow completely out of the sunlight, under banks of sandy loam cast up by the river Maas and sophisticated agricultural machinery. They're in season right now, and I ordered them tonight, first in a creamy asparagus soup again — I had it last night, too — and then in farmer style, with sliced boiled ham and garnished with egg.

    But this was a revisionist version. Usually, the eggs are hard-cooked and chopped; these eggs were either hard-scrambled, or sieved in some strange way. And instead of the classic Hollandaise sauce there was a little pitcher of clarified butter to pour over.

    Conceptually wrong: the butter has nothing to soak into, and the touch of lemon was sorely needed to offset the inherent sweetness of the dish. At least, the sprinkling of nutmeg was available.

    We were eating at De Wolfsberg, a hotel-restaurant we've enjoyed in former years. Lindsey thinks the management must have changed to have permitted such a strange version of a classic dish; she's probably right; she usually is. Thoughts about Change and the Urge Toward Continuity are taking shape on this walk in the Dutch countryside.

    Rosé, Calitera (Chile), 2007

    Monday, May 25, 2009


    Millingen, Netherlands, May 24—

    DINING IN A PROVINCIAL hotel can be so relaxing. We walked about ten kilometers today, after taking the train to this eastern town, and rewarded ourselves with the simple menu proposed by the host: asparagus soup (white asparagus, cream, butter, salt, a little lemon, a little nutmeg, a little cumin); pork shashlik with cream gravy, pommes savoyard, fried potatoes, mixed green beans, red and yellow peppers, onions; cucumber salad with greens and chives; fruit Bavarian.
    Merlot, Veneto, 2007

    Saturday, May 23, 2009


    Amsterdam, May 24—

    IT'S BEEN ONE OF those unsettled days when eating is done by and large unceremoniously. A cappuccino and a croissant for breakfast. Apple tart and a cappuccino at the Botanical Garden. Lunch at the Pannekoekenhuis Upstairs, a gember-spek (candied ginger and bacon) for me, the pancake as big as a dinner plate and light as a feather, with a glass of sparkling water. The best pannekoek I know of in Amsterdam, in a charming tiny room up a punitive flight of stairs. Supper in the hotel room: bread and salami, nuts and sherry. Not a healthful day, but we'll make up for it.
  • Pannekoekenhuis
    , Grimburgwal 2, Amsterdam (Centrum); tel. +31.(0)20.626.5603 (only weekends, 10-6)

  • One of the Top Five

    Amsterdam, May 22—

    ONE OF MY PLEASURES is listing a Top Five Restaurants. Two spots have been vacant for a number of years, since Stephanie closed her eponymous restaurant in Melbourne and Cesare Casella left Il Vipore, outside of Lucca, for New York. But I can now promote Restaurant As, in Lucca, to one of those spots. Last night we had the five-course menu:
    antipasto: salume, prosciutto, radishes, olives, house paté, stuffed zucchini flowers, green salad
    appetizer: grey mullet with diced cucumbers and celery, pickled onions and sour cherries, and pine nuts
    intermezzo: whole rabbit chopped, marinated with artichoke and favas, flavored with capers and bay, and slow-cooked with lentils
    main course: roast veal, grilled rib-eye, with braised greens, peas, and carrots
    cheese: Gorgonzola
    dessert: raspberry tartelettes with crème fraîche

    blanc: vin de pays de l'Herault, "Les Granges de Félines", 2007; rouge de Chiroubles, 2006; valée d'aoste "Enfer d'Arvier", 2006; vin doux, "Implicito," "Le Due Terre", 2001; vin de pays de Méditerranée, Domaine de St. Bernard, "L'Esprit Libre"

    One of the finest meals I've had in years; the best this year, I think; and the rabbit one of the finest dishes ever.
  • Restaurant As, Prinses Irenestraat 19, Amsterdam; tel. +31.(0)20.644.0100;

  • Thursday, May 21, 2009

    Mangiamo all'italiano

    Amsterdam, May 21—

    ONE OF THE FIRST MEALS in The Netherlands generally turns out to be in an Italian restaurant, where even my imperfect Italian often works better than their English and, certainly, our Dutch. The restaurant adjacent to our hotel is Italian: it is called Sogno. Two years ago it was called Bice, and I assumed the name had been changed to accommodate English-speaking tourists. (Amsterdam is full of them: most of them are native speakers of English, but many use it because it's their second language. Dutch is pretty far down the alternate-language chain.)
    But no: our waiter said the name had been changed because Bice was in fact a chain of restaurants, and the Amsterdam location, the original of the chain, decided to drop away. A sensible decision, say I, distrusting chain restaurants.
    There were five of us: we shared a couple of antipasti misti and then went on to pasta courses. I had fettucini with pesto, arugula and robiola, a pungent combination somewhat overflavored, I thought. But it was okay.
    Vermentino, Argiolas (Sardinia), 2007
  • Sogno, Stadshouderkade 2 (Leidseplein), Amsterdam; tel. +31.(0)20.685.1351

  • Once more at Marius

    Amsterdam, May 20—

    IT IS ONE OF our favorite restaurants, and I think one of the best: Marius, a small, cozy restaurant seating perhaps thirty, rarely turning a table, with a single "market menu" and a couple of steady extras to choose from, and a knowing wine list. It doesn't hurt that its owner and chef is a dear friend: Kees Elfring, part of our Dutch family. I had the menu, of course:
    olives and salami
    salad: tuna, green and white beans, tomato, eggplant, squid
    cod with green and white asparagus, morel beurre blanc
    veal (rump, cheek, and kidney) au jus, jerusalem artichoke purée
    raspberry tart, vanilla ice cream
    Cava; Sauvignon (Touraine); rouge (Touraine) (both François Chidaine); vins doux: Maury, Domaine Jorel (blanc); Musset Roullier (raisins confits) (blanc)
  • Marius, Barentszstraat 243 (wester eilands); tel. +31.(0)20.422.7880
  • Eating in the air

    In flight, May 19—

    OUR BEST DINNERS have not been eaten in airplanes. It's bad enough eating in restaurants served by elevators; dining at forty thousand feet is even worse. Still, it seems to me airborne dining has somewhat improved in the past twenty years, and KLM, even the Europe-bound flights operated by Northwest Airlines (now themselves merged with Delta) is better than some of the competition. Tonight I had penne rigate in dried-tomato sauce, a little peppery (which is good), along with a bean salad with chunks of chicken breast in it (even though the flight attendant referred to it as "the vegetarian meal"). For dessert, a brownie.
    Merlot, South Africa, 2007; "Cognac" after dinner

    Monday, May 18, 2009

    Not entirely satisfactory

    Healdsburg, May 18, 2009—

    LUNCH AND DINNER OUT today, as will be the case for the next four weeks. I wish I could be more enthusiastic about today, but it was merely satisfactory, which is not entirely satisfactory. Lunch at Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar (403 Healdsburg Ave. Healdsburg CA. 707.433.9191), where I had "Alaska halibut", "pan roasted and finished in the oven": which is to say, wet-sautéed, then held warm, in butter, lemon juice, and capers. The fish could have been fresher, I think: but then, it's Monday. I should know better than to order fish on Monday. The others had crab and lobster and reports were good, but I don't eat crustacea. There you have it.
    Sauvignon blanc, Toad Hollow, 2008

    Then after a fine green salad at home we were out again, again with others, for a hamburger at the Healdsburg Bar and Grill (245 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg; tel. 707.433.3333). It was okay, with nice dill pickles and lots of sweet raw red onions, and the fries weren't bad.
    Whiskey sours

    Sunday, May 17, 2009


    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, May 17, 2009—

    THE LAST MEALS here on Eastside Road for a few weeks, and a bit irrational. Well, not irrational; quite rational, since market-driven. And healthful; and tasty. But odd. For lunch, a big bowl of Guacamole My Way, shared with a couple of friends and a bowl of odd puff-tortilla-chips. Three avocados, two big shallots, two big jalapeños, not quite enough cilantro, two little limes, salt, the Secret Ingredient.

    Then, supper: favas, Lindsey's labor-intensive gift to the evening, with little artichokes that I'd crisped in olive oil and salt. And now Lindsey's in the kitchen doing something with rhubarb.
    Cheap Pinot grigio

    Saturday, May 16, 2009


    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, May 16, 2009—

    WELL, IF ANYTHING was ever an old standby, it's the hamburger. We bought some ground beef today at the Farmers' Market, grass-fed, raised in Potter Valley, hormone-free of course. A couple of buns from the Downtown Bakery. Mustard, sliced raw onion, dill pickle, lettuce. Way to go. Green salad, of course.

    LastWord.jpgThe other news is a New Cocktail. Somehow I ran across a new (to me) one, the Last Word: equal proportions gin, green Chartreuse, Maraschino, and lime juice. We've had that bottle of Maraschino for decades. The green Chartreuse doesn't last anywhere near that long. I measured things out tonight and, you know, it's a delicious drink — deep, subtle, well balanced, each ingredient present in itself yet contributing to an integrated total effect. No reason not to keep this in the repertory.
    Côtes du Ventoux rouge, "La Ferme Julien," 2007

    Friday, May 15, 2009

    Grilled ham and cheese

    Santa Rosa, California, May 15, 2009—

    OKAY; MAYBE THERE should be a Hundred Standbys there behind the Hundred Plates. In front of them, in fact. In which case the polenta and red sauce day before yesterday would be among them; and so would tonight's dinner, a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. We ate them out, at Cafe Azul, where we'd gone to hear Lindsey's cousin's husband's group, the Don Giovannis, in an evening of Italian song. Accordion, drums, guitar, bass; baritone and soprano: also dependable standbys.
  • Cafe Azul, 521 4th Street, Santa Rosa, tel. (707) 636-0180

  • Thursday, May 14, 2009

    Kale and potatoes

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, May 14, 2009—

    SUCH A NICE LUNCH — egg salad sandwiches; tossed green salad — with such nice wine (since generous friends were willing to share it) — that a very simple supper was all we wanted tonight. I picked five or six leaves of kale and sliced away the stems, which I chopped into pieces and sweated in oil along with half a dozen tiny artichokes. Then I added four small potatoes, quartered, and browned them a little. Then I added a bit of water and steamed the stuff, adding the kale leaves, sliced into strips.
    Methode Champenoise, Pinot noir and Chardonnay blend, Schramsberg "Mirabelle", non-vintage; Petit verdot, Esoterica, 2004 (lunch); Côtes du Ventoux rouge, "La Ferme Julien," 2007 (supper)

    Wednesday, May 13, 2009

    Polenta, red sauce

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, May 13, 2009—

    I THINK IT'S NOT REALLY one of the Hundred Plates, but I may have to rethink the whole business. It's really simply one of The Staples: but then so many of the things I post here are. Last night's bread with garlic and oil, for example. Lindsey could probably make this in her sleep: chop an onion, cook it in olive oil, add a can of tomatoes, crushing them between your fingers; salt, pepper, bay leaf. Cook the polenta; add the sauce; grate Parmesan on top.
    Green salad, of course.
    Côtes du Ventoux rouge, "La Ferme Julien," 2007

    Tuesday, May 12, 2009

    Bread, oil, garlic

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, May 12, 2009—

    THAT WAS JUST ABOUT it: flatbread rubbed with garlic, olive oil dribbled on, a little grated Parmesan cheese. With it, delicious little favas that Lindsey cooked with a teaspoon of butter — I'm always surprised at how little butter is needed to lift a familiar thing to new heights. Green salad, of course.
    Cheap Nero d'Avila

    Monday, May 11, 2009


    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, May 11, 2009—

    AFTER A PLEASANT lunch on the patio — green salad with tuna — no one was in the mood to cook dinner, not even on a fifty-second wedding anniversary. So Lindsey mushed up a can of pinto beans and "refried" them, quotes because dry, not in lard; and I made a guacamole (the usual: avocado, cilantro, lime, shallot, jalapeño, salt, tequila); and, with a chopped onion, there you have it.
    Margarita; cheap "coastal" Zinfandel, 2007

    Sunday, May 10, 2009

    Fish and salad down the hill

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, May 10, 2009—

    I'M JUST GUESSING, since we weren't watching: I think T. simply cooked up some plum tomatoes with finely chopped onion, celery, black olives, and maybe one other aromatic vegetable — a little parsley? — and then shallow-poached the halibut in it. With it, Corona beans, cooked with a little sage and onions, of course. The green salad afterward came from our garden: lettuce, arugula, mâche, and a sprinkling of summer savory leaves.
    White wine, "Madame Preston" ; Viognier; both from Louis Preston vineyards

    A very smooth continuity of tastes and aromas, stitched together by Preston's extraordinary California Rhone-type wines.

    Saturday, May 9, 2009

    Pizza at Monti's

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, May 9, 2009—
  • Monti's Rotisserie and Bar, 714 Village Court, Santa Rosa CA; tel. 707.568.4404

  • LET'S MEET AT MONTI'S, a friend suggested, it's not expensive and we'll be able to talk. Well, it wasn't hugely cheap, and it was pretty damn loud, but that's how it goes these days. It was nice to get together with two other couples and catch up on things, my side order of spinach was delicious (cooked in butter, which we never do at home), and my pizza was delicious: thin crust lightly oiled; prosciutto and roasted asparagus; two eggs sunny side up.
    Zinfandel, Sausal "Old Vines," 2006

    Friday, May 8, 2009

    Quick pasta

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, May 8, 2009—

    THESE DAYS THERE'S so much to do; dinner tends to get put off to the last minute. After the Friday Martini I picked lettuce and arugula while Lindsey threw together penne rigate, crumbled-up anchovies cooked with garlic, then sprinkled chopped Italian parsley on top. She planted that parsley over a decade ago, in a pot; it's been seeding itself here and there on the patio ever since. The green salad, and the rest of the
    Roero Arneis, Marco Porello, 2007

    Thursday, May 7, 2009

    Chick peas

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, May 7, 2009—

    LAST TIME SHE COOKED garbanzos she cooked an extra meal's worth and put 'em in the freezer. Today they came out and were added to chopped onions that had been sweated in oil, then cooked further and flavored with garum masala, cayenne, and salt. Served on rice, with wilted spinach leaves. Excellent. Green salad, of course.
    Cheap "coastal" Zinfandel, 2007

    Wednesday, May 6, 2009

    Sand dabs

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, May 6, 2009—

    LINDSEY BROUGHT SOME sand dabs back with her from Berkeley today, and dredged them in a bit of flour and fried them. Alongside, the year's first fava beans; afterward, the green salad, with toast.
    Roero Arneis, Marco Porello, 2007

    Tuesday, May 5, 2009

    Intense conversation

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, May 5, 2009—

    THERE ARE THOSE TIMES when no matter where or what you are eating the conversation is so intense it takes precedence. Dinner tonight in the café at Chez Panisse with four friends. Six couples, then, all Berkeleyans or displaced Berkeleyans. We've known them, traveled with them, shared their personal and professional enthusiasms; and it was time to get in touch.

    I had a salad I've eaten many times: arugula with fennel and almonds, in a light vinaigrette. Afterward, duck confit, roasted in the pizza oven and served with slightly wilted frisée, artichoke hearts, fried herbs (I'd say marjoram and rosemary: the combined scent greeted us as we walked upstairs: ravishing), and fig vinaigrette.

    Dessert? Why not? Dates and tangerines; then flan: after all, it was Cinco de Mayo.
    Bandol rosé, Domaine Tempier; Chez Panisse Zinfandel


    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, May 4, 2009

    BREAKFAST, LUNCH, DINNER: When on the road, the conventions suffer. Breakfast was in Glendale, at Porto's Bakery, an astonishing place, huge and busy in three languages. The butter croissants aren't bad for such a big operation, and the coffee's better than that at most of the nearby espresso joints.
  • Porto's Bakery, 315 N Brand Blvd., Glendale, Calif.; tel. (818) 956-5996

  • Lunch was at a roadside rest stop on Highway Five: bread, prosciutto, salami, Edam cheese, pomegranate juice; followed by one of those dreadful "cappuccinos", confused by chocolate and vanilla flavors. Still, it kept us going.

    Dinner at home: the usual green salad, a big one, and garlic toasts.
    Côtes du Ventoux rouge, "La Ferme Julien," 2007

    Sunday, May 3, 2009

    Campanile; Bar Celona

    Glendale, May 3—

    FOR YEARS WE'VE PLAYED with the idea of The Hundred Plates: the hundred best, most fundamentally necessary dishes. They don't have to be the hundred most essential foods, of course; you won't find Bread on the list, or Coffee, though life without either of those, even a single day without either, is unimaginable. No: what we mean is the list of those things which, when you're eating them, you suddenly realize belong among basic repertory.
    This morning we had brunch at Campanile down on La Brea Avenue. It's by way of a tradition with us by now, Sunday brunch there when we're in town seeing plays. And my order's a tradition, too: a Bloody Mary to start; then a Frisée aux lardons, frisée with bits of bacon, dressed with bacon fat and a wisp of vinegar, with a poached egg on top. Hereby it's nominated to The Hundred Plates.
    Supper was at Bar Celona in Pasadena, happily returned to its tapas concept after a brief irrational foray into Chinese-Indian food, we hear. It's one of my favorite tapas joints, one of the best outside Spain in my experience. We had patatas bravas and piquillos and hummus with flatbread and delicious little asparagus stalks, some chopped, others long, dressed with a bit of lemon juice. And we had chorizo and white bean stew. And for dessert we had three quite wonderful things: a crème Catalan, churros with chocolate sauce, and nice al dente rice pudding. I washed this down with a Martini; Lindsey had Albarina.
    Campanile: 624 South La Brea Ave., Los Angeles; tel. 323.938.1447
    Bar Celona: 46 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; tel. 626.405.1000

    Saturday, May 2, 2009

    Supper in the motel room

    Glendale, May 2—

    TRADER JOE HAS his utility when you're on the road: tonight, a loaf of bread, a small bottle of pretty good Sicilian olive oil, a small jar of sea salt, and a prepared Greek salad.

    Rioja, white, Marques de Cáceres, 2007

    Friday, May 1, 2009

    Far Niente

    Glendale, May 1—

    LET'S JUST EAT near the theater, okay? It's been rather a long drive; we're tired and not too hungry. Far Niente qualifies on two counts: it's close; we know it. I warmed up — cooled off, actually — with a good Martini, made the way I like them. I split a revisionist insalata Caprese with Emma — it was garnished with avocado; we're in LaLaLand — and went on to a small order of fettucine Bolognese. Panna cotta for dessert.
    Pinot grigio