Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Onion sandwich

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, June 30, 2009—

WE EAT A LOT of bread, we do. A slice or two, toasted, at breakfast. Another slice or two, often toasted and spread with almond butter, for lunch. And today as I was washing the lettuce I noticed that the sound of Lindsey slicing bread is one of the nicest sounds I hear. The scalloped edge of that bread knife against the firm crust…

I didn't know until a few minutes later what she was doing: making onion sandwiches. Crusty Pugliese bread, buttered just enough, with sliced spring onion inside. Broccoli. Green salad. Nagelkaas, that delicious medium-old farmer's cheese the Frisians like to stud with cloves.
Côtes de Luberon, white, "La Ferme Julien", 2007

Monday, June 29, 2009

Salmon, favas

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, June 29, 2009—
COLUMBIA RIVER SALMON from the fish guy at the Healdsburg market; favas from Nancy Skall's farm garden; green salad from ours. A perfect summer evening dinner.
Côtes de Luberon, white, "La Ferme Julien", 2007

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Food, no meals

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, June 28, 2009—
WELL, THAT'S NOT quite true; we had one meal: breakfast. Sunday breakfast: a three-minute egg and a small brioche with our morning cappuccinos. It's so nice to have a slubbery egg again, after a month in the Netherlands, where my only culinary complaint is the soft-boiled eggs, five minutes minimum.
Hans: Ooh, how can you eat such slubbery eggs?
Perhaps "slubberij" is a legitimate Dutch adjective, though I somehow doubt it. It's the perfect description, of course. The right soft-boiled egg, for us, has a white that's still liquid. Congealed, but liquid. The salt merges into it better, and the toasted brioche, dipped into it… well, there are few greater pleasures…

Otherwise it was finger food standing up at a party down in Berkeley celebrating a friend's resignation from a difficult situation. Bill and Judy surrounded by hundreds of friends and admirers. UC Berkeley's Straw Hat Band. Taiko drummers. Accolades from farmers and chefs. (Even Lindsey gave a speech, a good one.) Cookies, sausage rolls, bread and cheese, lemonade, apple cider.

A Berkeley occasion, no doubt about it. The MC was a city councilman; the audience was poets and farmers, cooks and clerks. We were "celebrating" an unfortunate turn of events: Bill and Judy leaving the Monterey Market. Inconceivable. We'll see what happens next…

Oh: I completely forgot. After the party, a burrito and a beer at Picante. Rajas burrito, hearty and more than I could finish…
  • Picante Cocina, 1619 5th St., Berkeley; tel. (510) 525-3121

  • Saturday, June 27, 2009

    Friends to lunch — summer

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, June 27, 2009—
    THE DAY OF THE LITTLE BUGS, Lindsey calls it: Summer is here, and the gnats have appeared. I see one now walking up the screen of the iMac. Nothing is sacred.

    Friends over to lunch on an incredibly hot day. I grilled "French" sausages over a fire of a little charcoal, a few dry rose prunings, more than a few tiny grape prunings, also dry. Lindsey made her delicious rice salad which involves also cucumber, celery, green pepper, onion, oil, and vinegar. She also cooked up some green beans with minced shallots that had been browned in oil .I picked lettuce and made the usual vinaigrette.Strawberries, raspberries, and apricots cut up, the raspberries warmed a bit, for dessert. Bread, oil, and salt, of course.

    I think of Joe and Karen, who bring in the olive oil. They're in Portland: everything else (except the coffee) came from within twenty miles. I think of Franco Dunn, who makes such delicious sausages. Lindsey's father who began our vinegar and brought it such a long way. Nancy Skall, who grew the beans, the strawberries, and the raspberries. The Healdsburg ladies whose Chico relatives provide the apricots (another batch is drying in the El Camino this week). Kathleen and Maya (and their staff) who work so hard to make such good bread. Lou and Susan Preston (and their staff) who make such good wine. What a splendid day, even though it was 102°, and not even July yet.
    Cheap Prosecco: Zonin, nv
    Carignane: Preston of Dry Creek, 2006

    Friday, June 26, 2009


    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, June 26, 2009—
    OUT WITH FRIENDS to pizza tonight, before a return to Chekhov. The pizza at Rosso is pretty good, considered by many the best around. I particularly like the crust, thin but not microscopic. I ordered the Uovo: tomato sauce, prosciutto, roasted artichokes, olives, with an egg broken on top and flavored with basil and, I thought, perhaps a little oregano. (Any oregano is usually too much oregano.) Lindsey liked her mushroom pizza. Green salad, of course. Rosso has quite a good wine list; I was very happy with
    Barbera di Asti, "Blina," Pavia, 2007
  • Rosso, Creekside Center, 53 Montgomery Dr. , Santa Rosa, CA ;
    tel. 707•544•3221; www.rossopizzeria.com

  • Thursday, June 25, 2009

    Lunch, no dinner

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, June 25, 2009—
    CAPPUCCINO AND A SLICE of toast for breakfast. Lunch: a slice of toast with almond butter; a carrot; a couple of apricots; a peach. Pomegranate juice.
    A handful of almonds with a glass of rosé; then a slice of bread and some nice local chèvre before going out to see Helen Mirren as Phèdre. A glass or two of white wine with friends afterward; a slice of honeydew melon; and so to bed.

    Wednesday, June 24, 2009

    Lunch at Chez Panisse

    Berkeley, June 24, 2009—
    I WAS HUNGRY, and the menu was generous:
    • Long-cooked Romano beans, Iowa prosciutto, olive toast, and egg
    • Braised and grilled lamb with corn polenta, roasted fennel, and salsa verde
    Sauvignon blanc, Touraine, François Chidaine, 2008
    Zinfandel, Green & Red Vineyards, 2007
    Sour cherry tart with Cognac ice cream
  • Chez Panisse Café, 1517 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; tel. 510-548-5525; http://www.chezpanisse.com
  • Tuesday, June 23, 2009

    Vegetarian dinner

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, June 23, 2009—
    IN ALL MODESTY, I think the best way to make guacamole is by using my recipe, online here. And that's how we began dinner tonight, with tortilla chips and a teeny glass of tequila.
    But what really made the dinner was the Caesar salad. I'm doctrinaire here, too: I think the only way to make it is by using Judy Rodgers's recipe in her fine book The Zuni Cafe Cookbook. If you follow the recipe, even a little loosely as I did today, you get a salad that takes you straight to Market Street and Zuni.
    By "loosely" I don't mean do anything rash. I used all and only the ingredients and method she stipulates; I only neglected to measure. The romaine was from our garden; Lindsey's father, dead these ten years, made the vinegar. (I've been too lazy to refill our vinegar carafe from my own stock: when I do, I'll have to add a little to his nearly empty bottle.) The garlic from the Healdsburg Farm Market; the lemon from our patio; the oil from our friend Joe in Portland; the croutons from the freezer; the anchovies, well, I'm not sure; the Parmesan from that market in Milan, where we bought it last November…
    So each meal is a collection of memories, a nod to the accumulation from the past. A present moment stolen from past and future.
    Cheap rosé, Cotes de Var, "La Ferme Julien", 2007

    Monday, June 22, 2009


    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, June 22, 2009—
    I AM NOT a pilaf guy. There's something about small grains that, well, goes against the grain. I make exceptions, of course: I like a good risotto, and wheat, oats, and rye are fine with me. Outside of a risotto I'm not fond of rice. And all those tiny grains — millet and all that — well, far as I'm concerned, they're for the birds.
    So tonight Lindsey made a pilaf using quinoa, a grain I know to be touted as extremely healthful, and to have come to us from Peru, whence also came alpacas and llamas, animals I don't like looking at in Northern Hemisphere pastures. To each thing its terroir say I.
    Still: Lindsey made quinoa pilaf, flavored with mushrooms and a grating of nutmeg and strewn with chopped parsley, and I liked it well enough to have a second helping.
    Green salad, bien sûr.
    Cheap Nero d'Avila (see yesterday)

    Sunday, June 21, 2009

    Salmon and favas

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, June 21, 2009—
    WE CELEBRATE the first day of summer with a typically springtime dinner: salmon, bought at the Healdsburg farmers' market from The Fish Guy; favas, bought from Nancy Skall; a little bit of cucumber salad; the obligatory green salad.

    The Fish Guy is in fact a fisherman, but there's no salmon to be caught locally this year: not enough rain; too poor management of the rivers. This salmon was caught in the Columbia River. I like ours better, but this is okay; in any case it's wild and doesn't taste like cat food. Lindsey "grilled" it on the stove in a black iron skillet and garnished it with Meyer lemon from the patio.
    Two or three people, seeing the favas in our market basket, stopped us to ask where we'd got them — it's late in the season for them. Nancy Skall has one of the most discriminating stalls at the market; her market garden is legendary. It took Lindsey an hour, she said, to skin the beans: but she was watching the news while doing it, so why not.
    The salad was romaine and leaf-lettuce from the garden, dressed with oil and our own vinegar. A very sustainable Father's Day Midsummer Night's feast.
    Cheap Nero d'Avila ("Archeo", Ruggero di Tasso, 2006)

    Saturday, June 20, 2009

    Utter Perversity, 2

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, June 20, 2009—

    A QUARTER MELON and a peach for lunch. Dinner was in two courses: at home, appetizers: bread, oil, and salt; a little focaccia; some goat cheese; carrots and radishes. Then, after an absolutely wonderful performance of three Chekhov one-act plays at Santa Rosa's Imaginists Theater Collective, dinner proper.
    photo: Richard Burg

    Odyssey opened in nearby WIndsor two years ago or so, and we'd not managed to get there until tonight — three weeks before it's closing its doors. We've missed something: the cooking is good, the ingredients correct. Perhaps my entree wasn't quite correct, but it sure was good, though eccentric: a hamburger flavored with black truffle oil, layered between shortribs and a thick slice of fois gras, with a bit of sirloin involved somehow, and french-fries on the side. What the hell.
    Sangiovese, Ramazzotti (Sonoma county), 2007
  • Odyssey, 426 Emily Rose circle, Windsor; tel. 707.836.7600

  • Friday, June 19, 2009

    Utter perversity

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, June 19, 2009—
    A BAG OF POPCORN and a hot dog, eaten at the Rialto while watching Food, Inc. a documentary about the evils of the corporate food industry. I found the film rather boring, often plodding, its argument perhaps by now too familiar.

    Thursday, June 18, 2009

    Corona beans

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, June 18, 2009—
    I'M SURE I'VE MENTIONED them before: Corona beans, half the size of a business card and much thicker, meaty and full of flavor. We get them from a friend in Portland; he has a food import business and brings them in from Italy, I think. Lindsey soaks them, then cooks them in water, flavored with salt and garlic; then tosses them with olive oil and savory from the garden. A soup-bowl or two makes a perfectly fine summer supper, with a green salad — lettuce from the garden.
    Cheap Nero d'Avila, "Epicurio," 2006

    Finally home

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, June 17, 2009—

    A SIMPLE SOUP and salad, that's what we craved. And not too much shopping or preparation, if you don't mind. I cut a few leaves of kale from my poor neglected kitchen garden, and Lindsey cut away their undigestible ribs and sliced them up with a nice big leek while I made a mirepoix of carrots with a little parsley. We tossed it all into a pot of chicken stock — yes, from a box from Trader Joe — and Lindsey added some soybeans she'd found somewhere.
    The usual green salad and half a baguette. Perfectly satisfying.
    Cheap Nero d'Avila

    Home to Panisse

    Berkeley, June 16, 2009

    AFTER A NUMBER of dinners out in the last four weeks — we ate "at home" only rarely in the Netherlands — it was a complete and perfect pleasure to have one more restaurant dinner on our way home tomorrow, even though — or perhaps particularly because — the menu was in many respects one we'd had a number of times in the Netherlands. There's a good reason for that, of course: we'd been eating seasonally, and chefs everywhere are happy to celebrate June. We had:
  • Halibut tartare with chervil, capers, and nasturtiums
  • Puréed fava beans with garlic soufflé
  • Rack, loin, and leg of lamb with olives and potato gratin
  • Profiteroles with strawberry and lemon ice cream
  • and I can only say that the dinner was a knockout. The fish was perfectly fresh and its accompanying salad perfectly balanced — the basil leaves, for example, cut into a thin chiffonnade with a sharp knife: no bruised, oxidized taste here!
    The fava "soup" was an amazing dish, pure fava flavor, delicately garnished with a trail of thin crème fraîche, and sporting the lightest possible soufflée tasting of fresh egg and green garlic. And the lamb, accompanied by well-cooked haricots verts and a light, interesting version of the potato gratin I'd enjoyed so often a year ago in Savoy, was a reminder that tonight's chef, David Tanis, is a Parisian half the year: this was a classic French plate.
    I've written often about meals whose courses either do or don't complement one another. To me a meal, like a concert program or a group show of paintings, is best when each item presents itself simultaneously as complete in itself but responding dynamically to the other items in its context. Tonight's meal began unquestionably on site, in California, with perfectly local fish and vegetables (though it could equally have been perfectly local on the North Sea coast). The ingredients of the meat course were just as local, but the narrative was French. And these two courses were mediated by the favas and soufflée in an interesting, subtle, and full conversation: flavors, textures; colors; weights; and the associations of culinary history, locales, cultures.
    Syrah: Ridge, 1997
  • Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; tel. 5510.548.5525
  • De Kas

    Amsterdam, June 15, 2009—

    EIGHT OR NINE YEARS ago we dined in a new restaurant handsomely installed in a huge greenhouse, the reconstructiion of a 19th-century facility formerly uaed by the city of Amsterdam but long since abandoned to the inevitable weeds and rubble of urban decay over the years.
    De Kas (Dutch for "the greenhouse") was a fresh and exciting concept, featuring a table d'hôte menu drawn from what was available, with lots of emphasis on vegetables and herbs grown on the premises. It reminded me of Chez Panisse, of course, though it had the advantage of an on-site garden. If you get there in daylight (not hard to do in the Dutch summer!) you can stroll among the herbs and vegetables and visit the greenhouse with its tomatoes, peppers, and basil, before sitting at table in a large, comfortable dining room also installed in a greenhouse.
    On this visit, though, while the garden concept was faithful and the ingredients true, the kitchen's execution seemed to be on automatic pilot, and some of the courses erratic. We began, for example, with mackerel with stuffed squash blossoms and strongly flavored cheese crisps, flavors that didn't integrate well. We went on to a nice variation of the traditional Dutch asperges recipe, with the white asparagus hidden beneath too much celery-root remoulade and big scraps of tasty lamb ham, in a presentation that seemed to have had handfuls of nasturtiums and violas thrown at it. Then we returned to fish: poached hake with tomato, too much basil, fennel slices, olives, scattered little white blossoms of some kind, and a piping of pesto trailing through it all.
    There were three cheeses, and again they didn't seem calculated to complement one anoher: a mild Edam type, a creamy Gorgonzola served in spoons, and a delicious Remeker — I've looked all over the Netherlands for that cheese, and finally found it at De Kas.
    Dessert was a soft vanilla ice cream, strawberries in syrup with rose petals, and appel gebak — "Dutch apple pie," I suppose, a pastry ubiquitous in this country, and often very good indeed. And then came a plate of sweets with the check: lemon-grapefruit gelées, nougat, and canalés, of all things. So much of this was so good; so little of it seemed calculated to combine. Chef's night off, perhaps.
    Moët et Chandon; Riesling (Alsace); Meursault: Clos des Meix Chavaux, 2006

  • De Kas, Kamerlingh Onneslaan 3, Amsterdam; tel. +31 (0)20 462 45 62

  • Sunday, June 14, 2009

    A Tavola

    Amsterdam, June 14, 2009—

    DINNER WITH GRACE tonight in Amsterdam, the eve of her flight home to the States (and we fly home Tuesday). Where to eat, early, on a Sunday evening? I remembered A Tavola, an Italian restaurant we liked a number of years ago, only a twenty-minute walk from our hotel. We Googled; yes, it's open Sunday. We phoned; yes, they have a table.

    A pleasant stroll brought us to the Kadijkplein, where my favorite bruin, the Old Dock, turned out to be closed on Sunday. But right across the plein there was A Tavola. Arugula and Parmesan salad; ravioli con carne.
    Chardonnay, Langhe, 2008
    Nero d'Avila, 2007
  • A Tavola, Kadijksplein 9, Amsterdam; tel. +31 (0)20.6254994
  • Misunderstood

    's Hertogenbosch, June 13, 2009—

    NETHERLANDERS HAVE BECOME serious and enthusiastic diners, and there are several magazines and websites devoted to the restaurant scene. From a fairly quick survey of three of these we decided to try 't Misverstant in this southern city where we're visiting friends met last summer walking in the Alps, where dining was very different.

    I think an important change is taking place among restaurants. The old Michelin-based star system still obtains; there are those temples of cuisine with their three stars (several in this country, in fact), and the anxious ones hoping to be promoted from two, and the even more anxious hoping to hold on to their one. The three-star temples are polished and correct, I hear: we haven't been to one in years.

    But I sense the old star system changing, certainly here in the Netherlands. Restaurants here tend to be rated on twenty- or hundred-point scales somehow, probably following the Zagat model but based on more select surveys; and the search for the "best" has given way to one for the really good: interesting, comfortable, sound, tasty. So there are potentially many winners, as many as chefs and backers; big cities, regional cities, and small towns — even the countryside — provide plenty to choose from.

    Salentein, last Tuesday, was an example; 't Misverstant was another. But they are very different. 't Misverstant is more clearly a contemporary version of the three-star, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Michelin taking notice next time 'round.

    After the amuse-gueles— olives and balls of goat cheese covered with carrot "frosting" — we had the chef's menu, which is served only to the entire table:
  • Vitello tonnato with grilled tuna and caesarsalad
  • Poached sole with tomato chutney
  • Beefsteak with potatoes, shredded celeryroot, and aioli
  • Strawberry-filled chocolates with croquante "canneloni"
  • Each course was garnished and sauced, presented with great attention to the visual aspect, and accompanied by its wine. Silver was brought by a white-gloved waitress; courses were introduced by a cook; wines poured attentively from bottles kept at a central serving table.

    Everything was quite delicious. The presentation borders on the precious, but doesn't get silly or pretentious. And we left, after nearly four hours, comfortable and content and with a sense of having been nourished.
    Angosta (Valencia): sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, moscato, and verdejo, 2008
    Chenin blanc: Nibijgelegen (South Africa), 2008
    Syrah: Antu (Chile), 2007
    Chenin blanc doux: Kanu (South Africa), 2008

    We sat in comfortable armchairs at good-sized tables well separated from one another in a calm room with a sense of company but quiet enough to converse easily. The name of the restaurant translates as "The Misunderstood." It refers to the building in which it opened, six or seven years ago: the date of its building, some centuries ago, was long misunderstood. The restaurant moved to its present quarters a couple of years ago, and kept the name. There was no misunderstanding in the kitchen, or the dining room either.

    Saturday, June 13, 2009

    A simple salad

    Apeldoorn, June 12, 2009—

    LUNCH AT MARTIN, as far as I know the best coffee in town. They've moved from smaller digs on Kornstraat to a bigger but somewhat less gezellig place a street or two away, but the coffee is still good. Cappuccino and appelgebak is perhaps not the most nutritious lunch, but I take vitamins, so it'll be okay.

    Dinner at home: a simple green salad — lettuce and arugula, with three or four green shallots sliced up into it. Delicious olive oil, decent white wine vinegar.
    Red wine, Pays d'Oc: Cazalis de Fondouce, 2007

    Friday, June 12, 2009


    Deventer, Netherlands, June 11, 2009—

    I READ ABOUT DUTCH "brown bars" in the excited run-up to my first trip to Europe, thirty-six years ago; and the first place I went to on that trip, after checking into my hotel in Amsterdam, was a bruin off the Leidsestraat. I don't think it's there any more. For a while they were a threatened institution.

    But they seem to have been making a comeback. The "brown bar" (sometimes "browncafé") gets its name from the dark wood panelling, enhanced in former days by a haze of tobacco smoke. They tend to be dark or at least dim. They're gezellig, of course, that Dutch quality usually translated as "cozy" but characterized also by snugness, comfort, ease, a little bit of sensuousness, and above all nothing special but everything relaxed.

    Tonight we had borrelen — drinks — at Dikke van Dale in the Hanseatic river port Deventer, an unspoiled town just northeast of Apeldoorn, just across the boundary in the province of Overijssel. The "dikke van Dale" was a famous dictionary in three fat (dikke) volumes published by Dale many years ago; it was familiar, apparently, to every Dutch schoolchild in those days. Dikke van Dale is a brown bar-restaurant whose walls are covered with books, among them a publicity dummy of the three volumes, which overhung their shelf above us as we had our drinks. We liked the table so much we reserved it for dinner after an hour's walk through this attractive town, made livelier and deafeningly noisier by a kermess filling the streets and marketplaces with garish amusement rides and devices.

    On our return I gave in to the tempting weekly menu: a salad with white asparagus draped in salami on a bed of lettuces; an enormous beefsteak on a bed of ratatouille, chili-flavored butter as a sauce; coconut ice cream (with the compulsory ball of sweetened whipped cream) and a sixth of a small, nicely ripened pineapple. It may be a bruin, but Dikke has a vaguely tropical attitude.
    Aged genever; house rosé, then red
  • Dikke van Dale , Nieuwe Markt 37, Deventer; tel. +31.(0)570.614444; www.dikkevandale.nl
  • Back at Marius

    Amsterdam, June 10, 2009—

    HOW IS IT POSSIBLE for two restaurants to be so nearly opposite in so many ways, and so similar in others? I had nearly the identical succession of courses, composed of a nearly identical inventory of ingredients, last night at Salentein, tonight at Marius. In both cases the ingredients were pristine, the flavors forthcoming and untainted. The first explanation to come to mind is this: at Salentein the flavors are all there, and they say Come find us, come enjoy us. At Marius the flavors are all there, and they dash forward eagerly. In different political times I'd say Salentein's feminine, Marius is masculine. I like each.

    This time there were eight of us at the long table, changing seats between courses to facilitate conversation. (Down at the other end of the table sat a couple of "strangers," not part of our party; but it turned out one of them looked familiar because she'd been at the frituur conference a couple of weeks ago.) The restaurant was pretty well full, as it has been since a very favorable review appeared last month in the New York Times. Once again, I ordered the daily market menu:
    Olives and salami
    Salad: red mullet on a bed of spinach, artichoke hearts, with a perfect small glazed carrot
    Poached plaice on risotto with peas, asparagus, and leeks
    Lamb breast and shoulder au jus, with potato, fava beans, and a stewed tomato
    Pistachio polenta cake, vanilla ice cream, and lightly cooked cherries

    As you may have noticed, comparing this with our dinner of May 20, the menu at Marius has quite a consistent concept. I could happily eat here three times a week, though, for the flavor and nutrient quality of the kitchen and the comfort of the dining room. The flavors are full and forward, like the enthusiastic conversation of a trusted old friend: but nothing else about Marius clamors for attention; your old friend doesn't seek to impress you with noisy rhetoric or expensive clothes.
    Cava; Sauvignon (Touraine); rouge (Touraine) (both François Chidaine)
  • Marius, Barentszstraat 243 (wester eilands); tel. +31.(0)20.422.7880
  • Frituur Conference

    Rien, Friesland, Netherlands, May 31, 2009—

    DEEP-FRIED FOODS are a staple of nearly every nation's cuisine, the Netherlands not excepted. Kees Elfring, a serious chef whose credentials include two stints at Chez Panisse and two highly regarded restaurants of his own (and who is a dear friend of mine and almost a member of the family), has been thinking about how he might influence the Dutch fondness for frituur, leading it to a possibly more healthful and certainly more interesting level while retaining its simplicity and gratification.

    To that end he organized the Third Annual Friture Conference in this small town in Friesland where he has lived a number of years. The town's so small it has no commercial buildings at all: no bar or café, no restaurant, no grocery shop, no hotel. There isn't even a church: locals walk across the fields half a mile or so to the nearby Ytterien (?) when the clerical mood strikes — or to be buried in its tiny cemetery.

    Few of us thought of Last Things during the conference, which began with the registration of perhaps forty or fifty attendees and a short social hour. During this,
    1: Fried root vegetables (beet, parsnip, celeriac, sweet potato) with goat cheese; Olives stuffed with veal and…; Noah Tucker, cook
    Vin de Cevennes: flinty, austere, Rhone white style
    Cotes de Provence: full, fruit, Malvasie from Fréjus

    This was followed by a short introduction to the friture street food of a wholly different cuisine, the deep-fried panipuli ("water-breads") of India: Debra Solomon [coolieblog.com] recounted the preparation and, most important, eating of these apparently sensually delicious items, illustrating her remarks with arresting photos.

    Then Cynthia Hathaway presented a photo-lecture on friture and architecture, touching on an extensive bibliography (and specifically two photo-books: Mobile Fritures; London Cafs) while showing images of friture-stands through the decades. Many of these of course are mobile; others are simple stationary affairs. What constant threads run through this commercial architecture and design, making deep-fried cuisine so appealing, so commercially successful?

    Clearly part of this conference's raison d'etre is consumer research for possible Kees Elfring project. Attendees were provided with clipboards with a survey to respond to, and Kees asked us to taste and discuss seriously, take notes, then have fun. And then we moved outside to a series of frying-stations for

    The tastes:

    2: Halibut with Japanese style dried anchovies; Robert Kranenborg, cook; the anchovies wrapped in onions, pickled sweet-sour asparagus on the side
    Sancerre: excellent with the halibut

    3: Fritto Misto di Pesce; Leonardo Pacenti, cook which I did not taste but which acc. Lindsey was in agliata sauce: dried tomatoes, garlic, parsley

    4: Sweetbreads with Ravigote Sauce; Pieter Damen, cook
    Montlouis, perfect match with the sweetbreads
    Cabernet de Saumur (Cabernet franc), less interesting, not standing up to the frites

    5: Squash Blossoms stuffed with Ricotta and Mint; Sander Overeinder, cook
    Les Resiers Chenin Blanc, grapy, forward
    Geodais Rhone, oil, edge, backward

    6 (a last-minute improvised addition): Elderflower fritters with ice cream; Sander Overeinder)

    The wines were provided by de Vier Heemskinderen. I wish I could tell you more here about them; fries, sauces, two wineglasses, and clipboard made the taking of notes difficult. I hope for an e-mail from the Heemskinderen with a complete list of the wines, which were really quite remarkable.

    Those who understand spoken Dutch will enjoy a short video of the Friture Conference at FoodTube.

    Wednesday, June 10, 2009

    Eating in the coach house

    Nijkerk, June 9, 2009—

    THE CAPACIOUS COACH HOUSE next to a modest country mansion outside this central Netherlands town, a few kilometers from Amersfoort, has been fitted out with comfortable chairs and tables, a fireplace with flanking bookshelves and facing sofas, and, best of all, one of the finest kitchens we've run into in the last few weeks. Here we dined last night, after touring the entire restaurant, guided by host-proprietor Erik Bikkers.

    Salentein is backed, financially, by the Salentein Family of Wines, based in Mendoza, Argentina — truly globalism has locked in — and Erik greeted us with a glass of sparkling Argentine wine, apologizing that it was only made in the Charmat process. Half Pinot noir and half Chardonnay, nicely yeasty and well balanced, it gave no other cause for apology. We moved then to an Argentine-made sherry, virtually indistinguishable from a Jerez product, with an amuse-geuele of raw herring, two delicious squares cut from the fat centers of the filets.

    At the table we settled in to a succession of five courses:
  • Salad: raw strips of veal and tuna, served with bok choy and other greens, with capers on the veal and light sauces on the greens and the tuna;
  • Fish: filets of gurnard and plaice, served with little peas and finely sliced haricots verts, beurre blanc sauce;
  • Meat: baby beef ribeye au jus with potatoes, tomato, and eggplant, bearnaise sauce, with a beef rillette wrap;
  • Cheese: "Lady blue" (Netherlands), alone and in little "sandwiches" on coarse rye bread with apple syrup, with Balsamic vinegar;
  • Dessert: Panna cotta with cherries lightly cooked in a light syrup
    Manzanilla: Bodegas Argueso "San León", nv
    Rosé: Bandol, Domaine Tempier, 2008
    Vin blanc: Sauvignon blanc-Chardonnay, Salentein Reserve, 2006 (?)
    Vin rouge: Malbec, Salentein "Primus," 2004
    Vin blanc doux: Montlouis, François Chidaine, "les Bournais", 2005
    Vin rouge doux: Rivesaulte, 2004

  • Restaurant de Salentein, Puttenstraatweg 7-9, Nijkerk; tel. +31.(0)33.2454114

  • A superb restaurant.

    Tuesday, June 9, 2009

    Leftovers at home

    Apeldoorn, Netherlands, June 8 --

    A NICE BIG DUTCH lunch: bread and rolls, raw herring, sausage, two or three kinds of cheese, with Giovanna, Pavel and Grace at Hans and Anneke's. With it, a smooth white wine. For dinner, leftover penne and red sauce: it warms up perfectly well. Lots of warmth on Loseweg!

    Monday, June 8, 2009

    'thuis with red sauce

    Apeldoorn, June 7, 2009--

    FOR HER BIRTHDAY Lindsey made penne rigate in red sauce. We found some delicious organic Spanish olive oil in a shop in Zutphen, and bought various things in the market: she cooked onions and green garlic in the oil, added a box or two of tomatosauce, then some nice dark mushrooms from the market. Afterward, of course, the green salad, and then hot fudge sundaes. Happy Birthday!
    Nero d'Avila, 2007

    Sunday, June 7, 2009


    Zutphen, June 6—

    I DO LOVE THIS TOWN, a beautifully preserved but very lively Hanseatic town on the river IJssel just a few kilometers east of today's destination, Apeldoorn. We stopped here to change trains on a ride up from Nijmegen, and recalling that it was market day took a stroll down the principle street, stopping off at a traditional Dutch cafe for lunch. Lindsey had a Niçoise innocent of anchovies but apparently satisfactory otherwise; I had a Greek salad, with frisée and other lettuces, feta, olives, and onions, with decent bread and delicious herb butter to help it along.
    Dry white house wine
  • Gastenhuys de Klok , Pelikaanstraat 6, Zutphen; tel. [+31].0575.517.035

  • We'd hoped to have tea at my favorite teashop, De Pelikaan, in the same street, but it was jammed, so we just took the train on to Apeldoorn where, before a light supper of nuts and apples, we took a chance on a Saturday Martini at the nearby hotel bar. It was made with sweet white vermouth, alas, and garnished with a lemon slice. Oh well: when in Rome…

    Nog 'thuis

    Puiflijk, June 5

    DINNER AT HOME again, Erik again in the kitchen. He alternates between here and Bulgaria, where he and his brother own and run an enormous egg farm, supplying hundred of thousands of eggs to countries as far aaway as west Africa.

    (He entertained us with the story of dismantling his father's three-story chicken-feed factory and shipping it by barge to Bulgaria, where it was reassembled. But that's another story.)

    Erik's a good cook. Tonight's dinner was traditional Dutch, I would say: gehaakte bollen — meat balls the size of small softballs, finely ground beef bound with eggs (not Bulgarian, I think) and flavored with onions and nutmeg. On the side, potatoes in butter, green beans with stewed tomatoes.

    With this we thought we'd drink a local red wine I'd bought earlier in the day, but it was absolutely dreadful, far worse than you could imagine, worse than any homemade wine I've ever tasted. We went back to…
    Brouilly 2007: much better.

    Eten 'thuis

    Puiflijk, June 4—

    EATING AT HOME tonight, Petra and Erik's home in this village in the "Land van Maas en Waal," the country between the two broad rivers flowing west toward Rotterdam and the North Sea.

    Erik was on duty, Petra having been at work in Houten today. He'd baked chicken legs in the oven and made a nice curry sauce for them: alongside, rice and cucumber salad. Dessert: strawberries, raspberries, and delicious ice cream.
    Red wine (Bulgaria)

    Friday, June 5, 2009

    Ancora italiana

    Zwolle, Netherlands, June 3--

    DINNER TONIGHT at another Italian resto, Meridiana, in the city of Zwolle. Very good indeed. We began with an appetizer trio: smoked duck breast, asparagus, little fried sardines.

    Then I had pasta: tagliatelle in tomato sauce with fennel sausage. After that, sole fillets, steamed and rolled and very lightly sauced, with little stewed tomatoes and green beans -- haricots verts.

    I skipped dessert, opting instead for a small grappa. What kind do you want, the waiter asked: Cheap, I replied, ever frugal.

    They're all the same price, he said. In that case, said I, the best. He brought three bottles and two glasses, to let me decide after tasting them all. But I liked the looks of one of them especially. It proved to be soft, fruity, and just a little sweet. A fine evening, all in all.

    Nebbiolo, Anna Maria Abbona (Langhe), 2006

    LUNCH HAD BEEN perhaps the most delicious pannekoek I've ever had, an apple-speck (bacon) one, crisp and airy at the edges, thin but substantial under the filling. I told the proprietor how unusually good I found it, and she said her place had been named second-best in the country four years ago in a survey by the very active Dutch automobile club, ANWB. (The top prize went to a pannekoekenhuis in Eisden, well to the south.)

    That was in Gasteren, near Assen, a few miles north of here. We'd been walking from Zuidlaren to Rolde, our second and last day (for now) on the Pieterpad with friends. Next we'll be back in Nijmegen for the weekend, and then... no plans yet.

    Tuesday, June 2, 2009

    Netherlands catchup

    Zuidlaren, Netherlands, June 2--

    NOT ALWAYS EASY to find internet access when you're walking around in a foreign country; no it isn't. And that's too bad, because there's been some interesting eating. Herewith a shorthand account of the last few days -- four days, four towns, four provinces! -- when I'm able to I'll enlarge on things.

    Saturday, May 30, Middelburg, Zeeland: A fine pot of Darjeeling at Honey Pie, with beautiful home-made scones -- I'd call them biscuits -- easily splitting for generous spoonfuls of lemon marmalade. But dinner! Such a funny story; I'll have to tell it when I have time to type it up. (It's close to midnight now; I walked twenty-odd kilometers today; it's time for bed.)

    Sunday, May 31, Rien, Friesland: An even better story, and rather complex, involving four or five top chefs from Amsterdam, all gathered in a tiny town in Friesland to cook demonstrations at the Third Annual Friture Conference. Sweetbreads, olives, squash blossoms, shrimp, you name it. I'll get to it later.

    Monday, June 1, Groningen, Groningen: Ham-cheese tosti for lunch, a memorable dinner in a Sardinian restaurant.

    Tuesday, June 2, Zuidlaren, Drenthe: Uitsmijter for lunch -- you know, one of those open-faced sandwiches with ham, cheese, and three fried eggs. Dinner at another Sard restaurant -- do those guys have a lock on northern Netherlands Italian restaurants? Insalata mista, maloreddus, a pizza, and -- finally -- lamb. And a bottle of unusual and unusually delicious Sard red wine.