Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Peas. Pasta. Salad.

Eastside Road, August 31, 2010—
THE PEAS WERE WARMED — "cooked" seems too strong a word — with butter, salt, and pepper. English peas from the Marin Farmers Market, still tasting remarkably fresh two days after purchase.

The pasta was Lindsey's favorite whole-wheat penne. I made pesto, picking the basil leaves from our garden this afternoon, pounding up the leaves with good red garlic, sea salt, and pine nuts. Alas, we're out of Parmesan: make a note to pick some up soon.

The usual green salad, but afterward a couple of fat slices of yellow heirloom tomato, also from Marin county. I hear that our local newspaper tells us today that fall is two months early, after a summer that arrived at least two weeks late: not much of a tomato season. Still, we're grateful for what we get.
Cheap Nero d'Avola

Monday, August 30, 2010


Eastside Road, August 30, 2010—
A BUSY WEEKEND, on the road, in general without Internet connectivity, but hardly a fast. Saturday (August 28) we drove down to Los Gatos, 120 miles south, there to help install some material in an art museum. Lunch was at the macaronically named Fleur de Cocoa, where — recalling my wish for Nizzese food on seeing Cezanne paintings a couple of days earlier — we took advantage of a pan bagnat that was really quite nice — tuna, hardboiled egg, tomato, washed down with peachleaf-flavored iced tea. Afterward, rather nice ice cream, also made on premises: Tahitian vanilla, pistachio (beautifully flavored, lots of nuts), salt-caramel.#alttext#
  • Fleur de Cocoa, 39 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos; tel. (408) 354-3574

  • Then it was back north to Oakland, where we walked through the Eat Real festival of street food. What a fabulous scene: very crowded with strolling onlookers of all ages, races, and types; trucks and stands featuring food from dozens of different ethnic persuasions. We didn't eat much, as we were eating dinner in just a little while and didn't want to spoil our appetites: still, who could resist an heirloom-pork-and-cannelini stew? Not me: and it was superb, with a perfect note of oregano.#alttext#
  • Eat Real Festival, Jack London Square, Oakland, Aug. 27-29

    August 28 is an important date in our family: it was on that day, in 1971, that Chez Panisse served its first dinner: Lindsey made a plum tart for the occasion. For the thirty-ninth anniversary of the date the restaurant served the exact same menu, and it was interesting to see the difference in sourcing, conception, and execution — you'd hardly think the menus had anything in common beyond a few words:
    Pâté de campagne with heirloom tomato salad
    Duck breast and duck leg confit with olive sauce and wild fennel purée
    Garden lettuces
    Plum tart with peach leaf ice cream

    Thirty-nine years ago Chez Panisse was less, let's say, evolved. The pâté was coarser, its pork more industrial, its mustard more forthright. Duck with olives was on the opening-night menu, but it was a braise, loose and hearty, rather than the confit drumstick and the beautifully grilled breast served Saturday night.

    The tart, though — I think the tart I had, pastry, plums, and ice cream, was almost unchanged across all those years. Lindsey retired ten years ago or more, but her influence lives on in this pastry kitchen.
    Rosé, Domaine Tempier (Bandol), 2009; Morgon, “Côte du Py,” Jean Foillard, 2008; Bourgueil, “Nuits d’Ivresse,” Catherine and Pierre Breton, 2008
  • Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; tel. 510.48.5525

    Sunday morning, Aug. 29, yesterday, we breakfasted on a perfect Betty Crocker buttermilk muffin — thanks, Judy — and delicious Bronx grapes and coffee with milk, of course; and stopped by the Marin Farmers Market, astonishing in its size and scope, and dined finally at home: another Mangalitsa sausage — I don't know where Lindsey finds all these — and a mess of potatoes-and-favas, a very nice combination indeed.
    Cheap Pinot grigio

    And today, Aug. 30, we watched a ball game at suppertime — Mets and Braves; we don't really care about either team, but any baseball is better than no baseball — so of course we dined on hot dogs, Nieman-Schell ones of course, dressed with thin-sliced onion, pickle relish, and wild arugula leaves from the garden, with the last of the potatoes-and-favas on the side (an excellent potato salad, to my way of thinking). And now I'm all caught up.
    Cheap Nero d'Avola
  • Friday, August 27, 2010

    Farmer's omelet

    Eastside Road, August 27, 2010—
    I DON'T KNOW WHY this isn't one of the Hundred Plates; it just isn't. In spite of the many variations, not the least the Spanish tortilla I mentioned a month ago. Tonight's version was heavy on the potatoes, light on the eggs, and distinguished by its pungent, evocative bacon — Mangalitsa, the last of it I'm sure, from the back corner of the freezer. With it, a few of those delicious Padron peppers; afterward, green salad.
    Cheap Pinot grigio

    I forgot to mention, day before yesterday, the superb little appetizer we had at Locanda de Eva: Lardo not quite Colonnata, because made in the restaurant kitchen rather than imported from Italy. It too was from Mangalitsa pork, raised nearby — the rancher, in fact, was dining at the restaurant that night. This lardo was a little looser in texture than those I've had in Italy, and rather heavily flavored with juniper — but it was very good indeed, a fine first course to accompany a good Martini.

    Dinner at the museum

    San Francisco, August 26, 2010 —
    TO THE CITY, as all Berkeleyans used to call San Francisco, to see the vaunted Impressionist show of paintings on loan from the Musée d'Orsay, and to have the special three-course prix-fixe dinner offered in a Parisian spirit, I suppose, by the cafeteria at the De Young Museum. I won't discuss the paintings, other than to note that it was a pleasure to see so many old friends in a nicely hung, decently lit, evocatively presented installation. #alttext#
    What interested me nearly as much was the prospect of dinner. The cafeteria must serve nearly a thousand of these dinners each Thursday night during the run of the exhibition, which closes September 6. First and third courses were fixed on this menu, but we had a choice of three plats principaux: L. and our guest Linda had salmon, I had beef. (We passed on the tortellini, whose description was however attractive.)

    This was billed as a Paris Bistro menu, and while both salmon and tortellini seem a little foreign to that theme, my own supper wasn't far off the mark. First course was a small salad with frisée among the greens, a bowl of mushroom soup ornamented with a drizzle of good green olive oil, and a tiny but very nice grilled mushroom sandwich — a fine balance of textures, colors, and flavors.

    The beef was cut off the short ribs, I think, nicely braised, and served in its sauce, flavored with tomato, carrot, onion, celery, thyme, and beef stock, garnished with gently cooked peas — not your tiny petits poix, but good big honest English peas. And dessert was a small square of strawberry mousse on a thin pastry base, garnished with pistachios, and accompanied by a puff-paste cookie.

    I asked the cashier if the food were trucked in from some huge commercial kitchen in South San Francisco, and was met with surprise. No: we've been working all day on this right here in our kitchen, the young woman assured me. I asked a waiter — yes, we were served at table — how such a huge operation was managed. Waiters, bussers, runners, floor managers, he said, knowledgeably and with a smile. Everyone knew what he was doing; everyone seemed competent and enthusiastic. The crowd was lively and in a good mood.

    I don't think our standards have slipped, Lindsey's and mine I mean; I think we're still pretty discerning. But I've been delighted in the past few years by the improvements we've seen in public dining, whether on the road or in venues like this. Things used to be much worse. And lest you think there's something elitist about eating at an Impressionist exhibition, dinner was fifteen bucks, plus seven for a 25cl carafe of decent
    Pinot noir, 2008 (France)

    Thursday, August 26, 2010


    Berkeley, August 25, 2010—

    Martini, Locanda da Eva
    Martini, Locanda da Eva
    DINNER WITH A FRIEND in a restaurant open for barely a month, hence quite new to us — a trattoria, I'd say, with an exceptionally interesting wine list and a good bar, sourcing its ingredients with an eye to local and sustainable items, and preparing its offerings knowingly and modestly. What I mean by "modestly" is with more concern for the tradition of the item, its provenance and history and innate qualites, than its possibility as an expression of the cook. It's like the difference between playing the Brahms violin concerto, say, for its intrinsic qualities, those the composer put there, rather than for its usefulness as a display of the performer's possibly too flashy technique.

    I started with a Martini, nicely balanced, cold, not watery, garnished with Castelvetrano olives; the others had Mojitos. Two of us went on to strozzapreti with tomatoes, roasted eggplant, chiles, lamb sausage, herbs, and ricotta salata, that last cut into strips and laid over the dish. I was perfectly satisfied with this dish. It didn't knock me out; it didn't intend to. It was like something eaten in a perfectly ordinary but very very good neighborhood trattoria in Sicily or Calabria.
    #alttext#   #alttext#
    Dessert was polenta torte with nectarines, blackberries, and citrus mascarpone. The cake had been sprinkled — baptized, you might say, irreverently — with chamomile-infused grappa. This was a complex affair and a delicious one, with mutually complementary textures and flavors all put to the service of the fresh fruit. L. had a plate of cookies, three squares of shortbread glazed with a thin layer of caramel and chopped nuts. To isolate them from the cool plate they came on a "doily," a small rectangle of clean paper cut from one of the daily menus. Sustainable, recyclable, ingenious. It's that kind of place, I think.
    Grillo, Concilio Feudo d'Elimi (Sicily)
  • Locanda da Eva, 2826 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley; tel. (510) 665-9601
  • Tuesday, August 24, 2010


    Eastside Road, August 24, 2010—
    DINNER CHEZ FRIENDS tonight; they'd asked us to dinner to meet their son, who has a coffee roasting company up in Washington State. (It looks interesting; I have to look into it.) This isn't just any friend, it's Mac, who walked across the Alps with me two summers ago. When you spend five weeks in intimate contact with someone, every waking hour, day after day, you develop a special relationship. In so many ways our backgrounds are so different, yet there's that bond.
    One of the differences: He's basically midwestern (Iowa); I'm completely West Coast (Bay Area). This gets reflected in our meals, of course; I'd never have thought of preparing the spread set before me tonight — but I was happy to confront it. He'd grilled marinated pork ribs on his patio; a dozen or so ears of corn had been boiled. After canapés — olives, crackers, and three cheeses — that and Peach Melba was enough for a warm summer evening.

    It was 104° when we turned onto his street, at 6:30 in the evening. Shoot, I said to myself, I brought a wine completely wrong for this weather — but in fact it was delicious:
    Barbera, Louis Preston Vineyards (Dry Creek Valley), 2005

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    Pasta, tomato sauce

    Eastside Road, August 23, 2010—
    ONE OF THE OLD STAND-BYS tonight: whole-wheat penne. Lindsey chopped up a few fresh tomatoes to soften in olive oil with garlic and anchovies, then tossed the penne in the sauce. Afterward, the usual green salad. #alttext#
    Cheap Pinot grigio

    Sunday, August 22, 2010

    Picnic; soup

    Eastside Road, August 22, 2010—
    HISTORICAL SOCIETY PICNIC today at a beautiful 150-year-old stone house down in the Valley of the Moon, near Glen Ellen. We went with a couple of friends; they provided sandwiches — tuna, turkey, ham and cheese, salami — and we provided guacamole (which Lindsey has promoted to the Hundred Plates) and chocolate-chip cookies.
    Cheap Pinot grigio

    We ate and drank far too much for a hot midday, so tonight we were content with a bowl of broad green beans and another of clean-out-the-icebox soup: chicken broth, frozen peas, string beans, some diced boiled potato. Nice soup.

    Saturday, August 21, 2010

    Lunch chez Panisse

    Berkeley, August 21, 2010—
    PORTLAND FAMILY WAS VISITING Berkeley for the weekend, so we drove down to meet them for lunch in the café, where I had escarole and green bean salad with anchovy, garlic, and soft-boiled egg; then#alttext#
    rib-eye roast beef with shell beans and roasted peppers — Padrones, I was happy to discover — with a little chimichurri dressing the beef, and a nice jus to mash the last of the beans into.

    Did we have dessert; yes we had dessert: pluots and figs, and a bowl of raspberry ice cream with sliced nectarines. Memorable, all of it.
    Roussette de Savoie, Château Bergin, 2008; Zinfandel, "Chez Panisse" (Green and Red Vineyards, Napa Valley), 2008

    Friday, August 20, 2010


    Eastside Road, —
    MY SEVENTY-FIFTH BIRTHDAY, spent exactly as I chose: talked to an old friend for an hour; harvested most of the rest of the crabapples; spent an hour at the gym; picked up the violin from the repair shop; watched the news; went to dinner with friends.
    #alttext# But first, an unusual breakfast: a Crane melon, grown not on the Crane ranch but just up the road from us, and brought to us by our daughter from down the hill. My mother was a Crane, though the families diverged five generations before me; the melon branch is descended from my great-great-grandfather's brother's line. Still, they're local, and I'm a little loathe to eat one not actually grown on the Crane ranch, in spite of my liberal attitudes to intellectual property, not to mention the legitimacy of "owning" strains of living organisms.

    The Crane melon is, as far as I'm concerned, the most delicious grown in our country. It's California's answer to the Charentais. This morning's was the best Crane melon I've tasted grown elsewhere than on the Crane ranch itself.
    Dinner was a delicious Cobb salad with the Ashlanders, the three other couples with whom we spend a week every year in Ashland, seeing plays, eating and drinking and talking, and generally acting like retired and semi-retired intelligent adults. As you see: hardboiled eggs, tomatoes, avocado, ham, turkey, lettuce, salad dressing. A perfect party food, prefaced by cheese and crackers, followed by a very rich chocolate cake engineered for someone's birthday.
    "Madame Preston", Louis Preston Vineyards, 2007  
    Sauvignon blanc, Gryphus (Chile), 2008  
    Rosé, Cabernet de Saumur "La Bretannieère", 2008  

    Thursday, August 19, 2010

    Smashed potatoes

    Eastside Road, August 19, 2010—
    TO ME, "MASHED" POTATOES always seem like special fare — reserved for Christmas and Thanksgiving and such occasions. They have to be white as snow, beaten soft soft soft, and enriched with butter at the least, perhaps cream as well. In my childhood of course it was milk and margarine, but those days are long gone.

    We don't have mashed potatoes that often. Instead we have what I think of as smashed potatoes: Lindsey boils potatoes in as little water as possible, first having cut them into reasonably small pieces, and then roughly smashes them, with a fork I suspect (since no potato masher or whisk appeared in the nightly dishwashing routine), adding perhaps a little olive oil. Salt and pepper, of course; maybe a bit of crushed garlic. Today she added a good bit of marjoram from the garden.
    Marjoram is always associated with peas in my mind; when we were first married frozen peas and Schillings dried marjoram flakes were a special treat, maybe with a dot of butter. But it goes well with potatoes, too. Marjoram, sage, oregano, thyme, and tarragon all grow in the garden, though we probably still have dozens of boxes of Schilling's spices left from decades ago…

    After all the flavorings are blended in Lindsey cooks the potatoes a bit further, dry, allowing a tiny bit of browning. With the potatoes tonight, another Tuscan sausage of Franco's, and green beans; before them, guacamole my way; afterward, green salad; later, fruit, of course…
    Rouge du pays de l'Hérault, Moulin de Gassac, "Guilhem", 2008

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010


    Eastside Road, August 18, 2010—
    LINDSEY SAYS the stuffed pepper recipe came from Gourmet, not Sunset. And she knows what she's talking about, because she looked it up just yesterday: it was in an issue from 1969. And she elaborates on the ingredients: the bread crumbs — cubes, really — are soaked in a little broth, and into them go parsley, capers, chopped olives (green by preference), crushed garlic, a little olive oil, and the tuna. And it was as delicious tonight as last night, though I must say I prefer chard to zucchini. Green salad, of course — storebought mâche, lettuces from the garden.
    Cheap Pinot grigio

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010

    Stuffed Peppers

    Eastside Road, August 17, 2010—
    I DON'T REALLY KNOW what goes into them — obviously bread crumbs, capers, and tuna: but I'm sure there's something else too. I know they've been a staple in our household for forty years at least. Perhaps it's one of those recipes clipped from a newspaper, or from Sunset, which we've taken for many many years.
    In any case the result is delicious. Lindsey parboils the bell peppers, whose interiors have been gutted of membranes and seeds, and then stuffs them with the tuna-breadcrumb mixture, and bakes them in the oven. Tonight we had them with chard from the garden, so the usual green salad is not on the menu. Dessert is: Straus vanilla ice cream with mulberries from the tree.
    Cheap Pinot grigio  


    Eastside Road, August 16, 2010 —
    I WROTE HERE last year about Franco Dunn, who makes fabulous sausage, and converses about it knowledgeably and enthusiastically, bringing up names and places we're equally reminiscent about — Pig by the Tail and Victoria Wise (whose most recent book I'm going to have to get); Il Vipore and Cesare Casella. We eat sausage fairly often, as you'll have noticed; perhaps without Franco we'd eat it less frequently. Anyhow tonight we had a couple of his Toscanas.

    How to explain the goodness of these products? They're, well, savory, the spices and herbs perfectly balanced and pointed, the ratio of fat to flesh beautifully calculated. Lindsey pokes them with a fork and broils them in the oven (since I'm too lazy or preoccupied to build a fire outside and supervise the cooking myself). With them tonight, more of those fabulous Padron peppers, and jasmine rice flavored with the olive oil from the peppers and the tortilla I cooked a while back. Green salad after, of course, and nectarines, and pluots…
    Rouge du pays de l'Hérault, Moulin de Gassac, "Guilhem", 2008

    Sunday, August 15, 2010

    Grilled salmon

    Eastside Road, August 15, 2010—
    #alttext#SALMON, IT BEING Sunday; and tonight, after our Martini — displaced from Friday night, when we were on the road and Martini was inaccessible — I set fire to some grapevine cuttings and four or five little chunks of charcoal and grilled the fish, salted and peppered, very quickly, while Lindsey cooked some Musica broad-beans and finished the Padron peppers I'd started in olive oil and salt in a black iron skillet. Green salad after; and then raspberries. #alttext#Life is good.
    Rosé, Syrah, Lucchesi Vineyards (Nevada County), 2009

    Saturday, August 14, 2010

    Home again

    Eastside Road, August 14, 2010 —
    THREE DAYS AND TWO NIGHTS on the road, even in California, even in an area that's generally hip and all that, reminds you that this country is abysmally deficient in the matter of coffee. This morning's breakfast was taken at a place recommended as perhaps the best in Grass Valley: Lindsey's latte was bitter and unpleasant, and my "normal" coffee was hardly any better. The cappuccino I'd had the day before was even worse. These indy cafés are enough to drive you to Starbuck's, where the machines, at least, are generally kept fairly clean. There's nothing worse than the rancid coffee-and-machine-oil stink-flavor imparted to even a decent blend and roast by these espresso machines (and their grinders) which, however expensive and technologically up-to-date they may be, seem never to be cleaned: it's as if splendid wines were to be poured from decanters never rinsed, from year to year, introducing the deadliest of vinegars to the rarest of vintages.

    Lindsey and I ordered the simplest of breakfasts: an English muffin and one egg, over easy, for her; exactly the same for me, except two eggs. What could go wrong? Well, he brought me only one egg. In fact, he was doing me a favor.

    We stopped for a lunch of sorts in Auburn, where Lindsey's iPhone promised an organic, sustainable, thoughtful bakery-cum-café. And here in fact I had a decent albacore tuna sandwich on rye bread, with a hint of horseradish in the mayonnaise; and we washed our sandwiches down — in truth they were a little dry — with a tasty Meyer lemon lemonade. (We had miles still to drive.)

    What did we feel like doing for dinner, once home? You won't be surprised: toast rubbed with garlic, drizzled with olive oil, salted a bit; and a nice green salad. A handful or two of cherry tomatoes. Some of our nectarines afterward.
    Rosé, Syrah, Lucchesi Vineyards (Nevada County), 2009
  • Flour Garden Bakery, 340 C Elm Avenue, Auburn, California; tel. 530.888.1011; www.flourgarden.com
    The bad coffee: Carolines Coffee Roasters, Grass Valley; South Pine Café, Grass Valley
  • Friday, August 13, 2010

    Country supper

    Chicago Park (California), August 13, 2010—
    MIDDAY SUPPER in the country home of a friend who retired from professional cooking a few years back to take up farming. He has not lost his chops.#alttext#There were seven of us at table: another farm couple from Southern California with their teen-aged son; Alan and his cousin Danny; Lindsey and me. Alan had made an aïoli: I think you might justifiably call it a grand aïoli: green beans, artichokes, boiled potatoes; a salad of carrots, beets, and peppers; and a delicious salted halibut with deviled eggs and anchovies. For dessert, delicious raspberries and blackberries on a fine vanilla ice cream. A beautifully executed grand aïoli is clearly one of the Hundred Plates.
    Erbaluce di Caluso, La Torrazza, 2008; Petit Chablis, Roland Lavantureux, 2008; Rosé, Domaine Tempier (Bandol), 2009; Reuilly, Denis Jamain (oeuil de perdrix), 2009

    Thursday, August 12, 2010

    Spain again

    Sacramento, August 12, 2010—
    CABIN FEVER STRUCK again; time for a short road trip. Our first day took us through the state capital, not because we have business with the government, but because we'd heard about a tapas restaurant that's been getting some favorable notice. There were plenty of specials on the menu, but we arrived so late — just a few minutes before closing time (for lunch) — that we didn't want to put the kitchen to any trouble: we ordered off the regular tapas menu. I had judias blancas, white beans with nicely rare-poached tuna, heightened not with the usual white onions but with dark olives and mint: I liked the dish. My tortilla wasn't as good as the one I cooked a few weeks ago: it seemed a little tired; too long in the cold box. But Lindsey's patatas bravas were right on the mark, and her warm salt-cod salad, seen here on my plate with aioli-streaked tortilla, was a very nice dish.
    Albariño, Paco y Lola, Rias Baixas, 2009
  • Aioli Bodega Espanola, 1800 L Street, Sacramento; tel. 916.447.9440
  • Wednesday, August 11, 2010

    Cabbage rolls

    Eastside Road, August 11, 2010—
    TO FRIENDS FOR DINNER, always a pleasure, especially when it's local friends not visited often enough. Aperitif with cheese and a delicious custom-made (from their pig) coarse-cut salame on the back patio, then à table for cabbage rolls, the leaves wrapped around ground beef and pork with a handful of brown rice and judicious herbal flavoring — dill, among other tastes. (Juniper, I'm sure.) Deeply flavored tomato sauce on the side, and sour cream. Green salad afterward, and then strawberries and Bovolo ice cream — basically a very good dolce di latte, subtly flavored with mace and black pepper. And all the meat and vegetables, and the wine too, from their own place, sustainably farmed!
    Sauvignon blanc; L. Preston Red, both Louis Preston Winery.#alttext#
    The dessert reminds me that I forgot to mention a delicious ice cream sundae served for dessert Monday night: vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, slivered almonds, and a dark complex local honey. Now how could I have forgotten that?

    Tuesday, August 10, 2010

    Hot dog

    Eastside Road, August 10, 2010—
    FIRST, A FEW MORE WORDS about yesterday's soupe au pistou, because it was so damn good. Curt made it the way he always works: attentively, quietly, efficiently. We roasted a couple of red peppers in the flame of the stove, charring the skins; then I put them in a paper bag to loosen the skins, and then scraped them off.
    Meanwhile he blanched some green beans he'd methodically cut into square pieces, and some shell beans — green, not dry — in another little pot. He chopped a leek and an onion and sweated them slowly in olive oil; then added water and the blanching water and the chopped peppers and a couple of potatoes, I believe.
    We stripped basil leaves from the stalks and pounded them up with salt and garlic and a few pine nuts, then stirred in enough oil for the pesto sauce. The soup simmered away while we had our aperitif. Then, as we sipped it (or slurped it), Lindsey said it was definitely one of the Hundred Plates. There's no reason to make vegetable soup any other way.#alttext#Tonight we watched the Cubs beat the Giants (yay!) on television, and it seemed appropriate to dine on hot dogs. Lindsey broils them in the oven, where she also heats the buns (Downtown Bakery, of course). I sliced up some onion nice and thin, and we had some of Lou Preston's marvelous sauerkraut in the fridge. Mustard, relish. Green salad afterward. And later, I'm sure, some of our nectarines…#alttext#
    Cariñena, Monte Ducay, Reserva 2005

    Monday, August 9, 2010

    Soup au pistou; omelet

    Eastside Road, August 9, 2010—
    ATE LIKE ROYALTY today, and did none of the work. Friends drove up from Berkeley to cook our lunch, a marvelous soupe au pistou made from scratch — tomato, leek, potato, green beans, shell beans, and fresh-pounded pesto on top. Bread, of course, and delicious peaches in Carignan and chocolate tart for dessert.#alttext#
    Moselle, Maximin Grünhäuser Herrenberg, Auslese, 2001 (aperitif); Syrah Rosé, Shone Farm, 2009
    THEN DOWN THE HILL for dinner: complex stacked omelets layered with sautéed onions, tomatoes, peppers, and mushrooms; on the side roasted eggplant slices, big dark shell beans, and chopped salad.#alttext#
    Rouge du pays de l'Hérault, Moulin de Gassac, "Guilhem", 2008

    Sunday, August 8, 2010

    From Germany to Sicily

    Eastside Road, August 8, 2010—
    A COUPLE OF FRIENDS VISITED today bringing a couple of bottles of very nice wine, making a perfect aperitif on the patio. Those fine German Rieslings are unique and necessary. Forty years ago we used to buy Rheingaus fairly cheap, say three dollars a bottle. I haven't bought a bottle like these we had today for years; that's not where our money goes; so I'm particularly grateful to friends who share them with us.
    Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese, Joh. Jos. Prüm, 1990; Riesling Auslese, Josef Rosch, 1999
    #alttext#SO AFTER POLISHING OFF the Rieslings we drove into town for something completely different, highly flavored and very nicely executed dishes at one of Healdsburg's most dependable, comfortable, user-friendly restaurants. Here we shared ciabatta and olive oil, a tomato-Romano bean salad, fried arancini, sardines in saor, and a particularly delicious Burrata with roasted eggplant, cherry tomatoes, and arugula. Secondi were rigatoni with peppers and house-made sausage and cheese-stuffed ravioli in an intense tomato sauce. We even split a dessert, the four of us; a dense Sicilian chocolate-and-nut cake. Come to think of it much of the dinner reminded me of Sicily; the wines, idiomatic and full of terroir, came from that island:
    Insolia, Valle dell"agate, 2009; Nero d'Avola, Gulfi, Neroibleo, 2006
  • Scopa, 109 Plaza Street, Healdsburg; tel. (707) 433-5282; www.scopahealdsburg.com/
  • Saturday, August 7, 2010


    Eastside Road, August 7, 2010—
    #alttext#SATURDAY: FARMERS MARKET: and therefore fish from our dependable fishmerchant. Today the king salmon looked so good we bit the bullet and spent the money. Lindsey cooked up some Neapolitan broadbeans — there weren't enough Musicas; we were too late to market — and broiled the salmon, dressing it with pepper and lime juice. Martinis before, green salad after. I do like Saturday night.
    Rouge du pays de l'Hérault, Moulin de Gassac, "Guilhem", 2008

    Friday, August 6, 2010

    Cod. Omelet.

    Eastside Road, August 6, 2010—
    I'M NOT A SHORT-ORDER COOK, my mother would say on the very rare occasions that someone asked for a specific dinner item; ours was not a family that strayed far from culinary routine. Nor am I: but tonight I made an omelet for Lindsey, because that was what she wanted — two eggs, a handsqueeze of water after rinsing the hands, fork it into a fairly smooth mixture, cook it fast in olive oil in the pan reserved for the purpose, load it with grated Parmesan, fold it, flip it, salt it, serve it.

    And for myself a fillet of cod, frozen I'm afraid but allegedly wild-caught, quickly cooked in olive oil in a black iron skillet, turned and coated with a chopped mixture of olives, lemon zest, garlic, and parsley, don't forget the salt. For both of us, green salad afterward.
    Rouge du pays de l'Hérault, Moulin de Gassac, "Guilhem", 2008

    Thursday, August 5, 2010

    Eating meager

    Eastside Road, August 5, 2010—
    #alttext#MEAGER AMOUNTS, BUT tasty and sufficient. The usual breakfast: two bowls of caffè latte — I give thanks for our Faemina every morning — and a slice of toast with a little honey. The routine lunch: a slice of toast spread with almond butter. Tea-time: about an ounce each of almonds and cashews.

    Tonight I ate alone, and forgot to prepare anything ahead. The garden gave me a hatful of peaches, one or two of which I'll have later; a couple of cups of delicious mulberries, ditto; and plenty of lettuce and arugula for a salad. Tonight I just tore up the lettuce, squeezed a bit of lemon juice over, sprinkled in some salt (grinding it between thumb and forefinger), and sprinkled it with olive oil.

    With it, a couple of slices of toast, rubbed with a clove of garlic and drizzled with more olive oil; afterward, a piece of Bleu d'Auvergne — delicious and buttery — and another of nagelkaas, that fine Frisian hard cheese flavored with cloves. There'll be some fruit later on.
    Rouge du pays de l'Hérault, Moulin de Gassac, "Guilhem", 2008

    Wednesday, August 4, 2010

    Day three

    Eastside Road, August 4, 2010—
    SLIGHT VARIATIONS TONIGHT; of course it's the variations, slight or not, that give texture to daily life. Soup, cold roast chicken, baked potato this time, peas. No green salad.

    When we have soup I always think of l'Atre Fleuri, a country hotel-restaurant we stayed in (or near) a few summers back in the 1970s. The first two times we were there it was owned by a young chef, recently mustered out of the French Air Force (which maintains vacation chalets for its members nearby — what an elightened policy). He'd bought it from the two ladies who were made famous by Roy Andries de Groot's remarkable book The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth, which had attracted us to the place.

    The second time we were there there was one other couple staying en pension, a charming old couple from the south of France, I think. They must have been in their eighties. We saw them at mealtime, and we occasionally walked past them on one of the trails through the flower-filled pastures; they'd invariably be sitting on a bench, as close as lovers, he in tie and jacket and cradling his cane in his folded hands, she in cardigan and skirt, nestling against him. We'd nod and smile; we never spoke.

    Every dinner began with a soup course; we quickly took it for granted. Once, though, Madame the wife of the chef and the patronne of the dining room (and the waitress) told us, in almost a conspiratorial voice, that tonight the Chef proposed a bouillabaisse, and that for that reason our first course would be an omelet. I quickly looked across the dining room toward the other couple: how would these creatures of habit take this departure?

    Madame crossed to their table, bent down, and spoke quietly to them, setting their omelets before them. Then: "Oui, Madame, oui, je comprends, bouillabaisse, c'est superbe. Mais où est la soupe?

    She apparently repeated her explanation, because he then became almost agitated. No: that's not true: he was always perfectly calm and reasonable. "Mais, Madame, nous acceptons la bouillabaisse, c'est superbe: mais où est la soupe? C'est pas possible dîner sans la soupe."

    And Madame shrugged and walked into the kitchen, and a few minutes later came back out again, carrying a small tureen of soup, and two soup-plates, to their table.
    Rouge du pays de l'Hérault, Moulin de Gassac, "Guilhem", 2008

    Tuesday, August 3, 2010

    Cold chicken

    Eastside Road, August 3, 2010—
    YOU SAW THIS COMING yesterday, I'm sure: cold roast chicken, with broccoli and potatoes and a couple of mushrooms. Before, roasted-pepper soup, one of the few exceptions to our no-processed-foods-from-boxes rule; it's said to be organic, and it's simple, and it tastes good, especially doctored up a bit. Oh: Green salad, of course.
    Côtes Varois, rouge, "La Ferme Julien," 2008

    Monday, August 2, 2010

    Roast Chicken

    Eastside Road, August 2, 2010—
    FIRST YOU GET YOUR chicken, and that's the hard part. Lindsey visited two supermarkets and the local mostly-organic market and found nothing but massproduced chickens from the Arkansas cartel. Finally our dependable Healdsburg independent supermarket, Big John's, came through with a Rosie.

    I'd planned to use Judy Rodgers's recipe from her magnificent book The Zuni Café Cookbook (W. W. Norton & Company, 2002), but she (rightly) requests you to roast a fryer, no more than three and a half pounds; our Rosie was a bit under five pounds. Still, I generally followed her technique, salting the bird as soon as I got it home, heating the oven to 500°, heating the roasting pan, then setting the bird in the dry hot pan and into the oven it went.
    The smoke alarm went off after a while, of course — no big deal. I dropped the temperature to about 450° and cooked the chicken for a little over an hour, adding some potatoes and mushrooms about halfway through, when I turned the chicken onto its breast for 15 minutes or so. No flavorings: just chicken and salt.

    With the chicken and potatoes and mushrooms, broccoli; afterward, green salad. Surely roast chicken is one of the Hundred Plates. And we have the next two meals taken care of, and then will come the soup. Thanks, Judy.
    Cheap Pinot grigio

    Sunday, August 1, 2010

    Grilled tuna sandwich

    Eastside Road, August 1, 2010—
    COMO BREAD IS ONE of our very favorites, a Pullman-style loaf with a nice grain, like a French pain de mie, but a crust too good to cut away, and the occasional yeast-bubble hole. It makes splendid toast — lightly buttered and cut into strips, it's perfect for dipping into your three-minute egg.
    It also makes a fine housing for a grilled tuna sandwich, another of our recurring favorites. It's shown up here many times, as recently as two weeks ago, as long ago as nearly the beginning; and it's number 17 on the list of Hundred Plates. Tonight's was much like all the others, preceded by a Martini, followed by a green salad with another slice of bread to sop up all that lovely oil-and-vinegar.
    Cool water