Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pasta al pesto

Eastside Road, September 30, 2010—
PASTA COMES IN different shapes for a practical reason; the shape often reinforces the physical communication of the taste and texture of the dish. Last night's stradelle, for example — I'd never encountered them before — were perfect for expressing their flint corn-flour base: a hard, grainy dough that needed a very thin but wide shape to put its qualities across as features, not flaws.

Tonight we had fusilli, coil-spring shapes designed to hold their sauce nicely. I'd made a pesto of basil from the garden as well as a bunch from the market, with pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan, salt, and olive oil, of course; tonight's was heavier than usual on the basil but otherwise very familiar to us. Slice tomatoes before; green salad after, and
Cheap Pinot grigio

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tuna and cannelini


Eastside Road, September 29, 2010—

PERFECT SUPPER for a hot day filled with errands. Lindsey bought two cans of imported cannelini. We had a can of albacore in the pantry; we'd bought it a couple of weeks ago outside of Philomath, Oregon; it was fish caught and processed nearby off the Oregon coast.

cannelini-tuna salad

Lindsey chopped up a small white onion and stirred the three basic ingredients together, binding them with a bit of olive oil and flavoring them with black pepper and marjoram from the garden. One of the Hundred Plates, I'd say.

Cheap Pinot grigio


Oakland, September 28, 2010—

ANOTHER DAY IN Berkeley and, later, Oakland: a chance for another Perfect Sandwich (mortadella and galantina on a buttered ciabatta roll with a little chopped lettuce); then a fine dinner with friends at a restaurant we patronize far too rarely. Oliveto has been around for a number of years; I don't recall who was the first chef; the second was, memorably, Paul Bertolli, before then at Chez Panisse, subsequently on to do his own things. Now the chef is our friend Paul Canales, who combines so many of the essentials: intelligence, seriousness of purpose, good humor, impressive technique, and focus.

I started with carne cruda, knowing (or at least strongly suspecting, nearly as good) that it would have been made from a razza Piemontese steer. In fact I'm sure it was; it had that uniquely sweet beefy soft but not fat quality I've associated with the breed. Paul served it with a small raw egg-yolk on top, nicely peppered, dressed with Parmesan, and surrounded by a halo of very finely chopped walnuts whose own sweetness complemented the beef perfectly.

We had an unexpected entremet, a plate of spaghettini with beautifully sautéed "Lipstick" red peppers generously dusted with finely chopped tuna heart; and then I went on to a plate of stradette, rectangles of pasta made with corn flour — the corn an heirloom Italian variety that's being grown in California's delta country somewhere — served with a thick sauce involving braised leeks and radicchio and aged Provolone. This was an amazing dish, the hard dent corn still recognizable by its taste and hardness, though nicely softened first by being turned into perfectly cooked pasta, then veiled with that intense and, let's face it, rich sauce.

Chocolate cake for dessert. It was a birthday meal.

Vermentino di Gallura, Piero Mancini, Sardinia 2009


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tuna sandwich

Eastside Road, September 27, 2010—

SURE, I KNOW, you get tired of the same old things: penne with red sauce, sausages, tuna sandwiches. But it was 101° in the shade today; we're both busy as bees; no one wants to think about shopping, cooking, cleaning up afterward.

Fortunately the pantry's got plenty of canned tuna. Lindsey combined it with some pickle relish and some mayonnaise — both of them as commercial as the tuna — and toasted some good Como bread from the bakery. A big red heirloom tomato, sliced. Green salad. That's enough.
Cheap Pinot grigio

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Hot dog

Eastside Road, September 26—

BASEBALL GAME on television tonight, so after a first course of steamed broccoli with just a bit of crushed garlic in it we moved on to hot dogs — Kosher frankfurters, broiled, with soft pasty white buns, and tarragon mustard, and some of Lou Preston's delicious sauerkraut, and pickle relish of course, and thin-sliced raw white onion. It was so good I regretted not having another. Then the green salad.
Cheap Nero d'Avila

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Eastside Road, September 25, 2010—
MARKET DAY, EXACTLY like nearly two weeks ago: salmon and lima beans. The salmon certainly doesn't qualify as local; it's flown in from Alaska; Hermes knows at what cost of money, energy, and fuel. But it's certainly good, and good for us: so we make the sacrifice of ethics.

The limas, of course, are from Nancy Skall's Middleton Gardens: Willow-leaf limas, barely cooked. For an appetizer we had some Padron peppers I'd fried in olive oil with salt, along with our usual little dishes of mixed nuts; after the fish and beans, green salad.
Rosé (Tempranillo/Zinfandel), Ramazotti (Dry Creek Valley), 2008

Friday, September 24, 2010

Home for dinner

Eastside Road, September 24, 2010—
FIRST DINNER AT HOME in a couple of weeks: and a delicious one. Lindsey crushed some anchovies and garlic into the penne after they were cooked, and threw in a number of halved cherry tomatoes, letting the heat of the cooked pasta finish the cooking.#alttext#Afterward, nothing needed but a green salad, and cantaloupe for dessert.
Rosé (Tempranillo/Zinfandel), Ramazotti (Dry Creek Valley), 2008

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ashland, 7: New Sammy's; Pasta Piatti

Ashland, Sept. 23—
BACK FOR LUNCH to New Sammy's, where the lunch is one of the last bargains left: $15, not counting dessert or wine. After the little fava-bean-paste flatbread amuse-bouche I dug into a bowl of pork stew with hominy and black beans and polenta, in a rich sauce nicely balancing smoky red peppers and cumin. Dessert was figs with Scotch whisky ice cream, a nice big piece of shortbread on the side.
Côtes du Jura, Rubis (Pinot noir and Troupeau), Domaine Berthet-Bondet (very nice indeed)
•New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro , 2210 South Pacific Highway, Talent, OR 97520; tel. (541) 535-2779
Dinner at Pasta Piatti, around the corner from our house. This has been a reliable ordinary for years; the outdoor terrace is comfortable; the pasta unexceptional but satisfactory. Tonight, though, the place seemed quite different, the food and service much better and more interesting. I had a spinach salad, tasty with bits of bacon, blue cheese, and pear slices; then a rib-eye steak, nicely grilled, served in a marchand du vin sauce, with broccolini and truffled mashed potatoes on the side. A small cup of spumoni finished things off nicely.
Pinot Grigio, De Canal, 2008; Nero d’Avola, Planeta la Segreta, 2007␣
•Pasta Piatti, 358 E Main St, Ashland; tel. (541) 488-5493

Ashland, 6: Agave; Sesame

Ashland, Sept. 22—
FOR LUNCH TO ONE of Ashland's very best, Agave, a little taco restaurant at the north end of the business district. Fine margaritas, excellent tacos, tasty slaw. The pato taco is particularly fine, but alas, there was no duck in the kitchen. I made do with a sautéed fish taco, the meat firm and sparkling, the other ingredients nicely balanced. I particularly like the grated cabbage salad, with its carrot, cilantro, and discreet habañera pepper, generously dressed with lime juice. #alttext#Such food is much more to my taste than the pan-Asian, as Mac calls it, cuisine a block away, where we had dinner at Sesame. Since Mac likes it, it's got to be good; he knows such food. I played it safe, ordering the "Korean Ssâm," grilled hanger steak on a bead of butter lettuce, kim chi on the side (very similar to Agave's slaw, though not as limey), with a nice mustard sauce and an enormous heap of fried glass noodles on top. Very tasty: I'll order it every time. (Next time hold the noodles.)
Côtes du Rhône (E. Guigal), nv

Agave, 92 North Main St., Ashland; tel. (541) 488-1770
Sesame Asian Kitchen, 21 Winburn Way, Ashland; tel. (541) 482-0119

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ashland, 5: Going Greek

Ashland, Sept. 21—
FOR YEARS WE PATRONIZED an Italian restaurant here — not on every visit to Ashland, but often enough. There wasn't anything special about it; I suppose the food was mediocre, neither bad nor outstanding. But I liked the staff, and they had a good selection of Italian wines, and the outdoor patio was pleasant in early evenings before the theater.

It closed last year, and has been replaced by a Greek restaurant. It too offers food neither bad nor outstanding, the menu relying on standards like avgolemono, dolmas, moussaka, pastitsio. The wine list offers retsina and ordinary Greek red, along with other labels. A cursory survey of Web-based reviews finds a range of opinion, though there's general agreement that the service could be more professional, a number of wines on the list are not actually available, and the noise level is high.

I started with the avgolemono, a nice cup of soup though its chicken tasted mass-produced, and went on to the pastitsio, generous and rich (I like cloves) though somewhat oversalted — a quality noticed by others at our table. The Greek-style coffee afterward was pleasant.
White: Boutari, Santorini, 2008 (a delicious wine); Rogue Valley Red (Hinman Vineyards), 2007

•Blue Greek on Granite, 5 Granite St., Ashland; tel. (541) 708-5150

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ashland, 4: a casa

Ashland, Sept. 20—

DINNER AT "HOME" tonight: you can't go on eating every night in restaurants, even when you're on the road. We stay here with three other couples for a week every year to see plays, and Mondays the theater's dark. Tonight, then, dinner at home.


We walked a short mile or so to the supermarket to buy provisions: pasta, tomatoes, sausages, garlic, olive oil, salad, an onion. Once home, it was a simple matter to seed and chop the tomatoes, fry up the broken-up sausages, cook the pasta, make a salad. Dessert: Straus ice cream (vanilla; Dutch chocolate) with salt caramel sauce from Alma in Portland, a few chopped pecans strewn on top. Dinner was cheaper and in many ways better than many restaurant meals we've been eating…

Rosé de Provence, Triennes (Nans-les-Pins), 2009; Pinot noir, Pedroncelli, 2008; Rosso, Coppola; Mourvedre, Louis Preston Vineyards, 2007

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ashland, 3: Amuse

Ashland, Sept. 19—

I LIKE THIS RESTAURANT because the menu is well-conceived and the kitchen ably staffed, and I like it because it is called Amuse, a name — a word — rich with possible meanings. Toward the muse? Without the muse? Or simply amusing?

Whatever, it's a restaurant we dine at only perhaps one trip out of three to Ashland, partly because it's not that attractive to other members of the group — we come here annually with three other couples, of varying tastes and enthusiasms. Tonight though we dine alone: we've seen the stage version of Pride and Prejudice already. Off to Amuse ourselves, then, with a French-flavored dinner.
Interesting, because so many dinners seem to have an Italian direction these days, Italian or vaguely Italian, or of course "California," which often turns out to have a strong yearning for something between Nizzese and Tuscan style.

My amuse-bouche was a thimblefull of "roasted carrot soup," creamy and beautifully flavored, and afterward I had romaine leaves with Reggiano shavings and little deep-fried shavings of garlic, in a creamy tarragon dressing. Then it was on to pork two ways: a fennel-flavored sausage and a nice moist loin chop, with shell beans and chard and piperade, in fact a few thin slices of red bell pepper sautéed gently à la Grecque.
Côtes du Rhône, Chateau d'Ampluis (E. Guigal), 2006, in half bottle

Amuse Restaurant, 15 N 1st St, Ashland; tel. (541) 488-9000

Ashland, 2: New Sammy's

Ashland, Sept. 18—

WHAT CAN BE SAID about New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro here that hasn't been said before? It's clearly one of the Five Great Restaurants, with an intelligent, inspired, technically masterful chef in Charlene Rollins and as informed and experienced a sommelier as you could ask for in her husband Vern. The raw materials are as local as possible — vegetables and herbs from the garden behind the restaurant, meats and fish from as nearby as can be. Even the water is local, sweet and clean.
Last September we ate here three days running — you can read about it here, here, and here — and I'd gladly do the same again, but they're closed Monday and Tuesday. We certainly have to get back for lunch: I'm afraid I didn't give dinner the proper attention, as it's hard to focus when you're at a table with eight other diners, after a couple of Martinis at home…

We began with amuses-geule: little cups of white gazpacho with lots of ground almond in a crème-fraîche base. I went on to leek tart served with brandade, romesco sauce, and sautéed Padron peppers, and a small salad with radishes — it sounds over-worked, but everything balanced, adding up to a marvelous course. I went on to lamb chops, because I love them and Charlene knows exactly how far to cook them and how to accompany them, and that's all anyone needs to know. I had a cheese plate for dessert, but by then the entire experience was beginning to dissolve—
Chateau de Chantegrive, Graves, 2006; Cerasuolo di Vittoria, "Pithos" (Azienda Agricola Cos), 2007 (we brought that one along with us); Valpolicella Classico Superiore, Terre di Cariano (Cecilia Beretta), 2006

•New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro , 2210 South Pacific Highway, Talent, OR 97520; tel. (541) 535-2779

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ashland, 1: Mix; Loft

Ashland, Sept. 17—

ONE OF OUR FAVORITE sandwiches is the jambon beurré: a baguette spread with butter, with a slice of ham on it. Because of the butter, you don't need cheese. The sweet butter brings out the essence of a simple boiled ham; it needn't be prosciutto. And the baguette texture, if it's a good one, completes the thing.

The baguette was good, and why not? It was made in-house, for we were at perhaps my favorite Ashland pit stop, Mix. Established and run by the pastry chef of Amuse, one of Ashland's better restaurants, it's concerned with quality and consistency, and it expresses those values generously. (Hmm: the three virtues of the pastry chef: quality, consistency, generosity.)

DINNER WAS AT a new place in town, Loft, an upstairs dining room in a corner of the old Masonic Lodge. The menu is basically bistro; there's a full bar; the wine list is interesting. I had roast chicken, nicely salted and cooked and set on a bed of mashed potatoes, subtly but effectively flavored with garlic and surrounded by a delicious buttery gravy. The accompanying salad had a nice thick Green Goddess-type dressing, heavily flavored with tarragon; the pot de crème was enormous, a little grainy, but a convincing bistro-like finale.

•Mix,57 N Main St Ashland, OR 97520-2725 - (541) 488-9885
•Loft American Brasserie & Bar, 18 Calle Guanajuato, Ashland; tel. (541) 482-1116

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lunch on the farm, dinner in town

Sutherlin, September 16—
WE HEADED SOUTH this morning, stopping first at Ken's Artisan Bakery for a croissant and a cappuccino, then at Pearl Bakery for some gibassiers and a bear claw. Lunch was at a farm-restaurant outside of Philomath, Gathering Together Farm, rather a delightful place serving lunch and dinner during the summer. Orchards, truck gardens, farm stand, pizza oven. I had a Margherita pizza with sweet high-keyed tomatoes and basil from their garden and a mozzarella-type cheese no doubt local as well, and it was not bad at all. Lindsey liked her semolina gnocchi.

Dinner was at a new Italian "osteria" in a shopping-plaza just north of Eugene, Sfizio — the word means "whim" or "caprice" in Italian. Full bar, comfortable tables and chairs outside on a terrace if you like, reasonable menu running to the usual appetizers, pastas, second, desserts. After a good Negroni to give me an appetite I had friarelli peppers fried in oil and served with sea salt — exactly the same as padron peppers — and then bucatini with artichoke hearts, anchovy, garlic, chili, lemon & breadcrumbs. Dessert? How can I pass up panna cotta? Delicious.
Pinot grigio, Apolloni

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Portland, Sept. 15—

WE ATE IN Cuba today, more or less, at a place out at Glisan and 28th, Pambiche, where the food is savory and generous, the prices low, the ambiance colorful. It threatened rain for the first time in days, but though we ate outside at a wooden table-and-benches, on the sidewalk, we were under cover; this improbable building extends out over the sidewalk as if you were in Torino or Bologna.

But the food is completely Cuban. I started with croquetas de bacalao — salt cod croquettes shaped like frankfurters, with a spoonful of cabbage salad — and went on to ropa vieja, shredded beef braised with onions and peppers, garnished with pimientos and green peas, with black beans and rice on the side. I've had it here before, years ago; nothing has changed; it's absolutely delicious. A squeeze of lime, of course.
Red house wine

Eating out

Portland, Sept. 14—

ONE REASON TO COME to Portland, even if you don't have a delightful family to visit, is to eat out. It is truly an eating town, with options ranging from food carts to fine restaurants. Take today, for example: after coffee two blocks from home at Cartola — necessitated by an inexplicable power outage on our block, resulting in no toaster, no espresso machine — we had lunch at Garden State, up on Mississippi Street, where a cart pod— formerly a parking lot — houses it and a number of other promising carts.
#alttext#" #alttext#
A central dining area under a temporary canopy provides tables, chairs, and benches, where we comfortably munched on cod sandwiches: fried cod, a good-sized slice of potato, another of raw orange, chopped lettuce, capers, onion, a little bit of celery, all spilling generously out from a ciabatta-bread housing. Oh, and chick-pea fries — sticks of panisse, in effect — savory and delightful.
After a suitable interval it was dinner time, and, staying on our side of the Willamette, we headed for Laurelhurst Market, a seriously meaty restaurant on a corner parking lot-storefront on busy Burnside Street. Here seven of us were easily accommodated at a table in a good-sized industrial-looking dining room, full bar at one end of the room, open kitchen along one side. (And butcher shop at the restaurant's entry, just to get the juices flowing.)
We downed a couple of plates of Suppli Al Telefono: braised short rib and mozzarella risotto fritters with mizuna and olives. Then I had the steak of the day: hanger steak, grilled rare (and just thick enough to remain cool inside, perfectly cooked outside), with instead of french fries the more healthful steamed-arugula alternative. (I'd have preferred the greens without their liberal sprinkling of Reggiano.)

The steak sat on a bed of Romesco sauce, quite rich with marrow, I suspect, and made a filling meal. With it, a plate of padrona peppers, served with braised cherry tomatoes and a judiciously small number of mint-leaf tatters: an inspired dish.
Vin de pays de Mont-Caume, Jean-Pierre Gaussen, 2008

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chicken Biryani

Portland, September 13, 2010—
SOMETIMES THINGS SEEM to me to get too complicated. Take last night, for example: nine or ten of us at table, so the girls decide to make an Indian meal. Simon cut up two chickens — beautifully, I might add, with help from an online explanation. Grace cut up a few melons with a melon baller bought for the occasion. Lindsey and Giovanna ground the spices and seeds, cooked the rice, shredded cabbage, cooked dal, and did countless other things.


(A cartoon from The New Yorker hangs on Giovanna's kitchen wall: guests with Martinis in hand peeking into a messy kitchen, woman digging into the refrigerator, lobster walking away from the scene, caption: "So this is where the magic happens." It seems appropriate.)

Well, the results were undoubtedly worth the effort: everyone ate almost everything. I especially liked the dessert, melon balls in a watermelon-and-rose-water purée.

Insolia-Grecanico blend, "Ramì," Azienda Agricola Cos, 2007; Cerasuolo di Vittoria, "Pithos" (also from Cos), 2006
(These are wines we encountered a few months ago in Sicily, complex and extremely interesting, also very tasty.)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Marketing day

Portland, September 12, 2010—
WHAT A FINE DAY! #alttext#

This plate of pastries was delivered early in the morning, a gift to Lindsey from Kim Boyce, who sent with it an inscribed copy of her Good to the Grain, a book we've all profited from and which Giovanna's written about (here).

Then a trip to the Farm market for stuff for dinner; and then on a walk around the neighborhood a stop-off at Mio Gelato for a scoop of fior di latte and, beneath it, a scoop of "oro d'oro," deliciously eggy vanilla. Next door at Foster and Dobbs I looked for a bottle of Grillo to no avail: but they had a fine roccolo, a creamy firm cow's-milk cheese from Lombardy I'd never known before, and a nice d'Affinois which is of course a known quantity, and those delicious Picos de Aceite. A bottle of Madam Preston replaced the Grillo beautifully with all this as a late-afternoon preprandial.
Dinner was three salads: Giovanna's green-beans-and-shallots-in-vinaigretteand butter-lettuces-and-tuna; my fried-artichokes-in-oil-and-salt, heaped up on my plate on Lindsey's soft little fingerling potatoes from the market, also dressed with shallots and vinaigrette. With them, a fourth: sliced tomatoes. What a fine dinner!
Blanc de l'Herault, Domaine Gassac, 2008

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sausage, polenta, greens

Portland, September 11, 2010—
YEARS AGO WHEN WE LIVED in a one-bedroom-plus-basement duplex in Berkeley, with three kids, our neighbors — whom we rarely dealt with — lived in a house on the corner distinguished by two things: it was full, as far as we could tell by looking through the windows, of empty cardboard boxes; and it was surrounded, as we knew all too well from daily direct observance, by plantings — intentional or volunteer — of borage.

I've never really cottoned to the idea of borage, and the (fairly) recent movie Borat (which, for the record, I thought very funny) has not elevated this coarse, unsought, unkempt green in my opinion. But tonight, for perhaps the first time in my life, it was on my dinner plate.

It grows in my daughter's back yard, apparently, along with collard greens. Also on the menu was — you'd never guess — sausage: a couple of the last of the mangalitsa, and a couple of Franco's Toulouse-style. Also a good-sized platter of polenta. There were a dozen sausages or so, but by the end of the meal the platter looked like this:
Afterward, green salad, and sliced tomatoes.
Cheap Nero d'Avola
rough video of some of tonight's kitchen prep here

Friday, September 10, 2010

BLT (reprise)

Portland, September 10, 2010—
AT OUR AGE WE TAKE almost twelve hours to drive the six hundred miles up to Portland, and much of the way I seem to be a little hungry. Not surprising: the usual piece of toast with honey and two cappuccinos don't go that far. A couple or three prunes, a slice of bread, a chunk of nagelkaas for lunch along the way. A cup of surprisingly good olive-oil gelato and a decent cappuccino to break the trip at Ashland.

Finally we're in Portland, where I make a stiff Martini; then a BLT. Second one in a week, after months, years probably, without any. The others had had BLATs, inserting slices of avocado (not apple, as I'd at first feared) into the mix: but I'm not a revisionist. Well, except for substituting the last, the very last of Monday's aïoli for mayonnaise. (Lindsey, who wastes nothing, had brought along the little container of aïoli, no more than a teaspoonful of it.)

Afterward a nice plum upside-down cake. It's nice to be at Giovanna's house: she's among many other things a baker.
Blanc, then rouge de l'Herault, Domaine Gassac, 2008

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Piquillos with brandade

Eastside Road, September 9, 2010 —
I AM AS LUCKY a guy as I know for more reasons than I can imagine. At the head of the list, my wife; among her many qualities, those of an excellent cook. The other day she saw some handsome piquillo peppers at the Farmers Market in Healdsburg, and she remembered this recipe. #alttext#She's not only a good cook; she's a thoughtful and resourceful provider. There was some salt cod in the icebox; we always have garlic and potatoes on hand; there's no shortage of olive oil. Piece of cake.

With the stuffed peppers, as you see, garlic-rubbed oil-drizzled toast and broad beans. Afterward, the green salad. Forever, my heartfelt thanks, for this and so much else.
Nero d'Avola

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Red sauce

Eastside Road, September 8, 2010—
WHATEVER THE REASON, the pasta sauce was particularly good tonight. Some of it was leftover sauce, I think; some made fresh. We had some particularly nice tomatoes (thanks, Bill), and that's always important. We have these dried boletes — thanks again, Bill. Then a few scraps of bacon turned up from somewhere. Whatever the reason, it was particularly red, intense, and sweet — not sugary sweet, but acid-sweet of late-summer hot-weather tomatoes. I wonder how many times Lindsey's made tomato sauce: twelve hundred times, I imagine, over the last forty or fifty years. That counts for a lot, too. Green salad.
Cheap Pinot grigio; cheap Nero d'Avola

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sandwich; zucchini

Eastside Road, September 7, 2010—
MY FATHER DISLIKED ONLY two foods that I can recall: lamb and tapioca pudding. (Well, I wouldn't cotton to lamb served with tapioca pudding, either: but what I mean is, he would eat neither of them separately.) Alas I am not as perfect as my father in this respect; there is a fair number of food I dislike eating. Beets. Turnips. Parsnips and rutabagas. Yams and sweet potatoes. Okra.

And squash. I will not eat winter squash of any sort, in any preparation, unless perhaps in ravioli. And I am not fond of summer squash. Not yellow crookneck; not patty-pan; not even zucchini.

Don't get me wrong: in a restaurant, if I find beets on my plate, I'll eat them, rise though may the gorge. Those other things I'll try to hide under the flatware, exactly as I did as a child, when I'd hope they'd escape notice, so intent were my parents on arguing about something else. Zucchini I will eat, but never with pleasure. I suppose if you'd quarter them lengthwise, brush them with olive oil, grind some black pepper and salt onto them, and grill them — then maybe I'd eat them more willingly.

But generally they seem to be sliced crosswise and boiled or steamed in water. Even salted and buttered, maybe garlicked a bit, they seem to me to have only the faintest taste of grass-clippings, and a dreadful texture, let's not even think about the texture.
Still I try to be grateful for what I get, and tonight it was zucchini. With it, providentially, boiled potatoes and the last of yesterday's aïoli. Afterward, green salad.
Cheap Pinot grigio

LUNCH WAS A SANDWICH from a promising little place behind the Old Mint in San Francisco, where we'd gone to visit the Museum of Modern Art. Two guys were sitting out in front of the place at an umbrella'd terrace table talking in Italian: when we stepped into the empty restaurant one jumped up and followed us in, asking how he might help us. We looked at the menu and asked if we might have a couple of sandwiches to go. We don't do that, he said, but of course you can. We settled on a sausage sandwich and talked a little while the kitchen prepared them — a nice cased sweet Italian sausage, grilled, and set in a good ciabatta bun with some sautéed broccoli rabe, giving it a nice peppery accompaniment.

They're from Umbria, the team running this place. I eyed the back bar and wondered if I might have a little sip of carciofo: "Cynar? Of course!" and an inch or so was poured into a tumbler — I stopped him there — and savored it while the sandwiches were constructed. With them, a decent green salad. Next time we'll eat in house; I think I'll like this place.
  • 54 Mint Wine Bar, 16 Mint Plaza, San Francisco; tel. 415.543.5100
  • Monday, September 6, 2010


    Eastside Road, September 6, 2010—
    WE STILL HAVE SOME Mangalitsa bacon on hand, and the weather's been hot, and we wanted to see Curt and Mary Jo up here again before summer was over, and tomatoes are finally really here. It all added up to one of those great examples of Elective Affinities, the BLT. Curt and I made a batch of aïoli — it takes hardly any time at all with two to peel the garlic; I pound the garlic and salt together, he adds the egg yolks, I start whisking, he dribbles in the olive oil. I've never done it that way before, and now I never want to go back to solo aïoli.

    A lovely one, too: but we were so intent on having fun I didn't take any photos. You'll just have to take my word for it. The garlic was Yael's Rose de Lautrec, the eggs from up the road; only the oil (Turkish) and the salt (from the Ile de Ré) kept this from being truly local. The Mangalitsa makes beautiful bacon, a little on the fat side but delicious fat (and so good for you, don't you agree?); Lindsey fried it slowly, pouring off the fat; I made little nicks in the edges to keep it flat in the pan. Curt and Mary Jo brought some superb heirloom tomatoes up with them, red and yellow, and a loaf of Acme levain; we compared it with other sandwiches on Downtown Bakery Como bread, and I can't declare a winner. Green salad; and for dessert — root beer floats, with chocolate pavé. A delicious time was had by all.
    Rosé, Côtes de Ventoux, "La Ferme Julien," 2008; rosé, Bandol, Domaine Tempier, 2008 (and here I can declare a winner)

    Sunday, September 5, 2010

    Picnic in the Grove

    Eastside Road, September 5, 2010—
    EVERY NOW AND THEN an old friend, a poet-artist-printer, invites us to his camp in Bohemian Grove for a day of eating, drinking, and conversation. Well: "every now and then" is a bit of an exaggeration; it's been two or maybe three times now, over the course of perhaps twenty years. But it's no exaggeration to call Andrew an old friend, or a poet-artist-printer for that matter, and we always enjoy his company (and that of his sweet Diana), whether in the Grove or elsewhere.

    We arrived with a couple of bottles of wine and a book for them, a little before noon, and were surprised to find the Grove virtually deserted — on this Labor Day weekend! What a pleasure to stroll past the various camps among the magnificent redwoods, to smell the bark and the duff, listen to a raven scolding and laughing, discuss the marijuana initiative (I was the only one opposed, to six votes in favor), books, editions, typography, Sicily, gossip, politics (we all agreed that it was a fine thing to be liberal), Berkeley, Italy, Paris…
    Oh: and, of course, to eat. Andrew grilled hamburgers; Diana I think had prepared the vegetables — a nice potato salad and a fine mixed salad and, greatly to my pleasure, corn off the cob with red peppers. When I was a kid I always looked forward to Mexicorn, a canned version manufactured in those days by Green Giant. It seemed exotic and sophisticated somehow, like the little green peas packed by the same company, I believe, but marketed with the French label Le Sueur (because, according to Wikipedia, the company was founded in the Minnesota town of that name).

    Since then the company was bought by Pillsbury, which later was acquired by General Mills; according to another website, Mexicorn now contains golden whole kernel corn, water, red and green sweet peppers, sugar, and salt; and no doubt a fair amount of water. I see no reason to go back to the canned variety. If I were to make it at home I'd use fresh corn, cut off the cob; today's version was likely based on frozen corn, and why not. In any case it was tasty, and it didn't hurt that we had dessert too, an apple-blackberry cobbler. Thanks, friends.
    white Rhone blend, "Madame Preston," Louis Preston Vineyards, 2008; Chianti — damn: forgot to take notes.

    Saturday, September 4, 2010

    Market day: Salmon

    Eastside Road, September 4, 2010—
    ONE OF THESE DAYS I really should show you some photos of the Healdsburg Farm Market. Today it seemed particularly lively; if this odd summer has a peak, it must be now. We tried to get there earlier than we usually do, because we were after some good lettuce. Two farmers provide particularly dependable lettuces, and we scored at both stalls. We stopped at the Mexican guy's stall — he drives up all the way from the Central Valley — for a couple of ears of sweet corn for lunch. Then it was on to Middleton Gardens for lima beans and Musica broad beans; and to Yael for garlic, that delicious Rose de Lautrec that makes the best pesto; and back to the French-speakers for some peppers to stuff with salt cod later this week, and to our neighbor's stall for some particularly handsome "heirloom" tomatoes.

    And to the Fish Guy, of coursej, whose stall was busier than usual; we had to wait for several other customers; you always look on breathlessly to see if one of them will take the salmon you've mentally reserved for yourself; hooray, they're after shrimp and flounder and they're leaving the salmon to us.

    Then to the bakery for a loaf of Como bread, and croissants for Sunday breakfast; and one more stop to pick up some milk and such.
    So tonight it's broiled salmon again, as it so often is these market weekends in the summer, and Nancy Skall's delicious chestnutty lima beans, and one of those tomatoes sliced up. Green salad after; what more could you want?
    Rosé, Côtes du Ventoux, "La Ferme Julien," 2009; cheap Nero d'Avola

    Sandwich. Peruvian lentils.

    Oakland, September 3, 2010 —
    DOWN IN THE East Bay again for various reasons. Lunch was a deli sandwich, my very favorite: galantina and mortadella, lettuce, buttered ciabatta roll. There's something perfect about this sandwich. I can't elevate it to the Hundred Plates, I guess — it's only a deli sandwich — but the sweetness of the butter and the meat, the textures of the galantina and the bread, the crisp note of the lettuce — it's just a wonderful sandwich.

    galantina and mortadella sandwich
    Genoa Delicatessen's galantina and mortadella sandwich
    (click on image to enlarge in new window)

    Alas, galantina's not so easily found any more. It's defined on one website as "an Italian style chopped-ham luncheon meat": not terribly informative. What we get in the Bay Area is apt to come from Molinari and Sons, who refer to it as "a delicious course-ground pork loaf, spiced with wine and pistachio nuts." Lindsey doesn't like it, complaining that it's gristly: but I like a discreet amount of gristle, though I'm not your mange-tout tête-de-veau type. I find mortadellas in this country, even Molinari's, just a little bland; the galantina points it up a bit. And butter's the only logical lubricant here: mayo, mustard, pickles, tomato slices all confuse the issue, and raw onions mask the delicate flavors. So give me GML, galantina-mortadella-lettuce, every time; and on buttered bread, please.
  • Genova Delicatessen, 5095 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA; tel. (510) 652-7401

  • Dinner in the loft-apartment of a couple of friends we hadn't seen in years: Margaret made Peruvian lentils, using smoked salmon with cajun spices in lieu of bacon or chicken, and dressing it with a sauce new to us, aji, essentially (I believe) the Peruvian Capsicum baccatum, ground into a paste with onions, salt and pepper, and vinegar or lime juice — one recipe is here (I'd be leery of cilantro, which seems culturally irrelevant).

    Also on the table: dolmades and olives, Peruvian and Sicilian olives, and nuts, and other delicacies… afterward, a green salad.
    Viognier (forgot to note the label: sorry)

    Thursday, September 2, 2010


    Eastside Road, September 2, 2010—
    I CALLED IT "faux-Niçoise" over at FaceBook, a little earlier, but that was unjust: there was nothing faux about this meal. Context: it was h o t today, over a hundred degrees, and no one wants to eat a lot, much less prepare much of anything, in this kind of weather. Potatoes and green beans were out of the question. So Lindsey tore up some lettuces, opened a can of tuna, got some anchovies and capers out of the icebox. Oh, and hard-boiled a couple of eggs: that doesn't heat up the house very much.

    I made the usual salad dressing, mashing up a clove of garlic with some good sea salt (Ile de Ré), steeping it in some good olive oil (Turkey), then whisking in a splash of excellent wine vinegar (Eastside Zinfandel). Olives? Potatoes? Green beans? We never missed them.
    Rosé, Côtes du Ventoux, "La Ferme Julien," 2009

    Wednesday, September 1, 2010


    Eastside Road, September 1, 2010—
    I DISTINCTLY REMEMBER being impressed, or rather perplexed, dumfounded perhaps, when I was ten or eleven years old, to hear another boy in my school say that he had no idea what an artichoke was. I had spent all my life except for one recent year in California; he was a recent arrival from Colorado. I knew nothing about Coll-oh-RAY-do, as my Oklahoma grandmother always called it, but I knew from artichokes.
    Making pesto
    Making pesto
    I set out three or four plants a few months ago. They haven't done very well in this peculiar summer, but we have had a few of them. The other day I noticed two had got quite good-sized, too big to eat the way I usually like them — halved or quartered and sautéed with garlic in olive oil. I cut them off their stalks and brought them in, leaving them in the sink. L. suggested they'd be harboring ants, so I submerged them in cold salted water, weighting them down with a pot-lid, and forgot them for a couple of days.

    Tonight Lindsey boiled them the normal way, then dressed them with melted butter and the little pesto left from yesterday. And to accompany a plate of pasta she made a fine tomato sauce, browning some onion, chopping in a few ripe red tomatoes, and simmering it with dried porcini we'd come home with the other day (thanks, Bill!). Green salad, naturally.
    Cheap Nero d'Avola