Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cheese sandwich

Eastside Road, August 31, 2011—
SALLIE SAYS, on Facebook: “Still don't see how you two can do all those great eating and drinking places without gaining weight!”

Reasonable point, I suppose, so let me address it, once and for all. Breakfast today: two cappuccinos, two slices toast, honey. Lunch: a hot dog — “Italian,” with sauerkraut and onion and mustard; not very good. (We'd gone to a ball game. Cubs lost, 4-0, but it didn't hurt that much; they won the last two games.)

On the way home: an affogato — one scoop of vanilla ice cream in a double espresso. Oh: and a small scoop of tea-and-honey ice cream, because I was curious about it. It was delicious: Earl Grey tea, local honey, a fairly dense ice cream — we like this place*.

Before dinner: a Martini with a handful of cashews and almonds. (We'd skipped them last Friday and Saturday, and they're fungible, you know.)

Dinner at home: Grilled cheese sandwich; green salad; half a (big) peach and quarter of a melon. Giovanna brought us the cheese, our beloved nagelkaas, from the Dutch import shop up near Portland.

It's true that over the long Chez Panisse weekend I gained one pound: I think that was because of rather more drink than usual, and certainly less exercise. Today we walked probably two miles, fairly quickly. (Parking garage to ball park and back.) Tomorrow we'll see what the scales say. I'll let you know, unless it's shameful.
Pinot grigio, La Famiglia (Monterey), 2009
*Lala's Creamery, 134 Petaluma Boulevard North, Petaluma; (707) 763-5252
Dutch-American Market & Import, 9575 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy, Beaverton, Oregon; 503-646-1518

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Almost back…

Schellville, California, August 30, 2011—
A COUPLE OF UNSATISFACTORY cappuccinos and some just average toast for breakfast, a piece of nice French Apple Pie and a cup of coffee for early lunch, and then I thought well, let's just fast the rest of the day.
But then, driving home from Grass Valley and Chicago Park, Lindsey remembered a café she'd read about, and we pulled into a dusty parking lot outside an intriguing-looking roadside joint out in the country. The menu is long and amusing, and while I'm not terribly hungry, and don't really want anything to drink either, something spicy would be nice.

I ordered the miniature chicken-breast sandwich, which comes on a roll offering about five bites. It's spread with mayonnaise and, because I'd asked for it, a pepper sauce; and it's garnished with nice little pickles. A small can of Pabst Blue Ribbon profited from liberal squirts of Tabasco sauce and shakings of salt, and we drove off refreshed.• Fremont Diner, 2698 Fremont Drive, Sonoma; 707.938.7370

Monday, August 29, 2011

Day after

Grass Valley, California, August 29, 2011—
AS YOU MIGHT EXPECT; as I expected; I'm a little off my feed today after three days of Chez Panisse Fortieth. Still, you gotta eat, and what I seemed to want was protein. So we breakfasted heartily, in that typical road-food style: two eggs over easy, potatoes fried up with peppers and onions, a couple of strips of pretty good bacon, and as much coffee as possible.

joe.jpgWe skipped lunch, because we didn't need it after that. For dinner I wanted steak and a Martini, but the tavern that had been recommended was closed, so we walked another couple of blocks to a place that turned out to be a foothill version of San Francisco's Original Joe's. Lindsey had gnocchi, tough but tasty; I had “Joe’s Special”: ground chuck sautéed with spinach, eggs, and scallions, garnished with a lemon quarter. It lacked salt utterly, but that was easily fixed. It's a curious dish, with a texture not entirely to my taste, but suitable to the occasion. Hangover food, in fact. (The Martini was okay.)
Red wine, Trentadue (Zinfandel blend), 2009
• Kane's Fine Food Restaurant, 120 East Main Street, Grass Valley; (530) 273-8111

Chez Panisse at Forty: two of three

Berkeley, August 29, 2011—
SATURDAY NIGHT WAS the Big Night for the Chez Panisse Fortieth celebrations. I don't know how many dinners had been scheduled in the Bay Area: in Berkeley, in San Francisco, on the peninsula, up in the wine country.

menu.jpgAnd, of course, in the restaurant itself, where special tables had been sold to benefit the Edible Schoolyard Foundation. Lindsey and I were fortunate to be invited guests at one of these tables, along the back wall of the café, where I found myself seated with old friends of Alice's, old friends also of ours; and there we feasted on what seemed to me a café adaptation of a downstairs menu, served beautifully in the café style:
Hors d'oeuvre variés
Soupe à pistou
Encornets farcis
Côtelette et saucisse d'agneau sur la braise
Salade mesclun
Tarte aux prunes et glace aux mures
fruits et mignardises

I'm not sure why the menu was printed up in French: in general, that practice was abolished years ago. Perhaps because the chef, David Tanis, has been living in Paris for the last few years during his six-month off-cycle from Chez Panisse.
In any case, it was a magnificent meal. The encornets, right, were whole little squid — ”flying squid,“ which look to me like little cuttlefish — stuffed and roasted in the pizza oven, served as you see with a good quantity of brightly flavored aïoli, roasted peppers, and greens.

The lamb — chop and sausage — was beautifully done, the chop and sausage grilled over vine cuttings and added to the slow braise surrounding a potato-tomato-garlic gratin. France meets California.

Prunes — how I love them, and how stupidly they are scorned. Lindsey grew up in Sonoma county on a ”prune ranch,“ silly term (it always makes me see cowboys rounding up wrinkled fruit), and we think of the French prune, whether fresh or carefully dried, as a noble fruit. In this case, the tarte was filled with evenly cut segments of fresh French prunes, the pastry perfectly baked, the glaze just the right consistency, and the blackberry ice cream a nicely calculated counterpoise.

What else. Well, lots of table talk, of course; lots of old friends to sign the menu, lots of memories. We didn't get to bed until three o'clock in the morning.
Cassis, Clos Ste. Magdeleine, 2009; Bandol, Domaine Tempier, 2008 (marvelous)
• Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510.548.5525

Friday, August 26, 2011

Chez Panisse at Forty: one of three

Berkeley, August 28, 2011—
IT WAS IN ALL the papers; everywhere on the Internet; we heard about it on the radio and for all I know it was on television as well: but it's over now. I've had time to think about it, and you've had time to forget about it.

The 40th anniversary of Chez Panisse, I mean, celebrated with a confusing array of events public, private, and various configurations in between, in the week leading up to the actual date: August 28. This was the restaurant's fourth ten-year birthday celebration, and Alice wanted it to benefit the Edible Schoolyard Foundation, as well as celebrate the restaurant itself.

The tenth birthday party had been for staff and friends; it was at Joseph Phelps's vineyard in Napa county. The twentieth birthday was a public event on Shattuck Avenue in front of the restaurant. The thirtieth was among the plane tees on the esplanade beneath the Campanile at UC Berkeley. For the fortieth, Alice imagined something quite different: a number of simultaneous dinners, hosted by friends of the restaurant, cooked by staff and alumni and friends, all to benefit the Foundation.

I'll report on the events we attended here, since this is after all Eating Every Day. Then I'll have a few observations to make, no doubt; and I'll steer you to a few other webpages that seem to me to have interesting things to say about it all.

We began, Lindsey and I, by having dinner with our two daughters, who had worked at Chez Panisse in their youth and still have strong connections to staff and former staff, and of course with their two husbands. Chez Panisse is more than anything else a community, a family both energized and stabilized by its shared values and especially by the creative energy emanating from the edges of individual differences or adaptations of these values and experiences.
So we were six at table*, up in the café, where we had:
Pickled vegetables and olives with wild fennel
garlic soup with grilled bread and thyme
green beans, roasted peppers, and chanterelles, with hazelnuts, roasted eggplant toast with cherry tomatoes and basil
fried fishes with parsley, lemon, and garlic, with garden lettuces
mulberry, raspberry, and nectarine ice creams
vin rosé de Provence
All this was perfectly delicious, of course, and connected to so many memories. The fennel, for example: so often in the old days we picked wild fennel from Berkeley vacant lots. The mulberries: how many times had we bought them from Charlie Grech at various markets, and once or twice at his home outside Sonoma.

So many of these flavors and textures recalled other summertime meals at the restaurant, at home in the country, and in southern France, in the Var, in Nice. In the first ten years of Chez Panisse — the 1970s — something emerged that soon came to be called California Cuisine. This menu, and its preparation, beautifully represents an important corner of this cuisine. I don't think we'd have found anything like it in this country forty-one years ago.

*A couple of guests sat down for the photo, Cynthia and Kees, who was twice a cook at Chez P.• Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510.548.5525


Eastside Road, August 25, 2011—
I SUPPOSE THE HAMBURGER is the iconic, as is said, item of the American cuisine. No doubt millions are served daily; entire tropical forests have been sacrificed to the thing, and the potato quite redesigned. It isn't my favorite meal, but it has an appeal to Lindsey, and she generally knows how to order no matter where we are, so I often follow suit.

And so it was this night, when we were driving back from the coast with three friends after a job of figurehead removal, another staple American pleasure separating us from our cousins the Brits. First roadhouse was closed; second was serving only soup and mussels; but the third was doing great business with a wedding rehearsal party in the banquet room and a few tables occupied here and there, in spite of rather a late hour.

Before my hamburger, as an appetizer, I had a side of roasted green peppers, small anchos I think, served with sweet boquerones and capers. Too many capers, in the end, but lovely little white anchovies; how I love them. The burger itself was dense, meaty (Niman-Schell), flavorful, on a nice little oblong roll with not quite enough aïoli, and came with a cupful of French-fries, not quite matchstick, and a cup of tomato catsup.
Local wines by the glass: Balletto Pinot gris, 2009, austere; Seghesio Zinfandel, 2009, deep but forward

• French Garden Restaurant, 8050 Bodega Avenue, Sebastopol; (707) 824-2030

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Toast; Tea; Nuts.

Eastside Road, August 24, 2011—
THAT WAS IT TODAY: toast with the morning coffee; tea; the handful of nuts.

Tomorrow, dinner in a roadhouse; the weekend, Chez Panisse's Fortieth. Fasting seems particularly appropriate today.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Neighbors, friends

Eastside Road, —
THE ONLY THING BETTER than eating every day is eating ordinarily with friends and family. This was one of those evenings. We took a sirloin roast from our son's Highland steer, a few bottles of wine, and a bowl of mulberries down the hill to our neighors — who are, in fact, our daughter and son-in-law. There too were a couple of friends visiting from the Netherlands.

So, for dinner, first, Padrones peppers, quick-fried in olive oil and salt; then the serious dinner: aïoli with green beans, peppers, and tomatoes; salmon from Alaska; the sirloin from Paolo (both of those grilled over charcoal). No bread! No green salad! We'll manage, I'm sure.
“Adelaide,” Rousanne/Grenache Blanc (Paso Robles), 2007; Marsannay Rosé, 2009; Barbera, Louis Preston (Dry Creek Valley), 2008; Carignane, Louis Preston (Dry Creek Valley), 2008;
• Place, address; tel.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Eastside Road, August 22, 2011—
sa lmon.jpgAS A GENERAL RULE we eat our salmon on Saturday, having bought it that morning from Dave the fisherman, at the farmers' market in town. Saturday and Sunday, though, we ate out, as you'll have seen. Lindsey put Saturday morning's salmon purchase in the freezer, and broiled it tonight.

Freezing the fish definitely affected its texture. It was as if the fish were somehow more detached than usual, less involved with its primary duty, pleasing us. The flavor was just as good, I thought — perhaps a tiny bit stronger, but then it's late in the season, you expect that. The texture was okay, perhaps a little drier than I'd grown used to. It just seemed a little, I don't know, remote. It's hard writing about such things.

With the fish, to drive the elegiac note a little deeper, probably the last delicious lima beans of the season from Nancy's stall. They're so good: chest nutty in texture, grassy in color and on the palate, both garden-fresh and somehow wild-tasting, abandoned. I'll miss them this winter.

Then a melon, a melon just big enough for the two of us. When I was a kid there were only two melons, watermelon and cantaloupe. Oh, and something they called muskmelon, or muskmelon: though they always seemed like another name for cantaloupe, perhaps at a different stage of ripeness. Later came the green-fleshed melons, and the honeydews, and later still the Crane and crenshaw; finally the heavenly Charentais. Now there's something called Tuscan melon: but it seems like a cantaloupe to me. I like it, whatever it is.
Pinot grigio, La Famiglia (Monterey), 2009 (clean, good varietal, dry, very pleasant)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Day at the Races

Eastside Road, August 21, 2011—
WE ALL SIN from time to time, so let's keep three things in mind: sin infrequently; don't hurt others; be cheerful about it.

Today we spent the afternoon at the racetrack. It was Dollar Day Sunday, so we bought ten dollar's worth of wooden tokens good for sodas, beers, and hot dogs. At a dollar apiece there was no way to consume all ten, of course: I had two hot dogs, Lindsey had one, we each had two beers. The hot dogs were small bland cereal-laden things on small bland white steamed buns; we helped ourselves to mustard from the pump-containers, and pickle relish spooned out from big containers. The beer was Miller's Light, little more than water.
 hot dog.jpg

Once home again, Lindsey confessed she'd planned to have hot dogs tonight in front of the television, because her Cubs were playing the Cardinals. So we went ahead with the project in the spirit of scientific comparison. Niman-Schell frankfurters are better than those things at the track; broiling them is better than steaming them; Downtown Bakery's buns are better than the track had provided; Lou Preston's sauerkraut is the perfect condiment, along with a bit of mustard and some sliced raw onion.
Pinot noir, Fritz (Russian River Valley), 2009

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Birthday dinner

Eastside Road, August 20, 2011—
carbonara.jpgA PERFECT BIRTHDAY, doing just what I wanted to do. Fine cappuccinos for breakfast, made with the beans I roast myself. Green beans and cherry tomatoes from the Farmers' Market for lunch.

Dinner with old friends at another Italian restaurant, quite a contrast with last night's, but still with a Roman flavor. I began with this spaghetti carbonara, only slightly revisionist (bits of chopped parsley, a hint of lemon), and featuring good Parmesan and pancetta. Afterward, Costole di manzo, braised short ribs with garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus spears — out of season, you'd think, but remarkably good.

What? Oh: seventy-six.
Pinot Grigio, Lagaria (Venezie), 2008; Aglianico, Epicuro (Campania), 2007
Risibisi, 154 Petaluma Boulevard North, Petaluma; (707) 766-7600

Testaccio in San Francisco

San Francisco, August 19, 2011—
MY FAVORITE CUISINE, it will come as no surprise, is Italian — but that's not very specific, is it? It used to be that “Italian,” in the USA at any rate, was largely pasta, tomatoes, and garlic. Gradually we became aware of a distinction to be drawn between “Northern Italian” and simply “Italian.” More recently the amazing complex of regional Italian cuisines has become known. (The best introduction to the subject that I know of remains Ada Boni's Italian Regional Cooking, published most recently by Bonanza, I think.)

Well, I love all those regions. It's partly a weather thing, partly geographical, partly the mood. Each has its reasons for being the best. Last night we were in a restaurant I think of as Sicilian, because the owners are apparently from that magical island: but a glance at the menu revealed a strong Roman orientation, and I love cocina Romana too, especially for pastas and meat.

baccala.jpgAfter quite a good Martini at the bar, since it was Friday night after all, we sat down with a couple of friends and tucked in. Lindsey and I split a baccalà mantecata, not at all alla Veneto though properly whipped with olive oil and served on nice garlicky toast, and a supplí al telefono, tomato risotto croquettes with mozzarella; and then I went on to coda alla vaccinara, oxtail stewed in tomato, pancetta, and celery, with sautéed escarole on the side, and oh sweet Epicurus it was delicious; it took me right back to Testaccio, the Roman quarter specializing in rich, deep, meditative preparations of meat.
Alcamo Bianco, Firriato (Tràpani, Sicilia), 2009 (bone-dry, minerals, serious); Frappato, Tenuta del Nanfro ’09 (Sicilia)(forthcoming, fruity but reserved, solid)
54 Mint, 16 Mint Plaza, San Francisco; tel. 415.543.5100

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Indonesia, I guess…

Eastside Road, August 18, 2011—
YESTERDAY THE SUBCONTINENT, tonight the archipelago. Gradually we work our way home, I hope.
bach 1.jpeg
Tonight it was these noodles — made with fusilli, in fact — a little too peanutty and not enough otherwise, I thought. But before that,tomatoes.jpg tomatoes with Green Goddess dressing, a family favorite for these forty years and more. (Giovanna just wrote about them over at her blog.) The tomatoes are finally worth eating, and the dressing made them special — it always makes me think of dear Marion, and of James Beard, and the gentility of the 1950s, and all that.
Rosé, La Ferme Julien, 2009; Pinot noir, Fritz (Russian River Valley), 2009 (a little sweet, rather more alcohol than I like in this varietal, but good fruit, clean, and good structure, as I think they say)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cumin-Scented Chickpeas and Spinach with Basmati Rice

Eastside Road, August 17, 2011—
photo-8.JPGI HAVE NO IDEA where she found the recipe. I could look for it on the Internet, but so could you: just paste the title above into the search box and you'll probably find it. And the funny thing is, not two days ago I was assuring my friend Bhishma how little regard I have for rice, and here it was, and I enjoyed it.

Basmati, water, olive oil, onion, cumin, salt, chickpeas, lemon zest, spinach leaves; to these stipulated ingredients Lindsey added half a teaspoon of gram masala because, well, it was on hand. Cook the rice the usual way;sauté the vegetables; add the lemon zest and spinach; portion out the rice; top with the vegetables. Simple.
Rosé, La Ferme Julien (Côtes de Ventoux), 2009: our everyday cheap rosé, dry but fruity


Healdsburg, August 16, 2011—
A GIBASSIER (hooray!). A handful of nuts. Then, two bowls of strawberries, with chunks of a fine peach. It's not easy to fast in summer.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sausage and potato salad

Eastside Road, August 15, 2011—
THE SAUSAGE WAS SWEET Italian, and nothing exceptional except that it came from Franco, so it was very good indeed. Lindsey simply grilled it in a heavy iron skillet on top of the stove.

With it, tonight, an exercise in nostalgia, and in retrouver les temps passées: a combination of potatoes, onion, tarragon and vinegar that Lindsey's mother Agnes used to come up with. We don't know where she got the idea; perhaps it was traditional in her Wisconsin Bavarian-and-Alsatian family. Lindsey cubed the potatoes and steamed them, then tossed them with sliced sweet white onions, letting the heat of the potatoes pretend to cook them ever so gently. Tarragon-infused white vinegar, salt, maybe a little pepper. Delicious. A few green beans on the side.

The green salad was different tonight: walnut oil, not olive oil; and so a minced raw shallot, not garlic, in the vinaigrette. We'll have some fruit a little later…
Nero d'Avola, Epicurio, 2009

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Eastside Road, August 14, 2011—
moules.jpgSUNDAY BRUNCH IS AN unusual event in this household, but if they were all like this one I could get used to it. First of all it was a splendid morning: warm, still, fragrant; perfect for sitting on a terrace under an umbrella. What a pleasure, to eat civilly while wearing a hat!

Then too we were brunching with a favorite couple of friends, who were just as pleased as we were. I started out with a Negroni, quite refreshing with its orange zest. Then a nice bowl of mussels in Pernod sauce, continuing a vaguely Nizzese theme, with a fresh butter-lettuce salad on the side; and for dessert a far Breton, a kind of plum clafoutis, a favorite dessert of mine, one that resists description. I must say, the meal was thoroughly professional, beautifully conceived and executed.
House white
French Garden Restaurant, 8050 Bodega Ave., Sebastopol; 707.824.2030

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Salmon, of course

Eastside Road, —
LOOK: IT'S MARKET DAY IN Healdsburg, and it's summer: obviously we'll have salmon for dinner. We get it, as I've written here before, from Dave The Fish Guy, who actually fishes for the salmon off the Sonoma county coast, when he's not reading how-to books about writing fiction. Dave is in fact a very interesting guy, with backgrounds in areas you're more likely to be interested in than to know about: but that will have to wait for another day.

Drinks with padrones peppers from the francophiles of Chalk Hill. The salmon, broiled in the oven because I was too busy with other things, once again, to light a fire in the grill. Delicious broad beans from Nancy Skall's Middleton Gardens. Green salad from my own garden. I love Saturdays.
Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, Armento, 2009 (fresh, simple)

Duck breast

Eastside Road, August 12, 2011—
DARK POULTRY MUST BE among my favorite things. Roast goose. Braised guinea hen. Duck breast.
Finding ourselves in San Francisco at early supper-time — no point hitting the freeway at that hour; we'd just be crawling — we stopped in at a French restaurant we've been meaning to try. I was immediately pleased to find “Bouillabaisse” on the menu, just like that, in quotes: it's a purée, not a traditional bouillabaisse, the waiter explained; and when I pursued the matter further, he disclosed that there was no shellfish in it at all, with or without legs: no bivalves, no arthropods.

In other words, fish soup. When we asked why they didn't just call it fish soup, he explained that that wouldn't seem French. When it arrived, I was happy to see a perfectly authentic soup de poissons, a reddish-orange bisque with a crouton covered with rouille decorated with a few threads of saffron. I'd been hungering for fish soup for weeks and here it was: and it was tasty.

I ordered a duck-breast salad Lyonnaise, with poached egg, but the waiter and I misunderstood one another and what came instead was a duck entrée, costlier and fruitier than I'd wanted. An honest misunderstanding, though, so I accepted it, swept the fruit aside from the careful presentation, took this photo, and dug in. I understand the point of sweet fruit with duck, but feel it unnecessary; still, this was a well-balanced dish. The spinach was beautifully cooked (in butter), and the little corn-based pancake was fun.
Rosé, Château d'Esclans Domaines (Provence): okay, a little sweet, light (Chez Spencer's list is on the costly side)
Chez Spencer, 82 14th Street, San Francisco; 415.864.2191

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Eastside Road, August 11, 2011—
fusilli.jpgEXTRUDED PASTA arrives in different shapes for several reasons, one better, in my opinion, than the rest: they are engineered, or have evolved, to respond differently to the different sauces, toppings, or garnishes put to them. Tubes, ridges, spirals, butterflies, shells — all have slightly different ways of holding, or containing, or carrying their sauces, whether those sauces are fluid, or tacky, or grainy. Flat tagliarini are perfect for a creamy velouté; penne rigate hold a liquid tomato sauce particularly well.

I've always like the way fusilli deals with the delicious anchovy-garlic-chopped parsley sauce Lindsey makes so well, and that's what we had tonight, after a first course of buttered broad beans, and before the nearly obligatory green salad. In this deceptively simple pasta course you taste the flour, the olive, the fish, the sea, and the garden. I don't know why it's not one of the Hundred Plates: but you have to draw the line somewhere.
Nero d'Avola, Epicuro, 2009 (big, soft)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Soup and salad

Eastside Road, August 10, 2011—
ONE OF THE STANDARD FALL-BACKS when it's too hot, or for some reason you just don't feel like anything complicated: soup and salad. Today was funny: very hot, hot enough you just wanted a Pernod at the end of the afternoon; then, while drinking the Pernod, it turned chilly.

We were happy to make do with packaged tomato-pepper soup and a big green salad with lettuce from my garden again. Later there'll be fruit; the place is overflowing with it.
Rosé, La Ferme Julien (Luberon), 2009

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Eastside Road, August 9, 2011—
salad.jpgGREEN SALAD, OF COURSE: how often do I type that late at night, I wonder. Virtually every day. It was almost the entire meal tonight, along with the last of the pan bagnat. My own lettuce is about ready to cut, but tonight we finished the last of a head we bought a few days ago in town, a nice butter lettuce speckled here and there — it's so nice when you get close to the center of the head. We filled it out with the last of the packaged arugula from the other day. Next week I've got to plant some arugula and some more lettuce!

The dressing was the usual: run a clove of garlic through the press, mash it up with sea salt using a dinner fork, cover it with olive oil and let that stand. At the last minute, whisk in the vinegar — we're still using vinegar from a jar of pickled sour cherries — and toss it all. Remember what the Italians say: four people to make a salad — generous man for the oil, miser for the vinegar, judge for the salt, maniac for tossing.
Rosé, La Ferme Julien (Luberon), 2009

Monday, August 8, 2011

Another goat

Eastside Road, August 8, 2011—
WE WERE HERE four months ago, and here we are again: roast goat at Monti's. What I said then
That's what I had, of course; who could resist it? We started by splitting a romaine salad — Caesar salad missing the anchovies and raw egg. L. went on to sole amandine, which is okay, but I wanted the goat. It came with a sort of raita, sautéed peppers and onions, and "chickpea fries," what I would call panisse sticks: very tasty. And an enormous hunk of tzatziki, a thick flatbread.
was largely true again today, except a Sidecar instead of salad, and the tzatziki is the yoghurt-based sauce I referred to as raita before. Oh well.
Pinot noir, MacMurray Ranch, 2009 (pleasant, forthcoming, and rather complex; but short on the finish)
Monti's, 714 Village Court, Santa Rosa; 707.568.4404

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Next Door

Oakland, California, August 7, 2011—
A PLEASANT PIANO RECITAL here at four o'clock, but where to have dinner afterward, on a Sunday night? We turn to Open Table to find out what's available, and are quickly reminded of a place we've been meaning to give a try.

We start out with a platter of nicely salted French fries with lemon-flavored aïoli while waiting for a couple of friends — it goes well with a Sidecar — and then I tuck into grilled skirt steak, perfectly calculated to rare, with cranberry beans and erbette chard and a strip of salsa verde to give a little point to the dish.

Afterward, cheese: an herbcrusted goat civetta from Piemonte. Very nice, with nuts, dark bread, and delicious red-wine-soaked dried figs.
Négrette, Château le Roc, "La Folle Noire d'Ambat" (Côtes de Frontonnais), 2009 (dark, sober, dry, correct)
À Côté, 5478 College Ave., Oakland; (510) 655-6469

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Farm Day

Eastside Road, August 6, 2011—
FARM DAY IN DRY CREEK, at Preston Vineyards: a tour of the fields and groves, a workshop in the blending of wines, and then a fine meal prepared by a man I consider to be a real artist and a master chef, Mateo Granados.

Granados has mastered the complex cuisine of his native Yucatan, a cuisine whose depth rivals that of India, with flavors ranging from bright to meditative, textures from crisp to grainy. But he is cooking in Sonoma county, and his philosophy is to use local produce — and to use all of whatever he's dealing with. Today he cooked a lamb and a pig, both raised at the vineyard; and he used all of the pig, so we had delicious headcheese and blood sausage as appetizers.


My plate was crowded, as you see. Huge helpings of the roast lamb and pig, very nicely done; two salsas involving tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, and cucumbers; lentils with chopped vegetables; beets; romaine with peaches — all from the Preston gardens. Tortillas, of course: we'd already dipped Lou Preston's masterly whole wheat bread — made from wheat he'd grown on site — in his equally first-rate olive oil.

I call Granados's kind of cooking Californio cuisine, Californio with an “O”: this is how we'd all be eating here, most every day, if those pesky Americanos hadn't stolen the state from Mexico all those years ago. Local, clean, organic, sustainable, interesting, nutritious, and best of all delicious.
Syrah, Preston Vineyards (of course), 2008 (barrel sample, and very sound and rewarding)
• Preston Vineyards, 9206 West Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg; CA 95448
Mateo Granados's pop-up restaurant will be in residence at Preston Vineyards Sept. 8 and 9: reservations, 707 837-0774 or email

Friday, August 5, 2011


Eastside Road, August 5, 2011—
AFTER A STRENUOUS DAY, in the course of which we climbed 1500 feet (and descended the same), and hiked maybe five miles altogether, we were tired and thirsty and hungry. Breakfast had been a soft-boiled egg and a slice of toast, with the cappuccinos. Lunch had been a handful of dried apricots and another of mixed nuts.

After the walk, an affogato for me, a hot fudge sundae for her, at Lala's in Petaluma: nice ice cream (not gelato), decent coffee. I'd go back.

Dinner: a good Martini, another hunk of yesterday's Pan Bagnat, and then what I'd been really hungering for: “wild” arugula, simply dressed with first good sea salt ground onto it from between thumb and first two fingers; then the juice of half a lemon from outside the kitchen door; then a generous drizzle of olive oil. I think this is the perfect salad.
Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, Armento, 2009

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pan bagnat

Eastside Road, August 4, 2011—
WHAT TO SAY ABOUT an extraordinary dinner like tonight's? It was so simple, so inexpensive, so fresh, so colorful, so nutritious, so unusual yet so absolutely simple yet, I'm aware of it, so unattainable to so many.

Image 9.jpgI'd been hungering for a pan bagnat. Yesterday I picked up a good-sized loaf of ”Italian country“ bread in town at The Bakery (intimates will know what bakery I mean); today we stopped at a local farm stand and bought a few tomatoes. I had basil in the garden, and there is always fine canned tuna and anchovies in the pantry, and onions of course. Olive oil, too. Lindsey cut the loaf in half horizontally and lengthwise, drizzled olive oil on the cut surfaces, then chopped all the other stuff together, with salt and pepper and garlic, and laid it on the basil leaves on the bottom half of the loaf. Then she put the top half on and weighted the whole thing down with a nest of black iron skillets for a few hours. The taste took me right back to le Comté de Nice. Clearly this is one of the Hundred Plates.

(I noticed Lindsey's copy of The Cuisine of the Sun, that great cookbook by the late Mireille Johnston [New York: Random House, 1976] on the kitchen worktable: I bet she consulted it for some reason, though I'm sure she could have made this in her sleep.)

We had some broad beans with this, as you see, and the customary green salad afterward, with some arugula leaves in it, and the sour cherry pickling vinegar that gives so much flavor. And then dessert!
Image 8.jpgStrawberries from the same farm stand, and deep mysterious chthonic Persian mulberries from our tree, which this year is producing in quantity — I picked a pint or so in no time at all. I can think of no finer fruit than mulberries, unless it's apricots, or dates, or figs, or white nectarines, or … but, truly, these mulberries are fabulous. We planted the tree thinking we would have a chicken yard; the landscape consultant said chickens really appreciate a mulberry tree, you really ought to plant one. We never did get chickens; they require too much attention. All the mulberry tree wants is a little water now and then, and attention at picking time.

Rosé, of course

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

More fruit than fast

Eastside Road, August 3, 2011—
IT ISN'T EASY to follow the fast we'd chosen, not in the summertime. Not because we're hungry all the time: hot weather has a way of lessening appetite, even if you're working out a bit. But because there's all this delicious fruit to be eaten. Peaches, melons, blackberries…

We're blessed or cursed, depending on how you look at it, with all these blackberry bushes. When I was a kid the whole family used to go out berrying once a week in season; I remember picking berries into a three-gallon milk bucket. Of course you didn't pick it completely full, but still: two gallons times four pickers, that's a lot of berries. Pie, jam, and canned berries for the winter.

Here I'm content to pick a pint or so at a time, and even then we don't always keep up. I last picked on Sunday; here it is Wednesday. The berries we had tonight had been in the refrigerator all this time, yet they were just beginning to ferment — you could definitely taste the alcohol. That's another thing we set aside on these fast days, alcohol: but when you eat fresh fruit, you take your chances…

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Farmer's omelet

Eastside Road, August 2, 2011—
TOO MANY EGGS in the refrigerator; time to crack a few. Lindsey cooked some potatoes in the big black cast iron skillet, added spinach and leftover broad beans, salt and pepper and a little garlic, and it was good. Before, raw cauliflower to dip into chopped oregano and salt; after, a fine ripe Galia melon and a couple of squares of — yes! — dark chocolate.
Rosé, La Ferme Julien, 2009

Monday, August 1, 2011

Eating alone

Eastside Road, August 1, 2011—
I CAN'T RECALL WHEN I was last alone at dinner. Last August, I suppose, when I was hospitalized for a few days. Does that count? Probably not.

But tonight L.'s at a ball game with the girls, and I knew better than to horn in. So I drove in to town to shop a little. Arugula was on my mind; I haven't had a nice plate of arugula for two months. But the store I went to didn't have any. Well, then, what the hell, I thought: I'll buy a can of spinach.

I dearly love canned spinach. The love of canned spinach is one of my few endearing qualities. I mean, how many people like canned spinach, let alone mention it? But the flavor's one of my favorites, and I very very rarely get to taste it; it seems no one else is interested. The perfect thing for bachelor dinner night.

But then I thought, gee, maybe canned spinach isn't really good for me. Who knows what they may put in there. And there were these cute little bunches of organic fresh spinach, and they cost less. So I took one home, rinsed half of it, and steamed it in a little water just long enough to warm it — and, in the process, render it nearly invisible: I'd forgotten how spinach cooks down to nothing.

With it, the last of those penne from yesterday and, before yesterday, Thursday; and a slice of ciabatta, toasted, rubbed with garlic, drizzled with olive oil, and salted. Dessert? Why not another piece of ciabatta, toasted, rubbed with garlic, drizzled with olive oil, and salted?
Aglianico, Epicuro, 2008


Eastside Road, July 31, 2011—
TOO MANY THINGS TO DO outside to give much thought to dinner: let's just see what's in the refrigerator. Ah, penne in tomato sauce, from Thursday! Good thing there was too much to eat that night!

In fact it holds perfectly well, and if the penne are a little less al dente, the sauce has gained in depth of flavor. The mushrooms say more, for example. Green salad.
Aglianico, Epicuro, 2008