Monday, January 31, 2011


Eastside Road, January 31, 2011—
WHEN I WAS A BOY it was not considered food for humans. We grew kale in the garden strictly for the chickens, and for years I persisted in believing that kale was the chicken's favorite food. Perhaps it is; I haven't really researched this; but in fact I believe chickens like insects, especially soil-living insects, more than anything else in the world.

Both L. and I have grown kale from time to time. Sometimes when the weather's right kale will live over from one year to the next; L. grew some that attained the stature of small trees, and harvested the leaves one by one. They were enormous.

It was our friend Kees who woke us up to kale, years ago, in 1976 I think, when he cooked up a mess of boerkool. Since then I've loved it: chickens, fend for yourselves.

Tonight L. cooked up a pot of kale from the store. Kale, salt, crushed garlic, olive oil: that's all you need, that and a little time, a little more perhaps than she gave it, as she was the first to point out.

Afterward, jambalaya left over from last night. Man, that was good.
Syrah, Lagranja 360, Cariñena, 2009: young and friendly.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Eastside Road, January 30, 2011—
A FEW WEEKS AGO, okay, maybe a few months ago, our daughter brought us a package of smoked andouille sausages from New Orleans. They went into the freezer to await the right occasion.

The right occasion turned out to be tonight. We had the other daughter to dinner, and E. too of course, and L. found a recipe on the Internet somewhere and wrote it out,
and we found some sushi-type rice at the supermarket, and the other things at our usual organic shop, and Bob's you uncle.

We started with Sazeracs: Redemption rye whiskey — who can resist such easy redemption? — and Herbesaint and Peychaud bitters, of course. And then the jambalaya, hot and piquant and stick-to-your-ribs.

Afterward, the regulation green salad; and then a dessert, bananas Foster
bananas flamed in rum (because we could thankfully find no banana liqueur in our local liquor store), with vanilla ice cream.
Mourvedre, Preston of Dry Creek, 2008: mature, subtle, rich

Saturday, January 29, 2011

American country bistro

Eastside Road, January 29, 2011—
A TYPICAL FRENCH BISTRO in San Francisco yesterday; a typical California bistro in a tiny Sonoma county village today. In fact, it's a bar with an attached dining room whose ambience is, well, plain. Saturday night: lots of locals at the bar, drinking mostly beers. We ate early, so I don't really know how full the dining room got.

The bar's been in town for close to a century, maybe more. Big room, bar on one side, a couple of pool tables; dining room off to the right. The whole place reminded me of my two-room country grammar school, with more interesting Not much of a kitchen: four burners and a breadboard, oven out of sight. Menu's on a blackboard — an ardoise, as last night's bistro had it — on the wall. You order from the cook, grab a Martini at the bar, and go into the side road to sit at a plain table. The cook brings your dinner.

And what a nice dinner! We went because we've followed this chef, Mark Malicki, for years, from one restaurant to another, usually his own. I'm not sure why he's surfaced out in this remote village, but I'm glad to eat his cooking again. I opened with a variation on "steak tartare with all the fixings," a molded tartare with the capers and onion already integrated — and, oddly but not unpleasantly, pomegranate seeds, lending a healthful touch. The meat, I learned after dinner, was a locally raised veal — actually probably a yearling, what we always called "baby beef" when I was a boy. It sat next to a pool of tasty horseradish cream, and there were plenty of house-made potato chips on the side.

duck.jpgNext came duck again, because I'm in a duck mood these cold days. This was duck breast, beautifully rare, on a bed of big white shell beans and potatoes and kale, with currants. I could happily have had a double order.

Bodega's Casino is a roadhouse, and we decided, the four of us — we ate with a couple of old friends — that we should visit a local roadhouse every three weeks or so. I think it's a nice New Year's project. There are plenty of them around. But I imagine we'll be back here before too many months are out.
Zinfandel, Ravenswood "Vintners Blend", 2008
Casino Bar & Grill, 17000 Bodega Hwy, Bodega, California; tel. 707-876-3185

Friday, January 28, 2011


Eastside Road, January 28, 2011—
WHO DOESN'T LOVE BISTRO? There's something so satisfying about bistro fare: meaty, succulent, often slow-cooked, utterly urbane yet unpretentious. And with enough history behind it to make it clear when you're getting something authentic, the real deal, or when you're just dealing with wannabes.

Tonight's experience was authentic. We looked at the menus, looked at each other, and ordered identically: a butter-lettuce salad with a couple of white Spanish anchovies, sparked up with very discreet bits of pimento pepper and dressed with smoked olive oil and a hint of mustard; then duck-leg confit with pommes Landaises, thick-sliced potatoes fried in duck fat. The food was delicious; the room is warm and inviting; the service professional and relaxed. I'd go back in a minute.
Côtes du Rhone
• L'Ardoise, 151 Noe Street, San Francisco; tel. 415.437.2600

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Back to leftovers

Eastside Road, January 27, 2011—
MOZART'S BIRTHDAY WAS NO occasion for a feast today, not after last night's celebration. (Old friend visiting from New York.) Instead, it was back to leftovers, and why not? The rest of last night's delicious roast potatoes, with some green beans and shallots; then some penne in nonbolognese (those porcini are really quite remarkable animals); then the end of the hash from the other day. Only the green salad was made from scratch today. I'm not complaining.
Peñasol (60% Tempranillo, 40% Garnacha), Viñedos de España, NV — 12.5% alcohol, a little soda-poppy (maybe Constanza would've liked it)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pork chops

Eastside Road, January 26, 2011—
CURIOUS THING: this is a favorite dinner of ours; we used to have it five or six times a year; yet it's years since last we made it. Here's what you do:

In a mortar, crush raw peeled garlic cloves (perhaps previously crushed) with a good quantity of whole fennel seeds and some salt. Cover the resulting paste, which will be coarse, with olive oil.

You salted the pork chops when you got them home, right? And refrigerated them loosely wrapped in their butcher-paper until time to broil them?

Get them out of the icebox, spread one side with half the fennel paste, and broil until that side's done. Turn them, spread the other side with the remaining paste, and broil until done.

Sometimes I sprinkle the chops with lemon juice before spreading on the fennel paste; last night I forgot.

I don't know where the recipe came from. We've made it for years: I recognize the label-paper and calligraphy on the fennelseed jar from the time I was studying calligraphy informally with David; that would be in the early 1960s. As to what what this is called, I suppose it's a kind of fennelseed pesto, but that would be misleading. It's delicious on pork, broiled or roasted.

With it, we had these oven-roasted potatoes with a few whole cloves of garlic, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Green salad, of course.
Cheap Pinot grigio

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Tuesday fast

Eastside Road, January 25, 2011—
TWO CAPPUCCINOS in the morning; a handful of mixed nuts at night; a few glasses of water in between.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Eastside Road, January 24, 2011—
BECAUSE TO MY WAY of thinking Bolognese, which is surely one of the Hundred Plates, absolutely must involve carrot, though only a little bit; and tonight's sauce, one of L's triumphs in frugal resourcefulness, was innocent of roots. She'd cunningly reserved a bit of the ground beef bought for yesterday's hamburgers, and browned it with chopped onion, while soaking up a cup or so of dried porcini. (Our pantry can supply wonderful things.)

The softened porcini and their liquor went into the browned meat, along with a tablespoonful or so of tomato paste, a spray or two of rosemary, some crushed garlic, salt and pepper, a bay leaf or two, and some leftover pastasauce from last week. Delicous on tonight's penne, and who needs car rot? Green salad, of course.
Nero d'Avola

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Eastside Road, January 23, 2011—
hamburger.jpgVERY RARELY, but now and then, we get a yen for a good old-fashioned hamburger. I was a little surprised by this one: January's not the usual month for one. But L. brought home some ground beef, Niman Ranch I imagine, and buns from the Downtown Bakery, and I fired up some charcoal.

Not enough, of course, as was inevitably pointed out to me; so I finished them in a black iron frying pan. Sliced onion, mustard, tomato catsup. The year's first zucchini, sweated in oil with some red-pepper flakes. A green salad.
Nero d'Avola

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Eastside Road, January 22, 2011—
LINDSEY CONTINUES TO FIND things to make from leftovers; Fortunatus's icebox doesn't let us down. Tonight it was a hash, made from leftover steak from who knows when, with three potatoes, and onion of course, and tomato catsup; and a green salad afterward. And, I think, still to come, the last of this delicious Devil's food cake…
Carminère, Panilonco, Colchagua Valley (Chile), 2008

Friday, January 21, 2011


Eastside Road, January 21, 2011—
A VERY LIGHT SUPPER tonight, since L. had her "principal meal" at midday, out with the girls. I had twice the normal allotment of mixed nuts — two handfuls — with the Friday Martini, and then went on to a two-egg omelet. I cook them in olive oil, not butter, ever since seeing that marvelous closing scene in The Big Night.

(Notice that it's just three eggs and a little olive oil, for two (admittedly skinny) Italian guys and, a little later, a third. Oh: and bread, of course. And notice that the bread is eaten a little at a time, the right hand tearing off bits from the piece the left hand is holding. And notice the dialogue: Hai fame? — "Are you hungry?" — and then, minutes later, Grazie. Other than that, and the sound of whisking and flipping and serving, silence. What a great movie ending.)

So, anyway, a two-egg omelet for me, two eggs, oil, a pinch of salt, bread. A green salad. And a forkful of Robiola "Tre Latti" that I read about the other day, and thought I'd try, and I'm glad I did.

Maybe later another piece of that devil's food cake.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Black and white

Eastside Road, January 20, 2011—
WHEN IT ARRIVED it took me quite aback: stark contrast of black and white, the familiar rice submissive, almost cowering, next to the glossy impassive bulk that dominated the plate.

This is truly a mole negro, and the words are Spanish, not English. An authentic Mexican mole — pronounced MO-lay, without that final "y" — is a deep and obscure thing; the extensive article at Wikipedia will give you some idea of its history and complexities. I made a mole once, years ago, and may again one day: but the recipe — I think it was from Rick Bayless's book — was extremely complicated and time-consuming.

I don't know how authentic today's was, but it was good. The owner of this unassuming, friendly, spotless,shopping-center Healdsburg restaurant is from Oaxaca, a center of the mole tradition (Puebla and Tlaxcala are its two rivals, for mole like cassoulet has three birthplaces), so perhaps this is close to truth.

The menu description is reticent: "…sauce made of many dried chiles, herbs, spices, almonds, chocolate and other secret ingredients." The chicken breast is meaty and, to my taste, a bit overcooked. But the sauce is deep, dark, secret, rich, with chile and chocolate in balance, with lots of body, and I'm glad to promote it to the Hundred Plates, and I'll be back for more.
House red wine
Agave Mexican Restaurant and Tequila Bar, 1063 Vine Street, Healdsburg; tel. 707-433-2411

ONCE HOME, for supper later on, nothing needed but a dish of broccoli and chili flakes, a good tossed salad, and a slice of delicious devil's food cake. Well, a small glass of Scotch whisky afterward doesn't hurt.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Three-course dinner

Eastside Road, January 19, 2011—
TONIGHT WE RETURNED to last Sunday's dinner, starting with the rest of the jar of eggplant tapenade, still delicious, perhaps more so for its accompanying broccoli with red pepper flakes. Then the remainder of those Corona beans, dressed as L. pointed out the other day with shallots, marjoram, and oil, and little shreds of fennel-stems. Green salad, of course; soon the present vinegar supply will be exhausted, and I'll have to look for more out by the workshop.
Cheap Pinot grigio; Carminère, Panilonco, Colchagua Valley (Chile), 2008

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Eastside Road, January 18, 2011—

Sea Salt

Eastside Road, January 17, 2011—
BACK DOWN TO BERKELEY today to inform a new enthusiasm: roasting our own coffee, at home. Berkeley's Slow Food chapter was giving a seminar on the subject, taught by a barista at the Local 123 coffeehouse on San Pablo Avenue. He explained the differences between Central American, Brazilian, Ethiopian, Yemeni, and Sumatran coffees (and, of more interest, the reasons for those differences; the processes (with water, without water) by which the harvested "cherries" are divested of flesh and reduced to coffee beans; various sources of the green beans (Sweet Maria's emerged as his favorite); and then demonstrated the method of roasting small batches of green coffee beans at home, using an electric popcorn popper.

T. has been doing this for a number of months, and gave me a popper and a few packages of green beans for Christmas; I've been roasting our coffee at home ever since. Not as assiduously as she; I'm not as detail-oriented: that's why I haven't reported on this yet; I haven't been taking notes properly. But I can say the result is delicious; we're as happy with our home roasts as we were previously with Blue Bottle and Extracto, and the green beans are considerably less expensive. I'll try to report further on this soon.

Since the seminar started at seven, we dined locally early at a nearby seafood specialist I've been curious about for some time. There I had as entrée a pan-seared Arctic char, slightly overdone I thought, nicely flavored, with a side dish of long-cooked greens that were complex and delicious but a little sandy (presumably from the recent rains: that can happen, but shouldn't). T. was happy with her sardines and broccoli rabe.
Chardonnay, Cuvaison (Napa Valley), 2009 (half bottle): bright, good varietal, not too much oak
Sea Salt, 2512 San Pablo Ave. Berkeley; tel. 510-883-1720
• Local 123, 2049 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley; tel. (510) 647-5270

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mangiamo all'italiano

Eastside Road, January 16, 2011—
SUNDAY EVENING: let's have something especially tasty. Lindsey found a jar of "Caviar d'Aubergine aux Pignons" we bought last October at the Salone del Gusto. Made by Le Clos de Laure, it contains eggplant, white onions, anchovies, capers, pine nuts, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and it was very tasty as a first course, spread on garlic-rubbed toast and accompanied by raw fennel. Alas, we bought only a small jar: maybe we'll have to figure out how to make our own this summer.

Afterward, a salad of Corona beans, large flat white Lima-like beans which are named, according to, "after the luminescent halo of light that appears around the moon and sometimes the sun. The word crown is derived from the word corona, making the Corona bean the king of beans." It's only advertising, of course, but the beans are nearly as poetic as the copy, with the texture of chestnuts, a grassy sweetness to the flavor, and lots of meat.

Lindsey soaks them overnight or longer, then cooks them al dente, then, after cooling them, tosses them with olive oil, salt, chopped fennel-leaves if she has some, and chopped raw white onion. It is one of the Hundred Plates.

Green salad, of course.
Cheap Pinot grigio

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Back to pasta

Eastside Road, January 15, 2011—
MAN DOES NOT LIVE on beans alone; tonight we reverted to penne in tomato sauce, made in the usual way, Parmigiano grated over, green salad (and bread, of course) after. Then a little apple shortcake for dessert: L. keeps finding surprises in the freezer…
Carminère, Panilonco, Colchagua Valley (Chile), 2008

Friday, January 14, 2011


Eastside Road, January 14, 2011—
BACK DOWN TO Berkeley today — we know the road well — for lunch with a friend from Los Angeles, up in the Bay Area for only a few days. We decided to eat at Picante, which turned out to be a good choice. What's not to like about a lunch that begins with a Margarita?


After the chips and guacamole I had this pescado veracruzana, and was instantly reminded that this is something I used to cook fairly often when we lived in Berkeley, and could easily get good fish. Tilapia, in this case, probably farmed, but nice fish, dredged in flour and quickly cooked, with tomato-onion-olive salsa, rice and pinto beans, and yes that's a nice hot chile pepper on the beans, and a little cup of escabeche. Afterward, a chopped Caesar salad.
Sauvignon blanc

• Picante, 1328 Sixth Street, Berkeley; tel. (510) 525-3121

So back home on Eastside Road we needed nothing more than the last bowl of bean-and-barley soup — my; that's a lot of beans today — after the Friday Martini.


Eastside Road, January 13—
FAST: A HANDFUL of nuts.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bean soup

Eastside Road, January 12, 2011—
TO THOSE WHO'VE EXPRESSED concern about the food we liberate from our refrigerator, that Fortunatus's purse left us by Lindsey's mother (and left us empty, I hasten to add), I say, Never fear: Lindsey's quite capable of telling sound from spoiled. She is not like Ruth Reichl's mother, who nearly poisoned her father.

Tonight we had another installment of the bean-and-barley soup from last December 18, first revisited four days later. Tonight, as then, we floated garlic-rubbed toast on top and grated Parmesan cheese over. There's enough for one more meal, and it's nice these cold days.
Côtes du Rhône, Caves des Papes, 2009

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Comme d'autrefois

Berkeley, January 11, 2011—
LEADING UP TO ITS fortieth birthday, this August, Chez Panisse has undertaken forty weeks of menus inspired by forty of its — well, inspirers. The week between Christmas and New Year's was dedicated to Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock, for example: we weren't lucky enough to have eaten at the restaurant that week, but Scott was in town to preside over a private party, perhaps through no coincidence, and I reported on that a few days ago.

This week's devoted to Waverley Root, a favorite of mine. His books on the cuisines of France and Italy are brilliant, memorable, and useful. His memoir is amusing and telling. And his influence on Chez Panisse, while perhaps not as pervasive as that of, for example, Robert Courtine, is still present. Today's lunch menu in the café was attributed to his inspiration, and from it I ordered
Liberty Farm goose and pork terrine with pistachios, pickled vegetables, and mustard
Choux farci: grilled sausage wrapped in cabbage leaves with chanterelle mushrooms, thyme, and fried shoestring potatoes
and I could have sworn I was in a Paris bistro in the 1960s, except that never before have I had french-fries cut like tagliarini and re-fried. Brilliant.

I had already pretty well decided I wanted to stuff a Savoy cabbage one of these days soon: it's just cabbage, deconstructed, steamed, then reassembled with a farci of ground veal and such. When I get around to it I'll tell you more; and this time I'll look it up in Waverley Root before turning automatically to the Julia Child recipe I usually use.
Zinfandel: Green and Red (Napa county), 2008
• Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; tel. 510.548.5525

Since lunch was so substantial, dinner back home on Eastside Road was simply toast, rubbed with raw garlic, drizzled with oil, and sprinkled with salt, with some raw carrot.
Côtes du Rhône, Caves des Papes, 2009

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Last of the Salt Cod

Eastside Road, January 10, 2011—
ONE HOPES THAT'S NOT to be taken literally, of course — but some Easter Islander saw the last tree being cut down, and presumably one day someone will eat the last codfish; I only hope it will have been salted; discovered, then eaten, in a spirit of nostalgia, even sorrow.

But that's in the future. The one we finished tonight was a three-and-a-half-pounder, and it's seen us through, let's see, five dinners, the first served to two couples, not just us. You can see why salt cod was a staple for so many centuries, and why wars should have been fought over the fishing banks.
Before the cod we had a reprise of the onion-and-orange salad. It's a welcome dish in winter, when citrus is in season, red onions are still sound and solid, and the colors and piquant flavors are welcome on cold days. Slice 'em up, dress 'em with a little salt and olive oil; that's all you need.
Cheap Pinot grigio; the end of the Pinot noir, De Loach, Masút Vineyard (Redwood Valley, Mendocino county), 2007 (still graceful, true to varietal, beautifully made and balanced, though opened five days ago!)

The big news today eatingwise, though, was breakfast: an omelet from our friend Anandi's hens, one of whom is laying the most amazing doubleyolkers.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Eastside Road, January 9, 2011—
DOWN THE HILL TODAY for a family day: Sunday midday dinner, a two-mile walk at the pond, cheese and salad afterward.

T. made posole. She boiled up pork shoulder and pig's feet, shredded the meat off the bones, and cooked it with the hominy. There were bowls of chili powder, quartered limes, oregano, chopped cilantro, onions, and Savoy cabbage to strew over the posole, as we liked, and steaming hot tortillas.

After the salad aand cheese, the Christmas cookies — spritz, cloud, pfeffernüsse; chocolate truffles; Eve's salt caramels; pan pepato.
Rosé, Ramazzotti, 2009

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Back to the salt cod

Eastside Road, January 8, 2011—
A NORMAL DAY at home again: cappuccino and toast for breafast; almond butter on toast, celery, a banana for lunch. Saturday: a Martini with our mixed nuts.

Dinner? There's still some salt cod and potatoes, and I don't tire of it. A green salad, dressed with oil and vinegar from a quart jar of pickled sour cherries I put up years ago — the cherries may be gone, but the vinegar is delicious. And, atypically, a cup of cocoa before bed. It's a great life.
Cheap Pinot grigio

Friday, January 7, 2011

A little of this, a fair amount of that…

Eastside Road, January 7, 2011—
BACK DOWN TO THE CITY today, as we Bay Areans always refer to San Francisco, to visit some museum shows. A bit of pasta with duck ragout at a friend's press, where we dropped in for conversation: Andrew had made the ragout for a New Year's Eve dinner, and was using up the shreds. It's a delicious thing, duck ragout, and it reminds me to get a duck leg or two one of these days.

Then we stopped off for salads and a couple of samusas at a place we'd heard about on Clement Street. The chicken samusas were first-rate, filled with a dense shredded chicken-potato mixture and served with a piquant sauce. (Duck, of course, would have been even better.) I liked my simple salad: cabbage, lettuce, cucumber, onion, salt, vinegar. L's more complex salad, with all sorts of seeds, and chicken, and nuts, and fish sauce, seemed too busy; the oolong tea was delicious and bracing.
Burma Superstar, 309 Clement Street, San Francisco; tel. 415.387.2147

Dinner at a bistro new to us, suggested by the friends who joined us. We began with fine butter-lettuce salad with a parsley, chives, and scallions, and a nice, rather subtle mustard vinaigrette; we went on to grilled top sirloin steak served with french fries, a little bit of lightly bound spinach, and maître d'hôtel butter. Dessert was a redesigned tarte “Tatin,” on a crackerlike pastry round rather than tarte-pastry, but with first-rate apples nicely caramelized.

Chablis, Brocard “Vieille Vignes,” 2008 (tight at first, then opening into a soft, fruity, but still serious wine);
Cornas, Chave, 1988 (perfectly mature, ready for a few years more, beauitful garnet, tobacco and violets in the nose, full body, nice finish — thanks for bringing it, John!)
Bistro Aix, 3340 Steiner Street, San Francisco; tel. (415) 202-0100

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Meatballs and salt cod

Eastside Road, January 6, 2011—
A LITTLE BIT OF business in the nearby town of Petaluma this morning, and then a stroll about town, stopping for lunch at a local favorite — so well liked that another long community table had been added since our previous visit, and there were only two places to be had, next to a couple of strangers who soon became amiable acquaintances.

All we could desire, of course: so L. ordered an egg-salmon-tomato sandwich, good but a little too complicated she thought, and I had these fine Italian meatballs on polenta.


With them, a glass of Garnacha, details unremembered.

•Della Fattoria Downtown, 141 Petaluma Boulevard North, Petaluma; tel. 707-763-0161

Supper tonight was the rest of last night's salt cod, and now I can tell you the recipe, or at least steer you to it, for L. found it online. She notes that thick pieces of dried salt cod should be soaked for up to two days; even so, as mentioned yesterday, this casserole was too salty — you should soak the cod in changes of water until the water no longer tastes salty, think I.
Cheap Pinot grigio

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Salt cod

Eastside Road, January 5, 2011—
LOOK: IT WAS TOO salty; we all know that. The first taste set us on edge. But, I say, it's in the nature of salt cod to be salty. Not too salty, though, I'm sure L. thought. I soaked it a long time, she said. The other piece was nowhere near this salty, the end we had on Christmas Eve. This end must have been a lot thicker.

Doesn't matter, doesn't matter, doesn't matter. It was, of course, that adjective that shows up here almost every day, delicious. I don't know how L. makes this dish, and I'm not about to give a recipe here: it involves salt cod and potatoes, herbs, black olives and hardboiled eggs as you see, a parsley garnish. It's all good. It's one of the Hundred Plates.

Before it we relaxed, with a couple of friends over to dinner, with mixed nuts and a glass or two of white wine. After it we had green salad and cheese: D'affinois; a raw-milk Manchego, rather delicately pungent if that makes sense; and a salty Bleu d'Auvergne, a cheese I like a lot. We'd thought about fruit or such, but the hell with it: we're completely sated. Delicious dinner; delicious.
Sauvignon blanc, Burnside Road (Sonoma county), 2009 (earthy, clean, varietal but not grassy);
Chardonnay, Chalk Hill (Sonoma county), 2000 (absolutely true to varietal, not oaky, beautiful straw-brass color, solid);
Pinot noir, De Loach, Masút Vineyard (Redwood Valley, Mendocino county), 2007 (graceful, true to varietal, beautifully made and balanced)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Cucumber sandwiches

Eastside Road, January 4, 2011—
Why cucumber sandwiches? Why such reckless extravagance in one so young?
SINCE FIRST MAKING THE PLEASURABLE acquaintance of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest I have loved cucumber sandwiches. This is no great credit to my sophistication; the play's rarely unavailable, and cucumber sandwiches are particularly tasty.
[JACK puts out his hand to take a sandwich. ALGERNON at once interferes.]
Please don't touch the cucumber sandwiches.They are ordered specially for Aunt Augusta.
[Takes one and eats it.]
Some months ago I casually mentioned cucumber sandwiches at a friend's house, a friend with a grasp of details and a memory for one's likes; today she'd asked us over to tea, and there was a plate of cucumber sandwiches.

It may surprise you to read that I have my own way of making cucumber sandwiches: it is this: slice white bread fairly thin; remove the crusts (this is not extravagant: I always eat them furtively by myself, later); butter the bread not too thick; lay on watercress; then place the thin slices of cucumber, peeled of course; add a sprinkle of salt if the butter's not salted. For some reason the sandwiches are better if they've stood for a while: look out for Jack.
Have some bread and butter. The bread and butter is for Gwendolen. Gwendolen is devoted to bread and butter.
And in fact there's nothing wrong with bread and butter.

Today's sandwiches were made differently: no watercress; cream cheese in the place of butter; grainy brown bread. This variation was startling, but tasty; ditto the clementine cake we had afterward, a sort of pound-cake with bits of tangerine in it. I'll fast Thursday, I guess.

Date cake and potatoes

Eastside Road, January 3, 2011—
SINCE IT IS NOT possible to entertain with something new tonight, our having dined precisely as we did yesterday — on brasato, potatoes, green salad, and date cake — let me enlarge a little on the details.

I've already explained how the brasato is made. As often as I've mentioned Lindsey's steam-sautéed potatoes, though, I think I've never described the technique. She cleans but does not peel them, always choosing the waxy variety rather than the russet; she dices them into say half-inch pieces; she cooks them in a heavy pot with a little water and a little olive oil, salt and pepper; when tender, she mashes them up with the wooden spoon. We generally use a heavy cast-iron enameled pot with a heavy lid.

The date cake came from a book I hadn't noticed before on the bottom shelf of what I think of as The Working Cookbooks, America Cooks: the General Federation of Women's Clubs Cookbook. Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons (1967), this “grand compilation of all those little cookbooks from the church women and girl scouts,” as zeegeezer describes it on librarything, was edited by Anne Seranne, whose name can be trusted. (She was among other things an editor at Gourmet. Lindsey bought the book back in 1986; I opened it for the first time tonight, to find that date cake:
Mix a cup flour, 1-1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, a cup sugar
Stir in 2 cups chopped pecans, 1-1/2 lb. chopped dates
Beat 4 egg yolks with 1 tsp vanilla until light
Beat 4 egg whites stiff; fold in the yolks; hold in the dry ingredients; turn into a 9-inch pan (greased and lined)
Bake at 350° for 40 to 45 minutes; cool 10 minutes in pan; then turn out of pan and cool on a wire rack
And there you have it. Lindsey serves a small piece, with whipped cream, and I am content.
Nero d'Avola

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Eastside Road, January 2, 2011—
NOT AN OUNCE gained or lost over the last couple of days, in spite of the delicious feasting, so we celebrate with a proper Sunday supper. This morning, going through the piles of things-to-be-read next my chair, I ran across a pamphlet of traditional Piemontese recipes picked up at Slow Food last October.

Nearly simultaneously Lindsey thought of the bottom round steak that's been lingering in the freezer since I bought it at the Farmers' Market last summer.

So here's what she did: browned the steak in olive oil in a heavy copper pan, put in a carrot, an onion, and a stalk of celery cut into pieces and wilted them; then added half a bottle of wine, a couple of bay leaves, rosemary, a couple of cloves; covered it, and set it on the wood stove where it simmered all afternoon.

Then I lifted the steak out and put it on a plate, and ran the vegetables through the food mill, then returned the resulting sauce to the fire to heat it. Slice the steak; pour the sauce over. Lindsey had steam-sautéed some potatoes, and of course we had our green salad; and for dessert L. rustled up a delicious little date cake. Fabulous.
Cheap Pinot nero

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Day

Berkeley, January 1, 2011—

IT WILL PROBABLY turn out to be a three-pound weekend, maybe four. But it's worth it, and I know how to drop back to normal.

We brunched out, the four of us, a little before noon, at a Berkeley fixture we hadn't been to in years. I had a simple on-the-road breakfast: two eggs over easy, potatoes, three or four strips of delicious bacon, unbuttered toast, with a couple of cappuccinos.
  • Café Rouge, 1782 4th Street, Berkeley; tel. (510) 525-1440

  • Then, after a glass of fine dry Blanquette de Limoux at Pat&Mike's, we stopped at Alice's annual New Year's Day at-home. Here a buffet was cooked by none other than the handsome, intelligent, kind and generous, supremely gifted Scott Peacock, and I kept thinking of Phil Harris and "That's What I Like About the South":
    pimento cheese spread on celery sticks
    Incredibly well-seasoned collard greens
    Sweet-potato purée
    Sweet southern ham
    Hopping John
    Scott's fabulous corn-bread muffins
    An incredibly delicious, resonant, integrated meal, full of flavors and reassurances, among friends who know how lucky, healthy, and hard-working they are; a salutary beginning of a new year.
    Pigeoulet (Var), 2009

    New Year's Eve: Osso Buco

    Oakland, December 31—
    WE ALTERNATE YEARS, New Year's Eve, having dinner with two old friends, odd-numbered years at our house, even-numbered at theirs. It's a nice tradition, and it keeps us out of trouble. And the food's always good.

    Take tonight, for example: ossobuco, nicely flavored with judicious carrot and garlic; steamed broccoli, risotto; green salad; cheesecake for dessert. Long and pleasant conversation. Fireworks over the distant bay at midnight. A perfect evening.
    Cabernet Sauvignon: Simi, 2003; Kendall Jackson, 1997; both strong and substantial, the Simi a little more serious