Saturday, April 30, 2011


Eastside Road, April 30, 2011—
WE HAVE NOT BEEN eating enough potatoes lately; I don't know why. They don't seem to be a part of restaurant meals any more, and as you may have noticed we've been eating out a lot lately. When I was a boy we bought potatoes by the hundred-pound sack. There were four of us boys at home, and Dad. And Mom too, of course, but I don't think she made that much of a dent in them. I suppose we were potato-eaters, not that far removed from those van Gogh painted. We had them boiled, mostly, but occasionally mashed. I don't recall Mom baking them.

Tonight we had them baked, dressed with olive oil, salt, and pepper; and I had some leftover potatoes that had been steam-sautéed, God knows when. I suddenly realized how much I'd missed them, these last few days. We had chard with them, white, yellow, and red chard from the garden, and salad of course; and I was grateful for them. Lettuce has come up of its own volition in the garden, and the chard. But tomorrow or the next day I've got to plant some potatoes.
Cheap Nero d'Avola

Friday, April 29, 2011

Chez Panisse

Berkeley, April 29, 2011—
LUNCH TODAY IN THE car: a tuna sandwich, made by the delicatessen counter at Ralph's supermarket in Castaic. Gloppy, with tuna of some kind, "mayonnaise", mustard (!), lettuce, tomato, on a sesame-seed roll.

But dinner! One of the best I've had in months. After a couple of apéritifs, welcome after a windy drive up Highway 5, and an amuse-bouche of pork rillettes and green olives, we had a beautifully balanced salad: frisée, leeks, artichokes, and smoked cod. Then a "Billi-bi," a sort of Norman Boston-style chowder but with mussels rather than clams, shallots rather than onions, no potato, and a discreet amount of sorrel. This is a delicious and neglected dish. The execution was perfect and I was taken back to the 1970s.

Main course: grilled Alaskan halibut with tarragon butter dauce, asparagus, deep-fried spring onions, and gigantic leaves of tender sweet mâche. And then, after tangerines and dates, a classic rhubarb tart with strawberry ice cream. Spring looking forward to summer; rhubarb commenting on tarragon recalling sorrel; intelligence and knowledge informing technique and careful, knowing marketing. Everything a fine restaurant meal should be.
Sancerre, Chavignol "Les Monts Damnés," 2009; Pedro Ximénes, Priorat, Odysseus, 2009; Chardonnay, Lioco (Carneros), 2009. All quite wonderful wines, and the Lioco an amazing one: I'd have sworn it was a Puligny-Montrachet.
Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; 510.548.5525

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Glendale, April 28, 2011—
WE THINK A LOT of this small husband-and-wife restaurant off the beaten track down here in Los Angeles. Zagat gives it a 27 for its kitchen, and I don't think that's an overestimate. The food's a little heavy on presentation for my taste, but never over the top. Sometimes there's maybe one or two ingredients too many, but they always seem to justify themselves. I like the place.

Tonight we began with beet-juice "gazpacho" as an amuse-geule, then went on to beautifully dressed green salads with discreet shavings of excellent Parmesan cheese hiding among the leaves.

I then had a pork chop, well salted, cooked to rosy perfection, served on a bed of tiny beans with braised kale and chorizo, and accompanied by very crisp-fried pig's ears garnished with green grapes — this latter item actually making a lot of sense.

Dessert was a buttermilk panna cotta. Buttermilk ain't my thing, but panna cotta certainly is, and this was first-rate, topped with a thin layer of not caramelized sugar but frozen cranberry juice crystals. Excellent; excellent.
Sauvignon blanc, Sherwood (New Zealand); Pinot noir, Sean Minor (Carneros); Orange Muscat, Quady "Electra" (all in the glass, vintages unknown, very nicely paired with the food)
Bashan, 3459 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale; (818) 541-1532

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

En suite

Pasadena, April 27, 2011—
I'D THOUGHT OF fasting today, but yesterday's two-hour hike, and today's three-mile stroll, made us a little hungry. Economy and boredom kept us from going to yet another restaurant, though: we bought packaged salads at Gelson's instead -- mine a Wolfgang Puck "Caesar salad," no less -- and made do in the hotel room. A head of okay romaine, a little tub of some kind of dressing with not too many chemicals listed among its ingredients, a littler tub of grated "Parmesan" cheese (not terribly good), an insufficient number of croutons in a little plastic envelope. With a banana and part of a chocolate bar, it sufficed.

Torrontés, Astica, Cuyo Valley (Argentina), 2009

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chez des amis

Ojai, April 26, 2011—
YOU SPEND HOURS AND DOLLARS in restaurants, great and routine, and then you have dinner in a friend's house, and everything locks into place: ingredients, technique, personal history, conversation, caring, new acquaintance perhaps — all the things that really count: the things without which an evening at table is merely feeding.

Tonight we are with friends in their house, the first dinner not in a commercial space — not that they do not have a legitimate role! — for nearly a week. We had guacamole, and nuts, and farfalle in tomato and porcini sauce, and grilled sausages, and artichokes; and if I've forgotten anything, it's because of the
tequila and Hinano beer, and some leftover Zinfandel.
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Monday, April 25, 2011


Pasadena, April 25, 2011—
THERE IS THIS DANGER when dining in tapas restaurants: the ordering can be complicated. Tonight the four of us had: padrones peppers, arugula salad, beet salad, lamb sausage with white beans, salt cod and potatoes, steak tartare, and another order of steak tartare. Everything went smoothly enough, except that the second tartare — mine, of course — never seemed to turn up. I reminded the waiter a number of times, finally pointing out that if he didn't bring it soon it would be well done. I wanted my steak tartare, especially after seeing Todd eat his: nicely chopped, evidently with capers and onions already chopped in, with a raw quail egg sitting chastely atop.

My tartare finally arrived, but lacking its egg. I pointed this out to the girl who'd brought it — not our waiter; we'd never seen her before — and she said she'd been told in the kitchen that they might not have an egg.

Nonsense, I said, of course there's an egg, it's a kitchen, they're certain to have an egg somewhere, please bring it back with an egg.

She took it away and we continued our conversation, though I was a little distracted, thinking about my tartare. The salt cod was gone. The lamb sausage was mostly gone. We'd finished the salads long since, and Todd's own tartare plate was clean as a whistle. He had another glass of cava; I poured myself another glass of tempranillo. Finally it arrived.

Even though I'd begun to tear into it before I thought of taking its photo, you can see what's wrong. It has an egg, all right, but the egg is cooked. I've never in my life seen a steak tartare with a poached egg on top. It was okay, I suppose, but the romance was off the evening.
Cava, Cristalino; Tempranillo/Cabernet sauvignon
Bar Celona, 46 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena; 626.405.1000

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Sempre italiano

Pasadena, April 24, 2011—
THERE IS NO SHORTAGE of Italian restaurants in this city. We've been to three of them now, and if tonight's isn't my favorite, neither is it in third place. We had a nice little salad to begin with, lettuces and very thin-sliced raw red onion, in a dressing tasting of good olive oil, vinegar, and salt. Then I went on to an enormous plate of gnocchi, a third of which I had to leave on the plate. They were tender and well-made, in a nice sauce featuring mushrooms and sausage, but they were just too many. There are worse faults.
Arneis, 2009; Barbera, Briccotondo, 2008
Gale's Restaurant, 452 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena; (626) 432-6705

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Saturday, April 23, 2011


Glendale, April 23, 2011—
PRINCIPAL MEAL TODAY: brunch. Well, I made lunch of it, not really liking brunch that much, as a meal; we'd already had breakfast, cappuccinos and a croissant. Lunch, then, at a place we like down here: beef-brisket hash, with little diced potatoes and nice shredded beef, and a couple of poached eggs on top because, let's face it, it was on the brunch menu. So for dinner, nothing needed but a Caesar salad, not terribly good because ordered in the hotel restaurant, and innocent of anchovies and garlic, and adorned with irrelevant grated carrot.
With the hash, a Ramos fizz; with the salad, a Martini
Campanile, 624 South La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles; (323) 938-1447

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Far Niente

Glendale, California, April 22—
IT'S ONLY A ROUTINE Italian restaurant as far as the kitchen goes, but the dining room is comfortable, the service okay and even sympathetically entertaining at times, and it's hard to find anything as good this close to the theater we come to (A Noise Within). So once again we're at Far Niente.

I had a small green salad gussied up with grated carrot, then penne "Far Niente": in tomato sauce with bits of basil and melted Fontina (I think) mixed in. Dessert was a nice little panna cotta, a dish I particularly like.
Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, 2009
Far Niente Ristorante, 204 North Brand Boulevard, Glendale; (818) 242-3835

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Odds and ends

Eastside Road, April 21, 2011—
NOT REALLY FASTING , but not what you could call dining, not today. Mostly dealing with some leftover carrots, a small head of broccoli, and a little frozen succotash, as much to clean out the refrigerator as for any other reason. We'll be eating heavily in the next few days, probably, since we're back on the road…
Cheap Pinot grigio

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lamb shanks

Eastside Road, April 20, 2011—
THE RECIPE IS FROM Richard Olney, as I think I've mentioned before — from Simple French Food. It's so simple that I always have to consult the book to be sure I'm not forgetting something. Here's how I make it:

• two lamb shanks, each cut into two or three slices (depending on their length): salt them, and brown them in hot olive oil in a heavy copper pan, turning them to brown all surfaces. Then turn the heat down as low as possible and throw in
• a head of garlic, the cloves separated but not peeled. Let this cook, tightly covered, very slowly for an hour, turning them now and then. Add
• a teaspoonful or so of Herbes de Provence. Let them continue to stew in their juices. When things begin to sizzle, add a bit of water as necessary.

In an hour and half or so they're done. Take the meat out and set aside on a hot plate. Pour off the fat. Lift the garlic cloves out and put them in a food mill or a sieve. Deglaze the pan with white wine, and add back the garlic which you've sieved of its peelings. Cook this sauce down until quite thick; then put the meat in and turn it to coat each piece.

We always have this with noodles or some kind of pasta — tonight, strozzapreti. On the side, I served leeks and carrots; after, a nice green salad dressed with shallots, olive oil, and lemon juice.
Cheap Pinot grigio


Eastside Road, April 19, 2011—
ONE WONDERS HOW MANY more dinners will emerge from this freezer-refrigerator spring cleaning. Tonight we had a couple of wizened frankfurters, broiled in the oven, then freshened up a bit with raw onion, pickle relish (the last of that little bottle!), and mustard, on nice though long-frozen hot dog buns from the Downtown Bakery.

With them, the first of the season's chard. I noticed it today while weeding the iris beds — a couple of wonderfully thriving chard plants, regenerated from last year's vegetable garden. One of this marvelous unsolicited gifts of Nature, copious, generous, unsullied. It was delicious.
Cheap Nero d'Avila

Monday, April 18, 2011

(half) Fast

Eastside Road, April 18, 2011—
WELL, A LITTLE BIT of cheating, as we hadn't really decided to fast today until after a second breakfast at a coffeehouse we rather like down in Berkeley:a slice of apple turnover with a cappuccino. Still, that, a piece of toast with the two cappuccinos at first breakfast, and the handful of nuts with tea in the evening surely don't add up to total transgression, do they?
• Cafe Yesterday , 1122 University Avenue, Berkeley, California; (323) 632-9289 ‎

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Eastside Road, April 17, 2011—
LEFTOVERS TONIGHT, as we lean into another road trip and try again to empty the refrigerator. Lindsey cooked up this batch of lentils four days ago, and they're just as good tonight.
Cheap Nero d'Avola

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Oyster Bliss

Berkeley, April 16—
LUNCH TODAY IN Oyster Bliss: except that I didn't have oysters on the half shell, much as I love them; I had the alternative: one of Chris Lee's andoiulle sausages on an Acme half-baguette, with a little very nicely dressed green salad on the side.

Kermit Lynch puts on this parking-lot special every year, and it's a delight. For supper, just guacamole with the Martini, and then a baked potato.
Bardolino, 2009

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Friday, April 15, 2011


Eastside Road, April 15, 2011—
A VERY SPECIAL DAY: the birth of Malena Sevilla makes us great-grandparents. We were going out for lunch anyhow, so made it a celebration, with Giovanna and a couple of old friends. We warmed up with Beans and Greens — braised greens, butter beans, salsa bagna cauda, and breadcrumbs — and Wood Oven Roasted Cauliflower with Calabrian Chili, garlic, anchovy, and breadcrumbs. Then the others went on to “Ligurian salad”, a variant of a typical salade Niçoise, while I had the daily special, “Cassolet.”
This turned out to be really quite delicious, and nothing like a cassoulet (barring the beans). Butter beans, good house-made sausage, greens, bits of ham and pancetta, onion I'm reasonably certain, discreet bits of bell pepper, with an egg broken on top, strewn with breadcrumbs, and cooked in the pizza oven, it was very very tasty. If Malena Sevilla had been on hand I'd have brushed her lip with a touch of the sauce and blessed her.
Arneis, Ceretto, 2009 (typical and refreshing, a favorite white of mine); Barbera d’ Asti, Oddero, 2007 (mature, nicely balanced, a little light)
Santi Restaurant, 2047 Stagecoach Road, Santa Rosa, California; (707) 528 1549

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pork chops

Eastside Road, April 14, 2011—
CLEARLY ONE OF THE Hundred Plates, a recipe found many years ago in one of Elizabeth David's books (probably Mediterranean Food): pork chops with a kind of rub.


You salt the chops when you get them home, of course, and rewrap them loosely in their butcher paper, and set them aside until you're ready to cook them — in the refrigerator, if it's going to be more than an hour or two.

You grind up fennel seeds and black pepper with a mortar and pestle. You pound raw garlic to a paste with another one. That's sea salt, reduced to a powder, in the third, smallest mortar.

You broil the chops for a couple of minutes, then spread garlic on their surfaces, then drizzle a little olive oil on, then sprinkle the fennel seed on them and put them back to broil until one side is done. Then turn them and repeat the procedure on the other surface, using perhaps lemon juice as well here. Broil until done.

In fact I prefer to do all this in a black iron frying pan; I think they take a nicer glaze that way. But that's not easy if you're doing five of them at a time, as we were tonight.

With them, mashed potatoes and broccoli. Afterward, green salad; then ice cream.
Cheap Pinot grigio; Zinfandel, Preston of Dry Creek, 2008 (authentic and rewarding, not all jammy and alcoholic)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Eastside Road, April 13, 2011—
NOTHING, OR ALMOST NOTHING, smells better than chopped onions sweating in olive oil, in a black iron frying pan, over a slow fire. That's what we smelled this afternoon. Lindsey was planning on lentils for dinner. The recipe came from Sunset; you can find it here. Lindsey followed it pretty closely, only adding more onions, because we had them, and they are good.

Green salad, of course.
Cheap Nero d'Avola; Zinfandel (leftover bottles from weeks ago)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Eastside Road, April 12, 2011—
IN THE CONTINUING SAGA of freezer liberation, four sausages were discovered tonight, near the sour cherries picked last summer. Or was it summer before. Lindsey grilled these, the sausages I mean, under the broiler, and baked some potatoes, and cooked up a mess of leeks and carrots, a very favorite combination of mine, although she cuts them up crosswise whereas I, on the rare occasion that I cook, always slice them lengthwise. The results are different in texture, but either way they're delicious, and a little bit of butter doesn't hurt.
Barbera, Preston of Dry Creek, 2008 (mature, sober, savory)


Eastside Road, April 11, 2011—
ESPECIALLY WHEN THE BEEF is good, clean, and fair, and more particularly when you know first-hand its origins, the hamburger is one of the Hundred Plates. The hamburger sandwich, I mean: good ground beef, grilled over open flames, set between the halves of a good hamburger bun (which itself is worth going in to in some detail, but I won't here), spread with mustard and mayonnaise, and including sliced raw onion, a slice of tomato, and a leaf of good healthy lettuce.

This ground beef came from our son's Scottish Highland steer, grass-fed. It was chewy and full of flavor. Our son-in-law grilled it perfectly in his fireplace, over oak firewood. The bun was from Healdsburg's Downtown Bakery and Creamery; the catsup was in fact home-made chili sauce; and the vegetables were local. Buono, pulito, e giusto: Carlo would be pleased.
Pinot grigio; various reds

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Fast day

Eastside Road, April 10, 2011—
ONE THING ABOUT ENTERTAINING and traveling with friends: it's hard to observe the weekly fast day. It's almost a month since our last one, March 14; and to tell the truth this was far from perfect fast, as it began with the usual Sunday breakfast — a soft-boiled egg and buttered toast along with the two cappuccinos — and ended with another piece of toast, this one with olive oil and salt, a banana and a tangerine. I promise to do better next week.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Home again: toast and salad

Eastside Road, April 9, 2011—
II'S ALWAYS SO NICE to eat at home after so many nights on the road — ten, this time. Even when it's a simple matter of salad and toast. In this case,
Acme levain, toasted and eaten with olive oil, and the usual red lettuce dressed with the usual vinaigrette: crushed garlic and salt in olive oil with a splash of the white-wine vinegar in which sour cherries had been pickled. Delicious.
a Martini

Friday, April 8, 2011

Incredibly noisy rabbit

Paso Robles, California, April 8, 2011—
HALFWAY HOME: THE CENTRAL coast of California. We haven't been in this town for years, not since before a serious earthquake damaged it severely back in 2003. Since then it's more than recovered, apparently; it's become a major center of wine tourism. We had trouble finding a motel; we had trouble getting a dinner reservation.

But we succeeded on both counts. For dinner I had a delicous first course: barely cooked asparagus stalks, ranging from 3/16 to 3/8-inch diameter, dressed with good olive oil, blanced lemon zest, and shavings of Parmesan cheese — a fine and subtle combination I'll have to repeat at home this spring.

Next, a marvelous interpretation of a recipe I've always loved, rabbit and rabbit sausage. You can find this in Ada Boni's indispensible Italian Regional Cooking, where you're told to chop up the rabbit's organs with some pancetta, basil, salt and pepper — I'm doing this from memory, I may be forgetting something — and moisten it with white wine and olive oil, and stuff the rabbit with it before you roast it.

Tonight the rabbit sausage was in a coiled casing; the rabbit itself was cut into bite-sized pieces and cooked sous vide, Lindsey thinks, to make it extraordinarily soft, silky, moist, and succulent; and accompanied by cavatelli, little semolina pasta shapes, in a tomato-meat ragù flavored with pioppini, wild mushrooms.

This added up to one of the best meals of the last month, no question about it. Dessert wasn't up to the same level: three little crèmes brulées, flavored with vanilla, orange-blossom, and pistachio, unfortunately overcooked and thuddy; with a little Danish-style cookie, unfortunately hardly cooked at all.

Otherwise, an extremely good restaurant, with an interesting, thoughtful, locally focussed menu and wine list, professional and knowledgable service — but, this night anyway, an incredibly noisy dining room, the noisiest I think I've ever encountered.
Halter Ranch Roussane/Picpoul/Grenache Blanc/Marsanne "Côtes de Paso Blanc", 2010; Rosé, L'Aventure, Syrah/Cabernet sauvignon (70/30), 2010: both very interesting, professional, assured.
Artisan, 1401 Park Street, Paso Robles; 805.237.8084

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Thursday, April 7, 2011


San Diego, April 7, 2011—
LUNCH TODAY IN THE zoo: a Caesar salad. I should set "Caesar" in quotes: no anchovies, no egg, no garlic that I noticed. Oh well.

Dinner was considerably more satisfactory: we split a house green salad, with quite nice vinaigrette, then I went on to Rigatoni Rugantino: rigatoni with green onions, wild mushrooms and light marinara sauce topped with sliced grilled filet mignon. This was a nice combination, the pasta just slightly underdone, the sauce in good balance. Dessert? Why not a ricotta cheesecake?
Pinot grigio, Bollin, 2009; Barbera d’Asti Superiore, Michele Chiarlo, ?vintage
Asti Ristorante, 728 Fifth Avenue, San Diego; (619) 232-8844

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Valley Center, California, April 6, 2011—
LINDSEY BOOKED TONIGHT'S ROOM on Priceline, and didn't notice the hotel wasn't actually in Ramona but was instead in this gambling center on the La Jolla reservation. So we wound up eating on site, because there was really no alternative beyond driving another sixty miles or so.

I contented myself with a single order: the eight-ounce bison steak, grilled (over gas-fired ceramic bricks, I suspect), served with a Bordelaise sauce, three or four overcooked asparagus spears, and an odd, gloppy savory bread pudding with mushrooms set on a bed of arugula. It was okay, nothing to write home about.
Pinot grigio; Rhone (unremarkable save for relatively low prices)
Fiore at Harrah's Rincon, 777 Harrah's Rincon Way, Valley Center; (760) 751-3100

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Palm Springs, California, April 5, 2011—
WE CAME HERE TODAY for only one reason, really: Lindsey wanted to introduce Anneke to the pleasures of the date milk shake. She'd done her research, Lindsey had, and had decided the best were to be had at Palms Springs Fudge & Chocolates, 211 South Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; (888) 653-8343
and I would not disagree.

So after checking into a motel Frank Sinatra is said to have patronized we consulted Zagat as to possibilites for dinner, and decided what the hell, we're in Palm Springs, why not eat Austrian?

I ordered off the weekly specials, splitting a delicious salad with Lindsey: raw Brussels sprouts, good Parmesan shavings, good walnuts, lemon-juice vinaigrette — a salad we'll have to duplicate at home from time to time.

And then, while Hans and Anneke and Lindsey had veal and chicken and pork schnitzel, respectively, I had thin-pounded rabbit cutlets in a mustard-tarragon sauce, with broccolini and mashed potatoes. Excellent.

The dessert was sketchy: an apple strudel, "the best ever" according to the menu, but more a Dutch apple pie than a millefeuille strudel (not that there's anything wrong with Dutch apple pie), warmed up, to judge by the consistency of the pastry, in a microwave. Well, we were closing the place. Still.

Sauvignon blanc, Kunde (Sonoma Valley), 2009; Riesling, Bonny Doon, NV
Johannes Restaurant,196 South Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; (760) 778-0017

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Monday, April 4, 2011

Surprise in the desert

Yucca Valley, April 4, 2010—
FOR THE FIRST TIME in days we had quite a good dinner tonight, in a small restaurant in the nearby town of Twentynine Palms. The place opened just a little over two years ago, full of hope and aware there was no competition. For thirty miles in any direction there's nothing but franchise outlets, greasy spoons, and …

… oh, but that's hardly fair: I certainly haven't tried any of the local ma and pa places, apart from Pete's, Greek and American, where I had a perfectly satisfactory Greek salad for lunch. (Well, almost perfectly: tomatoes are definitely not yet in season. But the chicken soup, built from scratch on the premises, was tasty.)

But I digress. Dinner was in a nicely appointed bistro with a decent menu and wine list — small, but attractive. I began with a Caprese, knowing the tomatoes would be out of season, cold, hard, and flavorless, but lured by the promise of sea salt, fresh pepper, and basil, and especially by the really very good olive oil that had a place on the table when we were seated. (We enjoyed it with equally really good bread, baked, I learned later, at a wholesale-only bakery in Thousand Palms, wherever that is.)

The Caprese was pretty damn good, never mind the tomatoes. The Italian sausage in marinara sauce was a little one-dimensional, overly flavored with oregano of all things, but not at all unpleasant. Lindsey said her Alaska cod, in capers and lemon sauce, was fine, also her Key Lime pie; I was content with a decent grappa.

Pinot grigio, Castello di Gabbiano, 2009; Zinfandel, Rancho Zabaco old vines, ?vintage?
Pete's Family Restaurant, 73780 Twentynine Palms Highway, Twentynine Palms, California;760.367.2008
Bistro Twenty Nine, 73527 Twentynine Palms Highway, Twentynine Palms, California; 760.361.2229

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Sunday, April 3, 2011


Yucca Valley, California, April 3, 2011—
LUNCH TODAY AT B.J.'s Sandwiches, up in Big Bear City, at nearly 7,000 feet. A rustic place.

The BLT looked good, but I settled on a grilled ham and Swiss on rye. Too gloppy, as it turned out; and the fried onions weren't as good an addition as I'd thought they might be.

There's no place to eat down in this town, Yucca Valley, beyond Sizzler and Callender's and such, so we went to a grocery store, where we bought a sandwich for me (another ham-Swiss, marginally better though not grilled), a package of delicious pineapple chunks, a bottle of wine, and various other things for the others; and ate them happily in the breakfast room of the Best Western we've committed ourselves to tonight and tomorrow.
Pinot noir, Turning Leaf, 2009 (not disgusting)
B.J's Restaurant, next to Community Market in Big Bear City; (909) 585-2938

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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Corporate restaurant

Hesperia, California, April 2, 2011—
WE NEVER PATRONIZE corporate or chain or franchise restaurants. Not because we think we're too good, or because we're snobs; simply because there's almost never a need to; because we're generally curious to see how independent or mom-and-pop places work; or because — this is really the key — we're a little concerned about the healthfulness of the stuff that's likely to be served.

Tonight, though, we're in a La Quinta motel far from any other kind of restaurant, and after a windy day of driving and hiking (short hikes to be sure) we're a little on the hungry side. So we looked at the list of restaurants Maps told the iPhone were anywhere nearby, and picked the one that looked most likely. (We were swayed by the fact that one friend, an Italian at that, recommends it.)

So after a perfectly acceptable Martini we tucked into quasi-Italian fare: for all of us, a good green salad, rather nicely dressed; for me, afterward, a "Steak Toscano": lean beefsteak grilled rare, dressed with olive oil, and accompanied by a roasted potatoes, some sautéed bell pepper, and a huge spray of rosemary.

I have to say, there was nothing wrong with this. I was impressed with the quality, the execution, and the service, from a winsome young woman only recently transplanted from her native Missoula. The meat was lean and flavorful, the potatoes clean, the salad well balanced. For dessert I had a small tiramisu flavored with Amaretto, and a decent espresso with a small glass of Amaretto on the side. Not one of the four of us was less than satisfied, and whenever I'm stranded for dinner in the future I'm likely to look for one of the six hundred plus outlets in this chain.
House red: "Principato rosso"
Olive Garden 1194, 12330 Amargosa Road, Victorville, California; 760.245.8100

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Cal-Mex Redux

Grapevine, California, April 1, 2011—
APRIL FOOL! Well, not really. It's not just because I like to type all those X's. It's because we're on the road, we're nearing Southern California; Mexican's about the only reliable way to go much of the time.

We've little choice tonight. I like the Ramada Inn in Grapevine, but there's only one place to eat once you've excluded Denny's, MacDonalds, and the like. So there we went, and I had a small fairly decent Martini, and then tucked into a big bowl of guacamole (served in a bowl made of a soft corn tortilla), and then the steak ranchero: the usual rice and beans, but with them a ramekin filled with braised beef chunks, onion, bell pepper, and the like, in a nice thick gloppy brown sauce. 

Everything was cheesed up, of course; even the guacamole. But it was okay. More cowboy cooking, Californio style.
House Cabernet sauvignon
Don Perico Restaurant, 9021 Grapevine Road West, Lebec, California; (661) 248-6903

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Grapevine, California, April 1, 2011—
APRIL FOOL! Well, not really. It's not just because I like to type all those X's. It's because we're on the road, we're nearing Southern California; Mexican's about the only reliable way to go much of the time.

We've little choice tonight. I like the Ramada Inn in Grapevine, but there's only one place to eat once you've excluded Denny's, MacDonalds, and the like. So there we went, and I had a small fairly decent Martini, and then tucked into a big bowl of guacamole (served in a bowl made of a soft corn tortilla), and then the steak ranchero: the usual rice and beans, but with them a ramekin filled with braised beef chunks, onion, bell pepper, and the like, in a nice thick gloppy brown sauce.

Everything was cheesed up, of course; even the guacamole. But it was okay. More cowboy cooking, Californio style.
House Cabernet sauvignon
Don Perico Restaurant, 9021 Grapevine Road West, Lebec, California; (661) 248-6903