Saturday, June 30, 2012


cherry pie.jpg
Eastside Road, June 30, 2012—
A COUPLE OF FRIENDS over for last-day-of-month dinnerparty, planned for the patio but moved inside on account of wind. Boy, I hate strong winds; and you don't want to fire up the grill on a day like this.

So Lindsey broiled the hamburgers inside. All the fixings: sliced onions, dill pickles, lettuce leaves from the garden, mustard, homemade chili sauce. Lindsey made one of her terrific potato salads: her mother's family were Bavarian, and it's been in the family, this salad, for generations, I think.

I sprinkled a little olive oil into the black iron skillets, heated them up, and threw in a pound of Nardini peppers, whole, sprinkling them with salt, letting them char and stew, and then having put them all into the bigger pan, set the smaller one on top, weighting them down to finish cooking. That worked out nicely.

Buns from Downtown Bakery and Creamery, of course. Then for dessert this fabulous sour-cherry pie Lindsey made from our cherries out of the freezer — not many on the trees this year, alas. Straus vanilla ice cream on top. Oh boy: what a feast.
Pinot noir, Fat Cat (California), 2011 (sound, good flavor, modest: thanks, John!)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Lamb, lamb, lamb

Eastside Road, June 29, 2012—
I'M SURE IT'S BEEN mentioned before: Virgil used to sing,
Of all the meats that we can eat
chicken, beef, or ham,
the one that tickles my palate the most
is lamb, lamb, lamb…
Lamb, lamb, lamb
lamb-y lamb, lamb
And so it goes. I wrote him once that we were having friends over to roast leg of lamb, and he sent the method Marcel Duchamp had always used to do that: very hot oven, short time, brutal almost, and — most important, apparently — keep it warm on a Salton Hottray through the service.

Well, we don't have a Salton Hottray; never have had one. And anyway there's only the two of us here, it's ages since we've cooked a leg of lamb. (Though fifty years ago we did used to roast them from time to time, and you can find my recipe here. It's a little bit over the top, I think, half a century later.)

Well, today, after driving down to the city to see a couple of museum and gallery shows, and lunching on a not terrible croque-monsieur from La Boulange, because we'd walked past it on our way back to the car, and after our Friday Martini on the patio in a splendid evening listening to mockingbirds and finches, we had lamb chops for dinner.

Lindsey slowly cooked some cabbage in butter. Oh boy that smells good, I said; There are some who don't like the smell of cabbage cooking, L. said; They must smell it too often, I said, Or too long cooked.

Anyway the cabbage was delicious, sweet and buttery and cabbagy with that green taste/smell of English peas, or braised lettuce. And the lamb, from our son's animal, a shoulder chop as you see, was delicious.

My father had very few food dislikes, but one of them was lamb. He'd grown up in cattle country, early in the previous century, and the cowman and the shepherd were enemies. Sheep graze grass down shorter than can cattle; where sheep have grazed, cattle find no sustenance. You can imagine the political results among herders.

Oh well. We're past that. After I left home, and tasted lamb for the first time, predictably another weapon in the growing arsenal of rebellion-against-father was an inordinate fondness for lamb. Virgil is right. Lamb, lamb, lamb.
Seguret, Domaine la Garancieère (Côtes de Rhone), 2008 (sound, deep, balanced, rewarding)


Eastside Road, June 28, 2012—
WE SHOULD EAT fish more regularly. In season we have salmon pretty much every week, but I'm told we should all eat fish at least twice that often. There are so many ways to do it, even when fresh fish isn't readily at hand; and one of them is the classic tuna salad sandwich, which you see here made with Gayle's Bakery (Capitola) "English toasting bread," a bland, nicely grained bread tasting slightly of yeast.

Lindsey mixes canned tuna with mayonnaise or "lemonnaise," I think it's called, and pickle relish. I like these sandwiches grilled, or on toast, or just on plain old white bread, though a light rye bread is nice too.

With it, as you see, some raw carrot slices, and a baked potato — which I eat with olive oil and salt, nothing more. Green salad afterward.
Cheap Pinot grigio

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Eastside Road, June 27, 2012—
AFTER A PARTICULARLY delicious guacamole — made my way, but with the addition of a couple of radishes chopped fine — it was on to Penne, dressed with cherry tomatoes warmed in olive oil with chopped garlic and basil, a very nice light summer supper.
Cheap Pinot grigio

Monday, June 25, 2012

Oeufs en Meurette (Eggs poached in red wine)

Eastside Road, June 25, 2012—
BACK IN THE ’60s I worked in San Francisco and commuted by bus, requiring me to walk a number of blocks between the old Transbay Terminal and KQED, then at the corner of Fourth and Bryant. This took me past a building occupied by a wine importer — I no longer remember their name — which occasionally hosted tastings for its buyers. (Among whom, I hasten to say, I was not included.)

One evening as I walked past I noticed the door was open and the party was clearly over. Curious, I stepped in. Empty bottles stood on the tables, and one tired-looking fellow was cleaning up.

I noticed the bottles were all Burgundy-style, the labels French, and asked if I might take them home, as in those days I made my own wine, and nice heavy empty bottles were useful. Sure, he said, and gave me a case of them.

Each bottle had an inch or two of dregs, and I took care not to lose them. A few days later I combined them all in a saucepan, poached a few eggs in the result, then made a Marchand de vin sauce. I don't recall where the recipe came from: probably Larousse Gastronomique.

Fifteen months ago we had friends over for a night of cassoulet — you may remember; I wrote about it here. One friend brought three bottles of Domaine Tempier Bandol, and ever since then our refrigerator has housed two bottles containing the dregs of those bottles. Yesterday another friend gave Lindsey a dozen eggs from her little flock of hens, and today she — Lindsey, I mean — did a little research, bought the other necessary ingredients, and made Oeufs en Meurette, a Burgundy specialty, but the Bandol worked just fine.

She used the recipe in Saveur Cooks Authentic French:
you cook chopped bacon in a little butter until crisp, remove it, then brown half a pound of sliced small mushrooms in the same pan. Remove them; then, still in the same pan, a little more butter, minced shallot, then coarsely chopped carrot, a sprig of thyme and a bay leaf, until doré.

Then you add a couple of glasses of red wine, reduce it, and then a cup of demi-glace and a couple of cups of beef stock. After this has cooked you pass it through a food mill, then make a flour-and-butter roux and whisk the sauce into it.

Poach your eggs in red wine; meanwhile, add the bacon and mushrooms to the sauce and correct the seasoning. Set the poached eggs on toast, nap them with the sauce, and garnish with chervil.

This was pretty damn good, I have to say. Rich, of course. Bistro fare, I suppose. Memorable.

Green salad afterward, of course; then a Galia melon, a little too early in the season.
Cheap Primitivo (Grifone, Puglia), 2010

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bread and cheese. And pie.

Gayle's breads.jpg
Eastside Road, June 24, 2012—
YESTERDAY I MENTIONEDGayle's Bakery and Rosticceria. It's a very favorite place of ours, for three reasons, all of which fascinate me: it is a wonderfully successful and fascinatingly managed business; it is a marvelous bakery-delicatessen-rosticceria whose product is always of very high quality; it is owned and run by a couple of people we've known a long time, like immensely, and find both tremendously entertaining and truly good.

I've often thought how lucky we are to know such people, and how interesting it would be to read a book that devoted a chapter each to all the many people we've managed to come to know over the years. (Of course I could never write it: they're all too close as friends for me ever to write about them.)

Well, Gayle's. I've always said the best bread I've ever eaten in this country has been bread Joe Ortiz has himself baked. That he is in addition an attentive and caring businessman, a talented visual artist, a skilful sculptor, an enterprising composer of musicals, and a commercially successful writer — well, you can see almost anyone would be excused for a teeny bit of envy.

Joe at Gayle's.jpg
Joe Ortiz, handing me a loaf of his bread
photo: Lindsey Shere
Then there's Gayle, who we first met many many years ago when she worked a stint in the pastry kitchen at Chez Panisse. She's a fine pastry cook-and-baker, an enthusiastic accordionist and tap-dancer, a skilful businesswoman who cracked the gender-line at her local I-won't-say-which service organization but it ain't the Notary, an astute shopper, a marvelous worker in pique-assiete, a successful author, and a former mayor of Capitola. Among other things; one always has to add that, when speaking of either Gayle or Joe.

Well. Above, left to right: Joe's bread, a dark, solid, sound loaf we haven't yet opened. On it, Raisin Rye, with walnuts in it as well: nutritious, interesting, substantial. Then the white loaf: "English Toasting Bread," perfect toasted, buttered, and taken with a soft-boiled egg. (Maybe tomorrow some Deviled Egg Sandwiches, Lindsey?)

And to the right, what was left earlier today of that scrumptious blackberry pie. The crust is short and toothsome, the filling generous and deeply flavored, just enough sugar to bring out the flavor, as L. always says.

So supper tonight: a couple of bowls — all that was left — of the potato-leek-celery root soup of a week ago; then a piece of toast and some slices of nagelkaas. I hope I remember to photograph that cheese before it's gone; it's a handsome thing to contemplate.
Cheap Nero d'Avola

Bean soup

bean soup.jpg
Santa Rosa, June 23, 2012—
OH BOY, WHAT a delicious soup at supper tonight, with friends in their comfortable home. As Mac says, Marjorie has a way with beans. These were cooked to just the right degree, not losing their chestnutty texture, and the soup was colorful with just the right amount of tomato and healthy dark green kale, and piquant with andouillette, and meaty-sweet with ham hocks — marvelous.

Afterward, blackberry pie from Gayle's Bakery, as we'd driven up from Santa Cruz before supper. Gayle's is one of our favorites, and we have three loaves of bread to report on later…
Vin Gris, Preston of Dry Creek, 2011 (crisp, lean, pleasant); Pinot noir, Toulouse (Anderson Valley), 2008 (full, fine varietal character, mature)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Tending toward molecular

Santa Cruz, California, June 22, 2012—

DINNER WITH FRIENDS in this nearby town tonight at a new restaurant allied to a winery I've always liked, both for their wines and for the affable, intelligent, witty man responsible: Randall Grahm, who once noted to us that while Lindsey was a chef pâtissière, he was only a pastichier.

His winery is Bonny Doon, named for the improbably named hamlet a few miles from here, and his wines carry names like Big House Red, with its penitentiarical label illustration, and Le Cigare Volant, the French formula corresponding to American English "flying saucer," because a winery in the French Rhone region, whose product is similar to this one of Randall's, once successfully petitioned its local government to outlaw the landing of UFOs in local vineyards, thus endangering grapevines. You get the idea.

(Randall has published a book of the excellent satirical essays he used to send out as winery newsletters, many of them hilarious parodies of masterpieces of English or French literature. Among my favorites, The Love Song of J. Alfred Rootstock.)

I thought the food here expressed wit and imagination similar to Randall's, not only in the descriptions on the menu, but — more to the point — in concept and execution. I began with a lettuce salad with grapefruit sections and Reggiano, with a "circulated quail egg croque madame" on the side — a parody of a Salade lyonnaise, I suppose. ("Circulated," because poached in rapidly whirling boiling water.)

I went on with seared duck breast, beautifully chosen and cooked, accompanied by pan-roasted plums and a "lettuce roll" wrapped in prosciutto, looking like a zany variant of a cigar — paired, naturally, with a glass of Cigar Volant.

Dessert: "Valrhona Chocolate Textures": a molded chocolate mousse, hard enough to hold a cylindrical shape, lying on its side, with a cooked cherry secreted within, a delicious barely softened cherry next to it on the plate, a nest of soft sponge-cake tatters, and a spoonful of soft plum sorbet — a really fine concept, marvelously achieved. And intelligent; and witty.

Moscato Frizzante, 2009; Le Cigare Volant, 2007 (both Bonny Doon, of course, and both first-rate)

Le Cigare Volant, 328 Ingalls St., Santa Cruz; 831.425.6771

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Oakland, California, June 21, 2012—
LUNCH IN THE CITY with friends — in a place I like the more the more we stop in: and it wasn't surprising to find today that it's owned and run by folks whose previous restaurants were favorites of ours — Zax, first in San Francisco, then in that hard-luck location on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley.

Today I had the Cuban smoked pork sandwich, lots of meat on a baguette, the bottom nicely soaked in the cooking liquid, hefty oven-baked potatoes and jalapeño relish on the side; and then a delicious polenta pound cake, a huge serving, with beautifully cooked cherries in brandy and balsamic vinegar, served with whipped cream — a hefty meal; good thing we'd fasted yesterday!
Anchor Steam beer
• Sidebar Restaurant, 2210 542 Grand Avenue Oakland; (510) 452-9500

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Eastside Road, June 20, 2012—
YOU'VE MET HIM HERE before: Franco Dunn, one of my favorite fellows here in Healdsburg. We see him nearly every Saturday, in season, at the Farmers' Market, where he sits majestically behind a container of packaged sausages of his own production, with perhaps if you're lucky some pancetta and patés as well.

I won't write about him here; I'll just refer you to an article from the local rag that ran three months ago: a good introduction, a fabulous photo, a curious misprint. ("Faux gras" for what must have been meant to be "foie gras," unless the PETA police somehow got into the production.)

What we had tonight was his Toulouse sausage. Most Saturdays he has a selection of three or four different sausages: Toulouse, Merguez, Greek, Napolitano, sometimes even Kielbasa or something close to a classic New York frankfurter. Franco's a man who knows and respects genius locii, and if he attaches a geographical descriptor to a sausage, it's as authentic as it can be.

Those are favas next to the sausage, of course, extracted from their late-season shells with care and devotion by our cook, and prepared with butter and love. Afterward, the green salad, tonight with lemon juice instead of vinegar, and then… root beer floats! Hooray for summer!
Cheap Primitivo (Grifone, Puglia, nv; decent character, sound)

Monday, June 18, 2012

On a roll

Eastside Road, June 18, 2012—
CHEDDAR CHEESE and white onion, sliced thin, set on a split bun, cooked in the broiler. Elective affinity, cheese and onion, and here's another: potato, leek, celery root, made into a soup. And here's a third: soup and sandwich.

Toss in a green salad; then some mixed stone fruit for dessert, a nice nearly-summer-evening supper.
Viura, Marques de Montañana, nv (soft and agreeable)

Dinner down the hill

Eastside Road, —
BAVETTE IS WHAT Eric grilled, and that reminds me of our black cat Joe, because while his name was Joe, one neighbor called him Blackie, and another called him something else, I forget what at the moment — this was thirty years ago. This led me to fantasize that Joe undoubtedly thought of us as those-who-call-me-Joe, and the neighbor as he-who-calls-me-Blackie, and so on.

Bavette is what-the-French-call-bavette, and what-most-Americans-call-flank steak. Now that I look up the etymology, I realize I used to hear it called "bib steak" when I was a kid. Point is, it's a flap of muscle, no matter how you cut it, and it tends to be tough.

This one came from a nearby ranch and was, I'm pretty sure, from a Scottish Highlander steer: the grain's fairly fine, and while lean, as you see, it's moist and succulent: Highlanders have a completely different fat configuration than other steers, owing to their thick coat of hair, and their flesh reflect this somehow.

Eric grilled it in the fireplace over a wood fire, also some eggplant slices; Thérèse had made some delicious grated-zucchini fritters, and a whipped cream sauce flavored with basil and lemon.

Salmon.jpgOh: and for a first course, this delicious salmon salad, a little blurry in the photo I'm afraid, that Lindsey'd made by poaching some nice fresh local salmon lightly, then flaking it with onions and cilantro and jalapeño peppers, dressing it ceviche-style with lime juice. Fabulous.
Champagne, Veuve Cliquot, nv; Petite Sirah, Bogle Vineyards, 2010

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Hot dog

Eastside Road, June 17, 2012—

Good dog, but the Cubs lost.


Healdsburg, June 15, 2012—
DINNER IN TOWN with friends tonight. My, my, Healdsburg is changing. We though it had changed to a fairly permanent form ten years ago or so, but recently it's taken another turn, even further upscale. I see a new hotel is announced on Matheson Street, and new restaurants are opening.

Couldn't get a table at Scopa, or at Barndiva either. Other places would be too noisy for conversation, or too somnolent for fun. So we waitlisted at Willi's, with misgivings on my part; I've always preferred their other location…

When the original not-original Willi's Wine Bar opened on the old highway north of Santa Rosa — the original original Willi's being still in Paris, far as I know — I loved the joint. We had a wonderful night there with four friends. One of them was reviewing the place, so we ordered one of everything and ate our way through the menu: small plates, vaguely Moroccan-Mediterranean, high flavors, good technique.

Then they opened a place in Santa Rosa, Monti's — we had goat there a week or two ago. And then a "seafood bar" in Healdsburg; and then a steak house, Stark and Company, in Santa Rosa; and now I hear they're planning yet another restaurant somewhere.

I have misgivings about this. There's a similar operation in Berkeley, running Lalime's, T Rex, Sea Salt, and Paisan: each different, I think — I've only eaten at Paisan — each popular. But I think a really good restaurant reflects the character of an individual, or of a tight group of individuals, and when a number of satellite operations open, the result is bound to be formulaic. The formula may be good, and interesting; the technique and sourcing can be quite as reliable; but something industrial threatens to seep in.

Add to that the problem of a steady menu and the result however attractive and pleasant, may seem familiar, even routine to repeat visits.

Oh well. We began with very nice oysters on the half shell, local ones of course; I went on to mint-flavored lamb, grilled au point and served with a discreet sweet black soy glaze, with sautéed spinach on the side.
Sauvignon blanc; Zinfandel (local, expensive, delicious, unrecorded)
• Willi's Seafood & Raw Bar, 403 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg; 707.433.9191

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Lentil salad

potatoes lentils.jpg
Eastside Road, June 14, 2012—
SALAD: SO SATSIFYINGLY VAGUE a word — it could be anything. A few leaves of arugula, some olive oil, lemon juice, salt. Or romaine, anchovies, garlic, raw egg. Slices of tomato, onion, and bell pepper — again, with oil, and lemon or vinegar, and salt.

I'm lazy just now; I won't look it up; but I'm certain the one essential ingredient, the one that gives salad its name, is salt. And how I love it, especially these hot dry windy days.

Tonight Lindsey turned to the New York Times for inspiration: this recipe by David Tanis, who was alternate chef to Jean-Pierre Moullé for years downstairs at Chez Panisse. As usual, the photo doesn't do it justice.

It's a delicious main-dish composed salad, not too heavy even for hot weather, lifted by the aromatics and the mustard. Lindsey used pancetta instead of bacon, and it worked fine. Let's have a second helping!

And then green salad, with some thick-leaved slightly bitter green lettuce from the garden, along with red oakleaf; and then half a green-fleshed honeydew (or was it Galia?) melon, first of the year. Very satisfying.
Cheap Nero d'Avola

Back to Berkeley

Berkeley, June 13, 2012—
EARLY SUPPER with a friend before attending a couple of concerts on campus. Has to be quick and convenient, so we stopped in at a restaurant around the corner from her house.

We've been here before, both to this restaurant and to the, let's see, four or five restaurants that have occupied the same premises over the last six or eight years. Some locations just don't seem lucky: for some reason they attract the wrong business models.

The current occupant is interesting. The menu is engaging and enterprising, running to variations on Spanish and Catalan themes; the wine list is equally attractive. Sourcing falls within Berkeley standards: local, organic where possible, seasonable. And the kitchen execution is up to snuff: no complaints.

But we were seated a little after five (the first concert was at seven), and out at six-thirty, and there were very few other diners to be seen — one, in fact, in our fairly large room. Still, the service seemed somehow tentative, as if not wanting to intrude…

We had delicious crisp deep-fried spinach leaves, dark dark green and nicely flavored with a good olive oil and salt; and then a grilled flatiron steak, beautifully rare, nicely seared, on a bed of crisp gratin-style potatoes, with rapini on the side — one gets one's vegetables here, and that's a good thing. (Lindsey had some very nice Blue Lake green beans.)

Dessert, even though we're rushed, why not? My cake — I don't recall what it was called on the menu; it sounded as though it would be a trifle or zuppa inglese sort of thing — turned out to be rather a dry yellow cake, almost like a pound cake though not terribly rich, with a crème patisserie I believe, and whipped cream, and strawberries: when all mashed together it was quite nice.

I like the food here; the owners, too, seem hard-working and hopeful. I wish them well. It's a difficult business these days.
Tempranillo blend (Spain)
• Origen, 2826 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley; (510) 848-9200

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Sausalito, June 12, 2012—
PRINCIPAL MEAL OF THE DAY at midday: I like that, particularly on a hot lazy day, particularly with good company and good conversation, particularly at leisure. So we drove an hour south to this quaint marginal tourist town, which we so rarely visit, for an al fresco lunch, where the four of us ordered very nearly one of everything, it seemed.

I began with a cup of delicious Portuguese red chowder: tomatoes, linguiça, clams, madeira, smoked paprika, cilantro, watercress. Then an unfortunately revisionist Tuscan white bean and tuna salad, with grated carrots greatly distracting from the classic tuna-white bean-onion mix.

We split two daily specials, Lindsey and I: a paella with chicken, clams, mussels, a rice too much saffronized (go carefully with saffron, say I, and use good stuff); and a couple of cod steaks on a bed of rather a nice potato gratinée. The fish seemed dry and overcooked to me, but what a pleasant spot for a long lunch…

Dessert? Better have an affogato for the road…
Pinot gris, McFadden (Mendocino county), 2010; Sauvignon blanc, Voss Vineyards (Napa Valley), 2010
• Fish, 350 Harbor Drive, Sausalito; 415.331.3474

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Penne alla carbonara

Eastside Road, June 10, 2012—
I KNOW: IT'S NOT quite authentic. Pasta alla carbonara should be made with spaghetti. But Lindsey likes penne, and penne is what we have. I beat three smallish eggs with a half cup of grated parmagiano, some salt, and plenty of good black pepper, while she boiled up the pasta and fried some slices of pancetta — good pancetta, made by Franco Dunn, whose sausage we always favor.

Drain the pasta, toss it in the egg mixture, add the bits of pancetta and toss again. Nothing to it. Green salad afterward, and then a mess of strawberries.
Vermintino, Epicuro (Lazio), 2011

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Salmon in fig leaves

Eastside Road, June 9, 2012—
TO THE FARM MARKET this morning, as usual, and with the usual results: favas, salmon, strawberries, loganberries, garlic…

Lindsey salted and peppered the salmon, and sprinkled it with a bit of olive oil, and wrapped it in fig leaves she'd soaked for an hour or so. I fired up the grill: charcoal and grapevine wood. First I grilled a number of sweet green peppers; then the salmon went on, a few minutes on one side, a few on the other.

Meantime Lindsey'd cooked up the favas in a little butter. Green salad afterward, and berries and ice cream… June's a wonderful month!

salmon, done.jpg
Vermintino, Epicuro (Lazio), 2011 (soft, bland, forthcoming)


San Francisco, June 8, 2012—
DOWN TO WHAT WE Berkeleyans still call The City today to see an exhibition at the museum, and why not have dinner with old friends not seen for years? We met at a neighborhood ethnic spot near them, a favorite of theirs, and I can see why.

We started with the Mismas Pakauda: Spinach, onion, chickpea flour, spices, all stir-fried, served with mint and tamarind chutneys — which in fact seemed more like sauces.

Then, on to Khasiko Pakuwa: lamb cooked with tomato, onion, garlic, ginger, and spices. What could go wrong with that? Nothing. It was delicious.
Pinot noir by the glass, a little too long since it was opened
Little Nepal Restaurant, 925 Cortland Avenue, San Francisco; (415) 643-3881

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Getting by

Eastside Road, June 7, 2012—
LINDSEY'S BIRTHDAY: she was taken out to lunch by our daughter — just the girls — and her lunch was her Principal Meal of the Day, as we say here. Which left me getting by, perfectly adequately, with a nudge from her, on a hot dog and a bun left over from a few days ago, and a handful of olives, and an excellent green salad from our garden.
Sirah-Syrah, Preston of Dry Creek, 2008


Eastside Road, June 6, 2012—
WHAT TO CALL this kind of restaurant? We used to distinguish fancy places by calling them "white-tablecloth" restaurants, but these days that's just too generic. I guess I think of this kind of place as "upscale." The tables are well separated, the ceiling high, the service courteous and just a little formal.

The menu offers seven choices for both the first and the main course, many of them on the rich side. I had Scallop en croûte, three fat sea-scallops in beurre-blanc with a tiny taste of caviar ("American") and fennel fondue, in a rich competent puff-paste casing.


Afterward, this "Crispy Skin Duck Breast," cooked to just the right degree but not exactly crisp, on a bed of dark polenta, with one tiny turnip with its stem and leaf and a quarter of a small onion, artfully arranged on the oval white platter.

Presentation is what this is about. (The desserts were even more architectural; I had an armagnac instead.) There's no question that the food tasted good, was nicely executed, and locally and intelligently sourced; but there's also no question but that concern for visual appearance — and for adherence to what I think of as media-influenced gastrofashion — outweighed consideration of total mealtime enjoyment. We live in a decadent age, when meta matters more than matter, style more than substance.

The food was delicious, the evening relaxed, the conversation enjoyable — we were with friends, and left to our own pace. I have no complaints with the restaurant, only with some aspects of the age I find I live in — an aging man's complaint, I suppose.
Sauvignon blanc, Lime Stone, 2010 (good varietal character, very dry);
Pinot noir, Sojourn (Sonoma coast), 2004 (beautifully balanced, rich but not overbearing: thanks, John!)
• Dry Creek Kitchen, 317 Healdsburg Avenue Healdsburg; (707) 431-0330

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Too much to eat

Berkeley, then Santa Rosa, June 4, 2012—
TOO MUCH EATING today, no doubt about it. Oh well: tomorrow's a fast day.

Lunch in the Café, where I had a fine salad: arugula leaves lightly dressed, cucumbers in a light creamy dressing, and spicy chickpeas. Then local halibut with escarole, peas, Meyer lemon, toasted breadcrumbs, sprinkled with summer savory — a favorite herb. (Saturday I had my first peach of the year; today's were my first peas of the year. How nice to savor these things.)

Then dessert: stracciatella ice cream, beautifully smooth and nicely balanced between the chocolate chips and the cream, with both caramel and chocolate sauce, and a chocolate cookie sprinkled with crystal sugar. Wow.

We'd planned on a very light supper, but friends called to suggest going to a favorite local of theirs for the Monday night special: "Moroccan barbecued" goat, with tzatziki, Meyer lemon potatoes, and flatbread. Interesting resonances between this dinner and the lunch we'd had only a few hours earlier: the tzatziki and the cucumbers; the oven-fried wedges of lemon-flavored potatoes and the whisper of Meyer lemon on the halibut. I celebrated with another dessert, this time in liquid form, a curious aqua vita called Gioiello, distilled from bitter chestnut-blossom honey by Nonino, an acquired taste which I haven't fully acquired.

No photos today. They don't do the food justice.
Lunch: Jurançon sec, Vitatge Vielh, Clos Lapeyre, 2009 (dry, complex, austere, delicious).
Dinner: Nebbiolo, Germano Angelo (La Morra), 2008 (true, not too light, pleasant)
Café Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; 510.548.5525
Monti's Rotisserie & Bar, 714 Village Court, Santa Rosa; 707.568.4404

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sunday salmon

Eastside Road, June 3, 2012—
YOU KNOW THE DRILL: Salmon every Sunday. We get it from Dave the fish guy, who gets it from the cold blue Pacific. We didn't see him today; he was out fishing. But his son, I think it was, judging by the similarity of expressions and gestures, sold us a nice piece of fish.

Lindsey broiled it simply, with salt and pepper, and buttered a mess of Nancy Skall's favas. For salad I picked lettuce and some puntarelle from the garden. I peeled the leaves from the stems, but next time I think I'll leave them on, choosing only the smallest leaves. Anchovies, green garlic from the garden, salt, oil, and our own Zinfandel vinegar made the dressing, and there was nothing to complain about there.

Then for dessert, this fine little Gateau Basque, bought (like the salmon) at the Sebastopol farm market this morning, from a pâtissière who I think does a marvelous job of creating truly French dessert pastries (and a few breakfast pastries). Her business is called Pâtisserie Angelica, and you can get her stuff online, and you should maybe give them a try.
Rosé, Guilhem (Pays d'Hérault), 2011

Dinner at the fort

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Fort Ross, California, June 2, 2012—
I ATE WAY TOO MUCH today, but had a good reason: a twenty-odd mile walk with 130 other people rambling around the north Sonoma coast, ending at seven o'clock at this remnant of the Russia America outpost from two hundred years ago.

(They were here to collect sea otter pelts, with the help of some native Americans from their Alaska colony. Thirty years later, the otter hunted to near extinction, they sold the outpost to John Sutter and sailed home.)

We set out at six, walked a couple of hours through redwoods, then stopped for breakfast at Plantation, where we were served scrambled eggs and bacon, beans and rice, salsa and tortillas, and lots of fresh fruit and coffee.

At two o'clock we broke for lunch: roast beef and cheese sandwiches, juices, again plenty of fruit — apples, bananas, apricots, peaches.

Then, finally, at seven-thirty or so, we walked into the fort. There volunteers were cooking up rice, beans and chicken in huge iron pots over an open fire. There was an array of what I think of as Oklahoma funeral salads: potato salads, macaroni salads, olive-and-sweet pepper salads. The rolls had been donated by Franco American, and took me back sixty-five years when they were a family favorite in my childhood; and the butter was churned on the spot from cream donated by neighboring milk-cows. Plenty of coffee; plenty of fresh fruit; delicious Russian cookies.
Cold water and plenty of it

Hot dog!

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Eastside Road, June 1, 2012—
EVEN THOUGH I FORGOT to say "rabbit" before saying anything else this morning, thus ensuring good luck all the new month, eatingwise things are starting out okay. We watch the Cubs battle the Giants on television, eating a delicious first course of buttery leeks and carrots, then continuing with a classic American hot dog — Niman Schell, on Downtown bun, with pickle relish and onion and spicy brown mustard. Can't beat it. (And Cubs couldn't beat Giants, dammit.)
Sirah-Syrah, Preston of Dry Creek, 2008