Sunday, September 30, 2012

Alla giapponese

Eastside Road, September 30, 2012—
TO MARKET THIS MORNING for Nancy Skall's limas and Dave's fresh-caught salmon; then this afternoon into Healdsburg to a book-signing, where our friend Nancy Singleton Hachisu was presenting her new book Japanese Farm Food, a marvelous and beautiful introduction to her way of cooking simply and directly within the Japanese idiom.

Then home to marry the day's two outings. I built a little fire outside, using rosemary and fruitwood branches, and Lindsey sprinkled the salmon with salt and vodka (no sake on hand), put a dot of butter on each and a few scallions, then wrapped them in foil.

They cooked over the coals for maybe fifteen minutes, and we had them, as you see, with an ear of corn and the limas. The fish was absolutely delicious. Green salad afterward, and some melon and fruit. A perfect Indian-summer supper. (It was 104° in Healdsburg today!)
Cheap Pinot grigio
Japanese Farm Food, by Nancy Singleton Hachisu (Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2012), p. 242salmon and limas.jpg

Grilled cheese

Eastside Road, September 29, 2012—
AFTER A DAY spent at a memorial service (for Marion Cunningham, who died a couple of months ago), and then mindlessly drifting about and finally visiting a fine exhibition of photographs in San Francisco, neither of us was really in the mood for much of a dinner. A perfect Saturday evening supper? A Martini, grilled cheese sandwiches, a green salad, a little fruit.
Cheap Pinot grigio


San Rafael, September 28, 2012—
EN ROUTE TO A delightful concert — music by Darius Milhaud, performed at Mills College — why not stop at a restaurant we haven't visited, particularly since it's owned by a fellow who was a friend and schoolmate when I studied at Mills back in the very early 1960s?

To tell the truth I've lost touch with Phil since. He went his way, I went mine. His way was the Grateful Dead; my way led elsewhere. But those are other stories; this is an eatblog. So: we stopped off a little before our reservation, in time for a decent Martini; and then, since the restaurant overlooks a small boat harbor, we ate seafood. I had this hunk of halibut, beautifully poached, served with green beans, peppers, onions, in a nice oil-based sauté sauce; Lindsey had fish and chips, the fish in a batter so delicate as to be barely there — as good an execution of this classic as I remember seeing anywhere, London included.

Dessert: Well, after the Martini, and a glass of wine, coffee seems to be in order. Fortunately the dessert menu mentions affogato, that indispensable combination of espresso and ice cream. This versions' a bit tarted up, with sliced almonds and Grand Marnier, but oh boy is it delicious.

I'm impressed with Phil's restaurant: we'll definitely return. For one thing it's comfortable, at least early, before the music begins. For another, the sourcing is careful. My dessert, for example, was made with Three Twins organic ice cream and Equator espresso: you can't ask for much more than that. The wine list is interesting, too, but I settled for a glass of
Sauvignon blanc, Terrapin house white (Sonoma valley): good varietal, easy
Terrapin Crossroads, 100 Yacht Club Drive, San Rafael, California; 415-524-2773fishchips.jpgdessert.jpg

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Eastside Road, —
AS YOU SEE, fusilli tonight, with pesto. When did I make that pesto? Really, August 11? Well, it's certainly held well…

Then a couple of weeks ago some folks were up for lunch and I'd happened to pick up a pine cone: time to demonstrate the home-grown pine nuts. These are labor-intensive: you pull out the nuts from between the scales using long-nosed pliers; you wipe the soot off them lest it pollute the taste of the kernel; you crack the nut using the pliers, being careful not to pinch the skin of your fingers; you extract the kernel and divest it of its husk…

Our guests amused themselves so for a few minutes. I saved the results in a little plastic container, and it's been decorating a corner of the kitchen island ever since. Tonight I tossed them into a mortar and ground them to a paste, adding some of the pesto to clean the result out of the mortar, then combining the whole with the rest of the pesto. Nice texture, richer flavor.

Green salad afterward, and a plate of sliced tomatoes. And then dessert, oh boy:

Fruit from the garden — Bosc pears, peaches (well, from Dry Creek; ours are much earlier in the season); and those absolutely delicious Yellow Transparent plums, picked at twilight today, sweet, soft, translucent, incomparable. The chocolate? Half a truffle Lindsey came into today, a gift from someone out in Sonoma…
Rosé, Château de Guilhem, 2011; Carignane, Preston of Dry Creek, 2009

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

That market dinner

Eastside Road, September 26, 2012—
THESE ARE THE LIMAS we so love to have, just shelled, a little bit larger than life, at least on my monitor. Your experience may vary.

They come usually four beans to the pod, and they're quite thin. They remind me, I hope it's not too grisly an image, of thumbnails: curved, flat, thin, and about that size. My nails are not green, fortunately; but then these beans aren't all that green either, the color's a bit saturated here.

salmon.jpgThey were the last to be had this year, Nancy told us at the market on Saturday. The seasons are turning: before long it'll be braises; cabbages and kales; we should be pickling the last of the lemons on the tree; the olives are almost ready to pick and salt as I do every third year or so, to set aside to mold and eventually throw out. I'm not much of a husbandman.

I picked up the fallen apples today — probably seventy pounds of them, and consigned them to compost. Of them a full box were sound enough to set aside; they'll go into applesauce. And those are only the windfalls: there are plenty still on the tree, to fall in their turn, if we don't get around to picking them. We already have three big baskets of Bosc pears, at least a bushel I'd say, about half the produce of that tree. The figs are running late. The Zinfandel's nearly ready to pick, or to leave for the foxes.

It's a nice time of year, and our salmon and limas and green Zebra tomatoes make a nice farewell to summer, and greeting to the fall.
Rosé, Château de Guilhem, 2011 (so easy to drink, so pleasant and good for you…)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Eastside Road, September 25, 2012—
PIZZA WAS UNKNOWN in my neighborhood when I was a boy; it took the returning GIs from Italy, who presumably brought memory of the staple with them, to instal it firmly in the American consciousness. Now, of course, it's everywhere.

The wood-burning pizza oven came later. It's hard to imagine even that, now; but forty years ago there were few such appliances, even in the Bay Area. One, perhaps, in San Francisco. I mean ovens devoted exclusively to pizza, of course. No doubt bakers with wood-burning ovens were always prone to fixing their own suppers in the oven at the end of the day. But how many restaurants had one?

Now they're a dime a dozen (unless you're in the market for one, in which case they go for a considerable amount more). You can find a good oven in any self-respecting Italian restaurant. In our town, Healdsburg, there must be dozens of them.

Tonight we went a little further afield, finding ourselves in the next town north after a highschool volleyball game. Lindsey and I split a tasty green salad with big meaty chunks of heirloom tomatoes and sweat-'til-soft torpedo onions nestling in the lettuces, a healthy handful of Gorgonzola crumbled in the lusty vinaigrette.

Then, while she tackled her prosciutto and mushroom ravioli with brown-butter leeks and rapini, I tucked into a pizza. It was the house special, a little eccentric, certainly more Southern than Northern Italian: roasted red peppers, meatballs with pine nuts and raisins, provolone, and lots of arugula strewn on top. Diavola, they call it, and devilish good.

What I like about this pizza: it's on the casual side. The dough's tossed and spun and fired hot; the topping are set in place with heart and generosity, not some kind of even-handed compulsiveness. You've read about Franco Dunn's magnificent sausages on this blog from time to time: Diavolo is where he makes them, as I understand it, and the meatballs on this pizza reflect his approach: plenty of intelligence and respect for authenticity and terroir, but equal parts of sensuality and pure pleasure. Why don't we drive up here more often?
Nero "di Campo," Hawkes House (Sonoma Coast), nv: rich, immediate, compelling.
• Diavola, 21021 Geyserville Avenue, Geyserville, California; 707-814-0111


Berkeley, September 24, 2012—
ANOTHER TRIP to Berkeley for another birthday celebration — this time the big 80th of an old dear friend, justification as if needed for two days of festivity.

We began on Sunday with a surprise party reception in the Berkeley-Oakland hills; then on Monday a private party for three couples downstairs at Chez Panisse. There we started with the delicious salad imperfectly photographed here: grilled albacore with tomatoes, yellow wax beans, and capers. Soft, barely-cooked fish, full of flavor, beautifully balanced, a last tribute to summer.

Then duck: pan-seared breast and confit duck legs with crisp potatoes, caramelized apples, and braised radicchio — an invitation from autumn: crisp, salt, sweet, complex.

Dessert: a crêpe filled with honey ice cream, roasted black figs on the side and over. Delicious.
Pinot gris, Domaine Pfister (Alsace), 2010: floral, soft, inviting, artless; Vernatsch, Baron Widmann Kurtatsch (Südtirol), 2010: full, direct, pleasant
• Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510.848.5525

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Berkeley, California, September 23, 2012—
WHERE TO DINE in Berkeley on a Sunday night? We settled on a modest neighborhood Italian next door in Albany, where we began with this salad: arugula, pecans, pears, Gorgonzola; a nice combination.

I continued with a plate of ravioli stuffed with spinach, ricotta, and Parmesan cheese, in a thick cream sauce pungent with cilantro, garlic, pesto, and lemon juice. The lemon combined with the cilantro in a manner I've never experienced before — I always associate cilantro with lime, not lemon. The result made me think of sorrel, a flavor so specifically French you'd never expect it in a plate of ravioli — but it was, I must say, delicious, with only a hint of pignoli to contribute more by way of texture than flavor. A very nice dish.
Nero d'Avola
• Mangia Mangia, 755 San Pablo Avenue, Albany; (510) 526-9700

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Alsace (Wales)

Eastside Road, September 22, 2012—
RED, ISN'T IT? It's a trick of photography. In fact I think of this menu as white. The sausage is from Franco Dunn, by way of the Healdsburg Farm Market, but it's a new one, at least to us: he called it "Welsh Pork and Leek," and it was his take on a banger — but by far better than anything we've tasted in our admittedly small experience in the United Kingdom.

With it, steamed fingerling potatoes from the neighbors' farm, and red sauerkraut from Lou Preston up in Dry Creek. All adding up, I thought, to a sort of Alsatian dinner. Not German. Not, Bacchus save us, Brit. Not even Welsh, though my own ancestry is probably as much Celtic as Anglo-Saxon; more, I should think.

In any case, delicious. Did I mention that Franco added some Gravenstein apple juice to the mix when he made this delicious sausage? And that the leek flavor actually comes through, even when the sausage is cooked?

A bit of butter in the potatoes. A green salad afterward. And dessert! Strawberries, blackberries, mulberries!
Vin d'Alsace (60% Sylvaner, 15% Muscat, 15% Auxerrois, 10% Chasselas), Kuentz-Bas, 2009 (clean, clear, pointed)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Terrapin Creek

Eastside Road, September 21, 2012—
APOLOGIES TO THOSE VEGETARIANS among you: yes; that's beefsteak. More specifically, "Creekstone Farms Angus Beef Rib Eye," with whipped potatoes, sautéed broccolini and mushrooms, with a tiny bit of soy sauce blended into the reduction. (Why is reduction so often called "jus" on American menus? Another irritant…)

Before that, a Caesar salad manqué: as the menu promised, "Eggless Dressing, Romaine Lettuce, Parmesan Cheese, Croutons." No raw egg. No anchovy. Almost no garlic. Yet somehow perfectly refreshing, well-balanced, and rich with very good Parmesan.

This was really a nice restaurant, a nice discovery. It's been here, in this remote coastal town, for a few years now. Eight or ten people on the staff, lunch and dinner Thursday through Sunday, mostly local and mostly correctly raised ingredients — though this beefsteak was grain-finished in Colorado, not grass-fed within forty miles, as would have been perfectly possible.

Still: if not the very best and most ethical ingredients, still intelligent and knowledgable technique, an enterprising menu, friendly and competent service. Twenty-five for food in Zagat; one Michelin star. We'll likely be back.
"Yulupa Cuvée Brut," Kenwood, NV (crisp, friendly); Rhone-style Syrah blend, California, details missing (powdery, young, stemmy)
• Terrapin Creek, 1580 Eastshore Road, Bodega Bay, California; (707) 875-2700


Eastside Road, September 20, 2012—
WHAT COULD BE simpler than bruschetta: slices of bread, preferably a little stale, rubbed with raw garlic, toasted in the oven, drizzled with olive oil, salted and peppered, and perhaps topped with something. Here, with leftover broccoli seasoned with red pepper and other things, just what I'm not sure, as Curt prepared it, oh, a week ago Sunday.

But we had that with our green salad, the first green salad we've had at home in days; it's been so long I almost had to think about how I usually make the vinaigrette (minced garlic ground together with salt in the bottom of the salad bowl, then covered with olive oil and left to season while we eat dinner; the vinegar whisked in at the last minute before adding the lettuces and tossing).

Dinner was, as you see, a sausage of Franco's on a bun from Downtown; green beans from the market, tomatoes ditto, zucchini from Anandi's garden. And dessert was Bosc pears from our tree, an Italian prune ditto, a peach from Dry Creek. Locavores, that's what we are these days. Even the wine:
Carignane, Preston of Dry Creek, 2009: mature, smooth, balanced, rich

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Eastside Road, September 19, 2012—
TIME TO CHECK the icebox, excuse me, fridge for leftovers. Ah yes: boerenkool, altijds lekker.

With it, green beans from the market; green tomatoes from the market. You'd think it was St. Patrick's Day.
Montsant, Grenache-Carignan, "Seré" (Catalunya), 2010
(big, dark, closed, agreeable; none the worse for a couple days in the opened bottle)

Crane melon

Eastside Road, September 18, 2012—
MY MATERNAL GRANDFATHER'S paternal grandfather, if you follow me, was one of three brothers who settled on the Santa Rosa plain, in the foothills between Santa Rosa and Petaluma.

In the lope of the years, as the Dutch say, each of the brothers begat a number of children; each of them ditto; and so on. Since my great-great-grandfather, Robert, was not the eldest, my branch lost out on the acreage, which has since dwindled considerably in any case.

I didn't know Robert, of course; he died in 1900. I knew his third son Charles, though, my great-grandfather and namesake. He was born in Santa Rosa in 1857, married locally, taught in Geyserville, farmed in Oregon for a short time, then Yolo county, and ultimately settled in Berkeley so that his son Charles, my grandfather — still with me? — could go to University.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the other branch of the family, descended from Robert's brother Richard, continued to farm. Cattle, sheep, produce. A century or so ago Richard's son Oliver was experimenting with melon hybrids, and came up with a honey -- fragrant, soft, juicy, complex. It is, I truly believe, the queen of melons -- the Charentais being the king. And, like the Charentais, like all subtle melons I should think, it is site-specific. To know the Crane melon you must taste it on its own grounds.

You can buy seeds online, and a number of farmers in our extended neighborhood grow the melon — we've bought it from at least three different farmers at the Healdsburg Farm Market. And I've grown it myself, in seeds taken from the source, melons bought at the Crane Barn south of Santa Rosa. Never, however, is the melon quite as tasty as when bought at the Barn. Terroir is important.

There are other considerations. Ripeness, of course. We smell the melon, and press it gently, and heft it to verify sugar content. The melon shows an amazing amount of visual variation: color, shape, size, even texture. It's not as standardized as more commercial varieties, and it doesn't ship well, or even hold particularly well. You have to be ready for it when it's ready for you. That's not asking too much. Slow Food was right to add it to the Ark of Taste.

Otherwise, fast today: toast and coffee, tea and nuts.

Monday, September 17, 2012


Eastside Road, September 17, 2012—
NO, IT HASN'T REALLY grown that cool yet; autumn's in the air, you can see it in the angle of the light and the foliage on the trees, but it's not here yet. Still, the aroma of bacon in the kitchen, the promise of good dark kale in the market. And the fact of aging potatoes from markets past, still lurking in a dark corner of the pantry.

So tonight, after a first course of a few limas left from Saturday, the first boerenkool of the season. Boerenkool, altijd lekker!
Montsant, Grenache-Carignan, "Seré" (Catalunya), 2010 (big, dark, closed, agreeable)

Staff party

party.jpgphoto: Lindsey Shere
Eastside Road, September 16, 2012—
GRAB YOUR HAT and your iPhone: it's time for one of the big summer outdoors parties, our annual staff party. This time, probably two hundred people, from great-grandparents like us to babes in arms, as the multigenerational staff-and-associated gathered on the lawn at Bob Cannard's farm down near Glen Ellen, source of much of the produce that appears on la table panissienne.

The menu, as you see, had a distinct East Mediterranean flavor. Samin is a favorite of ours, as woman, writer, and cook; she has an intuitive way with food and with people, and the whole thing seemed to proceed effortlessly. We had our wineglasses, plates, forks, and bandanas in a nice wicker basket; we spread out a car blanket on the lawn; we talked to dozens of friends old and new, and listened to other conversations in English, Spanish, French, and Pashto — that last a melodious language completely foreign to me, alas.

Straw bales to sit on, and a long picnic table. Wine and water and melons cooling in stock tanks. Kegs of beer and ale, and all the delicious rosé I could handle (thanks, Michael!). A fine time was had by all.
Rosé, Château de Guilhem, 2011

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Another market menu

Eastside Road, September 15, 2012—
sALMON AND SAUSAGE and lima beans too; the Healdsburg Farm Market paid off double today. Well, why not: we had a grandson to dinner.

I made a fire of rosemary wood, and grilled the Nardello peppers over it; then the salmon, oiled and salted and peppers, and the sausages, delicious pork-and-veal ones from Franco Dunn. Lindsey cooked the lima beans in a little butter, as she does; and some nice potatoes from the farm next door. A fine supper on an Indian summer evening.
Cabernet sauvignon, Francis Coppola, 2002 (deep and mature: thanks, Kendall!)

Then, afterward, we drove into town for a cocktail and dessert. The Hanky Panky was pretty good — equal parts gin and Antica Carpano with a healthy dash of Fernet Branca and an orange zest. The panna cotta was revisionist, I'm afraid, with a scattering of cheese on top, and a couple of raspberries. Art and Industry overtake Nature here, as often happens in upscale kitchens. But it's fun.

• Cyrus Restaurant, 29 North Street, Healdsburg; (707) 433-3311

Friday, September 14, 2012

Another newbie

Eastside Road, September 14, 2012—
HERE'S THE THING about "small plates" restaurants: for even a small group they can get expensive — you lose track of how many things you've ordered, and there's a sort of competition to please one's companions, and to try various corners of the menu.

And they seem to be louder than more conventional restaurants, perhaps because there's so much to talk about, and because there are more frequent visits from servers and bussers.

Still, they're fun. And here's another new one, in our local Big City, with an intriguing menu and a wine list full of enticing unknowns. What did we have? What did we not have? We had:
Kimchee and bacon deviled egg
Charcuterie plate
Duck terrine
Kennebec fries
Heirloom tomatoes
Tomato and bread soup
Corn and coconut fritters
Crisp broiled pork belly
Grilled calamari
Merguez sausage
Ricotta gnocchi
Virtually every plate was really quite delicious: sharply flavored, distinct, well salted, with good olive oil when appropriate. The deviled egg was perhaps blander than we'd expected, but the terrine was very nice, the soup deep and authentic, the fritters interesting and substantial, the pork belly outstanding. Only the gnocchi disappointed me: commercial wheat pasta, not soft potato dumplings.

We still had room for dessert, and I hardly shared mine: Earl Grey chocolate pot de crème, with a nice little shortbread cookie on the side.

The place was infernally loud, even at six-thirty in the evening — 70 dB background level at our table. Still, I'd go back: the food was that good.
Dolcetto/Montepulciano, Unti (Dry Creek), 2011 (light but rich, very pleasant); Carignan/Grenache/Mourvèdre, Lioco Indica (Mendocino), 2009 (a little dull)
The Spinster Sisters, 401 South A Street, Santa Rosa, California; 707.528.7100

Thursday, September 13, 2012

New place in town

Eastside Road, September 12, 2012—
NO IDEA WHY they have a feminine adjective modifying a masculine noun: maybe it's one more subtlety of the Italian that I don't understand. Fino means "fine" in the sense of minute, or keen, or sharp, or (sometimes) even; and when it modifies a feminine noun it ends in -a; but campo is a masculine nount (meaning, in general, "field").

And in any case this restaurant with its odd but pleasant inside-outside configuration isn't really a field, or in a field; but a former wasteland-parkinglot, I suppose. Oh, the hell with it: it's agreeable, with tables big and small under a sort of arbor, a compact bocce court alongside, kitchen areas tucked here and there, the obligatory wood-burning pizza oven, and a menu given to ciccheti, the small-plate nibbles made popular through Venetian restaurants sometime in the last decade.

There were five of us, so we ordered quite a number of these plates, passing them around:
Baccalà croquettes
Charred octopus
Tricolore salad
Polenta alla Sarda
and, after playing with these, some of them twice, we ordered the special pizza of the night: piquant sausage, tomato sauce, mozzarella, and kernels of fresh sweet corn.

The croquettes were melt-in-your mouth; the octopus deeply flavorful; the panelle a kind of Italian panisse, perfect chickpea fritters with olives, chopped celery, pear sticks, and anchovy. The soppressata was very thinly sliced, house-made, quite peppery, delicious; strewn with tomato and hard-cooked egg concassées and salsa verde; the polenta was baked with sausage, gratinéed with pecorino, and strewn with basil. The menu is basically Sicilian, Sard, and southern Italian, and the wine list is nicely compatible.

cheese.jpgThen came the desserts, which we mostly did not share around, or at least I didn't, because I really do like my cheese, and hadn't known about Latur — how long has this been going on? A delicious triple cream cheese, rather firm but yielding and pungent, served here with toasted almonds and hazelnuts and drizzled with fine local honey. Thanks, Bill.
Aglianico del Vulture, Grifalco, 2008: smooth, deep, rounded, full
Campo Fina, 330 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg, California; 707.395.4640

Monday, September 10, 2012

Party: Grand Aïoli

Eastside Road, September 9, 2012—
EVERY SUMMER WE ASK the pastry crew of Chez Panisse to come up for an afternoon supper party. It's our way of keeping in touch with them, important to us for a number of reasons, not the least of which is — well, sentimental: we love these guys, are interested in them and their lives and enthusiasms, and find that staying in touch keeps us that much more enthusiastic about our own lives and connections.

This time we asked an old and dear friend, practically part of the family, to do the cooking, and here's the menu he came up with:

Aïoli, tuna, green beans, sautéed potatoes, peppers, tomatoes with purslane and basil, radishes, hard-cooked eggs, pork rolls, beets…

oh, I don't know, all sorts of delicious things, summery, perfect for a spread for a couple of dozen enthusiastic eaters on the patio on a beautiful afternoon.

Dessert? Of course: a wonderful summer trifle, served in individual little Mason jars, one apiece. And lots of good conversation, and another rosé, well into the night…

Believe me: we know how lucky we all are, and we're grateful.
Prosecco, Zonin, NV; Rosé, Château de Guilhem, 2011; cheap Pinot grigio

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Market supper

salmon supper.jpg
Eastside Road, September 8, 2012—
THE USUAL SATURDAY supper; I'm sure you have it memorized: Fresh-caught salmon; fabulous lima beans; tomatoes from the neighbor's farm; cherry tomatoes and Meyer lemon from our garden…
Cheap Nero d'Avola


Eastside Road, September 7, 2012—
NO; NOT THE COCKTAIL; just another old-fashioned dinner in an old-fashioned restaurant in an old-fashioned hotel. We're not staying the night. In fact, I don't know if we'll return. Maybe.

We were in town visiting with family, which of course involved eating. Before that dinner, lunch in a sort-of bistro we hadn't tried before, but which had been recommended — what I call a shoppingmall restaurant, not a place you'd happen upon while out for a stroll. There, though, I had an acceptable croque-monsieur, an acceptable bowl of bean-and-sage soup (slightly troubled by its revisionist tomato), and a lemon tartelet that put me in mind of Paris.
French red cut with soda water
• Chloe's French Café, 3883 Airway Drive, Santa Rosa; 707-528-3095LATER, DINNER DOWNTOWN at an ancient but quite nicely restored hotel restaurant where the food made me think of… not Paris, but Occidental and its family-style restaurants of sixty years ago and more. The only thing really distinctive about the menu was its amazing feat: something misspelled on every line. "Aborio" rice, for example. Even "Cardonnay" on the wine list. When you see carelessness like that on the menu, you wonder what might go on in the kitchen.

Whatever it was, it caused them to run out of the main course I'd chosen, risotto. (Excuse me: "rissotto.") Oh well: I had a veal chop, nicely done with salt and rosemary; braised potatoes-and-onions-and-mushrooms on the side, and a decent salad; I guess I'd go back for nostalgia's sake…
Sauvignon blanc, Trecini, 2010; neutral and acceptable
• Hotel La Rose, 308 Wilson Street Santa Rosa; (707) 579-3200

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Eastside Road, September 6, 2012—
IF IT WERE MY restaurant there would be horse on the menu. Why would you call your restaurant "Equus" otherwise?

But what was interesting tonight, our first time to this once upscale restaurant in our nearest city, was the relative modesty of the menu — just a few salads, pastas, and "entrees" — and the relative conservatism of the concepts. I thought it rather a throwback to the "Swiss hotel" concept prevailing in this country before the culinary breakthroughs of the 1970s.

Well, we were being taken out to dinner, the first time that's happened in a long long time, and I for one was grateful for it, and glad to try a new place. I'd hoped tonight for liver and onions — I've been hungering for liver and onions for months — and the menu offered only chicken, lamb, sea bass, pork chop, veal porterhouse, and a New York steak. (Salmon was the off-menu special of the evening.)

I opted for the house salad and the veal chop. The salad was refreshing: mixed greens, radishes, a little ricotta salata, watercress. The veal chop was a cooked a little longer than I'd have asked, but nicely salted and rosemary'd and very subtly garlicked, and its potatoes were creamily steam-fried, with plenty of bitter-braised greens balancing the meat and potatoes.

The Martini could have been better, but I was lazy and failed to stipulate exactly what I wanted. Oh well. The wine list was on an iPad — the first time I've run into this: I prefer a printed list that can be seen all at once: but then, I'm old.
Pinot noir, MacMurray (Sonoma Coast), 2009: smooth, properly light-bodied, good varietal
• Equus Restaurant and Loungebar, 101 Fountaingrove Pkwy, Santa Rosa, California; (707) 578-0149

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Eastside Road, September 5, 2012—
EATING EVERY DAY, or almost, but not Blogging Every Day, as you see. It was an unusual long weekend of eating and not eating, and the only photo I have to show you is this — but it was in many ways the most satisfying meal of the lot of them, not to detract from the others.

September 1, Saturday: Lunch was not very good, nor very wise for that matter: I'd asked someone in town where I might get a decent ham and cheese sandwich, and was told to get a great ham quesadilla across the street. Everything on the extensive menu seemed confused, like the menu itself: sandwiches, salads all cluttered with sauces and dressings detracting from (or maybe concealing) the flavors and textures of the ingredients. I had a ham and cheese sandwich, I guess, but the lasting impression was of some sort of Russian dressing. I can't recommend this.

• Yaks, 333 N Mount Shasta Blvd., Mount Shasta, California

Dinner was even weirder, though a lot more fun: freeze-dried rice and beans reconstituted in boiling water from Clear Creek Springs, about 8,400 feet above sea level, where we camped for the night.

September 2: We spent Sunday climbing, up five thousand feet, down six thousand feet. (Pavel and Simon added another couple thousand.) Breakfast was oatmeal with raisins and a can of Trader Joe's mocha. Along the way, Clif bars, almonds, dates, that sort of thing. Dinner, back at the motel after an eighteen-hour day, was chips and salsa, crackers and cheese, and a couple of very welcome beers.

September 3, Labor Day Monday: See that steak in the photo? Steak and eggs — two of them, over easy — and breakfast potatoes, and plenty of American coffee, and a glass of orange juice, and things began to come back into perspective. Dinner was crackers and cheese and beers in the motel again; and I had a huge delicatessen-made Caesar salad, light on the anchovies of course but otherwise very refreshing…

• Lily's, 1013 South Mount Shasta Boulevard, Mount Shasta; 530-926-3372

Then dinner at a nostalgic family Italian joint — what fun! A friendly Aunt-Ida type waitress, a decent Martini, good minestrone, a nice chopped-romaine salad, vitello piccata (how I was craving capers, salt, and lemon!), and Spumoni for dessert — you'd have though you were back in the 1940s. I don't think we'll ever visit this town again without eating here.

Mike and Tony's, 501 S. Mt. Shasta Blvd., Mount Shasta; (530)926-4792
Pinot grigio, Ruffino; vintage? Clean and welcome.
September 4: Another American breakfast at Lily's: a short stack of buttermilk pancakes and a couple of fried eggs; then the long drive home, where we supped — at least I did — on some leftover short ribs from Lindsey's dinner at Maddalena Saturday night, when she ate better than did I…

Cheap French red, La Caumette, "L'Authentique" (their quotes): generous and fruity

And now I've caught up, and I think we'll fast today.