Sunday, April 29, 2012

Steak on the grill

Eastside Road, April 29, 2012—
BEAUTIFUL WARM DAY, visitor from Brazil: let's boil some potatoes and dress them with marjoram, parsley, and olive oil; let's burn some grapevine wood and a little charcoal; let's throw some asparagus on the grill, and then a nice flatiron steak and maybe a split baguette. Oh: why not warm up with a delicious guacamole?
Chardonnay, Révélation (Pays d'Oc), 2010 (rather nice); Zinfandel, Peterson (Dry Creek Valley), 2008 (really fine: authentic and deep: thanks, Fred!)

Another last night

Chef Jean-Pierre Moullé, center, with his wife Denise (left) and daughter Maude
Berkeley, April 28, 2012—
ABITTERSWEET NIGHT at what in our family is simply called The Restaurant: after an attachment reaching back into the middle 1970s, Jean-Pierre is retiring: this is his last dinner as chef downstairs at Chez Panisse.

It is impossible to overestimate his contribution to the restaurant. Alice Waters is of course the founder of the restaurant and the heart and soul of its kitchen and dining room; Jeremiah Tower was the first star to emerge from the stoves; Paul Bertolli brought his fine Italian hand to the kitchen for a decade and perhaps more. In all those years — not so much perhaps in the Bertolli interregnum — J-P, as we all call him, was the quiet maître available when needed, or in service as sous-chef but actually keeping things together. And since the early 1990s he has been downstairs chef. (It's not quite that simple, as there has long been a co-chef system in place; for years J-P has been in charge November through April: but the position is a full-time year-round responsibility.)

I've heard from many cooks and waiters, over the years and of course especially recently, how important Jean-Pierre's mentorship has been, and I must say I have watched him mature from a young man riding to work on his skateboard, in the mid-1970s, to the distinguished, patient, capable and quiet master he is today. French, he trained the old way, apprenticed to professional restaurant chefs in his ’teens. His mechanical skills are impeccable and his palate finely tuned. Over the years he adapted this old-school, old-world approach to Alice's new approach, which brought simple bonne-femme methods and fresh local ingredients to his knowing repertoire of classical techniques and fundamentals.

More than anything else, I think, this explains the unique synchrony of simplicity, elegance, and focus that characterizes so many of the courses coming from this kitchen. They are often understated, sometimes to the extent that less discerning patrons don't get the point.

Tonight's dinner was a perfect example of this. We began with an apéritif: verveine, mint, and Cava, in a splendid and surprising balance; then vegetable salad with ricotta toast. But the salad was subtle and complex: marinated artichoke, asparagus, fresh favas, white carrots (and a few yellow), and frisée, in an unctuous vinaigrette with only a whisper of acid to bring out the soft olive oil, leaving me delighted by the dialogue between the vegetables and the herbed ricotta on the toast.

Then came an amazing fish mousse, soft and delicate but well structured and assertively flavored, on a bed of wilted Savoy cabbage surrounded by a pool of butter sauce — lobster sauce for those lucky enough to be able to eat crustacea. These two courses followed one another logically: textures, green leaves, sauce; each completely different, but each responding to a similar grammar. This kind of menu planning is ingenious, intelligent, thoughtful, artistic; yet it responds to the exigencies of the market and the season. And the execution — particularly of the mousse! — leaves nothing to chance: savory cooking here has the exactness, the precision you associate with the pastry kitchen.

The main course was Entrecôte bordelaise aux sarments, a fairly thin rib-eye beefsteak grilled over grapevine wood, served with marchand du vin sauce — red wine, shallots, and butter — and accompanied by crisp potatoes cooked in duck fat, a handful of roquette tossed atop the serving. Piemontese beef, raised in northern California, the meat was tasty, tender, and sound.

Dessert: blanc-manger with strawberries and a few sliced almonds in Sauternes, with a puff-paste twist — again, home bonne-femme cooking, with extraordinary technical skill and, needless to say, superb ingredients.

Jean-Pierre's wife, Denise, is from the Lurton wine family in Bordeaux, and we had a different Lurton wine with each course (except the dessert, whose sauce spoke for itself).

Merci, cher maître, mon chef; best wishes for a long and happy retirement!
Château Bonnet (Sauvignon blanc, Semillon, Muscadelle), 2010; Rueda (Verdejo), Hermanos Lurton, 2010; Château de Rochemorin, Pessac-Léognan, 2005
• Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510.848.5525

Friday, April 27, 2012

Panella palermitana

Eastside Road, —
LINDSEY'S BEEN LOOKING at back issues of Sunset magazine, and today she came up with this sandwich. Chickpea flour, salt, pepper, cayenne and cumin; a little water to make a batter; cook over medium heat until thickens. Spoon into a pan; stir in chopped parsley. Spread in an oiled pan and let it cool.

Lemon mayonnaise.

Shredded carrot and radish slaw (with olive oil, salt, pepper).

Cut chickpea mixture into sandwich-sized rectangles, set them in an oiled pan, broil until golden, turning once.

Spread mayonnaise on toasted split rolls, put salad greens on one side of each roll and top with slaw, then a couple of the chickpea patties.

I liked them and would welcome them again, any time. Sorry the photo's a little dark.
Barbera d'Asti, La Loggia, 2010

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Penne, redsauce

Eastside Road, April 26, 2012—
IT'S BEEN A LONG TIME since we had this old standby: penne in tomato sauce. The tomatoes were canned by a friend of ours last summer, and they were delicious; with them, onions and garlic, bay leaf, salt and pepper; good Parmesan grated over. No meat necessary. Thanks, Sylvie!

Green salad as usual; afterward, a Pixie tangerine and some chocolate…
Barbera d'Asti, La Loggia, 2010

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

End of road trip

Eastside Road, April 24—
SUPPER AT HOME tonight, first time in a week. A pleasure, and a simple one: a couple of eggs fried softly in olive oil, an English muffin.

The day had begun in the town of Atascadero, which in fact has a pretty good café, where we had our first edgy Stumptown espresso in quite a long time — a powerful Portland roast that always reminds me of the early days of espresso in this country, at the old Piccolo Espresso on Berkeley's Telegraph Avenue, back in the 1960s.

Lunch: a BLT in a bleak but trendy-looking restaurant in King City, before the beautiful drive up Highway 25. Bacon lettuce and tomato qualifies as Elective Affinity and very nearly, but not quite, for Hundred Plates. With it, a glass of rather sweet Californa Riesling.

Mid-afternoon we stopped for the best coffee of the trip, in a café we'd discovered a year ago in San Juan Bautista. They roast their own coffee here, and except for the coffee I roast myself — Monkey Blend from Sweet Maria's, roasted to a Full City — the coffee here, coincidentally named Mountain Monk, is the best I know.

But the best meal of the day was the one at home, eggs from a neighbor's hens, English muffins from the Downtown Bakery. Life is good. Tomorrow we fast.
Cheap Pinot grigio
• Brū, 5760 El Camino Real, Atascadero; (805) 464-5007
• KC Bar & Grill, 200 Broadway Street, King City; 831-386-9006
Vertigo Coffee, 81 Fourth Street, San Juan Bautista; 831 623-9533

Monday, April 23, 2012

On the road (nearly home)

Cold Spring Tavern

Atascadero, California, April 23, 2012—
BREAKFAST AT THE CAFE, as we've done every morning for the last three days: Intelligentsia is by far the best coffee we've found in Pasadena, and their croissants are flaky and buttery, and they use Straus organic milk in their cappuccinos. Why would we go elsewhere?

LUNCH AT THE HEARTWARMING old stagecoach tavern off highway 154 north of Santa Barbara: we pulled in out of the fog on a cold morning at eleven o'clock, warmed ourselves in front of the fireplace, and cheered up with boar-and-venison chile, slices of piquant Habañeras on top; a glass of local Pinot noir alongside. Delicious.

DINNER IN A STEAKHOUSE in a shopping center: Martini; "Caesar salad" (lacking anchovies); chicken-fried steak smothered in gravy atop garlic mashed potatoes, requisite frozen vegetable medley alongside. Could have been a lot worse.

• Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea, 55 E. Colorado, Pasadena; (626) 578-1270
• Cold Spring Tavern, 5995 Stagecoach Road, Santa Barbara; (805) 967-0066
• Guest House Grill, 8783 El Camino Real, Atascadero, California; 805-460-0193

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Museum lunch, hotel supper

Pasadena, April 22, 2012—
LUNCH IN THE GARDEN today: a ham and cheese sandwich with a glass of Pinot grigio at the Norton Simon Museum, whose garden remains a delight, and whose Bellini Portrait of a Young Man is one of my favorite paintings.

Then supper at our hotel restaurant: halibut sautéed in butter, with garlicky mashed potatoes and the conventional mix of broccoli, carrot, and cauliflower, fresh from freezer to you. Serviceable.
Pinot grigio
• Soleil at the Sheraton Pasadena Hotel, 303 E Cordova Street, Pasadena; 626-449-4000

In and out and round about

Pasadena, April 21, 2012—
THE AFTERNOON WAS GIVEN, to whim and caprice: we drove across town to take unsuspecting friends to the Museum of Jurassic Technology, which no contemplative person should fail to visit at least once in his life. But they wanted lunch as well, which we had planned to skip. We parked under dusty jacarandas near the museum. Two young couple stood nearby, cardboard cups of unknown beverages in their hands:

What's the best place nearby for lunch? Well, we like the In-N-Out…

So for the second time in my adult life I had a fast-food hamburger. The first was many years ago at a MacDonald's, the one on the Champs-Elysées in Paris; I recall nothing of it. This one today was, well, not disgusting: a small patty with a good slice of onion and a handful of healthy chopped iceberg lettuce, a no-taste tomato slice, and a pleasantly gloppy sauce. The French-fries tasted of potato, also pleasant, though they might have been crisper. With all this, a glass of milk.
• In-N-Out Burger , 9245 W Venice Blvd., Los Angeles; (800)786-1000

WE MADE UP FOR THIS at dinner by returning to the scene of last night's meal. This time I had a delicious soup, rather more a velouté I would say, involving white asparagus, shallot I think, cream, a trace perhaps of nutmeg, and lemon, as silky and perfectly flavored an asparagus soup as I have ever had, with a float of finely grated zest, a judicious sprinkle of finely chopped chives, and a puddle of smooth olive oil.

Afterward, steak tartare, already bound with egg and chopped shallot, a nice combination of flavors and textures; and then a chocolate decadence, deep and rich. And then a terrible performance of Antony and Cleopatra. Oh well.

• Bistro 45, 45 S Mentor Ave., Pasadena; (626) 795-2478

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Ojai, California, April 19, 2012—

A QUICK DINNER in a local tapas-bistro to celebrate a friend's award — hero fruit producer to a Japanese marketing association. Deep-fried squid, serrano ham appetizers; than for me an arugula salad with serrano ham bits, dried figs, and almonds. And then steak-frites, but with sweet potato frenchfries in place of the real thing. Still, a nice place, a good meal. And we could converse.
Pinot noir from Languedoc-Roussillon

•Azu Restaurant &Tapas Bar, 457 E. Ojai Avenue, Ojai ; 805-640-7987

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Boot & Shoe

Berkeley, April 8, 20112—

A VERY NICE DINNER tonight in a venue new to us, casual, cozy, friendly, and unbearably loud. Too bad: undoubtedly it's our fault; we're just too old for a happening place like this.

I started with this fine salad, lettuce, frisée, pine nuts, shavings of cheese. Another came with it: arugula, burrata with tapenade, fried artichokes — siamo a Roma!

Then gemelli with duck ragù, the little pasta spirals perfectly cooked, the ragù deep and delicious. Dessert: "soft serve" ice cream, a beautiful crema morbide, recalling the earlier burrata like a nostalgic ballad…

Falanghina; Nebbiolo

•Boot and Shoe Pizza, 3308 Grand Avenue, Oakland; 510-763-2668

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Vegetable Soup

Eastside Road, April  17, 2012—

A BUNCH OF chard, a can of white beans, onion, carrot, garlic, chicken stock.  A fried egg on top, over easy. Parmesan cheese grated on top, serve hot. Delicious. 
Cheap Pinot grigio

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Williams, California, April 15, 2012—
LAST WEEK, KNOWING we'd be on Highway 5 at lunchtime, I called a fellow I trust to ask where to eat decently between Sacramento and Redding. Only place I know of, he said, is La Fortuna, where you can get a really good burrito.

I looked it up on Yelp, which I don't always trust, and was amazed at the great number of rave reviews, with just enough savage denunciations to reassure me that democracy still works. We stopped there Friday on the way up to Ashland, and liked it well enough to stop again today on the way back.

It's a tiny joint next to a general store selling staples to the Mexican-American community: huaraches, dried shrimp, leather work gloves, a wide array of ground spices, canned food, beer, housewares, light bulbs — just about anything you might need to set up housekeeping in a new and unfamiliar environment.

We ordered our burritos (they also have combination plates, tacos, tortas, enchiladas and so on), snagged a beverage from the cold case, and sat at a dinette table - one of six or so — to enjoy home Mexican cooking. Lots of flavor, lots of food, cheap and good. I think this will be a regular stop from now on, now that my wonderful Portuguese restaurant up in Orland is out of business.

• La Fortuna Bakery, 669 F Street, Williams, California; 530-473-2823

Back to Sammy's; Paddy Brannan's

Ashland, April 14, 2012—
IT'S TIME FOR LUNCH, and one of the best restaurants in the world is just up the road, but you had dinner there last night, but lunch there is only fifteen bucks, and nothing else in town is much better than routine. So naturally we go back to New Sammy's.

There I had lamb sausage cooked up with sweet peppers and onions, pointed up with spices with a North African sensibility, with two fine poached eggs on top. And, for dessert, that splendid plum Linzer torte I had last night. A remarkable lunch: I'm glad we came.
Domaine la Garancière (Cotes du Rhone), 2007

• New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro, 2210 South Pacific Highway, Talent, Oregon; 541-535-2779

DINNER IN TOWN, since we have another play this evening, at a place we hadn't noticed until this trip: an Irish pub. Here I had a Martini, then the steak dinner: a small sirloin, pan-fried, with a square of potato gratin (what was called scalloped potatoes when I was a boy) and a green salad, bar-baked Guinness bread on the side.
House red

• Paddy Brannan's Irish Pub, 23 South 2nd Street, Ashland, Oregon

Friday, April 13, 2012

New Sammy's

Ashland, Oregon, April 13, 2012—
I DON'T REMEMBER WHEN we first ate here. Certainly more than fifteen years ago, because we celebrated our fortieth anniversary here in 1997. Each time we come I think it can never be better, and each time it is. New Sammy's is certainly one of the Five Restaurants; its meals, events, ingredients, wines are never anything but memorable.

Tonight's dinner surpassed all the others, I think. It began with a disarming little amuse-gueule involving grape ice, continued to an absolutely amazing composed salad with prosciutto, apple, walnuts, Parmesan flan, mixed greens, walnut oil, and sherry vinegar; and climaxed with the most delicious lamb chops I've had in ages, perfectly broiled, and served with a most amazing, subtle, silky, intelligent side dish combining spinach, orzo, black mint, and a lemon-custard sauce.

The dessert was utterly perfect: plum linzer torte with Slivovitz-flavored ice cream, paired with the uniquely appropriate wine.

Charlene Rollins, the chef of New Sammy's, combines equal parts of genius, artist, and philosopher; her intelligence and ethical refinement match her admirable hand and palate. There is no restaurant that pleases me more than this one, or more consistently, and I am grateful beyond measure for a providence beyond my comprehension allowing me to return, year after year.
Pinot grigio, Collio, 2009 (I think); Bordeaux, Château Malbat, 2007; Bodegas Olivares Jumilla Dulce Monastrell (Murcia), 2006
• New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro, 2210 South Pacific Highway, Talent, Oregon; 541-535-2779

Thursday, April 12, 2012



Eastside Road, April 12, 2012—

SAME AS LAST NIGHT, minus the sausages. It all just gets better.

Cheap Pinot grigio


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Eastside Road, April 11, 2012—
WHAT HAVE WE GOT to lose, I'm tempted to ask. And then I think of the café near a friend's house in London: it's called Toulouse, and why? Because it's installed in a building which a hundred years ago housed a couple of public toilets, get it? But tonight we feasted on Toulouse sausages made by Franco Dunn. We bought them a few weeks ago in the Healdsburg market, thinking we'd surely be making cassoulet this year, but you see how it is, we went away for a month instead, and now it's too warm to make cassoulet; we'll have to wait until next year. The sausage won't wait, of course. So we invited a couple of neighbors from down the hill to dinner, and broiled the sausages, and Lindsey cooked leeks and carrots her way, and roasted potatoes with rosemary and garlic; and stewed up a bunch of chard from the garden. Green salad; then Beaufort, and Gruyère, and Mount Tam. Delicous.
Barbera d'Alba, La Loggia, 2010; Vin de Savoie, Les Abymes, 2010

Monday, April 9, 2012

Tuna and cannellini

Eastside Road, April 9, 2012—
SALADS: SALADS ARE CENTRAL to the way we eat, as you may have noticed. Usually they're green salads, but not always. Today's dinner was two salads, nothing more — well, dessert: I'll get to that.

The first salad was one I usually associate with hot weather, and that's definitely not where we are just yet, though the soil's warming up, the apples are in full bloom, and I've noticed a couple of iris about to bloom too. The salad was a simple one, but you need really good ingredients. And a can opener. Two cans of cannellini, one can of tuna — tonight we used bonita. Combine them with a thin-sliced white onion, olive oil, and a little salt, a little finely chopped parsley and celery. That's it: one of the Hundred Plates.

The other was the daily green salad. Dessert: vanilla ice cream and tangerine ice — a Fifty-Fifty without the stick.
Cheap Pinot grigio

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter al fresco

Easter dinner.jpg
Eastside Road, April 8, 2012—
EVERY YEAR OUR FRIENDS Paul and Becky invite friends over for Easter Sunday dinner. Too often we have been unable to accept, with one thing or another, but this year we made the party. What a fine afternoon it was, to be sure. Some guests brought dishes, of course — Lindsey this fine fruit compote.

Others worked at the grill station, cooking lamb and pork. Easter eggs had been hidden here and there, one for each guest; and there was plenty of beer and wine, and appetizers — dolmades, spanakopita, olives and cheeses.

Then we sat down at the long table, forty or so of us, and tucked into our dinner: grilled meat, rosemary-garlic potatoes, green beans, kale, aïoli and other sauces.

Desserts: Fruit compote, lemon tarte, cookies, rice pudding; probably other things as well; one doesn't want to seem to be counting, or demanding a piece of everything.

Best of all, lots of old friends and new. It's a cliche, but true nonetheless: it doesn't get any better than this.
Chardonnay, Frei (Mendocino), 3020; Rosé, Commanderie de Peyrasolle (Provence), 2011; Zinfandel, Napa Cellars, 2009


Chard and potatoes.jpg
Eastside Road, April 7, 2012—
WE'RE VEGETARIAN TONIGHT, she said, We've had plenty of meat these last few days. I don't argue with suggestions like that. Besides, she's right.

And there's that delicious chard in the garden just now, chopped up and cooked with a bit of olive oil; and the potatoes, cut up and roasted with olive oil, salt, rosemary, and garlic… life is good…
Cheap Nero d'Avola

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Berkeley, April 6, 2012—
TO THE HOME of new friends tonight for dinner, just the four of us, celebrating new friendship and old memories. If you've been visiting this blog regularly you'll have guessed by now that non-European cuisines are not a frequent area of investigation here, and it's true that while we do make occasional visits to Japanese or Thai or Indian tables I myself eschew Chinese cuisine — one of the great glories of human civilization — as being simply to big, complex, and unknown for me to attempt at this late date.

But our hosts tonight are Japanese, or one of them is, and served a teriyaki, or something very like teriyaki, cooked at table. And it was memorably delicious.

The last Japanese "meal" I ate was a few years ago, in London, when an expat friend of mine (you know who you are) took me to a demonstration of Japanese cuisine presented by a Great Chef. Standing behind a long table, flanked by a couple of outrageously pretty young assistants, GC discussed in incomprehensible English the many glories of his country's cuisine, all the while preparing examples, which were then passed around among the rather large audience. I was surprised at the saltiness but otherwise uninteresting flavors, and shocked — shocked, I tell you — at the great many boxes, cans, bottles, and envelopes of liquids, pastes, and powders that contributed to his work. Japanese cuisine, I thought, had evolved to an extraordinary dependence on manufactured items.

Kenji cooks.jpg
Kenji begins to cook
Tonight's dinner was nothing at all like that; it was more like our lunch at Lulu's or, for that matter, eating at the Café Chez Panisse; or, better yet, at one of the Panisse parties on the farm. Every ingredient seemed utterly fresh, and the cooking was both expert and relaxed — and, of course, right at the moment, on the table.

Kenji began by grilling the thin slices of beef; then poured in the sauce and stirred things up, adding the gelatinous devil's tongueshabu-shabu, said the steaming result, as he stirred it about with his chopsticks. Next the mushrooms, sliced up — three kinds, he said — and then big bunches of greens: chrysanthemum leaves and the more familiar (to me, anyway) mizuma. At that point Lindsey took the photo you see at the head of this post.

We sipped more sake while waiting for the dish to cook down, and talked about old times — I'd been in this house once before, decades ago, to interview Kenji, who is a remarkable painter. The meal smelled heavenly. We began with a "soup course," a beautifully textured egg-custard with mushrooms and chicken, thick and delicate. And then it was time to dig into the teriyaki, and I could suddenly imagine spending a month in Japan, rambling from one kitchen to the next…

Dessert: an enormous lime mousse on a graham-cracker crumb crust: I'm afraid I had two servings. What a meal; what a meal.
Sake; Moulin de Beausejour, 2009 (a fine match for the food); green Chartreuse

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Repeat stew

Eastside Road, April 5, 2012—
THE LAST OF THAT delicious stew I wrote about yesterday, the one from Marcella Hazan's book. As is so often the case with such preparations, it was even better tonight, the flavors a little deeper and even more integrated. With it, green beans; after, salad. Oh: and before it, as a first course, a guacamole I'd made after my fashion.


And crêpes; probably the last of those, too. Lindsey served them with a syrup flavored with Mandarine, a favorite liqueur of ours for many years.
Cheap Nero d'Avola

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Beef stew

Eastside Road, April 4, 2012—
BEEF STEW IS of course one of the Hundred Plates, and there must be at least a hundred versions. I myself am partial to the provençal boeuf daube, and I have to remember to make one soon before the weather turns warm again, if it ever does. But that's not the only way to stew a beef, and sometimes it's fun to turn to the cookbook shelves to find another approach.

Last Saturday, thinking to take a prefabricated supper to a friend laid up after surgery, Lindsey made a triple-recipe beef stew, using an unusual recipe from Marcella Hazan's book Marcella Cucina (HarperCollins, 1997): Stewed Beef Cubes with Pickles, Capers, and Red Wine. It goes like this: Dredge your beef cubes in flour, then brown them in hot oil. In a saucepan, sweat to golden brown chopped onion and strips of pancetta in olive oil; when done, add finely chopped carrot, celery, cornichons, and capers; continue to cook a few minutes. Add the beef cubes, salt, and black pepper, and toss; then add red wine, let simmer a minute, then cook at a low temperature until meat is tender, about an hour.

We took half the result to our friend on Sunday, and put the rest in the icebox for ourselves. Yesterday was fast day Tuesday, and today Lindsey broke out the stew. As you see, we had it with egg noodles and some beautiful chard from our garden. The salad was a little unusual: with the customary lettuce, a few leaves of puntarella, also from the garden, chopped up, and some wild arugula leaves too — nice to see the little potager back in business. Oh: and an anchovy crushed into the salad dressing, because puntarella loves little fishes.

We had prefabricated dessert, too, because there were crèpes left from Sunday, which Lindsey dressed with a little Grand Marnier-flavored syrup. As I've said before, it's nice to have a pastry chef in the kitchen.
Cheap Nero d'Avola

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Happy Birthday, Café Chez Panisse!

Berkeley, April 2, 2012—
THIRTY-TWO YEARS is a long time for an upstairs restaurant to survive, I suppose; and while I'm clearly biased I have to say this particular restaurant seems to me to have flourished, not merely survived. I think it keeps getting better; and I say this having dined here several times in every one of those years, and thirty-two times or more in other restaurants in the last month.

My toast lacked crab, of course; I don't eat crustaceans. Instead it was covered with a soft, focussed fava-and-leek confit, and I was happy. The salad was a perfectly calculated homage to the baked-goat-cheese that's become a signature dish in the Café, a dish I virtually never order: again, I was happy.


What made me even happier, though, was the plat principal. Duck à l'orange is a cliché rarely encountered these days — surprising, you'd think it would be a "Californa Cuisine" standby. This version was deep and satisfying, a tribute to the classical dish but — thanks perhaps to the rosemary — a distinctly local edition.

Dessert — well, Lindsey's chocolate cake: I know it pretty well, and am always glad to taste it. I never do, at home.

We were lucky to find a friend who imports wine at the next table: he sent generous tastes from his own carafes. We began with a Pouilly-Fumé of the very top drawer: Silex, Didier Dagueneau, 1993. The wine showed age, of course: but it was complex, full, rich, and generous, a lovely thing. Next came Pommard Pezerolles, 1er Cru, Hubert de Montille, 1990: reminding me of the magnificent old-style Naudin Burgundies we took almost for granted back in the 1970s, deep, complex, plenty of violet aroma, big and rewarding. Finally a Volnay, Clos des Chenes, 1er Cru, Domaine des Comtes Lafon, also 1990 — to my mind a little less ample, a little less forthcoming than the Pommard, a little guarded, but a magnificent thing to contemplate. Thanks, Michael!

duck.jpg• Café Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510.548.5525

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Pork chop ma façon

Eastside Road, April 1, 2012—
DEAR MARY JO came to dinner today — a good old-fashioned Sunday dinner, taken about three in the afternoon — and we had a feast. I made pork chops as we like them: grind up a couple of cloves of garlic, the right amount of salt, and fennel seeds with a mortar and pestle, moisten with lemon juice and olive oil, and spread it on the surface of the chops.

I seared them on the griddle on top of the stove, turning them once, then finished them in the oven, where the girls had already roasted carrots, potatoes, and a few cloves of garlic.

Mary Jo brought some crêpe batter, an Oro blanco, a blood orange, a tangerine and some kumquats, and whipped up our dessert. Nothing like having two first-rate pastry chefs in the house.crêpe.jpg
Arneis, Tintero (Langhe), 2009;Rosso di Sicilia, Piccolo Fiore, 2009