Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Salmon chez Panisse

Berkeley, October 30, 2012—
WHAT YOU SEE HERE is an aerial view of the last two bites of lunch. Well, maybe three. Four, in fact, because it took a couple of bites of bread to sop up the very last of the sauce.

I'd begun with a nice salad: young rocket leaves with shavings of sunchoke and prosciutto, in a very good light savory vinaigrette, strewn with rosemary leaves. And very judiciously salted, with good salt.

But it was the main course — this was dinner masquerading as a late lunch — that lingers with me: King salmon, poached, in a beurre rouge with delicate cauliflower flowerets, romanesco, and broccoli, and lots of capers. Beurre rouge: we all know a beurre blanc, of course; and I dearly love a beurre noisette, where you let the butter brown a bit while stirring. This tasted very lightly of red wine. I don't know how it's made. I could Google it, I suppose, but I have a lot to do and I'm up at five tomorrow.

Dessert: a fine Bartlett pear, Barhi dates, a couple of black figs.
Godello, A Coroa, Valdeorras (Spain); 2011: full, present, fruit, dry, balanced
• Café Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, California; 510.548.5525

Monday, October 29, 2012

Two Oakland Restaurants

Oakland, California, October 28, 2012—
AT DINNER TONIGHT it occurred to me this wasn't California cuisine; neither was lunch today, when we had the lamb ragù so badly photographed below. These are East Bay restaurants, well in the wake of Chez Panisse, characterized by thoughtful menus, excellent ingredients, solid execution.

For all that, the roast pork at the left here, with its sauerkraut, instantly rang a bell: it took me back to Bofinger in Paris, where I had exactly the same plate — one of the Hundred, by the way — but in a less cozy setting, and with much snootier service, and a considerably higher price. Well, not completely exactly; Bofinger would never have placed those rosemary needles on the meat; and fingerling potatoes are more a California thing than a French one, seems to me. Whatever: This was a delicious entrée, preceded by a good mixed green salad with figs, almonds, and fromage blanc. I enjoyed it.
Zöld Veltlini (Veltliner), Mátyás & Zoltan Szoke (Màtra, Hungary), 2011 (dry, stern, a good match to the pork)
• A Coté Restaurant, 5478 College Avenue, Oakland; 510.655.6469ragu.jpgEarlier in the day we'd had a festive brunch with three other couples — good friends and family, all gathered to see Einstein on the Beach in Berkeley afterward. I knew I'd have a big dinner, but a nearly-five-hour avant-garde opera demands stamina, and stamina requires nourishment. I opted for this lamb ragù, beautifully slow-cooked on an open hearth in the style of this fine restaurant (one of the Hundred), delicious red-lentil mash, bitter greens and crème fraîche on the side, a poached egg on top — a fine plate. Warmed up with Tequila, tomato, lime, and chile powder.
Pfneiszl Kékfrankos (Hungary), 2010: deep and serious
• Camino, 3917 Grand Avenue, Oakland; 510-547-5035

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sardine sandwich

Eastside Road, October 27, 2012—
WE'LL FEAST TWICE tomorrow; we have a long drive and a roller derby tonight; let's just have a sardine sandwich for dinner. Lindsey toasts the bread, as you see, and spreads one surface with a little prepared mustard, the other with that nice Dutch mayonnaise she buys in tubes.

With the smashed-up sardines from the can, thinly sliced onions. Surely the sardine sandwich is one of the Hundred Plates. Afterward, a salad of small "wild" arugula, its vinaigrette including chopped scallions instead of garlic. Later in the evening, a Crane melon.
Bourgueil, Domaine de la Chanteleuserie, 2004

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Soup and sandwich

El Granada, October 26, 2012—
MAYBE SIX MILES INTO today's ten-miler, and well past two o'clock: time for a bit of sustenance. Grilled ham and cheese had been on my mind, and the place we all finally agreed on seemed not to include one on its menu of California-cuisiny items — but wonder of wonders, tomato-red pepper soup and a grilled Gruyère sandwich was one of the daily specials. Everything about this place was pleasing, from the water-faucet in the gent's (Toto, a ribbon of water into a fine porcelain sink) to the lists of local suppliers of produce, breads, meats and the like. I'd go back any day, except that it's a bit off my beaten track.
beer: Tangerine Wheat, Lost Coast Brewing Company: citrusy, bright, refreshing
• Flavor, 10151 Cabrillo Highway North, El Granada, California; (650) 726-8000

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pasta Moon

Half Moon Bay, California, October 25, 2012—
WHAT WAS IT Thomas Wolfe wrote? "You can't go home again"? One insists on trying, of course…

I've wanted to return to this place for probably twenty years, after a pleasant dinner here all that time ago, and tonight finally managed, after a fine ten-miler over the hill from Rockaway Beach, to the north. And in fact it's still pleasant, though much more sophisticated than before, and more expensive… like so much else in our lives…

I began with this delicious Ribollita, a minestrone-like soup involving bread, kale, chard, kohlrabi, zucchini, carrots, and beans, all cooked up with garlic in a vegetable stock, garnished with olive oil and Parmesan cheese — a fine hearty dish after a fairly hard day.

My tagliatelle Bolognese was almost as good, the pasta a perfect consistency, the sauce only a little too heavy on tomato. Dessert: tiramisu, a little tired, I thought.
Inzolia/Grillo, Ilgiglio, 2010: crisp and refreshing; Cannonau, Juannisola (Sardinia), 2009: rich and lasting

• Pasta Moon Restaurant, 315 Main Street, Half Moon Bay, California; 650-726-5125

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Chicken in the motel

Rockaway Beach, Pacifica, California, October 24, 2012—
WE WALKED TEN MILES or so today, and arrived in an upscale beach community with a small but satisfying Farmers Market in progress — lots of good organic fare, including Rolli Rosti's roast chicken truck, which I remembered had recently celebrated its tenth anniversary parked outside Chez Panisse.
Popular consensus ruled against a restaurant tonight, and I know how to be gracious in the teeth of a consensus. Roast chicken in the motel room, then, with tomatoes and cucumbers, and a bit of halvah for dessert.
Vermentino, Moon Hills (Tuscany), 2010; Vinho Tinto, Grillos (Portugal), 2009

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


San Francisco, October 23, 2012—
WHAT! NOT ACTUALLY EATING Chinese food tonight! Well, yes: I'm on a four-day walk with four other people, hopelessly outvoted. We're staying in a culinary wasteland tonight, we're hungry, and we're on foot.

At such times it seems appropriate to accept what comes without grumbling, and in a spirit of adventure. Besides, we'd heard good things about this place.

I have to say I liked the food, odd as it was, and would happily return. Here's the menu:
Beef tomato
Spinach garlic
Lamb nappa
Mushu lamb
Peking beef pancake
Onion pancake
Jasmine tea
Tsingtao beer
• Old Mandarin Islamic Restaurant, 3132 Vincente Street, San Francisco; 415-564-3481

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, October 22, 2012

Polenta, tomato sauce

Eastside Road, October 22, 2012—
POLENTA, LEFT OVER, with red sauce tonight, but red sauce with a difference. Lindsey made it Victor Hazan's way, which is pretty simple, and very rich: a quarter pound of butter (she used just a bit less); a big can of whole tomatoes, crushed by squeezing them through your fingers, and a big yellow onion. He quarters it, cooks everything down together, and then discards the onion. She chopped the onion and left it in the sauce, which changes the concept completely but yields no less impressive a result. Green salad afterward, and fruit.
Bourgueil, Domaine de la Chanteleuserie, 2004 (woody and rather tired)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Saumon Nancy

Eastside Road, October 21, 2012—
I'VE COME TO THINK of this as a classic recipe, and I call it Saumon Nancy, salmon as Nancy makes it. I'd give you the recipe, but it isn't mine; it's in our friend Nancy Singleton Hachisu's new book Japanese Farm Food, and I've already written about it: we first made it almost a month ago.

Well, maybe I will tell you how to make it: you put the salmon steaks on foil, and a scallion on each one, and wrap them tight in the foil, and set the packages on the grill. I cook them over wood, and it takes, oh, maybe twenty minutes, depending on your fire, of course, and the thickness of the steaks.

They are delicious. With them, as you see, sliced tomatoes, and Nancy's shell Lima beans; afterward, green salad, tonight with shallots in the vinaigrette, not garlic, and lemon juice, not vinegar.

fruit.jpgAnd then a plate of fruit: Lindsey peels and quarters apples and late peaches; halves little black figs; finds a last Golden Transparent plum from our tree (rather past its prime!). A bit of chocolate, too.
Tempranillo Barrica, Albero, 2009

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Beef cheeks

Sonoma, October 20, 2012—
EVEN THOUGH THE LAYOUT of the menu was cluttered and confusing, I thought I knew what I wanted: steak tartare, then something called "Panisse cake": chickpea purée, sautéed chard, and marinated sheep's milk feta. I wasn't sure about that last component, which seemed to have nothing to do with what was otherwise ostensibly vaguely Niçoise cooking, but let's be adventurous.

But then the waiter announced the specials of the evening, which included this dish: beef cheeks braised in red wine with mushrooms and roasted potatoes, a fried egg on top. That, and half a fig and arugula salad shared with a friend, seemed a perfect dinner for a Saturday night out. I don't know that this is a great restaurant; on the basis of this evening it isn't appointed to the Hundred; but it was fun and sound and professional. A good Martini with a drop of Pernod in it to start — that didn't hurt.
Mourvèdre, Cline Cellars "Ancient Vines," 2011: nice.
• The Girl and the Fig, 110 West Spain Street, Sonoma; 707-938-3634


Eastside Road, October 19, 2012—
YOU'VE SEEN ENOUGH pictures of pasta, no reason to add another: here instead is a close-up of our everyday green salad, which I'm incapable of eating without a slice of bread. The very best part, no matter how delicious, fresh, and tender the lettuce, is the last of the vinaigrette, scraped out of the empty salad bowl with the heel of the bread.

The usual vinaigrette, as I think I've mentioned before, is simple: crush a clove of good garlic with the right amount of good salt. (I'm using Rose de Lautrec garlic from our garden, and sea salt from the Ile de Ré.) Cover the resulting mash with the right amount of olive oil and let it stand while you're fixing and eating dinner.

After dinner, add the right amount of wine vinegar (we're using our own, from Zinfandel), whisk it up with a fork, throw in the lettuces, and toss.

Before the salad tonight, fusilli with pesto; afterward, apple crisp.
Tempranillo Barrica, Albero, 2009: full and forthcoming

Friday, October 19, 2012

Liver and onions

Eastside Road, October 18, 2012—
SHOOT: COMPLETELY FORGOT to take any photos. Too bad, because I was otherwise in complete control. For weeks I've been hungering for liver and onions — more specifically, fegato alla veneziana, one of the Hundred Plates, one of the great dishes of the world. Not one restaurant we've been to lately has liver and onions on the menu. But Saturday the rancher who sells his beef at the Healdsburg Farmers Market had liver, so I bought a pound and a half, and invited a couple of friends over to share it.

Fegato veneziana is made with calf's liver, not beef, but there's no calf to be had this time of year, not locally. I put the sliced liver into a stainless-steel bowl, covered it with milk, and let it stand in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

I made polenta using Cesare Casella's recipe: a quart and a half of cold water, a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, a couple of teaspoons of salt, a cup and a half of polenta, brought to a soft boil while constantly stirring, then reduced to the slowest possible simmer and allowed to cook for forty-five minutes or so. Along the way I had to add more water: I think the ratio should be six to one, water to polenta.

A true fegato veneziana, I read in a couple of sources, contains as much onion as liver, measured by weight. I sliced the white onions thin thin thin, using the mandoline, and cooked them slow slow slow in butter and olive oil, in the big cast-iron skillet. They and the polenta held while we watched the news and had a glass of white wine with friends.

Then I turned the flame on under the polenta again, and under the skillet too. When the onions finally began to take on the faintest possible color I added four small figs, cut into slices, and stirred them in; then pushed them off to the side and turned the heat up considerably to cook the liver, which I'd drained, rinsed, dried, and cut into strips about a quarter inch wide, rejecting the skin and veins. It takes only a couple of minutes to cook the liver; you don't want it getting overdone and tough. Salt and pepper, of course.

It all went onto a platter — liver, polenta, and onions, in separate and equal windrows — and I deglazed the skillet with wine vinegar, stirring, and then poured the resulting sauce over the liver. The four of us polished it off, every bit of it, though there's polenta left over, to be grilled tomorrow.

Green salad; sliced tomatoes; and an apple crisp Lindsey made for dessert. What a fine dinner!
White Rhone blend, "Madam Preston," 2010, Preston of Dry Creek (complex and serious yet refreshing); Cabernet sauvignon, "Claret," Black Label Series, Francis Coppola, 2002: mature, reserved, fruity (thanks, Kendall)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Back to the Campo

Eastside Road, October 17, 2012—
DINNER OUT AGAIN tonight with friends. I like this restaurant. It's not cheap, and the menu is small and seems not to change much nightly: but it's comfortable; you can take your time; the menu is varied and enticing; the pizzas are well baked; the wine list has some useful inexpensive items.

There were five of us at table, and we ordered quite a few plates:
Ciabatta with very nice olive oil
Green beans with sunflower seeds and sherry vinaigrette
Arugula, radicchio, and endive salad
Pizza with mushrooms, mozzarella, and arugula
Pizza with figs, preserved lemon, mozzarella, bacon, balsamico, and arugula
Soppressata: with chili, hardcooked egg, and salsa verde
Baked polenta alla Sarda
Well, you get the idea. All these but the pizze are "small plates," appetizer-size or less. They're all well seasoned, food tasting of the fire and the ingredients, with plenty of arugula. Some were really quite memorable — the polenta and the soppressata above all, and the fine olive oil served with the ciabatta.

We were two or three hours at table, never rushed, always taken care of. Every dish was delightful. And then came dessert. As an exercise in direct observational comparison, I decided to have this buttermilk panna cotta with raspberries. Yesterday I had the same dessert at another restaurant, admittedly with huckleberry coulis instead of the raspberries. Still, tasting only the custard, not allowing myself to be distracted by the garnish, it should be possible to craw some conclusion.

Comparison is odorous, as Shakespeare says. It's not really fair, or useful either, to put a dish at one table against a similar one at another. But good as tonight's panna cotta was — silky in texture, beautifully placed — it seemed to me it insisted a tad too much on the buttermilk. Yesterday's was subtler and better balanced on the palate, speaking only of flavor. And what's most important in a dessert? Flavor, no?
Grechetto; Nebbiolo. Which ones? The least expensive ones. Sorry; didn't take notes — too busy having fun.
• Campo Fina, 330 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg; 707-395-4640

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fish and duck

Berkeley, October 16, 2012—
FISH AND DUCK AND panna cotto, as you see, what a truly fine lunch with a couple of friends in the café. I started with raw albacore with cucumbers, anise hyssop, ginger, and scallions, a very Japanese dish it seemed to me, light and pointed yet delicate, perfect for a warm Indian summer day; and then went on to another end of the scale, duck confit with crispy potatoes, sweet peppers, cabbage, and fried sage leaves, very much looking forward into the autumn. The potatoes were crisp indeed, very thin cut, like very thin fettuccine, salty and delicious, a perfect foil to the confit.

Dessert: this buttermilk panna cotta with huckleberry coulis and an almond cookie. Panna cotta is a favorite of mine and makes me think I've been lax about promoting desserts to the Hundred Plates. The confit belongs there too, of course.
a glass of white, a glass of red
• Café Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510.548.5525

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The weekly salmon

Eastside Road, October 14, 2012—
YOU'VE SEEN IT BEFORE, of course, the weekly market menu. When I was a boy it was normal to have roughly the same menu each day of the week: Friday fish, Sunday chicken, Saturday roast pork, Monday macaroni and cheese — that sort of thing. Perhaps for that reason I not only don't mind the weekly repetition of what I've come to think of as The Market Menu: on the contrary, there's something reassuring about it.

The softboiled egg on Sunday; the Martinis on Friday and Saturday; the Tuesday fast (though this next week we'll advance the fast by a day, since we're eating out on Tuesday). The Market Menu: wild local salmon, tamed local lima beans, tomatoes from next door. The lemon from our dooryard. Afterward, figs and pears from our trees. Only the wine is imported:
Rosé, Domaine de Gaussac, 2011

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Urban roadhouse

Eastside Road, October 13, 2012—
FOR A WHILE NOW — when did it start? A year ago? — we've had an irregular Roadhouse Survey going with a couple of old friends. And what constitutes a roadhouse, you may ask. Well, in general, it's in the country, by the side of a road that was an important through road in its day but has probably since given way to a parallel freeway.

It has a full bar that tends toward beer and bourbon, though vodka has begun to shoulder its way in as well. The menu runs to steak and chicken and overcooked pasts. In my opinion no true roadhouse is found in a town or city. In fact what distinguishes a hamlet or village from a town is the permitted presence — permitted by my definition; it's not a matter of organized licensing — of a roadhouse.

Our friends insisted that we had to experience an old standby they'd known of for years, though, even though it is within the city limits of perhaps the third largest city in the county, Petaluma, known in my boyhood as The Egg Capital of the World. And so there we went tonight, Saturday night in an urban roadhouse, and we had a good time.

Martini at the bar under the taxidermy: a careless Martini, no measuring involved unless the bartender was counting under her breath; and the Cinzano vermouth was the sweet white, not the dry; and it was barely shaken, and so not terribly cold. Oh well. Martinis are like baseball: a poor one is better than none at all.

After moving into the capacious dining room — there are two; the other is only slightly less capacious — we had "family style" dinners: tureens (well, serving bowls) of good house-made minestrone and clam chowder; a big bowl of mixed green salad; a platter of overcooked macaroni in a cream sauce heavily flavored with vinegar, I thought (or was this some kind of yoghurt sauce?)

Then I went on to lamb shank, a little dry but full of flavor, in a reduced sauce with plenty of garlic, with plenty of sautéed squash, pepper, and onion on the side as well as a nice creamy serving of white polenta, nicely seasoned. And dessert: Spumoni! This is not a gourmet destination; it's a roadhouse, in spite of being in the center of town. But it's comfortable and reassuring, and old-fashioned and picturesque as hell, and honest to a fault. I can imagine returning.
Primitivo, Layer Cake (Puglia), 2010: not bone dry, good fruit and varietal, generous.
• Volpi's Ristorante & Bar, 124 Washington Street, Petaluma;(707) 762-2371

Friday, October 12, 2012

Tarte alsacienne

Eastside Road, October 12, 2012—
WE DO, EVERY NOW and then, we do resort to readymade. We don't buy a lot of food in boxes or cans, but convenience has its place. Yesterday, for example, you'll have noticed, we ate hominy from a can. Well, not really: we poured it into a pan, and heated it up with a few other things, and served it out…

Oh never mind. We ate hominy from a can, and tonight we ate tarte from a box. I don't remember now who it was recommended Trader Joe's "Tarte Alsacienne" to us; it was someone with a big freezer, who buys a dozen at a time to have on hand when people drop in unexpectedly: you just throw them in the oven to finish them, and cut them into little pieces, and serve them as finger-food with cocktails or what have you.

For us, this cheese-and-bacon tarte serves as a main meal when we don't feel like spending time or thought on cooking. Lindsey sliced up a couple of green tomatoes; I made vinaigrette for the green salad. We may have the last of the apple pie a little later, or we may not: Ceres knows there's plenty of fruit in the pantry.
Cheap Pinot grigio


Eastside Road, October 11, 2012—
THAT INDISPENSABLE FELLOW the pig made his appearance today both at lunch and at dinner; on both occasions after trips to local salumieri. And we have wonderful salumeficii hereabouts — Healdsburg is soon likely to be as well known (and much visited) for its meat products, I venture to say, as for its wines.

Let's start with dinner, at home: Franco Dunn's "Chorizo Verde" combines pork, spinach, onion, salt, ground-up pumpkin seeds, serrano chilis and oregano to a sophisticated but spicy conclusion. Lindsey broiled four of them — we had a hungry winemaking grandson to dinner — and she cooked up some canned hominy with chopped onion and Habañera pepper to go with them. As you see, sliced local tomatoes on the side; afterward, green salad.

applepie.jpgAnd apple pie. Lindsey's pie crust is the best there is, but she doesn't have to make it any more; we just get a couple of frozen ones from the bakery — after all, it's her recipe, more or less. The apples are ours, though, just now a combination of Calville blancs and Sierra Beauties. With a scoop of Twin Girls ice cream on the side, all you need afterward is a dram or two of slivovitz.
Cheap Pinot grigio; Tempranillo Barrica, Albero, 2009

WE'D GONE INTO TOWN for lunch, taken there by an old friend we hadn't seen in years until Lindsey ran into him a couple of weeks ago. We were happy to show him a newish restaurant in town, where we've only been once before — a restaurant that knows how to make a sandwich.

I had this "Il Nonno," being a nonno* myself: delicious soppressata, headcheese, with salsa verde, chopped hardboiled egg, arugula, Calabrian chili peppers, and pickled zucchini on ciabatta, a favorite bread of mine. Very spicy; quite delicious.

Il Nonno, garnished with pickle, caper, and arugula, at Campo Fina
Vermentino, Seghesio (Healdsburg), 2011: crisp, sound, refreshing
*nonno: Italian for "grandfather"

• Campo Fina, 330 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg; 707-395-4640

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Coffee central: the Faemina, with (beyond it) the coffee roaster and grinder
Eastside Road, October 10, 2012—
TODAY IS FAST DAY, typically Tuesday, when we have our usual Spartan breakfast, then nothing until a handful of almonds and cashews with tea in the evening.

But breakfast this morning, ah, breakfast! The Faemina is back from the shop!

Lindsey found the Faemina in the middle 1960s in a second-hand shop — remember those? — on Grove Street in Berkeley. We borrowed twelve bucks from Mom, put thirteen of our own with it, and bought the machine, which was brand new, still sporting its European plug. Our old friend George Craig replaced the plug, and we've used it ever since. Over the years it's needed gaskets from time to time, and once it needed something more: on that occasion I actually shipped it to New York for refurbishment, and it returned lacking some of its parts and, while working, not really working quite the same.

Last month it stopped working, and I suspected the heating elements had given out. I'd had to replace switches on it twice — you see one on the base; there's another, similar, on the other side — and my wiring was largely guesswork. The switches had been arcing, and now and then you smelled hot insulation on the wires. Time to take it to the shop.

I took it to my old friend Mr Espresso in Oakland. Soon came discouraging news: the elements were burned out and needed replacing. Much research on line. Then, just when I'd found someone back east who'd supply brand-new handmade replacements, at a hefty though honest price, happier news from Oakland: after removal, clean-up, and reinstallation, and complete rewiring, Faemina was as good as new.

Well, not quite, of course. There's some play in the lever: in fifty years, moving metal parts inevitably wear down a bit. Some of the chrome plating is showing its age, too.

But the machine works. We have our caffelattes again, after weeks of substitutes from our daughter's Atomic, and one or another Moka from the top shelf, and even a cheap plastic Krups fake espresso maker we bought years ago for use in a rented vacation house.

Ah, Faemina, how fond we are of you! How grateful for these long years of devotion! I promise to take good care of you…

Bakers Dozen at Foreign Cinema

San Francisco, October 9, 2012—
twice a year, we get to a meeting of Bakers Dozen, a group of professional and dedicated amateur bakers founded a number of years ago by Flo Braker, the late Amy Pressman, and — at that time — eleven other bakers, among whom Lindsey was included. Over the years the membership has grown tremendously, and there are now satellite Bakers Dozens in other parts of the country: here in the Bay Area the membership must certainly be over a hundred.

This is not the place to comment much further on the Dozen, other than to note that I always come away from the meetings with a renewed faith in the essential goodness and generosity of humanity. Bakers are an interesting lot: dedicated, disciplined, methodical, somewhat fatalistic, and as a whole generous, dedicating their lives to their essentially small, local, repetitive work, providing daily or festive fare of humble or frivolous nature.

The meetings generally consist of a coffee-and-conversation half hour, a presentation of some kind, and lunch. Today there were two presentations: by Rita Held and Rosemary Mark, co-bloggers who produce Get Cooking Simply — a fascinating discussion of food blogs in general, which perhaps one of these days I'll comment on over at The Eastside View — and then a mini-lecture on how to write and publish a cookbook, with a very useful handout, by Flo Braker, who knows a thing or two about that subject.

But what concerns us here is lunch. We all sat down to the same three courses: a fine variation on the classic Caesar salad with tender chiffonaded Russian kale in place of romaine, Piave in place of Parmesan, and a first-rate dressing discreetly murmuring Anchovy and Lemon and subtle vinegar. chicken.jpgNext, fried chicken — a fine meaty chicken, juicy but not watery, in a very delicate batter, crusted with sesame seeds, accopanied by broccoli rabe seasoned with chili and a subtle North African spice blend and softened with yogurt sauce.

Dessert: Crème brûlée — eggy and creamy, deeply flavored with rose water, perfectly glazed — and a curious cookie.
still water
Foreign Cinema, 2534 Mission Street, San Francisco; (415) 648-7600

Monday, October 8, 2012

Penne with broccoli and breadcrumbs

Eastside Road, October 8, 2012—
THE RECIPE CAME from Martha Stewart; everything else from the pantry, the garden, and the Farmers Market. It was time for pasta; we haven't had any in days, and of course penne are the pasta of choice around here, whole-wheat penne.

The bread crumbs have been in the freezer, left from who knows what occasion, who knows for how long. She toasted them a little in olive oil in a sauté pan, then set them aside, added a little more oil, and added three or four anchovies, sliced garlic, and capers; then halved cherry tomatoes and a few red-pepper flakes.

Then it's just a matter of cooking the penne in the normal way, adding chopped broccoli rabe to the pasta as it cooks. Drain it and add it to the sauté pan, tossing it al together, and a little of the pasta cooking water, and bring the whole mixture to temperature, letting it thicken a little; then strew the crumbs on top.

The result is a nice conjunction of textures, of course; and I liked the flavors too. Autumnal, somehow. Green salad afterward, and no doubt we'll have some fruit a little later.
Cabernet franc, Éric Chevalier (Val de Loire), 2010: woody around the edges, true to varietal

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Another salmon dinner

Eastside Road, October 7, 2012—
MARKET THIS MORNING; ergo salmon tonight. Again, because the weather's so nice, and I don't like cleaning broiler pans, I cooked it outside over a small wood fire.

I cooked it, but Lindsey prepared it. She seasoned the salmon, laid split scallions atop each piece, and wrapped them in foil. Then she cooked a mess of Nancy's lima beans in the usual way, a little bit of water, a little bit of butter. Sliced tomatoes on the side, a green salad to follow, and a cantaloupe with raspberries from the garden for dessert. Simple; good.
Cheap Pinot grigio


Eastside Road, October 6, 2012—
EVEN ON A BUSY DAY, sandwiched between a three-hour memorial observance an hour's drive north of here and a concert an hour's drive south, my personal chef manages to come up with a triumphal dinner. No one knows better than I how lucky I am to have her, and how sorry I am that from time to time — very rarely, in fact — she makes it clear that she sometimes finds this public record a little embarrassing. She has, lord knows, no reason for embarrassment. She's an inspiration, and not only to me.

Today she turned to her clipping file for this recipe from Sunset magazine. Shakshouka, sometimes spelled with C's in place of S's, is an eastern Mediterranean or north African dish involving lots of olive oil, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, seasoned with cumin, coriander seed, and paprika that have been ground together in the mortar, stewed on top of the stove, and served with eggs that have been poached in (and above) the resulting mixture at the last minute. The result is absolutely delicious and hereby promoted to the Hundred Plates. (I see I haven't updated that list in some time. One of these days.)
Cheap Pinot grigio

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Quick and simple

Eastside Road, October 5, 2012—
LUNCH: AS USUAL these days: peanut butter on a piece of toast — today, Artisan's Seven-grain bread, a favorite of Lindsey's; I like it okay in spite of the birdseed. Especially when it comes with a delicious Bosc pear and a couple or three of those incomparable Golden Transparent plums, probably the last from this year's harvest.

DINNER: NO TIME for anything fancy, so Lindsey quickly fried some sliced shallot in butter and combined them with Blue Lake green beans from Nancy Skall's Middleton Farms, quickly steamed until tender; with them, toast and cheese (Piave, Gruyère); afterward, green salad.

Then we drove down to Oakland to a concert; then home again — 80 miles each way — and finished the evening with a Hanky Panky. I'm sure I've given you the recipe.
With supper, Tempranillo Barrica, Albero, 2009 (as two days ago)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Back to Peru

Eastside Road, October 5, 2012—
I MUST SAY, I really like this place: a small, very friendly, unassuming, authentically ethnic workingman's restaurant in a strip mall in not the best side of town, with a fascinating wine list and a very gratifying menu.

We were on our way to the theater with a couple of friends, and wouldn't have time for anything complicated, so we skipped first courses and cut to the chase. I had the lomo saltado: strips of beef tenderloin sautéed in a wok with cilantro, onion, tomato, and a hint of soy, served as you see with a generous handful of thick-cut French fries and a scoop of perfectly cooked white rice on the side. Some day I have to go to Peru, I guess; if this dish is authentic — and there's every reason to think it is — the cuisine's worth investigating in situ. Meanwhile, we'll be back here. Lord knows the price is right.
Torrontes, Santa Julia (Mendoza, Argentina), 2011: chalky, resiny, unctuous, delicious; Malbec, Terra Rosa: deep, full, soft
• Sazón Peruvian Cuisine, 1129 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa, California; (707) 523-4346

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Corona beans

Eastside Road, October 3, 2012—
THESE MAY BE the last of the Corona beans for a while. We used to buy them dry in big plastic sacks, five pounds or so. (Not quite; they were imported from Italy and sold by metric measurements — perhaps two-kg packages; I'm not sure.)

Alas our friend retired from the import business, succumbing to a buyout offer no sane man would long resist. We have a couple of liters of olive oil left, half a dozen cans of tuna, probably some tapenade and such squirreled away out in the mud room or in various corners of the pantry, see below.

The beans are big, bigger than the end joint of my thumb, and it's a good-sized thumb. Meaty. Lindsey soaks them for a few hours, then cooks them up with, I'm guessing here, a bit of crushed garlic and salt. When they're tender she drains them and tosses them with good olive oil, sage or marjoram, more garlic and salt as needed. On a night like this they're the entire supper, followed of course by the green salad and later a couple of figs and maybe an apple.
Tempranillo Barrica, Albero, 2009: full and forthcoming
a corner of the pantry

Monday, October 1, 2012


Eastside Road, October 1, 2012—

The sauce was garlic, onion, tomatoes, olive oil, cooked together slowly, tomatoes last I would guess (I wasn't there).

Green salad. Later we'll have some fruit. Che buona tavola; che una femmina straordinaria.
Cheap Pinot grigio