Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Another Mexican

Eastside Road, April 29, 2013—
NOT MUCH TO look at, is it? Well, that's in the nature of a garden-variety Mexican combination plate. Here you see chile verde (with pork), rice, and beans; the flour tortillas are out of sight on one side, the guacamole on the other.

I have to say, the chile verde was pretty darn good. The rice and beans, well, they are what they (always) are, rather bland accompaniments to help offset the heat of the chile.

Just before sitting down to write this, I looked the place up on Yelp. As often happens, the reviews are divided: some really really like the place; others say it's ordinary and complain about the service. There was one person working the floor, and I think she helps out in the kitchen as well. The whole place has a mom-and-pop feel about it. It's down home and authentic (to Cal-Mex traditions, mind you, not those of any hifalutin regional Mexican cuisine).

The salsa that came with the chips was very good indeed, and I had great reports on the pozole. And, oh boy, does this stretch of highway need a good place for a relaxed dinner.
Red house wine
• La Casona Del Cielo, 44901 Highway 101, Laytonville, California; (707) 984-8226

Sunday, April 28, 2013


Ashland, Oregon, April 28, 2013—

WE'VE BEEN MEANING to return here for a while now, and somehow never got around to it until today. Billed as a "bistro," with reproductions of Art Nouveau posters on the walls and French popular music playing over the sound system, the menu runs to bistro standards, plus the inevitable hamburger.

I opened with a salade aux frisée et lardons, with a nice sherry-vinegar dressing and a somewhat over-poached egg on top; then this plate of perfectly cooked duck breast, on a bed of polenta and not-quite-authentic collard greens, with a not overly sweet Grand Marnier sauce. Not bad; not bad at all.

Vuvray, Domaine Pichot, le Peu de la Moriette, 2011 (nice character); Vaqueyras, Jean-Marie Arnoux, 2010 (a little bland)

• Loft Brasserie & Bar, 18 Calle Guanajuato, Ashland; (541) 482-1116

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Lamb stew

Ashland, Oregon, April 27, 2013—
I'VE WRITTEN ABOUT HER before any number of times here; she's one of the two or three best cooks I know of: Charlene Rollins. Everything they serve here is locally sourced, save such things as coffee and the best of the wines. Even the water you drink here is particularly delicious, and comes from the property itself.

But sourcing isn't everything. God sends food, the Dutch say, and the devil sends cooks: but in this venue the cook is as heaven-sent as the provender she prepares for the table. You just know, if you have any attentiveness at all, that you're in a special confluence of raw ingredients and intelligent, sensuous technique.

I had the menu, which is my usual approach here, even though the a la carte items are extremely attractive. The menu was a "Caesar" salad, that first word in quotes because the salad was a bit revisionist, including pickled peppers and capers, for example.

Afterward, lamb stew, capped in my soup-plate with a float of cauliflower gratin — a pleasant dish, as you'd expect from a cook whose specialty is the long-simmered entree.

Dessert was the fine cake you see here, made with orange, olive oil, and ground almond, served with strawberry-rhubarb sauce and orange-honey ice cream. Charlene is a genius, a generous and resourceful one, and she and her restaurant — and her sommelier husband Vern — are among my favorite people, and the national treasures of gastronomy.
Red, Bela Voda (Macedonia): rich, deep, sound, rewarding.

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

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, April 26, 2013


Ashland, Oregon, April 26, 2013—
WE DO REALLY LIKE this place, and stop in at least once every time we're here for a few days. Open six or eight years now, it's always dependable. Nothing changes, except maybe the art on the walls. Certainly the menu doesn't change, but it doesn't matter: I always seem to order the same things, because they're so delicious — fresh, pointed in flavor, bright and vivacious and, I'm sure of it, healthful.

We began by splitting a salad: shredded cabbage, carrots, jalapeños, and cilantro, dressed with lime juice. And an order of guacamole, almost as good as the one I make.

Then I go on to the duck taco, filled with shredded duck confit, again with some shredded cabbage and onion — an unusual dish, I suppose, but not here: a real standby.

Margaritas: Tequila, Triple sec, lime juice, on the rocks, with salt at the rim

• Agave, 52 North Main, Ashland; 541.488.1770

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Eastside Road, April 25, 2013—
I DON'T THINK ANYTHING is harder to cook to perfect satisfaction than chicken on the bone. And certainly on the grill. Leg, thigh, breast; every edible part of the chicken is composed of muscle thick and thin, stringy and soft, close or far from the bone: how can anyone ever cook the damn thing through so nothing is slimy raw, nothing burnt to a crisp?

But we went down the hill to the neighbors for dinner tonight, and Eric had put a couple of small friers on the grill over a wood fire, and somehow he made it work: the chicken was perfectly done, leg and thigh, subtly flavored with the wood smoke, still tasting of — well, chicken. Not feathers; not plastic; not butcher paper; not refrigeration. Chicken.

With it, sweet potato crisps: rounds sliced thin and roasted in the oven. A green salad. And a delicious cake quite new to me, made of ground almonds and grated orange and egg and, I think, a little honey, tasting a little like an omelet, or a Spanish tortilla, but definitely a cake, and definitely delicious.
Mourvedre, Preston of Dry Creek, 2010

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Oakland, California, April 23, 2013—
lunch.jpgWELL, ANYWAY, I call it Cuban, though clearly there's a big Mexican influence here too. We've been meaning to try this place for quite a while: another Chez Panisse spinoff, by which I do not mean a wannabe, not at all: I mean a fine restaurant opened by an alumnus (in this case alumna) of the Chez P kitchen, with all the Chez P values intact: authenticity, intelligence, ethics, attentiveness.

I thought I'd lunch simply, on this nice big bowl of pozole verde: billed on the menu as "Mexican Chiken Soup w/Hominy & Lime," but with textural interest from cabbage and finely chopped radish, and with lots of deep flavor.

But my lunchmate had other ideas, and I shared her crisp chicken taco with beans and an avocado salsa; and the guacamole she ordered on the side, and a very nice salad with blood orange, jicama, lettuce, cucumber, pumpkin seeds, and lemon vinaigrette. Everything was so pointed in flavor, so fresh and clean, so appetizing; and the setting so nice, and the day so perfect: I could have spent the rest of the day there, with maybe another glass or two of
Rosé, Cultivar Vineyard (Napa)
Cosecha, 907 Washington Street, Oakland; 510-452-5900

Monday, April 22, 2013


Eastside Road, April 22, 2013—
FIRST BARBECUE OF THE YEAR yesterday, a simple one for a couple of friends. I burned some old grapevine and fruit-tree prunings in the Weber, and set six hamburgers on the grill; Stefan did most of the supervising, and Lindsey made a fine potato-and-shallot salad, and there were sliced tomatoes and onions, and Lou's delicious dill pickles; and we had the requisite green salad, and oh my the pecan-coconut-caramel sundae she fixed for dessert!

(And we'll eat the two extra hamburgers today.)
Rosé, Charles and Charles (Columbia Valley, Washington), 2012

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Salmon; potatoes

Eastside Road, April 20, 2013—
THERE'S JUST SOMETHING so inevitable about the combination: salmon and potatoes. And also about the combination: potatoes and parsley. Lindsey swears it isn't parsley we had tonight, but cilantro. But I think someone made a mistake somewhere. This was awfully mild cilantro. This was, I'm sure of it, Italian parsley, the sort we have growing spontaneously by the cypress tree on the patio.

The salmon's from the freezer, bought at the farm market a few weeks ago from Dave, but put away for later use. The lemon's our own. The cilantro is parsley, I'm sure of it, and it's so good with steamed potatoes…
Cheap Pinot grigio

Friday, April 19, 2013

Omelet; salad

Eastside Road, April 19, 2013—
TWO OF THE HUNDRED plates, at least, I used to think I had mastered: omelet; vinaigrette. I've described the latter here so many times I hardly need mention it again, but I will: mash a clove of garlic with the right amount of salt — I use an ordinary dinner fork to do this. Cover the result with the right amount of olive oil and let it stand. When you're about to toss the salad, add the right amount of good vinegar and whisk it into an emulsion with that dinner fork.

The omelet's only a tiny bit trickier. I used to use butter, which can be treacherous as it burns readily. Since seeing the brillian final few minutes of that excellent movie The Big Night, I've used olive oil. Heat it to just under smoky and swirl it to cover the entire inside of the omelet pan. Whisk your eggs, two of them probably, in a dish, using a dinner fork.

Oh: After I've broken the eggs I toss the shells into the compost bucket. I then rinse my hands, as they're inevitably a little sticky with raw egg at this point, but I don't dry them: using my right hand, I scrape the excess water of my left hand into the dish of eggs; then repeat with the other hands. This adds just the right amount of water to the eggs.

I don't add salt, grated cheese, chopped fines herbes, or anything else. I whisk the eggs a little, just to break up the yolks; then I slide them into the hot omelet pan.

I lift the edge of the set egg with the fork to let the uncooked egg flow underneath. I swirl the pan. I toss the omelet to turn it, and to form it into the requisite perfect oval.

TONIGHT, HOWEVER, everything went wrong. The egg stuck, because I hadn't run the olive oil out to the very edge of the omelet pan. I forgot to warm the dinner plates. I had nothing on hand to season the omelet with after it had been cooked.

Worst of all, I tried to add the vinegar to the vinaigrette with my left hand, since my right hand was busy, and splashed way too much in; so I added more olive oil, enough for the next week, and now I'll have tired old vinaigrette on my salad for a few days.

Oh well: we're fed; that's the main thing. And I've learned another little lesson about complacency. It's time to resume omelets, one a week, until they're back in the hand again. And I've reminded myself about those special tricks of the kitchen: patience, attentiveness, self-discipline — all arts I mastered years ago, but have somehow let slide…
Cheap Soave

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Another green salad

Eastside Road, April 18, 2013—
THIS ONE JUST a bit different: lettuces, mâche, some chopped avocado, and a shallot dressing, because we're out of garlic, and besides garlic would be too strong for the avocado-mâche combination: at least I think so.

So I peeled a good-sized shallot and minced it in the accepted manner, leaving the peels attached at the root end, slicing as thin as possible lengthwise in both dimensions, then chopping the pieces free crosswise. I then minced the result further, after sprinkling the chopped shallot with good salt.

Let it soak in the olive oil for a while; then whisk in Champagne vinegar, the perfect foil to shallots, and throw in the greens, and mix like crazy. On the side, toasted bread, lightly spread with olive oil. Delicious.
Cheap Soave

Green salad

Eastside Road, April 17, 2013—
THE DAILY GREEN salad we have at home was probably the one item of our diet we missed at all in the last three weeks. Certainly it was the most missed. Not that we didn't have the occasional green salad: but not like the ones we have at home.

Today, after three weeks without a fast day, and after the disruptions increasingly noticed (with our increasing years) after a flight day, the green salad was about all we wanted. Lettuces, olive oil, good red wine vinegar, garlic, salt. I suppose we could have thrown in a few anchovies, but that would have been just too much work. Next time.
Just an exceptional Martini before dinner

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Three Last Meals in Spain

In flight, April 16, 2013—
IN SOME WAYS the three last meals we had in Spain — excluding breakfasts, which hardly count — represent the range of settings and styles we met on the entire trip, while being among the most enjoyable.

Sunday night in Córdoba we stopped in at a tapas restaurant and made quite a meal of local specialties: Salmorejo, a sort of gazpacho thickened with almond purée; delicious mussels in escabeche (sweet-sour marinade); marvelous deep-fried boquerones, translated on this menu as "whitebait" and nearly as good as the epochal ones we'd had a few days earlier in Seville; and, perhaps my favorite of the night, Sartenada, a potato hash with green pepper, chorizo, dry-cured ham, with a perfect egg broken on top, in a black iron pan hot from the oven.

The waiters were knowledgeable, friendly, and fun, and we had a chat with the excellent cook, Martín, afterward. I'd go back to this place any chance I got.
Habla del Silencio (Syrah, Cabernet sauvignon, Tempranillo), 2011 (Extremadura): rich, smooth, beautifully balanced, a lovely wine

• Bodegas Mezquita, Calle del Corregidor Luis de la Cerda, 73, Córdoba; +34 957 49 81 17
Monday, on the long drive to Madrid, we pulled off the highway at a small town called La Carolina for a sandwich or something. The main street seemed deserted. The town was pleasant- looking in a bland way; it made me think of desultory towns in the Central California Valley, fifty years ago.

We sat around a table on the sidewalk outside a streetcorner bar. Grilled ham and cheese tostadas appeared, with fresh tomato concasée to spark them up. I had a plate of good local dry-cured ham and Manchego-type cheese. The proprietor seemed delighted to have this unlikely quartet of foreigners, and brought us custard éclairs for dessert, on the house. Everything was so good, so special and personal, we had to count the lunch among the highlights of the trip.
Water, since I was driving, and one of the best cups of espresso of the entire trip

• Damn: didn't get the name. It's on the Avenida Juan Carlos I, is all I can tell you, on a streetcorner.

Monday night, after that lunch, the long drive, and faced with the final packing, we were too tired to do more than go around the corner. The place is unique in all of Europe, we were assured, specializing in cheese and wine, really top-flight examples of both.

Since I'm adamantly opposed to the idea of combining cheese with fish, I insisted on proof to persuade me out of the prejudice, and ordered Brandada de bacalao y burrata di Corato con aceite de tomate seco y pimenton dulce. Three mounds of creamy, ideally balanced mousse appeared, pure white on a black slate tile, with the tiniest dusting of sun-dried tomato and pepper marmalade. With this, a glass of delicious Moscatel, so smooth and elegant you'd be forgiven for thinking it a Sauternes.

For dessert, we four shared three blue cheeses: Derbyshire Stilton, Valdeon from Castilla y León, and Picón Bejes-Tresvis from Cantabria, with three Ports, to bring our tour of Iberia to a fully integrated conclusion…
Moscatel, "Casta Diva," Gutiérrez de la Vega (Alicante), 2011; Ports, LBV, 10 year, and 20 year, Taylor's

• Cheese Bar, José Abascal, 61, Madrid; phone; www.ponceletcheesebar.es

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Ay, Sevilla…

NH Hotel Centro Convenciones, Seville, April 13, 2013—
HERE OF COURSE we simply eat tapas, when and where we feel like it. Yesterday they involved quail eggs and ham and omelet and asparagus and such, today tuna and padron peppers and minced meat and tuna and aioli and bacalao and such.

It is nearly eleven and I've been on my feet much of the day, with the usual disappointments and pleasant surprises. No way I'm gonna conform to the usual template. Finos, Cordorníu, vinos blancos y tintos, anís. Many different tapas joints, none well known. Among them, this one:

• Restaurante Alcaiza, Cuesta del Rosario, 13, Sevilla; 954 21 12 81

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Ah, Spain…

NH Hotel Centro Convenciones, Seville, April 11, 2013—
…AND MORE SPECIFICALLY, Seville. What with the long drive from Évora, an hour or two to visit the Roman theater in Mérida, and the time change, we arrived too late and too hungry to stray far from our hotel, which is not too central.

No problem. We asked advice from guys we met on the street at various locations, and they all pointed us to the same fish tapas joint a block or two from the hotel. There we had delicious deep-fried hake, and anchovies, and a couple of platters of ham, and were completely satisfied..

Googling it later, I find it's famous and universally admired. We were the only tourists there. Fabulous.
Manzanilla from the tap
• Pescaderias y Freiduras El Trasmallo, C/José Saramago, 7; 954231881
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Lamb, lamb, lamb

Hotel Santa Clara, Évora, Portugal, April 10, 2013—
OF ALL THE MEAT that we can eat, Virgil used to sing, Chicken, beef, or ham; the one that tickles my palate the most is lamb, lamb, lamb.

Especially cooked like this: browned in olive oil, sprinkled with a little white wine, and cooked very slowly with a little thyme and a lot of garlic. Tonight's lamb was mostly cubes of meat, with a bit of backbone and a knuckle, and my serving included a kidney, and lots of beautiful creamy little potatoes.

Dessert was a little custard tart with a preserved whole plum, very nice.
Alentejo, Casa de Sabicos, 2008, rich and big and mature
• Dom Joaquim, Rua de Penedos, 6, Évora; 266 731 105

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hotel Principe, Lisboa, April 9, 2013—
BACELHAU FOR LUNCH, of course: a couple of very light and delicate fritters, I would call them, served with rice with a few beans mixed in, at the very pleasant café in the very impressive Tile Museum here.

For dinner, though, we were taken out to a fancy restaurant by Lisbon cousins of a dear friend back on California. Here, after a pleasant apéritif of white Port, and appetizers of soft white cheese dusted with thyme, oregano, and black pepper and further seasoned with olive oil, we had bacelhau croquettes, three of them apiece, served on individual beds of stewed turnip greens — a delicious combination.

Then an enormous tuna steak, barely poached in olive oil, with lots of thinly sliced garlic, and a tomato concassée with crisp deep-fried parsley. I suppose this is updated traditional Portuguese cuisine. I like it.

Vinho verde, Albarinho, 2012

• Lisboa a noite, Rua das Gáveas 69, Lisbon; 351 213 468 557

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Bacalhau and lamb

Hotel Principe, Lisboa, April8, 2013—
NEARLY EVERYONE WE SEE here on the streets is small: even among tourists I feel unusually tall. And yet the servings in the restaurants are huge . Here, for example, a good-sized portion of roast lamb is completely smothered under its vegetables: potatoes, onions, peppers, green beans.

Well, it's better than too little: we worked hard today, up many flights of stairs and down, seven kilometers of cobbled sidewalk Lindsey says, not to mention the violent tram rides. I don't feel any bigger for our diet these last few days in Portugal.
Porca de Murça (Douro), 2011: very nice, forward, appetizing

• Martinho da Arcada, Praça do Comércio, 3, Lisboa; +351 218 879 259

EARLIER IN THE DAY a good-sized grilled ham-and-cheese made a suitable lunch at a café also on the Praça do Comércio, and we had some nice little deep-fried sardines and bacalhau croquettes with a glass or two of house red before dinner, because we were starved…

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Back to bacalhau

Hotel Principe, Lisboa, April 7, 2013—
IN MY CONTINUING research into bacalhau, the delicious salt cod so dear to the Iberian peninsula — though "subcontinent" seems to me a more accurate geotype — I happily chose it from amonga large number of possibilities on this evening's menu at a small restaurant, not much more than a diner actually, one of the few places open this Sunday evening in the vicinity of our hotel. (In fact, the only alternative we found was a McDonald's.)

For the first time this trip, the plate arrived with a shelled hard-boiled egg alongside the simply cooked salt-cod steak, the boiled potatoes, and a handful of good green beans. A very simple meal, quite satisfying, with an almod salt-caramel tart for dessert.
Blanco, Adega de Pegoes, 2012: very nice balance, deep flavor, good finish
• Restaurante O Moisès, Av. Duque d'Avila, 121-123, Lisbon; 213.140.962
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Last night in Porto

Porto, April 6, 2013—
AS YOU SEE, it was sausage and vegetables tonight — kale, potatoes, and carrot, and plenty of it. In fact this is a half portion you're looking at. Before, a delicious half ration of thin-sliced age-dried ham, almost as good as good Iberian ham; after, a beautiful crème caramel.

A very sweet little restaurant, inexpensive, on a marvelous street, with three good Porto ladies in the kitchen, and an affable gent out front.
Tinto do casa
• Adega Vila Mea, Rua Caldeireiros 62, Porto, Portugal

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Bacalhau and fado

Hotel Sao Jose, Porto, April 5, 2013—
ANOTHER BOWL OF caldo verde, another plate of bacalhau, and why not? You can depend on these dishes here. And tonight along with dinner came three very impressive fado singers and two excellent guitarists, and fine conversation, and a memorable evening.
Vinho verde, Muralhas de Monção

• Restaurante Típico O Fado , Rua São João Novo 16, Oporto; +351 222 026 937

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Rua da Alegria,Porto,Portugal

Friday, April 5, 2013


Hotel Sao Jose, Porto, April 4, 2013—
A FAVORITE DISH, one of the Hundred Plates, bacalhau, and served in as autheentic a style and location as you could ask. A few savory croquettes and a bowl of nice thick kale soup — caldo verde — started us out well, and then we dove into this Gomes de sá, salt cod layered with potatoes and garnished with hardboiled egg. Chocolate marquisse and a glass of Graham's LBV, 2007, made a more than satisfactory dessert.

Albarinho, "Contacto," Alberto Mendes, 2012: silky, soft, nice varietal nose and palate

• Restaurant Abadia, Rua Ateneu Comercial do Porto 22, Oporto;
+351 222 008 757

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Surf and turf

Horus Zamora Boutique Hotel, Zamora, Spain; April 3, 2013—
DINNER IN THE HOTEL/small> tonight: it was simply easier that way, and Maecenas knows the price was right. I had brandade croquettes for a first course — I could imagine eating salt cos every day on this trip. Next, a tournedos of solemillo (beef), wrapped in bacon, rather overdone, with a few bits of potato in a Bearnaise sauce, all served on an unfortunately cold plate, otherwise very nice.

Dessert: a very nice warm chocolate cakelet with a molten center. The meal didn't seem particularly local, other than the wines, but it was perfectly satisfactory.

vino blanco, "Et Cetera" (Rueda), 2011; vino tinto de Toro, Villachica (Zamora), 2012

• Restaurante la Bóveda, Plaza del Mercado, 20, Zamora, Spain; 980 50 82 82

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Not today.

Hostal Plaza Mayor, Salamanca, April 2, 2013—
LUNCH AROUND THE CORNER, at a place whose name I'm afraid I don't recall — doesn't matter; it was nothing special. I had this bowl of perfectly acceptable sopa castillana, which I'd promote to the Hundred Plates if this software would only let me, and then peppers stuffed with brandade and covered with tomato sauce.

Local red

Dinner, such as it was, was my very first Döner kebab, hold the yoghurt. Even my brother, whose idea this was, had to admit it was no more than ordinary.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Good Restaurant

Hostal Plaza Mayor, Salamanca, April 1, 2013—

WHAT A FINE restaurant we found tonight, after poring through the usual Internet sites, and reading between the usual lines. This place serves interesting evolutions of traditional dishes, full of vibrant flavor, attractive to the eye, in a pleasant, colorful, optimistic setting. Various press we'd read mentioned recent enthusiasts by the name of Almodóvar and Adria, but we didn't see them; on our departure at about 11:30 only two other tables had been served on this Easter Monday evening, in the tiny, beautifully decorated room.

We shards two first courses and went individual ways on the second. First, patatas bravas, a dependable vernacular tapa, usually blanched-then-deep-fried potatoes served with a more or less piquant tomato-inflected mayonnaise. These, as you see above, were a witty update: a tray with eight potato croquettes, feathery light, and six porcelain spoonfuls of sauce: left to right, salsa verde, New Mexico-style chili sauce, mustardy sweet mayonnaise, honey-mustard, smoked chili sauce, and mustard sauce.

The potatoes were light and delicate; the sauces clean and, in varying degrees, assertive. I was glad we had good bread on the table; one doesn't waste sauces like these.

Next, an even more interesting dish: a sformato of redolent potatoes, akin to pommes Dauphinois, with crossed skewers of clices of boudin, one, the farinata, nearly blanc except for a delicate wash of tomato, the other, morcilla, a fabulous noir of pig's blood, sweet white onion, pepper, and cloves — one of the finest things I've ever tasted, especially paired with the plain but splendid wine we'd ordered.

After these dishes I expected a bit of a disappointment, but my magret of duck was meaty, well flavored, and respectfully cooked, with stewed dried apricots alongside. Dessert might well have been anticlimax, though, so I made do with a digestive.

Crianza, Pago del Oro, 2003: rich, deep, beautifully balanced

• El Pecado, Plaza del Poeta Inglese 12, Salamanca; 923.266.558