Saturday, June 29, 2013

O che buon'una pasta!

Chiusa di San Michele, January 29, 2013—

WHAT A FINE pranzo today in the home of friends in a little Italian village: bread, toma, prosciutto, salame, coppa, peppers stuffed with anchovies, peppers with bagna cauda, spaghetti, and more conversation and laughter than you could ever imagine. Oh: and Erbaluce; and a very interesting red, part Cabernet, part Primitivo, from the Basilicata. Grazie, Andrea; molte grazie, Teresa!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Siamo in Italia…

Susa, june 28, 2013—

HERE WE ARE in Italy, in valSusa, and we have vegetables!

Lunch in a delightful bar-trattoria in a favorite village: tortellini burro e salvia; scalloppina Milanese; insalata mista; torta di crema coi pignoli. 

Dolcetto di Monferrato in carafa

• Trattoria della Poste, via Levis, 32, Chiomonte

Then dinner in a country restaurant near our B&B: Vitello tonnato; braciole di maiale alla Silana ( artichoke, porcini, tomato); spinace.

Dolcetto, Colombier (Chiomonte), 2009

• Ristorante Rocciamelone, Monpantero, Susa

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Savoie = cheese

Fourneaux, June 27, 2013 —

POTATOES AND CHEESE; cheese and potatoes; these, Madame chef explained tonight, are the mainstays of the very consistent Savoyard cuisine. Show a Savoyard a bit of spinach, she said, and he will ask, what am I supposed to do with this?

Last night in Bramans, in a hotel with a pretty damn good kitchen, we opened with the above feuillté involving puff pastry, butter, onions, cream, and a toasted cheese lid. Very good indeed. A trace of nutmeg. 

Next came turkey, I'm pretty sure — we eat demi-pension, without benefit of menus — and then a very capable apricot tarte, from a bakery, no doubt, but no less welcome for that. 

• Hotel Restaurant Les Glaciers, Brassans

And then tonight! We started with a simple cheese tart, with perfect pastry (sablée), filled with a mixture of Emmental and Comté and a tiny bit of Roquefort to provide interest, and milk, garlic, and a little crème fraîche.

Then chicken breast with a delicious cream-based gravy, with a gratinée Savoyard on the side — Beaufort cheese and potatoes, you know — and then a few cheeses (Brie, Tomme, Beaufort), and then a welcome cup of fruit cocktail. The cook here is wonderful. She learned to cook, she says, from her grandfather: how could that not win my heart? Besides, look at her!

Vin de Savoie, Les Abymes, 2012: perfect with these cheeses

• Hotel Bellevue, Fourneaux

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

It ain't the same…

Lanslebourg, June 25, 2013—

MY BETTER HALF reminds me ever so often: things have probably changed; it won't be there any more; it will have changed…

And now I add to the sad où sont les neiges dump the restaurant in the hotel Relais des Deux Cols, which captivated me five years ago, and confirmed its excellence a couple of years after that. Alas, there has been a change of ownership, hence direction. 

Dinner tonight was okay, competent, nothing more. Industrial, you might say. I had a salad, nicely dressed, with good crisp lettuces, and a competent tartiflette. The best was dessert, this nutty little piece of cake with apple bits in it. 

Vin de Savoie en pichet

• Hotel Restaurant les Deux Cols, Lanslebourg

Monday, June 24, 2013

Ordinary fare

Villarodin-Bourget, France, January 24, 2013—

ALL'S NOT ALWAYS at its best: there come times when one's grateful for what arrives. Today, for example, when we arrived in Modane an hour later than planned, thanks to not getting to a train exit door in time, only to find all restaurants closed but one: a decidedly workingclass bar with dinner option. 

But you know? Sorry, Alice, it"s my kind of place. The entrées were serve-yourself from a coldcase buffet, and I shamelessly pigged out on tomatoes, radishes, deliciously dressed tuna with potatoes, a perfectly hard-cooked egg, and Russian salad, a mainstay of this region. If the brochette d'agneau that followed was inexpertly cooked and perhaps a bit meager a serving, still it was flavorful local lamb. And the pear cake was honest, in an honest pastry cream. No real complaints.

White and red of the house

• Hotel de la Gare, 73 Modane

Demi- pension

La Chapelle d'Abondance, June 23, 2013—

We took our lunch in our room today, feeling our cheese, sausage, walnuts, and dried apricots were getting a little long in the tooth.

Dinner was another matter: a "salade Vieux Moulin," lettuce under corn kernels, cherry tomatoes, chopped celery, crumbled egg, pimento, tiny white asparagus, and tiny shrimp which I managed to sweep aside. Then a very nice suprème de pintade, after goose my favorite poultry, nicely cooked and served with a reduction heavily flavored with white pepper and tarragon. A bundle of green beans was wrapped in bacon, and a bowl of rice on the side soaked up even more of that delicious sauce.

Aprémont, nv

• Hotel Le Vieux Moulin,  La Chapelle d'Abondance

After the frugality

La Chapelle d'Abondance, June 22, 2013—

After yesterday's frugality we were hungry today, even thpugh we only walked four hours or so before arriving here. We had a "formula" lunch — any two courses of three, four choices in each course — that was marred only a little by too much insistence on visuals and preesentation. This rabbit terrine, marbled woth foie gras, was quite delicious, and accompanied by some of my favotrites: rhubarb and onion confits, remoulade, and wonderful griottes with preserved little clove mushrooms. 

Afterward, a fine creme brulee flavored with fir somehow, and myrtille ice cream: we are well and truly in the mountains!

Hotel Les Gentianettes, La Chapelle d'Abondance

Dinner at our hotel, more modest, an old-fashioned family-owned place with a good bonne-femme style cook in the kitchen, probably the husband in fact. We eat demi-pension, taking what is offered. Tonight we began with a sort of croque-monsieur, ham on toast, covered with a sort of cheese soufflė; and went on to pork chops, a little dry but tasty, accompanied by splendid gratinée Savoyard.

Then came all the cheeses one could ask, of which I predictably chose tomme, reblochon, and Beaufort; and then strawbwrries with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. We decided to stay another day.

Vins de Savoie, Apremont and Chautagne, nv, quite nice
Hotel Vieux Moulin, La Chapelle d'Abondance

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Chevenoz, Haute Savoie, France, June 21, 2013—

Time to play catch-up again:

June 18, 2013 in air, just a ham-cheese sandwich for lunch, bad chicken in barbecue sauce, puréed sweet potato, green beans for dinner, brandy-soda.

June 19, 2013: in transit; ham-cheese-tomato-rocket sandwich at Frankfort airport, beer. Dinner at Mexican tapas joint in Thonon: salt cod, fried cheese, albondigas, fried fish; beer. 

June 20, 2013: lunch was salade Savoyard (lettuces, potatoes, cheese, ham, egg: delicious), at Entrée des Artistes, 638 Avenue de Senevulaz, Thonon les Bains; 0450817571; Badoit water; 16.60. Dinner was, first, grated carrots with a hint of coriander, cinnamon, and orange sections; then fondue with bread, ham, sausage; dessert was a smetana-like substance with huckleberries. Red and white wine en pichet. Chambres d'hôtes La Couette, Chevenoz; 0450723990.

Monday, June 17, 2013


Redwood City, California, June 17, 2013—

THERE ARE ALL these joints called Joe's. New Joe's, Original Joe's, Marin Joe's… you get the idea. Not quite roadhouse, certainly not white-tablecloth, they are in a way the old-fashioned family  restaurant, with vaguely Italian fare, steaks, chops, pasta, sea food; middle-aged no-nonsense service, bar, booths. A species endangered by the rise of chains like Adell's and Olive Garden. 

We stopped off at one en route to the airport tonight. My sand dabs were okay, pan fried in butter, with mixed vegetables and roast potatoes on the side. Dessert? Spumoni, of course…

House Pinot grigio

• Marin Joe's1585 Casa Buena Dr, Corte Madera, California; 415-924-2081


Eastside Road, June 16, 2013—
NOW HERE THEN are the meals missing from a week ago or so:

June 6, 2013: a miserable breakfast in the Americana Grill in the Circus Circus casino in Reno. I really cannot recommend this place, either for dining or for sleeping.

Lunch, on the other hand, was really delicious: three little taquitos, with beef filling, and a nice crisp flavorful chopped salad, in what a couple of people in the street told us was the best Mexican restaurant in town:

• Astorga's Mexican Restaurant, 2206 N. Sierra Highway, Bishop, California; 760-872-3849

Dinner at the campsite: Mountain House brand Beef Stroganoff. Not bad: just add hot water and serve…
June 7, 2013:Breakfast back in Lone Pine: some of the best caffè espresso I've found on the road in this country, with a hunk of pastry that could have been better (but then, we were absurdly early, the day's delivery had not yet arrived):

• Lone Star Bistro, 107 N. Main Street, Lone Pine, California; 760-876-1111 (good wi-fi, too)

Dinner at the campsite: Mountain House brand Beef Stew, better than the Stroganoff I think, but then I was hungry…
June 8, 2013: Breakfast and lunch with a couple of hours, at the same place: an absurd pancake, a foot across and an inch and a half thick, not quite done, of which I could eat barely a quarter, with a few strips of bacon, a pint of pomegranate-raspberry drink, another of Gatorade, and a couple of liters of water.

Then for lunch a truly delicious BLT on sliced rye bread, one of the best I've ever tasted — the bacon really rather special. With it, an IPA; don't recall the brand.

• Whitney Portal Store, 13 miles west of Lone Pine, (760) 937-2257

Dinner: an emasculated Caesar salad, by which I mean devoid of anchovies and innocent of raw egg, otherwise welcome, with some nice french fries:

• Whiskey Creek Restaurant, 524 N. Main Street, Bishop, California; 760-873-7174
June 9, 2013: Lunch in an odd place. We'd asked a few people on the deserted streets (it was Sunday noon) where to eat, and got mostly shrugs in return, so we simply entered the nearest place to our parked car, across the street from the beautiful old state Capitol. Again, I was content with a big faux-Caesar.

• High Sierra Brewing Company, 302 N. Carson Street, Carson City, Nevada; 775-884-2739

Ah, but dinner! A first-rate Martini, then… oh… it was so long ago, and I can't recall… but it was delicious…

• Zuni Café, 1658 Market Street, San Francisco; (415) 552-2522
June 10, 2013: Dinner with a couple of old friends at a favorite haunt of theirs. Steak-frites for me, if you don't mind: hanger steak, barely cooked inside but good and hot and seared on the outside, in a nice sauce, with good small-section French fries.

• Monti's Rotisserie, 714 Village Court, Santa Rosa, California; 707-568-4404
June 11, 2013: An old friend visiting from New York took us out to a place we'd been curious about since it opened, maybe two years ago. Alas, while the sourcing and technique were up to snuff, the concept was one none of us really agrees with: too many ingredients, too fussy, too much presentation, ultimately not really a meal. I had a couple of nice soft-boiled eggs, then game hen: a couple of small cylinders of galantine, with a few irrelevant items by way of garnish. I must say a side dish of lentils was quite nice, and the wine was very interesting:
Counoise, Frick (Dry Creek Valley), 2010: light, rather like a Dolcetto, though also reminiscent of Grignolino
• Spoonbar, 219 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg; (707) 433-7222

AND NOW WE'RE all caught up, and before I'll be hopelessly confused again, much of the time out of Internet contact…

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sausage and summer squash

Eastside Road, June 16, 2013—
AND, FORTUNATELY, SALAD. The sausage was delicious, Franco's "Siciliana," cleverly marked with a strip of lemon peel, hardly noticeable, on one of the four sausages in the pack. Lindsey simply broiled them in the oven.

The summer squash was very nice, I'm sure, but not to my personal taste, as I always tried to teach the kids to say, in place of the more forthright "I don't like it." No squash has ever been to my personal taste, though I do tolerate zucchini when necessary. I eat it, of course, if it's put in front of me, but the experience is not pleasant, not for me, not for those around me if they are at all discerning. Oh well.

But then this salad! The lettuces from my pathetic little garden, planted weeks ago, and just now coming into harvest. Crisp, substantial leaves, full of flavor and substance. I will miss them next week…
Cheap Primitivo, Grifone

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Saturday night

Eastside Road, June 15, 2013—
YOU WOULD THINK, to read these posts, that we rarely eat dessert; and you would not be far from right. But on these summer evenings, when fruits come into season, we make up for those many Calvinist nights. Apricots! Peaches! Yes, and chocolate!

But first we eat our vegetables. Since it's market day, and summer not yet officially here, those vegetables would be favas, Nancy Skall's favas; and they set off salmon, Dave's salmon. This is the last time I'll have this dinner for many weeks, probably months, and I savor it…
Cheap Pinot grigio, Collio

Friday, June 14, 2013


Eastside Road, June 14, 2013—
THERE IS A WAY, I know, that I can easily figure out when we last had polenta for dinner — that's one reason for keeping this blog. (Unless it was within the last few unaccounted days, when I was walking the slopes of Whitney, and eating in the wilds of Reno and environs.)

But I am not going to bother, not at the moment. Too many other things to think about, as you'll find next week.

In any case, it was polenta tonight, polenta with the tomato sauce we had on penne last night. The tomatoes came from the freezer, the last, I think, from last summer's markets. When did we buy this polenta?

When did we first buy polenta? I recall corn meal mush from my childhood, but it never had the dried-corn flavor this polenta has, whether because of my mother's cooking or, more likely, the source of the corn meal itself.

In the course of cleaning up my desk today I ran across a spiral-bound notebook, no more than three by four inches in size, from the 1970s, kept while we were making one of our first tours of northern Italy. There on one page, in an unfamiliar hand, was a scrawled bill of sale from a vendor, I remember him, in the Milan flea market: one paiolo, ₤ 8000. I don't recall what 8000 lire was in those days: not much. We don't use the paiolo for polenta these days — at least, Cook doesn't. I do, occasionally. It's a beautiful copper pot with an iron bail handle, and before use you have to rinse it with vinegar and salt. I'll do that, maybe once every five years. But as usual I digress.
Primitivo, Grifone, 2011

Thursday, June 13, 2013

From the farm

Eastside Road, June 12, 2013—

We are surrounded here, nearly, by vineyards. One of them, maybe a mile up the road, is owned by a family who were friends of Lindsey's parents. 

Bob runs a really extensive vineyard, clean and productive. His son, however, seems not to want to follow in the grape business. Instead, with his young wife and much younger child, he has set up a truck garden operation on a particularly fertile piece of land down near the river. 

We buy his tomatoes at the farm market in Healdsburg in the peak of summer. We also like to buy his eggs: he runs a number of hens down by the garden. 

Yesterday we drove down the long vineyard road to pick up the weekly supply our daughter likes to buy from him. She subscribes to this service — is it called a CVA? — taking whatever's in each week, easing one of life's little problems, deciding what to have for dinner. 

Two identical stands are set up in the big pleasant barn, with boxes of produce, and a whiteboard noting what you're entitled to take today. We took a big bunch of tasty spinach, a head of lettuce, a couple of daikon radishes, some summer squash, and a basket of English peas so new and tender we ate them without shelling them. 

With all this, leftover rigatoni from Lindsey's dinner Monday night st Monti's. First time in years I've eaten from a doggy bag, and not bad at all. 

Cheap Barbera d'Asti, 2010

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Eastside Road, June 12, 2013—
IT CAN BE embarrassing when your own daughter happens to plug the very blog you've just been entirely neglecting — oh well; it can't be helped. 

I've been busy, and on the road, as you'll see over at Alpwalk. I'll try to catch up tomorrow. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Eating in the casino

Midweek, ten pm: only the "deli" is open here, so I settle for a ham-"Swiss" sandwich on a soft roll and coleslaw, washing it down with a glass of water. Tomorrow had better be better.

Circus Circus casino, 500 N. Sierra Street, Reno

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Grilled sirloin steak

Eastside Road, June 4, 2013—
A COUPLE OF OLD friends over to dinner tonight, for something from the grill. We'd bought a couple of pounds of sirloin steak, grass fed. I salted them on every side when we got the home, yesterday, and covered them loosely in the paper they'd been wrapped in, and left them in the refrigerator.

Today I got them out an hour or two before our guests arrived. I chopped up a bunch of fresh rosemary leaves quite fine, and ground in black pepper. I sprinkled the steaks on every side with olive oil, then sprinkled on the rosemary, and let them stand an hour or so.

I quartered a good-sized onion, leaves and all, and protected the leaves with aluminum foil. Lindsey had prepped some mushrooms, which I bathed in olive oil, then skewered.

The fire was part charcoal, part grape-wood. I let it burn down pretty well to coals, then put everything on the grill. A few minutes on each side for the steak. I have to say, it was all pretty good.

Lindsey's potato-and-shallot warm salad; a green salad; then a wonderful sour cherry pie with ice cream on the side. Does it get much better than this? No.

Picpoul de Pinet, Moulin de Gaussac, 2011; "Old Soul Red," Atrea, Saracina Winery, 2009: old-style Dago red (Mendocino county),, forward and full-bodied and thick

Monday, June 3, 2013

Favas and salmon

Eastside Road, June 3, 2013—
SUCH A TYPICAL late Spring dinner for us, from Saturday's market in town: Nancy Skall's fava beans, cooked in a little butter and salt; and Dave's fresh-caught salmon, the skin scored as you see, sprigs of tarragon under the skin, broiled. A green salad afterward, and then a little fruit. I could eat like this once a week. In fact it seems I do.
Picpoul de Pinet, Moulin de Gaussac, 2011: light and refreshing

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Hamburger and beer

Santa Rosa, California, June 2, 2013—
DOES THE ORDINARY HAMBURGER rate as one of the Hundred Plates? Yes, I think so. After a short but fairly strenuous hike someone had the happy idea of stopping off for a hamburger and a beer.

This was a no-nonsense hamburger joint, and I had the Ordinary: probably a quarter-pounder at most, grass fed, on a decent bun, with lettuce, catsup, tomato, onion, and dill pickle, crinkle-cut fries on the side, and a pint of house draft pale. Cheap: $5.45 for the burger, a buck fifty for the beer.

I liked the sign at the order counter:
This is not a bar. Loud behavior and strong language will not be tolerated. Do not throw peanut shells on the floor.
The decor runs to old Schwinn bicycles in improbable places, and the vinyl booth upholstery is cracking in places. And no, you can't have your hamburger rare. Still, it's an honest joint, fast and tasty. I don't like crinkle-cut fries, I think they are too oily and lose heat to quickly, but what are you going to do.

• Brody's Burgers and Brews
, 3135 Cleveland Ave, Santa Rosa; (707) 526-4878

Saturday, June 1, 2013


Eastside Road, June 1, 2013—
DINNER DOWN THE HILL at the neighbors' this evening: a warm nearly-summer night, eating outside on the lawn, no way really to photograph anything. We had chicken, grilled as only Eric seems to know how to do it: tender, juicy, perfectly done, neither burnt on the outside nor disgustingly pink on the inside. This is not an easy thing to do, and he makes it seem effortless.

With it, carrots and beets beautifully cooked and flavored; afterward, green salad; and then a fool with, I think, nuts, fruits, citron, cream of course… everything you could want.
Cheap Pinot grigio; Sauvignon blanc, Preston of Dry Creek, 2011