Sunday, March 30, 2014

Pasta with tuna and tomato sauce

Eastside Road, March 30, 2014—
I COULD SWEAR I'd posted this recipe, but a quick look both online and in the computer fails to find it — sorry if I'm repeating myself.

Thing is, this is a delicious recipe. We first had it a week or two ago, and it's only better on second acquaintance. I don't know where Lindsey got the recipe — from a friend, I suppose, since she wrote it out on the back of an envelope.

Green salad afterward, and one of those delicious Pixies for dessert…
Cheap Barbera d'Asti

Friday, March 28, 2014


Eastside Road, March 28, 2014—
LUNCH IN TOWN TODAY with a favorite daughter, and we were both in the mood for pizza. Hers was tomato and rosemary, very delicately flavored with the herb, and judicious with the mozzarella. A very successful pizza, I thought.

Mine was this very Springy thing, with a discreet amount of soft sweet onion rings, a few stalks of green asparagus, and a sprinkling of preserved lemon peel — and, again, just the right amount of mozzarella. A delicious invention, this pizza. The crusts were quite thin. The oven could perhaps have been a bit hotter, but on the whole this was an admirable pizza.
A glass of rosé
Healdsburg Shed, 25 North Street, Healdsburg, California; 707-431-7433

The road north to Ashland

Lamb chops at New Sammy's
Eastside Road, March 28, 2014—
OR, A TALE of Meat and Cheese.

We returned yesterday from a short week north to Ashland, there to see three plays, as noted elsewhere, stopping off near Redding for a short hike to a previously unvisited waterfall.

No one leaves the San Francisco Bay Area to drive to Redding, a distance of two hundred miles, for a Gourmet experience. Since we had to go by way of Berkeley, I readied myself with a rye raisin "rabbit" roll from Acme Bread, and a good cappuccino to go, along with a jambon beurré for lunch later on, from Bartlevelle next door. There would be no good coffee again, I thought, until we reached Ashland.

• Bartavelle Cafe, 1603 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley; (510) 524-2473

Lunch on a car trip is often a hard-boiled egg, some almonds, some dried apricots, perhaps some chocolate, and the hike was decently fueled. Afterward, though, we were Hungry. We'd heard of a new place, new to us at any rate, but the Savory Spoon turned out to be closed for the night when we arrived there. Where to eat, then? No one had any ideas.

We wound up at a joint near our motel, where the menu offered nothing but shrimped-up standards. ("Shrimped-up" is a saying in our extended family; it means that a standard item in the repertory has been modified for the worse by the addition of one or more completely extraneous ingredients, utterly subverting the original concept.)

The only thing that might conceivably work was the hamburger — a "juicy, charbroiled burger," the menu promised, "dusted with Cajun spice, topped with Garlic-Asiago cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, fries and Cajun mayo."

Now I am always suspicious of any combination of meat and cheese, and I loathe cheeseburgers. I asked about the Asiago. Well, do you know Asiago, the waitress asked. Yes, I know Asiago. Well, it's Asiago, she said. Reasoning that I could always remove it, and being by now very hungry, I ordered it. I shouldn't have. Even after scraping the cheese away, its aroma lingered.

The next morning brought one ray of hope for Redding: there is finally a good cappuccino, in a small, awkward shopping plaza at the north end of Hilltop Drive, where they serve coffee from Temple, the Sacramento roastery, and make it fairly carefully in a machine that seems to be well tended.

Madayne Eatery & Espresso,
930 Hilltop Dr., Redding, California; (530) 224-1111
That hamburger in ReddingFrisée aux lardons……and charcuterie at Loft, Ashland
NEXT DAY, TUESDAY, after our morning cappuccino and croissant, we struck out for Ashland. We lunched in our motel room, on apples and tangerines, and saw a hilarious play, and then went to a familiar bistro for dinner. Since we had another play to see in the evening I ate light: Frisée aux lardons; then a charcuterie plate: country paté terrine, chicken-liver mousse, and cured pork, with pickles, capers, mustard, and toasted baguette.

Viognier/Marsanne, W.M. Augustus (Southwest Oregon), 2010 (terrible: oxidized, sour, and funky: I actually sent it back); Pinot blanc, Marc Kreydenweiss (Alsace), 2010 (good; unexceptional)
• Loft Brasserie & Bar,
18 Calle Guanajuato, Ashland, Oregon; (541) 482-1116
THEN, WEDNESDAY, after a third play, we had the dinner we'd been looking forward to, at one of our favorite restaurants. I'm not sure I've eaten here in this season before, very early Spring, beyond the classic braises the place is so expert with, not yet quite ready for summertime fare. I began with salad: butter lettuce with "Caesar"dressing, pickled peppers, olives, garlic croutons.

Following that, what better than grilled lamb chops, with braised kale, pink potatoes, white beans, cheese gnocchi, and tapenade vinaigrette. Wait! What? Cheese gnocchi with the meat? I had been paying attention. In the end I suppose I have to admit it wasn't the end of the world; some people may very well like the combination. To me, it doesn't quite work. There are exceptions to my rule. I like chicken Val d'Aosta, the supreme grilled, with prosciutto and a thin slice of Fontina. A veal scalloppini can profit from similar treatment. And of course a grilled ham and cheese is one of the Hundred Plates. But in general I find the deep flavor of lamb or beef, especially grilled, does not comfortably accompany the scent of cooked cheese

Oh well: for dessert, my favorite Linzer torte, tonight with slivovitz ice cream on the side. Heaven!
A glass of Champagne; Marcillac, Domaine du Cros Philippe Teulier (Languedoc) (deep and rich yet light)
• New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro, 2210 S. Pacific Highway, Talent, Oegon; (541) 535-2779YESTERDAY WE DROVE HOME after first stopping for our morning cappuccinos at our favorite Ashland coffee stop, Case; and then pastries at our favorite Ashland pastry stop, Mix. We bought one of Mix's delicious jambons beurrés, too, even though we were planning on a lunch stop in Redding, to check out that Savory Spoon.

We had begun the trip with a jambon beurré from Berkeley's Bartavelle, and I had liked it considerably even though its bread wasn't quite right. This sandwich, which I always associate with Paris, needs a baguette, not a soft-crust bread. Mix puts the thin ham — boiled ham, of course, not prosciutto — on a baguette or, in fact, a flûte, lightly spread with thyme-flavored butter. Cornichon on the side. Comme il faut.• Case Coffee Roasters, 1255 Siskiyou Blvd, Ashland, Oregon
• Mix Sweet Shop, 57 N Main St, Ashland, OR 97520
(541) 488-9885
grilled cheese.jpgWe did stop at the Spoon for lunch, and here I had a simple grilled cheese sandwich on sourdough bread, with a slice of tomato, and a fine dill pickle on the side, and bland but acceptable cole slaw with it, and a glass of beer. It's an interesting place: a non-profit restaurant, it puts its profits into feeding the community on Mondays at whatever price the diner can afford to pay!

And so ended my days caught between meat and cheese, and now let us return to normal, whatever that may be.

The Savory Spoon, 1647 Hartnell Ave, Redding, California; (530) 222-7200

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Steak au poivre

Eastside Road, March 23, 2014—
TO THE NEIGHBORING town of Sebastopol for dinner last night with an old friend. Well, counting Cook, two old friends. We tried out a place new to us, though apparently it's been open three or four years, and I began with half a Caesar Salad, tempted by the warning on the menu that it involved raw egg. It was correctly dressed, but the romaine was chopped, and I didn't detect any anchovy. And so it goes.

The steak au poivre wasn't bad — four hunks of steak, each about the size of a marshmallow, in a nice cream sauce with the requisite peppercorns. Quite nice mashed potatoes on the side, and a few stalks of grilled asparagus. The girls said their ice cream was delicious, but I was happy without dessert…
Pinot noir, Balletto (Russian River Valley), 2012: good fruit, a little too much vanilla — from new oak?
Woodruff's Artisan Foods & Café,, 966 Gravenstein Ave, Sebastopol, California; (707) 829-2141

minestrone.jpgAND TONIGHT WE DINED at home, as we occasionally do. The chard has volunteered several plants all of a sudden, and Cook had a number of other vegetables to use up, so she whipped up this minestrone, much nicer than my poor photo suggests, with potato, carrot, chard, and Asclepius alone knows what else, with a healthy dusting of Pecorino on top. Before it, a fine guacamole; afterward, a small ice cream sundae with chopped nuts and whipped cream.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Corned beef

Eastside Road, March 21, 2014—

Pinot blanc, Fleurelle (Alsace), 2012
Last night: Corned Beef, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, turnips
Tonight: Corned Beef hash with an egg, broccolini

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Eating here and there

Eastside Road, March 19, 2014—
porkchop.jpgMarch 17:DINNER IN TOWN with a sister — well, Cook's sister, but close as I have to my own — at a Puerto Rican place of her choosing, not bad, not memorable. I had the daily special, three courses for fifteen bucks — you can't expect a lot for that. Let's see: a delicious little ground-beef empanada; then a couple of breaded pork chops, thin but meaty, with rice and red beans (the waitress was pleased that I ordered them rather than black beans), a small green salad with avocado, and a flattened frenchfried plantain rose. Dessert was coconut flan. I'd go back, but not before revisiting other places in town…

El Coqui Puerto Rican Cuisine, 400 Mendocino Ave, Santa Rosa, CA 95401; (707) 542-8868

March 18: LUNCH IN BERKELEY, because we had business to do, and, well, why not. An interesting lunch, with a vaguely Indochinois quality. Spring's setting in, and we began with asparagus, barely cooked, in a salad with crisp thin slices of radish and fennel, delicately flavored with anise hyssop.

chicken.jpgNext, grilled chicken, almost as if on a skewer, with spinach, snap peas, carrots, and onion fritters — a substantial dish lightened by the kitchen's technique, balancing sauté, grill, and lightly fried textures.

I suppose it was the dessert that made me think of French outre-mer cuisine: coconut tapioca pudding, not at all thick or gluey, with mandarin-orange sherbet and cardamom-flavored shortbread cookies. Not a bad way to punctuate the day, and, unnecessary to add, the Principal Meal of the Day.
• Chez Panisse, 151 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510.548.5525

March 19, 2014, at home:CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE! We're two days late, because we've been going out to dinner, but finally we have our annual St. Patrick's Day dinner — and commemoration of the long, productive, interesting, and celebrated life of Robert Remolif, one of my best friends, who died on St. Patrick's Day fifteen years ago, in his 94th year. I still miss him; I always will.

cornedbeef.jpgWe're not sure why, but he was very fond of corned beef. He was one hundred percent Italian, having come to this country from Piemonte in his tenth year. Not a drop of Irish blood anywhere near him. But he liked his corned beef, cooked it now and then, occasionally had us to dinner and served it.

This one came in a plastic bag full of watery juice, but it was full of flavor. A lot of that was salt, no doubt: but there was also sugar, celery extract, garlic extract, onion extract, spice extractives, sodium lactate, bay leaves, red pepper, coriander, dill seed, mustard seed, garlic, and cloves. That sounds pretty horrible, and I rush to state we rarely eat like this, out of packages. I figure once a year won't kill us. (Something else will.)

I thought it was a delicious dinner. Lindsey cooked it all together: corned beef, cabbage, carrots, and potatoes, adding each item at the right time — something I can never do reliably — so that all was cooked au point, each kept its texture and color, each kept its own flavor yet partook also of the others. It is a classic dish, one of the Hundred Plates, when cooked as well as this was. I hope there's a little left over.
Pinot blanc, Fleurelle (Alsace), 2012: a very nice wine to have with corned beef and cabbage.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Eastside Road, March 16, 2014—
WE'VE BEEN HERE before, and we'll probably be here again — it's a reliable small-plates bistro, I guess you'd call it, with a palate that reaches carefully toward the exotic. We started with an order of flatbread, which is treated to plumped dried figs, sliced Serrano ham, and Bellwether Farms crescenza cheese and heated to a nice temperature.

I went on to my usual standby here: a couple of lamb chops done "Moroccan style," perfectly grilled (black on the outside, pink on the inside), covered with perhaps too many sliced almonds, and served with braised arugula and couscous flavored with preserved lemon and spiced almonds. A drizzle of Balsamic vinegar reduction, I suppose.

Everything here has salt and flavor. The French fries meet truffle-infused oil somewhere on their way to the table. That's all right with me.

Syrah/Grenache/Mourvèdre blend, Front Porch (Russian River, Sonoma county),2011: nicely blended and balanced
• Willi's Wine Bar, 4404 Old Redwood Highway, Santa Rosa; (707) 526-3096

Catching up again…

Eastside Road, March 16, 2014—
THURSDAY NIGHT we dined at home, a simple and relatively quick meal both in preparation and in destruction: one of Franco's Greek sausages, sweet and spicy, with lots of coriander; broccoli steamed with a little crushed garlic; sautéed potatoes.
Rouge, "La Ferme Julien" (Rhone valley), 2012: French, ordinary, dependable

Friday night we were in a local restaurant we'd never been to before and will likely never be to again — a throwback to an earlier age, with waiters in white jackets with gold-braided epaulettes, an enormous dining room, display cases full of movie memorabilia, and an officious and compulsive view of table service. Oh well: after sampling a fontina-and-prosciutto tart ordered by someone else, with its spray of good small-leaf arugula, I had a Caesar Salad with a real anchovy on top of the chopped romaine, then the beefsteak you'll find below — an enormous serving of meat on a bed of obligatory old-fashioned restaurant vegetables, with a tiny dollop of sun-dried tomato sauce. The beef was not very good — corn-fed, I'm sure, heavy, and oddly devoid of flavor. But the wines!
Blanc Fumé de Pouilly, Domaine Didier Dagueneau (Loire), 2010 (soft, smooth, ingratiating); Montlouis sur Loire "Les Choisilles", François Chidaine, 2010 (serious, almost assertive, complex); Red blend (Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah), "Eleanor," Coppola (dull and confused); Beaune, Domaine de Montille, 2007 (full, mature, fruit and terroir)
• Rustic, 300 Via Archimedes, Geyserville; (707) 857-1400

Yesterday we lunched at a "new" spot in town, in fact just a year old, where I enjoyed a hearts-of-artichoke platter with pecorino, lots of variously treated olives, and prosciutto.
Viognier/Sauvignon blanc blend, Preston of Dry Creek, 2012 (crisp and sound, but an uneasy cépage to my way of thinking
• Healdsburg Shed, 25 North Street, Healdsburg; 707-431-7433recipe.jpg

And then last night we were at home again, thankfully, and Cook worked from this back-of-an-envelope recipe involving a tomato sauce with onion, garlic, mirepoix, basil and bay, butter and olive oil; and the pasta is tossed with tuna, capers, grated lemon peel, and chopped parsley, and the result is pungent and fresh, velvety and substantial.

White wine, "Paso a Paso" (Spain), nv (pleasant, undistinguished)

One of the reasons I record these experiences at the table is my enjoyment of the considered life, the pleasure of contemplation in retrospect. I often think about the scale of time and attention.

I think that unless we consider the matter directly we think of a meal in terms of the time it takes to eat it, of a book in terms of the time it takes to read it. Writing a book, like cooking a meal, can be complex, considered, informed by skills and awareness that have taken years to consider — or can be tossed off as quickly as technology and thoughtlessness allow. A good bottle of wine contains grapes, soil, climate, years of personal experience and centuries of geography. It's only right to spend a few minutes contemplating all this, and basking in the gratitude it draws out of us…

Rather nice cheese-prosciutto tart…
…and dumb beefsteak at Rustic
Great tuna-sauce pasta at home

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Eating All Day

liver and onions.jpg
Liver and onions at John's Grill
Eastside Road, March 13, 2014—
TRULY FEAST OR FAST around here: yesterday we were down in the city with a visiting daughter, and food and beverages were on my mind, along with hikes and visits, and introducing her to corners of San Francisco she may have missed somehow.

So we started out with lunch at John's Grill — suitable, as she'd just read The Maltese Falcon, and the bird's on display there upstairs. I had my pink-cooked calve's liver and onions, as you see, under its rashers of bacon, with nice mashed potatoes on the side, and those old-fashioned mixed-steamed restaurant vegetables. Oh, and a small salad on the side, because one mustn't neglect one's health. Oh, and a Martini, which was curiously shaken with sweet white vermouth, and quickly sent back to the bar.

• John's Grill, 63 Ellis Street, San Francisco; 415-986-3274

Then came the round of visits and hikes: a friend with a successful landscape architecture business; a stop for coffee at the marvelous Flora Grubb Gardens; another stop for perfect cookies at a friend's Little Bee Bakery; admiring the views from an out-of-the-way hilltop park; a unique shop specializing in books on food and wine.

We still needed to kill a little time before dinner, and thought a spot of tea was in order. Fortunately a tea room was available from an opportune parking space, and we were seated even though we hadn't made a reservation in a corner shop converted to a tea salon maybe twenty years ago. The place was full of little girls, young women, and ladies of uncertain age; there was only one other man present, with wife and daughter, and he looked a little gloomy, I thought: perhaps a touring Brit or Russian.

Still the tea was pleasant and my cucumber-and-cream-cheese sandwich quite acceptable. (Lindsey had egg salad, I think.)

Lovejoy's Tea Room, 1351 Church St, San Francisco; (415) 648-5895

Finally it was time for dinner, at a restaurant I've very much liked the few times I'd been there, and was sorry to hear was closing later this month. (It will re-open in a new configuration by the same owner-chef, and I'll be back as soon as possible.)

I began with a plate of green Rotelle, served with dandelion greens and pesto and littered with shaved Pecorino and sprinklings of pine nuts, a very nice combination. And I went on to braised pork shoulder with lentils, mushrooms, and pickled ramps, also very nice. I like the way this place, usually thought of as a carnivore's delight, enterprisingly incorporates vegetables into its dishes, balancing assertive flavors and substantial textures. The others had panna cotta afterward; I contented myself with a Fernet and soda on finally arriving back home.

Nebbiolo, Cascina Ca' Rossa (Langhe, Piemonte), 2011 (crisp, good flavor and terroir); Nebbiolo, Matteo Correggia (Roero, Piemonte), 2010 (a little less deep but still attractive)
Incanto, 1550 Church St, San Francisco; (415) 641-4500

Tea sandwiches at Lovejoy's
Rotelle and…
Pork shoulder.jpg
…pork shoulder at Incanto

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Eastside Road, March 11, 2014—
DINNER LAST NIGHT in the home of a couple of good friends who know how to make us happy at the table. Here's a big hearty dish of polenta topped with San Marzano tomato sauce, strewn with mozzarella and parmagiano, flavored delicately with oregano.

And accompanied by a platter of raw carrots, yellow bell pepper, and sliced cucumber. And then a marvelous Brillat-Savarin, with apples and good dark chocolate. Yes indeed. Thanks, Mac and Margery!
Rhone blend, L. Preston (Syrah-Mourvedre-Grenache-Cinsault-Carignane), 2012: Fruity, solid, terroir

Monday, March 10, 2014

Vineyard dinner

Eastside Road, March 9, 2014—
I'VE MENTIONED BŒUF DAUBE here before, I'm sure: here's another — and, best of all, I didn't have to cook it. I call this a "vineyard dinner," not beccause we ate in one, but because it was a party in the home of a near-neighbor vineyard proprietor, and her son's another, and that's where we were, out in vineyard country. Food and wine the profession of every one of the twelve people at the table — except for me. I'm just an enthusiast.

Before the daube, at the table, we had appetizers in the living room, prepared by a visiting cookbook author, an authority on traditional Japanese farm cooking — carrots, arugula, and broccolini meeting miso; nine-minute eggs lightly pickled in soy sauce, with a glass of Crémant or, later, a white wine new to me, Terrebrune from Bandol, very nice -—

And after the salad and cheeses, a good flannelly Savarin with light rum syrup and whipped cream, oh boy… Thanks, Willi!

Merlot, Toby Lane (Alexander Valley), 2009 (very nice, mature, rather deep); Cabernet franc, Domaine Laroque (Carcassonne) (pleasant and sound), 2010; Gros 'Noré Rouge (Mourvèdre, Grenache, Cinsault), Bandol, 2009 (deep and rewarding, terroir)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Choucrôute garni

Eastside Road, March 8, 2014—
COOK TURNED TO HER SHELVES for one of the treasured old books from the Time-Life series Foods of the World, which issued hard-bound larger-format books with lots of travelogue-style color photographs, accompanied by these little spiral-bound books.

We still find these books handy and in many cases authoritative. Recipes: The Cooking of Provincial France (New York: Time-Life Books, 1968), for example, was written by M.F.K. Fisher, and soon afterward republished under her byline. Apparently many people kept the hardbound photo books and got rid of the spiral-bound recipe books: they made a mistake. (You can still find many of these titles, both the photo books and the recipes, used, online, often at good prices. Richard Olney was the consulting editor for a later Time-Life series, The Good Cook, not to be confused with the earlier series.)

Anyhow, we've been eating this delicious "garnished sauerkraut," a famous old Alsatian standby, for three days now, and it just keeps getting better. I think Cook made very few changes in the recipe. In the past she has added smoked pork chops to the mix, and I've always liked that, but we were startled to find smoked pork chops impossible to find within fifteen miles of our kitchen — perhaps no one knows about them any more. I hope not.

Lindsey cooked the kraut in Pinot grigio; Pinot blanc or Riesling would be perhaps more authentic, but that hardly mattered — Pinot grigio works fine, and besides we had some good bottles of white wine for these three feasts:
Pinot Grigio, Villa Sonia (Veneto), 2012; Pinot blanc, Fleurelle (Alsace), 2012; Gewurztraminer, Michel Léon (Alsace), 2012; Riesling, Ulrich Langguth (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer), 2012

Friday, March 7, 2014


Eastside Road, March 7, 2014—
ITALIAN FOR "UNFORMED", is what it is — in fact, I think, "turned out of a mold." It can be any course; meat, vegetable, or — as here — dessert. This one is one of the most delicious desserts I've ever tasted.

We'd invited company to dinner for two nights running, and Cook decided, wisely, to make a big main course that would work for both nights. It was delicious enough last night; it'll be even better today, I bet. I hope we get this sformato again.

We have a lot of cookbooks, as you'll see below. Most of them are in the study, ready for consultation or browsing as we like. A select few, the working repertoire you might say, are in the kitchen. And a few are spread open at the end of the work table: those are the ones Cook's using at the moment, or was the other day, or is thinking about for the near future. On top you may make out the books used yesterday: Giuliano Bugialli's Foods of Italy and the old Time-Life Recipes of Provincial France. Time-Life gave her the nucleus of a fine choucrôute garni; maybe I'll tell you about that tomorrow.

Right now I want to introduce you to that orange sformato seen in extreme closeup above. I wondered what was up when I saw a couple of big oranges sitting in a pot of cold water, but didn't ask. They were being tenderized or something, covered with water to which a little salt had been added. Then they're simmered for 45 minutes, drained, cooled, quartered, and ground fine in a food processor.

Chopped almonds and walnuts are added to the result, and that's added to a bowl of egg yolks blended with sugar, and the beaten egg whites are gently folded in. That mixture is turned into a soufflé dish and baked. Then you turn it out — sformare — drizzle it with a rum syrup, and serve it with whipped cream flavored with orange zest.

I haven't given you details: I refer you to the book, published in 1984 but readily available in various editions online. And, speaking of books, here's what we have around here…

A corner of the studyMain wall, studyBelow the kitchen work-tableThe work-table

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Chicken breast

Eastside Road, March 5, 2014—
WELL, THE BEST plans gang aft aglay, as someone said; we did not fast today. Something about spending four and a half hours in a movie-theater seat watching a problematic (but well sung) production of a Russian opera sparks the appetite.

So we bought a chicken breast — just one is quite enough, given the way they raise chickens these days Chicken breast and some broccolini and a few carrots and cooked a quick dinner. Cook fixed the carrots, slicing a leek into the pot too, and adding a teeny bit of butter. She steamed the broccolini. I had at the chicken.

What I do is bone the thing, then fold it back into the butcher paper it had been wrapped in, set it on the butcher-block counter, and whack it a few times with the bottom a heavy black cast-iron frying pan, in order to flatten it out. Then I cut off the suprème, the little flap. I got some olive oil pretty hot in that iron pan, then added the chicken, dusting it with powdered sage, salt, and pepper; and turned it, reduced the fire a bit, dusted the seared side, and covered the pan to let it cook. You have to cook the suprème a shorter time, of course: I just lift it off the pan and set it on top of the other piece to keep warm. Oh: I sprinkled the chicken with a few drops of brandy after turning it.

When done, you set the cooked chicken on the warmed serving plates along with the vegetables, and deglaze the skillet with a little white wine, boiling it down to a thick syrup to drizzle on top of the meat. Green salad. An apple.
Pinot gris, Churchill Vineyards, 2011

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Eastside Road, March 4, 2014—
A COUPLE OF FRIENDS up today from the city, to visit and lunch and walk around our town, so this week we'll fast on Wednesday, not the usual Tuesday. We lunched at a place Lindsey likes in town, where we four split kale salad and spinach salad and the delicious buttery sautéed spinach with lemon marmalade, and I went on to steamed mussels and French fries. I like mussels, but I'm not persuaded by the version served here: instead of white wine, the broth is based on Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, and the beer's reaction with the mussels and the pot they're served in had an unpleasant bitterness I'll avoid in the future.
Vouvray, Domaine Pichot, 2012
• Willi's Seafood Raw Bar, 403 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg; 707.433.9191

THAT OF COURSE was the principal meal of the day. Tonight we needed nothing more than the omelet you see above, cooked my way: break your eggs into a bowl; rinse your hands in water and drop a little into the eggs, whisk them up with a fork but not too much, pour into a hot omelet pan lubricated with olive oil.

I lift the edges of the egg as it cooks, then turn it out onto the warmed dinner plate, where I fill it with grated cheese, folding it over, strewing salt and pepper and a little more cheese on top. Served, as you see, with toast — preferably, as here, Como bread from the Downtown Bakery and Creamery.

Dessert: a small bowl of applesauce, made from our Calville blanc apples a year or two ago — what a fine flavor that apple has!
Pinot grigio, Churchill Vineyards (Nevada!), 2011

Monday, March 3, 2014


Eastside Road, March 3, 2014—
WELL, CALL IT a gratin, though in fact it hasn't been passed under the broiler.

It's left-overs, is what it is: leeks, potatoes, a couple of spicy potato-and-pork sausages cut into slices. Crimini mushrooms that were not leftovers but carefully selected for the occasion. Olive oil, salt, pepper, and cooked in the oven.

Come to think of it, next time let's strew some breadcrumbs on top, drizzle a little oil on them, and pass it under the broiler: and it will be a gratin. We had it for dinner last night; it was even better tonight.

Green salad afterward, and cheese…

Rouge du Var, "La Ferme Julien"

Sunday, March 2, 2014


Eastside Road, March 2, 2014—
Mortadella sandwich with arugula

YOU WILL SEE that though I may neglect this blog for a few days at at time we do not neglect our greens, no indeed. We've been away for a couple of days and busy, is why the blog's been neglected. We've been eating well, is why the greens have not.

We began simply enough, still at home, Thursday evening, with this Mortadella sandwich, on lightly buttered bread if I'd had my druthers, with lots of delicious crisp arugula leaves, a few raw carrots, and some dill pickle, washed down with cheap Primitivo.

When I was a kid, Mortadella — one of the glories of Italian salumeria — was a much more innocent thing, called simply "baloney." There would be lunches down in the eucalyptus grove on weekends, when we were cutting firewood: Mom's bread, perhaps over-leavened, perhaps under-; mayonnaise from the supermarket, thick slices of raw onion, lettuce leaves, slices of tomato, and baloney or some other "lunch meat," occasionally with green pimento-stuffed olives embedded in the slices.

These days our bread is better and certainly so is the salume. I think there's a special symbiosis of Mortadella and bitter lettuce. Years ago we had an Italian back neighbor, an old widow, Mrs. Bertoli, who spent the day in her garden, and occasionally one of her vegetables would intrude on our own back yard. The pane di zucchero lettuce was particularly welcome, as it made the perfect accompaniment to Mortadella.

Later, when I was coming up here to Healdsburg for a few days at a time, alone, working on our house, I'd stop off at the fine Traverso's Delicatessen of lamented history for a sandwich. I always asked for two slices of Mortadella and one of Galantina on sourdough. The old lady at the counter, surely Mrs. Traverso herself, would ask if I wanted mustard or mayonnaise, and I would say No, just butter and a leaf of lettuce, please; and she would smile and say Yes, that's right, that's the perfect sandwich. And so it was.

"Spaghetti carbonara", revised at Rosso
FRIDAY WE DINED AT midday: for me, this revisionist Spaghetti alla Carbonara. Constant Reader will know I take a dim view of culinary revisionism: if you can't be authentic, give your invention a new name. I wish they'd call this dish something else. But I'll order it any time I can, with perhaps one modification.

Instead of pancetta, this execution relies on American smoked bacon — but it is lightly smoked, and does not overcome the dish. Instead of mixing a raw egg into the drained pasta, a gently poached egg (and it is poached, not steamed, I'm pretty sure) is set atop the nest of spagetti.

Most amazing of all, the entire affair is inextricably tangled with fresh pea shoots. What do peas have to do with pasta carbonara? Nothing: but the result is delicious and memorable. Here again a perfect symbiosis of texture and taste. A grind of black pepper at the table, and it's a memorable thing.

Alboriña, 2012
• Rosso Pizzaria, 151 Petaluma Boulevard South, Petaluma; (707) 772-5177

YESTERDAY, WITH A MATINÉE at the theater and a concert in the evening on our calendar, not to mention the long drive after the concert, we decided another midday meal was the better part of valor.

Calve's liver and onions at John's Grill
We were with a couple of friends whose restaurant tastes are not necessarily the same as ours. Besides, it's such a pleasure now and then, to drop in at a comfortable, very old-fashioned place, with photos of celebrities on the walls, and friendly waiters in white aprons, and a conservative but reliable menu. Talk about authenticity!

I ordered what I always do here, liver and onions. Liver Venetian style! beamed one of our companions, and we had to restrain him a bit; this old San Francisco hangout is innocent of Venetian methods. The liver is not cut carefully into equal-sized strips, three eighths of an inch thick, and quickly cooked in butter, then served with its onions and a sweet-sour wine reduction on a bed of polenta… ah, how I too love fegato Venziano…

No: instead it's cut into manageable but broad slices; sautéed in an unknown lubricant, a little longer than you specify, with plenty of onions, and served with strips of bacon and a gravy involving a little milk or cream. With it, mashed potatoes, as you see; and at least at this time of the year tender snow peas.

Well, it was fine, of course. It wasn't Venziano, but it was a hell of a lot better than the dry, overcooked beef-liver of my childhood, in its thick "milk gravy" (flour scraped around in the pan juices, milk, Schillings black pepper). Though, come to think of it, I even liked that, at the time.

House red, not bad
• John's Grill, 63 Ellis Street, San Franciscoo; (415) 986-3274