Sunday, August 31, 2014

Late August

Eastside Road, August 30, 2014—
THIS IS OUR USUAL lunch these late August days, when eating at home — a piece of toast with nice organic chunky peanut butter, a glass of orange juice, and fruit. Pluots and Italian prunes from our trees, a fig from the market — ours aren't quite ready yet.

The pluot is a difficult fruit, we think. This one is the "Flavor King" variety, and it's pretty prolific; but it doesn't really have a lot of flavor until the fruit is actually dropping from the tree. By then, of course, the birds may have had their way with them; but not always. When dead ripe, I find them delicious. (Pardon that misplaced modifying clause: I'm never really dead ripe.)

But today we had lunch in town, at what I now think may be the best white-tablecloth restaurant in town, judging only by this one trip. There were four of us at table, and this is one of those annoying "small plates" format eateries, so we had a chance to sample quite a variety:
pork belly biscuits with pickled onion, chipotle mayonnaise, and maple glaze
Salmon tartare
beef tartare with celery and a quail egg yolk
spaghetti with eggplant, tomato, basil, and ricotta salata
squid ink gigli with dungeness crab, calabrian chile, and black truffle butter
strozzapreti with pork shoulder carnitas, cherry pepper, smoked paprika and rosemary

balsamic raspberry gelato
bourbon vanilla gelato
bread pudding with summer fruit
tartare.jpgWith the possible exception of the Gigli, which I declined since I can't eat crustacea, everything was truly delicious. The flavors were deep and arresting but never overpowering; attention had been given to textural interest; there was plenty of visual appeal but not to the point of whorishness, if you know what I mean. We like this place, and will return.
Rosé of Pinot noir, Red Cat (Sonoma Coast), 2013: pleasant and refreshing
• Chalkboard, 29 North Street, Healdsburg; 707-473-8030
Then a birthday dinner al fresco at a granddaughter's house in the remote hills out west of Healdsburg. A granddaughter turning twenty-four, and about to provide us with another great-grandchild — now, that's a special occasion. Chris grilled tri-tip; Emma made a delicious potato salad; there was green salad of course, and Thérèse's absolutely delicious chocolate cake.

And afterward, so far from the obnoxious light spill that affects our nights, a marvelous display of stars, with Mars and Saturn low near the crescent moon…
Dinner al fresco.jpg
photo: Thérèse Shere

Friday, August 29, 2014

Hot dog

hot dog.jpg
Eastside Road, August 29, 2014—
CE N'EST PAS la meilleure photo: eh bien; on ne peut rien y faire. Il s'agit d'un hot-dog simple, avec tous les attributs que nous aimons: la moutarde de Dijon, piccalilli, cette belle choucroute de Lou Preston, oignons hachés. Tout sur le chignon parfait, du Downtown Bakery and Creamery.

Et avec elle, de belles tomates en tranches, et regarder ici: penne restes d'il y a des jours ...

Ensuite, salade verte, bien sûr; puis un cookie et un peu de chocolat

Pas cher Barbera d'Asti


Eastside Road, August 28, 2014—
WHO COULD COMPLAIN about leftovers like these? The beefsteak was grilled a few days ago, over charcoal; here it's cold and sliced, and served simply, as you see, with sliced tomatoes. And dressed with the salsa I made a few days ago, originally to serve on boquerones. It's simply finely chopped carrot, shallot, celery, and pepper — I'd used Padrones, because they were at hand — covered in Champagne vinegar and a little bit of olive oil. Delicious. Shallot and beefsteak are an Elective Affinity.
Cheap Zinfandel

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Eastside Road, August 26, 2014—
PERHAPS THE LAST salmon dinner of the year: it's growing late in the season; the salmon are getting fat. Do they prepare, I wonder, like bears, for a lean winter season? Well, I don't, and while I know fatty fish is good for the health, I don't find it all that pleasant on the palate. Cook does her best with it, I have to say; she broils it to just the right point, and that lemon wedge adds nice tang to it. And Dave's fishing business is certainly something to support; he's a significant part of the local farm market community.

But still.

Nancy's marvelous limas, on the other hand, retain their late-spring texture and flavor — her Middleton Gardens site, over west of the river, has an almost magical terroir; everything she provides is full of flavor. And these were the nicest Green Zebra tomatoes we've had: close your eyes and you might almost think them red.

Green salad afterward…
Cheap Pinot grigio

Monday, August 25, 2014

Simple supper

Eastside Road, August 25, 2014—
SINCE WE'D HAD a late lunch out — hamburger and french fries, pint of ale, yes, we do things like that from time to time — supper was a simple affair, beginning with this first course: raw carrot, a couple of peppers left from yesterday, a plate of boquerones with that vinegary mirepoix salsa I told you about yesterday.

We went on to a green salad, and bread with olive oil and salt; and ended with a simple course of summer fruit — nectarine, peach, figs. I do love summer.

Rosé, La Ferme Julien (Var), 2012

On the patio

Chuck on the grill
Eastside Road, August 24, 2014—
COOK'S SISTER is in town visiting; let's ask the neighbors up to join in an al fresco evening. We got a small boneless chuck roast, cut it in half crosswise, salted it and re-wrapped it in the refrigerator for a few hours.

Then I built a charcoal fire to slowly roast a mess of Jimmy Nardello and Padron peppers over, then the beef, as you see here. I seared it quickly on both sides, then cooked it slowly, quite high over the coals, seasoned only with the salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Chuck is tough, of course, and it would have been better to get it a few days earlier and marinated it, I suppose. But there's other things for jaw muscles than talk-talk, and the flavor was fine — especially with the red wine we had, a perfect match for grilled beef.

Before the main course, almonds and boquerones — I dressed the latter with a salsa made of mirepoix (finely diced celery, shallot, carrot, and Padron pepper, soaked in Champagne and sherry vinegar with a little olive oil); afterwards, green salad, then broiled figs drizzled with honey.

Rosé, La Ferme Julien (Var), 2013; Cinsault, Preston of Dry Creek, 2009 (optimal!)
Roasted peppers

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Oh, and I forgot

Eastside Road, August 23, 2014—
LUNCH YESTERDAY, with my favorite neighbor, a bright, sympathetic woman I've known all her life — can it be getting on to sixty years? We ate in town, and started with these delicious boquerones, in lots of good olive oil, strewn with mirepoix, with red pepper adding piquancy to the usual onion, leery, and carrot. A thing to remember.

Afterward, Romano beans and sausage, and a plate of jamón, and flatbread with bacalao. And on the way home, why not step into a favorite local shop and buy a couple dozen of these marvelous white anchovies, these boquerones, and see if I can reproduce the dish for Cook?

Bravas Bar de Tapas, 420 Center Street, Healdsburg; 707.433.7700
The Cheese Shop of Healdsburg, 423 Center Street, Healdsburg

I read the most amazing thing the other day in a book review in the San Francisco Chronicle:
[Amanda] Petrusich's writing sometimes soars above the mundanity of her travel notes from her visits… which feature her weird habit of describing what kind of breakfast or lunch they ordered.
Really: what better insight into the person you're writing about than what and how he orders his meals?
sausage.jpgTHEN TONIGHT IT WAS down to our local city for dinner with friends. I'd called them: What are you doing for dinner? Grilling sausages outside, came the answer. Just what we were thinking of doing, I said. Bring yours down, he replied; I'll fry up some potatoes, I have some Jimmy Nardello peppers to throw on the grill…

As you can see, the sausages grilled up just fine. They were Franco Dunn's sausages, of course; you don't get any better than that. On the left, Provençal sausages; on the right, something with a little more spice. With the peppers and potatoes, a fine meal.
Viognier, Preston of Dry Creek, 2011; Cheap Barbera d'Asti

But not blogging every day…

broiled salmon.jpg
Eastside Road, August 23, 2014—
WE EAT EVERY DAY, even the "fast days" (which are generally though not always Tuesdays: when we have only breakfast and, at tea-time, tea and perhaps a handful of nuts). But I seem to have given up blogging every day, because there have been too many other things to attend to. I'm sorry. I'd like this blog to have something of interest to someone, every day; but…

Let's recapitulate, then. We returned from a quick tour of Seattle and Portland a week ago today, and were content that day with one of those marvelous jambon-on-buttered-baguette sandwiches we always try to get at Mix, in Ashland, on the way down. Lately instead of thyme-infused butter they've been made with Dijon mustard-infused, which is fine; though I did like the thyme a lot — time to do that ourselves, I guess.

Last Sunday we bought the salmon you see here, which Cook simply broiled in the gas oven, serving it with a good dollop of Larry Forgione's barbecue sauce — it turned up in the pantry — Nancy Skall's unbeatable lima beans, and some sliced tomato.

Monday I frankly don't recall; that night we went out to see The Hundred Foot Journey, about an Indian restaurant set up to compete with the one-star across the road in a Provençal village; a very sweet movie if perhaps a little hokey. Tuesday we fasted.

pesto.jpgWednesday, though, was my birthday, and we feasted. I spent the morning making a big batch of pesto:

Alas without pine nuts from our own trees — another matter to get to soon — but with very good ones from Spain; with three big bunches of basil, good garlic, local olive oil, and good Parmigiano Reggiano and Locelli's amazing Pecorino, good thing we bought a lot of that last time we were in Italy.

pesto setup.jpg

There were old friends visiting from New York, and a couple of old friends of theirs who were new and welcome to us; we ate out on the patio, and after the Champagne you can be sure we had plenty of white and red, thanks to John and Linda.

And to celebrate further, that evening — Wednesday — we drove into town with friends to our favorite local restaurant where I had a burrito al pastor and a beer.
omelet.jpgNEXT DAY, NOTHING NEEDED beyond a simple omelet. My first was a disaster, of course; I hadn't made an omelet in months; I was using a favorite pan that hadn't been used in years; I used only olive oil, recalling that wonderful closing scene in The Big Night. The second omelet, pictured here, worked out a lot better, because I reverted to butter, which I have more experience with. Inside, just a little grated Parmigiano, salt and pepper. Lightly buttered toast, of course, and sliced tomatos: what more needed?

Then yesterday we had leftovers from my birthday, fusilli con pesto — I do like this pasta; I'll try to find out from Cook what brand it is, and post that tomorrow. If, that is, I get back to maintaining this blog properly…

Friday, August 15, 2014

Back to Marché

Eugene, Oregon, August 15, 2014— 

YOU CAN'T EAT MEAT every day of the month; now and then, I'm told, you've gotta have some fish. True, I had a generous helping of tuna in yesterday's "Niçoise," but that was lunch. So when I looked over the menu tonight, and had satisfied my first instincts with a platter of charcuterie and another of vegetable fritto misto — both shared with the other three at table, bien entendu — my eye was attracted to the

Seared Oregon Albacore Tuna
ratatouille-stuffed squash blossom, smoked tomato coulis and garlic aïoli
(though to tell the truth I'm not sure what an aïoli without garlic might be). The appetizers had been very nice, ditto the Martini that accompanied them; but the tuna was even better, perfectly seared, with a delicious tomato coulis whose acid was nicely calculated to offset the natural sweetness of the fish. 

Rose, Château de Paraza (Minervois), 2013

• Marché, 296 East Fifth Avenue, Eugene, Oregon; 541-342-3612

WE'D MADE OUR USUAL stops in Portland before leaving that city:  a cappuccino at my favorite café, where the coffees are made with unusual care in an atmosphere of total camaraderie, and the canalés ʼare as good as they get: soft and unctuous in the center, dense and dark outside. A half-dozen Gibassiers at the Pearl District's signature bakery, as signal an index to the quartier as is Powell Books up the street. And, speaking of that, of course, a sack of books, because you never know when you may have read all the ones you already have.

• Courier Coffee, 923 SW Oak Street, Portland; 503-545-6444

• Pearl Bakery, 102 NW 9th Avenue, Portland, 503-827-0910

• Powell's City of Books, 1005 West Burnside Street, Portland

Fine new Portland venue

Seattle and Portland, August 14, 2014—

(but written and posted the following day)

OUR FIRST COFFEE this morning was at a place that had been recommended for its very good coffee, in spite of its mediocre pastries. I certainly concur on the second point: my croissant was dry, bready, dull, chewy, and bland. My cappuccino seemed acidic and not terribly fresh.

• Herkimer Coffee, 7320 Greenwood Avenue North, Seattle; 206-784-0202

ON, THEN, across the street, to the place whose pastries had been heartily recommended, though the coffee was said to be substandard. Here I had a truly delicious crossiant: flaky, buttery, alert, nicely browned. And the cappuccino was really quite nice -- floral, a little fruity, carefully made, from a machine obviously well maintained. The coffee was Stumptown, by the way — Portland coffee in Seattle!

• Fresh Flours Bakery, 6015 Phinney Avenue North, Seattle; 206-297-3300

LUNCH WAS HARD to pin down: lots of restaurants and bars in the area we were concerned with — Ballard — but most of them not open for lunch. We settled on this bar-and-grill type place, pleasantly installed in a big, historic former firehouse; and here I had a "Nicoise," note the quotes, which was decent enough.

Pinot grigio

• The Hi-Life, 5425 Russell Avenue Northwest, Seattle; 206-784-727

BY DINNER TIME we were in Portland, a city given to the pleasures of the table. The difference between last night's restaurant, Bar Sajor, and tonight's, Davenport, defines the difference between Seattle and Portland, at least to my way of thinking. What a fine place Davenport turned out to be! I started with a perfect Martini, to accompany the starters our table shared: a nice vegetarian fritto misto and a platter of correctly seared padrones  and piparra vasca (some of which seemed quite piquant). I looked longingly at the foie gras listing on the menu, promising a garnish of shiro plum and spelt date toast, but forebore, choosing instead the grilled teres major you see in the photo, a sort of flatiron steak grilled and served with arugula and an onion, tomato, and anchovy salsa.

Everything here was simple, honest, straightforward, well sourced, and perfectly executed. And the wine list! I don't know when I've seen so wide-ranging and interesting a list, or one with more atrractive prices. Since we hew to a budget I wasn't able to range quite that far myself, but we were happy with what we had…

Nebbiolo, Castello di Verduno (Langhe), 2011

• Davenport, 2215 East Burnside Street, Portland; 503-236-8747

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hot address

Seattle, August 13, 2014—

THE MAGAZINE BON APPETIT released its list of fifty nominees for the country's ten best restaurants for 2014 the other day — I may have the numbers wrong, but I don't think so — and one of them is here in Seattle, and we were casting about for a dinner idea tonight, so here we were.

Seattle is a prosperous town, at least where a certain segment of society is concerned — hip, generally young, white, well-off, people who like to be in on what's in. And this restaurant reflects all that, I think. First of all it's another in the six-address Sitka and Spruce empire, whose guiding lights clearly think about marketing, scaling, design, and concept. It has a full bar, of course. It's on a street-corner in a posh and genteel part of the old town, only a couple of blocks from the ball park and the railroad station. 

Having driven up from Eugene, and arrived during the commute hour, we felt like unwinding with a cocktail — the first of six listed as house cocktails:

1. Gin. Byrrh quinquina. Suze gentian liqueur
said the menu; and yes said I, and then so did my dinner companion. This was a delicious thing, served in a Nick and Nora glass with orange peel; and on the whole it was, I think, the best-conceived recipe of the evening.

Mainly what I had was the plate you see above: half a chicken, served with chickpeas, spinach borani, and "smoky-chili sauce." The chicken had been brined, I think; it was quite moist for all its woodburning oven roasting. The spinach was nice, ditto the chickpeas; but the yoghurt ran out from the borani into the chili sauce, which became too runny to work with the rest of the plate. 

The flavors were generally Near Eastern, I'd say — other items on the menu seemed to hesitate between the Levant and Silesia, with lots of pickles, fermented things, yoghurt, and such.  I'd have been hard put to assemble a logical meal from the five or six each of nibbles, appetizers, and main courses listed.  For dessert we split a cherry clafoutis, a favorite dish of mine — but it was thin and confined in its own little shallow ramekin, weighted down with too much ice cream (a nice ice cream, though, flavored with peach leaf). It's trendy dining, cleverly conceived and pleasantly and efficiently served: but it's not my style.

Rioja, Luberri, Orlegi, 2013

• Bar Sajor, 323 Occidental Avenue South, Seattle; 206-682-1117

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Eugene, Oregon, August 12, 2014—

THERE ARE NOT MANY things I like more than a good steak tartare. After a long day's drive — ten hours — we arrived in Eugene where we like to eat at a restaurant we discovered a number of years ago. I'd fully expected to investigate its menu further, but immediately on seeing tartare listed among the appetizers remembered enjoying it last time I was here.

It's bistro food, and this is not really a bistro; it's a restaurant. Still, I was in bistro mood. We split a very nice lettuce salad in an anchovy dressing to begin with, and then I went on to the dish you see here — a rondelle of chopped raw beef, mixed with capers and chopped onion and cracked black peppercorns, and topped with a fresh raw egg, accompanied by its own lettuce salad and house-made potato chips. 

A good steak tartare is a special kind of food: tasty and classical, but almost a medicinal, a restorative, as well as a food. Nourishing, sustaining, awakening, and very tasty. I almost hope to come here one day and find it not on the menu: then maybe I'll see what else these people can do…

Cötes du Rhöne, Chäteau de la Guicharde, 2012: organic, good terroir, earthy

• Marché, 296 East Fifth Avenue, Eugene; 541-342-3612

Friday, August 8, 2014

Penne, red sauce

Eastside Road, August 7, 2014—

ALL'ARRABIATA TONIGHT, I would say, as Cook was using up leftovers, and among them she found one of Franco Dunn's salsiccie napoletane, and piquant it most definitely was. Otherwise, the normal sauce, with pancetta and chopped onion browned in oil (though I think she noticed a little bit of bacon fat that she'd found as well), then a can of tomatoes squeezed in between the fingers.

Beyond that, that fabulous plate you see to the left: sliced tomatoes, leftover grilled eggplant and grilled onions,  a drizzle of really nice olive oil, salt.  Green salad afterword, and fruit. We are drowning in fresh fruit.

Cheap red wine: Albero

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Eating All Day

celery anchovies.jpg
Eastside Road, August 7, 2014—
YESTERDAY WE ATE ALL DAY. At least it seemed so. And why not? Day before we'd fasted…

After our usual breakfast (a slice of toast, two bowls of coffee with milk) we drove down to Berkeley, stopping first at Doughnut Dolly, where our friend Hannah was opening her second shop. She specializes in filled doughnuts, delicious yeast doughnuts she makes by the dozens and fills to order with jam or various custards. This morning she offered strawberry jam, and we picked up a number of them for the meeting we were going to — but I had a bourbon cream doughnut: smooth, delicate, eggy custard; nicely textured and pleasantly yeasty doughnut. We'll be back; probably often.

Doughnut Dolly, 1313 Ninth Street (Gilman), Berkeley

Hungry after the meeting, we were reminded that our friend Kelcey had opened her take-out lunchery a few months ago and that we hadn't yet had a chance to try it. What a find! We had a marvelous chickpea purée, with house-made crackers and pickled carrots; an albacore confit sandwich involving shaved radishes, cucumbers, raw lemon, arugula, and aïoli, on a foccaccia-like bread also made in house; and a very nice escarole and frisée salad with cherry tomatoes and an anchovy vinaigrette.

All this was made on the spot at the moment, packed neatly and attractively, and eaten on a bench in front of the place, on a rare sunny August day in Berkeley. Standard Fare offers take-home dinners, too; we'll certainly be trying them out before long.

Standard Fare, 2701 Eighth Street No. 118 (Carleton), Berkeley; 510.356.2261
saucisse.jpgAND THEN IT WAS time to drive to San Francisco, where I had a nicely made Four Barrel macchiato and we bought a loaf of dense chewy Josey Baker Bread at The Mill (736 Divisadero Street, San Francisco; 415.345.1953), and then went on to an early supper at Zuni.

Here we began with the plate you see above: Shaved parmesan, sliced celery, little niçoise olives, and anchovies, dressed with black pepper and oil. This is uniquely satisfying combination never fails to remind us of our late friend Judy Rodgers, whose impeccable taste it represents; and like the rest of the menu it was faithfully executed by a team responding to another friend, Kathi Riley, who has taken on Judy's kitchen (sharing it with another chef) to continue its traditions into a new decade.

We continued, for example, with her marvelous eggplant soup tasting of roasted eggplant, black pepper, spices, and good olive oil; and then this plate of merguez, chickpeas, and purslane, another fine combination.

We couldn't escape dessert: nicely made nectarine sorbet with blackberries, and as light, ethereal a Gâteau Victoire as I've had anywhere. Perfect.
gateau victoire.jpg
Martini; house Pinot noir
• Zuni, 1658 Market Street, San Francisco; 415-552-2522

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


Eastside Road, August 4, 2014—
LET'S JUST LEAD with dessert tonight: it was just so good. Ripe figs from yesterday's market, baked a short time in the oven, with honey, salt, and lemon juice. I know there are people who dislike figs — I think it's a matter of misplaced chastity. I like figs. Right up there with perfect apricots, or dates, or mulberries, or pears…

Before dessert we had salmon, of course, and those fine lima beans of Nancy Skall's, and sliced tomatoes
salmon.jpg. It was all good, no question about it. The green salad, too, whose vinaigrette these days is made with "our" olive oil, a community crush to which we contributed, green and fruity and not at all flabby, and Alta's impeccable quince vinegar — gotta find out how she makes that! It led right into the figs; come to think of it, a drop or two on the figs would have been interesting…
Cheap Pinot grigio

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Another dinner from the grill…

Eastside Road, August 3, 2014—
…YET NO PHOTOS BUT THIS, and it from lunch: a couple of raw carrots, a couple of apples from our trees.

Oh well: we were too involved tonight grilling, or (more likely) having too much fun talking, cooking, eating and drinking.

Franco Dunn's sausages, to begin with. A few good-sized onions, split into quarters, roots, stems, and all. Peppers, of course. An eggplant, sliced crosswise. Everything sprinkled with olive oil, and salted, and grilled over wood.

We had company to help us with all this, our neighbors from down the hill. Green salad with Alta's delicious quince vinegar. Baked figs with honey for dessert.
Albero, Monastrell (Jumilla), 2013; "Meritage", Sterling Vintner's Collection, 2012; Cinsault, Preston of Dry Creek, 2011 (the best of the lot, I think)

Saturday, August 2, 2014


Eastside Road, August 2, 2014—
YOU'VE SEEN THEM HERE before. and with any luck you'll see them here again. Padron peppers. It's fascinating to think we've known of them only a few years — we first met them in Spain, in Avila I think, say four years ago; now they're all the rage; you can't go to a summertime farm market without seeing them.

Iron skillet, olive oil, heat, peppers, salt. That's all.

Afterward, Nancy Skall's fine Romano beans, then Coronas, raw sliced tomato, green salad, a couple of squares of dark chocolate.
Cinsault, Preston of Dry Creek, 2011

The last of the Coronas

Eastside Road, August 1, 2014—
WHITE RABBIT, I said to myself this morning, it being the first of the month. Does it count, I wonder, if said merely to one's self. In any case it brought good luck, as we had these delicious Corona beans for dinner.

But bad luck too, as they are the last of our supply, laid in many years ago when our friend Joe was still in business, bringing them (and many other delicious things) in from Italy. Never mind, Cook says; I'll look for them online; there must be other sources… Hmmm, they're also called Gigantes; I wonder if these will be the same…

Let's try ordering some from two or three sources, I suggested, and compare, and see if they'll be similar…

These Coronas are so marvelous, even after years in the pantry (dry, of course): meaty, flavorful, virtually a meal in themselves. Cook them with olive oil or maybe a little butter, maybe some chopped scallion, salt of course, don't forget the sage.

berriesicecream.jpgWe had a particularly nice guacamole before, with our Martinis; green salad afterward. And then dessert: Vanilla ice cream with the last of our sweet tree-ripened nectarines and black black blackberries from the fields…

Cinsault, Preston of Dry Creek, 2011