Monday, February 23, 2015


rabbit pate.jpg
Eastside Road, February 23, 2015—
THE WEEKEND'S MEALS were modest — I'm sure you'll understand: Friday had been unusually festive. Saturday we were content with leftover pasta with peas, always good; Sunday we visited up north, and enjoyed mortadella, and rosette de Lyon (a favorite sausage of mine), and a marvelous potato salad with egg and bacon and lots and lots of Italian parsley.

Today, though, we spent in the nearby town of Petaluma, where we lunched on a "croque-baton," chopped ham and melted Gruyère on baguette.

Rosé, Red Car, 2012
Della Fattoria Downtown (The Café), 141 Petaluma Boulevard North, Petaluma; (707) 763-0161

Then we stopped off at a new butcher shop we'd heard about, and picked up this pretty slice of rabbit paté for tonight's supper. With it, bread from Della Fattoria — a good bakery — a few cornichons, and a pickled cherry or two. A nice pick-me-up-and-send-me-to-bed.

Thistle Meats, 160 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma, CA 94952
(707) 772-5442

a glass of red
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Cucumbers and Malvasia

Berkeley and San Francisco, February 20, 2015—
A VERY DELICIOUS DAY today, starting with breakfast at a favorite café in Berkeley, where the cappuccinos, made with Equator coffee, are superb, and the toast and marmalade as good as they are at home, which is saying quite a lot.

Bartavelle, 1603 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley; 510-524-2473

Lunch at another very favorite place in San Francisco, where the menu runs to Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, and the women are superb to see. It was a hot day — a hot day in San Francisco, in February! — and I was dreaming of cucumber sandwiches. The closest was a split bagel, fresh from the oven, with cream cheese and sliced cucumbers, with a soft and tasty pierogi served with intense, deep damson plum preserve.

20th Century Café, 198 Gough St, San Francisco; (415) 621-2380
Malvasia, Terzolo (Croatia/Istria), 2011: one of the nicest,most interesting, richest, best-finishing white wines I've had in a long time

Dinner was less rewarding than the other two meals, but good enough to sustain conversation with a friend and carry us through a Sam Shepard play (A Lie of the Mind, not quite resolved): Veal piccata in rather a gloppy sauce, with the usual array of steamed vegetables.

The Brazen Head, 3168 Buchanan Street, San Francisco; 415-921-7600
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Friday, February 20, 2015

Steak and salad

Berkeley, February 19, 2015—

SOME FEW MONTHS ago Chez Panisse began serving an inexpensive late- night steak dinner Monday through Thursday, but somehow we've never managed to take advantage of the opportunity until tonight. What a pleasure! A grass-fed filet, fairly thick but not ludicrously huge, nicely salted, grilled a perfect medium rare, served with tasty French-fried onions and a roquette salad, with a glass of house Zinfandel, for twenty-five bucks. 

Of course I had a second glass, and then, with my companion's delicious dessert — tapioca crème anglais with mango and tangerine — a glass of Chateau Suduiraut. What a fine way to close out a pleasant day. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Comal; cake…

Eastside Road, February 18, 2015—
THE PHOTOS ARE OF desserts tonight: but that's not all we've been eating, of course. Sunday night we had another delicious cabbage soup, with cheese and salad, and the neighbors down the hill as guests.
Cheap Pinot grigio; Cheap Nero d'Avola

Monday was fast day this week, because yesterday we'd made plans for dinner and an opera with friends in Berkeley. We ate around the corner from the show, in a back "patio" room too noisy for comfortable conversation, but the food was tasty: for me, a share of a "bitter green" salad, then patatas bravas and albondigas, three very nice meatballs that filled me up and saw me through an entire bel canto opera. The flan pictured at the right helped fortify me…
Tequila; red Rioja
• Comal, 2020 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; (510) 926-6300

Tonight we had friends over to supper: Fourme d'Ambert, Beaufort, and Brie to begin with (though in truth I prefer my cheese after dinner); then that delicious shell pasta with peas I've mentioned recently, a green salad dressed with shallots and vinaigrette, and for dessert…

upsidedown cake.jpg…this superb blood orange upside-down cake. When I was a kid my mother made an upside-down cake from time to time, always with canned pineapple, with cloves here and there, and, if we were lucky, maraschino cherries at certain interstices. To tell the truth I still hanker for that cake, rich with brown sugar and pineapple, but I know my present Cook's cake is infinitely better. Made with butter, for one thing, not margarine. An American classic, skillet-formed upside-down cake, leavened with baking powder, deliciously sweet and, in this case, fruity.
Grillo, Tamì (Sicilia), 2013 (fragrant, full, sound, delightful); vin "rouge intense", Côte Mas ("Sud de France"), 2013 (a little rough, a bit dull, pleasant)
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Sunday, February 15, 2015


Eastside Road, February 14, 2015 (St. Valentine's Day)—
I KNOW EXACTLY when I first tasted tartiflette, which has become such a favorite dish of mine — so often mentioned and recalled — that Cook thought (so thoughtful a companion is she) to prepare it tonight: what a delightful surprise; what a sentimental gift.

It was Wednesday, June 25, 2008; I was with my friend Mac and my grandson Henry in a hiker's "refuge" called Bassachaux, a day's walk beyond La Chapelle d'Abondance, a kilometer or two inside France from the Swiss border, south of Geneva, in Savoie. Let me quote from my book Walking the French Alps:
We had a little suite of our own upstairs at the front of the building, Henry and I sharing one bed, Mac alone on the other; showers and flush toilets were curtain-walled off in the big dortoir we’d walked through to get to our rooms. I noticed, then, that other guests were beginning to show up, and made a mental note to reserve when I could, otherwise to arrive as early as possible. I don’t mind sleeping in these dortoirs but I do like a bed at the end of the row, by a window if possible.

At seven-thirty we had what seemed to be a standard refuge dinner: potage on a potato base, sometimes flavored with nettles; not rabbit but
tartiflette, a dish of potatoes and local cheese, sliced and layered and cooked in the oven; and a delicious tarte à myrtilles, washed down with Aprémont, a favorite white wine of mine. We would have both these dishes frequently; they are both tourist specialties and honest food du terroir; “tartiflette” coming apparently from the local dialect word for “potato,” tartifla.
The next few days we continued our walk through the Savoie region of Beaufort, home of a very favorite cheese of mine, and we had a number of tartiflettes, all made exactly the same way: layers of thin-sliced potato, onion, and cheese.

But there are, apparently, a number of ways to approach this dish, which you'll have recognized is a version of potatoes dauphinois, or what was called, in my own childhood, "scalloped potatoes," why, I'll never know. My Berkeley grandmother made scalloped potatoes to take to church potlucks, and my mother made her own version on our broken-down "farm": sliced potatoes layered in a rectangular Pyrex baking dish, with sliced onion, and good rich milk from our Jersey cow, and dots of butter. I don't recall the presence of any cheese.

Tonight's version boasted little chunks of smoked bacon, which gives the dish an aroma more Alsatian than Savoyard: but the cheese was definitely Beaufort, and it was a lovely Valentine. Broccoli on the side, and a green salad afterward, of course.
Cheap Pinot grigio (had I known, I'd have splurged on an Aprémont)
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Dinner in the suburb

Walnut Creek, Califonia, February 13, 2015—
IT LOOKS INVITING enough; the waitress was fun; the food was okay: just another meal, I don't really call it a "dinner," in an American suburb. After an acceptable Martini I had a Caesar salad and a hamburger. The salad seemed, well, tossed together, more or less mechanically, with the right ingredients though substituting garlic for anchovy. The hamburger was decent meat though far too much of it; it came on a commercial uninspired bun, with a paper cone of acceptable thin-cut French fries, little pots of "aioli" and tomato catsup, a slice of nvg tomato, and delicously pickled onion.
• Corners Tavern, 1342 Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek, California; 925-948-8711
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Friday, February 13, 2015

Spaghetti with tuna and capers

Pasta with tuna.jpg
Eastside Road, February 12, 2015—
YES, WE DO eat our share of pasta here. And why not, when it's this delicious — Cook complained at my wolfing it down as I did; it was just too damn good to linger over.

She cooked a couple of cloves of garlic, thinly sliced, with a can of tuna in its own oil; then stirred in capers and red-pepper flakes for just a few seconds before adding some of the pasta cooking water, reducing it to make the sauce binding the spaghetti when it's added to the skillet.

She tossed the spaghetti, then added lemon zest and juice, a little olive oil, and chopped parsley. Pepper, of course. A little more of the cooking water if it's needed: everything should be nicely coated, bound together. Delicious.

Then the green salad; and a little dark chocolate for dessert…
Cheap Pinot grigio
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Further adventures of the shortribs

Eastside Road, February 11, 2015—
YESTERDAY WE FASTED, or nearly, as is our Tuesday custom Meatless Tuesday it was called when I was a boy, I joked; these days for us it's Eatless Tuesday. Toast and jam with our caffelattes in the morning, a handful of nuts with tea at tea-time; an apple later on. 726 calories, according to my iPhone.

And today was a bit of a work day; after the toast and caffelattes I sprayed all the fruit trees, then had lunch: half a piece of toast with peanut butter, the last of Lou's kimchee rescued from the back of the icebox, a carrot, a small glass of orange juice.

So you can be sure we were hungry, Cook and I, at dinner time, and the last of the shortribs from Monday night were delicious, with egg noodles, and a green salad, and a dish of applesauce.
Cinsault, Preston of Dry Creek, 2012
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Braised short ribs

Eastside Road, February 9, 2015—
THE PHOTO IS DARK, but that's how I like my braises. This meal is from the same source as yesterday's (the pasta with peas): our friend Jeff Stoffer. You can find it online here, with detailed instructions and good photos — I really recommend the recipe.

Cook didn't make the noodles: they're organic buckwheat ones from the store.

The dish was succulent and deep. Afterward we had the usual green salad, and some of the applesauce I canned a few years back, from our Calville blanc apples — which reminds me: I've gotta get out there and put in a few hours this week, now the rain's let up …
Cinsault, Preston of Dry Creek, 2012
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Pasta, peas, parmigiana, pepper…

pasta with peas.jpg
Eastside Road, February 8, 2015—
…TO WHICH YOU MIGHT add Pecorino, I think, just a little, to enrich the Parmigiana.

Oh: and cream. Yes: that's what it needed: just a bit of cream. Even though it doesn't begin with a "P."

The recipe is from our friend Jeff Stoffer, a downstairs cook at Chez Panisse in a former life, and a money management advisor currently. If you have any money to manage, he's your man: and he'll send you a recipe from time to time as a lagniappe.

Cook prepared small shell pasta the usual way, and meanwhile browned chopped pancetta in a little olive oil in the big stainless-steel skillet, then added a cup or two of peas, a bit of salt, a little water, and then, after a couple of minutes, a half cup of cream. She let this simmer, reducing the mixture a little but keeping it soupy; then added some white wine and cooked another minute or so.

When the pasta's done you strain it and add it to the pea-cream-pancetta mixture, stirring it over a little heat. Then a little butter, stirring it in. Some chopped herbs: parsley and thyme, I suppose; English peas always seem to want thyme. Black pepper.You might add a little of the pasta water to keep things more soupy than sticky.

Plate the pasta, adding some grated cheese on top; maybe a tiny squeeze of lemon juice or a sprinkle of white wine if it seems to want brightening. Thanks, Jeff!

Green salad afterward, of course.
Pinot grigio, Contadino "Vivace" (slightly sparkling), 2013: crisp, light, entertaining
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Friday, February 6, 2015

Cabbage Soup

Eastside Road, February 6, 2015—
OUR CHILDREN MARRIED well, all of them. The youngest daughter married a Slav. Most of the people in my family — in Cook's, too, now I think of it — married exogamously. Probably a good thing. Funny thing is, not that many new recipes came into our own family as a result. I suppose this bears looking into: but I'm not about to undertake that research, not at least at this point.

Here's an exception, though: youngest daughter's mother-in-law's soup. Since it's Central European, it features red cabbage. That was an exotic vegetable in my childhood: we all knew, somehow, without ever having been coached in the matter, that cabbage was meant to be green — and yet there were indisputably red cabbages to be found, in the dread Safeway, at rare Imwalle Gardens, even from time to time in our own vegetable patch. Whatever could the Creator have been thinking? Early on a confusion formed, in my mind, between red cabbage and communist vegetables…

A fascinating thing here is the promise that a few slices of a russet potato can replace a roux. Clearly this recipe is for more than a cabbage soup; it is a recipe for improvisation, for spinning away from the text.

In any case it's what we had for dinner tonight, and it was, of course, delicious. There was a bit of bacon in it, but no sausage. It's raining here, for the first time in over a month; it's a little chilly; we've lit a fire for the first time in a couple of weeks. This was the right dinner tonight.

Green salad afterward, to be sure; then an apple and a couple of… what's this… cookies?
Cheap Nero d'Avila
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurantscabbage soup.jpg

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Siamo in italia

Eastside Road, February 5, 2015—
WELL NOT REALLY, of course, we're right here on Eastside Road. But Cook made a supper that took me right to the Peninsula, and it began with organic cavatelli made in Italy though bought in a supermarket here — cavatelli so perfectly cooked you couldn't help noticing how good they were, even if taken without any of their garnish.

With the garnish, of course, they were better yet. Magnificent, in fact. She tossed the cooked pasta with warmed olive oil into which she'd grated lemon zest and sprinkled chopped parsley, and then grated bottarga over the plated pasta — dried tuna roe we'd brought back with us from Italy last November. Truly a wonderful meal, deserving a name — let's see, how about cavatelli alla chiomontina?

(Except that the dish has a distinctly Ligurian quality.) Green salad afterward, with avocado, in a shallot vinaigrette.
Cheap Paso Robles Zinfandel
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants


Eastside Road, February 4, 2015—
CHOP UP HALF an onion, brown it in olive oil in the black iron skillet, add some chorizo you've sliced up, add a can of hominy, another of black beans, some tomato paste, don't forget to taste for salt and so forth… A nice quick one-dish meal for a cool evening.

I don't usually mention stores on this blog, but we buy our chorizo maybe four times a year when we're down in Berkeley at a shop I really like a lot. The chorizo holds nicely in the refrigerator.
Cheap Paso Robles Zinfandel
• The Spanish Table, 1814 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley; (510) 548-1383
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Penne, tomato sauce

Eastside Road, February 1, 2015—
HOW LONG IS IT since we've had penne with tomato sauce? It seems forever. Penne cooked in the usual way; sauce: chopped onions, a little garlic, cooked in olive oil, one of Franco Dunn's sausages (Sicilian, this time) crumbled in, a can of organic tomatoes squeezed in between Cook's fingers. Afterward, an arugula salad.

Cheap organic Zinfandel, Paso Robles, 2013
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants