Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Home again

Eastside Road, September 22, 2015—
BUT NOT FOR LONG. We drove up from Los Angeles yesterday, partway at least, after having for lunch only this very delicious quiche Lorraine, with soft, fresh, perfectly baked egg custard and bits of very peppery bacon. As you see it was baked good and dark, as it should be; what you don't see is the pastry shell, which managed to be substantial, tender, and flaky. This is a marvelous bakery and one of our favorite places to eat — and get coffee! — in Los Angeles.

• Short Cake, 6333 Wwat 3rd Street, Los Angeles (in the Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax); (323) 761-7976
Otherwise we made do, yesterday, with a sack of lightly salted almonds — and, on arriving at our motel, a small Scotch on the rocks.
chicken.jpg TODAY, THOUGH, we made up for yesterday's half fast lunching in Berkeley. I've eaten in this place for more than forty years, and today's lunch was exactly the kind of thing that keeps me happy with it. It was like eating in a really good French bistro back in the 1960s: chicken saltimbocca with parsnip purée, spinach, and sage, with a discreet pickled onion on the side. I know, saltimbocca isn't bistro fare, isn't even French: but the dish was so beautifully balanced, sat so well inits light broth, the chicken was so fresh, the spinach so perfectly cooked…

A green salad before, and my share of a fine plum galette with raspberry ice cream afterward. Life is very good.
Chardonnay, Côtes du Jura, Domaine Labet, 2013: clean and bright
• Café Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510-548-5525
TONIGHT WE WANTED nothing more than a couple of pieces of buttered toast and a fried egg. Cook fried the egg perfectly in butter, over easy, well salted and peppered.
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Mexican? Italian?

Hollywood, September 20, 2015—
NO PHOTOS TODAY: they would have been misleading. Disgusting, I started to typed.

We started the day in Santa Maria, where I breakfasted, early, at Starbuck's, with a caffelatte and a croissant. They aren't superb, but they're serviceable. And a book. That lasted two hours, from 7 to 9, while waiting for others to come to life.

Lunch was at a Mexican place we like, and were introduced to by friends who also like it, and who joined us there. I had a rather nice enchilada de pollo con mole, a dry guacamole, and a couple of Modelos.

•Taqueria Cuernavaca, 1117 N Ventura Avenue, Ventura, California; (805) 653-8052

Tonight's motel is around the corner from a place I've wanted to return to for sixty years, since my college days here — but Musso and Frank is closed on Sundays; Mondays too; so once again I'm disappointed. Driving here, though, I noticed an electric sign for an Italian restaurant said to have been a favorite of Frank Sinatra's, so I thought it would make a decent substitute.

Not being very hungry I settled for a Martini (we'd skipped one on Friday, and they're fungible) and a Caesar salad. The salad would have been okay except that the Parmesan had that taste it gets if it's been in plastic wrap and you don't throw out the part next to the wrap. This bears looking into, it's an interesting problem; but tonight is not the time.
•Miceli's Restaurant, 1646 Las Palmas Avenue, Hollywood; 323-466-3438; 20 Sept. 2015
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Steak house

Steak frites
Santa Maria, September 19, 2015—
THE BIG QUESTION: drive twenty minutes back north to a well-reviewed upscale restaurant in another town — which does not take reservations, and has no liquor license — or eat at a classic American steak house in this town, and begin with a Martini?

Because we enjoy dialectic we discussed the question for a few minutes, then bundled into the car and drove a few blocks. Quilted red leather booth. Meat cooking over red oak. Full bar. Many happy noisy diners. Waiters wearing four-in-hand neckties and half-aprons.

I had a Caesar salad, not quite as good as the one at lunch but acceptable, and then a twelve-ounce tri-tip, nicely salted. But before any of this, a tray of celery, scallions, olives, and pickles, and a decent Beefeater Martini.

The steak was undoubtedly grain-fed and politically incorrect but tasty, and I figure we do this so rarely — no pun intended — it can't hurt.
Pinot noir, Rahcno Sisquoc Winery (Santa Barbara county), unknown vintage: good varietal, a little sweet
•Shaw's Famous Steakhouse, 714 South Broadway, Santa Maria, California; 805-925-5882
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Gelato al limon…

gelato al limon
Carmel, California, September 18, 2015—
ANOTHER WEEKEND, another road trip: this time to LAX again, to send a nephew home to Australia. We will miss him, but the road trip will be fun, and tonight's supper made a good end to the first day.

In the old days we spent a week in this town every summer, attending the Bach Festival, and dining was just above mediocre, with one exception, Raffaello's: an Italian restaurant that required jacket and tie and served up a fine zabaglione. Those days are long gone, all of them; the town is casual to the point of unpleasant, and commercial to a fault. But there's a cozy new eatery a little off the main drag, and there we had pasta and dessert.

For me, strozzapreti with a quite nice Bolognese with the usual flaws — too much carrot, no brain — and for dessert… well, on a warm night, what better than gelato al limon, gelato al limon, gelato al limon…

The gelato was a perfect consistency, bright with acid, smooth on the tongue, and came in a good-sized hollowed-out lemon wearing its cap at a jaunty angle. Nothing needed to complement it but a grappa or limoncello. Alas, this place has no liquor license… still… 
white, then red; both by the glass; both Italian and in very good condition — alas, I forgot to note the names…
•Il Grillo, Mission Street between 4th and 5th, Carmel; 831-238-9608
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Friday, September 18, 2015


Katsu don
San Francisco, September 16, 2015—
WE SPENT MUCH of the day at the Exploratorium, and developed an appetite along the way. On our last visit we ate in the "restaurant"; this time we were content — and better off, I think — at the little café near the entrance.

Of the half-dozen substantial dishes on the blackboard, it was the Katsudon that appealed the most to me. A pork cutlet, breaded and fried and sliced into manageable strips, with egg — as a batter, I suppose, before a second cooking — served with leaves of a green I don't know, and some shreds of pickled pepper, on an enormous serving of boiled rice. Not my normal sort of eating, but not bad at all: and now back into the Exploratorium fray…
•Exploratorium, Pier 15, The Embarcadero, San Francisco; 415-528-4444
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants. (The Exploratorium is not a restaurant.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Hominy; tarts

Eastside Road, September 15, 2015—
THIS DESSERT, believe it or not, was listed on the menu as a tarte Tatin. More specifically, "local stonefruit tarte tatin: candied almonds, salted caramel ice cream, apricot mostarda." When I asked the waitress what stone fruit was involved, peaches and apricots, she said.

And this at a restaurant with a reputation for having a certain cachet. Now Tarte Tatin, and I capitalize it because it's a proper noun, is a specific thing; it's made with apples (I grudgingly admit pears if necessary); it's in a pastry shell. It might be garnished with a bit of cream, or even vanilla ice cream or possibly whipped cream, but only a little, I think.

This dish was what I would call a pudding, more marzipan than fruit, crumble (streusel) substituting for pastry. It was caramelized, but on the bottom, and getting soggy in the "mostarda," which seemed to me innocent of mustard. Those are basil leaves garnishing it. An odd dessert, not unpleasant, but not Tarte Tatin.

It ended today's lunch, which was otherwise a platter of radishes (as many Japanese daikon as French breakfast, alas) served with anchovy butter and a steak-frites beautifully cooked and nicely anchovy-buttered.
Red, "Le Cigare Volant," Bonny Doon Vineyards, 2014
•The Girl and the Fig, 110 West Spain Street, Sonoma, California; 707-938-3634
Alsatian tartDINNER TONIGHT was the frozen "tarte Alsacienne" we occasionally buy at Trader Joe, a nice enough flatbread covered with simply onions and crème fraîche, cooked on the pizza stone in our oven, with sliced tomatoes, a green salad, and fruit compote for dessert.
Garnacha/Monastrell, Laya (Almansa), Old Vines, 2013

CATCHUP: yesterday we dined on hominy cooked with chorizo, some of it Franco Dunn's, bought at the Healdsburg Farm Market, some of it the dry coiled chorizo we find in Berkeley at The Spanish Table, excellent shop. The day before, Sunday, we drove home from Los Angeles, contenting ourselves with trail mix and salt peanuts in the car.
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Another night at the Marriott

Los Angeles, September 12, 2015—
NO PHOTO TONIGHT, and you're not missing all that much. Here's what the menu said:

First Course

Iced Tea

Whole Wheat Rolls with Butter

Mixed Green Salad with Minted Tomatoes and Homemade Croutons
Served with Champagne Vinaigrette


Grilled Salmon

Served with Pine Nut and Cranberry
Couscous, Asparagus and Carrots with a Burr Blanc Sauce


Chocolate Pyramid

Coffee & Tea
This was served to probably two hundred people at a conference we've been attending. A no-host cocktail party had preceded the dinner, and after an acceptable Martini there I had the foresight to buy a bottle of wine to take to our table:
Chardonnay, Stonegate (Napa Valley), 2013
•Los Angeles Airport Marriott, 5855 West Century Boulevard, Los Angeles, California
The one good thing: at the lottery drawing, I won a shipment of salmon from Alaska. I don't know how big it is, or when or how it will be shipped. I'll let you know more when it arrives…
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants (but, again, not tonight's)

Friday, September 11, 2015

Hotel ravioli

Los Angeles, September 11, 2015—
I'M AFRAID I don't know quite what to say about this. Apollo knows I take little pride in my blogphotography, but I assure you I did my best here (which is to say, I did unthinkingly just what I always do, pointed the damn phone at it and shot it). The menu listed it as
Pumpkin Ravioli
Wilted spinach, toasted hazelnuts, mushrooms, sage-cream butter
and, on paper, that was good enough for me. After a day's drive to Los Angeles I was in no mood for a big dinner, just a Martini and a light supper.

As you see, the mushrooms run away with the dish. The cream (it was not "butter") took second place, and then the cheese. The hazelnuts were there, more by texture than flavor, and the pumpkin was a distant reference, like a bibliographic note in a term paper.

Beforehand, a "Caesar salad," innocent of anchovy and guilty of thuddish cheese nibbles. With it all, a second Martini.

•JW's Steakhouse at the Marriott Hotel, 5855 West Century Boulevard, Los Angeles; 310-641-5700
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants (but not this one)

Pesto (again)

Eastside Road, September 10, 2015—
ANOTHER UNBEARABLY HOT day, when we thank whoever the god of refrigerators might be there's still a container of pesto. Hmmm. Maybe each refrigerator, like each spring, has its own dryad, or naiad, or whatever the appropriate term might be. I would like to think that. The sprite in charge of our refrigerator, a relatively small but still inefficient Kenmore we inherited from Cook's sainted mother on her death, at 84, in 1997; I still think of her every time I open its door; that sprite must be either somewhat confused and troubled or, on the other hand, supremely gifted in the departments of keeping-track-of-things and not-really-caring-that-much. Both, I'd prefer to think.

In any case, there it was, a small plastic container crammed with pesto, which we spooned out much more generously than usual on our hard tedious penne, of a brand I really don't care for but forms a staple (as you know, loyal reader) in our pantry. There was still a little left, and we spread it on slices of bread, to have with the green salad.
Rosé, as yesterday
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Salami sandwich

Eastside Road, September 9, 2015—
WHAT WITH ONE THING and another we've been eating irregularly these last couple of weeks, and today was no exception. Lunch was in the café in the San Francisco Exploratorium: macaroni and cheese, lemon polenta cake, a glass of chardonnay. Later, to kill time that the commute rush might settle down, ice cream at a favorite San Francisco institution, where I had a ginger-beer float, with ginger ice cream — delicious and bracing.

No one in a mood to shop for or cook dinner, so we had salami sandwiches. I split hamburger buns we'd got free for the taking at Brody's yesterday — they were day old, so given away — and sprinkled the cut surfaces with olive oil, then toasted them in black iron skillets, ultimately flattening them between the skillets. (You put the buns in the larger skillet, then set the smaller one — heated, of course — on top of them.)

Dry salami, sliced Zebra green tomatos, a leaf or two of lettuce. Basta così.
Rosé, Ch. Guilhem, as before
•The Ice Cream Bar, 815 Cole Street, San Francisco; 415-742-4932
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


Eastside Road, September 8, 2015—
WE ARE ENTERTAINING a houseguest this week and next, a fourteen-year-old nephew from Australia visiting this country for the first time. His American-born godfather had provided him with a list of things he must experience in order to savor the American scene fully, and we managed to take care of two of them today.

They provided the Principle Meal of the Day, which anchored the very hot afternoon. A hamburger, with tomato, onion, dill pickle, and mayonnaise, garnished with garlic fries; and a Dr. Pepper. The burger didn't surprise him: I have a hunch they have such things in Australia. Dr. Pepper, however, was a pleasant surprise to him. He'd been expecting it to taste of cola, like the other three popular American drinks, at least one of which he's apparently tasted as he professed to dislike it.

Dr. Pepper, though, seems to be flavored with cherries and/or maybe prunes, and is (I think) less intensely carbonated, providing a somewhat subtler, more sophisticated, perhaps less adolescent satisfaction than do the colas.

We didn't stop for dessert — we'd had a milkshake yesterday; no need to repeat it today.
beer (I don't dislike Dr. Pepper, but find it an odd companion with meat)
•Brody's Burgers and Brews, 3135 Cleveland Avenue, Santa Rosa, California; 707-526-4878
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants


Eastside Road, September 7, 2015—
ANOTHER BOWL of fruit this evening: the Duchesse d'Angoulème pears poached in syrup with vanilla, a peach or two, and the last Flavor King pluot of the season, all made into a fruit compote. A very satisfying end to a light hot-day supper:
Frankfurter on bun with mustard, sliced onion, pickle relish
Potato salad
Green salad

Cook makes the potato salad thus: boil potatoes in their skins, cut into small pieces, toss with a light mustard vinaigrette, add chopped shallots, a little chopped onion, and chopped parsley.
Rosé, Château Guilhem (pays d'Hérault), 2014
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Monday, September 7, 2015


Tri tip
Eastside Road, September 6, 2015—
STEAK ON THE GRILL tonight. "Tri-tip" is still a neologism to me: we used to call it a bottom sirloin. Cut a couple of inches thick, with very little fat (as you see), it grills perfectly. I salted it on both sides when I got it home, then made a bowl of guacamole in my usual way, then made the vinaigrette for the salad, then built a little fire of grape and rose wood, with a few branches of dry rosemary.

When the fire had burned down to coals I seared the steak close to the heat, then moved the grill up to finish it, sprinkling thyme on each side. When cooked to my taste, which as you see is saignant, I buttered it, then let it rest before slicing it.

Cook made another potato salad, which was quite delicious; and we had the green salad; and poached pears afterward. A fine supper for a hot day.
Garnacha/Monastrell, Laya (Almansa), Old Vines, 2013
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Duchesse d'Angoulème

Eastside Road, September 5, 2015—
CANNED FRUIT COCKTAIL was, I regret to say, among the highlights of my dining experiences as a boy. As I recall, it involved peaches, pears, pineapple, and the occasional "Maraschino" cherry. I liked the cherry, of course: it was exotic, brightly colored, and rare. More than them, though, secretly, it was the pears I liked.

I'm sure they were Bartletts, and they may well have come, many of them, from not that far north of here: Mendocino county, near Ukiah. Just the other day we drove past a big orchard of them, and there were still many pears hanging on the trees, probably a second crop it hadn't paid to bother with.

Other orchards can be seen easily from the highway north of Ashland, where Harry and David made their reputation on them. The Bartlett is an early pear and a good producer, a natural for commerce.

But I've always thought of the pear as the quintessentially French fruit, and we've always been partial to winter pears with French names: the d'Anjou, the Comice, above all the Duchesse d'Angoulème. When we settled here on Eastside Road a number of years ago we planted quite a few pear trees. The Seckels are favorites, partly because our tree is so productive, and the fruit is early, and unlike most pears you can eat them from the tree. (Many pears need to be picked before they're ripe, and seasoned in cold storage.)

Most of our pear trees — well, four of them anyway: Seckel, Bosc, Winter Nellis, and Red Bartlett — line the driveway well below our house. But two others are in Cook's Folly, the little hedge-bound formal garden of ornamentals punctuated by pairs of fruit trees: Yellow Transparent and Santa Rosa plum; Flavor King Pluot and Mirabelle plum (the latter deceased and replaced with I forget what), a nectarine and a peach whose names escape me at the moment, and two marvelous pears, a Comice and a Duchesse d'Angoulème. The Duchesse is particularly productive: a dwarf tree hardly seven feet tall, it regularly gives us boxes and boxes of fruit. Last year I sold fifty pounds of pears from it, and kept that many and more for us.

This year is an early one; autumn has well set in; the Duchesse is dropping an awful lot of fruit. Cook already has far more than she can deal with, but she peeled and sliced these, and poached them with a little vanilla in a sugar syrup, and they made a delicious dessert after a typical Saturday post-farm-market dinner of Napolitano sausage from Franco, lima beans from Middleton Gardens, and sliced tomatoes from Lou Preston and the neighbor. These are the days of wine and pears.
Zinfandel, Preston of Dry Creek, 2013
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Back to the blog.

Eastside Road, September 1, 2015—
OKAY, LET'S JUST SAY I took the month of August off. Why shouldn't I have as much vacation as any French plumber? In fact, we've been eating very well, but busy doing other things too. For one thing, getting ready for a big party.

The party fare was spectacular — a steer our son butchered for us, grass-raised and grain-finished, half of it braised, the other half grilled, served with many delicious things, with cases of rosé and red wine, and peaches in wine, and all that: but that was ten days ago, and I was too busy enjoying myself and playing the host to take photos, let alone notes.

Then came a three-day hike, which actually took five days because there's the getting there and the going back. One night we had a late-night steak and salad at a favorite Berkeley restaurant; another we dined in a new place in the same town; neither occasion requires much comment. And along the way we continued to eat leftover braised beef, which only got better.

We returned from the walk to house-guests, most welcome for among other things diverting us from a routine already diverted from the norm, and continued to eat leftover beef (gee, it was good, tender and flavorful, sweet and complex) and to drink leftover bottles of rosé and red.

porkshoulder.jpgYesterday, though, we took them down to Berkeley to eat an early supper at that favorite Berkeley restaurant, where I had a faux-Caesar salad of Little Gem lettuces, anchovy sauce, and croutons, and then braised pork shoulder with figs and kale and polenta. Delicious, and the fruit basket pictured above was equally autumnal and beautiful (Bronx grapes, Flavor King pluots, figs); and the chocolate pavé… well, you know…
Txakolina, Bengoetxe (Spain, of course), 2013; then a glass of red
• Café Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510-848-5525
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants