Sunday, September 18, 2016

Café Chez Panisse; Ground Lamb

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Eastside Road, September 17, 2016—

I WILL NOT SAY much about last night's dinner. A week or two ago I declared I'd not attach adjectives to descriptions of dinners here, on the grounds that any comments I have on a place I have some long interest in (forty-five years!) would be open to suspicion. Sure enough, even that comment brought a response, a reasoned one: I'm still trying to figure out what position to take going forward.

Suffice it to say I started with salad — lettuce, figs, mint, crème fraîche — and then braised pork with rosemary and cumin, shell beans, peperonata, and salsa verde. I took a photo, but it's terrible. The pork was succulent and fresh-tasting, not manufactured. I understand some animal rights folks have been busting in, lecturing folks on what they should eat. I think this is unmannerly and counter-productive; also unscientific. I figure that when I'm dead I'll be eaten by something; that's okay with me. In the meantime, I'll grant the animals I eat a comfortable life — they'd likely not exist if not for meat-eaters — and a quick death. It's what I hope for myself.

The dinner was hosted by friends; it was John's birthday. There were eight of us at table, and the conversation got in the way of devotion to dinner — that too is as it should be. Chocolate cake for birthday boy; a fine ice cream bombe for all of us; the highlight was peach-leaf ice cream, pure genius.

Cabernet sauvignon, Paradise Rige, 209, very nice; Dolcetto d'Alba, G.D. Vayra, 2015, authentic and delicious; Arrbois rouge, Stéphane Tissot, 2015, balanced, firm, granitic
•Café Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510-548-5525

Tonight I cooked ground lamb. Almost sixty years ago, when we were first married and vwery poor, ground lamb was as frequent a guest at our table as we were able to manage. My father was prejudiced against lamb and would not have it on the table, but when I left home I embraced it. And then, sixty years ago, we ate it because it was cheap: twenty-five cents a pound.

I saw it in the Healdsburg farm market a couple of days ago, from Preston of Dry Creek, and bought a pound, even though it was considerably more expensive. Tonight I mixed it with a few finely chopped cipollini, parsley, mint, and marjoram from the garden, and cumin and ras al hanout — the recipe was loosely based on Paula Wolfert, whose way with Mediterranean food, from both north and south of that basin, is particularly coherent and rewarding.

I mixed the spices and onions into the meat, then made little meat balls, as you see. With them, Middleton Gardens's limas, and sliced tomatoes. Marvelous. Green salad; dark chocolate.

bottle-ends: cheap rosé, red wine

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:  2016   2015

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