LUNCH WAS FINE, of course; we ate in the Café, in Berkeley, where I had a delicious salad: radicchio with a mustard vinaigrette, with shaved fuyu persimmons (I may learn to like this fruit), toasted almonds, crisp little fried sage leaves, and Pecorino; then a savory pizza with halibut brandade, tomato sauce, capers, and wild fennel.
We might actually have skipped dinner, but I was concerned about my companion's cold, which has her coughing and complaining. Well, not complaining a lot, but still.
So I bought a quart of chicken stock, since we were in Berkeley and there's a reliable poulterer there; and then an onion and some Gruyère, and made her my version of a French onion soup. Nothing could be simpler: bring the stock to a simmer, adjust the flavor with salt and herbes de Provence, toss in very finely sliced onion, add a tablespoon or so of brandy. Let it simmer until the onions are cooked through. I sliced a baguette thin and toasted the slices in a black iron skillet, floated them on the soup, and added grated Gruyère cheese.
We'd warmed up with my version of a Hanky Panky: a jigger of gin, another of good Italian red vermouth (Carpano for a preference), a half jigger of Fernet Branca, shaken well with ice, garnished with orange peel.