Thursday, May 25, 2017

Beans. & salami

Eastside Road, May 24, 2017—
ANOTHER SIMPLE MEAL, as Cook's been away, Gardener having taken her place for the day. Those are the Corona beans Cook prepared yesterday, just as good today. Green salad afterward, of course, and a fine tangerine.

     ðŸ·Bianco, Grifone

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Another roundup: fish, pizza, cheese, beans…

Eastside Road, May 24, 2017—

SATURDAY WAS FARM MARKET day in Healdsburg. The market only opened last week — it's seasonal — and is somewhat changed this year; another change to adjust to in my declining years. There seem to be more stalls for artisans (ceramics, olive-oil producers, rose oil) and take-away prepared food than there used to be, and fewer stalls for local farmers. But of course it's early in the season and it's been odd weather: let's reserve judgement for a few more weeks.

In any case Middleton Farms was there with beautiful favas. Cook found spring onions somewhere, and we tried, for the first time, the rather large sea-food stall that's replaced Dave the Fish Guy this year, as Dave has apparently been unable to find enough fish to justify maintinaing his own stall.

I miss him, and mistrusted his successor, who seems to me to offer far too big a selection to guarantee freshness and authenticity. But that's a prejudice, not knowledge, and friends whose word I find reliable tell me this purveyor is to be trusted. So we bought some rock cod fillets, and tonight Cook breaded and fried two of them, basically meunière style, and served them with a version of vignerata, a braise of potatoes, onion, artichokes, and favas. Very very good.

     ðŸ·Cheap Italian white, Grifone

ON SUNDAY WE DROVE up to Laytonville, a hundred miles north, there to visit with the son and his family. We stopped en route to continue the Margherita investigation, but a pizza carried sixty miles in its cardboard box, then eaten cold, is not a useful specimen for critico-analytica purposes.

It was delicious nonetheless. Better, under the circumstances, was a specialty of the house, made with mushrooms and piquant sausage. (I think this is Franco Dunn's sausage, as he has a connection with the establishment.) Memo: a trip to this fine place for lunch one day soon.

     ðŸ·Chardonnay! we'd forgotten to bring a red…

After the pizzas, a fine cold potato salad. Thanks, Meadow!

In the evening, once home, bread and cheese. I do very much love these Dutch cheeses, bought there: a Remeker, I believe, that we bought in Amsterdam quite a few months ago, and a nagelkaas brought to us by friends. These aged boerkasen, "farmer's cheeses," with a nutty, caramel-like quality are dense and sometimes faintly marked with crystals, like their cousins the aged Parmesans. When you have walnut levain bread from Berkeley's Acme Breads, as we seem to this week, they can't be beat…

     ðŸ·Cheap Italian white, Grifone

•Diavola Pizzeria & Salumeria, 21021 Geyserville Avenue, Geyserville; +1 (707) 814-0111‬

MONDAY NIGHT we ate in front of the television set again, watching the Cubs do battle toward their eventual rise to the playoffs. I hope that doesn't jinx them. We'd bought some Moroccan-style chicken sausages from Franco Dunn at the Farm Market, specially made for a couscous, and that's what Cook did with them: grilled them in a skillet on the stove and served them with couscous. The latter were a new type to us, though, Israeli, not Algerian, and not to our taste — I thought they resembled little pearls of tapioca, not pasta. They were white and faintly mucilaginous. Nice bitter broccolini overcame this deficiency, though, and the sausage was delicious, complex in flavors and textures and rather piquant.

     ðŸ·Cheap Italian white, Grifone

CORONA BEANS last night! Not many things we like more. These giant beans need little soaking before cooking — overnight, then the next morning. Cook serves them flavored with olive oil and, tonight, marjoram. (I think I'll get her a sage and a summer savory to plant someplace in the informal herbarium.)

Continuing the icebox cleanout we polished off the last of the giardiniera before, along with a few boquerones on buttered bread, and a couple of small heads of fennel from Saturday's market. As customary these recent weeks, dessert was a tangerine and a couple of chocolates from See's. Life is good.

     ðŸ·Bottle-ends: Cheap Italian white; Primitivo

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Saturday, May 20, 2017


Eastside Road, May 19, 2017—
THIS IS HOW I like them: a thin coating of mustard, a good-sized hamburger patty pan-fried medium rare, a couple of thin slices of onion, ditto dill pickle. No, no tomato: we're far from tomato season. No, no lettuce: there'll be a green salad to come. (Though a single small leaf of crisp lettuce is nothing to object to in a hamburger sandwich.)

     ðŸ·Rouge, La Ferme Julien

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017


The grand finale: St. Honoré (photo: Emma Monrad)
Eastside Road, May 11, 2017—
NOTE THE DATE: I'm late getting to this. It was a very special day, our sixtieth wedding anniversary, and dinner was a party thrown by our three children, with the help of a couple of theirs. That, of course, makes it a difficult thing to write about, and that's why I've waited a week.

It's trying enough to write about dining with friends; it's more trying, as I've noted on a number of occasions, to write about dining in their homes. In fact I've made it a rule not to do it at all. But this was such a splendid feast it seems wrong to ignore it, even if it seems like boasting a bit…

There were a dozen of us at table, spanning four generations, with a guest list limited to close family with only one exception, the old friend whow was responsible for the whole thing because she had introduced me, her college buddy, to the Contessa, her college roommate. At the time she had misgivings when love at first sight did its dirty work, but in time she's come round.

Our daughters and daughter-in-law chose the menu, I think, ruling out any cooking as much as possible, and making the occasion an invitation to summer. We began al fresco with five dozen oysters from Hog Island, served on the half shell with mignonette and lemon wedges, absolutely delicious. And with them, cold cuts, and salads, and salmon, and marvelous anchovies which I ate on slivers of very thickly buttered bread, with a lemon wedge on top, peel and all — a novelty to some others at table, but one quickly adopted.


Later we moved inside for a more formal seating underneath banners and garlands, with corsage and boutonnière for the guests of honor. Here too the meal was cold, as suited a hot pre-summer day: hard-cooked eggs, green salads, potato salad, prosciutto and salumi, flatbread and cheeses…

and then that splendid St. Honoré cake, twenty inches across, made with love by our friends at Downtown Bakery and Creamery. What a day!

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Another pizza, another couple of days…

The Ashlanders (photo: Mac Marshall) Paul Arenstam and his Margherita
Eastside Road, May 18, 2017—
YOU WILL HAVE NOTICED, Constant Reader, that things haven't been normal around here lately, whatever "normal" is around here. I've been laid up; Cook's been busier than usual tending to me; we haven't been going out much. Nothing to worry about: just an acute lower back thing. Still.

So it's been a few days of catch-as-catch-can, when it comes to the dining department. And this has been aggravated by a continuing sense of what-the-hell, of what difference does it make, as Chebutykin repeatedly says, without even the justification of a fool heading his government. (Or maybe he did. My Russian history's a bit shaky.)

But then I notice that, whether I post here regularly or not, scores of people wind up looking at this page every day, driven by Hermes knows what kind of curiosity, so why not continue to post. Yesterday, then, it was cheese and potato salad, salad left over from Monday's fine picnic out at Lou Preston's winery with the rest of the Ashlanders, four couples including us who used to gather for a week in the summertime to see and argue about a number of plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Alas, only six of the original eight remain; but they know how to have a good time…

     Grenache blanc, 2014; Red, L. Preston, 2014
Preston Farm and Winery, 9282 West Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg;707-433-3372

It's an interesting salad, lacking eggs and mayonnaise, depending on the potatoes and the water in which they're cooked to supply the binding agent, flavored with parsley, mustard, and celery — an unusual approach to a picnic standard, and one I like a lot.

Wednesday required a trip to the East Bay, and we took advantage of the trip to stop at Summer Kitchen, extending my profound research into the classic Margherita pizza. I continue to think this the best version, in my experience, this side Naples. Alas I had to wolf it down in the car with no red wine to supplement it: them's the breaks.

Summer Kitchen Bakeshop, 2944 College Ave, Berkeley; (510) 981-0538

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Monday, May 15, 2017


Eastside Road, May 14, 2017—
MOSTLY NIBBLING TODAY, at leftovers from the Thursday party I still haven't told you about, and other things: carrot, apple, cheese, that rabbit terrine…

The terrine came from the marvelous butcher shop in Petaluma, now under new ownership but just as careful and enterprising as before, perfectly bearing out the Slow Food injunctions Good, Clean, Fair.

We'd chosen Petaluma as midway point to meet Oakland friends for lunch, I chose an arugula salad with Parmesan shavings, a favorite of mine, and a Margherita pizza, because, well, that's the pizza I tend to order. The pizzas here have a thick crust and I prefer thin but that's a small matter when the dough is good, as it is here.

The basil leaves seemed absurdly big to me, but picking up a quarter of this pizza and folding it in half across the leaf made it make a certain amount of sense. The flavor was definitely basil-heavy, but the tomato sauce was good, and the (locally made) buffalo-milk mozzarella delicious. No complaints.

     Barbera, Vietti, 2014: no; no complaints at all!
Rosso Pizzeria & Mozzarella Bar, 151 Petaluma Blvd South, Petaluma; +1 (707) 772-5177
Thistle Meats, 160 Petaluma Blvd North, Petaluma; 707-772-5442

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Saturday, May 13, 2017


Eastside Road, May 12, 2017—
COOK HAS HER WAY with risotto and there are no complaints from me. The chicken stock was from the bones and restess of the store-bought roast chicken of a week or so ago; the onions were bronzed in both oil and butter, the rice cooked with a couple of Franco's sausages, special ones he makes from time to time to be put into a risotto. She crumbles them up, the sausages I mean, and adds them as the onions cook, as I believe; then the rice, cooked and stirred until the grains grow transparent around the edges; then white wine and stock, I no longer try to influence the sequence, adding stock slowly, stirring, stirring, until done.

Green salad afterward, and fruit…      Rosé, La Ferme Julien

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Friday, May 12, 2017

Catching up…

Eastside Road, May 8-10, 2017—
THESE TWO OR THREE days we've been subsisting on what I call catch-up items, both at table and in general. Our refrigerator and larder contain wonders, most of them thankfully edible, and there come times when it's best to make use of them, to consolidate, as it were, and spend the day's hours on other issues than the preparation and consumption of food.

Let one example stand for all: some leftover vignerola — it only improves with standing, like so many stews and braises — with a simple bowl of soup. Store-bought soup, no doubt about it, based on vegetable stock and red bell peppers. Cheese may have served as a course, and green salad certainly. We have our usual lunches: peanut butter on toast, an apple, a carrot or two.

     Wine, certainly…

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017


Eastside Road, May 7, 2017—
READERSHIP IS DOWN, I notice, and it's easy enough to see why: I've been to preoccupied with other things to post here with any regularity. Other things, you ask incredulously; what can possibly push aside his contemplation of food?

I won't go into it here, beyond noting the thankfully exceptional nature of the political news these days. Even so, you say, in such times is one's daily bread not of more concern than. ever? Well, yes, I can see that…

But Cook's had other more pressing work to do, and I haven't been up to handling the pots and pans, and eating out hasn't been indicated since our return from a month away. One thing that's kept us going is vignarola, that marvelous Roman (and marvelously Roman) vegetable concoction; it was Sunday's dinner, thanks to Saturday's Farm Market in Healdsburg.

You soften some chopped guanciale or pancetta or prosciutto in your skillet, and then some onion; and you add in the order in which they need cooking time artichoke, favas, and English peas; and, at the very end of cooking, mint and chopped lettuce. You want these vegetables all cooked. While in Rome a friend who shall remain nameless, a friend who knows a lot about cooking, complained that the Romans don't know how to cook peas, they always overcook them. First: Some peas need more cooking than the tender subtropical peas we find here, which can be eaten raw, pods and all.

Second: Let these flavors stew and marry. (The nature of marriage has been much on my mind these last few days; stewing, I suddenly realize, in all its senses, has a lot to do with marriage.) The individual flavors — yes, and textures — coexist in this marvelous dish, as the individual natures of all the immigrants have in Rome over the last nearly three thousand years (during which, you would think, Romans would have learned how they wanted their peas cooked, if nothing else). The result is a subtle, rich, mysterious, almost chthonic thing, like a long marriage, or a complex history.

Sunday night Cook grilled a couple of small boneless pork chops; they seemed almost infantile and innocent next to this profound vegetable stew.


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Saturday, May 6, 2017

Eating out, eating in

Carpaccio at Willi's Tuna-bean salad at home Roast chicken and potatoes
Eastside Road, May 5, 2017—
LUNCH OUT YESTERDAY with an old friend at a relatively old favorite local restaurant, where the girls were happy with their lobster rolls and I contented myself with a carpaccio, thin raw beef drizzled with mustard mayonnaise and strewn with capers and chopped chives.

     Domaine Sigalas (Santorini), 2014: sour and sulfury at first, but pleasing with the food
•Willi's Seafood & Raw Bar, 403 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg; +1 (707) 433-9191

BUT YOU KNOW? Dinner at home was better: Cook's marvelous cannellini, tuna, and onion salad, a green salad afterward.

     Rosé, La Ferme Julien, 2014

TODAY WE OPTED for take-out, something we rarely do — no one really felt like cooking. We bought a rotisserie-roasted chicken. I halved a few small potatoes and cooked them with olive oil, rosemary, unpeeled garlic cloves, and salt, moistening them along the way with a little cheap white wine. When they were done we laid half the chicken on top until it came up to serving temperature.

     Cheap Italian white wine

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Steak and salad

Eastside Road, Thursday, May 3, 2017—
SIMPLE IS GOOD. The idea originally was to grill something outside over grapevine wood, but a breeze came up, it got a little chilly (welcome, in fact), and let's just keep it simple.

So I salted this little tenderloin, rubbed a little olive oil on it, and dropped it into a hot black iron skillet, turning it once. When done, let it rest, meanwhile deglazing the pan with red wine.

I sliced it up and served it with the usual green salad, dressed with garlic, salt, oil, and vinegar. Delicious.

Tangerine and a chocolate or two for dessert.

     Var rouge, La Ferme Julien, 2014

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Catching up

Eastside Road, May 2, 2017—
TIME FOR SOME catching up, no? It's been H O T ; we've been in the mood for dining appropriately. Tonight that means a composed salad, a delicious one Cook contrived out of lettuce, Parmesan, peas, cucumber, red bell pepper, and onion, unless I'm mistaken; and basta così.

     Rosé, La Ferme Julien: dependable

YESTERDAY WE SIMPLY grazed throughout a lazy afternoon: egg salad sandwiches; tomato foccaccia from the Downtown Bakery. I do love cooked tomato!
     White wine, Carne Humana (Sonoma valley), nv: a mystery blend, a little sweet, pleasant

•Downtown Bakery and Creamery, 308A Center Street, Healdsburg; (707) 431-2719

SUNDAY DINNER: Cook asked if I had any requests, and I unhesitatingly requested Carbonara. Some Prosciutto was found in the freezer to replace guanciale we didn't have; penne replaced the more conventional spaghetti; the egg was delicious. What a fine dish this is! Green salad, of course; a tangerine and some chocolates for dessert…
     White wine, Carne Humana (holding up well in the bottle)
SATURDAY NIGHT a visiting sister took us all out — us and the neighbors down the hill — for an Indian dinner in a restaurant we hadn't really known about. After the opening shared samosas and chalapis and whatnot I moved on to a safe and familiar course, lamb vindaloo. The meat had not been salted before cooking and combining with the well-seasoned potatoes ands sauce: too bad, as this knocks the dish out of balance. Otherwise this was a very nice dish, and the samosas were particularly good.
     Pinot noir, Domaine Laurier Los Carneros, good

Yeti Restaurant, 190 Farmers Lane, Santa Rosa; +1 (707) 521-9608
WHICH TAKES US BACK to last Friday, our second day home from the trip to Rome. We celebrated with hot dogs and a Cubs game; green salad along the way somewhere.
     Zinfandel, Alvey-Sinclair (Dry Creek Valley), 2013: very sound, good varietal

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Home again

Eastside Road, April 27, 2017—
YESTERDAY WAS flight day: a beer and a sandwich at Stockholm's Arlanda airport; a "nice and tasty" supper of roast beef with gravy, mashed potatoes, and green beans with a glass of red wine on the Norwegian Airlines airplane.

But today, ah, today: Cook found a couple of Franco Dunn's Provençal sausages in the freezer and "grilled" them in a black iron skillet, cooking potatoes, unpeeled garlic cloves, and rosemary in another, and steaming some nice green beans.

Green salad afterward, and we're home.

     Zinfandel, Alvey-Sinclair (Dry Creek Valley), 2013
     Alas, I don't recall how we came by this amateur bottling; it was very good indeed

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

A final tartare…

Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 25, 2017—
AND WHAT SHALL we have for dinner, this last evening in Rome for the foreseeable future? We'd spent the afternoon walking the Gianicolo, admiring the view and the late afternoon light, and stopped in for a Negroni to commemorate the occasion, and, well, why not just stay here, and have some final aperitivi and a last battuto ?

Among the aperitivi delicious, flavor-forward tomato bruschetti and, best of all, anchovy on butter on toast with pickled lemon, truly a perfect mouthful.

This was the second time I'd had tartare here this month; tonight's was better, I thought. I liked the presentation: the chopped beef garnished with some lettuce leaves and surrounded by plit capers and dollops of mustard and balsamic honey. I admired it a few moments before taking knife and fork to it to mix it all up. This seems an important moment to me, like saying grace, or Buon appetito, or making the traditional toast before first sipping the drink: it's an acknowledgement that there's a transaction going on here between the diner and the eaten.

Anyhow a delicious accompaniment to a bittersweet occasion. Alla prossima !

     House white in carafe; Barbera d'Alba, Cascina Roccalini, 2014; botn "natural" but pleasant

•Litro, Via Fratelli Bonnet 5, Rome; +39 06 45447639

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Two of the best

Via Damaso Cerquetti, Tuesday, April 24, 2017—
BIG EATING DAYS, as we are not in the Eternal City forever. Sunday we feasted in the Italian tradition: a family dinner at a favorite trattoria at midday. There were plenty of appetizers: most memorably, filetti di baccalà and alici di Anzio (deep-fried strips of breaded salt cod and of Anzio anchovies), anchovies in oil.

I went on to penne alla carbonara, because in all these days I don't think I've had a carbonara yet. This was, predictably, very good — though I wish the pasta had been anything but penne.

     White wine in carafe
Da Cesare, Via del Casaletto, 45, Rome; +39 06 536015

TODAY we repeated the experiment but at a traditional weekday hour, 8:30, the five us seated at a quasi-outdoor table at a Slow Food-recommended place near our apartment but never before visited. (By us, I mean.)

Again, wonderful appetizers: tomato bruschetti, lively and front-of-the-tongue; baccalà croquettes; fine prosciutto from Amatrice — the proprietors of this fine place have roots in that town.

I went on to a favorite pasta, strozzapreti, in a lamb ragù sauce with little artichokes: magnificent. I had intended to eat more, but couldn't. Well, a jam crostata, never as good as they look.

     Grigeto (I think)/Malvasia, white, natural, in a pitcher: mystifying at first and a little sweet, then quickly perfectly suited to the first courses; Cesanese, Martino (Lazio), 2015, forthcoming and fruity but with good body and finish
Osteria Palmira, Via Abate Ugone 29, Rome; +39 06 58204298

I recommend both these places whole-heartedly, and hope to return.

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Ostia Antica

Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 22, 2017—
OUT TO OSTIA ANTICA today, there to stroll the ruins, visit the seaside, and lunch.

That was in the archeological preserve itself, whose tavola calda is quite acceptable. Look! Spinach! I settled for a simple plate of roast pork with a bit of carrot-flavored sauce, spinach on the side, the whole plate then put in an oven to freshen it all up.

Dinner at home: Minestrone soup.

     Red wine in the glass
•Cafeteria, Scavi Di Ostia Antica, Viale Dei Romagnoli 717, Ostia Antica, Rome; +39 337 1175780

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Roman eating

Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 21, 2017—
WE DO EAT OUT from time to time, of course. This was a long day, seven miles of walking in parks, gardens, and the Forum; not enough time to drop back to the apartment for leftovers, let alone meal preparation.

After beginning with a stroll through the Roseto, just opened, and the Orange Tree Garden, stately yet welcoming, we re-visited a place we'd enjoyed two weeks ago — not for a Martini this time; for a saltimbocca alla romana.

I must confess that neither my iPhone nor its proprietor always takes the perfect photograph, and this one has had its critic. It isn't east to convey the content of a plate with a photo. I wanted to go for a close-up.

Saltimbocca is one of those perfect combinations of already manipulated ingredients: vitello or veal, pounded thin; sage leaves; prosciutto. The meat is dredged in flour and browned in a hot pan in oil and butter; the pan is deglazed with white wine or Marsala (the latter, I think, here).

Chicken or veal stock contributes to the sauce, and there you have it. There's a recipe online. It is one of the Hundred Plates, and delicious at this place

     Pecorino da Lazio in bicchiere
•Max Roma, Viale Aventino 20, Rome; +39 06 64420669

WE FINISHED THE DAY at a restaurant I continue to like. The last time we ate here I thought it had slipped a bit, but it's bounced back, better in a sense than before

What I have here is pasta, either alla gricia or simply cacio e pepe. We began with a few antipasti, and it was these that had improved, in my memory. We five shared anchovies with lemon, oil, oregano, and chili pepper; braised vegetables; and a delicious Pecorino with honey; I went on to Spaghetti cacio e pepe: that fine Pecorino and black pepper, and basta cosí.

     Bianco di Toscana, Poggio d'Oro, 2015: quite serviceable.
•Trattoria da Lucia, Vicolo del Mattonato 2B, Rome; +39 06 5803601

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Thursday, April 20, 2017


Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 20, 2017—
YOU WOULD BE WRONG to think we complain about eating leftovers at home. We had roast and mashed potatoes, asparagus, cold roast beef, and a platter of agretti, and more of those marvelous cookies, and it was perfectly fine.      bottle ends: Grenache; Barbera

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Algerian dinner

Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 19, 2017—
ALGERIAN BY VIRTUE of the wines, primarily, and the desserts: but the roast lamb had qualities not that far removed, I think. It had a curious provenance, that lamb: it was given to us along with a huge quantity of bay leaves, rosemary, mint, and small garlic cloves by a friend whose country place we visited the other day. It was all local provender, and it was delicious. With it, asparagus and potatoes.

Hamza had just returned from a weekend in Algiers, and brought a box of extremely delicious cookies his mother had made for us, and a couple of bottles of wine:

     Rosé, Grenache and Cinsault, Fleur d'Aboukir (Algeria), nv: crisp, fruity, engaging, delicious
     Grenache, Koutoubia (Algeria), nv: full, forward, spicy

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A simple day

Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 18, 2017—
LUNCH WAS SIMPLE enough: a smallish slice of pizza, Margherita of course, in a little place on the Trilussa I've often walked past but never tried. The pizza lacked basil, but had that nice crisp Roman crust.

     Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
•Fast Food Eat Street Food, Piazza Trilussa, Rome; +39 06 580 9456

DINNER WAS ALSO relatively fast, but at home: Cook put the four P's together — pasta (in the shape of fusilli), prosciutto, peas, and pepper. The prosciutto was diced fairly fine and browned by itself, then tossed with the cooked peas and the pasta. Very nice.

     Falanghina del Beneveniano, "Terre di Sabbia," nv: cheap supermarket wine, quite nice

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Catching up

Spaghetti carbonara, C'Era una Volta
Fusilli with Sicilian pesto
Tartare at Litro
Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 18, 2017—
LAST WEEK we mostly ate at home, it seems; I don't count the daily forays to gelaterie within Eating Every Day, though one of these days I'll get around to listing the ones we've logged.

Thursday was one of the two exceptions: we met our Roman granddaughter and her beau at a neighborhood place that had been recommended, curiously, by a courtly stranger, a Roman, who approached us at the Spanish Steps and struck up a conversation. On learning we were staying near the Piazzale Dunant he advised us to dine here. Oddly, Granddaughter said she'd had the same experience a year or two earlier; it must have been the same fellow. Something to write about elsewhere.

I opened with fagiole con tonno, nicely cooked white beans and solid, flavorful tuna; and went on to a really quite delicious Carbonara. This turns out to be just what the man said (and a lot of people on TripAdvisor, for what that's worth): a neighborhood restaurant not apparently visited by tourists. Only Italian on the menu. Professional, fast waiters who've apparently been there for years. Granddaughter, though she lives nearby, had only had take-out pizza from the place; we'll all return, I'm sure.

     House white
•C'era una Volta, Piazzale Enrico Dunant 13, Rome; +39 06 536278

FRIDAY: Dinner at home: Cook bound some fusilli with store-bought and quite delicious Sicilian pesto: tomato sauce with ground almonds. Afterward, in place of salad, agretti, which I wrote about a week or so ago — bitter, sweet, spinachy, delicious with oil and lemon.
SATURDAY: STEAK TARTARE, bound correctly with raw egg and incorporating mustard and capers, garnished irrelevantly I thought with lettuce leaves and fennel fronds. We'd stopped off at this place, a favorite with Granddaughter and Beau, thinking to have just a spritzer as an apéritif, but of course I couldn't resist the tartare. Just as well: one of the best I've had.

     Prosecco, one of those "natural" wines in vogue now, muddy and incivil to my taste
Litro, Via Fratelli Bonnet 5, Rome; +39 06 45447639

EASTER SUNDAY: dinner at home. Perhaps it's here I should mention our shopping. There are greengrocers on almost every block; we like the Egyptian-run one down our street. There are two "supermarkets" across the street, as I think I've mentioned; one of them, Tigre, contains our local panficio, and the bread is really quite good.

We also buy our water, still and sparkling, at the supermarket, and our wine, which I rarely mention because it's not really interesting: inexpensive Pinot grigio, Nebbiolo, or Barbera d'Asti; occasionally a Prosecco.

For today's dinner Cook bought a good-looking beef roast which comes netted, I don't know why. I salted it all round and she put it in the oven along with quartered potatoes and then we took a walk. Alas, the oven's much faster than we thought, and both meat and potatoes were quite charred on the outside. The meat was fine, though, although well done; nicely grained and flavored. Ah well: Next time.

With it, Vignerola. What a marvelous dish! Artichokes, peas, favas, and onions, with chopped prosciutto. Very Roman, I'm told, and unmistakeable, and memorable.

And then, remembering her metier as she too rarely does these days, she whipped up a rich, silky, marvelous zabagione, amazing the grandchildren and pleasing us all. What a woman!

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April 13: Carbonara, C’era una volta April 14: Fusilli with Sicilian pesto; agreti April 15: Tartare, Litro April 16: Rpast beef and vignerolo April 17: Dinner in the country

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Midday out; supper in

Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 12—
LUNCH TODAY IN A PLACE recommended by our daughter, and what a nice venue it is. A small dining room in front with a table big enough for the three of us; no need to investigate the dining room further back. Many delicious items to look at. A very capable and interesting woman in charge, and decent serving-girls, I hope I can still call them, at my age.

We ate simply, first splitting a bruschetta of mortadella, pistachios, and honey mustard, with parsley leaves on the side. I went on to a variation of a niçoise: beautiful tuna, black and niçoise olives, capers, nice lemon wedges, lettuce of course, and thinly sliced fennel.

We could not resist a tiramisu to end the meal, and I don't know when I've had one smoother, very discreetly dusted with chocolate, a thin biscotti at bottom, unctuous custard between. I think we will return.

     Chablis (!) in carafe, half a liter, very true to type
•Caffè Novecento, Via del Governo Vecchio 12d, Rome; +39 06 6865242

AT HOME THEN we needed only a bowl of minestrone, which Cook produced with customary authority out of beans, carrots, potatoes, sausage, and I know not what else: it was excellent.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

At home again

Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 11, 2017—
DINING AT HOME again: but not our home; that of a granddaughter and fiancé. Apples fall not far from trees; her cooking recalls her mother's, whose recalls hers…

And so we began with some delicious stuffed olives and taralli, those unrefusable savory little crackerlike things; and then moved on to a light supper of fusilli tossed with broccolini slow-cooked with a little red pepper. Dinner and conversation so engrossing I forgot to take any photos…

     "Pizzicanti," white sparkling wine, Sicily, nv: crisp and easy
     Pinot nero, Altùris (Venezia Giulia), 2015: light, fruity, pleasant

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Getting back to normal…

Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 10, 2017—
WE DINE IN tonight, deliciously, on a familiar dish, penne rigate in red sauce. Cook chopped fine a thick slice of prosciutto and browned diced onion and some garlic in it, then added a jar of factory-made tomato sauce. (I could find no canned tomatoes in the supermarket; I think they are not used here in Italy. Makes sense.) Toward the end, I think, she added the finely chopped tops of a bulb of fennel.

The reet of the fennel, chopped to finger-usable chunks, for salad. A fine stay-at-home.

     Nebbolo d'Alba, Morando, 2012: not holding up well in the opened bottle…

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Perhaps I am eating unwisely…

Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 9, 2017—

YESTERDAY WAS A LOVELY day, not that all these days haven't given us the best of weather. Like all last week, the day got off very late indeed; we weren't able to get to lunch until almost 2:30. When we did it was delicious but, given my somewhat compromised state, overwhelming. There was a carciofo alla romana to begin with, one doesn't want to pass that up; there was a cannolini stuffed with brandade, you never pass up brandade. Hamza ordered a burrata for the table and I must say it was extraordinary: smooth, supple, rich rich rich. I partook of too much of that.

My main purpose, though, was a fettuccini with asparagus, those thin rather bitter almost wild asparagus you get this time of year. Very nice pasta, dense and well cooked; and for the first time so far I was unable to finish my plate. What a wimp.

     White wine in carafe
Trattoria da Teo, Piazza dei Ponziani 7A, Rome; +39 06 5818355

TODAY, SUNDAY, we traipsed around the flea market at Porta Portese, no longer as interesting but then what is, and then repaired to a place new to me, stylish, spacious, inviting. I tried to eat more wisely and ordered nothing but vegetables: agretti and puntarelli. Agretti (Salsola soda), whose common English name, acc. Wikipedia, is "opposite-leaved saltwort," is a curious plant indeed; it tastes, to me, like spinach with a bit of seaweed mixed in, and is quite pleasant.

Particularly when paired off with puntarelle, that typically Roman salad of chicory stripped of its leaves, the stalks set to chill in ice water until they curl, then dressed with anchovy and olive oil.

But of course I couldn't resist ordering a pizza margherita, that's what we're here for, extending the world of margherita. I could only eat a couple of slices. Very good: not Neapolitan, but very good.

     Dolcetto d'Alba, Sandrone, 2014: quite good
Emma, Via del Monte della Farina 28, Rome; +39 06 64760475

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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Meat and lighter

Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 8, 2017—
THURSDAY BEGAN BADLY: a long tram ride beginning with and imbroglio and ending in frustration when a consulate office closed just as we got there. Then came another long ride, this time in H's car, almost an hour in traffic.

But the we were in Eataly, that commercial temple to the best of (commercial) Italian gastronomical produce. I must say Rome's version seems less intricately fascinating than Torino's, perhaps because it is more spacious. But the general model prevails: displays of fresh and boxed and canned foodstuffs, a bakery, a café, lots of beer, wine, and spirits… and restaurants featuring these things.

I see that the previous paragraph neglects cheese, fish, and meat. Never fear. Feeling a bit weak — we've been eating decently, but I've not been in the best health for the last week — I thought I'd go to the meat restaurant, though the Contessa opted for the fish. (Fortunately the table was between: they like to make things easy for you here.)

I began with a tartare, of course, chopped sweet fresh Fassolone beef from Piemonte on a bed of clean crisp arugula. Curiously, I think, that's a dark olive tapenade on top, incorporating a nod toward shallots. I still think the optimal service of tartare presents the meat neat, centered, raw egg on top, relishes surrounding. But the world is many things.

The Contessa had her bronzino, but I stayed with my beef: the tagliata. The waiter didn't ask how I wanted it cooked, always a good sign. It was cooked perfectly, nothing added but a bit of olive oil and crystals of good clean salt, served with a mesclun salad. Oil and vinegar on the table, of course.

     Nero d'Avola, "Nero di Lupo", Azienda Agricola COS (Sicily): delicious, like everything from this source

•Eataly Rome, Piazzale 12 Ottobre 1492, Roma; +39 06 90279201

For supper, then, at home, simply some egg salad.

YESTERDAY BEGAN SIMILARLY: the consulate was at least open, but denied my request. Ah, bureaucracy. I slunk home again, an hour on the bus, and had some crudités and fruit for solace, with a light Fernet-soda.

The afternoon walkabout took us to Trastevere where a spritzer refreshed us and where we found a favorite shop, a Sard pastaficio. Much has changed in Trastevere in recent years, but this place has been a constant for thirty-one years, and looks secure for as long as I'll be likely to need it.

There we bought little semicircular ravioli filled with meat in ragú, and at home Cook boiled them up and served them with butter and grated Parmesan. You can't do a lot better than that. I'll try to get a photo of the pastaficio next time, and maybe even its name and address; it's on the Via del Moro, across the street from Mama Pasta (and having nothing to do with it, I'm sure).

     Nebbiolo d'Alba, Morando, 2012: an inexpensive bottle bought at the supermarket across the street, and very good it is.

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Lessons not learned

Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 5, 2017—
NOT THAT MANY YEARS ago we found a delightful trattoria just far enough away from the Piazza Navona to be safe from the mobs — the clientele seemed to be locals happy with a small menu of typical Roman entries. After a quick dodge through a jam-packed Campo de' Fiori and Pantheon, the shorts-and-T-shirt crowd at the Piazza Navona — I'm beginning to realize April just before Easter is not a good time to visit the seat of Christianity — we fell upon this refuge once more, about two o'clock in the afternoon.

The place has been much remodelled, opened up, brightened, and discovered. I was already disgruntled by the crowds and the noise, and two dashing young priests soberly discussing their menus in German, then eating their pizzas with knife and fork and washing it down with Coca-Cola at the next table didn't help, nor did the angry baby a couple of table away. I am too old and, I suspect you'll say, too snobbish for this. I don't know if I'll return.

But maybe I will: the meal was good. I started with a nice big carciofa alla Romana, a half artichoke boiled, then served on a pool of oil; and continued with a fine fettuccine alla grigia, wonderful thick house-made pasta quite al dente, generously sprinkled with fine thick strips of pancetta, dressed with good pecorino cheese. I think this was one of the best interpretations of the dish I've had.

> We lingered in spite of the noise for a macedonia, a refreshing tumble of orange, apple, pineapple, kiwi, and strawberry, lightly sweetened. A fine lunch.

     Ribolla Gialla, La Tunella (Friuli Colli Orientali), 2016: yes yes yes.
•Da Francesco, Piazza del Fico 29, Rome; +39 06 6864009

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Eating in Roscioli's black box

Via Damaso Cerquetti, April 4, 2017—

A LATE START and a quick ramble to the Campo de' Fiori, where I had my hair cut by a favorite barber, and then lunch in the remarkable inside room at Roscioli. There's a three-sided counter open at the end facing the bar; I suppose each side has room for five, maybe six high stools. It was so late we basically ate alone.

The room is severe and seductive, black, magically lit; the bar a marvelous still life of luminous bottles — an alchemist's laboratory.

The contessa and I each ordered the Niçoise, here called Nizzarda: potatoes, tiny tomatoes, green beans, artichoke, tuna, hard-cooked egg, anchovies, olives and capers — and, of course, lettuce. As you see one might object to the expertise behind the hard-boiled egg, but the salad was generous and well balanced.

Before it, a delightful amuse-guele: a tiny piece of cracker, let's call it, with soft ricotta and tiny tomato and honey.

     Pecorino, Castello di Semivicoli - Masciarelli (Abruzzi), 2015: fruity and pleasant

•Roscioli Caffè, Piazza Benedetto Cairoli 16, Rome; +39 06 89165330

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