Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Biscuits and bucatini

breakfast
Eastside Road, June 12, 2017—
PACKAGED FOODS are not that big a part of our diet, Constant Reader will have noticed. But when we checked into our beautifully equipped Airbnb apartment in Rome, ten weeks ago, among the things stocking the kitchen was a bag of special cookies. Well, I call them "biscuits," to assuage possible guilt about having one at breakfast. Campagnole , they're called, made by Mulino Bianco. I don't recommend specific products lightly. These are delicious.

In fact they soon became indispensable to breakfast, and I never ate them at any other time. Just one, one biscuit, every morning, even before the toast, with my first coffee. I replenished the supply before leavig, but there was half a bag or so left, so I stuck that into muy inside jacket pocket, pulling it out at breakfast time on the airplane. Our fourteen-year-old grandson noticed. Brilliant, he said, earning one for himself.

It occurred to me the other day that it should be possible to find them on the Internet, or what's an Internet good for? And, yes, there they were, available my mail from an online import specialist in Carlsbad, California. And what else did this fine place offer? Bucatini !

Bucatini are one of my favorite pastas: long spaghetti-like shapes, tubes with typically thick walls. This particular brand is very nice indeed, long pieces doubled back on themselves like a giraffe's croquet wicket, and made, the label tells us, of nothing but semolina durum flour and water. They cook up dense and toothy and really quite flavorful: I'm sure we'll keep some on hand from now on.

This bucatini is made by Gragnano ("Città della pasta", city of pasta), and they take fifteen minutes to cook. They are serious, old-fashioned pasta, extruded through the traditional bronze dies, according to the label, and cut to length, almost two feet long, doubled back, and hung on dowels to dry — hence the horseshoe-shape. (The label advises you break "the little arches" before cooking.)

Cook made her red sauce — Franco's sausage, only a little; her tomato sauce; a can of tomatoes for good measure, and a few anchovies. Rich, deep, and very satisfying, this sauce, and bucatini the perfect pasta for it. Green salad afterward, and fruit…

     🍷The rest of the not perfectly satisfactory Gattinara

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Rieslings!

Eastside Road, June 11, 2017—
ANOTHER LAZY Sunday: we'd hoped to entertain guests on the patio, but it's chilly and breezy. Oh well: let's move indoors.

And wouldn't you know: guests brought the picnic with them! A fine array of salume and cheese; olives; foie gras; breads; fresh cherries. And the wines! Magnificent! Thanks so much, John and Susan!

Dessert: Cook made a peach crisp, with a float of lightly whipped cream.

     🍷Riesling Spätlese, Wehlener Sonnemuhr, Dr. Loosen, 2005 (1);
       Riesling, Eiswein, Josef Rosch, 1999 (!), in half bottle

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Saturday market

Eastside Road, June 10, 2017—

Gail Okamura, Dry Creek Peaches

Middleton Gardens
MARKET DAY. Peaches from Gayle; strawberries from Lou, lettuces from Burt and Mary, sausage from Franco, fish from the fish stall which I'm still not entirely sold on, favas from Middleton Gardens.

Then home for egg salad sandwiches with friends who'd driven up for a visit; and then Cook's dinner: Petrale sole lightly breaded and fried; favas on the side. Wasn't last Saturday's dinner exactly the same? Probably. Why not?

Green salad; sliced peaches and ice cream.      🍷Cheap bianco, Grifone, nv

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Birthday dinner

Eastside Road, June 9, 2017—
FINALLY TONIGHT I got around to cooking Cook's birthday dinner — two days late. I'd prepped everything two days ago, but other things intruded…

I grilled the lamb chops outside over grapevine cuttings, first grill of the year. Inside, I pan-roasted the little potatoes with nothing but oil and salt, and after lightly browning some cipollini I steamed them with fresh garden peas. Green salad afteward.

     🍷Gattinara, Franco Patriarca (Piemonte), 2012: a bit of a disappointment

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Dinner chez P.

Berkeley, June 8, 2017—
DINNER IN THE CAFÉ with friends tonight, and a generous dinner it was. I'll say no more about it: the photo speaks for itself.

     🍷SP68 Rosso, Arianna Occhipinti (Sicily), 2015: perfect.
•Café Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510-548-5525

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Peaches

Eastside Road, June 7, 2010—
BIRTHDAY DINNER for Cook, so she got the day mostly off. We drank Cava and dined deliciously on anchovies and butter, three different cheeses, olives, and more than I remember; and afterward, at home, a plate of fine sliced peaches with some praline… Thanks, Giovanna!

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday…

Eastside Road, June 7, 2017—
SUNDAY WE SIMPLY sat around on the patio with friends, nibbling at salami and mixed nuts, radishes and bread, and then had a quick salad before rushing off to a movie with another friend, and then at her house had a strawberry shortcake. Strawberries with drop biscuits and whipped cream: a marvelous concoction.
MONDAY WAS HOMINY day — one of Franco's sausages crumbled into the skillet, chopped onions added, a can of hominy.

Dessert: Lou's strawberries, with vanilla ice cream. I never liked strawberries until a few years ago; they never had any flavor. The farmers around here are growing newer varieties with flavor, what a fine idea, and growing them without poisons. So we eat strawberries, happily.

     🍷Cheap Sangiovese


YESTERDAY COOK TURNED to the pantry again for another fairly quick dinner: her favorite whole wheat penne in red sauce — again, sausage crumbled into the skillet, onions, tomato sauce she'd canned last fall. Green salad afterward — for a change, I mashed an anchovy into the dressing. Delicious. And then a tangerine.
     🍷Cheap Primitivo

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Market day

Eastside Road, June 3, 2017—
SATURDAY, ERGO MARKET. Lettuces from Burt and Mary; garlic from Yael, radishes from Renee; strawberries from Lou; peaches from Gail; favas from Middleton. Basket runneth over.

Dinner: Petrale sole, lightly floured and pan-fried in butter; favas on the side; green salad after.      🍷Cheap bianco

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Back to Portugal

Eastside Road, June 2, 2017—
DINNER WAS SO GOOD last night I decided to have lunch today in the same spot, and this time I did have salt cod — three nicely formed and fried balls of bacalhau, prettily but not overly fussily arranged on a plate. And I split a "salada portuguesa": chopped kale, linguiça, corn bread croutons, local São Jorge cheese, anchovy vinaigrette. Such a nice place.      🍷Tons de Duorum (Duoro), 2015
Cafe Lucia, 235 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg, California; +1 (707) 431-1113
Leaving room for a simple dinner while watching another Cubs game on television: a perfect hot dog with Cook's delicious potato salad.

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Portuguese

Healdsburg, June 1, 2017—
THIS IS A PLACE we've liked on every visit, but we keep overlooking it — partly because we don't often dine in our own town, since we eat out so often when we're traveling; partly because it's off the street out of sight and therefore, as the saying goes, out of mind.

And lately the approach to its downtown block has been torn up, and will likely remain so for another year, for the conversion of a complicated five-way intersection involving also a railroad track and an underground creek into a more rational roundabout. It's in fact quite simple to negotiate this in your car, but it apparently looks fearsome to the tourists.

Portuguese, therefore salt cod, yes? But at the last minute I decided I needed more nourishment, so turned to a traditional dish I remember very fondly from a wonderful place we encountered years ago in the boonies in Northern California — alas, since closed. This would be your ovo a cavallo "egg on horseback" or, basically, steak-'n'-eggs: a grilled New York tenderloin (done here just a shade less rare than I like) on a pile of grilled onions with French fries.

But first, a triplet of starters: delicious yellow lupini beans; innocent tender boquerones; a marvelous house-made linguiça. Oh, and before that, the amuse-bouche: a cold shooter of clear tomato broth with a tiny chunk of Serrano ham and a float of good olive oil.

Dessert: Rice pudding, stenciled with cinnamon, with a candied dried fig in syrup on the side. What a delicious, simple, refreshing dinner. Want to know where to eat in Healdsburg? Here.

     🍷Tons de Duorum (Duoro), 2015: serious but refreshing and agreeable;
            Quinta de la Rosa,(Douro), 2012 (!), perfect

Cafe Lucia, 235 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg, California; +1 (707) 431-1113

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Another Margherita

Eastside Road, May 31, 2017—
ANOTHER CATCH-UP post: these have been disorderly days for some reason. (Partly because my usual blogging software is on the fritz, which annoys me greatly.)

Wednesday last, May 31, we continued the great Margherita survey. Well, I did: the Contessa has something much more complicated, involving her favorite — mushrooms — and perhaps sausage; I don't know; I didn't share; I rarely do. With the pizza, a simple arugula salad with shaved Parmesan cheese.

I think I've narrowed it down now, at least as far as this county is concerned. This was a very good pizza, but so is the one from Diavolo in Geyserville. Maybe some day this summer I'll have the two side by side, or as nearly as a twenty-four mile separation permits.

     🍷Barbera, Andrea Orberto Piedmont, 2015
Rosso Pizzeria and Wine Bar,, 53 Montgomery Drive, Santa Rosa, California ; +1 (707) 544-3221

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Turf and Surf


Sunday steak

Monday steak
Eastside Road, May 30, 2017—
SUNDAY SEEMED TO ME to be a steak-and-potatoes day, so I bought a one-pound New York cut beefsteak and seared it in a hot black iron skillet. I browned the potatoes in olive oil, then added water to finish them in steam, laying a couple of split spring onions on top. This is a favorite meal of mine: simple, quick, tasty.

Of course a pound of beefsteak is too much for us for a single meal, so Cook served almost exactly the same dinner the next night, substituting sliced fennel for the onions. Delicious.

     🍷Carignan, Preston of Dry Creek


TONIGHT COOK TURNED toward the sea and made a Manhattan fish chowder. In a small bit of butter, she says, she softened chopped onions, potatoes, and carrots; then added clam juice, rock cod, garlic, a can of tomatoes and some tomato paste, and, at the end, a bit of thyme. Very nice indeed.

At all three dinners, green salad, tangerine, a bit of chocolate.

     🍷Cheap bianco d'Italia, Grifone

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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Fish day

Eastside Road, May 27, 2017—
FARM MARKET TODAY, hence fish day. Cook found a nice chunk of tombo tuna to grill in the oven, cooking it with capers and parsley and basting with lemon juice. With it, favas; afterward, green salad, then vanilla ice cream and blackberries. Summer's nearly here!

     🍷Cheap bianco d'Italia

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Penne, tomato sauce

Eastside Road, May 26, 2017—
COOK CAME TO the sudden realization that a) it had been a while since we'd had tomato sauce b) there are a lot of jars of it in the pantry. The logical answer, since tomato season will be upon us before you know it, was to have a simple supper of penne in red sauce. She browned some hamburger and onions, cooked the pasta, combined it all, and Bob, as the brits say, 's your uncle.

     🍷Carignan, Preston of Dry Creek: rich and fruity

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Hamburger at Zuni

Eastside Road, May 25, 2017—
DROVE DOWN TO The City today, as we old-timers call it, there to see a museum show, and afterward instead of driving home through commute-hour traffic we decided to stop at a favorite place for a Martini and dinner.

No photos today. The hamburger -- thick, juicy, and politically correct -- is served on a rectangular foccaccia-like bun, with pickled onions and mustard-pickle chips, and it's good. Before, a simple arugula salad with toasted almonds and a clean vinaigrette; with, shoestring french fries. Total satisfaction.

     🍷Barbaresco
•Zuni Café, 1658 Market Street, San Francisco; +1 (415) 552-2522

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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.

     🍷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.

     🍷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.

     🍷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…

     🍷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.

     🍷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.

     🍷Bottle-ends: Cheap Italian white; Primitivo

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Hamburger

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.)

     🍷Rouge, La Ferme Julien

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Anniversary

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.

     Cava

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…

     Rosé
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

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Pizza

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

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Risotto

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

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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

Vignerola

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.

     Zinfandel

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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

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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

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

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

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

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