Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Dutch heart

Förlorade ägg at Broder Nord
Portland, January 30, 2017—

WE CONTINUE TO EAT fairly light today, but with interest. Our usual Portland breakfast: toast and cappuccino — our daughter's household has its espresso machine, an Olympia Coffex machine that I bought for them many years ago at Zabar, in New York City, certainly before 1996, when I was last there. (Pavel, an engineer, has managed to keep the machine in good condition ever since.)

Lunch was taken a ten-minute walk away from the house, at a Scandinavian-inspired restaurant we like. Here I had Förlorade ägg, "lost eggs": ham, eggs sunny-side-up, on a bed of spinach, with Parmesan cheese and cream, baked in its own little black iron skillet, then gratinéed with bread crumbs.

On the side, Raggmunk, a delicious potato pancake made with chopped scallions. I began lunch with a Fernet-soda (ah there), and after lunch we all had a nice hot digestive: mine a "Dutchmen's Heart": genever, Campari, orgeat, honey, and lemon juice, heated with the steam wand at the espresso machine.

Broder Nord, 2240 North Interstate Avenue, Portland; +1 (503) 282-5555

BY DINNER TIME, tired and depressed at the day's news, we wanted nothing but simplicity and a degree of entertaining comfort. Monday Night Pizza! There were four of us, so we ordered two: a Margherita, because one must; and a fennel-sausage-and-onion, with fresh arugula heaped on top. We split a decent (though innocent of anchovies) Caesar salad, too. The Margherita was authentically Neapolitan: delicious.

Rosso, Ippolito "Liber Pater Cirò" (Calabria): a perfect pizza wine

Ken's Artisan Bakery, 338 NW 21st Avenue, Portland; +1 (503) 248-2202

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017


Monday, January 30, 2017

Back more or less to normal

Portland, January 29, 2017—

BREAKFAST AS YESTERDAY, and while at Mix, why not get one of those delicious ham-on-buttered-baguette sandwiches for the drive north to Portland? Mix makes the baguette, and flavors the butter with fresh thyme — always a staple for us on this Oregon drive.

Mix Bakeshop, 57 North Main Street, Ashland, Oregon; +1 (541) 488-9885 Dinner at home: Penne with anchovies and garlic in a light tomato sauce. Green salad afterward.

Beaujolais Villages, "La Chanaise," Dominique Piron, 2015: pleasant
RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Ashland, next day

Ashland, Oregon, January 28, 2017—

THE DAY AFTER a big, rich, complex, utterly engrossing dinner is usually a day to take it easy — at least for me, at my age. So breakfast was our usual Ashland version: a fine butter croissant and a perfectly good Stumptown cappuccino at Mix.

Mix Bakeshop, 57 North Main Street, Ashland, Oregon; +1 (541) 488-9885

By lunchtime some of us were wanting beer, of all things. It's not a beverage I tend toward, but if it's hot and dry and I've been working hard a beer is just the thing. Of course that wasn't the case yesterday: but another condition applied: the stomach was a little unsettled, and no Fernet-soda was in the vicinity.

So we found ourselves at a familiar place, where I had a familiar basic meal: this Greek Salad. It's a salad I've loved since my college days (Los Angeles, 1952). I always think of it as supremely healthful: cheese, red onion, lettuce of course, olives, feta cheese. At this place you get two kinds of dressing: a pretty good tzatziki; something else that's apparently raspberry-flavored. There's a nice grilled flatbread on the side.

Citrine Pale ("Citrus Aromas, Tropical Fruit & Citrus Peel Flavors, Medium Body"), just the restorative I'd wanted

Standing Stone Brewing Company, 101 Oak Street, Ashland; +1 (541) 482-2448

After an afternoon of lazy poking around, none of us was still particularly hungry. It was Saturday, though, and it seemed a good idea to have a Martini. We were lucky: the downtown hotel made a particularly good one, and sent out cashews and hazelnuts and some maple-bacon-Brussels sprouts. I like my Martini three to one, up, with a twist, and that's what I got. Bombay gin; Vya vermouth.

Larks, 212 East Main Street, Ashland; +1 (541) 488-5558

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Weekend in Ashland

The kids
Ashland, Oregon, January 29, 2017—

TWENTY YEARS AGO we celebrated our fortieth anniversary, the Contessa and I, by getting all the family together for a weekend here. The highlight: dinner at one of the Five Restaurants, a concept I'll get to in a moment.

At the time there were fifteen of us in three generations. Since then another grandson has arrived, and three great-grandchildren. The cousins are spread far and wide and it's no longer really possible to get them all together. Tempus fugit, and ou sont les neiges.

But Friday night there were nine of us at table at a very favorite restaurant, that same one: all three kids and their mates, and that youngest grandson, still celebrating his fourteenth birthday, actually marked the day before.

Digression on The Five Restaurants

The Five Restaurants were assembled, in my mind, many many years ago: the irreducible Five, my favorite places for food, wine, company, conversation, and comfort. They were Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Il Vipore outside Lucca, Stephanie's in Melbourne, Obelisk in Washington D.C., and Placemarker.

I haven't been back to Washington in years and have no idea if Obelisk is still as good as it was, or even still in business. Il Vipore and Stephanie's are long since closed. Placemarker will never close, of course. The original idea was that it would be your favorite place, dear reader, or perhaps an emergency temporary top favorite of mine, embarrassingly forgotten about when the list was being considered.

Let's look back at favorite restaurants from the distant past. Troisgros and Pic in the French southeast. Au Pied du Fouet in Paris, and, why not, L'Ecurie, though it's a modest place. Giannino’s in Milan. Stephanie’s and Il Vipore joined the Mighty Five in that time, the 1980s. Then, in the 90s, we began traveling more. Het Pomphuis opened in Ede, Netherlands, and was an unquestionable Five, displacing Obelisk since work no longer took me go Washington. Alas Pomphuis lasted only a few years, but Marius in Amsterdam took its place in our hearts.

In those days I wrote letters to a few friends about our travels. The list grew to forty or fifty recipients, too many for the e-mail services I found in those days at provincial hotels or village libraries, and since I'd set up a website, I don't now recall just why, It occurred to me to post travel journals there. (You can still find some of them here, though I hope one day to make drastic revisions to that website.)

Later on, in March 2008, I began writing this blog with a post on anchovies. Slowly my thoughts about dining, including specifically about dining in restaurants, began to evolve differently. I'm sure many potential followers drop away because I neglect so many aspects of restaurant dining here: prices to begin with; ambience; service; menu and wine list — I'm interested in the food, its flavors and textures, the recipe as it connected to place or history or season; to an extent the hand that goes into executing the recipe. But the near-daily routine of adding usually short posts to this blog then eroded the writing, and Eating Every Day is more a personal eating-diary than any serious kind of food journalism.

Still, there are those Five Restaurants. How to approach them? Does the list change depending on where I am, so that in Rome, for example, or Stockholm, or Los Angeles, I'll be sure to find one? Perhaps. In a way.

Or is it a community of ideal restaurants we have known, which continue to represent a kind of standard by which new encounters can be measure, a community which can then expand on those lucky days that a new find measures up? In a way. Perhaps.

End of digression

THERE ARE FEW GREATER pleasures than basking in the company of progeny. My Companion and I sat centered at the kong table, our three adult children across from us, in-laws at our sides. We were at the same favorite restaurant, though in the meantime a new dining room had been attached to it; the same friends were our host and chef-hostess. We ordered from the menu, which features a table d'hôte but can also be ordered from à la carte; the wines were suggested by our host, who knows his wines, particularly French wines.

We ate by candlelight, which is not conducive to photography (though in general it flatters our faces), so you will find no photos here of our food — instead, I'll simply set the menu descriptions of my courses. We began off the menu, though, with amuses-bouches: mine a dolma filled with ricotta and, I think, pine nuts.

Champagne, Moutard-Diligent, Brut Rosé

Cuvaison, nv

Then, Grilled toast with hot green tomato jam, bufala mozzarella, and frontoio olive oil, and a broth bowl of broccolini radicchio cannellini beans kumquats and pickled red onions

Sancerre, La Côte des Monts Damnés, 2014: Sauvignon blanc as it evolved to be treated: clean, direct, complex, herbal, charming

"Beeler's" pork shoulder boned, stuffed, rolled, and slow roasted, with vegetables, black beans, and hominy in a spicy stew, and a tiny cabbage-carrot salad with cilantro, pumpkin seeds, radish, and green onions.

Cahors, Clos Triguedina, Jean-Luc Baldès, 2010: rich, mature, balanced, rather deep, rewarding

Bittersweet chocolate cake with chocolate, orange, and ají amarillo (moderately spicy) mousse layers, and vanilla bean/orange brandy ice cream

CS with Pavel
CS; son-in-law on his right
photo: Ivo Shere (edited)

The chef, Charlene Rollins, is one of a few women I think of as masters (anciennement I might have written "mistresses")

of the braise: slow moist cooking of (usually) meat with (usually) many flavorings. Since I've been reminiscing, let me mention two others, to make a troika: Amaryll Schwertner of Boulette's Larder; Loretta Keller of Bizou (both restaurants in San Francisco, Bizou now alas closed)

Charlene's particular genius lies in combining a great many ingredients in these dishes — let's call them ragoûts; the French word derives from ragoûter, meaning: "to revive the taste") without the individual textures going mushy, and keeping the many tastes in balance. One of my stupid kitchen rules forbids more than five ingredients in any one dish: that rule never applies here.

Every course was delicious on its own terms, and combined effortlessly in a successful succession of courses — even the repetition of beans was pleasing, not dull. I won't try to investigate each course, but I can't help noting that the pork shoulder took me back to a meal very dimly remembered from April 1975, when I first tasted cocina yucateca at a restaurant called El Faisan, where pumpkin seeds, spices, and peppers combined in a way I'd never before experienced, in a cuisine that seemed more Indian (I mean the subcontinent) than "Mexican". (I suppose El Faisan was one of the original Five Restaurants.)

CakeLet me mention, too, that dessert — also, now I think about it, vaguely Mexican; the combination of chocolate and pepper showed up in a mole at El Faisan. This was a very moist cake, almost a zuppa inglese; the cake and mousse were in perfectly calculated balance, the orange-flavor component negotiated the jump in textures and temperatures between cake and ice cream; the chocolate sauce literally grounded both to the plate. Charlene's cooking is nothing if not intelligent, as well as all its other virtues.

New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro, 2210 South Pacific Highway, Talent, Oregon; +1 (541) 535-2779

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:

2016      2015     2017

Friday, January 27, 2017

Lamb; sardines; soup

Bean soup

Eastside Road, January 26, 2017—

LAMB LAST NIGHT, and happy to have it. It was the daily special at this place, always dependable, a sort of American bistro with a full bar (the Martini wasn't bad). Roast leg of lamb with mint, very traditional; little white beans with it, and — what? Don't recall. Too much talking; we were there with a friend. We're all distracted these days; distressed and distracted.

•Monti's, 714 Village Court, Santa Rosa, California; 707-568-4404

LUNCH TODAY: sardine and onion sandwich. The fish was canned of course, and very good — it had been a Christmas present, in fact, so you know it was special. Canned sardine, thin-sliced white onion, with a bit of green fennel-frond: a fine lunch. Apple; cookie.

SUPPER: BEAN SOUP, made from fagiolini del Trasimeno : delicious, rather smoky-flavored, rich little red and varicolored beans from a Slow Food convivium, brought home last fall and neglected until now. Well, the soup, and before it a tiny bit of leftover beef stew. We'll feast tomorrow. Oh: green salad, tangerine, cookies.

Rouge du Var, La Ferme Julien

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Pork chops

IMG 3831

Eastside Road, January 23, 2017—

WE LIKE GRILLED pork chops around here, but now and then it's nice to do something a little different. I browned them in a little olive oil in the black iron skillet; then added three or four small purple potatoes I'd sliced up, and three or four cipollini ditto. After they'd browned a bit I added a good slug of white wine and salt and covered the pan.

Toward the end I threw in a small handful of chopped savory. Cook took care of steaming the broccolini. Green salad afterward, a tangerine, a slice of the Christmas stollen.

Cheap Pinot grigio

YESTERDAY WE MET a couple of friends in a neighboring town, after the Sunday market, for lunch. They suggested a place new to us, and it was really very nice — installed in the footprint of a former Foster Freeze, but brought snazzily into the 21st century. The menu is small and runs to fish, hence the name: but I had a fine taco al pastor, so rich and hearty I didn't want dinner later on.

Local pilsener on tap

•Handline Restaurant, 935 Gravenstein Highway, Sebastopol; 707-829-1977

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:

2016      2015     2017

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Clams and sausage

Clams and sausage

Eastside Road, January 21, 2017—

FROM THE TOO READILY maligned Martha Stewart, by way of her magazine, another fine meal, a "pan roast" involving clams, sweet Italian sausage, fennel, leek, potatoes, tarragon, and Pernod.

We'd been in Berkeley the day before, and we try not to visit that town without dropping in at Monterey Fish, whose provender we've always trusted implicitly. Cook bought a couple of pounds of clams there, and they rode home on ice, happy, as they say, as clams.

This was a remarkable dish, beautifully integrated in flavor and textures, bound by the Pernod, deepened by the tarragon. We ate it all up, then went on to the greeen salad, and the tangerines…

Rouge, Var, La Ferme Julien, 2015

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Lunch in the café


Berkeley, January 20, 2017—

WE DECIDED TO TRY to ignore the most public events of the day, at least while they actually transpired, and met a friend for lunch instead. In sadness, to the table. What a fine festive meal!

We began with a half dozen Miyagi oysters on the half shell. They come with a mignonette, but I rarely go there: I prefer oysters as fresh and forward as these nature, just their own sweet selves.

I turned next to this imnperfectly photographed salad: sliced beets and fennel in a bagna cauda vinaigrette with perfectly hard-cooked egg and some miner's lettuce leaves, with just the right addition of chopped black truffle.

This was, by agreement with the Contessa, the principle meal of the day, so I finished with duck breast with Ojibwe wild rice, rapini, and "salsa di dragoncello." This wild rice is not your usual one: it seems shorter-grained, nuttier, less processed somehow. A good match to the duck, which always seems to me too meaty to go with rice — but then, I'm a potato-eater, it's in my genes.


In any case, the duck was nicely cooked, just enough, and the long-cooked rapini made a fine side dish.

Dessert: an apple galette with a few sour cherries to give added texture and flavor, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Can't ask for more than that!

Rossese di Albenga, U Bastiò Biovio (Italy), 2014: fresh and forthcoming

•Café Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510-548-5049

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Friday, January 20, 2017

That barley

IMG 3760

Eastside Road, January 19, 2017—

IT MAKES A FAIRLY frequent appearance on our table, Frequent Visitor will know: Marion Cunningham's barley risotto, made with shallots and butter. This is one of those happy dishes depending on Elective Affinities, like lamb, rosemary, and garlic.

And after the green salad (and surely oil, vinegar, and salt is another example) we had another for dessert: vanilla ice cream with applesauce. If buttered bread and applesauce deserves a name — apple Charlotte — then this dish, even simpler and more domestic, deserves one to. Unfortunately I'm not in a poetic mood at the moment. When the name strikes me, I'll let you know.

Rouge du Var, La Ferme Julien

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:

2015           2016     (no 2017 to report yet!)

That Sicilian stew

IMG 3748
Eastside Road, January 18, 2017—

THE LAST SERVING of that magnificent "Sicilian Beef Stew." May it soon return!

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016
(2015 restaurants)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Les restes, and penne

Eastside Road, January 16, 2017—

I FAILED TO POST yesterday, not because we didn't eat, after all it was Sunday, but because what we ate I'd written about previously. Yes, there was still some of that delicious beef stew left, the Sicilian one. It made me think about how many fine stews there are to be made.

When we were first married, nearly sixty years ago, there was a restaurant in Berkeley called The Stew Den, in a basement on a footpath between Bancroft and Durant avenues. I don't think I ever ate there — I rarely ate out in those days. I think they served nothing but stews; maybe salads too. I think you could serve nothing but stew in the winter months and still run a pretty interesting little bistro, but I'm not going to do it.

TONIGHT WE BEGAN with another leftover — les restes sounds more attractive, doesn't it? — the last of that fine bean soup Cook came up with last week, the one with the Parmesan rind in it, which adds a fine suave note to the dish.

We continued with these penne with tomato confit of Cook's manufacture, garnished with basil and Parmesan. That tomato confit is from Alice's Pantry book, and it is spectacular: rich, unctuous, yet somehow fresh as paint. I hope our pantry never sees the last of it.

Cheap Pinot grigio

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:

(2015 restaurants)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Beef stew

IMG 3717
Eastside Road, January 14, 2017—
SICILIAN BEEF STEW, the recipe called it: in addition to the relatively small amount of beef the dish involves shallots, a can of tomatoes, a small bulb of fennel, rosemary, orange zest, and green olives. I love this kind of combination. The result is a bit like a Provençal boeuf daube, hearty and full of flavor, and it should join the permanent repertory. In fact, let's make it one of the Hundred Plates.

I mash potatoes with a whisk, not a potato masher; I find it makes a smooth purée very quickly. Butter and milk, salt and pepper. Green salad, and then an apple and some chocolates.

Rouge du Var, La Ferme Julien, 2015

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016
(2015 restaurants)

Fish again

Eastside Road, January 13, 2017—

WELL, IN FACT, fish cakes. When we were first married and quite poor we used to have canned fish for dinner fairly often. In fact I think that was the only fish we ever ate in those days: canned tuna, and canned fish cakes. I didn't think too much about what exactly was in those cans. Scraps, I suppose.

Canned fish always makes me think of Cannery Row, in Pacific Grove, just down coast from Monterey. Monterey Bay is incredibly rich with sea life, and in the 1920s, 30s and 40s there were blocks and blocks of canneries there, processing mostly small fish — anchovies, sardines, what my father used to call surf fish, I think. His aunts Gladys and Myrtle had settled in Pacific Grove, and when he was twenty or so he rode the freight cars out to join them, and met my mother who was working in Carmel, and one thing led to another. I guess canned fish was part of the conspiracy that led to my existence.

Cook made these fish cakes herself. She said it was canned fish, and I didn't investigate any further. They were full of flavor: fish and onion, salt and cayenne I think. Lemon, of course. A baked potato and some romanesco, and green salad afterward.

Cheap Pinot grigio
RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016
(2015 restaurants)

Friday, January 13, 2017

Fish; soup

Eastside Road, January 12, 2017—

NOT FISH SOUP: Fish last night; soup tonight.

The fish was snapper, bought Tuesday at Monterey Fish in Berkeley -- a shop we know we can count on: utterly reliable; utterly fair. Snapper's not my favorite fish; it seems often a little bland. I like salmon, tuna, cod, and for delicacy the flat fish. But there's nothing wrong with snapper, and Cook did it nicely, breading it and frying it in butter, then strewing it with parsley. With it, just about my favorite vegetable, Swiss chard; and as you see a slice of buttered toast. Delicious.

White blend, Rhône style, "Madam Preston", Preston of Dry Creek, 2014: I've always loved this wine

THEN TONIGHT we finished the bean soup we began the other day. As is so often the case, the flavors had merged and deepened. Another slice of buttered bread as a croustade: we eat a lot of bread in this house, and it doesn't seem to hurt us.

I had another slice, as I always do, with my green salad. How else are you going to get the last of the vinaigrette out of the bowl? And then a special dessert, a quintessentially American one I think, and one I haven't had in years: Vanilla ice cream with sliced bananas that had been tossed in cinnamon sugar. Heaven on earth.

the rest of the "Madam Preston"

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016
(2015 restaurants)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A new way to cook chicken


Eastside Road, January 9, 2017—

YES YOU CAN teach an old dog new tricks, and you can find a new way to cook chicken. Maybe it's only new to us. Cook slathered a couple of chicken breasts with mustard, then put them skin side up on a baking sheet, added a few potatoes cut into slices, and set the sheet in a 425ª oven for a few minutes, until it was all done. The result was very nice, not dry, full of flavor.

With them, soybeans steamed on a low fire; afterward, green salad, then a tangerine. A nice reasonably quick dinner.

Cheap Pinot grigio

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016
(2015 restaurants)

Monday, January 9, 2017

Bean Soup

IMG 3663
Eastside Road, January 8, 2016—

SOOP OF THE EVENING, beautiful soop. White bean soup tonight, while we wait for the water to rise, probably to cut off road access in both directions for a day or so. Beans, leeks, garlic, red pepper flakes; a small buttrnut squash (I'd have left that out, myself), sage, a bunch of spinach, sage, and that fine Italian soup secret, the rind of a spent hunk of Parmesan cheese.

Afterward the green salad, and then a Sunday dessert: Mrs. Beeton's Seed Cake, made with caroway seeds, very moist, almost a pudding-cake, and laced with a bit of brandy. Veering toward a zuppa inglese, perhaps. I liked it.

white and red bottle-ends

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016
(2015 restaurants)

Sunday, January 8, 2017


IMG 3657

Eastside Road, January 7, 2017—

WELL, GOOD AS IT was, why not simply repeat it? Maybe take a better photo this time?

The rest of yesterday's red

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016
(2015 restaurants)

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Polenta, sausage, peppers

IMG 3643

Eastside Road, January 6, 2016—

FIRST POLENTA WE'VE HADin a while, and welcome. The sauce was truly delicious: a couple of red bell peppers, an onion, a couple of crumbled sweet Italian sausages, some chicken stock, a little tomato sauce. Cook said the stock could've been better, and I won't quibble: it was store-bought — organic and all that, but a little feathery, if you know what I mean. We bought a chicken today, though, and I'll make real chicken stock tomorrow.

Green salad afterward, the tangerine, the apple, the last of Dr. Guinness's cake. Thanks again, Thérèse; I'll miss that cake…

Very cheap Cabernet Sauvignon, Three Wishes, nv; inoffensive

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016
(2015 restaurants)

Friday, January 6, 2017

Roast beef

IMG 3636

Eastside Road, January 5, 2017—

MEAT AND POTATOES, that's what I felt like having tonight, so I bought a quarter-inch slice of roast beef from the supermarket deli, a carrot, a bunch of celery, and half a dozen cipollini, and headed home.

The Contessa looked in the freezer and found a bit of gravy left from some beef stew I made a couple of months ago. I heated that while I barely browned the rough mirepoix I made from my vegetables; then added them to the gravy along with a glass of white wine, thyme, and marjoram.

Meanwhile I cooked some potatoes I'd roughly cubed in olive oil, adding a bit of water and covering the pan to steam them until done. Cook took care of the romanesco, adding a couple of crushed cloves of garlic as is her half-Italian way.

When all was ready I covered the rare sliced roast beef with the gravy-mirepoix mixture and let it warm; then dinner was served. Green salad. Tangerine. Thérèse's Mr. Guinness Cake (delicious).

The beef was another attempt to duplicate something I ate last July in a small town in Piemonte. I came closer to it this time; I think it's because of the white wine and the herbs — though there was cloves in that beef stew, too. In any case, very nice.

Rouge du Var, La Ferme Julien

IMG 3637

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016
(2015 restaurants)

Thursday, January 5, 2017


IMG 3626  1

Eastside Road, January 4, 2017—

WE SHOULD EAT more vegetarian, Cook announced Monday. Yesterday was Tuesday, and we returned to our normal Tuesday fast routine. But today she suited action to words, turning to the Master for guidance: Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

It's a marvelous book, and Cook knows how to read it. She made the Mushroom-Barley Pilaf with sautéed mushrooms, a perfect dish for a winter evening. Then the green salad; then the tangerines and another piece of Becky's marvelous shortcake. I do love shortcake.

Var rouge, La Ferme Julien

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016
(2015 restaurants)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Just grilled cheese

IMG 3624
Eastside Road, January 2, 2017—

JUST GRILLED CHEESE sandwiches, I suppose, but particularly good ones. We stopped at Acme Bread in Berkeley yesterday and bought a big loaf of levain bread, one of those big boules that you think will last a week. When I get them home I cut the loaf in half, then cut one of the halves in half again, and take my slices from the center cut. We had overnight guests who stayed for breakfast, of course, so we'll be done with that loaf in a day or so.

Cook butters the slices on one side, layers thin slices of cheese on the unbuttered side, and makes the sandwiches. She grills them in a hot black iron skillet. She'll have heated a slightly smaller skillet on an adjacent burner, and sets that on top of the sandwiches while they grill, turning them as necessary.

The cheese is nagelkaas, a favorite of ours — Dutch cow's-milk boerkaas, farmer cheese, aged several months, and made with a few whole cloves scattered in the curd before it's formed. We'd never tried grilling it before: it works beautifully.

Yes, green salad; then a tangerine and a slice of Thérèse's Christmas cake made with a local stout instead of Guinness. Yum.

Bianco, Grifone, nv: pleasant and cheap

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016
(2015 restaurants)

New Year's Day

IMG 3619
Eastside Road, New Year's Day, 2017—

I KNOW, I KNOW, we're supposed to have Hopping John tonight to ensure good fortune throughout this year. But we've been on the road almost without a break since December 20, and today was another drive though not a long one, and Cook was in no mood for Hopping John.

We'd breakfasted late, of course, in a Berkeley restaurant we favor for little more than its typically quiet dining room, high-ceilinged and spacious and good for conversation, since we were there with another couple, our hosts the previous evening. Two eggs over easy, potatoes and bacon, toast and coffee.

•Five, Hotel Shattuck Plaza, 2086 Allston Way, Berkeley, California; (510) 225-6034

THEN WE DROVE HOME, stopping to do a little shopping on the way, and Cook got out a jar of her delicious tomato sauce, and cooked up some penne, and I made my first vinaigrette in a number of days for the green salad, and we ate in front of the fire, just the two of us. A fine start.

Happy New Year!

Barbaresco (the rest of last night's bottle)

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016
(2015 restaurants)

New Year's Eve

IMG 3593
Oakland, December 31, 2016—

WHAT A DELICIOUS DINNER! What a fine way to end the year!

For perhaps forty years now we've celebrated New Year's Eve with another couple, two of our oldest friends, eating dinner in our home in the odd-numbered years, theirs the even-numbered. There have been exceptions: Last year we were in Amsterdam; a couple of previous years we'd been flooded out, or had decided to travel together to another location. But in general we've kept to the formula.

Tonight Claire cooked this fine ossa buco, serving it with carrots and cauliflower and gremolata, of course, and a beautifully cooked risotto on the side. Green salad, of course; and a very nice cheesecake for dessert. Thanks, Claire! Next time our place!

Barbaresco, Barreri & Rovati, 2005: nice.

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016
(2015 restaurants)