HAPPY ST. VALENTINE'S DAY! I was taken to task this morning for having neglected this blog: apparently there are those who depend on it to keep track of our comings and goings. Be assured: I've simply been distracted.
Last Wednesday, then, breakfast at Bartavelle — very like our usual one, though perhaps a bit bigger: toasted levain bread from Acme, well buttered, with a couple of fine cappuccinos, using Heart coffee, preserving the Portland connection.
•Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar, 1603 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley; +1 (510) 524-2473
Then lunch, actually Principal Meal of the Day, in the café at Chez Panisse, whose floral display greeted you at the top of this post. I simply took the menu: garden salad; pasta; sherbet meringata. But what a delicious meal! The rigatoncini were tossed with toasted breadcrumbs, cauliflower florets and ricotta salata and flavored with saffron, marjoram, and bits of anchovy; the combination took me to Sicily.
The meringata carried the theme further, with its blood orange sherbet, slices of tangerine, and candied kumquats. No need for dinner tonight; a late snack at home is all we'll need!
•Café Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510-548-5525
No need for dinner the next day, either: Fast Day. Friday, though, Cook, inspired by the Cafés rigatoncini, whipped up her own delicious version, taking penne a step further with a few currants in the mix with broccolini, anchovies, and cheese.
Afterward, no need to stick to the Italian theme, a Shepherd's Pie with ground lamb, potatoes, carrots, and onion, cooked in the black iron skillet under a "pie crust" of mashed potatoes. This was good enough, and copious enough, to be repeated the next day, when of course it was even tastier.
Sunday we feasted further on leftovers, including those deeply rich fagioline del Trasimeno (Vigna unguicolata) , an ancient legume farmed by the Etruscans in central Italy with enough success that the bean has survived to be revived by Slow Food farmers today. These are magnificent beans; next time we're in Italy for any length of time we have to be sure to have them weekly.
And with the beans, or later, grilled Acme levain and nagelkaas. One of our very favorite things, this is a boerkaas, a farmer's Gouda-type cheese, which has had whole cloves combined with the cheese before forming. It recalls the Dutch involvement in the spice trade, of course. This particular nagelkaas, bought last year in Amsterdam, was aged enough to develop fine little "eyes": an aged Gouda is a marvelous thing, solid, buttery yet meaty, a worthy rival of Parmigiana in my opinion; and like Parmigiana it keeps well in the refrigerator.
Yesterday — but I'll catch up with that later.