Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Eastside Road, February 13, 2017—
BUT FIRST, BREAKFAST. As most of you well know, it's both minimal and consistent here on Eastside Road: a couple of slices of buttered toast, a couple of cappuccinos. The bread might be Acme levain but is more likely Como bread from Downtown Bakery and Creamery. The butter is almost always Clover organic, salted. Clover is a local dairy; the Contessa's father used to sell them the milk from his dairy herd (300 cows or so, mostly Holstein). The coffee is generally a blend of Ethiopian beans, roasted three or four days ahead, ground just before brewing, in our Starbucks Barista machine pending the eventual overhaul of the Faemina.

So what's that we're looking at? Why, a sfogliatella* , that delicious, substantial, ever so Calabrese pastry involving leaf pastry (as you see), ricotta in the filling, and orange peel for the flavor. Recipes are easy enough to find online (if you spell the word correctly): Food Network; Epicurious; most interesting, perhaps, itchefs. I don't think I would make these at home, myself, though there's no reason you shouldn't give it a try.

A few months ago we met a couple at a friend's dinner table: an Italian-descent farmer-winemaker and his Irish-born wife, a filmmaker. I met his wife for coffee yesterday and she handed me a small paper bag with a gift from her husband: two marvelous-looking sfogliatelle of his own manufacture. I know he's been working out the technique, because he asked Cook about it when last we met, at a screening of her wonderful film recording the revolving seasons on their vineyard. I think he's pretty well achieved his goal. Cook warmed these up in the toaster oven, perhaps not entirely to their improvement.

Sfogliatelle are deceptive: you think they're going to be flaky pastry, like a croissant, but that's not the idea: they're dense and crisp and chewy. These were remarkably buttery, and the ricotta filling nicely flavored with candied orange peel, comme il faut. Congratulations, John, and grazie molto!

*(sfol-yah-TELL-lah: little leafpile. From late Latin exfolia : and when I leaf through a Moravia novel, sfoglio. )

FINE, YOU SAY, but what about that porchetta? Such a delicious dish! I think of it as essentially Roman, though I remember a delicious one encountered near the train station outside Orvieto. This one was home-made, of course, to use the oven to heat up the house a bit, and to feed both ourselves and the neighbors down the hill.

Cook followed a recipe from Martha Stewart, clipped from her magazine. It involves coating a pork loin with a paste you've made of garlic, fennel seeds, rosemary, lemon peel, salt, and olive oil, then wrapping the meat in thin slices of pancetta and tying the thing togethert with kitchen twine. Then you toss small fingerling potatoes, halved, with an onion, cut into eighths, a lemon, sliced thin, and a little olive oil. You scatter that around the pork loin, drizzle it with a little water, and roast it until done.

Now I would have basted this roast with white wine, not water; and I'd have added a few cipollini to the potatoes rather than that yellow onion cut into eighths. But I have to say this was one delicious pork roast; the pancetta wrap lifts it well into the Hundred Plates. What did it look like? Forgot to photograph it! But we'll be revisiting it soon, and I'l…l see how it looks as leftovers…

Grenache blanc, "We'll Never Do That Again," 2013, Preston of Dry Creek ;
Zinfandel, "Grower's Reserve" (Paso Robles), 2015 ;
Syrah, Preston of Dry Creek, 2014 ;
White wine, "Madam Preston," Preston of Dry Creek, nv
A NOTE ON THE WINES: The Grenache blanc is a great favorite of mine, and makes a fine aperitif, which is how we took it. It reminds me of a marvelous white Rhone we had many years ago at Restaurant Pic, in Valence, I think. It is dry, floral, serious, a bit stony. The two reds were bottle-ends, each about half a bottle, the Zinfandel opened a few days ago, inexpensive (Trader Joe!) but serviceable, the Syrah opened yesterday and not at all the worse for having spent a day in suspense. "Madam Preston" is named for a cult guru of the 19th century who ran a rest-and-rehab center a few miles from here: her reputation, outside her cult, was a little unsavory. The wine, though — a blend involving Semillon and Sauvignon blanc (I think) and most likely Grenache blanc — is smooth, interesting, rather complex; and it stood up beautifully to Cowgirl Creamery's Mount Tam and a fine Beemster from Netherlands.

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

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