Sunday, October 29, 2017

Bak; home

Prinseneiland, October 29, 2017—
DINNER AT HOME again tonight, after an elaborate midday dinner at an interesting, ambitious restaurant a few minutes' walk away — my, how this part of town has changed in the last few years.

The small table d'hôte menu ran to seven courses, of which we chose XXX: • celeriac: messeklever, a soft white rather creamy cow's-milk cheese, with a few pieces of blanched onion, wrapped in thin slices of blanched celeriac, and moistened with a subtly coffee-flavored dressing

• egg yolk: a pilaf of seeds, grains, and corn kernels, in dashi, with a raw egg yolk on top

• venison: a slice of roast leg of venison, with black salsify, a garnish of miner's lettuce and parsley, and a dusting of seaweed powder, in rich gravy

• hay: semifreddo delicately flavored with hay, with walnut and poached quince

     🍷Blanc, Andrea Calek (France), 2015: cool, soft, fruity
Nebbiolo, Rartolo Mascarello, 2013 (Langhe): perfect of its type
Ribolla Gravner, Anfora, Venezia Giulia, 2002 (!): oxidized but pleasant, austere

•Bak Restaurant, Van Diemenstraat 410, Amsterdam; 📞+31 20 737 25 53

Dinner: Our hostess prepared a pumpkin soup, roasting the pumpkin, pureeing its meat, and combining with it scallions, shallots, and vinegar, thinning with chicken stock. A perfect close to the day.

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At home

Prinseneiland, October 28, 2017—
DINNER AT HOME tonight, after an afternoon visit to the Noordermarkt, where Cook saw three pieces of wild salmon at the fish counter. Alaska salmon, looking quite as fresh as we see it at home.

She cooked it in her usual way, dotting each piece with butter, topping it with a couple of scallions, and drizzling some vodka on it before wrapping each piece individually in aluminum foil to bake in the oven.

With the salmon, little potatoes, and broccolini, and a green salad afterward. Delicious as always.

     🍷Viognier/Chardonnay/Grenache blanc, "Simplement Ormarine" (Pays d'Oc), 2016: crisp and pleasant

Lunch had been a Cuban sandwich and a bottle of beer, also delicious, at a little place we like not far away: •Worst, Barentszstraat 171, Amsterdam; 📞+31 20 625 61 67

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Friday, October 27, 2017

In flight

In flight, October 26, 2017—
CHICKEN BREAST with mushroom sauce and vegetables, lettuce and cheese, a brownie. Could have been worse.

     🍷Sauvignon blanc, then red wine: Merlot/Syrah, ?Argentina
•American Airlines flight AAS 0204

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Prinseneiland, October 27, 2017—
DINNER WITH FRIENDS — almost family, in fact — at our favorite Amsterdam restaurant, and not only because the chef-proprietor is an old friend. Almost family, in fact.

This is such a pleasant kwartier of old Amsterdam, the Westlijke eilanden, a group of small islands built up over a century ago — first as warehouses, then as low-income housing, now increasingly being turned into condominiums. The lighting, the architectuee, the openness to sky and water all contribute to a degree of serenity rare in contempor\ary cities. I love it here; I always feel at home.

Kees's restaurant is on the table d'hôte format: a four-course dinner for a set price, with minimal opportunity for substitutions. (Vitello tonnato and a grande bouillabaise are always at the ready, though.) Tonight I had poached hake with squid, olives, and what else I can't recall, followed by pieces of onglet, the lower back cut of beef, with mushrooms and potatoes. Delicious, both of them, as we knew they would be, and gezond — sound and healthful, a joy after a day or two of travelling.

Dinner: Kees's "Chocolate Nemesis," a deep, serious chocolate brownie-like dessert, and apple tart with raisins — the original "Dutch apple pie," but utterly superior to what I used to get at lunch counters in the States.

     🍷Vin blanc, Mas Saint Laurent (Langueoc), 2015 (a little flinty, crisp and flavorful); Cabernet sauvignon, France, delicious and serious, details not noted
•Marius, Barentszstraat 243, Amsterdam ; 📞+31 020 422 7880

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Thursday, October 26, 2017


San Francisco International Airport, California, October 25, 2017—
GOTTA EAT. Not a lot of choice without going through security, which we don't want to do tonight; time enough for that tomorrow. So off we trundle to the "food court," a term that always suggests trials to me.

Could have been worse. Your standard flat-grilled hamburger, decent onion and lettuce, mustard and mayo in little plastic packages. Okay fries.

     🍷Zinfandel, Cline Family Cellars "Ancient Vines" (Contra Costa), "V.2015": does that really mean 2015? In a half bottle, ready to drink…
•Potrero Grill, SFO International Terminal

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017


Eastside Road, October 24, 2017—
SUCH A RELIABLE, nourishing, comforting dish, clearly one of the Hundred Plates. Risotto.

Cook found some chicken stock in the freezer, an onion at the ready, Arborio rice in the pantry, Parmigiano in the refrigerator. We picked up a bottle of halfway cheap white wine in town. Olive oil, of course.

The usual procedure: bring the stock to a simmer, sweat the chopped onion in olive oil until soft, add a one-grain layer of rice and cook until the grains are just beginning to go transparent around the edges. Add a half-glass of white wine; then the stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring to absorb the liquid before adding the next ladleful.

Green salad afterward, and then a nice melon.

     🍷Sauvingnon blanc, Fetzer, nv

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Home again

Eastside Road, October 23, 2017—
HOME AGAIN, but in no mood to cook. Besides, who can remember what's in the larder? So we stopped off at our local upscale supermarket for a half pound of bulk hot Italian sausage, three potatoes, a head of lettuce, a loaf of bread, and a bottle of milk.

I shaped the sausage into four or five balls and browned them in the black iron skillet, flattening them afterward. I cubed the potatoes and a cipollino we had lying around, also a small pepper thoughtfully provided by the neighbor down the hill, and tossed them unto the skillet, moving the sausages above them. Salt, of course.

Green salad after.

     🍷Rose, Giulhem

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Monday, October 23, 2017

Faux Denmark

Santa Nella, Califoria, October 22, 2017—

WE'VE DRIVEN PAST this place so many times, but never stopped for dinner. Tonight there was no choice.

I had "Veal Cutlet Copenagen": three "veal" cutlets, breaded and greiddled, with sautéed potatoes mixed with bits of green bell pepper, a steam-sauté of zucchini, yellow crookneck, and carrot, and that little tub of "homemade beef gravy" you see. You know what? It wasn't disgusting.

     🍷A Martini

•Pea Soup Anderson's, 12411 State Highway 33, Gustine, California 📞+1 (209) 826-1685

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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Diner bistro

Pasadena, October 21, 2017—

I NEVER THOUGHT about it this way before, but perhaps the classic American diner is the closest thing we have in this country to the French bistro. And the closest thing I found to the classic American diner lately is Russell‘s over we have supper before share another play here.

Booths upholstered in red leatherette , red walls with reproductions of famous paintings. We dined under the girl with the pearl earring and the milkmaid, looking at a group of Frans Hals’s customers.

I had a small Caesarish salad and this bowl of boeuf bourguignon, not bad. With it, a glass of Rhone. 

Russel’s, 30 N Fair Oaks Ave, Pasadena, (626) 578-1404

Friday, October 20, 2017

Back to The Raymond

Pasadena, California, October 20, 2017—

I THINK IT'S A PLACE to have a drink, the Contessa said at the end of the evening, and then go on somewhere else for dinner. And I guess I agree with her: but I do think this is a pleasant, rather romantic little place. If only the menu were a little more interesting, and perhaps not quite so complicated.

We started, after a decent Martini, by sharing a big garden lettuce salad. The leaves were quite big and not at all torn. They were dressed with a little lemon juice; a bottle of gloppy ranch-style dressing came with them — not a very inspired salad.

I went on to a pretty nice hanger steak, grilled, served with fingerling potatoes cooked with a slice of bacon, a poached quail egg, and a spoonful or two of nice English peas, undercooked in a pleasant way.

     🍷Cuvée Sabine, André  Brunel (Rhone), 2013: very rich and rewarding

•The Raymond Restaurant, 1250 Fair Oaks Avenue, South Pasadena, California; 📞+1 (626) 441-3136

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Union forever

Pasadena, October 20, 2017—

VERY QUICKLY, and subject to revision later this weekend, a report on last night's late supper after a performance (of an adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities) by a favorite theater company of ours down here, at Union, a restaurant that never lets us down. I think it's in the running for Five Restaurants classification.

We began with bread, butter, and giardiniera — very piquant pickled vegetables, certainly a Calabrian version of a specialty I always associate with the other end of the Italian peninsula, Piemonte. (By way of the Contessa's paternal aunt Victoria, whose homemade version was my introduction to giardiniera, so many years ago.)

Then a simple arugula salad, but such beautifully chosen leaves, and so well dressed, and sprinkled with good Parmigiano with, I suspect, a discreet amount of Pecorino as well.

Then Bucatini cacio e pepe, dressed with grated Pecorino Romano and black pepper and topped with a poached egg that our stylish, professional server mixed into the dish at the table.

All this was perfect. It was late, and by the time we finished we were the only ones there. Union can be very noisy; it's popular and small. On this trip it was romantic. We'd never been there after a show before; we will again. It seemed so Italian!

     🍷Nascetta, Diego Conterno (Piemonte), 2015

•Union, 37 E Union Street, Pasadena, California; 📞+1 (626) 795-5841

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Uncertain times

Eastside Road, October 13, 2017—
THESE HAVE NOT been normal times. Wildfires are burning near us as I write this. We have been lucky; the nearest fires are five or six miles away. But abrupt changes in wind patters could find us vulnerable. The most important papers and hard drives are packed in the car, in case we have to evacuate. Thousands are already evacuated, other thousands have already lost their homes.

We have only been inconvenienced, so far. One of the groceries we depend on is gone. Some supplies are running low in other stores. I've been watching the news almost obsessively. But life goes on for us, though many less fortunate have died.

It's too late to retrieve the meals since last I posted. I'll simply note repetition, at home, of favorites — ceviche, sausage and potatoes, and the like. We had one restaurant meal, in San Francisco: Beef Wellington, very nicely prepared except that the lean roast beef itself was curiously bland. Unsalted, I suspect.

     🍷Chinon, Charles Jouget, 2014

•Maybeck's, 3213 Scott St, San Francisco; 📞(415) 400-8500

Last night, delicious hamburgers at the neighbor down the hill, a birthday party for our great-grandson…

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Saturday, October 7, 2017


Eastside Road, October 6, 2017—

AFTER A BUSY DAY in the city we were home too late and too tired to think much about dinner. Something quick, yes?

I made omelets in my usual way, cooking them in olive oil rather than butter, filling them with chopped arugula and grated Parmesan cheese before folding them over. Cook handled the green salad. — just arugula tonight, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.

     🍷Cheap Italian white

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Friday, October 6, 2017

Vitello piccata

Eastside Road, October 5, 2017—

LATELY I'VE BEEN CRAVING lemon, peppers, vineggar, pickles, capers. Don't know why. A friend tells me it's a sign there are insects within: I hope she is mistaken. I've seen no signs of infestations.

In any case, charged by the Contessa with coming up with an idea for dinner, I bought a couple of thin slices of veal, a jar of capers, a package of Rustichella "trofie," a pasta I particularly like. Lemon we have; also parsley. Salt and pepper, check; olive oil, of course; white wine, no problem.

Cook handled the pasta-cooking and washed the lettuce. I seared the veal — I'd salted it when I got it home, of course — in olive oil, in the stainless-steel skillet, and after turning it scattered chopped parsley and capers on it. Salt and pepper. Lemon juice.

After plating the meat and pasta I deglazed the pan with white wine, reduced the sauce, and poured it over the scallopine and the pasta. Delicious.
     🍷Cheap Italian white wine

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Red sauce

Eastside Road, October 4, 2017—

LAST FALL — just about a year ago, I think — Cook put up several jars of tomato sauce. She used a recipe from one of Alice Waters's books, which calls for roasting the whole tomatoes slowly in the oven, then running them through the food mill and canning them in the usuual way. Salt, of course, and a little olive oil, but no other ingredients, as I recall.

She put up a lot of jars, and probably doesn't need to repeat the process this year, though of course it would be a good idea, you can't have too much of a good thing put aside for rough times.

She has the habit of never quite finishing a jar, and leftovers accumulate. Tonight she put two little containers of them together, with a bay leaf, pepper and salt, garlic, and a dash of red wine, and we had her favorite whole wheat penne with red sauce. Parmesan grated on top. Green salad afterward, of course.

     🍷Red, "Guadagno," Preston of Dry Creek

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Popeye the sailor man

Eastside Road, October 3, 2017—

MY WIFE AND KIDS know: I do love spinach. To the extent that I even like canned spinach. When the kids were little Cook used always to keep a package or two of frozen spinach in the freezer for quick meals. I haven't seen frozen spinach in forty years, I think; and it's probably longer since I last had canned spinach. But I can still taste it.

Seems to me my mother used to cook an egg atop canned spinach somehow. I haven't thought about that for over sixty years, but I'm sure she did, somehow, probably on evenings when Dad was unaccountably absent from the dinner table and she could get away with a meatless dinner.

Anyhow tonight Cook prepared a spinach side dish — just fresh spinach leaves gently cooked in a little water and some butter. The main dish was one of Franco's sausages — Toscana, I believe — and a delicious sauté of potatoes and cipollini onions. Another thing about spinach: no need for a green salad!

     🍷Red, "Guadagno," Preston of Dry Creek

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Sunday, October 1, 2017


Eastside Road, September 30, 2017—

IN FACT, salume. More precisely, soppresata, mortadella, and finicchiona. It's the second day straight we've dined on this, with buttered bread, and tonight green beans, and some dill pickle, and green salad. Pears and figs for dessert, and some chocolates.
We've been dining simply much of the time these last few weeks, when not eating out, on trips to Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, and elsewhere. It's nice to be back.

     🍷"Guadagno" red, Preston of Dry Creeek

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