Friday, June 1, 2018

Niçoise

salade niçoise
Eastside Road, June 1, 2018——

FIRST DAY OF JUNE:let’s celebrate with a very generous Salade Niçoise, surely one of the great dishes.

Cook steamed some perfect little green beans, boiled a couple of eggs, found a couple of pretty good tomatoes and red bell peppers, opened a can of good tuna, tossed in some anchovies, and laid it all out on tender lettuce leaves. Sumer is icumen in.

     🍷Rosé, La Ferme Julien

Monday, May 28, 2018

Lamb shanks

IMG 9494
Eastside Road, May 27, 2018—

SURELY ONE OF the great recipes is Richard Olney's for braised lamb shanks. It is simple, complete, and inspired, and it never fails. We have followed it scores of times over the years, and both Cook and I could no doubt prepare the dish from memory.

We never do, of course; we always return to the book, Simple French Food . And I, at least — I don't know about Cook — always realize the procedure has long since been completely internalized. I wrote about it here, nine long years ago:

Ask the butcher to saw the lamb shanks into slices a couple of inches thick. Brown them on all sides in a little olive oil in a heavy pot with a close-fitting lid; then throw in a head of garlic, the cloves separated but not peeled, and let them cook very slowly — we use an asbestos pad under the pot and turn the flame as low as possible. The meat will form its own juice.

After an hour or two sprinkle dry herbes de Provence on the meat and let it cook as much longer as you like. When all the liquid's gone you might want to sprinkle a few drops of water on the meat; we've never found that necessary.

Remove the meat to a hot platter, deglaze the pot with a little white wine, and pass the glaze and the garlic cloves through a food mill to make a heavy sauce for the meat. Serve with noodles.

I just Googled "olney lamb shanks simple" and found a few adaptations of the recipe (along with my own 2009 post, quoted above). One cooks the shanks with Vermouth. Another serves the meat with cannelini. I can't think why anyone would do either of these things. Olney's recipe is perfect. Lamb, garlic, herbes de Provence, white wine. It's all you need, and you do want to serve it with egg noodles.

About those herbes de Provence: This is about the only time we use them, so they're getting a bit long in the tooth — I bought our current supply in the market in Nice five years ago. They're a little dusty, but thanks to Ziplock still aromatic. Lamb, Provence, red wine. Dinner on the patio with much of the family around us: marvelous.

     🍷White: La Ferme Julien; "Madam Preston." Red: L. Preston, Preston of Dry Creek IMG 9495

Friday, May 25, 2018

Split pea soup

Split pea soup
Eastside Road, May 25, 2018—

EATING AT HOME; domestically. By that I mean modestly, even frugally, something with lots of flavor, but substantial.

Cook buys dry beans, peas, chickpeas, and such — organic ones, of course. It doesn't take all that much time to cook them: they soak while she gardens; cook while we watch the depressing news or maybe a ball game.

This soup began with a slice or two of bacon sizzling in a black iron skillet, of course. When you cook and eat bacon rarely, and then only a slice or two at a time, it's neither expensive nor particularly bad for one's health, or so we tell ourselves.

Onion, of course; salt and pepper. A green salad afterward.

IMG 9480And dessert: an ice cream sundae, with toasted pecans and caramel sauce — because she is, after all, a pastry chef.

     🍷Vin blanc ordinaire, La Ferme Julien

Running out of steam

IMG 9445
Eastside Road, May 25, 2018—
MY FIRST POST to this blog was written a little over ten years ago, on March 25, 2008. Since then two thousand, seven hundred seventy posts have followed, not counting this one. For years I took the perhaps unwisely chosen title of the blog seriously — not until 2013 did fewer than 300 posts appear in a given year.

Last year, though, I began to run out of steam: only 155 posts. Eating every other day, the title should have been. And this year has been disastrous.

I won’t go into the reasons for this, which are personal and a little discouraging. What I am doing, as I type this, is wondering where to take the blog next. I know that over the years there have been a number of followers, and I like to think the blog’s presence, on line, has had its usefulness. Most of you must know about the search box up in the upper left corner: type in “pizza” or “Rome” or “anchov*” (the asterisk standing for either “y” or “ies”) will turn up posts with possibly useful or interesting content.

But to tell the truth I no longer trust my palate for day-to-day comments. We continue to eat well, of course; Cook always finds ways to tickle that aging palate, and there are pleasures both evolved and simple that might be reported.

IMG 9443Yesterday, for example: we’d gone to Sonoma, there to see a small exhibition of paintings by an acquaintance, and we stopped off at a favorite spot for lunch. I suppose I ordered unwisely: two pork tamales, twice as much as I needed. But they were delicious, muy sabrosos, as always here, and I washed them down with a bottle of Pacifico beer, because I haven’t had Pacifico for years, and wondered if it were as bland as recalled (yes).

So I’ll try to soldier on here, I suppose, when there’s something potentially useful, or at least pleasant, to share. Do in the meantime indulge my uncertainties.

•El Molino Central, 11 Central Avenue, Sonoma; 📞+1 707 939 1010

Monday, April 30, 2018

Last week catchup

Eastside Road, Berkeley, and San Francisco, April 23-28—
1F2674AA A0B1 4AA4 BD27 0D3875E20512 MONDAY, April 23 — How can I have left so many days slip past? — was a flight day, beginning with a frozen croissant bought days earlier at a favorite bakery, then coffee at a pleasant neighborhood café we'd been depending on the last few days.
Lunch, much delayed, was a serviceable grilled cheese and ham grabbed at an eatery on our drive home; and I have to confess having needed a "gelato" by the time that drive got us two thirds of the way home. Too tired for dinner.

•Bakeshop, 5351 NE Sandy Blvd, Portland; 📞503-946-8884
•Saint Simon Coffee Company, 2005 NE Broadway Street, Portland; 📞971-703-4993
•LaLa's Creamery, 134 Petaluma Blvd. N, Petaluma; 📞707-763-5252

IMG 9185 Tuesday, April 24: A delicious improvisation: a fried-egg-and-bacon sandwich on nice dense rye bread, with savory sautéed vegetables on the side.
IMG 9189 Wednesday, April 25: Baseball night in front of the television. We're partial to the Niman Schell hot dogs, which I like with mustard but never catsup, chopped raw onions, pickle relish, and sauerkraut. Sautéed potatoes and carrots on the side; green salad afterward. The buns are from our local bakery, of course.

•Downtown Bakery and Creamery, 308a Center Street, Healdsburg

IMG 9214 Thursday, April 26: to Berkeley to meet last week's bride and groom, flown down from Portland for a short honeymoon in the Bay Area. We ate in the café, beginning with housemade salt-cod pizetta; I went on to a green salad and rich, redolent braised pork with chiles, oregano, lime, shell beans, and cilantro-flavored long-grain rice, with a bittersweet choclate pavé with caramel ice cream for dessert.

     🍷Zinfandel, Green and Red, 2016

•Café Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 📞510-548-5525

IMG 9231 Friday, April 27: After a night at home and breakfast as usual we took the newlyweds into town to see the Downtown Bakery, then home to the neighbors down the hill for a fine al fresco lunch: a chopped salad, deviled eggs, cheeses and anchovies. Then a quick trip to deliver the pair to their San Francisco hotel and drinks at a favorite bar where the celery and parmesan, the anchovies and butter, the French fries and my Hanky Panky ae always dependable. Once home, only fruit and a chocolate seemed necessary.

•Zuni Café, 1658 Market Street, San Francisco; 📞415-552-2522


Saturday, April 28: Cook smashed up canned sardines — we like those canned in spring water, not oil — with chopped onions and horseradish to make sandwiches, served with a bowl of store-bought red-pepper soup; green salad afterward, and an apple. And finally I'm beginning to return to normal after the nuptial feasting of the previous week…

     🍷Beer…

Finally, yesterday, Sunday: Penne rigata tossed with chopped lemon, garlic, and anchovies; the green salad. I am well looked after.

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Portland catchup

Portland, Oregon, April 19-22, 2018—
IMG 9118 THIS IS WHY we were in Portland a week ago: the wedding of our granddaughter Francesca and her beau Hamza, seen here last Saturday at the reception, cutting a glorious cake baked by Giovanna and the Contessa and decorated by Thérèse — bakers all.

But first, let me catch up a bit. I've told you about the pizzas we had on Wednesday. Thursday, April 19, we cooked supermarket ravioli at home, with a green salad afterward — not bad.

     🍷Cheap Nero d'Avola

IMG 9080 The next day I took the groom to lunch in a downtown bistro where we had a little splurge: a bottle of 🍷Beaujolais-Villages, Le Bouteau, Pascal Granger, ‘16,
as it was listed on the menu: but in the event it was a 2014, holding up well for its age. With it, for me, a grilled ham-cheese baguette: jambon de Paris with Gruyère, a dollop of Dijon mustard, and mixed arugula and frisée. Not bad at all.

•Little Bird Bistro, 215 SW 6th Avenue, Portland, Oregon; 📞(503) 688 - 5952

That night we ate at home — not our B&B this time, but the home of the mother of the bride. It was a big dinner for the family, and all three of our children and their mates, seven of our eight grandchildren and their various beaux and friends, and all four of our great-grandchildren were there.

How to feed such a crew? Giovanna asked me to pick up the roast chicken dinners ordered in from Arrosto, and foccaccia from Pastaworks, and green salad and roasted potatoes. I really like Providore, a marketplace incorporating these subsidiary businesses; they have an interesting wine shop, a small but soigné cheese selection, and are a comfortable, well-lit, quiet place for lunch.
     🍷Many wines, of course, including a fine Regaliali Nero d'Avola
•Providore Fine Foods, 2340 NE Sandy Boulevard, Portland; 📞+1 (503) 232-1010

IMG 9102 The big day, of course, was Saturday, the wedding day. I don't think we ate lunch. I got a haircut in the morning, and most of us seemed to float around in a sort of haze. It was a splendid April spring day; all Portland was in bloom — dogwoods, cherries, azaleas and rhododendrons, tulips and hyacinths.

The ceremony was in the front garden of the bride's parents' house, and among the 150 guests or so it seemed most of the neighbors were present — along with all our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, the Contessa's sisters, various cousins, the bride's other grandparents and their daughter and her son and daughter.

It all went off without a hitch, and afterward we repaired to a nearby social hall for the reception: sixteen tables of various sizes seating from six to a dozen. Like the entire week of parties, the menu had an Italian theme with decidedly Algerian contributions, reflecting the couple's residence and the groom's birthplace.

We began with little frittata bites with asparagus, chèvre, soft herbs, olives, and piquilles; bread, butter, and anchovies, crudités, and bread with a sort of Algerian pesto made with fava tops and garlic.

IMG 9107 The bridal couple stood serving out the dinner, and the groom rather overloaded my plate: "Uncle Paolo" 's grilled steak with salsa verde; Merguez sausages, radicchio "Caesar" salad with grapefruit, tarragon, and green olives; honey and za'atar-roasted carrots; Farro with preserved lemon, red onion, and roasted kale.

Paolo is of course uncle of the bride, our son; he raised and butchered the steer whose steak we enjoyed, grilling it outside the dining hall over charcoal. There was plenty left over to enjoy the next day, spent in rest and recovery.

There was, of course, cake, as you see at the top of this post — two, in fact: a four-storey chocolate wedding cake with coffee crunch filling and coffee butter cream, and a "groom's cake," Lindsey's almond torte with sour cherry jam and chocolate icing. The bride's mother made the cakes, with her mother's help: this was a thoroughly professional job. The bride's aunt decorated the cakes, splendidly I thought, and my Lindsey made marzipan olive leaves to decorate the groom's cake.

The wedding theme was Mediterranean, as I've mentioned, and the olive leaves seemed to me an auspicious decoration, signaling as they do peace and return to safety. Long and happy years to the couple; this beginning of their marital adventure will long be remembered.

     🍷Campari Spritzes; Pilsner Urquell; Nero d'Avola, Perricone, "L'Isola dei Profumi"(Sicily), 2016; Cava, Torre Oria (Valencia), nv; Moroccan mint tea

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Pizza

IMG 9068
Portland, Oregon, April 18, 2018—
THESE DAYS I seem to crave sharp flavors more than usual: tomato, pepper, salt, lemon. Lunch was pretty good: good bread with sardines from the can. Dinner was even more to my point: for the many of us — three couples and assorted others — we ordered in four pizzas.

One of them was a Margherita, you can be sure. Not the slice in the photo, which was bizarrely, I thought, strewn with a few stalks of asparagus. The Margherita had less basil than I like but the sauce was first-rate.

I don't think pizza profits from being put in a cardboard box, any more than bread should see a container of any kind until it's cold, and then only when necessary. But there seems to be no other way to get fresh-baked pizzas home. Giovanna did slip them into the oven, on pizza pans, and that helped. But still.

     🍷Aglianico, Epicuro (I like this cheap red)

Lovely's Fifty-Fifty, 4039 North Mississippi Avenue, Portland; 📞+1 (503) 281-4060

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Egg and cheese

IMG 9060
Portland, April 17, 2018—

THE FIRST ITEM on the menu caught my eye, because when you're tired and a bit out of sorts there's nothing quite as restorative as a simple fried egg sandwich. But — wait a minute — with cheese? Egg and cheese? What an unlikely, unpleasant combination!

But then came immediately to mind: Cheese soufflé. Of course cheese and egg combine well, why this odd new prejudice? So I ordered the sandwich, with as an extra some Calabrian peppers, and it arrived in due time, and it was delicious. On very good bread, from Ken's Artisan Bakery, our favorite up here. Very nicely toasted. Piquant for sure with the peppers, but nicely balanced. I'd eat a couple more.

     🍷Beer: IPA from Great Bear Republic

Coquine, 6839 SE Belmont Street, Portland, Oregon; 📞503-384-2483

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Oysters on the half shell

IMG 9052
Eastside Road, April 16, 2018—
ALAS, WE WERE HAVING too much fun to think of taking photos. Friends — professional chefs, in fact — came up from Berkeley bringing lots of oysters and sausages, and whipped up a mignonette, and we stood around drinking "champagne," white wine and rosé, and eating oysters on the half shell, and then sat down to the sausages and sautéed apples and onions that Cook whipped up. (That's the one photo taken.) Green salad afterward, of course. Hours and hours of conversation and dining. A beautiful day.

     🍷Wines too many to list…

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Chicken with rhubarb

IMG 9043  1
Eastside Road, April 15, 2018—
AN UNLIKELY COMBINATION on first thought, I suppose. Cook is impressed with Scandinavian Comfort Food: Embracing the Art of Hygge, by Trine Hahnemann, a book of Scandinavian cuisine she'd heard about somewhere, and has made this item twice from it. You can see the recipe here. (There are also a number of recipes online.)

(I would say the chicken is baked, not roasted, but I don't know why I have this idea.)

The dish involves chicken pieces, shallots, garlic cloves, tarragon, a chunks of rhubarb stems, with enough sugar to cut their acid. Salt and pepper, of course. As the recipe stands I think the chicken is cooked too slowly, but it's a tasty dish.

     🍷Sauvignon blanc, Preston of Dry Creek, 2017

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Leftovers

IMG 9037
Eastside Road, April 14, 2018—
THE LAST OF Marion's buttered barley, none the worst for being re-heated with perhaps just a little more butter.

And then, after the green salad — nice to get back to our own salad dressing! — another leftover: that blood orange upside-down cake.

I have to admit a sentimental attachment to upside-down cake: my mother made what seemed to me a marvelous version, possibly using a cake mix from a box when they became available after the war (my Uncle Clay designed the Duncan Hines box, says family lore) but covering the bottom-then-the-top with rings of canned pineapple, brown sugar, and maraschino cherries.

IMG 9009Cook makes a better cake, no doubt about it; and the artfully arranged segments of carefully trimmed blood orange are just as pretty as the pineapple. Delicious, too, with delicately flavored whipped cream…

     🍷Sauvignon blanc, Preston of Dry Creek, 2017

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Short day in San Francisco

IMG 9016
San Francisco, April 13, 2018—
HOW INTRODUCE OVERSEAS guests to San Francisco in just half a day — and that with an obligatory shopping errand?

We started out with lunch at a favorite spot, where I had roast asparagus with an egg sunny side up, lemon aioli, and arugula, a delicious slice or two of smoked salmon on the side.

For dessert, Russian Honey Cake, of course; we wouldn't visit this place without another slice.

     🍷Bistronauta Fehér 2015 (Hungary; unusual; very good)

20th Century Cafe, 198 Gough Street, San Francisco; 📞415 621 2380


Then on to Mission Dolores for a little history and ice cream a block away at Bi-Rite. It was a beautiful day, and the line was blessedly short. I had two flavors of the season, Orange Cardamom and Meyer Lemon, and they complemented one another perfectly.

Bi-Rite Creamery, 3692 18th Street, San Francisco; 📞+1 (415) 626-5600


We stayed in the Mission. A tour of Balmy Alley; a look at Precita Park; then a short hike to the top of Bernal Heights — the view from there never fails to impress visitors.

Dinner, alas, was at the airport, where we left our niece and her daughter to fly home to Australia, and consoled a grandson-in-law-soon-to-be who'd missed a connection to Portland with his first American hamburger and beer. Great to see him; wish the food had been better…

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Friday, April 13, 2018

Buttered Barley

Eastside Road, April 12, 2018—

MARION CUNNINGHAM's buttered barley tonight, one of our favorite dishes — a sort of pilaf, I suppose, of simply barley, steamed, tossed with chopped scallions and butter. Everything better with butter!

     🍷Sauvignon blanc, Preston of Dry Creek, 2017: true to varietal, and according to me the best Sauvignon blanc that isn't French is grown in Dry Creek Valley.

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

A day in Berkeley

IMG 8984
Eastside Road, April 11, 2018—

A SMALL LUNCH, since we're dining early. Where to take visiting Australian family to lunch? Let's go to Bartavelle, I'm exactly in the mood for an anchovy egg.

These are essentially four-minute eggs, cooked in steam I believe, halved, given a dollop of aïoli, a coiled rinsed anchovy, and a dusting of Maresh pepper. That's a delicious pickled carrot slice on the side; I've already eaten the cauliflower floweret.

There's no better pick-me-up than these eggs. With it, a slice of buttered toast.

     🍷A glass of Prosecco

•Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar, 1603 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley; 📞+1 (510) 524-2473
IMG 8999
The dining room at Chez Panisse, between seatings

DINNER WAS AT Chez Panisse, and it was luxe, calme, et volupté. We could relax and converse and leave everything to the superb service. We had:

IMG 8989🍷Aperitif: a glass of Prosecco delicately flavored with strawberry and thyme, with tiny gougères

Local halibut tartare, julienned vegetable salad, ginger vinaigrette, and mustard blossoms; with flatbread sprinkled with black nigella seeds.

Clean, sparkly, a true appetizer, waking the palate

🍷Grüner Veltliner: Domäne Wachau, 2015

IMG 8992 Clam chowder with Marash pepper and herbs

From the delicately pungent tartare, with its rather austere wine, to a remarkable version of chowder, delicate and springlike, light and complex, with a remarkable wine:

🍷Cour-Cheverny, Domaine Philippe Tessier, 2015: pretty, almost œil de perdrix, tawny on the tongue,

IMG 8997 Lamb: rack, loin, and leg stuffed with sorrel and breadcrumbs, all from the grill; with glazed carrots and potato purée
The stuffed leg of lamb was a gigot a la ficelle, hung by a string from above and in front of the coals in the fireplace. The heat causes the leg to turn slowly in one direction, winding the string to a point at which it has to reverse and turn in the other direction, roasting the meat evenly on all sides.

🍷Saint-Joseph, Vignobles Verzler, Chante-Perdrix, vintage?

IMG 8998 Wildflower honey ice cream with pistachio cake and tangerines
Nutty, dense, moist cake set off by a creamy ice cream; just enough sauce to bring it all together

🍷Tokay

•Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 📞+1 (510) 548-5525
Yes, we've been part of the Chez P family for 46 years…

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Ribs

Ribs
Eastside Road, April 10, 2018—

RIBS FROM THE fireplace, grilled over wood, served au naturel, with broccoli and potatoes. It was all delicious, and we were guests. How could it be better?

Apple pieApple pie a la mode, that’s how. Thanks, neighbors!

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Monday, April 9, 2018

Pork chops ma façon


Eastside Road,  April 8, 2018—

PORK CHOPS my way. I’m sure I’ve discussed this before: you put chopped garlic, salt, and plenty of fennel seeds in a mortar and grind it up to a paste. I add half a lemon zest, micrograting it in. Add olive oil ans a little lemon juice. 

I rub the white fat on the edges of the cold chops into the cold black iron frying pan, then get it good and hot and add the chops (salted when brought home from the shop). 

Spread half the mixture from the mortar on the chops as they cook. Turn when done on the first side and spread the remaining mixture. 

When done, deglaze the skillet with white wine, reduce, and pour over the chops. 

Tonight we had steamed asparagus alongside, green salad after, then a caramel pecan ice cream sundae. 

Riesling, Emma Reichart, 2016

Fund-raiser


THIS KIND of dinner: perhaps twenty tables each seating ten. Catered dinner. Dining with strangers. Master of ceremonies at microphone. Ceviche, green salad, beefsteak with Brussels sprouts and a sort of risotto. 
Sauvignon blanc; rosé of Pinot noir; red blend. 

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Beef stew

NOT A TRUE DAUBE, which is what I like to make, but a collaborative dish that turned out to be a one-dish stew, with lots of carrots. We browned the beef, but each thought the other had deglazed the pot: hence some lost flavor. Oh well: six of us ate pretty well …

But no photo…

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Risotto


Eastside Road, April 6, 2018—


RISOTTO PRIMAVERA, you might almost call it, lightly flavored with a couple of Franco Dunn’s “risotto” sausages and, of course, Parmigiano. With it, asparagus, simply steamed and very lightly buttered.


Green salad afterward, then  tangerine. 


Riesling,, Emma Reichert (Nahe), 2016: light, dry, useful

Zuni


Arugula, Parmesan, and almonds. Parmesan, anchovies and olives. A fine Martini. Central Coast goat “gouda” with fig jam for dessert. Nice. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

salads

Eastside Road, April 3, 2018—
NO PHOTO, just leftovers tonight — egg salad, made for today's lunch with a couple of visiting friends; the end of the tuna-bean salad, finally, and none the worse for maturing; an orange lentil sauté with onion flavored with cardamom and turmeric; then the green salad, again including spinach.

Speaking of cardamom, we were introduced today to a fine ice creamery — a Michoacan ice creamery, where I chose a small cup of cardamom ice cream. Beautifully made, thick and creamy, and delicately but thoroughly infused with the spice. The flavor was not layered on an ice cream base, or even folded into it; it was completely integral to the entire preparation. There are many flavors to be tried here, and the authentic paletas as well, some of them quite piquant I am told. We'll be back.

     🍷A little beer before lunch; a ginger beer with dinner.

•Frozen Art Gourmet Ice Cream, 500 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa; 📞(707) 331-2899

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Monday, April 2, 2018

Baseball

IMG 8949
Eastside Road, April 2, 2018—
SPRING TRAINING went pretty well, which always alarms me — and in fact things havyen't been unrelievedly wonderful since the season opened last week.

Things in the ball park, that is. Here at the dining table, which I confess is in front of the TV when a game is on, things are just fine. Niman Schell hot dog, DBC* bun, organic dill pickle, decent mustard and relish — and one of Cook's quickly made but nicely flavored potato salads.

Green salad afterward, of course, tonight with spinach among the greens. A Pixie tangerine; a couple of chocolates.

     🍷Cheap white wine spritz

*Downtown Bakery and Creamery, Healdsburg

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Spanakopita

IMG 8944
Eastside Road, April 1, 2018—
THE NEIGHBOR STEPPED onto the patio a little before noon, bearing a plate in her two hands. "I brought you some pie," she said, and took it into the kitchen, then excused herself, in a hurry, and walked back down the hill.

Well, it's Easter Sunday: no surprise she'd made Spanakopita, that delicious traditional Greek Easter pastry — flaky pastry concealing chopped spinach, onion, and egg, along with who knows what else comes to hand.

It's the day we often drive into town for a big Easter backyard party at a friend's house, but not this time; I'm being told to avoid crowds of people, and especially little kids. So we stayed home, the Contessa and I, and made do with our books and our gardening. Crackers, cheese, and fruit for lunch, leftover salads for supper — a delicious potato salad that's only improved in the few days since Cook made it; a fine cannellini-onion-and-tuna salad; green salad of course.

And a delicious Spanakopita. Thanks, T!

It's nice to be back.

     🍷Blanc, La Ferme Julien

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:

2016      2015     2017     maybe I'll get around to working on these one of these days…

Friday, February 16, 2018

Steak and potatoes

IMG 8677
Eastside Road, February 15, 2018—

ST. VALENTINE has come and gone, bringing Ash Wednesday with him — a curious and perhaps ominous conjunction that I don't recall ever experiencing before. But perhaps it means nothing.

Dinner last night was superb: Cook found a fine thick rib-eye at the local meat counter, and prepared it inspired by a recent NY Time recipe by David Tanis involving salt and pepper, garlic and rosemary. The steak sweats in those flavorings half an hour or so, and is then cooked on one side in a very hot skillet, then turned and finished in the oven.

Potatoes as she often cooks them, in butter, with salt, pepper, garlic, and chopped parsley.

We did not have salad: instead, my favorite green leafy (well, one of them): Swiss chard.

     🍷Dolcetto, Pecchenino "San Luigi" (Dogliani), 2016: ottimo, as the Italians say, simply the best.

Best of all, there was enough left of this feast (except for the chard) to have exactly the same meal tonight!

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Monday, February 12, 2018

Souvenirs of Yountville

Eastside Road, February 12, 2018—
ROAST CHICKEN again tonight, because we could eat only half of it last night. We don't usually resort to doggy bags: in fact, I think this may have been the first time I have willingly participated in such a thing, though the Contessa has been known to bring the occasional leftover home from a lunch somewhere. I was brought up to leave nothing behind on the dinner table, and old habits die hard.

So last night I asked the busser to put the dark meat of our bird in a little box, and not to neglect the bones from the breasts and wings which we'd eaten. Two more meals, we thought. But our instructions were not followed; the gnawed bones must have been felt infra dig. Oh well.

Cold roast chicken for dinner, then, with nice steamed buttery potatoes, and raw fennel, and a green salad.


But there is more. Cook found some prosciutto in the fridge at lunchtime, and made delicious grilled ham and cheese sandwiches with some Comté.

And breakfast! Instead of the customary toast, it was pain aux raisins, one of my favorite pastries, bought last night at Bouchon Bakery. This was truly a remarkable thing, buttery with particularly good butter, raisiny with dark and golden raisins, not too big but far from frugal. A great way to start the day.

     🍷Cinsault, Preston of Dry Creek, 2014 (at dinner, naturally)

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ad hoc

Yountville, California, February 11, 2018—
INTO ENEMY TERRITORY today — not Stanford, but the Napa Valley — to see an interesting exhibition of the photographs of Paul Child, documenting his life with Julia in postwar France.

And to dine. It was Paul Bocuse's birthday, Paul Bocuse who recently died, the celebrated inventor of La Nouvelle Cuisine back in the 1960s. This was important in its day for finally displacing what I think of as Swiss-Hotel Cuisine from the culinary establishment. It was, in a way, in its context, analogous to the arrival in our country, a little later, of "California Cuisine."

Thomas Keller, the celebrity chef of the Napa Valley (The French Laundry, Ad Hoc, Bouchon bakery) decided to celebrate this occasion with a menu inspired by Bocuse and cuisine nouvelle. Ad Hoc is a "casual" supplementary restaurant to the hautee cuisine tasting-menu The French Laundry, sharing its access to a fine salad garden, an extensive wine list, and the excellent Bouchon bakery, but lacking linen tablecloths, extensive presentation-heavy courses — and pleasant acoustics.

We dined early, 5 pm, and on a Sunday: but the room was soon packed with a noisy, rather young crowd, some with very small children. (We'd been amused, earlier, to see dozens of these people — daytrippers, I'd bet — out photographing themselves and one another in the fields of mustard blossoms currently filling the valley.)

The first course was a variant on salade lyonnaise: frisée, bacon chunks, a poached egg, a vinegary dressing. This is a favorite of mine, and this version was good. The frisée was in fact a hybrid of curly endive (the usual and authentic lettuce) and some other, sweeter, rather meatier lettuce; the bacon was lightly smoked in the American manner; and the egg was not really poached but slow-cooked to a low temperature in the current fashion: but the result was a delicious salad, and I'm sure Bocuse would have approved.

     🍷Graves, Ch. Villa Bel Air, 2014: just what a Sauvignon blanc should be

I'm not sure he'd have approved the next course — a whole small chicken , perfectly roasted, then split in half and presented just so, with little jus. The bird should have been more adequately salted before cooking, and I like the skin a bit crisper. I should roast my own damn chicken, I guess.

With it, a nice dish of tiny lentils and another of deep but I thought one-dimensional mushrooms.

     🍷Mondeuse, Domaine Louis Maguin (Savoie), 2011: a favorite varietal of mine, this was perfectly mature and true to type, deep and finished

Came next a cheese course, but not what you'd have found in the French countryside, where a chariot would trundle to the table offering a variety. This was a half round of local (Andante Dairy) Saint Marcellin-style cheese, with delicious buttery toast and a small pot of honey.

     🍷Bourgogne blanc, Roche e Bellene, 2014

And then perhaps the best course of the meal, unless the salad won that honor — a beautifully made, silky, deeply flavored custard, unfortunately not that well brulée, probably not to order. But the custard itself was fine, and brought its accompanying wine to life.

     🍷Jurançon, Charles Hours "Clos Uroulat," 2012: soft, fruit, balanced sugar, plenty of finesse
Ad Hoc, 6476 Washington St Yountville; 📞+1 (707) 944-2487

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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Pinsa; Merguez

YESTERDAY WE WERE down in San Francisco, as we seem so often to be, looking at art and, of course, finally eating. We'd skipped lunch for lack of time, so had a very early supper at a place I've been curious about.

A pinsa, it turns out, is a sort of foccaccia, a flat savory pastry laden with whatever you think you'd like and cooked in an oven. A sort of pizza, in fact. It's a Roman dish, they say: it's odd that in all the time we've spent in Rome we've never run into it.

At this particular pinseria the dough is made with a blend of rice, soy, and wheat flours, all imported from Rome. I ordered the Centocelle, named for a quarter of Rome we haven't visited but certainly will one day: it was loaded with tomato, mozzarella, artichokes, mushroom, olives, hard-boiled-egg, and prosciutto di parma, and it was very very very delicious. With it, a simple mixed green salad.

     🍷Aglianico del Vulture “Gricos,” Grifalco (Basilicata), 2014
No need to speak English here: this is a simple place; you'd have thought you were in an Italian province. Dark, cluttered with nostalgic old furnishings, in a dubious alley between Mission and Market. I can't wait to go back.

Montesacro Pinseria-Enoteca, 510 Stevenson Street, San Francisco; 📞(415) 795-3040


Eastside Road, February 10, 2018—
TONIGHT WE DINED at home, and it was one of the best dinners I've had in weeks. Cook found a couple of lamb sausages in the freezer, sausages our son had brought, made from lamb from his own animals, nothing but lamb and very thoughtfully mixed spices including coriander.

This gave Cook the idea of something North African or perhaps Middle Eastern. She charred and peeled two green bell peppers and two red ones, cut them into strips, and sautéed them in olive oil with onion and garlic, flavoring them with paprika, red pepper flakes and a bay leaf. The result couldn't be bettered.

Green salad; a tangerine.

     🍷Cinsault, Preston of Dry Creek, 2014 — an absolutely perfect match to the dish

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Monday, February 5, 2018

Sardines and such

Eastside Road, February 5, 2018—
YESTERDAY I MADE sandwiches for lunch — sounds unexceptional, but Constant Reader knows I’m rarely allowed to do the cooking. I found a decent-sized stalk of celery and half a white onion in the refrigerator, and chopped them up, along with a dill pickle. I washed four leaves of lettuce. I opened a can of sardines. I sliced four slices of that delicious Como bread from the Downtown Bakery, and threw everything together, and it was pretty good as I believe; Cook thought so too.

     🍷Cheap Pinot grigio

TODAY, on the other hand, it was lunch in the café, and what a delicious lunch. I started with a simple salad of butter lettuce, with a creamy Green Goddess-like dressing redolent with tarragon.

Afterward, roast pork loin, with leafy broccoli stalks — more leaf than stalk or flowerets — and a pungent tapenade. And remarkable french-fries, hand-cut, very thinly sliced, nicely cooked and salted. The pork was marvelous: tender, succulent, mature, perfectly roasted.

     🍷Arneis, Vietti, 2014
For supper we had a brandade and tomato pizzetta that we’d had the forsight to take home with us. This has to be among the best pizzas.

•Café Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 📞510-548-5525

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Saturday, February 3, 2018

Penne

Eastside Road, February 3, 2018—
YES: penne rigata; tomato sauce of Cook’s own manufacture, grated Parmesan. Green salad after.

     🍷Garnacha, Laya, 2014

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Thursday, February 1, 2018

Soup

Eastside Road, February 1, 2017——
ONE OF THESE days I’ll tell the story of the old man who had to have his soup. “Pas possible, manger sans la soupe, » he said. I’ll tell it one of these days when I have a keyboard.

Tonight Cook made this soup: beans, ham, onions, celery, jalapeños, collards, garlic, a splash of cider vinegar. Chicken stock. Delicious.

     🍷Wine

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Eastside Road, January 16, 2018—
TODAY WILL BE a fast day: it's Tuesday, and long overdue. But what have we been eating these last three days?
Saturday, having noticed the preponderance of meat in the diet of the last few days, Cook decided to make a sort of braise or stew of vegetables. Brassicas constituted much of the melange, and while I'm fond of brassica leaves, those parts of the plants found underground are not to my personal taste.

I do like carrots, and celeriac, and radishes: otherwise root vegetables taste mostly like dirt to me. Except for potatoes, tubers are out of the question. ditto corms and rhizomes. Alliums, of course, are not roots at all, but bulbs, and essential to my diet — though Cook was, I thought, perhaps a bit too extravagant in the use of garlic in this particular dish.

I'm not complaining. Everything doesn't have to be to my personal taste.

Sunday: Ah, Cook served a marvelous pasta tonight — tagliarini, the one I've been buying online, dense and flavorful, tossed ith anchovies, parsley, thin-sliced lemon, and croutons. The flavors were fresh and pointed, the textures crisp, chewy, and interesting. Why do people eat roots and tubers, anyway, when they can have food like this? Of course it's true pasta must be manufactured and anchovies netted and trucked, but what else is civilization for?

     🍷Cheap Pinot grigio

Yesterday, Monday, though the weather has been warmer lately, Cook bethought herself of a good thick winter soup, like one we'd had in Portland a week or two ago — split pea soup, based on a corned-beef broth she'd found in the freezer, with little cubes of boiled ham, onion, carrot (ah there!), thyme, a bay leaf, garlic…

Gee, this was delicious. I drew a critical remark for gobbling, and it's true, I should curb my enthusiasm. But it was so good.

     🍷Aglianico

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017