Friday, September 28, 2018


IMG 1022
Viale di Trastevere, September 28, 2018—

HERE WE ARE in the Eternal City once again, and why not? After a week of family reunion at home with relatives from Australia, a couple of weeks with family in Rome seemed like a good idea.

The tartare you see here was last night's dinner, preceded by bruschetti and a delicious salad of raw and cooked artichoke, arugula, pine nuts, and Parmigiano. I liked both. The tartare was served with minced shallot and parsley, mustard, and salt; the egg was fresh and flavorful. IMG 1020

The photo does not do justice to the salad, which was quite complex — the artichoke both fried in the Jewish style here and thin-sliced raw; the pine nuts plentiful (and Italian, to be sure, not Chinese), the oil quite deep and added at my discretion.

IMG 1026Dessert: a "deconstructed" Sicilian cannolo: Buffalo ricotta cream, candied Tarocco orange peel, chocolate chips, and broken cannoli shell. This was complex and generous, like this restaurant, a favorite of our Roman relatives — which boasts fine ingredients, many of them organic and some from the Slow Food "Ark of Taste" specific-to-region products.

We were seven at table, and had begun with an aperitif across the street, at a wine bar that in former days catered to the city's communists. We were a festive crew — and I was exhausted by the end.

     🍷Cesanese, Damiano Ciolli "Silene," 2016: fruity with a bit of edge

•Il Vinaietto, Via del Monte della Farina 38, Rome; 📞+39 06 68806 989
•Emma, Via del Monte della Farina 28, Rome; 📞+39 06 64760 475

Lunch had been at a place new to us, though getting on to thirty years at its site — recommended by friends who felt it had offered the finest dining they'd enjoyed on a recent tour of Italy.

It was very accommodating; the menu was interesting; the food tasty and characteristic. I didn't find it exceptional, but I probably ordered wrong — an insalata Nicoise, because after a very long day of travel I wanted greens, tuna, and salt. I'd go back to order better.

     🍷Bianco della casa

•Giulio passamilolio, Via di Monte Giordano, 28, Roma ; 📞+39 06 68803288

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Hot dog

IMG 0948
Eastside Road, September 18, 2018—

SIMPLE DINNERS these days, partly in order to thin out the freezer and the refrigerator, partly to save time needed elsewhere. It's okay: we'll make up for it before long, you can be sure.

Baseball is increasingly in the air as we near October, and with baseball come hot dogs. Here on Eastside Road those are generally Niman Ranch, whose meat we trust. You wouldn't know it by reading these posts, but we're pretty careful about the sources of the meat we eat, avoiding industrial products in favor of small, preferably local producers.

Cook sears these on top of the stove in a hot black iron pan, and we treat the buns to mustard, chopped raw onion, pickle relish, and local sauerkraut. Alongside, fennel and a tomato; afterward, green salad and a small bowl of ice cream — oh: and a pear and a few figs, from our trees. Life is good.

Yes, I know, I missed yesterday. It was a return of cannelini-and-tuna salad.

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Sunday, September 16, 2018


IMG 0916
San Francisco, September 15, 2018—

ZUNI IS A FAVORITE place of ours — I've dropped in from time to time since almost the beginning, which was in 1979, always enjoying the location and the ambiance and the vibrant personality — and the cuisine.

We'd spent an hour or two in the somewhat overwrought repressed sensuality of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood exhibition at the Palace of the Legion of Honor, and it was time to relax with an excellent Martini and a late lunch and a couple of dear old friends, and Zuni was the place that came immediately to mind.

I looked longingly at the oysters — a remarkable selection — but turned instead to a promised crépinette, pan-fried I think and served with shell beans, sautéed grapes, and what I recall — writing this the next day — as bok choy, or something of the sort, sweet and toothy.

The crépinette seemed to me lacking in the caul fat that seems to me obligatory. My first experience with crépinette was with those made and sold at the old Pig By the Tail, the charcuterie opened in 1973 across the street from Chez Panisse by my then tennis partner and occasional sparring partner Victoria Wise, the opening-night chef at Chez P. Crépinettes were a staple there, consistently absolutely first-rate, the right weight, texture, size, and complexity, and always wrapped in caul fat.

Well, this crépinette was not Victoria's, but it was very nice, well balanced between meat and spices, and the partnering grapes and beans were inspired.

     🍷Morgon, Marcel Lapierre, 2015

IMG 0917 2And for dessert, Parmesan cheese with dates, a Judy Rodgers standby — how we miss that woman! — with a glass of Averna amaro. Because, well, why not?

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

THAT WAS YESTERDAY. Today we dined on that marvelous Italian salad: cannelini, onions, sage, salt, and olive oil. It's a favorite. Green salad afterward, and fruit, et moi je suis content.

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Friday, September 14, 2018


IMG 0894
Eastside Road, September 14, 2018—

IT MAY NOT be edible, Cook said, the onions being soprarosolate, as the Italians might say; never mind, I said, You know I like carbon, my grandfather loved burnt toast, and died 97 years old.

It was fit to eat. She'd browned the onions in the usual way, along with chorizo, and added a can of hominy, and on serving it strewn it with blossoms cut from some cilantro growing outside the kitchen door somewhere.

Green salad afterward, and then a bit of ice cream with warm caramel sauce.

     🍷Carménère, Panilonco (Colchaqua Valley, Chile), 2017: a little sweet for my taste, tannic

Thursday, September 13, 2018


IMG 0870
Eastside Road, September 13, 2018—
WE FIRST TASTED this salad in Italy, Cook says, and I'm sure she's right. I suppose it's a variant of the famous Caprese, which is tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. Well, perhaps not, now that I type those words and look at them; there's nothing in common except the Italian colors — green, white, red — and the presence of leaves and cheese.

Caprese is rarely anywhere near as good as it should be. This salad, which has become quite popular, has a mountain quality I like better. Bresaola is air-dried beef, uncooked, eaten in thin thin slices. It's associated with the Valtellina region in the Lombard Alps, where it was probably originally air-dried in the winter months.

Cook sliced the bresaola and arranged it on the plates, covering it with arugula dressed with lemon juice and olive oil, and added shavings of Parmigiano reggiano. The flavors and textures merge marvelously in the mouth.

(We bought this bresaola six weeks ago, in Salt Lake City, at Beltex Meats, and it is very good.)

IMG 0869Afterward, those three cheeses we had a few days ago with guests: a fine Brie, a Basque, a Moncenisio blue.

     🍷White: "Madam Preston," Preston of Dry Creek, perfect with cheese

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017


IMG 0865

Eastside Road, September 12, 2018—

ACCORDING TO THE article on Wikipedia the word is spelled "muffuletta." The article contains a section on the "pronunciation and orthography" of the word — eight different versions, not one of them containing an "a" in the second syllable. But the name, like the sandwich, underwent changes, you might say erosion, in its travels from Sicily to New Orleans, where the American version is said to have been created in 1906, at Central Grocery Company, on Decatur Street.

I wouldn't know. In nearly a month spent investigating Sicily I don't recall ever having run into a muffuletta, or a mufiletta, or a muffulitteḍḍu. And I've never been to New Orleans.

Wikipedia tells me the muffaletta is a round loaf of soft bread, say ten inches in diameter, crisp on the outside and flavored with sesame seeds. But Americans generally use the word to describe the sandwich, not the loaf. Again according to Wikipedia the sandwich is on a split muffaletta loaf — I will continue to spell it with that "A" — and contains layers of salami, ham, Swiss cheese, provolone, and mortadella, and — most importantly — olive salad.

That latter ingredient begins with giardiniera — lightly pickled celery, cauliflower, and carrot — which is chopped with olives, flavored with oregano and garlic, covered in olive oil, and steeped for at least a day.

Today was dad and daughter lunch day, and we went to a local breakfast-lunch place that features a New Orleans menu. It's fast, comfortable, not terribly expensive, not at all upscale. I like it.

I ordered a half muffaletta, and ate only half of it, taking the other half home for the Contessa. (I took an order of beignets, too, because they are particularly light and tasty here.)

I like the olive salad on this sandwich, but I fault the sandwich just a teeny bit for lacking balance. The printed menu does not indicate the presence of cheese, but it was there, conspiring with a rather bland ham to elbow aside the mortadella and provolone.

Maybe that's just me. Such sandwiches are individual tastes.

     🍷Beer: Plow Pilsener

•The Parish Cafe, 60 Mill Street, Healdsburg; 📞(707) 431 8474

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Penne, tomato sauce

IMG 0860
Eastside Road, September 11, 2018—

IF YOU TYPE the word "penne" into the search box up in the upper left corner, as I just did, you'll find at least a hundred posts to this blog, going back over the last ten years. And a surprising number of those posts — or maybe it's not all that surprising — contain a photo remarkably like this one.

Well, here they are again, those whole-wheat organic penne Cook likes so much, in that tomato sauce I like so much. We had the green salad afterward, of course, with my usual vinaigrette: mash a clove of garlic with salt, let it steep in olive oil, add red wine vinegar, whip with a dinner fork briskly (with a side-to-side motion, leaving the tines below the surface, you don't need air in the vinaigrette).

IMG 0861Strawberries are still in season, and Lou Preston's are our favorites at the moment, and Cook had some shortcake ready to go in the freezer.

     🍷Zinfandel, Preston of Dry Creek, 2015, yes yes

For lunch we'd gone out to the coast with a couple of friends visiting from Hawaii. Norman knew a place whose fried-oyster hoagy he particularly liked. Fine; we all have different tastes: I've never been particularly attracted to fried oysters. I had three of them my usual way: on the half shell, no lemon or vinaigrette. Delicious.

And fish and chips — local halibut battered very lightly and deep-fried in peanut oil, with good French fries on the side, and a generous glass of someone's Albariño.

Fisherman's Cove, 1850 Bay Flat Rd, Bodega Bay, CA ; 📞(707) 377-4238

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Monday, September 10, 2018

Fried egg sandwich

IMG 0858
Eastside Road, September 10, 2018—

WHEN I WAS a boy, ten and eleven years old, I walked a couple of miles to school every day carrying my lunch, usually in a beat-up paper bag — after lunch I folded it up and put it in my pocket for the next day. In the bag, two sandwiches and a piece of fruit, and maybe a hard-boiled egg.

The sandwiches were on bread my mother baked, bread that obeyed one of those rigorous life-cycles: when the yeast was new the bread was ballooned and full of holes; as the yeast wore out, over a couple of months, the bread got denser and the slices smaller.

There was always one fried-egg sandwich and one peanut-butter-and-something sandwich, jam or honey usually, though now and then Mom forgot that I did not share all her enthusiasms and made it peanut-butter-and-mustard, which I would carefully set aside in the garbage, or throw over the fence for whatever animal might be hungry enough to chance it, for our two-room school was in a village small enough to seem to be in the country.

We still have fried-egg sandwiches: they're quick and simple and tasty, perfect for those evenings you don't want to cook. They're better now, these sandwiches. They're on much better bread — sorry, Mom — from Healdsburg's Downtown Bakery or, as today, from Berkeley's Acme. The eggs don't have troubling dark or bloody spots, and the yolks are runny, because they don't have to be carried for miles.

And these fried-egg sandwiches have another advantage over those I carried to school seventy years ago: they're eaten hot. I do not recommend cold greasy fried-egg sandwiches.

A carrot; fennel. Dessert: a Greek cookie from that marvelous Greek restaurant of a couple of nights ago.

     🍷Zinfandel grape juice, fresh from our vines, in sparkling water


IMG 0849
San Leandro, September 9, 2018—
BACK AT OUR END of the state — actally more central: the Bay Area — we have dinner not far from the airport (Oakland) with a couple of friends who live nearby. They choose a newish neighborhood restaurant they hadn't yet visited, and it turned out to be another modest find.

The place is comfortable and interesting, with an open kitchen behind the (beer and wine only) bar, and a menu oriented (heh heh) toward Greek but especially Turkish cuisine.

I began with spanakopita, that delicious Greek version of a spinach quiche but served within layers of flaky pastry. This was as beautifully cooked as any I've had the pleasure to meet, with artful pastry, nicely browned, a just balance of egg, spinach, and onion, with a substantial serving of tzatziki and a bed of perfect little lettuce leaves.

IMG 0851Next, another special of the day, Moussaka. How could I resist the dish the restaurant is named for? This one was classic, with a fairly thin slice of toasted eggplant at the bottom, a Greek Bolognese with delicious tomato sauce, and a very generous layer of Béchamel on top. The mixture of spices was discreet and complex, and table talk distracted me from careful study, so I can't go into details.

I had a bite of the Contessa's dessert, a semolina cake soaked in simple syrup, flavored I suspect with orange-blossom. I'll have more tomorrow for lunch, I think. Servings here range from ample to absurdly generous; the kitchen is authoritative, the service friendly and graceful, the wine list interesting. It's off our beat, but we're likely to return.

     🍷Red, Villa Doluca (Anatolia), 2015: 40% Öküzgözü, 40% Alicante, 20% Carignan: deep, fruity, complex, very nice with this food

•Moussaka Mediterranean Kitchen, 599 Dutton Avenue, San Leandro, California; 📞+1(510)850-5020

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Sand dabs

IMG 0825
Los Angeles, September 8, 2018—

NOT A VERY good photo — and for that matter not a very nice presentation, but let's not be snobbish. Sand dabs are a favorite favorite of ours. I used to cook them often, when we still lived in Berkeley, buying them at Monterey Fish, and cooking them in saor, with shallots and golden raisins and white wine and butter and a drop or two of vinegar. Oh they were delicious.

A friend drove down from Westwood and saved us from the hotel tonight and drove us to Venice (speaking of in saor), and what should be on the menu, the extensive menu, but sand dabs. They were cooked more meuniére than saor, but that works too. I'm not sure the heavily garlicky mashed potatoes were the perfect accompaniment, but I ate every bite. There was also spinach hidden in that stack, and I do love spinach.

Dessert: a curious nectarine-and-berry "tart" that was almost a clafoutis — again, every morsel gone.

     🍷Chablis, Jean-Marc Brocard, vintage?

•James' Beach, 60 North Venice Boulevard, Venice, California; 📞(877) 564-4192

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Friday, September 7, 2018

A la grecque

IMG 0783
Los Angeles, September 7, 2018—
NOTHING BETTER than finding yourself in an unfamiliar and decidedly unpromising place and stumbling across a family restaurant full of heart, hard-working, true to its roots and careful about its sources. I wrote yesterday that we had no alternative to our hotel restaurants, but then today I looked at Google Maps and found a possibility a twelve-minute walk away. It was truly marvelous.

The busser was bilingual in Spanish and English, no surprise there, but the waiters worked in Greek as well — a language with which I have no familiarity at all, can't even say thank you — although I learned: ευχαριστώ. Nor do I know Greek cuisine, beyond a few simple dishes bordering on cliché — and that's about where I stayed tonight.

I began with the Gigandes you see above — beans we know as gigantes, because we used to get them from an importer of Italian foodstuffs. These were undoubtedly the same beans, imported dry, carefully prepared, chestnutty in texture, buttery and beany in flavor, cooked in a light tomato sauce with a very discreet sprinkling of oregano. The first taste proved we'd found a remarkable restaurant.

I went on past a small Greek salad to pastitsio, that Greek version of lasagne, partly because I knew it, because I succumbed to the nostalgia of tasting once again something I used to enjoy at the old Cafe Mediterraneum, partly because I thought it would be a good test.

IMG 0676The Greek-style Bolognese of ground beef (though innocent of tomato or carrot) was nicely flavored with herbs, thyme and oregano I would say, and folded into a light but substantial pasta, with a thoughtfully prepared Béchamel sauce on top, nicely served surrounded by quarters of pita bread.

We had to have dessert, of course. The Contessa had baklav a; I opted for galaktoboureko, layers of filo filled with custard, soaked in syrup. It could have been warmed more thoroughly; it had spent time in the refrigerator — but it had none of that frigo smell or taste.

Dear Veronese friends who spend so much time in Greece, we thought of you often tonight — I wish you could have been there with us. It was like eating in a family country restaurant in Italy — or, I suppose, Greece. The people, the industry, the enthusiasm, the hospitality were down to earth and full of bonhomie. Extraordinary. We will return.

     🍷Makedonikos, white (deep and flavored, similar to Viognier) and red (forthcoming and pleasant)

•Aliki's Greek Taverna, 5862 Arbor Vitae Street, Los Angeles; 📞+1 (310) 645-9555

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Steak and spinach

IMG 0763
Los Angeles, September 6, 2018—
WE FLEW DOWN this afternoon for a conference we take in almost every year, and there's no place to eat but the airport hotel we're staying in. It's going to be like this through Sunday lunch, so might as well make the best of it.

There are three "restaurants" here. Two are primarily soup-salad-and-sandwich places, and one of those features bigscreen televisions in each dining area. So we opted, being hungry and wanting a little calm and quiet, for the third alternative, billed as a steak house.

We ordered almost identically: a flatiron steak, rare for me, medium rare for the Contessa, a glass of red wine, a bottle of sparkling water, and a side of spinach. Oh, and dessert: "butter cake" with Bourbon ice cream for her, crème brulée for me.

You can judge the meal by the photo, of my dessert. Everything seems made to a formula and probably fairly early in the day. The beef tasted good and was correctly grilled, but lacked spark. I liked the spinach.

That crème brulée — a very heavy one, made well ahead of time, even burned ahead of time, served with a halved strawberry and lots of blueberries under a cage of spun sugar. There was nothing light or delicate here. Once I'd eaten the blueberries and rejected the strawberries and the cage, I was left with an egg dish more appropriate to breakfast. Oh well.

     🍷Malbec, Dona Paula (Argentina)

•JW's Steakhouse, Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel, Los Angeles; 📞+1 (310) 641-5700

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Penne, red sauce, Zinfandel

IMG 0762
Eastside Road, September 5, 2018—

COOK TURNED to an old favorite tonight, pasta with tomato sauce. The pasta is organic whole-wheat penne, which hold the sauce well.

She begins the sauce by browning ground beef with crushed garlic added toward the end, then adding tomato sauce she's made herself using a recipe of Alice's: she halves the tomatoes and roasts them in olive oil in the oven, then runs them through the food mill to remove the skins and pips and cans them in jars in the usual way. They are beautiful in every dimension.

Grated Parmesan cheese on top. Green salad later; then some fruit.

     🍷Zinfandel, Preston of Dry Creek, 1915. I'm one of those who think Healdsburg's Dry Creek Valley is the ground zero, the holy site for Zinfandel, and none is better, to my taste, than this.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Pork chop

IMG 0758
Eastside Road, September 4, 2018—

AS A GENERAL RULE we cook our pork chops ma façon, as I call it, my way, smeared with ground fennel seeds, salt, pepper, crushed garlic and olive oil. Tonight, though, Cook took the more conventional and, I would say, conservative route, simply dusting them with salt and pepper and pan-searing them in the black iron frying pan. Works just fine, I think.

With them, romanesco, steamed with crushed garlic, and mashed potatoes left over from yesterday. I do think mashed potatoes hold well and perhaps even age nicely overnight.

Green salad afterward.

     🍷The end of yesterday's rosé

Monday, September 3, 2018

Guest to supper

IMG 9970
Eastside Road, September 3, 2018—
FOR CERTAIN GUEST we lay in a bit of cheese for supper. I love cheese, though I cannot pretend to know much about it — it's a vast subject, and I avoid most vast subjects, I suppose fearing dilletantism. But I do like a bit of cheese after dinner, so welcomed the request to buy some this afternoon.

I wasn't very exploratory, settling on the conventional array of three: a soft mild one, a blue, a firm one. In that order, I quickly chose a promising Brie; a Moncenisio blue because I am fond of Moncenisio the mountain, pass, and village; and a Basque sheep's-milk cheese because, well, look at these sheep, they give the milk that makes this cheese.

P'tit Basque, it's called, a cheese as industrial-commercial as the photo below, found online. Istara makes the cheese, and we often drove past the factory when we were in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port early in July. We bought it there, too, in the covered market. I think it tasted just as good tonight.

I don't remember what the Brie was, but it was delicious, silky, a little pungent, sticky. The blue was big and rustic and rounded things out perfectly.

Dinner itself was simple: Franco Dunn's Boerwurst, from a South African recipe, lots of nutmeg; sliced tomatoes; buttery mashed potatoes. Green salad, of course; we didn't forget this time.

And dessert: some of those marvelous Golden Transparent plums from our tree, and fine chocolate chip cookies baked and brought by our guest. You're welcome any time, Gaye!

     🍷Rosé di Pinot grigio, Grigio Luna, Villa Borghetti, 2017
Ptit Basque

Happy birthday!

IMG 0719
Eastside Road, September 2, 2018—
AL FRESCO DINING at the neighbors' down the hill is always a pleasure — you've read about a few such occasions here before — and particularly a pleasure when it's a birthday, as is the case today.

Prominent at most of these meals: meat. In this case, chicken thighs and beef ribs, nicely smoked the morning of the party. And with them a smooth and elegant aïoli for steamed potatoes and green beans. And the best deviled eggs I remember ever having eaten (and they were duck eggs)! And a green salad we forgot about.

And dessert, of course — not the conventional cake, but a smooth rich chocolate pie with mounds of whipped cream. Thanks to all the many cooks — no spoiled broth here! Let's do it again next year!

     🍷Rosé, Emma Reichert, 2016;
Zinfandel, Preston of Dry Creek, 2015

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Salmon Saturday

IMG 0709
Eastside Road, September 1, 2018—
THE FIRST DAY of September, and fall is definitely in the air. Grape seeds are showing in the fox scat; leaves are browning, the light is lower. I love these days.

And it's Saturday, so market day. The salmon is from our local fish store — Alaska wild salmon, cooked in the Nancy Hachisu manner, thin-sliced onion and a drop of something with a little butter on top of the fish, which is then wrapped in aluminum foil and cooked under the broiler.

On the side, those delicious lima beans from Middleton Gardens; flanking them, eggplant and peppers from our Laytonville daughter-in-law, rescued — the vegetables, not the daughter-in-law — from two weeks' hibernation in our overcrowded refrigerator.

Green salad afterward, and then fine strawberries from Lou Preston. We are fortunate to live here — but then, we belong here.

     🍷Rosé di Pinot grigio, Grigio Luna, Villa Borghetti, 2017: a very nice wine indeed, simple, fresh.