Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 31, 2008
LIGHT SUPPER: pork loin, succotash, green salad. Pumpkin pie.
Pomegranate juice

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Meat pie

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 30, 2008—
THE END OF the meat pie tonight. Meat, potato (mashed), onion, carrot, celery — those delicious fragrant vegetables. Green salad, of course.
Pomegranate juice spritzer

Monday, December 29, 2008

Beer and a burger

Jughandle Creek Ranch, December 29, 2008—
  • North Coast Brewing Company, 455 N. Main St, Fort Bragg; tel. 707/964-3400
  • WE'D CHECKED OUT of our rental house and wanted one last meal before the family broke up to go its four separate ways, and Meadow suggested the Brewery. Feeling a little under the weather I had a cup of minestrone before splitting a hamburger and French fries with Lindsey, who suggested we split a dish of cole slaw as well. It was all surprisingly good; I'd go back any time.
    Pale lager, "Scrimshaw"

    Sunday, December 28, 2008

    Family dinner, 2

    Jughandle Creek Ranch, December 28, 2008—
    LINDSEY HAD WORKED for hours on a delicious meat pie, fabricated at home, then taken with us to our family reunion. It was delicious. Alas, I have no photos.
    Zinfandels and Primitivo

    Saturday, December 27, 2008

    Family dinner, 1

    Jughandle Creek Ranch, December 27, 2008—

    WELL, WE WEREN'T ALL there, but nearly — only Eve couldn't make it: the snowfields of Wisconsin are just too far away. But we were fifteen at table: Lindsey and me, the three kids and their spouses, seven of the eight grandchildren. We'd rented a farmhouse up on the Mendocino coast, and Meadow brought some delicious chops along, and we had rolls, and salad, and I forget what all. Lots of talk; lots of fun.
    Cheap red Côtes de Ventoux

    Friday, December 26, 2008

    Boxing Day encore

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 26, 2008—
    BRUSSELS SPROUTS, pork tenderloin, roasted potatoes and garlic cloves. Oh: and Michael's tomato relish, of which he gave us only a little in case we didn't like it. We like it, very much indeed.
    Pomegranate juice spritzer

    Thursday, December 25, 2008

    Christmas dinner

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 25, 2008—
    WE GROUND UP garlic, salt, and fennel seeds, and steeped it in olive oil for an hour or two, then slathered it on all sides of a pork tenderloin onto which we then grated lemon zest. That went into the oven in a pan with peeled and quartered potatos and whole unpeeled cloves of garlic.

    Brussels sprouts on the side, sautéed; green salad of course. Zabaglione.

    Zinfandel, Lou Preston old vines, 2004.

    Wednesday, December 24, 2008

    Christmas Eve: Beef and polenta

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 24, 2008—
    DINNER WITH FRIENDS tonight, after a day's round of visits. Sixteen or so of us altogether, and Gaye had slow-cooked beef with carrots, onions, and celery, to spoon over a plate of polenta. Green salad, of course.
    Zinfandel: Francis Coppola "Diamond Collection Red Label", 2004;
    Robert Rue "Wood Road" Century Old Vines, 2004

    Tuesday, December 23, 2008


    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 23, 2008—
    IT'S VERY EASY, says Lindsey; I just cooked the barley in salted water, and drained it, and tossed it with browned butter and chopped scallions. It was Marion's recipe; think about her while we eat. Green salad.
    Cheap red Ventoux "La Ferme Julien", rouge, 2006

    Monday, December 22, 2008

    Pasta and potato

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 22, 2008—
    WHEN I WAS A boy Dad bought a fifty-pound sack of potatoes every couple of weeks. Of course there were four of us boys, and Dad ate his share too, and so did Mom, I think, though her share was much smaller. We had potatoes every night. If we had beans, or macaroni and cheese, or rice, even, we still had potatoes. Sometimes I think there must be a Dutch gene in the family.

    Tonight we had pasta in red sauce, leftover; but that didn't keep us from having a baked potato as well. Bake it, split it open, pour in some olive oil, grind in some black pepper, don't forget the salt. Green salad, of course.
    The rest of the Preston Mourvedre

    Sunday, December 21, 2008


    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 21, 2008—
    WOW, THIS WAS GOOD: hominy from a can, chard from the garden, chorizo from the refrigerator, garlic and chili flakes from the pantry, a splash of white wine. Lindsey browned the crumbled chorizo and chopped garlic, added the chard cut into squares and the wine, then the hominy. It came together very nicely. Green salad, of course, and
    Cheap pinot grigio; Mourvedre: Louis Preston, 2006

    Saturday, December 20, 2008


    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 20, 2008—

    I THOUGHT I'D BLOGGED our risotto recipe, but I guess I hadn't; at least, I don't find it on the other site, and searching "risotto" here (use the box up above on the left) turns up lots of meals but no how-to. Well, you probably know perfectly well how to cook risotto anyhow. I chop half an onion fine fine fine and sweat it until transparent in a good bit of olive oil. (I use a big stainless-steel skillet with a heavy bottom.) I add enough rice to cover the bottom of the pan one grain deep, and fry that in the oil, gently, until the grains are half-transparent — transparent around the edges, in other words.

    Meanwhile the chicken stock is simmering nearby. I add a cup of stock to the rice and continue moving it around (I use a squared-off flat wooden spatula) until the stock is fully absorbed. Then I add another cup of stock and maybe half a cup of white wine; continue until absorbed. Then another cup of stock, another half-cup of wine; move around until absorbed. Then keep going with the stock, a cup at a time, always moving the rice around, until the risotto is done. Then grate in some Parmesan cheese; dish it out, grate more cheese and grind black pepper; serve. With a green salad afterward, of course.

    Of course you can add things: mushrooms (fresh or dried and soaked in white wine or stock), peas (frozen ones work fine), shrimp if you can tolerate them, finely chopped prosciutto, etc., etc.
    Cheap pinot grigio

    Friday, December 19, 2008

    Red pasta

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 19, 2008—

    THAT'S WHAT WE CALL it, red pasta: pasta with tomato sauce, supposed to be very good for us for its lycophemes, or lycophones, or lycanthropes, I'm not sure of the word. Tonight's was particularly interesting and very nice, as to both flavor and texture, because of the cheese: Parmagiano that we'd bought in Milan a couple of weeks ago, and not Reggiano, perhaps not even Grana, it was so inexpensive — about €15 the kilo as I recall. Very creamy, grated onto the sauce; but also very flavorful. Everything has its place, as long as it's good. Green salad, ovviamente.
    Côtes de Rhone, "Cuvée selectionée Kermit Lynch", 2006

    Thursday, December 18, 2008

    Chard; soup

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 18, 2008—
    THE NIGHTS HAVE DROPPED to the mid-twenties, but the chard endures, like a character in a Faulkner novel. Some of the leaves are elephantine; others mignonnes. Lindsey chopped them up and steamed them with a little crushed garlic; with the chard, toast rubbed with raw garlic and drizzled with olive oil. Afterward, a bowl of soup from the other night. Winter fare.
    Côtes de Rhone, "Cuvée selectionée Kermit Lynch", 2006

    Dinner at Jojo

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 17, 2008—
    IT'S BEEN WIDELY REPORTED: one of our favorite restaurants is closing at the end of this month. We're partial to Jojo for two very good reasons: it's a very fine restaurant, and the owners, chef and pastry chef, are friends of ours, friends and former neighbors and former colleagues. And in addition to this, Jojo is remarkable for two other reasons: its remarkable consistency and authenticity as a Parisian-style bistro in Oakland, California; and its grace and comfort as a pleasant home away from home.
    The restaurant business is hard work, and while lots of regulars express their gratitude, every restaurateur knows also a share of disappointment. A good restaurant tends to be taken for granted, overlooked; this has been especially true in the last dozen years, when trends and tricks have elbowed consistency and authority aside. More recently, restaurants have been hit by suddenly higher prices — the purveyors have had to pass on increased energy and labor costs — while diners have been hit by suddenly decreased discretionary money. Caught in the middle, restaurants are going to face a historic moment of truth. Jojo is closing after New Year's Eve, and my sad prediction is that it will be by no means the last one to close.
    All the more reason for us to book as early a table as we could make today. A glance at the menu was reassuring for its familiarity, but difficult to choose from: mussels steamed in rosé and shallots? Flatiron steak? I opted for the simplest, most heartwarming: green salad, delicately dressed with tarragon vinaigrette; flatiron steak, grilled rare, sliced, and served with anchovy butter. Pommes frites, bien sûr. And, for dessert, an amazing chocolate soufflée cake with crême anglaise. Life is good, while it lasts.
    Rosé de Chinon; Brouilly.

    Tuesday, December 16, 2008

    Soup of the evening

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 16—
    The beginning of the fifty-third week of daily posts!
    DINNER AT HOME (what an unusual event!), and a cold day and night it is, so Lindsey got some guinea-hen stock out of the refrigerator and added garlic cloves and a couple of handfuls of dried split peas and a bay leaf and such. Green salad, of course. Delicious. Afterward, apple crisp.
    Côtes de Rhone, "Cuvée selectionée Kermit Lynch", 2006

    Fish and fish

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 15, 2008—

  • Tacubaya, 1788 4th Street, Berkeley; tel. 510-525-5160
  • WE NEEDED A QUICK and inexpensive place to meet and we were a little hungry but guarding against an early dinner, so settled on Tacubaya, a fast taqueria but a good one. I had a taco de pescado- battered & fried pollock with arbol chile aioli, shredded cabbage and cilantro; frijoles pintos (pinto beans mashed with chorizo) on the side, and washed it down with — what else? — cheap Pinot grigio.
  • Café Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; tel. 510.548.5525

  • Then the early supper: rocket (rucola, arugula, roquette) with Pecorino and hazelnuts in a light fragrant olive-oil dressing, followed by the yellowtail jack you see here, sautéed and tossed with spinach, artichokes, Meyer lemon, and green olives; Clay's smooth, substantial, yet subtle chocolate ice cream for dessert.
    Chignin-Bergeron, Savoie, 2007

    Sunday, December 14, 2008

    Leftover lamb

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, Sunday, December 14, 2008—
  • Penne bolognese, left over from last Monday, when Lindsey ordered it from Louise's Trattoria in Pasadena. We virtually never take food home from restaurants, but Lindsey's in a frugal mood these days. The bolognese sauce was delicious.
  • Lamb shanks, left over from last night, with noodles. Some things just get better and better.
    Leftover cheap Pinot grigio
    Leftover "Super T Rex", Deerfield Ranch, 2002

    Oh. And at tea time, leftover canalés, bought Saturday at Trader Joe's in Glendale. Not as good as those from Ken's Bakery, but Portland's even farther away than Glendale.
  • Saturday, December 13, 2008

    Lamb shanks

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 13, 2008—

    COMPANY TO DINNER: let's have lamb shanks, I said; good idea, Lindsey answered. We were in Berkeley yesterday, so we stopped in at Magnani and there they were, lamb shanks from Sonoma county, 6.95 a pound. I got about five pounds.
    Richard Olney's book Simple French Food is one of our Bibles, and it falls open naturally to the page. You brown the (salted) shanks in olive oil in a heavy copper pot, throw in a dozen unpeeled garlic cloves, and cook very slowly until they begin to sizzle. Normally I do this on the stove, but it was cold here today, so I put the pots — two were needed — into the oven to cook slowly for two or three hours, adding a few pinches of dried herbes de Provence along the way.
    When they're done you remove the meat to another vessel, run the garlic cloves through a food mill, and deglaze the pans with white wine. Return the puréed garlic to the resultant juice and cook it down. Pepper and chopped parsley are the only remaining ingredients. Green salad, of course.
    "Super T Rex", Deerfield Ranch Winery (sangiovese, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, dolcetto), 2002

    Friday, December 12, 2008

    Sand dabs

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 12, 2008—
    I DON'T REALLY KNOW what they are, some kind of flatfish, we've bought them for years at Monterey Fish, and since we drove through Berkeley today, and hadn't eaten fish for days, it seemed the reasonable thing to do. Usually I cook them in a sort of Venetian style, with sweated onions and raisins and maybe capers and so on, but tonight Lindsey reasonably pointed out we didn't have time, we'd just driven up from Los Angeles, let's just flour them and fry them. Delicious. Meyer lemon from our tree. Green salad, of course.
    Need I say? Cheap Pinot grigio. We're home.

    Thursday, December 11, 2008

    Trendy Melrose

    Colorado St., Glendale, December 11—
  • Pizzeria Mozza, 641 North Highland, Los Angeles;
    tel. 323.297.0101

  • mozza.JPG
    Pizzeria Mozza

    IMPOSSIBLE TO GET a reservation, we'd been warned, so we put off trying for days. Then this morning I called to ask how soon three of us could get in for lunch. How about 12:45, came the answer. The place was crowded and noisy and, needless to say, casual; the menu reminded me of places we'd eaten in a couple of weeks ago, in Milan and Rome. I had a nice insalata mista dressed with oil and lemon juice and a little white wine vinegar, I think; and then a delicious pizza with guanciale, radicchio, bagna cauda, and an open-faced egg. It needed a little salt, but that was easily done. Lindsey had a dish of long-cooked sautéed Brussels sprouts with prosciutto breadcrumbs before her pizza, and a butterscotch pudding for dessert. Delicious. We'll be back.
    Roero Arneis: Marco Porello, Canale, 2006

    Wednesday, December 10, 2008

    Glendale Palate

    Colorado St., Glendale, December 10—
  • Palate Food + Wine, 933 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; tel. 818-662-9463
  • ribeye.JPG

    FOR YEARS NOW we've spent a week a year in Glendale, California. A funny place for a vacation, you might think. For one thing, there's no really good restaurant in town. Or hasn't been, until recently. Now, though, a serious team has moved into the ground floor of an old Bekins storage warehouse: the top six floors are dedicated to wine storage; the ground floor is taken up by Palate Food + Wine. We stopped in at mid-afternoon for a snack with friends: I had a plate of "porkfolio," a modest charcuterie plate, with a few pickled vegetables on the side and a glass of nice Dolcetto.
    In fact we were sneaking a peek, because we were already booked in for dinner tonight with two other friends, friends in the food business. The nighttime restaurant is completely different from the rather laid-back afternoon wine bar. Busy, polished, generous: glasses of Crémant d'Alsace as an apéritif, and an interesting small-plate menu complementing a resourceful wine list. I had radicchio, walnuts, and blue cheese as a salad, then the ribeye steak, sliced, served with Marchand de vin sauce and beautifully sourced and cooked fingerling potatoes and leeks. There was the taste of marrow in this dish, which was redolent, succulent, interesting, solid. Afterward, a nicely balanced sequence of cheeses moving easily through soft and semi-soft whites to the capper, a perfect Roquefort. Only an Armagnac could have followed, but I behaved.
    Domaine Foulaquier Pic St. Loup "l'Orphée," 2005

    Tuesday, December 9, 2008

    Eating Yucatan

    Colorado St., Glendale, December 9—
  • Chichen Itza Restaurant, 2501 West 6th St., Los Angeles; tel. 213380-0051

  • WE'D BE DOWN AT Dan's studio to see his new paintings, and Chichen Itza was right across the street, and had high marks, and I like Yucatan cuisine. I had the Antojito Sampler: "The four most traditional Yucatan appetizers: Panucho, Salbut, Kibi and Codzito. Wondering what these are? Read below."

    They turned out to be, in order:
  • a crisp corn-tortilla taco filled with black bean purée, lettuce, shredded turkey, tomato, pickled red onions, and a slice of avocado;
  • the same lacking the bean purée;
  • a ground beef-and-cracked wheat pattie seasoned with mint and spices, fried brown, served with pickled red onions;
  • crisp little taquitos with light tomato sauce and a sprinkling of aged Edam cheese.
    On the side, fried plantain. Delicious, and so good for you!
    Beer with lime juice, Tabasco and Worcestireshire sauces
  • Monday, December 8, 2008

    Eating Italian

    Colorado St., Glendale, December8 2008—
  • Louise's Trattoria, 2-8 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena CA; tel. 626 568 3030

  • IT WAS ONLY 4:30, but we wouldn't have time for a proper dinner before an 8 pm concert downtown, so preventive eating was called for. Louise is a chain, but you can't be choosy down here, and one was close enough to the Norton Simon Museum, where we'd spent the afternoon. I had whole-wheat penne pomodoro with a side dish of sautéed spinach, and it was okay.
    Pinot grigio, Pepi Vineyards, 2006

    Sunday, December 7, 2008

    Bar Celona

    Colorado St., Glendale, December 7, 2008—
  • Bar Celona, 46 East Colorade Blvd., Pasadena; tel. 626.405.1000

  • THE NAME OF THE PLACE is a joke and, some would say, not a very good one. But I like it: both the joke and the place. Bar Celona is a tapas joint and a good one, brash but on the elegant side inside. I had delicious crisp-fried boquerones and patatas bravas and a nibble of Lindsey's bacalao.
    Classic Martini

    Saturday, December 6, 2008

    Incredibly GOOD restaurant.

    Glendale, Saturday, December 6, 2008—
  • Treasure Beach and Cafe, 928 East Ojai Ave., Ojai; tel. 805.640.0611

  • porkloin.JPG
    EVERY NOW AND THEN we're lucky enough to be introduced to an incredibly good restaurant, new to us, bright and clean and fresh and honest, living up to Carlo Petrini's Slow Food maxim good, clean, and fair. That completely describes Treasure Beach, whose chef, Jeri Oshima, brings wit and skill and taste to her limited but perfectly satisfactory menu. I'll never drive through Ojai again without stopping in. Today at lunch I had French onion soup, perfectly correct with fine stock, onions, bread, and gruyère in an appropriate bowl but completely free of ostentation. On then to this fine pork loin sandwich with caramelized onions and a few leaves of arugula; and then memorable desserts: fine shortbread, coconut macaroon, and chocolate cookie; persimmon cake with whipped cream and candied orange peel; and apple crisp with burnt caramel ice cream — a delicious echo of the onion soup that had started it all off.
    Pinot grigio: Arancia, 2006

    Friday, December 5, 2008


    Ojai, December 5, 2008—

    AZU, THAT'S THE PLACE, I remembered it after Zagatting it, Don't pass up the bacon-wrapped stuffed dates, Zagat said. So after driving most of the day through various traffic jams and closed rest stops we pulled in at Ojai and dropped off the suitcases and headed for Azu. I began with a Martini, muted by the inclusion of lots of tiny bits of ice, otherwise okay. Then the dates, wrapped indeed with bacon and stuffed with chorizo, said the menu. But the stuffing had the consistency of chestnut purée. When I asked, the waitress said the stuffing was in fact blood sausage, but the menu called it chorizo because many people don't like the sound of blood sausage.
    I was a little surprised that anyone could have heard the sound of blood sausage: this was the most infernally loud restaurant I've eaten in in many months, perhaps years.
    I went on to a house salad, nicely dressed with lemon juice, and a lemony soup on chicken stock.
    Chardonnay, Two Tone, Russian River Valley, 2006

    Thursday, December 4, 2008


    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 4, 2008 —

    THERE WAS A LITTLE rice and guinea hen left; Lindsey had managed to lay in a bit of broccoli; the chard garden doesn't know how to say no. We'd had a nice big green salad for lunch, so we didn't have to go there again.
    "Dolcetto" Palmina (Santa Barbara county) 2006

    Wednesday, December 3, 2008

    Guinea hen

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 3, 2008—

    WHEN I WAS A BOY we usually had a few guinea hens among the chickens. I'm pretty sure it was my mother's idea; guinea hens would have appealed to her interest in the unusual as well as her aesthetic sense. I remember their beauty, their elegance — visually: to the ear they were repulsive with their unpredictable shrieks. But it was those that made them practical: whenever they sensed something overhead, a hawk or even a boy's outreached hand, they warned the clueless hens.

    Well, that wasn't their only practical value. They were delicious; still are. Apart from goose I don't think there's a more flavorful bird. So today when at our little locavore grocery, The Greengrocer, I saw fresh guinea hens in the meat case, I didn't hesitate. I added a dozen Brussels sprouts, a dozen cipollini (those flat Italian onions), and half a dozen chestnuts to the basket, and the guy behind the counter suggested a pint of stock he'd just made from guinea hen carcasses.

    I cut the hen into pieces and browned them in a little bacon fat; then added the quartered onions and a couple of stems of celery and salt, of course. When things were nicely browned I threw in a half bottle of cheap Pinot grigio and maybe half the stock. I roasted the chestnuts in the black iron skillet. Then I cooked a cup of rice. I browned the brussels sprouts and peeled chestnuts in the skillet in little olive oil; then added a few ladles of stock and set them to steaming. It all came together quite nicely.
    "Dolcetto" Palmina (Santa Barbara county) 2006

    Farmer's omelet

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 2, 2008—
    NATURALLY WE BOUGHT eggs on our return from Italy; naturally Tom had left us half a dozen in the icebox, excuse me, refrigerator. Fortunately science has changed and eggs are okay now, so though we skipped the softboiled eggs on Sunday morning we feasted tonight on a farmer's omelet: eggs, potatoes, onion, bacon. Broccoli on the side. Green salad, of course.
    Merlot, Esser Vineyards 2006 (the rest of the bottle)

    Monday, December 1, 2008

    Baked potato

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 1, 2008
    THERE ARE TIMES when you want the simplest possible thing for dinner. On cold days — and this was one of those: cold and damp, the sun never breaking through the fog — a baked potato can warm both the body and the house. Lindsey has a sweet potato, but I've never cottoned to them: I have an ordinary Russet, eaten with salt, pepper, and a good dollop of olive oil. Green salad, of course.
    Merlot, Esser Vineyards 2006

    Sunday, November 30, 2008

    Ending Italy

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, Nov. 30, 2008

  • Nov. 27, 2008: Trattoria Milanese, Via Santa Marta, 11, Milan; tel. 02 8645-1991
  • milanese.jpg
    Trattoria Milanese
    THURSDAY WE REGRETFULLY ended a short sojourn in Milan with a meal on the via Santa Marta, where we were trying to find a trattoria we'd been to some years ago with a couple of friends. (One of them Marta, in fact, though not the saint, I'm afraid.) Googling for it I ran across the Trattoria Milanese, which seems to be on everyone's list, and I booked a table; when we arrived, we discovered the place we remembered was in fact across the street at No. 6 and was called Al Santa Marta. A man leaving the Trattoria said that Al Santa Marta was a restaurant; the Trattoria was a true trattoria, and specialized in traditional Milanese cuisine, so we stayed with our reservation. I opened with artichoke-and-Parmesan salad and went on to a costaletta Milanese; both were absolutely correct and perfectly ordinary; and I recalled yesterday's meal at Porta Rossa with regret. Could have gone back there!
    Vino bianco da tavola in caraffa


  • Nov. 28, 2008: Sole Luna Cafe, 702 Ash St., San Diego, CA 92101
  • THEN ON FRIDAY we had a long flight, Milan to JFK, then JFK to San Diego where we'd have a ten-hour stop before flying on yesterday morning to San Jose. (Such an itinerary is the penalty for flying on 'free' miles.) I won't write about the airplane food; it was edible, not interesting. Across the street from our cheap San Diego hotel we found Sole Luna, an Italian place, the only restaurant within blocks. Here I had a very good Martini, my first really good Martini in weeks, and a nice Caprese, with clean lettuces, flavorful tomatoes, and decent Mozzarella, dressed with a fine green olive oil. I'd go back there any time, and you almost can; it's open seven days a week, 10 am to 10 pm, and the Italian guys running it are full of heart: just look at their YouTube clip on the website.

  • Nov. 29, 2008: Bistro Liaison, 1849 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley California
  • YESTERDAY, ALAS, we were reminded we were in home at the Bistro Liaison in Berkeley, where we had lunch. (Chez Panisse was full.) I had what was billed as a Salade Niçoise. It came on wet, ragged lettuce, was loaded with untipped string beans, halved hard-cooked eggs, a barely grilled hunk of tuna as big as my shoe, chunks of boiled potato, a number of things that might have been peas, and half a big avocado cut into thick slices. It could have been better.
    Rosé "Vin de Cigare", Bonny Doon Vineyards

  • Nov. 30, 2008
  • TO FRIENDS for the remains of Thanksgiving dinner: Turkey brined by the butcher; conventional turkey breast (both roasted), Brussels sprouts en confit with onions, dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce…
    A delicious dinner: and we do have things for which to be thankful.
    And we are.
    Pinot grigio; red wine "L. Preston"

    Thursday, November 27, 2008

    Ponte Rosso

    Via Panfilo Castaldi, Milan, Nov. 26—
  • Ponte Rosso, Ripa di Porta Ticinese, 23, Milan; tel. 02 8373132

  • PROBABLY THE BEST meal of this trip so far was today's midday dinner at a Slow Food recommendation I'd noticed in Osterie d'Italia when I peeked into it yesterday at a bookstore. It was also mentioned in The Best of Milan, a small guide we actually bought at the time, so I called for a reservation this morning, leaving my request on the answering machine; the restaurant called back, unfortunately while I was in a museum — causing my quick eviction from the gallery; I'd forgotten to turn off the phone.
    The kitchen is small; the recipe book basically Neapolitan, many of the dishes historic, from Artusi's mid-19th-century collection. And today's menu was a delight to behold and a hard one to choose from.

    Lardo del Val d'Aosta
    We began with a plate of lardo, uncooked fat bacon aged in salt, dressed with chestnuts in light syrup. I went on to a gattò, a molded rissole, you might say, a shell of cooked spaghetti filled with deliciously flavored minced meat, half of it lightly veiled with a thin Béchamel sauce flavored with white truffle.

    Lindsey had a veal cutlet Milanese style, breaded and fried, served with sweet young arugula and perfect tomatoes; and we shared a gratinata of potatoes and artichoke, covered with a fontina-type cheese and passed under the broiler. Dessert was a perfectly correct Tarte Tatin. I'd like to go back tomorrow.
    Bianco da tavola in caraffa; Dolceto di Ovada nv

    LATER, ANOTHER HIGHLIGHT in our continuing quest for gelato: Gelateria Grom, in the via Santa Margherita behind the Galleria. I had my usual (when riso is not available), fior di latte and crema, and they were very fine indeed, the best gelato I've had on the trip, I think, though Lindsey still favors the Gelateria Gracchi in Rome. Grom makes a big point of being buono, pulito, e giusto; good, clean, and correct. Their sorbetti, for example, are made with Lurisima water; their fruit flavors respect the seasons; the dairy ingredients in my two flavors were clearly honorably produced; the eggs come from a single organic source in Piemonte. Delicious.

    Tuesday, November 25, 2008

    Crota Piemunteisa

    Via Panfilo Castaldi, Milan, Nov. 25—
  • Crota Piemunteisa, v. Gian Giacamo Mora 9, Milan; tel. 0283.95992

  • piemonte.JPG
    The scene at Crota Piemunteisa

    TO THE MARKET this morning, a splendid big one, with a fine food market at the center and two long wings of dry goods: and where to eat afterward? The guidebook we're using, Valerio Mqssimo Visintin's Pappa Milano, offering 100 "restaurants of quality at good prices", suggested a Piemontese joint. Lindsey's half Piemontese, so we gave it a try. It's little more than a dive. The menu's on a blackboard, and it isn't very long: half a dozen primi at €3.50 each; half a dozen secondi at €5; a few more secondi at €6. I opted to begin with penne in meat-and-tomato sauce, just what we eat weekly at home, and wished I'd ordered Lindsey's choice, a fava soup with lots of greens in it. We both went on to cotelette alla Milanese because, well, we're in Milan, not Piemonte. They were okay.
    Cheap and really not very good red table wine, certainly not from Piemonte!

    Piena Luna

    Via Panfilo Castaldi, Milan, Nov. 24—
  • Luna Piena, via Lazzaro Palazzi 9, Milan; tel. 0229.528240

  • lunapiena.JPG

    Luna Piena

    SOMETIMES WE JUST luck out; there's no other way to explain it. Our hotel is in a part of Milan we don't know, not that we really know any part of Milan. Around the corner there's a bookstore; they happened to have one copy of a restaurant guide; two restaurants recommended happened to be nearby (two out of a hundred!); one of them is closed on Sundays; that leave Luna Piena.
    It's a curious place, run by a man with a mission: to preserve the cooking of Puglia as his grandfather remembered it from his grandmother. Lindsey wanted a risotto Milanese; after all, we're in Milan, nowhere near Puglia. But on the other hand we've been in Milan a few times; we've had risotto Milanese; we've never visited Puglia.
    One of the first things to come to the table was little cubes of stale bread, lightly fried in oil and flavored with pepper, cinnamon, and oregano. Flavored very lightly, I hasten to add. You'd hardly know there was cinnamon and oregano there: but there was. Then we opened with fava purée with chicory and orechietti tossed with strong (but soft!) pecorino, Parmesan, and tomatoes; and went on to maccheroni with sausage and tomatoes and stufatello di manzo in pignatta. This latter turned out to be long-braised cubes of beef flavored very deeply with spices and herbs and tossed with thick slices of potato. Every dish was deep and resonant; you'd swear we were eating in the sixteenth century.
    Rosato di primitivo; rosso di primitivo

    Monday, November 24, 2008

    Salt cod

    Via Dionigi, Rome, Nov. 23—

  • Grappolo d'oro Zampanò, Piazza Cancelleria 80/84, Rome; tel. 06.6897080

  • saltcod.JPG

    Baccalà alla Romana

    NOTHING IS MORE AUTHENTICALLY Roman at the table, I think, than baccalà: salt cod. Of course it's authentically Sevillano, too, and Lisbon, and for all I know Boston. But like artichokes and puntarelle it's a Roman standby, and Lindsey hadn't had enough, and today was our last day in Rome, and it was Sunday, so off we went to another Gambero Rosso pick, Grappolo d'oro, across the street from Ditirambo where we ate a week or two ago.
    I began with a Tortino di alice, which turned out to be really quite delicious: Swiss chard at the bottom, then anchovies, then bread crumbs, the whole passed under a broiler. Raisins and pine nuts were also involved, and a bit of olive oil. A wonderful dish. Then the baccalà cooked alla Romana, lots of tomatoes and just enough raisins and pine nuts again to give the dish a whiff of the exotic. A good mixed salad finished things off, and did I mention the very good warm crusty bread?
    Bianco della casa in caraffa

    AND THEN OUR NEW favorite gelateria, nine o'clock at night after a supper of doggie-bag pizza from yesterday. The Gelateria Gracchi, on via Gracchi just off the Cicerone in Prati, has the smoothest, most consistent, truest-to-flavor gelato of any we've tried yet in Rome, and we've tried a number. Tonight I had half roast chestnut, half deep deep fondente; yesterday it was riso (Yes! Riso at last!) and crema. Excellent, extraordinary gelato; I hope we find something near its quality tomorrow in Milan...

    Sunday, November 23, 2008

    Pasta cacio e pepe

    Via Dionigi, Rome, Nov. 21—
  • Caffè delle Arti, via A. Gramsci 73, Rome; tel. 06/3265.1236

  • THERE ARE AS MANY ways of making pasta cacio e pepe as there are ways of setting out the Italian ten-digit telephone number, I think: some like slashes, or parentheses, or dots; others like setting digits in pairs. Some add Pecorino (grated, goes without saying) at the table; others wince at the idea. At Rome's Museum of Modern Art — well, 19th- and 20th-century art, anyhow — we lunched at the museum restaurant, on tonnarelli (square-cut spaghetti, like spaghetti alla chitarra) in that style. I think there was butter on the plate below the pasta, just a bit; and olive oil added to the pasta along with the black pepper, but very little pecorino; then it was tossed and set out on the buttered plate. A dish of grated Pecorino came to the table, and I added it liberally. I must say the pasta was perfectly cooked: just the right amount of time, just the right amount of salt. Afterward, a simple salad: very small young arugula leaves smothering a dish of halved red cherry tomatoes, dressed at the table with oil and salt. Excellent.
    Frascati bianco "Cantina Conte Zandotti", 2006

    Neighborhood pizza

    Via Dionigi, Rome, Nov. 22—

  • Le Cupole, via Lucrezio Caro 21/c, Rome; tel. 06.3614114

  • cupole.JPG
    Dining room, Le Cupole

    We'd booked for dinner Saturday night, so lunch had to be something light, and after a morning shopping over near the Pantheon we were tired and a little hungry but wanted to drop things off back at the hotel. Why not a neighborhood pizzeria? The first one we came to was Le Cupole, whose sidewalk menu promised a full range of pizzas. I had napoletano: tomatoes cheese and anchovies. Lindsey had margherita: tomato and cheese. Nice thin shells, beautifully flavored tomatoes, and what a pleasure finally to have a bit of garlic! With the pizza, a mixed salad.
    Le Cupole is pretty fancy inside, all gilt and polish; you sit in armchairs; the cupolas of the name are domes in the ceiling, with Venetian chandeliers. But it was late in the afternoon; only one other table was active, a Japanese-Italian family with two charming children… et O ces voix d'enfants, chantent dans la coupole…
    Castelli Romani red, Fabi & Co.

    …and then back to da Lucia in Trastevere for dinner. It was our third trip this month; they know us now. There were five of us at dinner, and we had the standbys, spaghetti cacio e pepe and alla gricia, and then some of us went on to secondi, rabbit or, in my case, bononcini (little cubes) of veal with peas; and puntarelle of course, and a fine plate of pecorini da Pienza with honey… delicious, all of it…
    Bianco da tavola; Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese "Michele Chiario" 2007; rosso da tavola

    Back to Testaccio

    Via Dionigi, Rome, Nov. 20—
  • Felice a Testaccio, via Mastro Giorgio 29, Rome; tel. 06/57.468.00

  • Tiramisu in bicchiere

    THE TAXI DRIVER who brought us in from the airport two and a half weeks ago said, when I mentioned Perilli in Testaccio, as we drove past it on our way to our apartment, that he preferred Felice, so I filed that piece of information away. Then the other day I looked up Rome in the Slow Food guide to Osterie d'Italia and there it was, Felice, along with only three or four other restaurants — Slow Food doesn't seem a particular friend of Rome.
    The menu is entirely spoken and entirely traditional: six or eight pasta first courses; six or eight meat second courses; only two contorni (vegetable side dishes); only one dessert. The tables are jammed together; the restroom is teeny; you'd better not think of going without first making a reservation.
    I opened with spaghetti alla matriciana, in a creamy tomato sauce, and went on to coda di vitello, braised oxtail again in tomato sauce. The spaghetti was delicious though a little messy; the oxtail was good but nearly impossible to eat: I longed for a sharp knife. Dessert was Tiramisu in bicchiere, served in a liqueur glass, delicious and thick, almost gluey, with a deep deep chocolate flavor.
    Cerveteri bianco "Cantina Cerveteri", 2007; Lazio Merlot "Togale," 2007

    Thursday, November 20, 2008

    Ve Roma

    Via M. Dionigi, Rome, Nov. 19—

  • Ristorante Ve Roma, Via Sabazio 22, Rome; tel. 06/84242305

  • bigoli.JPG

    Bigoli, Ve Roma

    Out to the Trieste quarter, to the northeast, to see Santa Agnese fuori le mure (and well worth the bus ride it was), and where then to eat? Gambero Rosso suggested this trendy new-style resto whose name is a pun on Verona, because the cuisine is Veronese. We were pleased with the bread, first of all; rolls and wafers and grissini all made in house. And then the menu was promising. I took from it first Coppa di maile, which turned out to be more headcheese than salume, and came with delicious little cut-up puntarelle; and then Bigoli al torchio, house-made pasta with bits of duck and fried radicchio — quite a delicious dish. The desserts were a little silly, we thought; my chocolate mousse came hiding in a pyramid of wafers and accompanied by a shot-glass of raspberry purée glued to the plate with more chocolate mousse (which was made, by the way, with a generous amount of olive oil).
    Frascati bianco: Santa Teresa, 2006

    Da Gino

    Via M. Dionigi, Rome, Nov. 18—

  • Da Gino, vicolo Rosini 4, Rome; tel. 06/6873434

  • MIDDAY DINNER in the Campo di Marzio again, on a street so tiny we could hardly walk two abreast. (If you want to find it, it's south and a little east of the Piazza Borghese.) Gambero Rosso cites Gino for superb pasta alla gricia, that is, with bacon and cheese, but I was hungrier and ordered spaghetti alla carbonara, which adds scrambled eggs to the mix. Breakfast pasta, you might say. The eggs were a bit overcooked, I thought, but the pasta and the cheese were superb. With it, two contorni, side dishes of vegetables: the best artichoke yet, Roman style, and a plate of superbly fresh Swiss chard. Nothing fancy, absolutely correct, as Gambero says.
    Frascati bianco: Racemo, 2007

    Monday, November 17, 2008

    da Cesare

    Via Corsini, Rome, Nov. 17—

  • Da Cesare, via Crescenzia 13; tel. 06/6861227

  • dacesare.JPG
    Da Cesare, via Crescenzia, Prati

    ANOTHER GAMBERO ROSSO pick: we'd just settled into our hotel in the Prati, a short block off the Piazza Cavour, and were hungry; da Cesare was just the other end of the piazza. A nice, understatedly elegant dining room; very correct waiters and busboy; appetizing displays of vegetables and seafood in the entry. But I settled for perfectly Roman fare in this Tuscan-slanted restaurant, opening with spaghetti alla corbonara and going on to saltimbocca alla romana, with a roman-style artichoke on the side. The spaghetti was beautifully cooked, perhaps the best-cooked pasta I've had these three weeks, and the "bacon" — guanciale, I'm pretty sure — had deep flavor. The saltimbocca turned out to be two nicely sized thin-sliced fillets of veal, covered with well-chosen prosciutto, the requisite sage leaf hidden between, the whole in a light but not thin brown cream sauce; and the artichoke, warm, standing in a pool of the best olive oil I've had yet, was a perfect accompaniment.
    Vino bianco in carafa

    Paris in Rome

    Via Corsini, Rome, Nov. 16—

  • Paris, piazza San Calisto 7a; tel. 06/5815378

  • paris.JPG
    Ristorante Paris, Trastevere

    WE HAD EATEN HERE before; it was a place I particularly liked, and it couldn't be more convenient: right off the Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere. And last week I bought a guidebook to Rome restaurants, Gambero Rosso, and there it received a decent rating. And it's open Sunday noon; not all are. So for Hans and Anneke's last Rome dinner for a while there was nothing more to say.
    I opened with rigatoni alla matriciana, with delicious tomatoes that managed to be both sweet and pungent, and just the right balance of cheese; and went on to that echt Roman dish stracchetti, "scraps" of meat — baby beef in this case — in light brown sauce, with plenty of porcini mushrooms, all on a bed of crisp clean dry arugula. I shared Lindsey's crisp-fried-flattened artichoke alla giudea, and for dessert a fine tiramisu. The best place we've eaten in, except maybe Ditirambo, Hans said. Why "Paris"? It's the given name of the chef; has nothing to do with France.
    Frascati in bicchiere; Lazio Merlot "Togale," 2007

    Saturday, November 15, 2008


    Via Corsini, Rome, Nov. 15—

  • Ditirambo, Piazza Della Cancelleria, 73, Roma;
    tel. +39 06 6871626

  • ditirambo.JPG

    RICHARD AND MARTA'S last day in Rome, so I thought we should dine (midday) at a special place. Ditirambo is just that, a very Roman menu elevated a notch or two, in calm, elegantly plain rooms quite near the Campo de' Fiori (hence easy for Richard and Marta to get a cab afterward). White truffles were on the menu and we all took advantage: in my case I began with salt cod on a chick-pea purée, nicely dressed, and then went on to a "flan" (I'd say another purée) of potatoes garnished with chopped porcini and shavings of truffle. Afterward, a nice little chocolate cake with a glass of pear gelato flavored with grappa.
    Montecompatri bianco "Le Trecciole", Tenuta Le Quinte, 2007
    (Coffee later, at Tazza d'Oro)

    Friday, November 14, 2008

    Back to da Lucia

    Via Corsini, Rome, Nov. 14—
  • Trattoria da Lucia, Vicolo del Mattonate 2; tel. 06/5803601
  • A PLEASANT STROLL in the Botanical Garden down at the end of our street, and then midday dinner back at da Lucia, because I thought our Veronese friends should know about it. I wrote about it here a few days back, and again four years back and then some. Every time I eat there I like it more: homey, comfortable, quiet, off the beaten track but easy to get to. Today I just had a plate of spaghetti alla Gricia, with bacon and grated cheese; and afterward, for dessert, delicious pecorino from Pienza with a spoonful of first-rate honey.
    White vino da tavola; Montalcino Tuscan red, 2006

    Enoteca Corsi

    Via Corsini, Rome, Nov. 13—
  • Enoteca Corsi, via del Gesù 88, Rome; tel. 06-679-0821
  • AN INCREDIBLE RAINSTORM greeted us on our exit from the Museo del Corso, where we'd seen a show of Dutch painting from the 17th century, paintings on loan from Berlin. No cabs to be had, so we rushed through driving rains to a nearby galleria, through it to a piazza, flagged down a cab, were dropped off at the end of a pedestrian street, waded down it to the other end, turned right a block, then waded another long long block to the Enoteca Corsi, where Hans and Anneke had ducked out of the rain twenty minutes earlier and staked out a table. This online review is close to the mark. I had a bowl of lentil soup that began to take the chill off, then a simple aristo di vitello, rather dry slices of roast veal flavored with garlic and salt. Beet greens on the side: oil and lemon juice. Panna cotta for dessert.
    Red vino da tavola

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008

    La Taverna dei Monti

    Via Corsini, Rome, Nov. 12—

    WE SAW AN EXHAUSTING exhibition of Bellini paintings today, spending nearly four hours on two floors of the Scuderie — what a show! But it's eating, the subject here: I asked an attendant in the museum if there might be a good restaurant in the area; she thought for a moment, then said that all the nearby restaurants were fast-food or tourist affairs, but that one, Jubileo, wasn't far off, and was good.
    Off we go then, in gathering rain, looking for the Via del Boschetto off the Via Nazionale. I ran ahead, thinking restaurants would surely be ending service by now and I'd best poke a head in and reserve. We didn't have an address or a phone number. I poked my head in the first place I came to, an empty but inviting place, but saw a name on the doormat that wasn't Jubileo. This isn't Jubileo, I said aloud, more to myself than anyone (but in Italian): No: further down, on the corner, an invisible voice answered.
    I hurried down to the corner and found Jubileo. The door stood open, so I walked in, then through a number of pretty damn fancy dining rooms, past bars and bus stations, calling out from time to time: Nessuno? nessuno?
    No answer, so I went back to the first place. Can four of us get something to eat? No problem, came the inviting answer. We ordered off the menu, just a pasta course and a side dish. Everyone had gnocchi but me; I had spaghetti caccia e peppe, apparently house-made spaghetti, very nicely dressed with grated cheese and black pepper; on the side, spinach in olive oil with a half lemon. Delizioso; and the others said their gnocchi was also very good.
    Bianco da tavola, 2007
    La Taverna dei Monti, 41, via del Boscchetto; tel. 06 4817724

    Tuesday, November 11, 2008

    Nor Style nor Substance

    Via Corsini, Rome, Nov. 11—

    Nè Arte nè Parte
    OFF TONIGHT TO MEET friends in Testaccio, that small sector of Rome distinguished by its gridded streets and its tradition of dining on meat scraps — testament to its being the traditional butcher-shop of Rome. We'd eaten before at its most famous restaurant, Perilli, and tonight I wanted to try a Slow Food recommendation, Nè Arte nè Parte, said to be a locus of the true Roman tradtions when it comes to cuisine.
    I'm afraid reactions were mixed, and colored partly by views of the service: there were six of us at table; some ordered antipasto, some not; some ordered primi to be served as secondi, and so on, and we never made clear to the service just how we wanted things done, and they (as some of us pointed out) never bothered to ask.
    For my part, I was pretty well pleased. I thought my spaghetti carbonara quite good, creamy with its soft-cooked egg, piquant with its crisp bacon. The saltimbocca alla Romana was nicely pointed, and had fine soft big leaves of sage on each piece. And the chocolate-chestnut torta with whipped cream was a well-balanced constrast of textures, weights, and flavors. I'd go back. But first I'd go back to Perilli.
    Bianco: Castello di Roma; Nero d'Avila 2007

    Monday, November 10, 2008

    La Campana

    Via Corsini, Rome, Nov. 9—

    Lindsey (center) checks out the fish display at La Campana

    MIDDAY DINNER TODAY at La Campana (vicolo Campana 18; tel. 06.867.820), and a good thing I phoned in the morning: it was jammed. When we arrived, though, just a little late, Hans and Anneke had worried expressions: no reservation. Oh, I said, that's because I made it in the name of Consolini, Shere is just too difficult for the Italian ear on the telephone. There was our table, in a handsome plain room that quickly filled with three-generation families, babies, ancient women in wheelchairs, and at a nearby table a small lapdog. I had ravioli stuffed with artichoke and served in a very light and creamy tomato sauce, then grilled calve's liver, sweet and succulent; Lindsey had risotto with shrimp and squid, then puntarelle. Readers of my fine book Roman Letters will have realized by now that we're revisiting restaurants sampled four years ago: so far, no reason to change my opinions. Campana's one of the best.
    Frascati Superiore "Fontana dei Mori" 2007; red table wine in carafe

    Saturday, November 8, 2008

    Eating Dutch in Rome

    Via Corsini, Rome, Nov. 8—

    Aristo, broccoli, potato gratin

    IT MAY BE SIMPLY my imagination, but last night's dinner tasted echt Dutch to me. And why not? Hans and Anneke had gone to the market in Campo dei Fiori, where they found sliced aristo, roast pork and veal combined; and potatoes; and Venetian broccoli, the spiral kind that has such a nice subtle flavor.
    Once home, they peeled, boiled, and mashed the potatoes, then set them in a baking dish, covered them with slices of cheese (having forgotten the name: not parmagiano, not pecorino) and set it in the oven. They heated the meat in the frying pan and steamed the broccoli. Dessert was a melon, also from the Campo. Excellent quiet inexpensive dinner at home.
    Nebbiolo d'Alba: Marne Brune, 1996 (!)

    Lindsey, CS, Anneke, Hans, at Albino il Sardo

    TODAY, ON THE OTHER hand, we took midday dinner out, at Albino il Sardo all'angoletto (via della Luce, 44-45; tel. 06.5800846): and we were the only people in the dining room, apart from the cheerful and friendly but reserved waiter. I had the same meal I had four years ago, and neither it nor waiter nor chef nor room had changed. Maloreddus, those short, fat-maggot-sized ribbed pastas, in tomato sauce; then porchetta, roast suckling pig. No cinghiale chop on the side this time; perhaps they've had to cut back. No matter: the meal was filling. Before it, carta di musica, "music-paper bread", the Sardinian national wafer-thin crispy flatbread drizzled with nice butter; on the side, cicoria ripassata, "overcooked" chicory; after, a nice almond cake, a sort of genoise with almond paste here and there, and a good coffee.
    White and red table wine "Segolaj"

    Friday, November 7, 2008

    <i>Lardo colonnato</i>

    Via Corsini, Rome, Nov. 6—


    I THINK THAT'S WHAT you call it; we don't have an Italian food dictionary, and there's no internet in the apartment to check this. In any case it's sweet and delicious, and after having a bruschetta of lardo yesterday for lunch I thought why not repeat it today.
    Ruggeri, the excellent cheese and salume shop at 1-2 Campo dei Fiori, sold me eight very thin (fino fino? Sì!) slices, thirty-five grams they amounted to, for eighty-five Euro cents, and half of them on a couple of slices of toast made a fine lunch, with a handful of dried prunes, dates, apricots, raisins, and sour cherries, also from the Campo.
    Leftover Merlot with sparkling water

    Nov. 6: Chez Panisse at the Academy

    Via Corsini, Rome, Nov. 6—

    THE FELLOWS AT THE ACADEMY complained for years about the food; only those with barely enough money to get by ate at the American Academy up on the Janiculum. Too bad, because the buildings and grounds are magnificent, the site quite splendid, the library enviable: it seems a perfect place for the contemplation and conversation that goes into the liberal arts.


    Entrò Mona, as Moravia might have written; enter Mona Talbot about two years ago. Mona was a line cook in the café at Chez Panisse quite a while ago, and has, as they say, good chops. She also has a fine mind and a big heart, and she completely changed the direction of the food at the Academy. Last night we were up on the hill for dinner: house-made terrine of offal and meats with pickled onions and mixed greens; then sautéed chicken, moist and plump, finished in the oven, with small white Cannelini-type beans and further mixed greens from the garden. Yes: the Academy's own garden, which is being encouraged to develop into a kitchen garden alongside its more traditional elegant setting of pines, cypresses, and lawns. Dessert: an extraordinarily subtle persimmon gelato with an equally fine-textured fior di latte on a soft meringue. Cuisine has joined Contemplation and Conversation, and you can be sure much of the table talk is about the food. Excellent.
    Chardonnay-Sauvingnon blanc: Monte Lessini "Re d'Aurum" 2005

    Nov. 5: Pasta at home

    Via Corsini, Rome, Nov. 5—

    NOT FAR FROM our apartment, at 82, via del Moro, near the Lungaretta, is a little pasta shop run by a Sardinian family. La Pasta all'uovo, says the sign over the door, fresh egg pasta: tortellini, agnolotti, ravioli Sardi, fettucine, canneloni, gnochetti Sardi (those are especially nice), and half a dozen other pastas, all turned out fresh every day. You can see them being made, the filled potato sabadas, if that's they are, delicately pinched between busy fingers.

    We first found the Piras sisters in their Laboratorio Artigianale four years ago during another Roman sojourn, and were happy to return today. Tonight we have tortellini with grated Parmesan (you buy a chunk of cheese; the merchant grates it for you) and black pepper. With them, a nice head of fennel cut up to be dipped in oil and salt.
    Merlot: Trentino, La Vis, 2005

    Wednesday, November 5, 2008

    Nov. 4: Cacci'e pepe

    Via Corsini, Rome, Nov. 4—

    ROME'S WATER IS SAID to be ideal for cooking pasta, and spaghetti caccia e pepe — with simply cheese and black pepper — is one of Rome's famous dishes. I doubt you can find it better prepared than at Da Lucia on the Vicolo Mattonato here in Trastevere. With it, puntarelle — chicory stems stripped of their leaves, then submerged in ice water to curl them, served as a salad dressed with garlic-and-anchovy sauce.
    Vino bianco in carafa

    Tuesday, November 4, 2008

    Nov. 3: Eating at San Egidio

    via Corsini, Rome, November 3—

    DINNER TONIGHT, our first night in Rome this year, in the Piazza Sant' Egidio where we spent our first month here, four years ago. We'd never before noticed this Trattoria de "Gli Amici", situated right next to the greengrocer we always used to patronize. I don't know much about the St. Egidio community: you can read about it online, I'm told. "Gli amici" — the friends — are connected to the communità somehow, and employ people with physical and emotional handicaps among their staff, an idea I like in principle.
    We had a light meal, salt cod for the others, saltimbocca alla romana for me, with a simple mixed salad dressed at the table and a carafe of good simple white Sicilian wine.

    Nov. 2: Endive, ham, kaas

    DINNER AT HOME AGAIN: Anneke wrapped cooked endive heads, each the size of a sparrow, in sliced ham, laid them in a pyrex dish, and covered them with slices of Beemster cheese, then put them under the broiler. With them, mashed potatoes sprinkled with paprika and also set under the broiler for a moment.
    Dessert: pears cooked in red wine and a little Port, flavored with cinnamon and a small spoonful of sugar.
    Red wine from Provence

    Nov. 1: Party!

    Leidschendam, Netherlands: Raimondi's Villa Rozenrust, Veursestraatweg 104; tel.

    DUTCH FAMILIES SEEM TO KNOW instinctively how to celebrate serious occasions like wedding anniversaries: festively. Eighty or so of us gathered for the 25th anniversary of our friends Tom and Judith at a party they had organized in a favorite Italian restaurant of theirs. Six or seven long tables accommodated us easily, even permitting a change of seating at midpoint to allow maximum socializing.
    An Italian dinner, with its sequence of antipasto, pasta, primo, secondo, and dolci allowed plenty of opportunity for organized interruption: speeches by the fathers of the bride and groom; photo-biographies of each of them as children, then of the family they have made together; toasts by the guests. There was even a quiz game to find out who really knew them best: how many times have they vacationed at Tom's favorite place, seven or nine? When they decide to go out, is it to the movies or the theater? (Their second son won the prize, a bottle of wine: unfair, I thought.)
    We had salume, prosciutto, eggplant, caprese, vitello tonnato, strozzapreti in tomato sauce, penne with shrimp, swordfish en croquette, grilled lamb chops and steaks, and tiramisù, with no doubt other things I've forgotten or hadn't noticed. It was all remarkably good considering the number of servings that had to be ready all at once — and then in some cases had to wait for another speech to run its hilarious course. The party began to break up about one o'clock, and everyone had a great time.
    Pinot grigio; vino da tavola rosso

    Friday, October 31, 2008

    Eating Dutch

    SLA VINKEN EN HUTSPOT tonight, as Dutch a dinner as you can ask. Sla vinken -- "salad finches" -- are little shapes of very lean ground beef, each the size of a fat finch, wrapped in bacon; Anneke fried them in their own bacon-fat. The hutspot was potatoes, carrots, and onions, all cooked together, then pureed; we ate it with the brown pan gravy from the vinken. Delicious.
    Medoc: Chateau Horubanon, 2006

    October 30—

    Loseweg, Apeldoorn, Nederland
    BREAKFAST AT THE HOTEL was in the familiar Italian tradition: a pitcher of strong dark coffee (but not expresso), another of hot milk, croissants with a sugar glaze, cold toasted bread, cellophane-wrapped industrial pastries (one, with apricot jam filling, was pretty good), a small plastic bin of corn flakes and another of muesli; and various sliced ham and cheese that I ignored.
    Lunch: a tuna sandwich from the convenience kiosk in the Eindhoven train station.
    Dinner, though, was very nice: Hans had made a pumpkin soup; after that Anneke supplied brown peas cooked with bacon, onion, leeks, and red bell peppers — a very Dutch kind of thing, and savory — and we finished with lemon sorbet topped with yoghurt, also tasty.
    Merlot: "Reserve du Président", Corsica, 2007

    October 29—

    Trescorte Balneatico, October 29—
    PROBABLY A MINOR TOWN, but convenient to Milan's third airport, Orlo e Serio — which is in fact fifty kilometers from Milan and just outside the fine eating town of Bergamo. We were here because hotels were full in Bergamo; the Hotel al Torre jumped at us out of a 1997 Michelin, and we jumped at its remaining empty rooms, the four of us. A pleasant hotel, in fact, with a nice garden, a pleasant bar, and an okay but unexciting restaurant where I had perfectly good tortellini filled with spinach and cheese, followed by Capriolo. That name promised goat; the waiter said it was venison and he's probably right. Cubes of meat long-braised and served in its brown gravy with mashed potatoes; the best part of the meal was undoubtedly the
    Nebbiolo: Prunotto, 2005

    October 28—

    LUNCH AT A RESTAURANT new to us in Asti: Falcone Nero, owned and operated, I'm told, by the son of Dirce, the legendary (but in fact perfectly real) chef-owner of Da Dirce, where we've eaten several times on previous trips to this countryside. My favorite kind of restaurant: no printed menu, just a recital by the waiter, the son himself in fact, we recognized him from those earlier occasons, and then repetitions and negotiations and adjustments and a slow working toward decision — in my case, agnelotti with sage and butter, then roast veal. An excellent meal in a comfortable, spacious, quiet, harmonious setting, the oldest restaurant in Asti, we were told, brought completely up to date. I'll never go to Asti again without eating there.
    Ribolla gialla: Marco Felluca (Collio), 2007; Nebbiolo: Pelliserò, 2006

    October 27—

    Carne cruda
    TO MONCALVO FOR LUNCH at Ametista, a very nice restaurant with a fine view and ambitious linen and place-settings: tajarin al plin, tagliarini in ragù. Dinner, however, at Tuais, curious name for a restaurant — an Italian spelling of "twice," but the reason I do not know — in the equally curiously named hamlet of Odalengo Piccolo, little Odalengo. (There is a Great Odalengo, hardly any bigger.) We ate at Tuais once before, come to think of it, two years ago; perhaps that's the reason for the name. This dinner, like that, was based on white truffle, very scarce this year. I began with ravioli filled with a nut-meat mixture and went on to carne cruda, that sweet Piemontese beef served raw and scraped, a steak Tartare in fact, with parsley and Parmesan and, of course, shavings of white truffle, and a delicious olive oil dribbled on top.
    Grignolino d'Alba

    October 26—

    I Mandorli, Cardona di Alfiano Natta—
    BROTH OF A SORT; I'd use a light chicken broth; rice cooked in it risotto-style but much soupier, with perhaps an equal amount of previously half-potato, chopped as fine as the rice. A supple, white pasta in brodo, lightly flavored with onion — and is that a hint of lemon?
    Brisket from the noontime bollito misto we'd missed because of our missed airplane; delicious spinach flavored with garlic, salt, and lemon; zucchini. A little cheese; then a delicious hazelnut torte, no chocolate, no flour, just ground hazelnuts. Fabulous.
    Barbera: "Nanà" di Rampi, 2006

    Saturday, October 25, 2008

    October 24--

    DINNER AT DIVINO, a Belmont resturant we've wanted to get back to for some time now, with old friends not seen in years.
    Divino, on Ralston Avenue near the railroad tracks, is a friendly, warm-hearted place with a largely Sicilian menu and a decent wine list. It's reasonably close to SFO: we were spending the night before an early flight, the same scenario that led us to discover Divino a year or two ago.
    Lindsey had a nice big mixed salad and pasta Bolognese. I had a memorable torta di baccalà -- layered potato, artichoke and salt cod -- and then a fine-flavored pollo alla porchetta, chicken cooked like suckling pig. The amuse-guele was olives, prosciutto, and salami; dessert a nice crème brulée flavored with camomile.
    Vernaccia di Sardega Argiolas; Cabernet sauvignon Stag's Leap 1997 (brought in by our lawyer friend).

    October 23--

    LAZY MAN'S SOUP: a box of organic chicken broth, leftover chard, leftover penne in tomato sauce, garnish with leftover pesto.
    Cheap nero d'Avila

    Wednesday, October 22, 2008

    Another birthday

    Dierk's Parkside Café, 404 Santa Rosa Avenue, Santa Rosa, California; tel. 707-573-5955

    ANOTHER BIRTHDAY: THEY COME thick and fast these days, it seems. We know a lot of people None of them are closer than John and Gaye; after all, it was Gaye introduced Lindsey and me, over fifty years ago. Since then she married John, and for a while we moved apart, and now the last few years we're tight again, as it should be.

    I wrote a little sonnet for John:
    I rise to celebrate LeBaron, John,
    A gentle, quiet man, when all is said
    And done; polite and calm, reserved, well-bred,
    With much to offer, now he’s getting on.

    He has so much to tell us! And I read
    His strange discursive stories eagerly,
    Though waiting for the next with a degree
    Of envy and impatience he won’t heed.

    He keeps his own sweet pace. I won’t say slow:
    He’s calm; methodical. Some years ago
    Eye surgery required he keep his head

    Lowered a month. I asked how that would go.
    Photographers like to look forward. Oh,
    There’s lots of cans of nails to sort, he said.
    John LeBaron.jpgHe's that kind of guy, apparently imperturbable, and a marvelous photographer, did I mention?
    In any case, a number of friends gathered at the Parkside, there to have sautéed prawns (shell beans for me) on green beans with armagnac dressing; Tomato and fig salad with goat cheese and Balsamic vinegar; Roast pork loin with potatoes, carrots, and gravy; and the tenderest birthday cake I've had in months.
    Dry Creek Fumé blanc 2007; Trentadue Zinfandel 2005 (as I recall)

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008

    Another lunch at Chez Panisse

    A DELICIOUS SOUP: Harira soup with cilantro and lemon; poached salmon fillet with tender turnip slices. Harira is a slow-cooked North African soup, usually based I think on lentils but in this case made with shell beans. (There's a recipe in David Tanis's new book A Platter of Figs and other recipes; when I have time I'm going to have to make it — it involves lamb, favas, and lentils, flavored with onions, saffron, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, red pepper, chile, garlic, parsley, and cilantro!) The salmon was also tender, beautifully cooked and flavored, sweet and supple; and an affogato finished the meal perfectly.
    Roussette de Savoie, Domaine Edmond Jacquin, 2007

    Monday, October 20, 2008

    Dinner with Paul and Becky


    MUCH TO BE SAID about this delicious dinner, beginning with chevre and herbs on crackers, continuing to a fine vegetable soup, then crisp butter lettuces with pears and blue cheese, and finally this amazing tart. Becky made it from Deborah Madison's wonderful Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, adapting the Jam Bars recipe, she said, and using elderberries for the filling. Rich, deep, complex, earthy, pungent, pointed, utterly substantial. And then a great old Marc de Provence to finish it off. You can't do better.
    Chateau Souverain Pinot Noir; Preston Red

    Sunday, October 19, 2008


    Out to the garden a little after five o'clock to pick chard and basil for dinner. The chard is so pretty. I rinse it off, cut the stems from the leaves, and chop the stems into dice.

    They cook in a little water and salt while I watch another inning; then I cut the leaves into squares an inch or two across and pile them on top of the stems.

    Cook until ready, in this case the seventh inning, I think it was, and serve:

    Fresh from the garden like this, the stems pretty well retain their color, and the chard tastes both sweet and meaty. After it,

    penne al pesto — the pesto made the usual way: garlic, salt, pine nuts in the mortar; add the basil leaves; grate in some Pecorino and Parmesan; add olive oil.
    Cheap Nero d'Avila

    Saturday, October 18, 2008

    Salmon again; chard again

    SALMON FROM the fish guy at the Healdsburg farm market; lima beans from Nancy Skall at the ditto; chard, well, from our own garden. Buono, pulito, giusto. I always tell Alice: a fourth point must be made: locale. We leave for a month on Friday; when we return the Healdsburg farm market will have closed for the season. Oh well: We'll probably still have chard in the garden.
    The rest of that Liar's Dice Zinfandel, 2004

    Friday, October 17, 2008

    Dinner in the feed store

    OH YES: LAST NIGHT it was leftovers, the last of the salmon sandwiches from Wednesday night, and I suddenly realized these were salmon salad sandwiches, with celery and hardboiled egg as well as the salmon, mayonnaise, cilantro, chopped celery and such. An amazingly delicious sandwich.

    Tonight, though, it was dinner in the feed store. What an interesting phenomenon: feed store as community center, community being a small town on the highway up in Mendocino county. All kinds of people fall by here on Friday evenings. Sometimes there's a crab feed, or a fish fry; tonight it was simply send someone to the local taco truck.

    A local winemaker brought the new Syrah; others supplied Zinfandel, or Maker's Mark, or Red Tail, or Jim Beam. Talk, visiting, eating, community. It's what makes America great. And every other country.

    Wednesday, October 15, 2008

    Salmon sandwiches

    A PRODUCT OF HER TIME, as who of us is not, Lindsey still clips recipes from here and there. I saw the recipe for this salmon sandwich the other day on our kitchen island, but I didn't pay enough attention to it — I never pay enough attention to anything — so I can tell you neither whence it came nor what it stipulated.
    In any case it involved poached salmon and onions, I know that from washing the dishes; and mayonnaise, and cilantro, and one or two other things. The sandwiches were on ciabatta rolls from The Bakery (in our family that means Healdsburg's Downtown Bakery and Creamery). And they were accompanied by green salad with butter lettuce and sliced tomatoes, and preceded by almonds, and followed by apple crisp; and while we ate them we watched the presidential debate, lordy me.
    Preston Petite Sirah 2005, Dry Creek Valley; Murphy-Goode "Liar's Dice" Zinfandel, 2004

    Tuesday, October 14, 2008

    Penne al pesto


    NOT HAVING QUITE ENOUGH basil for a mortar-full of pesto, I decided to make the best of it and produce something with quite different proportions. The result was a little too strong of garlic, I think; but also had more pine nuts than usual. I smashed the garlic with coarse sea-salt, as usual, added the pine nuts and continued pounding; then the basil leaves, so clean and fresh from the farm market they needed no rinsing, therefore pounded up much better than usual.
    A little oil to make a paste, then more pounding and mixing; then grated Pecorino and Parmesan, more oil, stir it all up, spoon it onto the pasta. (Penne extended with a few flat noodles.) Green salad, of course.
    cheap "Bordeaux" Château Bois de Lamothe, Côtes de Duras, 2007

    Monday, October 13, 2008

    From the market, again

    salmon.jpgSALMON FROM the fish guy; shell beans from Nancy Skall; don't recall where the tomatoes were from; all from Saturday's farm market in Healdsburg.
    This blog, like many, perhaps most blogs, is written more for the writer than the reader. Food is not a fetish, not even an obsession, not even a compulsion, not here: but it is a preoccupation. It runs in the family, too: I direct your attention to a wonderful piece by Giovanna Zivny, my daughter: she writes about food, children, parents, the wonderful reassuring thread that runs through family and food.

    Sunday, October 12, 2008

    Mexican restaurant

    WE ALL KNOW WE HAVE mixed emotions about them. Here in California "Mexican restaurant" means one thing; in Texas, another; in Mexico, Curnonsky knows, it's a whole nuther thing.
    We're in Grass Valley tonight, at Amigo's. I had shredded lamb from a steam-table, I think, with the conventional rice and beans and a couple of flour tortillas. (Corn was also offered; I prefer flour.) Red wine. A decent flan, rather a meaty one. Nothing special, but okay.
    Lunch was another matter — cheeses, olives, almonds; chilled roast chicken; green salad — with four chefs in a shady back yard with a fine spaniel mutt in Petaluma. Very civilized.

    Roast suckling pig

    October 11—
    Happy Birthdy Inez!

    BIRTHDAY PARTY IN Berkeley: big spread witth a roast suckling pig in the middle of the table, surrounded, as you see, party.jpgby more salsas and side dishes than you could shake a stick at. And, yes, this being Berkeley, that's lipstick on that pig. The pig was delicious, as always; smooth tender succulent meat, nice cracklings. Slaw, apples-and-raisins, Moroccan carrots, endive, salsas, cheeses. Birthday cake, of course.
    Nero d'Avila 2007

    Friday, October 10, 2008


    SIXTY YEARS AGO they tasted better, tomatoes did; they were a summer thing, of course, but they tasted better. For a number of years now it's seemed to me their season starts later every year; this year's no exception.
    That said, we do have delicious tomatoes just now here in Healdsburg. We got these at the farmer's market last week; they've stood out on a sideboard ever since. I sliced them, sprinkled them with salt, chopped scallions, and chopped Italian parsley — thank Demeter that parsley springs up every year in a corner of the patio; I can't imagine why — and slapped a little olive oil on them.
    Dinner went on from there to baked russet potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper, a tiny bit of grated Pecorino; and then the obligatory green salad.
    Cheap Pinot grigio