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


October 9—

IT'S BEEN HERE BEFORE: penne rigate in tomato sauce. This time the tomatoes were fresh, Romas from the farm market, cooked up with onion and garlic and tossed into the pasta. Green salad, of course.
Cheap côtes de Rhone

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


THE REFRIGERATOR BINS are full of pears, and will probably remain so for a number of weeks: that's how you condition Comice pears. Of course that doesn't leave much room for the olives, relishes, hazelnuts, milk, vermouth, cheese, pickled crabapples, capers, pomegranate juice, seltzer bottle, orange juice, celery, carrots, not to mention all those things behind all those things. I wish refrigerators were shallower.
So today we lunched on bread and cheese and pears and figs, and dined on Corona beans and frittata and green salad, and washed it down with red wine from bottles opened a couple of days ago. And you know? I'm grateful for it all.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Wraps and raps

DINNER IN FRONT OF THE TELEVISION tonight, at the home of friends, watching the debate. Cheese, marcona almonds, and Lindsey's spiced olives; then wraps — shredded turkey with cilantro and lettuce, a delicious lox, and roast beef that I forgot even to try, so tasty were the others; and little chocolates for dessert, and rather lackluster debating, I thought, and then really nice conversation. How civilized.
Sauvignon blanc 2007, Rochioli

Monday, October 6, 2008


Pho Phu Quoc aka PPQ Restaurant: 1816 Irving Street, San Francisco, CA 94122; tel. (415) 661-8869
I DO NOT NATURALLY GRAVITATE toward Asian food; my home base, or basin, is the Mediterranean. Still, we live in a pluralistic society, and we eat occasionally with friends more broadminded than I. (Not a difficult achievement for them.)
So today we lunched in San Francisco, there to catch up with an old friend expatriate to Paris these last several years. He likes Pho Phu Quoc, so there we were.
Since I don't eat shellfish with legs, not even if the legs are removed — no shrimp, lobster, crab, nor freshwater relatives like crayfish — I couldn't join in on the shrim rolls. (I don't know the linguistic reason that Asians tend to drop final consonants.) I had roce bee row, a little gummy but okay; and what seems a quite nutritious cabbage slaw with peppers, scallions, carrot, and chicken meat. The others had cold pasta with stuff in or atop it, and seemed quite happy.
Blue Moon wheat beer (Belgium)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Luncheon party

LUNCH ON THE PATIO for a dozen guests: the pastry crew at Chez Panisse and various companions. Probably the last big patio meal of the year, since it's nearly mid-October: but the weather was perfect. Lindsey fixed olives following the recipe in David Tanis's new book A Platter of Figs, and we had Brie and Piave and a blue new to me, Stichelton, a raw-milk Stilton — we're lucky to have a very good cheese shop in Healdsburg (called, logically enough, The Cheese Shop).

Afterward, the zucchini frittata in Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and then a nice tossed green salad. And what do you serve a bunch of pastry professionals for dessert? Lindsey made a delicious apple crisp from our own apples: Arkansas Black, Hudson's Golden Gem, probably some Calville Blanc, Golden Russet, and especially Belle de Boskoop. The trees are loaded this year, as I think I've mentioned.
Rosé, Château la Canorgue (Luberon), 2007

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Leeks and carrots

LEEKS AND CARROTS, one of the best combinations there is. I just scrape the carrots, slit the leeks down from the cropped-off tails and rinse the sand out of them, and then cook them in olive oil, salt, and water in a covered pan — sort of a braise-steam technique.

Since it's Saturday, we went to the farm market this morning, where we got lima beans from Nancy and salmon from the fish guy. Mostly a red-orange dinner then, no doubt very good for us.
Cheap Côtes du Rhone "Celliers du Rhone" 2007

Friday, October 3, 2008

Potatoes and onions

THERE'S NOT ANYTHING MUCH BETTER than small creamer potatoes cut in quarters and sautéed in olive oil.

Especially when you also throw in half a dozen little cipole, those flat Italian onions whose flavor is so complex yet fresh, and a couple of rosemary branches, and of course a little sea salt. Cook it all in a black iron skillet; make sure the oil's hot when you throw the onions in, follow them with the potatoes. I usually add water after the vegetables are browned and steam them a bit, then boil away the water just before eating.
Green salad; Crane melon for dessert.
Cheap Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Broccoli salad

DINNER AWAY TONIGHT, watching the vice-presidential debate with friends. Cheese and wafers; then pork loin, tomatoes, broccoli salad, with some pickled crabapples to add some piquancy to an otherwise bland debate. That salad was particularly nice: raw broccoli chopped with scallions, dressed with mayonnaise — had Gaye thinned that mayonnaise with a little light cream? Whatever it was, it was very tasty…
Sonoma county Fumé blanc; Adobe Road Zinfandel 2005

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Pasta with anchovies

YES, WE ATE almost the same thing two weeks ago or so. Those delicious Scalia anchovies, crushed with garlic, mixed in with the cooked pasta. Simplest thing in the world.
Cheap Pinot grigio; cheap Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

Liver and onions

September 30, 2008—
John's Grill, 63 Ellis Street, San Francisco; tel. (415) 986-0069
TO SAN FRANCISCO with a couple of old friends to see a new Tom Stoppard play, and where to eat dinner before? Why not go to John's Grill for liver and onions?

I hadn't been there in years; Gaye and John even more years; Lindsey never. But it's three (long) blocks from the theater and very reliable, read utterly consistent. The Martini (ordered with any gin, good vermouth, three to one, olives) was very nice indeed, and the liver and onions (ordered medium rare) put da Montin, in Venice, in my mind.

Well, maybe it wasn't quite up to Montin. But the liver was sweet and tender, the onions perfectly cooked, and a couple of slices of decent bacon didn't hurt. Green beans provided the vitamins, and a small slice of pecan pie the dessert.
Zinfandel Folie à Deux, Amador County, 2005