Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Friends to dinner…

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, September 30, 2009—
…ONE OF WHOM does not eat wheat products. Not a problem. I torched three pasillas and three hungarian long peppers, skinned them, and cooked them long, slow, in olive oil. I made a nice big batch of pesto.
Lindsey sliced some tomatoes from the garden and cooked pasta, one portion of it rice pasta. Green salad, of course; and then, for dessert,
Lindsey made a crisp with apples from the garden, substituting chopped almonds for the more usual wheat-based streusel. Excellent. I do love it when people come to dinner.
Albariño, Sete Cepas, 2008; Rosé, Moulin de Gassac, "Guilhem," 2008

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Grilled Tuna Sandwich

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, September 29, 2009—
I HAD A HAMBURGER the other day, as was noted, and, yes, a good hamburger's a fine thing, no question about it. And your BLT is also a fine thing, when made with good bacon, good tomato, good lettuce. And decent mayonnaise, don't forget.
What else. I love a good baloney sandwich, and for years, when I was building our house on various weekends, I'd lunch on a nearly perfect sandwich: two slices mortadella, one slice galantina, a leaf of lettuce, on buttered white bread. (Old Mrs. Bertoli, who lived behind us on Curtis Street back in the 1970s, had a lettuce she called pan di zucchero in her kitchen garden, big oval liver-spotted leaves; it was perfect with baloney.)
But if were to restrict myself to only one sandwich it would certainly be Grilled Tuna.
Yesterday we found a can of albacore tuna, Alcatraz brand, in the local going-out-of-business store; tonight Lindsey mixed it with finely chopped shallot, a little chopped dill pickle, and some mayonnaise she'd bought in a tube in Amsterdam last spring and never opened. She spread the tuna between slices of Pugliese and grilled them in the black iron skillet. Delicious: this must be one of the Hundred Plates.
We had them, as you see, with broad beans and haricots and lima beans, all leftovers from the refrigerator, and a green salad afterward; and there'll be cookies later on. What a wonderful life.
Rosé: Château la Canorgue (Luberon), 2007; cheap Nero d'Avola

Dinner downstairs

Berkeley, Sept. 28, 2009—
DOWNSTAIRS AT CHEZ PANISSE, that is, and a particularly delicious dinner it was: minestrone soup with shell beans, green beans, peppers, tomatoes, pesto, and little “cresta di gallo” pastas, made in house. And then grilled beef rib eye roasts, served in slices in a delicious jus, with peppers, chanterelles, and arugula, making a particularly flavorful combination. Dessert: strawberry ice cream profiteroles with candied almonds. Memorable.
Pigato (Ligura), Bisson, 2006; Merlot (Alto Adige), Fihl, 2004

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Eastside Road, Healdsburg, September 27, 2009—
LINDSEY'S BEEN READING her way through the page proofs of a new cookbook, Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours, by Kim Boyce, testing a few recipes here and there. Tonight we had a flatbread made amaranth as an appetizer, and this focaccia, made with spelt flour, afterward.

With it, sautéed chopped kale and chard from the garden, and a couple of little eggplants, halved and sprinkled with olive oil, then roasted half an hour in the oven. Afterward, apple crisp — also from our garden. No meat for dinner tonight: I had a juicy hamburger and fries for lunch, at Parkside! I'd better get to the gym tomorrow.
Rosé: Château la Canorgue (Luberon), 2007

  • Parkside Cafe, 404 Santa Rosa Ave, Santa Rosa, CA; tel. (707) 573-5955

  • Saturday, September 26, 2009

    Saturday salmon

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, September 26, 2009—
    I KNOW WE SHOULD eat locally, and we try to do just that. But Saturday is farm market day in Healdsburg, and The Fish Guy is always there, but the local salmon isn't. Hasn't been any for two years now, a function of drought and misplaced social priorities (don't get me started). And we have to have salmon; it's very good for us, and the hunger for it is in our genes. (As far as I know, salmon was local to virtually every sea-going stream in the temperate zone, worldwide, until fairly recent historic times.)
    For quite a while now we've been making do with frozen wild salmon from Alaska, and it's quite good. But today The Fish Guy had coho salmon. I didn't ask him where he got it, not because it's none of my business, because it is, but because I just didn't want to. It was delicious with the "willow" lima beans from Nancy Skall, and I look forward to a chocolate chip cookie for dessert.
    Cheap Pinot grigio

    Friday, September 25, 2009

    One more night…

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, September 25, 2009—
    YOU WILL THINK we're in a rut. Maybe so. But tonight's edition of aïoli will be treated differently here, for two reasons: one, a photo:

    two, a little more thoughtfulness while strolling through this plate. Everything on it, except for the olives and the olive oil in the aïoli, are local, from the farm market in Healdsburg. You can just barely see the eggs at the top of the plate: Lindsey knows how to boil eggs, never a trace of green on the yolk, which is just set. It helps that they're fresh, from a neighbor. I noticed tonight the different textures of the different tomatoes — red, orange, green — and their different balances of acid and sugar. Similarly, two kinds of bean: Nancy Skall's musica broad beans, Love Farms' haricots verts. Each its own color, texture, flavor. Ditto the peppers: red and orange, two different flavors.
    The aïoli itself is holding up beautifully, though there's hardly any left. Lindsey whisked a bit more oil into it yesterday, as it was firming up. But the color and the crisp flavor hasn't changed since Sunday.
    Boiled potatoes: I save them for last, mashing them down with the fork to get every bit of the aïoli. It's a delicious dinner, and lacks only some tuna to be one of the Hundred Plates.
    Cheap pinot grigio

    Thursday, September 24, 2009

    Aïoli, again

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, September 24, 2009—
    SO: AS EVERYONE seems to begin every statement these days, So: Lindsey charred more bell peppers today, and sweated them soft; and cut up more tomatoes, and boiled more potatoes; and we had a couple of friends over, and made yet another onslaught on the aïoli I'd made Sunday for the Pastry Party. We didn't quite finish the aïoli, and that's fine with me. I could eat it every day of the week. We did have a delicious apple crisp for dessert, three different kinds of apples from our trees.
    Roussanne, Truchard, Carneros, 2006; "Old Vine Red," Marietta Cellars, Geyserville, nv

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009

    Back to the icebox

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, September 23, 2009—
    THAT'S WHAT I ALWAYS call it, "icebox." You can tell a man's age by his terminology: I still say "television set," never simply "television"; but I say "radio," not "radio set". I know it's a refrigerator, but when I was a kid it was always called the icebox, and that's what I still call it.
    In any case, home from upcountry, dinner still from our party last Sunday. Maybe this is the last of the cold chicken. With it, a mess of kale and chard from the garden; also, stewed tomatoes — another familiar from my childhood, but without the torn-up balloon-bread Mom always included. I didn't miss that, not a bit.
    Cheap Nero d'Avola

    Steak on the deck

    Running Springs Road, Ukiah, September 22, 2009—
    Up in the country "batching it" with The Walking Mac.
    With a nice green salad, of course.
    Malbec, Doña Paula "Los Cardos," Mendoza, 2008

    Monday, September 21, 2009


    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, September 21, 2009—
    AFTER A DAY like yesterday, what would you expect? We still have nice cold grilled chicken in the refrigerator, there's still lots of tomatoes; Lindsey boiled a few more potatoes and some delicious lima beans to have some of the pint of aïoli we have left...
    …and there's always some cheap Nero d'Avola…

    Sunday, September 20, 2009

    Pastry crew to lunch

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, September 20, 2009—
    WE TRY TO HAVE the pastry crew from the restaurant up for lunch once a year during these pleasant weeks when summer moves into fall, and today was the day. I think it turned out to be about sixteen people, most of the present team, a few from the old days, most with significant others. It's a lot of fun; they're an interesting lot. Apart from pastry and restaurant the conversation moves to architecture, art schools, technology, design, books of course; and as the day ebbs away into twilight, and then night itself, and the stars spread across the sky overhead — for it was a balmy evening — and the oldest friends linger, as you'd hoped they would, talk becomes both intimate and unguarded, as it does among such friends. I suppose all this is perfectly ordinary: but it's a gift for which we're continually grateful.
    We had bread and cheese, and I made a one-liter-olive-oil aïoli, and Lindsey fixed potatoes and Nancy Skall's delicious Musica beans, and there were sweet peppers and tomatoes. I grilled eleven chicken breasts and five thighs and drumsticks over charcoal. And for dessert, Lindsey made that wonderful Mace Cake, with Alan's superb peaches on the side, and whipped cream. Unforgettable.
    Albariño,Sete Cepas, Rias Baixas, 2008; Rosé: Moulan de Gassac, Huilhem, 2008; Chateau la Canorgue, Côtes de Luberon, 2007


    San Francisco, September 19, 2009 —
    WHAT'S MORE CIVILIZED than a drink, a show, and dinner out at a romantic and extraordinarily fine restaurant? So it went: Martinis at Martuni's; Joe Ortiz's cabaret show Smoke with Lori Rivera backed up by Marshall Otwell's piano (and a fine bassist whose name I don't know), and then a platter of salumi, succulent lamb's testicles, and roast vitellone at Incanto with Joe and Gayle and two other friends. The only improvement to the evening would have been a streetcar ride to a local hotel room, but we don't mind living in the country.
    Arneis, Recit, 2007; Barbera, Cascina Val del Prete "Serra de' Gatti
  • Incanto, 1550 Church Street, San Francisco; tel. 415-641-4500

  • Friday, September 18, 2009

    Lunch, Chez Panisse

    Berkeley, September 18, 2009—
    BACK IN BERKELEY today for a morning meeting and then lunch. I began (the lunch, not the meeting) with tomatoes with savory and aïoli, a simple but delicious plate nicely suiting an uncomfortably hot day, and went on to
    Coho salmon baked in a fig leaf with green beans, eggplant, and anise hyssop, with a teeny bit of pickled sweet red onion to heighten the dish. Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), also known as licorice mint, green leaves on the side as garnish and, like the onion, pointing up the delicate salmon. A beautiful combination of flavors.
    Greco di tufo, Cantina del Taburno, 2008

    Thursday, September 17, 2009

    Dinner down the hill

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, September 17, 2009—
    DINNER DOWN THE HILL with the neighbors tonight, always a pleasure since they're fun and they can cook.
    We ate outside, on the lawn, beginning at twilight with Haogen melon from Healdsburg's Love Farms, draped with prosciutto, with bats high overhead snapping up mosquitos, we hope. Delicious melon.
    And then, now by candlelight, on to a vegetable sauté, peppers, squash, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, green beans, and who knows what else, with chorizo sliced in — the kind of dish you hunger for on a hot day, especially after two weeks on the road eating far too much meat. I could eat like this every day; certainly every summer day.
    Rosé, Lubéron, "La Ferme Blanche," 2007; Sauvignon blanc, Frey Vineyards, 2007


    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, September 16, 2009
    WELL, NOW THAT THE vegetarians have turned away in disgust, we can get back to cleaning out the freezer. These ribsteaks were in there too long, alas; the fat on the edges had taken on that too-well-hung flavor. But the meat itself was delicious, and politically very correct: the beef came from Paolo's ranch.
    Lindsey fried it in the black iron skillet, deglazing the pan for the sauce. With it, as you see, little cubes of potato sautéed in oil, and kale from our garden, and absolutely delicious green beans — haricots verts— from Love Farms, in Healdsburg.
    Cheap Nero d'Avila

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009


    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, September 15, 2009—
    LOTS OF LYCOPENE, that's what I need, I'm told; I'm not sure why. I mean, I'm not sure what it does. Doesn't matter: it comes in good foods, mostly red.

    We began with tomatoes, raw, from the garden; and little eggplants, also from the garden, cooked in olive oil in the toaster oven. And then pasta with redsauce, with leaves from the bay tree, and dried mushrooms from the pantry. It's so nice to be home, especially when you're married to a good cook!
    "Pinotage," South Africa, 2007: so gassy and unpleasant I couldn't drink it.

    Monday, September 14, 2009

    Smoked salmon

    Berkeley, California, September 14, 2009—
    salmon.jpgI'M SUPPOSED TO EAT fish; we're all supposed to eat fish. It's good for us. So at a restaurant new to me, where the menu didn't really inspire me particularly, I ordered the smoked salmon for a first course, partly out of dutifulness, partly to counteract a bad experience with smoked salmon a couple of weeks ago, when not I but a friend became sick after eating it. Yes, I believe in magic like this: a bad experience can be laid to rest by somehow bookending it.
    The reason the menu didn't inspire me was that this was one of those places that seemed to put one ingredient too many on every item on the list. Take the salmon, for example: it was served in slices piled on a small potato cake; horseradish cream on the side; slivers of raw apple piled on top, like the Pick-Up-Sticks we used to play with seventy years ago.
    After the salmon, ravioli filled with ricotta and drizzled with a tarragon-flavored cream sauce. They weren't bad, not bad at all.
    Riesling, "Paraiso" (Monterey County), 2007
  • Five, 2086 Allston Way, Berkeley, California; tel. 510-845-7300

  • Sunday, September 13, 2009

    Chile colorado

    Foot of the Grapevine, California, Sept. 13—
    AFTER SITTING IN TRAFFIC an hour and a half, we checked in at the Ramada here at the bottom of the Central Valley, in a never-never land that was scheduled to blossom into a huge shopping resort but was stymied by, I suppose, the downturn. Oh well.
    The only local restaurant was a Don Pericos branch, theme-y with stucco and bamboo, but with prompt courteous service and a good bar and kitchen. The menu's a pretty standard Cali-Tex-Mex affair, but who am I to ask for more. I had the Chile Colorado, chunks of pork in a spicy, piquant sauce, with the obligatory rice and beans. It took me right back to my childhood, when Dad now and then cooked. Dad was brought up in a border town, Bisbee, and he cooked mean chile colorado.
    Margarita, blended, salt-rimmed

    Saturday, September 12, 2009

    Another hotel dinner

    Los Angeles, Sept. 12—
    A CONFERENCE DEVOTED to prostate cancer is probably not the best place to have dinner, but the keynote speech was promising, so weeks ago I reserved tonight's dinner, not sure what we'd get. It turned out to be an okay green salad, a slab of wild salmon, lightly broiled, a collection of far too many yellow and orange vaguely chestnut-textured root vegetables, and an angel food cupcake. Oh well: the speech was very funny and quite informative.
    Martini; unspecified generic red wine

    Friday, September 11, 2009

    Long drive, quick meal

    Los Angeles, Sept. 11—

    A LONG DRIVE today, well, not that much longer than yesterday's. Still: we started about noon, and much was at high speed, and the last hour was on L.A. freeways, so it seemed longer. Too tired for much, so we ate in the hotel: Caesar salads, bread with whole garlic cloves cooked in, a side of broccoli, stems too tough to eat but nicely flavored with olive oil and garlic.

    Café Collage

    Oregon House, California, Sept. 10—

    OLD FRIENDS, NEW place (to us, I mean). Café Collage is an ambitious little place in the Mother Lode country, serving Mediterranean food made from good, local ingredients. We split an order of deeply flavored dolmas, with a nice tomatoheavy salad; then went on to a rich moussaka. Creme brûlée flavored with orangeblossom for dessert.
    Zinfandel, 2007

    Zinfandel, Ramey Schulten, 2007

    Wednesday, September 9, 2009

    Steak (what, again?) and salad

    Lakeview, Oregon, Sept. 9—
    THE POPULATION IS JUST under half the elevation: roughly 2500 souls, about 4800 feet. Not a lot of a town, even though it is the county seat. One decent restaurant, though: Plush West. (The plush stone is some kind of local semi-precious gem; there's a town called Plush east of here; there's probably more to say about this, but this site isn't for tourists.)

    I had a small (9-ounce) filet mignon, Caesar salad on the side. Baked potato. Huge dinner roll. It was all quite acceptable.
    Cheap Pinot gris; okay Cabernet sauvignon

    Tuesday, September 8, 2009

    Parmesan toasts

    Portland, Sept. 8—

    ONE OF MY FAVORITE THINGS: open-faced sandwiches made of good levain, a bit of olive oil, and slices of Parmesan cheese, toasted under the broiler. With them tonight, an interesting use-up-the-scraps salad: lettuce, the kernels of an ear or two of corn, cut off the cob; thin-sliced onion. A platter of sliced tomatoes sprinkled with chopped lovage. A plum upside-down cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.
    Sauvignon blanc, Patricia Green Cellars (Oregon), 2008

    Lunch, no bread

    Albany, Oregon, Sept. 7—
    I JUST WANT A BIG GREEN SALAD, I said, and does bread come with it? We don't have bread, the waitress said, we don't have bread until four o'clock. Everyone looked at the clock: one o'clock. Is it too late for breakfast, I asked. No, we serve breakfast all day. Okay, I'll have a big green salad, oil and vinegar, and an order of toast.
    She took the other orders; then, as she was about to leave the table, I asked her not to toast the toast. Okay, she said, I guess we can do that.
    The salad was okay: lettuces, tomatoes, very thin slices of sweet onion. I oiled and salted the bread.
    Iced tea
  • Elmer's Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner, 2802 Santiam Hwy SE, Albany, OR‎; tel. (541) 928-4227
  • Sunday, September 6, 2009


    Ashland, Sept. 6—

    ONE OF MY FAVORITE dishes, worth placing in the top hundred: Fegato Veneziano. Calf's liver, sliced into equal-sized strips, sautéed quickly in butter with perhaps a little olive oil added, turned out, the pan deglazed quickly and poured over, with beautifully sweated thin-sliced onions on the side. And, of course, a triangle or two of polenta, cooked, turned out into a pan, cooled until solid, then cut up and grilled.
    To tell the truth that's not quite what we had tonight. The liver was nicely sautéed, but the pan was reduced with a little red wine; shallots were involved as well. But it was quite delicious. For dessert, "spumoni" ice cream: strawberry, chocolate, and green-tinted vanilla with a few chopped pistachios and a hint of spirits.
    Vino bianco di Sicilia, "Tinto," 2008; Nero d'Avila, "Tinto," 2007
  • Il Giardino, 5 Granite Street, Ashland, OR; tel. (541) 488-0816
  • Saturday, September 5, 2009


    Ashland, Oregon, Sept. 5—
    DINNER AT A NEIGHBORHOOD steak-and-seafood joint tonight: Omar's. We've eaten there before; it's something of a joke among us four couples who spend a week in this town every year, seeing plays, hanging out, getting older. Some of us think it's okay; others really don't particularly like it. Tonight I had steak, salad, and baked potato. I opted for the "petite" top sirloin, a mere seven ounces, probably twice as much as I wanted. Grain fed, fairly tender, with that curious buttery texture such beef has. Cooked exactly to my specification, though, and the potato, ordered without sour cream and splashed with olive oil, was what I wanted.
    Martini; Montepulciano d'Abruzzo in carafe
  • Omar's Restaurant, 1380 Siskiyou Blvd, Ashland OR; tel. (541) 482-1281
  • Friday, September 4, 2009

    Dinner at New Sammy's

    Ashland, Sept. 4, 2009—
    YES: THIRD DAY RUNNING at New Sammy's. Why not? Why would you spend a week in a town boasting one of the finest restaurants you know without eating there as often as possible?
    I had a salmon paté, then a rib steak with vegetables. Sounds simple enough. Everything was direct, clean, complex.
    "She's a cook, not a chef," Gaye said, revealing the genius of Charlene. Sure, there's an assistant, maybe two now, in the kitchen: but Charlene's role is not primarily to manage an equipe, a team of phenomenal cooks whose separate and individual passions and intelligences might stand as much in the way of a successful meal as in its service. Charlene primarily mediates between what she knows of cooking, which is considerable, and the ingredients she deals with, which she knows intimately.
    The paté was beautifully textured, smoky and fishy, clean and focussed. The steak — some kind of perfect balance between marbled fat and lean texture, and fine flavor. I think there's only one other restaurant I know in this country up to this mark.
    Vin blanc, Coteaux Varois "Chateau Miraval", 2007; vin rouge d'Anjou

    Back to New Sammy

    Ashland, Sept. 3—
    BACK TODAY to New Sammy's. The menu hadn't changed from yesterday, and why would it? You could order from this menu every day for a week, and maybe we will. I had the flatiron steak this time, a big composed salad with several strips of steak, couscous, green beans, tomatoes, peppers, and a healthy scatter of soft goat cheese crumbles.
    Afterward, this delicious Linzer tart made with plums instead of raspberries — a great idea — with a smooth, creamy, spicy clove-flavored ice cream on the side.
    Côtes du Rhone, Domaine Ste.-Anne, 2005
  • New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro, 2210 South Pacific Highway, Talent, OR 97520;
    tel. (541) 535-2779
  • Wednesday, September 2, 2009

    Niçoise at New Sammy's

    Ashland, Sept. 2—
    ONE OF THE BEST things about spending a few days here is eating at New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro, one of the Five Restaurants. Everything about the place is authentic, nourishing, and good. Buono, pulito, e giusto, as Slow Food has it; and to a great extent local as well. I'll undoubtedly write more about it tomorrow; we're going back. (In fact we'll be eating there three days straight: two lunches and then dinner. We're quite shameless.)
    The lunch menu at New Sammy's is enticing. Today we chose from:
    •summer-squash garlic marjoram ravioli,
    •grilled wild Louisiana shrimp,
    •poached albacore "Niçoise" salad,
    •duck leg confit and warm salad with bacon,
    •hamburger sandwich with goat cheese, backon, kale, and aioli
    •flank steak with cucumber tabbouleh, garlic green beans, cherry tomatoes, and feta
    I opted, predictably, for the "Niçoise," attracted partly by the quotation marks. Charlene Rollins, the chef, is one smart cookie. She's respectful of authority and would never compromise as great a dish as salade Niçoise, so she warns the wary diner of her occasional divagations.

    The albacore was poached in olive oil. The lettuce, tomatoes, and herbs were from the back garden. The eggs were probably from not much farther, and were perfectly boiled.
    Did I mention that each of these lunch entrées is priced at fifteen dollars? Since a lunch like this is Principal Meal of the Day for us, it's a real bargain.
    Rosé, Provence, 2008
  • New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro, 2210 South Pacific Highway, Talent, OR 97520;
    tel. (541) 535-2779
  • Tuesday, September 1, 2009

    Eating light

    Ashland, Sept. 1 —
    A LAZY DAY, meant for light eating. Coffee and an English muffin at our marginal motel. Caesar salad and a glass of cheap Pinot grigio for lunch. Fettucini Alfredo and a dish of sautéed spinach for dinner, with a decent Nebbiolo rosé. I can't recommend the motel; the meals were okay:
  • Bella Union Restaurant & Saloon, 170 W. California St., Jacksonville, OR; tel. 541-899-1770
  • Pasta Piatti, 358 E. Main St., Ashland, OR; tel. 541-488-5493