Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pasta anchovies and garlic

Eastside Road, December 30—
NO DOUBT IT'S shown up here before; I think it is close to the Hundred Plates. While the water's heating to cook the pasta — she usually likes fusili for this dish — Lindsey crushes a few anchovies with a clove or two of garlic and heats them in olive oil. When the pasta's cooked and drained she blends the anchovies in, tosses the pasta, and sprinkles chopped parsley on top. Delicious. Green salad.
Cheap Pinot grigio

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sand dabs

Eastside Road, December 29 —
HAVE I WRITTEN ABOUT this before? It's one of my favorite dinners. One of our favorites, actually. And it's something I developed all by myself, years ago, with no recourse to any printed recipe: I'm so pleased with myself.
What I do is make a sofritto of onion — tonight I used to small-to-medium yellow onions and a couple of good-sized shallots. I slice them thin thin thin and separate the rings, then sweat them s-l-o-w-l-y in olive oil with a little salt until they're transparent. Meanwhile I soak half a handful of raisins, golden by preference, in white wine and a little Balsamic vinegar. Tonight I forgot to put in the pine nuts; they're pretty important. You add the raisins and their liquid, and the pine nuts, and a couple of bay leaves; and then you put the sand dabs on top, cover the pan, and steam-poach the fish until half done, then turn them and finish. Oh boy this is delicious. May I nominate it to the Hundred Plates?
With them, tonight, leeks and carrots — the carrots split lengthwise and cooked in oil, salt, and water; the split leeks added a little later, the combination steam-sautéed. And some leftover tartiflette, warmed in the oven. And green salad.
Chablis, Jacques Bourguignon, 2008

Monday, December 28, 2009


Eastside Road, December 28, 2009—
HENRY IS STAYING with us a few days. I asked him what he'd like for dinner: well, he said, eyeing me familiarly—
Tartiflette, I said. Yep.
A little over a year ago Henry and I walked, with our friend Mac, from Geneva (well, nearly Geneva) to Nice, a five-week walk up and down over a hundred thousand feet of elevation change. In the first three weeks we had tartiflette nearly every night: it's a specialty of Savoie. Neither of us had really had it since, but every time we've been together we've recalled it fondly.
Trouble is, it's made with Reblochon, a fresh cheese, no more than a few weeks old, made with unpasteurized milk. It's no longer legal to import it into the United States, hence unavailable.
We peeled a couple of pounds of potatoes and cooked them in water until half-cooked; then sliced them as thin as we could. I made a soffrito of one onion, chopped, and a couple of handfuls of bacon cut into small cubes. We layered the potatoes and onions in a go-to-oven terrine. Over the top I put half of a fromage de Jura, as close as our local cheesemonger could give us to Reblochon. I cut it in half, crosswise, and laid the halves rind side up on the potatoes; then added a small glass of white wine and say half a cup of crème fraîche.
This went into the preheated oven, say 350°, for half an hour or so, until done:
it was delicious. A few scraps of leftover grilled lamb; broccolini, green salad.
Cheap Pinot grigio


Eastside Road, December 27—

WOULD YOU EXPECT anything else two says after Christmas? We're coming as close as we can to fasting these days, knowing holiday meals will be feasts. So today, after our Sunday breakfast of soft-boiled eggs and buttered toast, it was the last of the turkey soup for lunch, green salad and Monviso on toast for supper. Enough, and tasty.
Cheap Pinot grigio

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Turkey soup

Eastside Road, December 26, 2009—
WHEN DID WE COOK that turkey? Doesn't matter: not all that long ago, I guess. There was a quart of much-reduced turkey stock in the ice-box. I diced one carrot, two celery stalks, and three leeks and softened them in olive oil, then added the stock, some water, the last of the pesto, and a sprig of thyme, and let it simmer half an hour or so. Not bad. Green salad.
Cheap Pinot grigio.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Roast lamb

Eastside Road, December 25, 2009—
ONE OF THE GREAT meals: roast leg of lamb. It was about a three-pound roast, boned; Thérèse gave it about an hour of oil, garlic, and rosemary, and then instead of rolling it back up and roasting it Eric left it butterflied and grilled it in the fireplace. Absolutely delicious. With it, cauliflower with celery-root and onion, and gratinéed potatoes. Green salad, of course.
Cheeses: Roncal and Blu del Monviso, not quite up to a Castelmagno, but a very delicious Piemontese cheese.

And the dessert! Something I've never had before, an invention of the moment: Thérèse rescued some year-old fruitcake by combining it with some dried figs and sultanas and making a pie of it, with a delicious short buttery crust. A first-rate dinner.
Red wine, "L Preston" (Dry Creek Valley), 2006

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Laytonville, California, December 24, 2009—
"A PERFECTLY EDIBLE ANIMAL but rarely used in the kitchen," says Larousse Gastronomique, which goes on to some particularly silly paragraphs on bear's paw, going so far as to quote Mencius. We did not have paw tonight: we had roast haunch. I had never eaten bear before, and was looking forward to something quite different. I suppose I was thinking about how different elk and antelope are from beef and lamb. Bear, at least this bear, turns out to taste very much like good dense grass-raised beef, perhaps a little sweeter but not as sweet as horse. There was no fat at all; the texture was fine-grained and not at all stringy; the finish was clean.
Paolo said it was not a large animal, say three hundred pounds. Bear are increasing hereabouts; one walked through the town of Petaluma a few months back. Paolo told us of a neighbor of his who was grilling salmon on his patio a couple of summers ago; he forgot something and went into the house for it, and returned to see a bear standing by his grill eating his salmon.
With the bear, mashed potatoes; snow peas; Brussels sprouts and chestnuts; sautéed peppers, onions, and zucchini; dinner rolls. A full plate.
Rosé, T&T (Dry Creek), 2008; Carignane, Louis Preston (Dry Creek), 2006

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Penne al pesto

Eastside Road, December 23, 2009—
I KNOW: YOU HAVE the feeling you've read those words before. I'll do a quick search before I go on. Ah: it was exactly a month ago that I looked it up, on Nov. 23: "Only five times since September 2008," I wrote then; "I would have thought there'd been at least a dozen occurrences."
That same litte jar is in the refrigerator, its contents carefully covered over with a film of olive oil; Lindsey again "boiled up some penne; I threw a vinaigrette together, and hey presto we're home again."
Tomorrow will be different, I'm told; tomorrow we're eating bear. I can hardly wait.
Oh: Green salad, of course.
Cheap Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Soup of the evening

Eastside Road, December 22, 2009—
WHO CAN SAY WHEN he first read Lewis Carroll? I'm sure it was before I was ten years old, probably before I was eight. And the passage that interested me the most intensely, moved me the most profoundly, was that concerning the mock turtle soup, with Tenniel's mysterious illustration of the beast who told Alice and the Gryphon "in a deep, hollow tone: ‘sit down, both of you, and don’t speak a word till I’ve finished.’"

I don't know when it was explained to me that mock-turtle soup is made of veal stock, hence the calf's head in Tenniel's illustration. Certainly we never had turtle soup when I was a boy, mock or otherwise; I'm not sure I ever have tasted it. It fascinated me, later, when sophistication began to charm me, and I read somewhere that one splashed a bit of sherry into the soup while cooking it.

We did have soup, though; never turtle soup, and certainly never with sherry in it. We had mostly tomato soup, sometimes home-made, just as often out of a can. Later, when I lived in town with my grandparents, we had all kinds of soups, nearly always home-made. Gram was a deft hand with the stock dishes of her Missouri childhood; the weekly chicken always gave us a pot of stock when most of its flesh was picked away. (Earlier, when I was a very little boy, I was terrified when occasionally she soldiered out into the back yard, grabbed a handy Rhode Island Red, and wrung its neck.)

We do love our soup around here, and particularly on cold damp gloomy days. Tonight it came not from a can but a box: red pepper soup from Trader Joe. It's organic, so that takes some of the sting out of eating from a box. Lindsey didn't add a thing. You could float a bit of finishing olive oil on it, or even a drizzle of crème fraîche — but it's perfectly okay as it is. With it, a slab of TJ's naan, its garlic a little bitter, I thought; afterward, the green salad.
Cheap Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

The Mock Turtle's song, parodying a popular song of the day:

Beautiful Soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Beau - ootiful Soo - oop!
Beau - ootiful Soo - oop!
Soo - oop of the e - e - evening,
Beautiful, beautiful Soup!

Dobos torte

Eastside Road, December 21, 2009—
INSPIRED BY SEEING the movie Julie and Julia, our friend Becky said she'd always wanted to cook a certain recipe from Lindsey's book: Dobos torte. Perfect, I said; I used to make one for Thérèse's birthday in the old days; let's get together and surprise her with one.
Well, of course, it didn't work out that way. Lindsey's retired now and has time to make such things herself. Besides, I think Becky was happy to have the chance to study at the side of the master. So while I reconstructed my user folder, lost to a poorly executed backup strategy, the women spent the afternoon making a cake.
We first met the cake in the pages of a pamphlet of Hungarian recipes, issued in a series on international cuisine that we collected from used-book stores back in the innocent 1960s. In a fit of madness Lindsey got rid of all those pamphlets years ago, but later found an assembled collection of most of them to replace them.
Needless to say, I hadn't looked at the recipe in decades. I remembered it as being layers of génoise, assembled with hazelnut buttercream, topped with caramel painfully sliced into wedges. It's not génoise, it's an egg-butter-flour cake; it's not hazelnut buttercream, it's chocolate with a few crushed hazelnuts; and it wasn't the Hungarian pamphlet, it was on page 50 of Cakes and Tortes, published by the Culinary Arts Institute of Chicago, Illinois, in 1957. Lindsey adapted her version of the recipe from that source. I haven't compared the two, but of course I'd recommend her version as her book is undoubtedly more easily found.
What you do is make six thin cake layers, sandwich them with frosting, then cover the side with frosting, then pour caramel on top and quickly, while it's hot, cut it into serving-size wedges. When I made this cake I always beat the eggs by hand, with a whisk, and creamed them with the sugar, then flour the same way; but the women used an electric hand mixer today and I suppose the result was indistinguishable.doboscut.jpg
It's an absolutely delicious cake: my favorite, I think. Its textures and flavors maintain their individuality yet merge beautifully, and the finish is deep and rich. It would be delicious with a demitasse or a dram of the right liqueur, but tonight we made do with a cup of Lapsang Souchong: that wasn't bad, either.cabbage.jpg
What? Oh, right: dinner's more than cake. Becky made cabbage rolls from a recently published vegetarian cookbook; I didn't get the title. Instead of the authentic kielbasa the stuffing involves brown rice, pecans and cashews, and dates; the cabbage rolls are then baked with a tomato sauce covering. I thought them quite delicious, but couldn't eat more than two: I was looking forward to dessert. (There were seven of us at table.)
Gerwurtztraminer, J.W. Morris, 2007; Cabernet sauvignon, Chateau Souverain, 2003 (in magnum: thanks, Paul)

Monday, December 21, 2009

That lasagna

Eastside Road, December 21, 2009—lasagna.jpg
LINDSEY SLOWLY READIES the refrigerator for the holidays. "Slowly"'s not the right word; "methodically" might do her more justice. She's not a slow woman, Lindsey, except perhaps sometimes when she's eating; I've often thought her uncanny taste sensitivity might have been formed in childhood by her slow, methodical habits at the table. But I digress.
Last night what should come out of the icebox but the last of the lasagna she made for John, over two weeks ago. I won't say it was better for the hibernation, but it certainly wasn't worse. Bolognese is a wonderful thing; Bolognese and Béchamel is one of the many fine moments in Italo-franco relations. (Most of them, I suppose, in the kitchen.)
Cheap Nero d'Avola

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 19, 2009—
BEAN SOUP AGAIN tonight for dinner, exactly as last night; also same salad, same wine. That's just fine with me. The concept of never repeating a dinner across two or even three consecutive days doesn't make a lot of sense to me: but then I grew up in the country among people of modest means. (Come to think of it, lots of folks these days probably eat the same thing night after night; that's what keeps the fast-food franchises busy.)
What was different today was the Martini. Actually yesterday's was different too. I read somewhere last week about the really correct way to make a Martini, and decided to put it to the test. In the past I've made them three to one, gin and dry vermouth, shaken with ice cubes fifty-six times.
All wrong, according to the expert. Four to one, or even up to six or seven to one, depending on the brands of gin and vermouth, seems to be the right thing. Ingredients should start out at room temperature, and be stirred, not shaken, with ice cubes, from forty seconds to a full minute, depending on the temperature of the ice.
So today I stirred Lindseys Notini — equal parts gin and vermouth — for forty seconds, in a two-quart Pyrex measuring pitcher; and then I stirred up one for myself, three to one. And, you know, it makes a better drink. Yesterday I thought it was a tad wet, but as Lindsey pointed out it was a lot smoother. Today I thought more about it, and realized that while it seemed wet — I mean watery — at first, a few sips in that quality had disappeared altogether. The drink lasts longer, for some reason. Not that it stays cold longer; it doesn't; next time I'll freeze the glasses ahead, and I'm going to continue to keep the gin bottle in the freezer. It's not that it stays cold longer in the glass; it's that the drink is smoother, better integrated.
It helps, too, that this week we switched to a new vermouth: Donin. I think it's the best I've found. We're still drinking New Amsterdam gin, I almost blush to say; it's bottled by Gallo, and I feel a bit of a traitor, but it's inexpensive and smooth and nicely flavored in the Dutch style, not the English; with a hint of citrus and, I think, another hint, very subtle indeed, of vanilla. In any case, we like our Martinis, and we like them more this way.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cassoulet; bean soup

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 18, 2009—
A RECENT COMMENT to this blog stated that I am a bean counter. Well, not really; I haven't counted the items on my plate since I was a ten-year-old, when I did precisely that to be sure my little brother didn't have one or two peas more than I did. I don't count beans; but I am no Pythagorean; I do actively enjoy beans, and why not? Flavor, protein, fiber, texture, aroma. And they soak up whatever liquid they deal with (as do I, I suppose), adding to the rich plurality of bean nature.
So I was not reluctant to order cassoulet at lunch — I was joining three others in a restaurant meeting — even though Lindsey had said she'd be making bean soup for dinner. After all, it's winter, and December; time for hearty eating. And I had a special reason to order cassoulet, one of The Hundred, and a dish I have trouble resisting on any occasion: this would be my first Mark Malicki meal in his new digs, the French Garden Restaurant.
I've tried to avoid restaurant reviews on this blog, for the most part. This particular restaurant has been plagued, in my opinion, by a succession of chefs who didn't seem to work out. And Malicki, who is truly a genius, one of the best chefs within a hundred miles (and that says a lot), has run through a number of restaurants of his own. I remember fondly Truffles, which he ran in Sebastopol twenty-odd years ago; and Café Saint Rose, which closed maybe three years ago in Santa Rosa, went on to a roadhouse west of Sebastopol, then closed there a few months back.
Today's cassoulet might have worn quotes: it's not a search for authenticity. The beans looked like Coronas, not the small flageolets you expect; and the presentation wore green: I don't associate cassoulet with vegetables. (The bean is not a vegetable, in my opinion.)
But it was a delicious thing, with goose confit, and pork shoulder, and garlic, and just a hint of tomato. It nourished a fascinating conversation about opera and theater, art and community. It kept me happy for a couple of hours.
Lindsey's bean soup was quite different, using Giovanna's* recipe: Borlotti beans with chopped onion and garlic, covered with a few inches of water and cooked slowly; then seasoned with chopped fresh sage, salt, and pepper; served with toasted Como bread, grated Parmesan, and drizzled with good olive oil. Very nice indeed. Maybe I'll have some for breakfast tomorrow.
Cheap Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
  • French Garden Restaurant, 8050 Bodega Avenue
    Sebastopol, California; tel. 707-824-2030

  • *Giovanna's busy making cookies

    Thursday, December 17, 2009


    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 17, 2009—
    LINDSEY LIKES THE PRODUCTS of a fairly local firm called Primavera, and so do I. They refer to their line as "Organically Inclined, Traditionally Inspired," with commendable shiftiness; and their tortillas and tamales do seem authentic in flavor and texture, and do seem as nourishing as they are delicious. Look at the label on these BBQ Chipotle Bean & White Cheddar Tamales: beans, organic corn flour masa, white cheddar, tomatoes, onions, Worcestershire Sauce, brown sugar, salt, spices, butter, baking powder.
    No stabilizers, no preservatives, nothing you can't pronounce; nothing but good things. Butter, for example: butter in tamales. Now there's a surprise.

    Alongside them, kale from the garden, a few leaves spared by what must have been God's Wrath of a locust swarm or something like that; on returning from a week away I found only the veins on almost all the kale leaves. It's time to put the garden to sleep for a few weeks, I'm afraid.
    Green salad, of course.
    Cheap Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009

    Lunch chez Panisse

    Berkeley, December 16, 2009—
    ANOTHER DELICIOUS LUNCH upstairs in the café today:
    Frisée, tardivo (radicchio), hardcooked egg, garlic and anchovy in a perfect dressing; then
    braised short ribs with little turnips, mashed potatoes and celery root, and salsa verde. Comfort food. And dessert: panna cotta flavored with bay leaf and drizzled with huckleberry coulis, two words I never expected to juxtapose.
    Rosé, Lurton (Semillon, Merlot, Cabernet sauvignon), 2008; Zinfandel, Green and Red, ?2008

    Tuesday, December 15, 2009

    Those Coronas

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 15, 2009—
    THEY'RE ABOUT HALF the size of my left thumb, though considerably thinner, and white and shiny as a piano key in good condition. Corona beans: we get them from a friend who imports them, I'm not sure from where. Lindsey soaks them for a little while, then cooks them gently in water, drains them, and tosses them even more gently with chopped shallots, olive oil, marjoram, salt, and pepper. Not many things are better.
    Cheap Nero d'Avola

    Monday, December 14, 2009

    Portuguese discovery

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 14, 2009--
    LUNCH TODAY WAS unexpected — we were planning to skip it, just drive straight through from our (delayed) breakfast of caffe latte and croissant in Ashland to dinner at home. But we stopped for gas in Orland, and I noticed a Portuguese Plaza — a good-sized stucco building out by itself at a freeway offramp next to a cutrate gas station. I took a quick look at its deli counter and bakery case, bought a piece of fry-bread and a cookie, and told Lindsey what I'd found.

    She allowed as how we had time to stop in for a light lunch — seduced, I think, by my mention of salt cod — and we wound up with a cup of caldo verde apiece and a platter of cod croquettes: potato, cod, onion and parsley, rolled in crumbs and deep-fried. I'd have liked a glass of vinho verde with this, but it wasn't on the lunch menu.
    We had a nice talk with Margarida, who'd cooked our lunch, and who then took us upstairs to see her most amazing Christmas-tree setup; it filled a large room with figures, crêche, mills, electric train, marching band, aerial cablecars, mechanical ice-skaters, airplanes — I can't begin to describe the amount of detail: thirty years of collecting has gone into it, and the result is a joyous excess of detail in tin, plastic, glass, high spirits.
    I like everything about this place, so unexpected, so down-to-earth, so unpretentious yet so proud of its heritage and its place. I want to go back, have dinner, spend a night nearby, and return next morning for breakfast. Steak and eggs, I think, with a glass of red.
    eating.jpg And here we are, for no good reason except that someone snapped us a few days ago, eating again. It was nice to be in Portland for almost a week; it's nice to be back home.
  • City Gates Restaurant (Portas da Cidade), 1165 Hoff Way, Orland CA, tel. 530.865.5552

  • Sunday, December 13, 2009

    Bouillabaisse redux

    Roseburg, Oregon, December 13—
    KNOWING WE WERE SPENDING the night in this town, simply because we'd get no farther from Portland by stopping time, and that we would be unlikely to find a satisfactory restaurant, we elected to repeat last Monday's success and stop at Marché. I started with half a dozen oysters on the half shell and a small basket of very good bread, then went on, with Lindsey who'd warmed up with bean-and-bacon soup, to our Bouillabaisse, exactly the same as Monday's.
    The photo doesn't do it justice, of course: I took it before shelling the mussels and clams and tearing the croutons into pieces to stir the whole thing up into a smooth, hearty fish soup. Authenticity mavens will complain, of course; the fish isn't served dry and separately, the broth in its tureen. But the flavors and aromas are authentic; you'd almost swear you were in Provence. This is a dependable, enjoyable, healthful, delicious thing, this Bouillabaisse chez Marché; what more could you want? (Well, a bottle of rosé…)
    Pinot gris, Kuentz-Bas, 2008; Beaujolais nouveau, Georges Duboeuf, 2009
  • Marché, 5th Street Public Market, 296 E. 5th St., Eugene, Oregon;
    tel. (541) 342-3612
  • Saturday, December 12, 2009


    Portland, Dec. 12—

    LUNCH, IN FACT; it was nearly noon. As I sometimes do, I ordered the least attractive thing on the menu, just to stretch: catfish hash, with two poached eggs and toast. It came with some kind of Cajun sauce, a distant relative of rouille, and it was pretty good.

    Bridges Cafe, 2716 NE Martin Luther King Jr
    Portland Oregon

    Friday, December 11, 2009


    Portland, December 11—
    THEY'RE JUST A LITTLE too, well, casual, or something, to register among the Hundred Plates. Well, I take that back: they belong to the Family of Pancakes, and that family surely qualifies. Three crèperies stand out in my disorderly cabinet of culinary recollections: the crèpe stand on the Boulevard St. Michel at the entrance to the Jardins de Luxembourg, of fond memories from the 1970s; a curious and not altogether (otherwise) memorable visit to Montmartre not long after (which was no longer there the next time we visited, also not long after); and Chez Erik, a crèpe-truck on the beach in Papeete, perhaps the most authentic-seeming crèpes I've had, with very authentic bols of cider.

    But then, I've never eaten crèpes in Brittany, so what's the point of all this?
    There's also Ty Couz in San Francisco; I've enjoyed them there; and Crèpes-a-Go-Go in Berkeley, which I like more than do others in my family.

    Years ago, getting on toward forty, a dear friend of ours wanted to open a crèperie in Berkeley. She made very good ones; we used to walk down Francisco Street to her apartment for a dinner of them, and then we'd all walk back up to our apartment for dessert; and so Chez Panisse was born. But that's another story.
    Today we went to Suzette for lunch, and I had one of my very favorite dishes, a classic crèpe filled with spinach, gruyère, and egg. Suzette's new, installed in a former carriage-house — in fact hardlyr more than a double garage, pierced with enough windows to light it, cheefully painted, hung about with cute mismatched bathroom chandeliers and set with a number of mismatched, comfortable chairs and tables. (Some of the seating seems to be ripped out of a former movie theater.) The kitchen's out back, in a small Airstream trailer. The menu runs to sweet and savory crèpes, onion soup, quiche, salad, and the like; and a small, effective wine-and-beer list. (And cider, of course.) Lindsey had a delicious prosciutto-and-onion crèpe, and we finished with a fine Grand Marnier crèpe. We might have been in Paris. Well, on the outskirts.
    Red wine

  • Suzette, 2921 NE Alberta St., Portland Oregon

  • Thursday, December 10, 2009

    Andina; Zuppa alla Valpelleunenze

    Portland, December 10—
    LUNCH TODAY DOWNTOWN at Andino, a place Simon really likes because the cuisine is Ecuadorean/Peruvian, and he spent a year in Ecuador, and has a bit of what he calls gastralgia, a nostalgia for tastes past. (That's how I refer to it: the search for taste past; I find "gastralgia" a little too medicinal sounding.)
    We began with pequeños platos: jamon y chorizo, both very nice indeed, the ham smoky and dry, toward the classic Serrano taste; the chorizo hot and dry. With them, three sauces: peanut, papaya, chile verde. Then I went on to Seco a la norteña, lamb shank slow-cooked, flavored slightly with peppers, and served on noodles; almost exactly the way Richard Olney prescribes it. A delicious lunch, with some fine conversation.
    Apaltagua Pinot Noir Reserva, Curicó Valley, Chile, 2009
  • Andina Restaurant, 1314 NW Glisan, Portland OR; tel. 503.228.9535

  • pap.jpg

    DINNER AT HOME: Lindsey made a Zuppa alla Valpelleunenze from a book Giovanna had brought home from the library, Diana Henry's Roast Figs Sugar Snow (New York: Octopus Books, 2009). This is essentially pap, bread soup, though heavy also with cabbage and fortified with cheese — a real cold-weather mountain-resort kind of dish. Bread and cheese — Lindsey used Taleggio — are layered in a casserole, flavored with garlic butter, soaked in chicken stock, and baked; then butter-sautéed cabbage is stirred into the resulting soup, which is sprinkled with Parmesan and gratinéed further. For dessert, Lindsey's Chocolate Cake, vanilla ice cream on the side.
    Barolo d'Alba, Plan Romualdo, Prunotto, 2000

    Wednesday, December 9, 2009

    Boeuf daube

    Portland, December 9, 2009—
    IT'S ALWAYS BEEN one of my favorite dishes, and certainly belongs to one of the Hundred Plates — beef stew. The Provençal version requires a fixed but controversial catalog of ingredients, as does Bouillabaisse or Cassoulet. It begins with beef, of course: I bought stew meat at Laurelhurst Market -- grass-fed but (alas) grain-finished beef from what they said was the Piedmontese race of beef-cattle. Piemontese beef are a special thing, more so of course in Piemonte where they eat the grass they've lived with for centuries, at the altitudes and with the water they know. I salted the beef pieces when I got them home and let them stand an hour or so while I went shopping for the rest of the ingredients, then browned the beef in a mixture of butter and olive oil and removed them to a cast-iron cocotte. Then, in the same skillet, I cooked the vegetables,
    a classic mix of aromatics: one big carrot, one big celery stalk, and three good-sized cipollini. After they were pretty well browned I dumped them on the kitchen floor, gathered them up with considerable help, rinsed them off in a colander, returned them to the skillet and cooked them some more; then added them to the beef, along with most of a bottle of red wine (Luberon, "Vielle Ferme"),

    photo: Emma Monrad
    the zest of half a good-sized orange (de rigeur in a Daube), and a bouquet garni.
    That simmered for hours. Toward the end I added a few cloves of garlic, pressed, and a handful of little mushrooms. A pound of egg noodles supported the stew at the table; a green salad came after; and then three cheeses: Fourme d'Ambert; Cabot cheddar; Ossau d'Iraty.
    Espiga, vihno regional Estremadura, Casa Santos Lima, 2008; Mas des Brousses, vin de pays d'Oc, 2007


    Portland, Dec. 8—

    I'VE WANTED to eat at Genoa, in Southwest Southeast Portland, for years, but was never able to talk Lindsey into it — too staid, rich, and expensive to suit her. Then, last year, it closed, and I figured my chances had run out.
    But it re-opened last week, with a new young chef and a reconfigured format, and today we were there for a very satisfying lunch, four of us.
    We split fritto misto, foccaccia, and cannelini-and-kale toasts; I went on to a stinco di maiale with beans. Dessert was a fine almond and apple tart with vanilla ice cream. I suspect I'll be back.
    Sangiovese di Toscana, Az. Agr. Silla D., ?2007

    Monday, December 7, 2009

    Bouillabaisse chez Marché

    Portland, Oregon, December 7, 2009—
    PRINCIPAL MEAL of the day. Most often that's put as an interrogative: we're sitting at a lunch table, as today in the fine restaurant Marché in Eugene, and we look at the menu, and lift our eyes toward one another's: Principle meal of the day? Oh yes, Lindsey usually answers, and we order accordingly.
    Bouillabaisse was on the menu. I dearly love it, but usually cannot eat it; all too often it's a shrimped-up version — one day I'll explain that term — with lobster or crab or shrimp themselves, and those I cannot eat. It's a bore to have such a problem, but there it is: I can't eat shellfish with legs. Bivalves are not a problem, as long as they're fresh. It's the arthropods give me trouble, those things with legs, and copper in their blood instead of iron.
    But the very capable waitress assured me there would be no pedestrian shellfish in this bouillabaisse, and indeed she was right. Rockfish, mussels, clams, tomato, potatoes, fennel, onions, saffron, garlic, a bit of orange zest and, curiously, lemon juice. Toasts, of course, and rouille, nice spicy aïoli red with cayenne. A delicous thing, a good bouillabaisse! One of the Top 100.
    Beaujolais Nouveau: Georges Duboeuf; Joseph Drouhin, both 2009
    Then, here in Portland, chez Zivny, the sub-principal meal of the day: polenta with sausage-tomato sauce: onions sweated in olive oil, a pound or so of Italian sausage crumbled in; tomato purée added and all of it cooked down. Green salad, of course.
    "2 Copas": Malbec-Tempranillo (20-80%), 2008

    Sunday, December 6, 2009

    Porter's, Medford

    Medford, Oregon, December 6, 2009—
    WE ATE HERE ABOUT five months ago, and needing to break yet another trip to Portland — on a Sunday night, when New Sammy's is closed, alas — I thought, well, why not go there again. You can stay in Medford at a perfectly acceptable motel for fifty or sixty bucks, and Porter's isn't disgusting.
    But tonight, a very cold night by the way, there wasn't anything on the menu that really spoke to me. Well, the beef beckoned, but Lindsey pointed out it was grain-fed, and who knows where it comes from. She ordered fish and chips, but it was too cold for beer or white wine for me, Zinfandel called, so I ordered the pork tenderloin, stipulating that it be divested of (or, rather, never invested with) an irrelevant blue cheese, and that it be prepared as rare as their lawyers would allow. It was okay. Before it, a "Caesar" salad, the quotes meaning: innocent of egg; innocent of anchovy.
    Ridge Vineyards "Three Valleys," 2007
  • Porter's Train Station , 147 N. Front St., Medford, OR; tel. 541-857-1910
  • Saturday, December 5, 2009

    Ca’ Bianca

    Healdsburg, Dec. 5—

    A PLEASANT, QUIET Italian restaurant; a couple of dear friends: a find way to end a week at home, and welcome the first really cold weather of the year. We split a green salad; I went on to a nice sprezzatini — braised beef with aromatics, polenta on the side.
    Arceno, Toscana, 2004

    EARLIER, LUNCH with another old friend visiting from New York: oysters on the half shell, braised spinach with sesame seeds.
    Sauvignon blanc, Dry Creek Valley, 2008

    I've made a few little corrections here, spurred by my dear wife who dislikes inaccuracies

    Friday, December 4, 2009


    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 4, 2009 —
    IT'S NOT A THING we have often, lasagne; in fact, I can't remember when we've had it last, either away or at home. Certainly the last time was away. Lindsey says she made lasagne twenty years ago or so, but I don't recall it. It's a favorite of mine, of course, though not, I think, of hers. What's not to like? Pasta, Bolognese; Bechamel -- three of the most delicious things in the world. And in this case, all (except the pasta) home-made. You'll have to ask Lindsey how she made it: it involves ground beef, onions, carrot, spices, maybe a little garlic. What's Bechamel, John asked -- John had come to dinner and to spend the night. Flour, milk, butter, Lindsey said. Basics, I thought to myself; three nouns. The dictionary of sufficient cuisine could be a very slim volume.
    Green salad, of course. Vanilla ice cream and applesauce.
    Carignane, L. Preston (Dry Creek), 2007

    Thursday, December 3, 2009

    Les restes

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 3, 2009—
    IT SOUNDS SO MUCH nicer in French, don't you think? Leftovers. We began tonight with a bowl of last night's soup, and I can tell you how it was made: brown little cubes of bacon in a skillet; remove them and brown onions and carrot, diced; combine them with split peas that you've soaked and cooked; flavor with salt, pepper, lemon thyme, and bay; scatter with croutons and the bacon pieces.
    Then it was on to turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry sauce. Green salad, of course.
    Last night we finished with vanilla ice cream with applesauce; tonight pie is promised…
    Nero d'Avola, 2008

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    Pea soup

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 2, 2009—
    I'M NOT SURE how she made it; I know it involved browning some bacon, and shopping today there were onions and, I think, dried peas. In any case it was the right thing for a cold, clammy, foggy day, the first one we've kept a fire burning all day. And it didn't help to have the neighbors up from down the hill.
    Cheap Pinot grigio; red wine "L. Preston" (Dry Creek Valley)

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009


    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 1, 2009--
    EXACTLY THE SAME as yesterday: turkey sandwich, green salad. No more roots, though.
    Nero d'Avola