Sunday, February 28, 2010


February 27, 2010—
Grilled sardine and onion sandwich, green salad, cheap Pinot grigio.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Birthday dinner

Laytonville, California, February 26, 2010—
A PIG, A LAMB, a wild turkey; two or three potato salads, a chopped salad, a green salad, and three savarins. We were gathered for the fiftieth birthday of a very fine man.
Well, perhaps mutton, not lamb.
Oh: and Lindsey's matchless, incandescent Savarin.
Zinfandel, tequila, Crown Royal, beer

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Eastside Road, February 25, 2010—
IT'S RESTAURANT WEEK here in Sonoma county, a promotional week when many of the local restaurants offer less expensive table d'hôte alternatives to their usual menus. We chose to go to Zin, one of the earlier upscale restaurants in Healdsburg. We've only been once or twice, and not for years: our recollection was that it was okay, but noisy. But the owners are neighbors; their eggs and greens are products of Eastside Road; and we thought well, why not, and went with a couple of friends.
Our amuse-bouche was half a devilled egg, nicely done. Lindsey and I both went on to the same choices among three alternatives for each of the next two courses: a nice green salad with honeyed pecans and a good vinaigrette; then spaghetti with meat balls, well spiced, big, with little toasts glazed with grilled Parmesan cheese. I had a scoop of nice French vanilla ice cream, even though it's not summer; Lindsey had a sweet potato pie she said was good — though she didn't touch her crème fraîche.
Viognier; Sangiovese. Counting on a website, I didn't record the details: wouldn't you know it, the website doesn't help. Local, in any case.
  • Zin Restaurant & Wine Bar, 344 Center St., Healdsburg; tel. 707.473.0946
  • Boerenkool

    Eastside Road, February 24, 2010 —
    A SIMPLE DISH, made delicious by its ingredients and the know-how of the cook. (What else is there?) Lindsey fried some of that delicious Mangalitza bacon slowly in its own fat (then poured off and saved for later); then chopped a big onion in and slowly caramelized it; then four or five potatoes cut into chunks; then a bunch of kale. Cover and cook s-l-o-w-l-y.
    Hundred Plates.
    Salice Salentino, Epicuro, 2005
    There are now 24 dishes nominated to the Hundred Plates:
    1. boerenkool
    2. pasta with anchovies and garlic
    3. baccalà
    4. chile colorado
    5. lasagne
    6. posole
    7. sand dabs
    8. roast lamb
    9. bouillabaisse
    10. minestrone
    11. lamb shanks
    12. boeuf bourguignon
    13. pesto
    14. crèpes
    15. boeuf daube
    16. polenta with red sauce
    17. grilled tuna sandwich
    18. fegato alla Veneziana
    19. salade Niçoise
    20. Caesar salad
    21. aïoli
    22. white beans, onions, herbs, and oil
    23. grilled ham and cheese
    24. frisée aux lardons

    Tuesday, February 23, 2010

    Cabbage rolls

    Eastside Road, February 23, 2010—
    ONE THING I HAVE to say about Lindsey: everyone knows it: she's nothing if not frugal. Tonight's dinner was both delicious and enterprising, another step in the emptying of the freezer, and a completely unexpected dish. A little ground beef left over from lasagne quite a while back; some sausage that had come in our Berkshire-Mangalitza acquisition earlier this month; the outside leaves of a Savoy cabbage whose insides had gone to soup a week or so ago.
    Oh: and a little stock made from the bones of Saturday's pork chops. And a carrot, chopped into the stuffing mix, which was wrapped in the blanched cabbage leaves, then sautéed with some potatoes. What a fine winter supper!
    Salice Salentino, Epicuro, 2005

    Monday, February 22, 2010

    Fusilli, anchovies, garlic

    Eastside Road, February 22, 2010—
    THE GREAT THING ABOUT being young is that you're young; the great thing about age is that you don't have to be young. Today a niece writes (on FaceBook) about "the most amazing dinner last night!!! Nice and spicy but not too hot… Too bad it's not healthy. Looking forward to having left-overs tonight!" And stings to a website with the recipe, a macaroni and cheese involving chicken breasts, celery, carrots, onion, garlic, butter, flour, mustard, milk, nutmeg, cayenne, oregano (!), dried basil, cheddar cheese, Pecorino, hot sauce, bread crumbs, and macaroni. There's a slew of photos showing you how to make this, and lots of comments from folks who've followed the instructions, and are happy. I bet it was good.

    We old people, on the other hand, had Fusilli with anchovies and garlic:

    It's been here before: exactly a month ago tomorrow; a month before that, and last summer, when it was awarded the Hundred Plates designation. It showed up five times last year. I could eat it every week. Lindsey crumbles anchovies into the little enamel Descoware skillet and heats them with a little olive oil and some crushed garlic; then tosses them with the cooked pasta. That's all there is to it.

    Tonight she emptied the anchovy jar that had been lurking in the back of the refrigerator. When I washed the jar I noted the date on its label: 1998. Guess we'd better get another jar.
    Cheap Pinot grigio

    Grilled tuna sandwich

    Eastside Road, February 21, 2010 —
    I WROTE HERE ABOUT grilled tuna sandwiches three times last year, and here they come again! We had a couple of old friends visit for lunch, so Lindsey chopped up some capers and shallots, mixed them with some Lemonaise into a couple of cans of Oregon tuna we got up in Portland a while back, and spread them on slices of Como bread from Downtown. Halved prettily, corner to corner, they were then grilled in olive oil in a big black iron skillet, another heated black iron skillet (a little smaller) weighting them down on top, and messed forth, as the Elizabethans were wont to say, on a platter, along with a big bowl of green salad. I should have taken a photo, but I forgot. Next time.
    Cool still water
    Previous tuna sandwiches here, here, here (with photo), and here

    Saturday, February 20, 2010

    Berkshire porkchop

    Eastside Road, February 20, 2010—
    I WROTE A WHILE BACK about the special pork purchase we made: ten pounds of sustainably raised pork, some of it from the rare Mangalitsa race. Two weeks ago we had chops from that breed; tonight we had chops from a different one Berkshire. I'm pretty sure that's a race we raised when I was a kid — I remember quite a few breeds: belted, Chester white, Duroc, but definitely Berkshire. That was only, well, let's see, sixty years ago; it's a bit surprising to me that things could have changed so much in such a short time. Berkshires an endangered race? Hard to believe.
    Anyway, after a delicious Nec Plus Ultra cocktail courtesy of Curtis Faville's blog, we had these chops. As before, Lindsey broiled them simply, with only a little salt and pepper, so we could get to the truth of the matter. The truth is, Berkshire is upstairs, Mangalitsa is downstairs. What I mean is that while the Mangalitsa was floral and subtle and elegant, the Berkshire was What I Like. I was home.

    It didn't hurt that as well as the broccoli, as well as the delicious baked potato dressed with olive oil and salt, we had a few griottes. Lindsey's excavations in the refrigerator have turned up a few of these: sour cherries from our tree, harvested who knows how many seasons back, pickled in white vinegar and sugar according to the recipe in The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth, a book that meant a great deal to us all those many years ago.

    There was a fair amount of fat to be trimmed from these chops. The fat on the Mangalitsa was firm but silky, buttery; that on the Berkshire had more fiber. I chopped the fat into dice, say a quarter-inch on a side;
    lard.jpgit's in a black iron skillet on top of the wood stove as I type this, and it smells absolutely wonderful. Maybe we'll have some green salad a little later.
    Cheap Pinot grigio

    Friday, February 19, 2010

    End of week

    Eastside Road, February 19, 2010—
    END OF WEEK is not the same as weekend, no no no. It's Friday, a day of penance (except for the Friday Martini, which officially opens the weekend, even though it precedes dinner, which is sometimes penitential).

    We finished yesterday's bean-and-farro soup tonight, then went on to the usual green salad. Not much to add beyond the wineline:
    Cheap Pinot grigio; Tempranillo, Granja, 2008

    Thursday, February 18, 2010

    Bean and farro soup

    Eastside Road, February 18, 201—
    ANOTHER CLIPPING DINNER, as I think of them — Lindsey clips recipes from magazines and newspapers and squirrels them away somewhere, perhaps to appear only years afterward. I've looked for this one on the Internet, but don't find it: no idea where it came from.

    A pound of beans, soaked overnight, then cooked until soft; a cup of farro stirred in, along with 3/4 pound of chopped cabbage; a little minced pancetta sizzled in some olive oil, then a minced onion and some garlic added to that; rosemary; parsley; red pepper flakes; than a can of tomatoes, all added to the beans and farro. Garnish with parsley. Delicious. We finished with a green salad.
    Cheap Pinot grigio; Tempranillo, Granja, 2008

    Something new

    Eastside Road, February 18, 2010—
    LINDSEY CAME UP WITH something I'd never have thought of: she started out making a normal red sauce, with an onion soffritto (she always puts a bit of garlic in as well), then crushing in some canned tomato.

    When ready to serve, though, instead of cooking up some pasta, she simply laid halved hard-boiled eggs on top, covered to let them come to the temperature of the sauce, and served it with toast, garnishing with chopped cilantro. It was very tasty.
    Cheap Pinot grigio

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010

    Home to penne

    Eastside Road, February 16, 2010—
    AFTER FOUR DAYS of various exotica, it's nice to be home to home cooking. Tonight, penne in red sauce: I've written about this often enough there's nothing more to be said. Well, pancetta. Green salad, of course.
    Tempranillo, "La Granja," 2008

    Monday, February 15, 2010

    Boudin blanc

    Oakland, February 15, 2010—
    IT'S ONE OF THE comfort foods, boudin blanc, especially after a binge of such widely varied eating as we've subjected ourselves to recently: hot Thai food, oily rich bacalhao, a thick steak with onions and fried eggs, and back to curry at a Nepalese table. It was time to back off into soft, mild, yet interesting and fragrant sausage. At Camino it was made, I suspect, with a little milk and a little bread in the pork mixture, softening and extending its innate richness; extra flavor came from the eponymous camino or hearth, where it was grilled over a wood fire. It was served correctly with delicious sauerkraut, boiled potatoes which were then crisped a bit in oil, and poached apples. Before it, an arugula sald eith Jerusalem artichoke chips and walnuts; afterward, a hunk of nice bitter dark chocolate with candied grapefruit and pomelo peel.
    Riesling, André Ostertag (Alsace), 2008
  • Camino, 3917 Grand Avenue, Oakland; tel. 510.547.5035
  • Sunday, February 14, 2010

    Portugal to Nepal

    Orland, then Petaluma, February 14, 2010—

    BREAKFAST, YES, back at City Gates (see last night's dinner): steak Azores style: nicely salted; marinated in oil, red wine, & garlic; served with red onions, toast, hash browns, & three eggs over easy. Yes. And a decent cappuccino, if a teeny bit sweet.

    Then a leisurely drive through Sacramento River country, and up a number of miles to one ford too deep to attempt, and a long backtrack, and then dinner in Petaluma with a couple of old friends at a Nepalese place they fancy. And I can see why: clean complex flavors, pleasant service, interesting cuisine — the things that also attact us to that Portuguese place up in Orland.

    We had somosas and pakora as appetizers; I reqquested the lamb mushroom curry afterward — lamb and mushroom cubes cooked with olive oil, spices, onion, and tomato sauce: the Mediterranean floats up to the Himalayas. Naan, of course.

    Two family-owned and -run restaurants, each cooking what they know best, with lots of heart. You can't go wrong.
    Sauvignon blanc, Kenwood, 2007; Zinfandel, Old Vines, (delicious: and I didn't record the name!)

  • City Gates Restaurant (Portas da Cidade), 1165 Hoff Way, Orland CA, tel. 530.865.5552
  • Himalayan Kabob & Curry House, 220 Western Ave., Petaluma; tel. 707.527.1575
  • Saturday, February 13, 2010


    Orland, California, February 13, 2010—
    WE HAVE A WEEKEND OFF: let's go on a road trip. We drove to Calistoga, then across Lake County on Highway 20, turning north on Bear Valley Road (though a warning was up that the road was closed, driving ten or twelve miles on the gravel road until we came to Leesville Road.

    There we turned eastwards, climbing to the ridge, then dropping through secret valleys in the kind of country that always makes us think we've been transported back a century or so. Fabulous country. We ate our cheddar-and-sliced-onion sandwich in the car in Williams — is there a better sandwich than that? — and then drove to the Sacramento Bird Refuge, taking a two-mile walk, then a very slow four-mile drive, admiring hawks, falcons, egrets, herons, all sorts of ducks and geese, and Western meadowlarks, perhaps my favorite bird. Redwing blackbirds, of course.

    But this here is Eating Every Day; any bird here should be plucked drawn and cooked. One of the reasons for the trip was to make another visit to City Gates Cafe, a Portuguese restaurant we found last December. I've written about it here before. It was as good as we'd recalled: a big brightly-lit room, its walls painted and plastered in the odd modern-deco style I associate with Sardinia (and, as Lindsey pointed out, her Seattle first-generation-American cousins). Friendly service. Family-run: Margarita in the kitchen, her sister minding the register.
    I had a cup of kale soup, then a green salad (nice little lettuces) with a good "Italian" vinaigrette; then a fine home-style bacalhao (surely one of the Hundred Plates): salt cod long-stewed in olive oil on a bed of sliced potatoes and onions, dotted with black olives, garnished with slices of hard-cooked egg and a few stalks of perfectly cooked asparagus.

    Dessert was cheesecake with strawberry sauce and a chocolate-coated strawberry on the side because, after all, it's Valentine's Eve. I like this place, a lot. Let's have breakfast here tomorrow.
    Vinho verde, Casal Garcia
  • City Gates Restaurant, (Portas da Cidade), 1165 Hoff Way, Orland CA, tel. 530.865.5552

  • Friday, February 12, 2010


    Eastside Road, February 12, 2010—
    OUT TO THE LOCAL Thai restaurant for dinner. Well, "local" involves a nine-mile round trip, but it's the closest place to eat. Normally I don't do Thai, but a couple of friends wanted to get together there, and one should always try out a new local, and Tomi is a recent addition to the scene, so why not.

    After a few appetizers, most of which involved shellfish with legs and thus eluded me, I settled into a platter of pad pik king, stir-fried pork with green beans, onions, and chili peppers in curry, white rice on the side. How hot, the pleasant waitress asked, on a scale of one to five? Oh, I said, wondering how high their five might be, let's say a little past four. It seemed more like a three on the palate, but it was good.

    Oh: and though the restaurant was full, with a fairly large family at the next table, we could converse easily. What a pleasure!
    Viognier, Cameron Hughes (Santa Barbara county), 2007: smooth and characteristic
  • Tomi Thai Restaurant, 426 Emily Rose Circle, Windsor; tel. 707-836-1422
  • Thursday, February 11, 2010


    Eastside Road, —

    I TOLD YOU A WHILE BACK about orange and onion salad; here's a closer look. Yes, best we think with blood oranges. Lindsey always gravitates toward yellow onions; I prefer the red ones. It's just one of those things. These were yellow. Good olive oil, of course. White tarragon-flavored vinegar.

    The main dish followed, prepared from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, which should be a staple in every kitchen bookcase. Deborah's an old friend, an intelligent and good-hearted and funny and ethical woman anyone would love to sit and sup with, and a first-rate writer, and a cook whose enthusiasm for people's cooking of many cultures is only rivalled by her absolute respect for the humane values such cooking expresses.
    I guess Lindsey pretty much followed the recipe: yellow split peas and rice soaked separately, then drained; oil heated in a skillet, cumin seeds warmed in it; the peas and rice added and tossed; then chopped cilantro, turmeric, and Garam Masala added along with water and salt; the whole brought to boil, then simmered until it's all soft and slubbery, at which point you let it stand off the heat to steam a bit.

    Deb stipulates an onion relish to garnish the dish: sliced (raw) onion, a little salt, lemon juice, paprika, cayenne, and chopped cilantro. Boy, what a fine dish.
    Sauvignon blanc, Viñas Chilenas, 2009 (a little spritzig tonight: malolactic? Is Spring on the way?)

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010

    Soup (encore)

    Eastside Road, February 10, 2010—
    HERE'S THAT SOUP I wrote about yesterday; we had the rest of it for dinner tonight.

    My description of it, yesterday, was pretty sketchy; the soup's good enough that I feel I should tell you how it's made. Lindsey used a recipe she'd clipped from Sunset magazine three years ago (she's been cleaning out the clippings files, along with the freezer, I guess). I found it immediately by Googling "spaghetti soup sunset 2007" — I don't know why the year had stuck in my memory. What I'd forgotten, yesterday, was the spaghetti, of all things — Lindsey used whole-wheat spaghetti — and the red chile flakes, and the lemon juice. I think the lemon juice is especially important in offsetting, thus welding together, the rich meat-and-milk of the stock and the Parmesan.

    As an appetizer we had a guacamole I made in my usual way; afterward, the green salad, whose vinaigrette was made with lemon juice rather than the usual vinegar. A very nice supper indeed.
    Cheap Pinot grigio

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010


    Eastside Road, February 9, 2010—
    IT TAKES US SO LONG to come to the simplest realizations: I have been wrong for fifty years about combining meat with cheese. That's always seemed a sort of taboo to me, though I've grated Parmesan on Bolognese sauce all that time, and cooked chicken breasts with Fontina. (A similar taboo has held against combining fish with meat, though vitello tonnato is one of my favorite dishes.)

    Oh well: as Emerson said,
    A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.
    (Memo to self: read Self-Reliance soon.)


    Tonight Lindsey ground up some spices — coriander, cumin, sesame seeds — with a little salt and we dipped raw cauliflower into it for an appetizer. Then we moved on to a delicious soup, a soup that provoked the above reflections. It was just some pork stock and a little bit of chicken stock — Lindsey's still cleaning out the freezer — with some chopped kale and some thin shavings of Parmesan floating on top.

    It made me recall a wonderful tasting seminar I took a few years back, where we had three Parmesans which differed only in the elevation of the pasturage producing the milk that had made the cheese. Same cows, same producer, same year, same ageing. Only the grass was different.
    I realize, now I think about it, that there's a direct connection between milk and meat. How could I have missed that? Just as there's a direct connection between grass and cow. Grass, hoof, shank, belly, udder.

    There's a faint taste of bone and marrow in good Parmesan cheese, and that taste triggered something more obvious in the meat stock — more obvious, but less meaningful without that trigger. But maybe this is fetched too far: I'd better stop.
    Cheap Pinot grigio


    Eastside Road, February 8, 2010 —
    AFTER YESTERDAY'S FEAST we were due for some more healthful dining: what more healthful than tomato sauce? Lindsey made it the usual way, and I must say there's nothing more fragrant than chopped onions sautéeing slowly in olive oil. Then the garlic, the can of tomato, the salt and pepper, two or three leaves from the bay laurel standing sentinel out at the front walk…

    Penne cooked the usual way, and Parmesan grated on top. Green salad afterward.
    Nero d'Avola

    Sunday, February 7, 2010

    Pork chop

    Eastside Road, February 7, 2010—
    YESTERDAY WE DROVE DOWN to Oakland to pick up ten pounds of pork an e-mail had invited us to purchase. Pig in a poke, you might say: but we trusted the offer: first, it came through the auspices of Blue Bottle Coffee, who we trust implicitly; second, they came from pastured animals, raised by a Slow Food type farm in northern California; third, two of the three breeds involved were unknown to me. I know the Berkshire pig, of course; we raised them when I was a boy, along with Durocs and Chester Whites and Hampshires — we were pretty indiscriminate, I realize now; I imagine we raised whatever Dad could get cheap.

    But I don't know the Ossabaw, "a lean, mean pork machine that's descended from famed Spanish Iberico hogs" according to the invitational email; and I'd never heard of the Mangalitsa, "a distinctively wooly pig from the Austro-Hungarian empire known for richly flavorful meat."

    At the Blue Bottle address in Oakland we found a table with four or five attendants presiding over cute flat cardboard boxes, each with two packages of pork chops (two to a package), a pound or two of nice fat bacon, and several packages of loose pork sausage. One of these was ours. We were also given a hot Mangalitsa sausage sandwich with some tasty barbecue sauce. (And I took advantage of Blue Bottle's café to have a fine single-origin cappuccino.)

    Tonight we had the Mangalitsa chops. In order to taste just them, Lindsey simply broiled them with a little salt and pepper. No garlic; no fennel seeds (a delicious approach to pork chopse), no lemon, no olive oil. We wanted to taste the pork.

    Wikipedia says "The Mangalitsa produces too little lean meat so it has been gradually replaced by modern domestic breeds." There was indeed considerable fat: here you see the chops before broiling, with the fat Lindsey trimmed off them:


    When we picked up the meat yesterday I sampled some lardo made from this breed, and it was absolutely delicious. This fat is silky, delicate, yet deeply flavored; and its flavor permeated the cooked chop.

    But delicious as this Mangalitsa is — delicate and noble; I want to call it "Countess Mangalitsa," after the operetta — I'm a little unhappy about eating it. As I understand it you can't buy breeding stock; you can only buy sterile pigs to raise for slaughter. All the breeding stock in this country is owned by a single American representative. I should be happy anyone supplies them at all, I know; the race was very nearly allowed to die out altogether. But there's something Terminator-like about all this.

    Still, if folks like Shasta Valley Farm, who raised the pork we had tonight, keep it up, and if the online media and the in-group foodies continue to stand in line for this stuff, maybe there'll be a breakthrough; maybe somehow a viable pig or two (I'm sure it would take at least two) will make a getaway, striking a blow for the kind of biological diversity our state and nation stand for. It would be a good thing. The pork chop certainly was.

    Green salad, of course.
    Sauvignon blanc, Viñas Chilenas, 2009

    Saturday, February 6, 2010


    Eastside Road, February 6, 2010—
    SINCE WE WERE IN Berkeley today we bought some snapper at Monterey Fish, as good a fish store as we know within practical distance. (The website, though, is hopelessly out of date: read the page on California salmon and weep; then note the date at the foot of the page.)

    Lindsey broiled it quickly and served it with steamed broccoli and potatoes she'd mashed and combined with chopped shallots, oh my. Green salad, naturally.
    Sauvignon blanc, Viñas Chilenas, 2009
  • Monterey Fish, 1582 Hopkins, Berkeley; tel. 510.525.5600
  • Friday, February 5, 2010

    Dhansaak (reprise)

    Eastside Road, February 5, 2010—
    AFTER LAST NIGHT a relative fast seemed in order: just my caffe latte for breakfast, no toast; a banana for lunch and a slice of potato pizza we'd brought home last night; a revisit to the Indian lentils of two days ago. It occurs to me you don't know our resources, so here's a look into the pantry.
    pantry.jpgTop left, a few flasks and glasses dedicated to such spirits as grappa, Fernet, Genepi, Alpestre, nocino, and the like. Below, the Row of Pulses: lentils, split peas, beans; with such grains as farro to thicken the plot. The Lavazza can is full of apricots I dried last summer. Cannellini next door. To the right, out of sight, several teas and coffees. Below them, various condiments: chutneys, mustards, vinegars, oils, and oddities like canned coconut milk — you never know when you might need it. And on the bottom shelf, bottles we always need: more vinegars, sherry, tequila, more olive oils. Below, out of the photo, another couple of shelves: wines, paper bags, three-liter cans of olive oil.

    This is only one corner of the pantry, about four by nine feet. Elsewhere you'll find sugars, flours, marmalade, jams and jellies; salt; honey. And the pots and pans, of course. It's a busy room.

    Oh, yes: dinner tonight. We finished the Dhansaak of day before yesterday, and had our green salad afterward.
    Nero d'Avola


    Oakland, February 4, 2010—
    IT'S ALMOST ENOUGH to make me want to move back to the East Bay: a truly wonderful restaurant, authentic to its ambition, using the best ingredients, cooking them with intelligence and passion, and serving the food comfortably and knowledgeably. It doesn't hurt that the genre is Italian. Pizzaiolo is as close as you can come, I think, in the San Francisco Bay Area, to eating in Testaccio, that meat-loving workingclass district in Rome.

    Well, Pizzaiolo and Incanto, over in San Francisco. They're similar restaurants in many ways: the difference between the two feels to me like the difference between East Bay and The City. We need them both; they make a great pair.
    Last night there were six of us at table, and I'm afraid I, at least, pigged out — literally. The waiter mentioned Antipasti di maiale, but my eye'd already landed on it: cottechino (as the menu spelled it) with lentils, pork loin with tonnato (!), ciccioli. I fixed on this for my main course, but we all shared one as an opener. The lentils were imported from Umbria; the cotechino, like the tonnato, was of course made in house. Pizzaiolo is a Slow Food restaurant, and the kitchen proves it.

    The cotechino was loose-textured, very spicy, combining with the lentils to a rich depth of flavor that always makes me think I'm reverting to medieval tastes. (Panforte produces the same feeling.) This dish was indescribably good, and the ciccioli paralleled it beautifully — served as a loose paste, closer to the soft French rillettes than what I think of as crisp-textured ciccioli: but I'm not complaining. The pork loin, delicate and almost flowery under its moody tuna-based sauce, may seem an odd complement to these rich companions, but it held its own and provided a fine counterpoise. This one plate alone was truly remarkable, memorable: I'd eat this every Thursday night given the chance.

    Most of us went on to puntarelle: who can resist? How often do you see it in this country — or anywhere outside Rome, for that matter? A chicory with very narrow serrated leaves, it's eaten primarily for its white, not-quite-bitter stems, which are split lengthwise and set to curl in ice-water. Pizzaiolo served it with shreds of Jerusalem artichoke and slices of grana, dressed with oil and lemon juice. Delicious.

    Most of us also went on to pizze, and tablemates were generous, allowing me to sample three different ones: with tomato sauce, brandade, black olives, hot pepper and mint; with potato, pancetta, fontina and rosemary; and with tomato sauce, sausage, and cream. Charlie Hallowell was pizzaiolo for years upstairs at Chez Panisse and he knows pizzas; I'm far from the only one who thinks his pizzas are the best in the area.

    Desserts! A curious, again medieval, extraordinarily buttery walnut-brown butter cake with strawberry preserves and delicious crème fraîche ice cream; chocolate bread pudding with brandy-caramel sauce, recalling the ciccioli; but best of all a plate of soft succulent Barhi dates with some nice fat small almonds alongside and an affogato made with Blue Bottle coffee — Pizzaiolo is where I first tasted this excellent product — and heavily laced with nocino made, again, I'm sure, in house.

    This is one of my very favorite restaurants. Unfortunately it's also one of virtually every one else's very favorite restaurants. We didn't have any trouble reserving a table for six, three days in advance; but we sure had trouble hearing ourselves converse!
    Greco bianco, Librandi (Campania), 2008; Dolcetto d'Alba, Cavallotto, 2007 (both excellent and, like the restaurant, true to type)
  • Pizzaiolo, 5008 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland; tel. (510) 652-4888
  • Writing this up has led me to Wikipedia a couple of times, and I want to acknowledge the admirable work being done there to gloss such things as ciccioli, cotechino, rillettes, nocino, and the like. Wikipedia also led me to a wonderful site in Italian. (Go to its home page for an idea of the extraordinary range of this site.) And, of course, there's the restaurant's own website. Oh, I'm hungry!

    Wednesday, February 3, 2010


    Eastside Road, February 3, 2010—
    LENTILS AGAIN: there are so many ways to enjoy them, but of course Indian cuisine is especially hospitable to them. Lindsey clipped this recipe from the paper, got out the spice grinder, chopped and ground and diced, and came up with a hearty, spicy, delicious thing whose scents were filling the house when I stepped in out of a cold dark evening. The requisite green salad followed.
    Sauvignon blanc, Viñas Chilenas, 2009

    Tuesday, February 2, 2010

    The Last of the Chili

    Eastside Road, February 2, 2010—
    YES, NOW THAT YOU mention it, I do feel a little stupid: in describing the chili a couple of days ago I forgot to mention the tomatoes. They were canned, as tomatoes must be this time of year. The beans weren't, of course; we almost never eat canned beans any more (though a couple of cans of cannellini are useful objects in the pantry, next to the canned tuna).

    Well, it was delicious, garnished with chopped cilantro, raw onions, and grated cheddar cheese; but it's gone now. A dish of broccoli before; green salad after.
    Nero d'Avola

    Monday, February 1, 2010


    Eastside Road, February 1, 2010—
    I ATE FOUR HAMBURGERS last year. There was also the time Lindsey made lasagne using ground beef she'd bought at the store. There may have been one or two other times when ground or minced beef found its way into lunch or dinner, but I doubt it. It's not something we often eat around here, or on the road, either. For one thing, when we do eat meat we usually eat it as a treat, and hamburger seems more like a duty. For another thing, a more significant thing, commercial ground beef always seems a little bit dubious: who really knows what's in it, or where it's been, or how or when it was ground?

    But Lindsey bought ground beef the other day to make chile. (The few times I've made chile, I've used chopped beef, which seems to me less risky.) There was a little left unused, so tonight she molded it into ellipsoidal patties, since we had not hamburger but hot dog buns, and broiled them, and we spread chile sauce on them and some chopped raw onions, and they weren't bad. They were a little too lean for my taste; I almost drizzled some olive oil on mine — next time I will, just to see what happens. Green salad afterward.
    Nero d'Avola