Monday, November 29, 2010


Portland, November 25-26, 2010—
THANKSGIVING DAYshould be the locus classicus of dining, of course. It's difficult to write about one's Thanksgiving dinner without going into all sorts of personal, familial, domestic areas, matters not really appropriate to the public record of what one eats. What I'm trying to say is that the Thanksgiving dinner transcends its menu, its preparation, its consumption and enjoyment.

We were eight at table, Lindsey and I, a daughter and her husband, their three children, and another granddaughter. Many of us had been recently in Europe, where the American holiday is viewed (as are many American institutions) with a certain amount of amusement, or at any rate bemusement. Do those Americans really think of harvests, of gratitude?

Well, yes, some of us do. And we think of past Thanksgiving dinners of our own, of our parents', of our grandparents. I think of Thanksgiving dinners eaten sixty years ago, and of the women who made them: my mother, her mother, my aunt Flora Mae whose dried-apricot-and-shredded-pork mincemeat pie has become a family legend.

Women in the kitchen

Giovanna was largely responsible for this year's Thanksgiving dinner, and its menu was the familiar one traditional to our family, reaching back into traditional middle-west American cuisine:
Roast turkey, dressing, and gravy
mashed potatoes
baked sweet potatoes
sautéed Brussels sprouts and chestnuts
cranberry sauce
dinner rolls
mince pie
pumpkin pie
A delicious, substantial, healthful feast, worth eating twice, on successive days.
Beaujolais Villages, Domaine de La Chanaise, Dominique Piron, 2009

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Portland, November 24, 2010—
A BIG BIRTHDAY today — Fran's 18th — so the whole family went out to dinner. Japanese food is not to my personal taste, but everything I tasted was absolutely delicious (and, what is more, clean and good), and here is what I tasted:
yukke: beef tartare with raw quail egg
mixed seaweeds lightly dressed
korokke: curried pork and potato croquette
gyoza: pork dumplings
bacon chahan: fried rice with bacon
kimchi kara-age: breaded, deep-fried kimchi
grilled hanger steak
Ginger gimlet; house Chardonnay
Biwa, 215 SE 9th Avenue, Portland; tel. 503.239.8830

DESSERT, OF COURSE, was a delicious Banana Cake with Mocha Frosting from David Lebovitz/s Ready for Dessert, made by one of the best bakers I know, Giovanna Zivny.

I think it may be time to start another list, tagged Hundred Restaurants. Biwa would certainly qualify.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Portland, November 23, 2010—
DINNER AT HOME tonight, "home" being one of our homes away from home. Strozzapreti cooked, drained, and tossed with braised beet-greens, then a tasty arugula salad with hazelnuts. For dessert, Bosc pears cooked in red wine, with vanilla ice cream. It's nice to eat at home again.
Empordà, Floresta, 2007

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sublime to Ridiculous

Ashland, Oregon, November 22, 2010—
A LONG DAY: Breakfast at mile 0, Lebec, the Ramada motel: Raisin-Bran, toast, orange juice, coffee.

Lunch at mile 305: Tourain à la Bordelaise (onion soup with red wine); Albacore tuna with roasted peppers, turnips, and sauce aux herbes (oil and chopped fresh green herbs)
Café Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; tel. 510.548.5525

Dinner at mile 645: House salad (lettuce, croutons, garbanzos, onion, bell pepper, jicama, oil and vinegar); hamburger (with dill pickle, onion, tomato, lettuce)
Zinfandel, Forchini (Dry Creek, Sonoma county, California)
Omar's Fresh Fish and Steaks, 1380 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland, Oregon; tel. 541.482.1281

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Eating Hispanic

Lebec, California, November 21, 2010—
NO PARTICULAR REASON for it; it was quite unplanned. We decided on lunch in Pasadena at a tapas place we like, and dinner was dictated by location. When I pointed out we'd be eating Spanish at lunch, Mexican at dinner, Lindsey said, with her sweet reason, Just imagine we're traveling in Spain. Or Mexico.

Well, of course, we are: we're in California, southern California at that. Hispanic country. So for lunch, after an arugula-hazelnut salad (hardly Hispanic, that, I think), I had salt cod and potatoes, with a bowl of padrones on the side. How fine it is that these are now available almost everywhere! And a crème Catalan for dessert.
Alboriña, 2009

Bar Celona, 48 East Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; tel. 626.405.1000

DINNER AT THE ONLY place near tonight's hotel, a big, empty, friendly franchise-Mexican place at the foot of the Grapevine, the southern entrance to California's Central Valley. After a decent Martini I had the combination plate with chile verde, nice and piquant, with the customary rice and beans, wheat tortilla, none of that shredded lettuce and wooden tomato that too often disfigures this Cal-Mex staple.
House Cabernet sauvignon

Don Penicos Mexican Grill, 9021 Grapevine Road, Lebec; tel. 661.248.6903

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Back to Bashan

Glendale, November 20, 2010—
WE ARE ENTHUSIASTIC about this small cozy quiet restaurant in upper Glendale. We found it two or three years ago, I don't remember how, and have been back at least three times, each time finding everything perfectly in order. Good ingredients, skilful kitchenwork, respect for traditional procedures, interesting variations. Cook in the kitchen, wife running the floor, polite, friendly, but retiring wait staff.

Tonight the amuse-bouche was a little cup of pumpkin soup, bound with cream, flavored with cumin as I recall, with textural interest from pumpkin seeds that had been browned slightly in oil (I suspect sesame oil) and chopped.

I went on to tuna tartare heightened with both chives and scallions and a little red pepper, a truly delicious thing; then duck breast with braised romaine and cipollini, with almonds, date purée, and pickled red jalapeño — it sounds like one ingredient to many, but in fact the dish was beautifully integrated.

Dessert was a rich, substantial, yet delicate and almost fluffy chocolate "courant", cake on the outside, molten chocolate inside, with a scoop of fine house-made vanilla ice cream. A perfect dinner, beautifully served.
Verdejo, Marquéz de Irún, Rueda, 2008; Cabernet, Bodega Norton, Mendoza, 2009

Bashan, 3459 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale; tel. (818) 541-1532

Friday, November 19, 2010

Pumpkin-filled Ravioli

Glendale, California, November 19, 2010—
AFTER THE LONG DRIVE here, inevitably involving too much snacking, too much coffee, and in the face of a tough Shakespeare play (Measure for Measure), we wanted something light for supper. Pasta, for example.

We remembered an okay Italian place near the theater, known from earlier such occasions. House salad involving greens, grated carrot, tomato; then ravioli: nice pasta, too much and too pumpkiny a filling, nice butter-and-sage sauce.
Pinot grigio, Teresa Raiz (Friuli), 2009

Far Niente, 204 North Brand Blvd., Glendale; tel. (818) 242-3835

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Idem, the same

Berkeley, November 18, 2010—
IT'S THE TITLE of a play by Gertrude Stein: Idem, the Same, and I've always liked it. It stands here because

1) Last night's dinner was exactly the same as the previous night's: grilled flank steak, broccoli, green salad;
Mourvedre, Preston of Dry Creek, 2007

2) Tonight we are in Berkeley, and decided to stop in at a restaurant we very much liked three months ago. I decided to have tomorrow night's Martini tonight; afterward, the three of us split two delicious and interesting salads of red romaine with garlic-caper vinaigrette, shaved Grana Padana, and big very thin croutons.

The three of us all had the same entree, too: strozzapretti with roasted eggplant, merguez, chiles, tomato, herbs, and ricotta salata, a very well executed version of a classic Sicilian dish.

Looking back here, I see that I described the restaurant at some length last August, so I won't write more here tonight except to say that the meal was delicious, the wine well chosen, and the restaurant, unfortunately, is closing this Sunday, after only four months in operation. Memo: don't open a restaurant unless you've capitalized it for at least a year in advance.
Tenuta Curezza, PriNe, 2008 (Puglia)

Locanda da Eva, 2826 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley; tel. (510) 665-9601

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Flank steak

Eastside Road, November 16, 2010—
HOME AT LAST, after a short month on the road; and what shall we have for dinner? Well, something simple, that's for sure: how about flank steak? I grilled it on the patio, but my fire was too slow — I'm way out of practice — so Lindsey finished it under the broiler inside, while she steamed up some broccoli. The usual green salad, except that it was the first one since October 18. What a pleasure!
Mourvedre, Preston of Dry Creek, 2007


Madison, Wisconsin, November 15, 2010—
WE FLY EARLY tomorrow; let's skip dinner tonight, since we're in a questionable airport hotel, and have a nice late lunch instead. So we stopped in Madison at a restaurant known to be good — or suspected to be, in any case, since we'd eaten there before, and respected its "values."

Odessa Piper opened her Etoile a number of years ago, soon after Chez Panisse opened I believe, with a similar dedication to local and organic; and though she sold her restaurant quite a while ago the new owner was her chef. Since then he's opened a brasserie-style place next door — across the street from the state capitol, near the original location. The restaurant alas does not serve lunch, but the brasserie, Graze, should do.

I had a favorite dish hereby promoted to the Hundred Plates: mussels cooked in white wine, flavored with butter, minced parsley, and tarragon. With them, a nice little mini-baguette made in house, and an enormous basket of perfect French fries, with a generous serving of excellent aïoli. You can't do much better.
Monferrato bianco, Canelli, "Villa Giada", 2009

Graze, 1 South Pinckney St., Madison

Roast chicken (at home)

Wausau, Wisconsin, November 14, 2010—
DINNER AT HOME tonight, at Eve and Shawn's, with his parents: six at table. The girls roasted a chicken. How hot should I heat the oven, Eve asked, 475°, I said, I always start it hot for a few minutes, then reduce the temperature, turning it once about halfway through cooking. (At home I put it on a rack, start it on one side, finish on the other. If it's a big bird, I'll turn it breast and back side up as well, maybe buttering it a little when I turn it.)

Turns out Eve's oven thermometer reads high, so the chicken wasn't completely done when I carve it. No problem: serve the breast meat, open the bird out and put it back in the oven for the dark meat to cook further. Twice-cooked chicken.

With it, roast potatoes, and carrots, green beans, and shallots stir-fried. Delicious: the carrots came from Eve's garden.
Cheap Pinot grigio

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Airplanes and steak

Wausau, Wisconsin, November 13, 2010—
CONCERN THAT WE MAY not have been eating lately is of course completely unfounded; we've simply been away from Internet connectability at critical moments. Yesterday, for example, we were in transit; meals consisted of a cappuccino and a croissant at about 9 am at Schiphol, a cold prefabricated BLT at about 5 pm at Heathrow, and a welcome plate of not particularly good pasta in an airplane headed for Chicago, followed eight hours later by a curious breakfast pizza, eased down with an airplane miniature of Tempranillo.

Today we got back to a more normal routine, normal for travelling at any rate: a meatball sandwich for lunch, with a glass of Italian Merlot.
Bellafini's, 7 14th Street, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin; tel. (920) 929-8909

and dinner at a local steakhouse: Caesar salad and a six-ounce top sirloin steak, nicely cooked, with a baked potato alongside. Comfort food and protein, badly needed after that carbohydrate-heavy flight.
Malbec, "Sawbuck", nv

WISH Wisconsin Steak House, 5006 E. Jelinek, Weston, Wisconsin; tel. (715) 298-2903

Friday, November 12, 2010

Eating at As

Amsterdam, November 11, 2010—

WE EAT TONIGHT in a favorite place of ours. It's a little awkward to have two favorite places in one city; it's like having divided loyalties. But there's nothing to be done about it, we have two.

We arrived by tram in a torrential downpour complete with thunder and lightning, and walked a couple of hundred meters to get to the restaurant. We were eating early, seven o'clock; there were only two or three couples there before us. There were six of us, so we took one of the little semi-private rooms that radiate from the center of the main dining room, which is in the form of a perfect circle.

(The kitchen, quixotically, is outside, sheltered under a roof to be sure, but walled only with canvas and transparent plastic, and then only in this sort of weather. Out back, there are pigpens and a chickenyard, because this place takes Eat Local seriously.)

There was no menu on paper; the waitress told us the possibilities. First course: a salad of endive, radicchio, and ricotta; a platter of tuna in tomato sauce with arugula and polenta. (Yes, we're in the Netherlands: but contemporary Dutch restaurants are much beholden to Italy.)

Second course: Chowder (mine without footed shellfish). This was a surprising dish, a perfectly authentic Boston clam chowder, rich with milk and butter and fish, spicy with black pepper. I've only had chowder this good at home until this; I never expected to find it in The Netherlands — undoubtedly an unthinking attitude on my part; perhaps it's perfectly traditional here. Why wouldn't it be, with Dutch shellfish, fish, butter, and milk?

Third course: A fine baked fish for two-thirds the table, but Tom and I opted for vlees, not vis. The "flesh" was roast beef, sliced and served with kale, salsify, and carrots — as traditional a Dutch farmer dish as you could ask.

For dessert I had a cheese plate, three cheeses, I wasn't properly introduced, though one was a pungent and nicely balanced blue, one was a good delicate Dutch cows'-milk not-quite-hard cheese, and the third was French, white, creamy, and floral. And then a grappa, to enhance digestion of this last (for a while) Dutch dinner, for tomorrow we fly home.

Sauvignon blanc, Pays de Hérault, "La Grange des Felines," 2009; Dolcetto

Restaurant As, Prinses Irenestraat 10, Amsterdam; tel. +31 020 0440100.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Zutphen, November 10—
A SIDE TRIP TO Zutphen today, an old Hanseatic port on the river IJssel, hardly twenty-five kilometers from Apeldoorn but a century or two removed to the eye. I've always loved the town for its compactness, tranquillity, and immense church, where the medieval library still has pre-Gutenberg books chained to the desks, and the devil's footprint in the floor.

We go to Zutphen for coffee or tea, too, at De Pelikaan, an ancient tea-importer with a cozy (gezellig) tea-room. Right across the street is an almost equally cozy old café-restaurant, and here we had a substantial lunch: Zutphense mosterdsoep and an uitsmijter.

The soup was first-rate: vegetable bouillon, cream, mustard, very thin-sliced red onion, finely clipped scallions. The trick is to put in enough mustard but not too much, and this trick is mastered here. The hot soup comes in two-handled bowls: everyone else ate politely with spoons; I lifted my bowl to my lips. Good bread and butter, too.

I wish I'd liked the uitsmijter as much. This should be an open-faced sandwich composed of cold sliced roast beef, thin-sliced boiled ham, and good Dutch Gouda-type cheese, with three eggs, fried sunny-side up, on top. Here, though, there were three individual slices of bread, no beef, over-cooked eggs, and the cheese was melted. Most revisionist. Some things have reached perfection and should never be revised.
Heineken from the tap
Gastenhuys de Klok, Pelikaanstraat 6, Zutphen; tel. +31 0575-517035


Amsterdam, November 9, 2010—
A VERY INTERESTING DAY for eating, today; and one I cannot do justice to here, for a number of reasons. After a leisurely morning in Friesland we drove into Amsterdam with a favorite friend (one of many, I hasten to add), a chef. We followed him as he marketed for his restaurant's evening table d'hôte dinner: tomatoes, salad, fennel; apples, pumpkins, eggs; wild boar. All this at one of the great Amsterdam wholesale markets, like the old Les Halles in Paris, or any big-city terminal, though in buildings quite up-to-date in terms of technology and, certainly, cleanliness.

Produce from everywhere, of course: South America, Africa, the Near East, any number of European countries. Almonds from California, pistachios from Turkey. Nearly every crate and box had its sticker stating quite plainly the provenance.

I was particularly impressed with the wholesaler butcher, where I talked to the man in charge of game. No farmed game here, no red deer from Poland or wherever: "I don't deal in farmed game, because I'm afraid my men will accidentally mix them in with the wild; the wild game is our specialty."

Kees liked the looks of some wild boar, and added that to the lot he'd already picked up. We crammed everything into the back of his car and drove to his restaurant where we left him to plan and begin cooking dinner while we spent the shank of the afternoon at a museum downtown.

We returned at seven o'clock for
Albacore, seared but nearly raw, with spinach with lemon-flavored olive oil, tomato, avocado, and mint-oil
Poached halibut with fennel and fennel-sauce with estragon, salsify purée
Roast wild boar rack and stewed shoulder with potato-pumpkin purée, radicchio, and little Brussels sprouts
Applecake with house-made vanilla ice cream and caramel
Marius is one of my Five Restaurants. Very rare, this combination of taste, intelligence, awareness, skill, and hospitality. We were ten at table; we probably made too much noise; I certainly didn't give the dinner its due attention. But I enjoyed it immensely, as always here.
Collio, 2009; Collioure, Domaine de La Rectoire, 2004
Marius, Barentszstraat 243, Amsterdam; +31 [0]20 422 7880

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Eten naar Rien

Rien, Friesland, November 8—

WE EAT TODAY in a splendid 17th-century cottage (I think; it may be early 18th) in a tiny village in northwest Netherlands, a hamlet really, so tiny there is no commercial building of any kind; the grocery store comes in in the form of a small truck, Monday mornings.

And the cottage belongs to our friend the chef, so we eat very well indeed. Breakfast: fresh-squeezed orange juice; a cappuccino or two from a good espresso machine; bread brought from Amsterdam; decent Dutch cheese; apricot jam.

Lunch: a pyramid of St. Nectaire; a few slices of delicious lardo; cornichons; a bottle of Aprémont (Saint Jeaire Prieux, nv).

And what shall we have for dinner? How about some beautiful sea bass from the North Sea, grilled, with fennel mixed with braised fennel, and mashed salsify? A delicious sophisticated yet tradition-based combination, with a bit of cheese for dessert.

Chambolle Musigny, Les Charmes,1999

Monday, November 8, 2010


Den Haag, November 7, 2010—

WE ATE IN two suburbs of this Dutch capital today, in gatherings of the Dutch family that has been for nearly forty years almost a part of our family as well. At midday we were in Voorburg, where Tom and Judith were celebrating the 22d birthday of their son Jasper.

Tom and Judith are enthusiastic Italophiles, having spent an early year of their life together in Florence; so the table offered platters of prosciutto and salami and vitello tonnato and bottles of San Pellegrino and a nice Prosecco whose label unfortunately eluded me.

Then it was time to drive a few miles south to a newer suburb that began rising out of the cow-pastures twelve or fifteen years ago and is now almost mature with trees edging the park-like greens between rows of houses backing up to pleasant canals.

Here Tanja served us pannekoeken and poffertjes, treats much more often eaten out in country restaurants or poffertjekanten, special temporary cafés set up in parks in many towns in the summertime.

Pannekoeken are Dutch pancakes, big as dinner plates, thin almost as crèpes, often with various fillings. Tanja offered normaal or with bacon, and we drizzled ours with maple syrup brought by a Canadian friend and with stroop, the molasses-dark but thinner-textured burnt-sugar syrup the Dutch specialize in.

Poffertjes are not so easily explained. Here a tablespoonful of pancake-like batter, leavened with a bit of yeast I believe, is cooked in butter on a hot dimpled cast-iron range (pan, in the home), turned deftly once, and served by the half-dozen (or more) slathered with more good Dutch butter and liberally sprinkled with powdered sugar. They are very tasty.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Apeldoorn: home cooking, 2

Apeldoorn, Netherlands, Nov. 6, 2010—
DINNER AT HOME again tonight: Lindsey made pasta sauce the usual way, sweating onions and chopped-up prosciutto in a little olive oil, adding crushed garlic, then a couple of cans of tomatoes. I made the usual green salad in the usual way. Our hosts said, politely, that it tasted very good; I thought so too.
Coteaux du Languedoc, Château Cazalis de Fondouce, 2007

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Arnhem: Verheyden

Apeldoorn, Netherlands, Nov. 5, 2010—
TO ARNHEM BY BUS today, there to see Het Nationale Ballet but first, of course, to eat dinner. That was at a restaurant not unfamiliar to us; we'd been there two years ago, with a friend, Dutch, who we'd known for years, and who had in fact worked a year as hostess at Chez Panisse. On that occasion I was impressed with Verheyden; the menu was enterprising and the kitchen skilful.

Since then the direction has changed, I'm told, but the level is still high. There were a few unfamiliar items on the menu: schoneneren, which Anneke explained were poor man's asparagus, some kind of underground stalk that must be peeled before being served with the traditional eggs, ham, and tarragon-flavored Hollandaise; and oerwortel, another traditional farmer's dish we were told; parsnips, I think I overheard a man at the next table mention. If so, I was fortunate to have ordered something else: parsnips, like turnips and rutabagas and beets, are certainly very fine vegetables, but far from my personal taste.

Instead I had a very correct, very traditional, very tasty house-made paté, with tiny cornichons and a delicious chutney: long-slow-cooked very thin-sliced onion, colored and flavored with what must certainly have been cranberry, though it wasn't mentioned on the menu. And afterward, another risotto, to compare to the one still fresh in memory from Milan the other day.

This one was not made with the correct Italian fat-grained rice but with something closer to jasmine-style rice, so the texture didn't really work. The stock was good, though, and the great number of mushrooms — farmed, not wild — added a lot of interest if not a truly focussed flavor. Dessert was a huge serving of appeltaart which I unwisely took without the slagroom; a little bit of the whipped cream would have made it quite delicious.

Martini before dinner; house Soave, otherwise unspecified

Cafe Restaurant Verheyden, Wezenstraat 6, Arnhem; tel. 026 443 70 35;

Apeldoorn, 1: home cooking

Apeldoorn, Netherlands, Nov. 4, 2010—
DINNER AT HOME this evening: old-fashioned domestic Dutch cooking that Hans and Anneke do so well. Well, not entirely old-fashioned, because Hans always manages to find something a little exotic.

This time it was a pumpkin soup he made. He bought an organic pumpkin, washed it well, then cooked it in the oven before reducing it to a purée with a hand-held blender he favors. He flavored it with cumin, red pepper, and coriander, combining it with chicken stock, and let us top it with a dollop of good Greek yoghurt: delicous.

Anneke had made her echt Dutch version of sauerkraut: kraut from the organic grocery combined with chunks of gerookte worst, a mild smoked Frankfurter-type sausage, and topped with slices of canned pineapple, the whole baked in the oven, then held a few moments under the broiler. This is in fact a delicious dish, odd though it may sound to Mediterranean eaters.
Riesling, Pfaffenheim (Alsace), 2008

Earlier we'd contented ourselves with a ham-cheese tosti for lunch, at the excellent café Martins, downtown. Until they opened three or four years ago there was no really good coffee in this fairly large provincial city (~150,000); with their good espresso and pastries they managed soon to expand in a new location to a much more ambitious business.

Brasserie Martins, Paslaan 5, Apeldoorn; tel. 055-5213102

Milan, 3: Eating milanese

Milan, Nov. 3, 2010—
WE FLY THIS EVENING from Milan's Malpensa airport up to Amsterdam, where we'll take the train to Apeldoorn in eastern Netherlands to spend time with old friends, so our only hope for a good meal today is an extended lunch. Dinner, that meal was called in my youth, among my middlewestern relatives, where the three meals of the day were breakfast, dinner, and supper.

But where to eat? After whiling away the morning in conversation over cappuccinos and cornetti, those not entirely successful Italian attempts at croissants, we walked downtown to the center, along "our" Corso Buenos Aires to the Piazza Venezia, then along the Corso Venezia to the San Babuino, the Galleria, and the Duomo. I had in mind the trattoria we like in via Santa Marta, but others felt it was just too far away, and by now it was almost noon.

Our Marta, almost equally santa to some of us, suddenly remembered a restaurant she knew on the Piazza Mercante, only a street away from us. We looked at the menu, looked at the fish on ice displayed inside, talked to the man in charge, and decided it would be fine. Fifteen minutes to stroll the neighboring streets; then it would be noon and we could sit down.

It didn't take long to decide on the menu: all four of us would share a huge platter of pinzimonio, raw carrots, Treviso, fennel, radishes, tomatoes, with oil and vinegar and salt to dip them in; then risotto alla Milanese, based on a tasty chicken stock, nicely colored and flavored with saffron, cooked to exactly the right degree: the rice just a tiny bit grainy at the center of the kernel.

I asked for a panna cotta for dessert; I can't resist it. We were surprised when a crème brulée appeared in its place. No, signore, c'e una panna cotta , the waiter insisted; it's how it's done here; it's our own recipe. Well, it was an okay crème brulée, though I've had better. But it wasn't what I'd wanted. Still.
Dolcetto da Piemonte in carafe

Al Mercante, Piazza Mercanti, 17, Milan; tel. 02.8052198

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Milan, 2: non Milanese!

Milan, Nov. 2, 2010—
LUNCH AND DINNER TODAY at places found per caso, at random, within easy walks of our hotel on the Corso Buenos Aires, not far from the Piazza Venezia — an area becoming more fashionable just now, even in this slow economy.

Lunch was at a seafood restaurant nearby, a big, spacious, brightly lit, comfortable place with big photomurals of the Amalfitani coast on the wall. We looked at the extensive menus, then engaged in conversation with the waiter, who brought a couple of fish out to show us and described how they might be cooked. We agreed, and wound up with a nice firm fish braised in piquant tomato sauce well laced with enormous capers, too many olives, a little fennel, lots of flavor.

I would call this a Sicilian restaurant. The Pugliese waiter, clearly a spokesman for the place, disagreed. He proudly led me to a much bigger dining room downstairs, waving at the photomurals: Look: this is Sicily. Over here, this is Sardegna. You saw the Amalfi coast; over here is Liguria. This is an all-Italian restaurant, in Milano, because the Milanese cooking is not really very interesting.

I'm not sure I don't agree.
Colomba Platino, Duca di Salaparuta (Sicily), 2009

Trattoria Il Bragosso, via Omboni, 4; tel. 02 29521357

But where to eat dinner? We asked a man on the street; he waved us down a block, another to the right, then to the left, to a restaurant called La Ragazza. It was closed, of course. But nearby was a brightly lit, brightly decorated place with an attractive menu promising spaghetti caccia e pepe, with grated cheese and pepper, one of my favorites, so in we went.

I had a brilliant and delicious appetizer, ceci e baccalà; the chick-peas served as a rough purée, flavored deeply with onions and olive oil, the salt-cod beautifully cooked as scraps and scattered across the purée. Then the spaghetti, which was very nearly as good as anything I'd had in Rome.
Bianco di Lazio, 2009
Osteria Arrivederci Roma, via Malpighi 7, Milan; tel. 800.03.19.95

Monday, November 1, 2010

Milan, 1: Da Giacomo

Hotel Aurora, Milan, November 1, 2010—

WE THINK WE KNOW Milan by now, but: we arrived hungry a little after one o'clock after a slow rainy drive from Asti, and having cooled our heels while the room was being made ready we didn't want to drive anywhere, and didn't want to take the time to do much research, and it's Monday when restaurants tend to be closed, and it's a holiday ditto ditto, so.

We just walked down the street to the Bar Miró and had a club sandwich — ham cheese and tuna for me, with a glass of Dolcetto. I'm not in principle agreeing with the idea of mixing fish and meat, or fish and cheese, or fish meat and cheese. For that matter I think it bad luck to eat fish of any kind on a rainy day; that's just the kind of received knowledge I run on. But what can you do.

Dinner was, wouldn't you know, at a fish restaurant. After endless trawling of Zagat and a number of other sites we settled on Da Giacomo, which sounded really nice and wasn't all that far away. Lindsey had a plate of pappardelle with porcini and a big platter of grilled vegetables; I had a cotelette alla Milanese, forgetting it was nothing but an enormous breaded veal cutlet with a half lemon, and spinach in butter on the side, because it's a very favorite vegetable of mine. It was all perfectly fine, and the bread they serve here — mother-in-law's tongues, flatbread, a thick kind of grissini, and even a whole-grain bread of some kind, is very good indeed.

Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Planeta (Sicily), 2008

Da Giacomo, angolo via Benevenuto Cellini e Pasquale Sottocorno (no. 6), Milan; tel. 02 76023313