Thursday, June 30, 2011


Eastside Road, June 30, 2011—
TAFFY WAS A WESHMAN, Taffy was a thief…

Like most nursery rhymes, it's not exactly politically correct. (You'll be glad to hear that, according to Wikipedia,“The image of thieving Welshmen seems to have begun to die down by the mid-twentieth century”.) But it's a fact that the rhyme continues to charge Taffy with the further theft of a marrowbone, and that was my first awareness of such things.

marrowbones.jpgI know we had marrowbones when I was a kid, though not in any rarified way; they were simply part of any boiled beef dinner, and lord knows we had our share of boiled beef. I recall those dinners as being pretty rank, and the gelatinous aspect of marrow's not particularly attractive to childish tastes — yet I also recall being conflicted about that; there was some redeeming quality there, apparently; early on I began to think the marrow the very best part, perhaps the only really pleasant part, of those dinners.

Then in 1986 on a trip to Australia I had dinner one night at a marvelous restaurant, Berowra Waters Inn, in a remote location — I don't recall how I got there, though I know it was as the traveling guest of strangers met the previous night in another restaurant in Sydney.

But I digress. At Berowra Waters I found marrowbones on the menu; it was the first time I think I'd seen them on a restaurant menu; I ordered them; they arrived on a clean white napkin, marrow-spoon and all, and I was enchanted.

Since then I order them every chance I get, and I had them today at lunch. They'd been roasted in the wood-burning oven and served with a curly parsley-and-radish salad, whose crispness and acidity was a perfect foil. A piece of toast to spread marrow on, and a little pile of delicious sea-salt, and you had a meal.

ravioli.jpgExcept that there was more to come, for this dish, curiously, was listed simply as a first course. Afterward I had salt cod and potato ravioli with garlic, savory, and tomato confit. The ravioli were beautiful, the filling delicate and light, and the tomato confit… well, now, that was a surprise. This dish had nothing to do with Italian cuisine at all, in spite of the red-white-green. This treatment of tomatoes said, to me at least, England. It was tomato jam, and it was delicious.

And nothing surprising there, for this week's menus in the Café Chez Panisse are a tribute to the London restaurateur Fergus Henderson, famous for his “Nose to Tail” philosophy of using the entire animal in his St. John bar and restaurant which I'm afraid I've never been to; another reason for a return trip to London.

Dessert: Panna cotta — I can never resist it — with redcurrant coulis and a pain d'amande, refined but somehow Englishly homey like the rest of lunch.

(Counting down to its 40th birthday, the Café has delightfully dedicated each of forty weeks of menus to one or another such inspiring cook or author — in some cases, as here, a wonderful introduction to someone new; and a renewed reminder that dining, and restauranting, is social and societal, about human connections, the Family of Man.)
Chez Panisse Zinfandel, Green & Red Vineyards (Napa), 2009
• Café Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; 510.548.5525

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fast. (Well…)

Eastside Road, —
LET'S SEE: WHEN did we take up this fasting idea? Oh: I can find that out: just put ”fast“ in that search box up there, top left…

Hmmm: only six months ago? It seems longer. Perhaps that's because we've gone without fasting for so long. Today I resumed, with only a little bit of cheating: after the usual breakfast — cappuccinos and a piece of toast with honey — I had a banana and a peach for lunch, then the allowed handful of nuts with tea in the evening. That's it. Water, of course. About 400 calories total, says the Internet, if you're counting. I'll make up for it tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Kale & potatoes

Eastside Road, June 28, 2011—
I MUST ALREADY have metioned the huge sacks of potatoes we bought every week or two when I was a kid — fifty-pound sacks, burlap, that we'd carry in the three-quarters of a mile during the rainy season when our dirt road was impassable by car. (You can read about this and other insanities, if you like, in my memoir Getting There.)

What we never did, those days, was cook them with kale. We grew kale, but never ate it; it was strictly for the chickens. Mom said it gave the egg yolks flavor, and Dad said it wasn't fit for human consumption.

These days, of course, we frequently eat potatoes and kale, having learned about it from our friends in Apeldoorn. I don't know what Dad would have said about the Dutch. I think he'd have liked their boerkool.

Lindsey fries up a little bacon, then cooks the sliced potatoes and the chopped kale in the bacon fat, slowly, covered, so that it steams as much as it fries. We like malt vinegar sprinkled on it.

Did you think kale — a leafy green — would obviate the usual green salad? How little you know Lindsey!
Rosé, Luberon, ”La Ferme Julien“

Monday, June 27, 2011

Penne, red sauce

Eastside Road, June 27, 2011—
IT'S FUNNY: A MONTH in Italy, we were, and not once did we have tomato sauce. Well, if you don't count the little bit you'll find on a pizza.

Like Mozart, ”red sauce“ is one of the few things I begin to miss after a few weeks. Other old enthusiasms can be shelved for months at a time, especially if you've other things to keep you occupied. But tomato sauce — one wonders how the ancients did without it.

Tonight, after crudités — raw caulifower to dip into a complicated Indian salt-and-spices mix — we were back to basics: penne rigatoni dressed with Lindsey's tomato sauce: onion, olive oil, tomatoes, bay leaves, garlic, salt and peppers. A green salad afterward, of course: the lettuce from nearby farms is so soft and silky yet flavorful these days.
Rosé, Luberon, ”La Ferme Julien“

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Eastside Road, June 26, 2011—
AT THE MARKET YESTERDAY we were glad to see Franco Dunn, salumificio straordinario, one of Healdsburg's culinary stars, at his usual booth. We weren't all that late to the market, but he was down to only three four-packs of sausage and one slab of headcheese.

We took one of the Toscana packs, four nice plump sausages, and today I built a little fire of grapevine prunings — I always save them for this purpose — and grilled them until almost done, finishing them inside on the stove in a dry black iron skillet over a high flame. The same market had provided some beautiful green beans, and we have potatoes on hand, so L. made a nice German-style hot potato-and-bean salad, and then there was the green salad afterward, and a piece of nougat brought back from Venice…
Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, Armento, 2009

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Poached salmon

Eastside Road, June 25, 2011—
HEALDSBURG'S FARMERS MARKET opened a month ago, but we were away; this was our first Saturday morning there in months. The Fish Guy said he'd been worried about us: where were we? It's nice to be missed.

Tonight's dinner came from the market: his King Salmon, which I poached instead of grilling it as usual, because I wanted something a little different. For the court-bouillon I chopped up a couple of little carrots and a fat slice of a big white onion, browned them very lightly in olive oil, then added water and, at the end, thyme, parsley, and a bay leaf.

I quartered some small red potatoes to steam, and cooked chard the usual way, and L. cooked some fresh fava beans in butter — delicious! Afterward, the green salad, and for dessert Nancy Skall's unique stawberries, mixed with some black raspberries, and served on little shortcakes.
Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, Armento, 2009

[Added next day:} I forgot to mention the chopped whole lemon added to the court-bouillon with the thyme, parsley, and bay leaf. After poaching the fish I ran the bouillon through a food mill, thinking to reduce it for a sauce over the fish. Then this morning I saw an interview with David Tanis at Tablet, which made me realize I could simply have served the fish in a soup-bowl, with the bouillon over it, instead of making a sort of velouté. Duh.

Canned baked beans

Eastside Road, June 24, 2011—
A FULL DAY, unpacking, mowing, setting things right again — too busy too cook, L. decided: so after the first really good Martini in weeks, and the almonds and cashews we like with them, we were content with a can of baked beans, a good green salad, and the daily bread.

Flying home to minestrone

Eastside Road, June 23, 2011—
HOME AGAIN, AFTER a month away, a month and then some. Flying Virgin Atlantic you are constantly being offered food, even in economy class; and the beer and wine are on the house. As airplane food goes, it isn't bad: but my beef stew with rice wasn't a patch on the provender of the previous two days. Oh well: you don't get in an airplane for the delights of the table.

ONCE HOME, THOUGH,dinner was waiting for us at the neighbor's — it doesn't hurt that the neighbor is our daughter — in the form of a minestrone soup, garlic-rubbed toast nicely damped with good olive oil, and a bottle of red wine. Soup: just what one craves most at the end of an unsettling day. Thanks, T.!

Sally Clarke's, yes yes yes

Hutchings Walk, London, June 22, 2011—
IT'S ONLY THE THIRD time I've been to this restaurant, so I don't really know it well enough to promote it to my list of Five Restaurants. But herewith I do, for this was a spectacularly successful evening out at table. Sally Clarke opened her restaurant in 1984. She'd returned to London the previous year following four years in California, where she met Alice Waters, whose Chez Panisse was both inspiration and model for Clarke's.

Three of us had the fixed menu:
Pea and gem lettuce risotto with mint, chicken stock, aged parmesan, and prosecco
Chili-fried Cornish squid, lemon and pale aubergine with aioli, green rocket and fennel
Charentais melon, red wine sorbet with brown sugar palmier

But I had had enough of sea food after a month in Venice, and asked instead for
Breast of corn fed chicken filled and roasted with basil, herbed Umbrian lentils, spring onion and marinated Italian peppers

The risotto was about as perfect as anything ever gets. The ingredients, the concept, the technique were admirable. The rice was beautifully cooked, with the slightest kernel of resistance at the center of each grain; the chicken stock was full-flavored yet delicate in its presentation; the peas and finely-cut lettuce added their notes of texture, color, and flavor to the dish without standing out; the Prosecco was an inspired idea, I thought, balancing the richness of the cheese.

My chicken was everything you could ask, meaty and rich, nicely flavored with basil leaves under the skin, and the lentils were outstanding: tiny, smoky, redolent. They and the peppers and onions spoke of intelligent sourcing and a magnificent olive oil. The other three were ecstatic over their squid, but I was happy I'd held out for chicken.

The melon was first-rate and the sorbet was very nicely made, up to the sorbetti we'd been having in Venice. But that brown-sugar palmier threatened to run away with the prize: perfectly crisp and thousand-leafed in its texture, rich with the brown sugar and butter. (I should note that the breads we'd been served were also amazingly well made, and of excellent flour.)
Petit Chablis
Clarke’s Restaurant, 122 & 124 Kensington Church Street, London W8 4BH; 020-7221 9225

Jamie Oliver

Hutchings Walk, London, June 21, 2011—
porkpiperade.jpgTHAT TITLE'S JUST TO catch your eye: by rights it would read "Mary W____". She's the one cooked the thing, after all; Jamie simply provided the recipe, in his book Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life.

Judging by Mary's execution of the recipe, it's a very good life indeed. I don't know where she bought her pork shoulder, but it was a delicious hunk of meat, with a flavor I thought unlike the Italian pork we've been eating, and unlike the American pork back home — except perhaps for some we've had recently from noncommercial sources.

Oliver calls the dish "spicy pork and chilli-pepper goulash," and you can read the recipe here: but the photo you see on that website is nothing like what you see here. Mary's version of the dish is succulent, festive, beautifully colored, brightly flavored, crisply textured, one of the finest things I've had to eat all year; and I envy her the leftovers.
wine: yes: what was that inexpensive but sound, rather bright red wine John poured? Didn't take notes; write this four days later — in any case quite up to the main dish, and enough to provoke some marvelous conversation…

Monday, June 20, 2011

Panini; “home”

Corte della Pazienza, June 20, 2011—
OUR LAST ROUND of meals in Venice for a while: breakfast as usual — coffee (I do like this Il Doge coffee we buy here, made in our Moka caffetiere) with hot milk, toast (bread toasted in a frying pan on the stove-top) with butter.

Lunch at, wouldn't you know it, the nicest place we've run into yet, on our last day of a month in this city: the Bar Ai Nomboli. We were first attracted to it a couple of weeks ago when we noticed it served Il Doge, and in fact this is where I bought the current supply of ground coffee. Only today did we stop in for something: it was noon, we were hungry, and there was a table on the sidewalk.

panini.jpgFirst thing that caught my eye was a placard hanging over our table, advertising the house wines — a number of them, and a number of them organic. Then we saw the four-page list of panini. I had bresaola, rucola, and parmigiano, just as we'd had for dinner the other night, but on a very nice roll, perfectly warmed; and, with it, a fine organic Ciliegiolo rosso from Sassotondo (Maremma Toscana), so good I'd have sworn it wasn't from Tuscany.

We had gelato from two different gelaterie today, but Eating Every Day doesn't cover such incidentals; perhaps one day soon I'll write out a list of our favorites. Then tonight we had dinner at home: Lindsey sautéed some loin pork steaks with capers, garlic, and lemon, and cooked up a mess of broad beans; afterward we had an enormous salad of lettuces and arugula with an anchovy vinaigrette.
We thought about going out for yet another gelato afterward, but we were too full. Besides, we're up early tomorrow; time to hit the road for home.

• Bar Ai Nomboli, Sestiere San Polo, 2717 (Rio Terà dei Nomboli), Venezia; 041 5230995 (S.A.S.)
Pagina Indirizzo

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Back to the local

Corte della Pazienza, June 19, 2011—
IMG_0854.jpgWE'D PLANNED TO COOK today, but forgot that it was Sunday, and our favorite markets were closed, so went around the corner to our favorite local trattoria instead. L. and I both warmed up with a nice plate of cozze e vongole, clams and mussels, with a plate of zucchini and eggplant from the oven alongside.

Then F. and I split a pizza — rather an odd one, I thought, involving bresaola, parmesan, and rucola, all three of them laid fresh and at room temperature atop a pizza bianca just out of the oven. A new style, to me; and I liked it.
white wine in carafe; a glass of red
• Ristorante ai Tre Archi, Fondamente San Giobbe, Cannaregio, 552; 041.716438 IMG_0857.jpg

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Lindsey's choice

Corte della Pazienza, June 18, 2011—
bresaola.jpgWE JUST FELL INTO A PLACE for lunch today; it was too soon to step into the Accademia, we'd visited a supermarket on the Fondamente Zattere to buy some bleach — don't ask — and afterward there was a trattoria right there, the dishes were cheap, they took credit cards, so why not. We had just a plate of bresaola, parmigiano, and rucola, the Italian colors: green, white, red. With a squeeze of lemon juice. It was called the Osteria (or perhaps Trattoria, I don't remember at the moment) di Toni, but when I look this up on the Internet I get no satisfaction. Nor does the address on the receipt jibe with anything we saw today. Venice is full of mysteries. Just go to the Billa or the post office at the west end of the Fondamente Zattere, turn the corner, and fall in where an apparently Muslim man is apparently married to an apparently Asian woman, and there's a very pretty baby, and the tables are along the canal (now there's a distinguishing mark), and you'll be there. Get a glass of the house white while you're at it.
LINDSEY'S CHOICE, THOUGH, was our dinner reservation, and what some authorities apparently consider one of Venice's five best restaurants. It's over near the Museum of Natural History, on a quiet street next a quiet bridge over a quiet canal. There I began with the most interesting course of the night, three fresh raw apricot halves filled with caprino, a soft white goat cheese, liberally accompanied with mint, parsley, and radicchio. Afterward came rather an ordinary (but quite well executed) veal stew with peas, rice and salad on the side, and a side dish of spinach with raisins and pine nuts, the most Venetian thing at my place.

Dessert was a very fine panna cotta with too many sliced almonds, just the right amount of delicious honey, and drizzles of irrelevant strawberry and mango syrups. To me they were a Cognitive Dissonance, but the girls sharing my table disagree. Still, I'm the one writing here.
White wine in carafe (Trebbiano from Collio, delicious)
• La Zucca, Sestiere Santa Croce, 1762, Venezia; 041 524 1570

Friday, June 17, 2011


Corte della Pazienza, June 17, 2011—
VENETIAN CUISINE IS UNTHINKABLE without onions: if fish is its substance, onions are the essence. Sarde in saor, pickled sardines, are nearly as much onion as they are sardine — in fact, now I think of it, they define that substance-essence dialogue. And Fegato alla Venexiana — onion confit is the center of the dish.
Tonight's dinner began, for me, with the best Sarde in saor I've had on this trip, firm, fresh-tasting, but well-pickled, onions, vinegar, salt, pepper all in balance. And then on to bigoli, the characteristic Venetian twist on spaghetti, a little firmer, a little thicker, almost a pasta alla chitarra: perhaps there are eggs in them. These had been tossed with the most buttery onion confit imaginable, nothing more than butter, onions, and salt; and the result was impeccable.Carciofi.jpg

On the side, half a dozen delicious whole artichokes, slow-sautéed in plenty of good olive oil. And for dessert, a glass of little raisins soaked in good grappa. I haven't really looked at the list thoughtfully enough to say this, but I think this may have been the best restaurant meal, whatever “best” means, of the trip, so far.
White wine in carafe
• Anice Stellato, Fondamenta della Sensa, 3272, Venezia; 041 720744

LUNCH HAD BEEN another plate of pasta, spaghetti this time, with clams. This was in the rain, outside, under umbrellas, a now-and-then rain in the wake of a thunderstorm, just outside the Arsenale where we'd been visiting the Biennale. I hadn't expected much of the place, much more than ordinary I mean, but the dish was really quite good, and I didn't leave much on the plate, as you can see.
White wine in carafe
• Trattoria Pizzeria Da Paolo, Sestiere Castello, 2389, 30122 Venezia; 041 521 0660IMG_0802.jpg

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Corte della Pazienza, Venice, June 16, 2011—

ANOTHER FIASCO concerning reservations: I put off too long making one at the Osteria dalla Marisa. We ate lunch there several days ago, it's true, and were disappointed: but for precisely that reason I wanted to go back for dinner, to see if that would make a big difference.

But when I called this morning, they were already booked for tonight. We have reservations elsewhere tomorrow and Saturday; they're closed Sunday and Monday; we leave Venice Tuesday morning. So Marisa will have to wait until next time.

Finding ourselves quite hungry at two o'clock "downtown" this afternoon, after a long visit to the Teatro la Fenice, we fell into a table in front of a nearby restaurant for a pretty good, pretty ordinary lunch. I had tagliatelle with prosciutto and peas in an Alfredo sauce, a classic combination that always takes me back to the church Wednesday-night potluck suppers I suffered through the year I lived with my grandparents — though those creamed dishes rarely approached the stature of even an ordinary place like this.

With them as a side dish, radicchio from the grill, cooked just right, full of flavor. No salad, no dessert: that would wait until evening, at home.
Gavi, Michele Chiarlo, "Le Marne," 2010
• Ristorante al Teatro, Campo San Fantin, 1917 30124 Venice; +39 041 5221052

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Corte della Pazienza, Venice, June 15, 2011—
COUNTING DOWN NOW, we dined tonight at a place we liked last time we were here, over on the Giudecca. Like so much of Venice, it's changed a bit, responding to an evolution in tourism: whether because of Rick Steves, or the internet, Word Gets Out in a different way; a different kind of feedback loop is generated; everything seems to get more sophisticated, with problematic results. (Cf. yesterday's entry, and Curtis's comment, which I'll address as soon as I can.)

In any case: I started with sarde in saor, the sardines firmer than usual (which means house-made rather than store-bought, but not made far enough in advance, as Murano Shopkeeper had warned me), but the flavor very good.

I went on to sogliole fritti, two nice little lagoon fish grilled on a hot grill and served with lemon. Alas, we were among the first diners served; the grill was evidently really hot, and the fish were badly scorched at the grill-marks, giving the sweet flesh a smoky, iron-tasting quality — and the fish was a little dry.
But, Oh, lordy me, the dessert. I had this “grappa gelato with grapes,” which turned out to be a crema gelato with a wonderful grappa poured over it, and at least three different kinds of raisins, plumped up with many hours' soaking in the same grappa. It was so good that Lindsey, after she had tasted mine, ordered one for herself. It was without a doubt by far the best dessert we've had in Venice. The best gelato, for that matter. I may take the vaporetto out there again, a long trip, just for another dish.
White wine in carafe
• Altanella, Sestiere Giudecca, 268, Venice; 041 5227780

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Corte della Pazienza, Venice, June 14, 2011—
TODAY, IN CONTRADISTINCTION, we ate first-rate food in a first-rate restaurant, and were again left a little less than enthusiastic. We were at Al Ponte del Diavolo on Torcello, a restaurant we've liked a lot in the past, but which seems increasingly fussy and over-refined. I can't really fault it for that; it's keeping up with the times; it hasn't gone nutty with sous-vide or foam or anything like that — it just seems that such perfection is a little irrelevant to its bucolic situation.
Oh well. After the amuses-geules, which involved raw fish, scallops I think, olive oil, nice salt, almonds, and some kind of sprouts, served impeccably in silver baby-spoons, I went on to an absolutely delicious tartare of branzino, the sea-bass that's virtually the national fish of the Venetian Republic.
This was utterly delicious, whether dressed with its balsamic vinaigrette or not: fresh, sweet, salty, crunchy, soft; a collision of sensations on the tongue, further enlived by little black seedy things that accentuated a Japanese affect. Again, impeccable.IMG_0728.jpgNext, bigoli, again idiomatic Venetian, very lightly dressed with inkfish-blessed olive oil, and featuring a very generous quantity of the tiniest squid you'll ever see, none any bigger than my little fingernail, tender and succulent and only very slightly resistant to the bite.

I'm making this lunch sound like one of the most splendid meals of the year, and in retrospect it was. Only the dessert was not quite up to the rest: in my case, a semifreddo so hard as to be difficult to deal with, ornamented with a cape gooseberry, a drizzle of chocolate, spots of fruit purée and the like.

Had the previous courses been only very good instead of utterly delicious, the dessert would have been a knockout. Everything here, including the breads, is made on premise with first-rate ingredients by people who know what they're doing and who have the time and latitude to do it well. The service, too, is attentive and discreet.

So why were we underwhelmed? I think it was mostly the sudden shift of mentality, after nearly a month of trattorias. Of course the price is a problem: the prices are not unreasonable, given the labor and ingredients and skill; but they are not negligible. So we won't be back on this trip, and who knows if we'll ever get back again: but it was a memorable meal, and I have no regrets at all concerning it.
Ribolla gialla, Collio, 2010
• Osteria Al Ponte del Diavolo, Fondamenta Borgognoni, 10\11, 30012 Torcello, Venezia; 041 730 401


Corte della Pazienza, Venice, June 13, 2011—
PERHAPS BECAUSE IT WAS the Thirteenth, luck ran thin this day: second-rate lunch in an Ordinary Local; second-rate dinner in a third-rate joint. My fault entirely: I'd neglected to make a reservation at the restaurant we'd intended to patronize, and on Monday's there's not that much choice.
Well, there's more to dining than eating (though not much more), and the settings made up for it. Lunch was next to the fine Basilica on Murano: for me, this lasagna, really rather nice with its besciamella, peas, Bolognese, bits of prosciutto, and decent pasta. Okay: I take it back. Only by comparisons with truly first-rate places was this second-rate: in fact, it was quite acceptable.
White wine in carafe
• Zecchin, Campo San Donato, 20, Murano, 30141 Venezia; 041 527 5186
DINNER, HOWEVER, now that was another matter. We've only a week left, and we've drawn up a list of Restaurants To Visit. Only one of them is open on Mondays, and I'd planned on that one for so long I'd made myself think I'd actually reserved. When I called to check, it turned out I hadn't.

So we walked down the Fondamenta to a place we'd walked past every day for the last three weeks. Almost every time, the same waiter has greeted us, flirted with F___, and been generally friendly and amusing.

There were some nice bruschetti on the house, actually tasting a bit of garlic — a rare ingredient here in Venice. The side dish of cooked vegetables was okay, and my braciola, a thin pork chop, acceptable. F___, always nostalgic for Naples, ordered a pizza Margarita: it turned out to be Pizza Magari, not pizza at all but oregano pie with canned tomatoes and, says F___, grease. I only had a corner, and in any case I know better than to argue.

But, as a friend points out, the setting, even after a cold damp evening, was pretty damn superb, the Venice sunset glowing. I wouldn't go back to this place for food, but conversation over a glass of wine would be okay by me.
Red (!) wine in carafe
• Osteria da Bepi, Ponte delle Guglie, Cannaregio, Venice

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Tre Archi

Corte della Pazienze, June 12, 2011—
A MEMORABLE LUNCH back at the Ristorante Tre Archi, right around the corner from our back gate (which I begin to think of as the front gate), because today there's a regatta, and this is as good a place as any (and better than most) from which to watch it.
We arrived about 11:30, early for lunch, and sat with a half-liter of white wine, a bottle of mineral water, and for L., who is after all half German, a big glass of beer.

After watching the regatta for a fair while, cheering for the Dutch and Frisians and those from Bretagne and, of course, the Venetians, we ordered: baccalà mantecata for F____, cozze e vongole — mussels and clams — for L. and me.
At long last I went on to a fine branzino, a kind of sea bass, simply cooked and served with lemon.

This wasn't quite as refined cuisine as yesterday's dinner at Bancogiro, but it was completely satisfying. The mussels from here are subtler and more complex than those in the Netherlands (I hasten to say I like those just as much); the branzino is sweet, meaty, dry as opposed to oily, and fragrant. You can't do better.
white wine in carafe
• Ristorante ai Tre Archi, Fondamente San Giobbe, Cannaregio, 552; 041.716438


Corte della Pazienza, June 11, 2011
TEN YEARS AGO one of our memorable meals here in Venice was in Italy. In truth, if I don't consult notes, the two things I remember are checking it out via a quick bite and a glass of wine while L. was shopping nearby, and the bottle of Collio we had with our dinner. The notes add a bit to this:
very romantic room overlooking the Canale Grande. Ombrina (a local fish, one of the best) with cherry tomatoes & basil; zuicchini al limone; pan cotto; Prosecco. Memorable.
This time we were ushered upstairs to the very same table whose grilled window overlooked the Canale Grande. I started with Tagliatelle nere con sarde, uvetta e pinoli — tagilatelle with inkfish ink, sardines, grapes, and pine nuts, which seems to me a very Venitian combination — and finished with a selection of
six very nice cheeses, I'm sorry, my Italian wasn't quick enough to catch the names apart from Robiola, stagionata, di mucca, e così; with a drizzle of balsamico and two little pots of conserves: sweet fig, piquant pepper-tomato. And, of course, a fine bottle of
Collio, Borgo del Tiglio, 2008
• Bancogiro, Campo San Giacometto, 122, 30125 San Polo, Venezia; 041 5232061

Friday, June 10, 2011

Algiubagio and beans

Corte della Pazienza, June 10, 2011—
WE BEGIN TO CHOOSE eating places a little more carefully, as there's less than two weeks left. After a long futile walk this morning we found ourselves near San Zanipolo, not that far from the Fondamente Nove, where one of L.'s choices lay: so off we went in search of dinner.

It was a pretty hilarious meal, more because of our company at the next table than for any other reason. I won't go into that here; maybe one of these days at The Eastside View.
Algiubagio — named for its four partners, presumably Alberto, Giulia, Barbara, and Giovanni — is an upscale place; this was by far the most raffinato meal we've had here this trip. I took one of the four set menus, which began with a truly delicioous pile of bresaola, thin-sliced raw beef dressed with olive oil, set atop a generous serving of crisp, tender, tasty small-leafed arugula.

Alongside, a millefoglie containing warm tomino cheese and lardo — I confess this is what had attracted me — drizzled with artichoke honey.

Next came a plate of large ravioli, stuffed with fossa cheese, topped with little cubes of goose confit, the whole dressed with a black-truffle infused sauce. This was slightly over-salted, but otherwise very nicely conceived and executed: I was very happy. Happy, too, with the demitasse that followed: caffè Il Doge, my favorite Venetian coffee.
Pinot grigio in carafe
• Algiubagio Restaurant, Fondamenta Nuove, 5039, Cannaregio, Venezia; 041 523 6084
Beans.jpgON THE MORNING WALK we chanced upon a one-stall greengrocer market in a small campiello, where we bought a package of shell beans — borlotti, I'm pretty sure they were. I asked the vendor how to cook them, and she seemed incredulous: who would not know. You put them in water, she said, and bring it to a boil, and put in some olive oil, and cook them until they're done. And serve them with chopped rosemary; they have to have chopped rosemary.

And L. followed the instructions exactly this evening. We were still sated from lunch, so the beans, and a green salad, and a peach and an apricot afterward, were all we needed to set us to humming with satisfaction.
Prosecco spento

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Farmer's omelet

Corte della Pazienza, June 9, 2011—
WHEN NOT TRAVELING, as some of you know, we often fast once a week. That's hard to do these days, partly because you don't want to miss out on any chances to eat in this town, partly because we're responsible for an eighteen-year-old young woman, and don't want to push too many of our imperatives off on her.

Caffe.jpgBut we have another way of punishing ourselves, a particularly nice one: we'll just eat at home today. So after a breakfast of the usual caffelatte and almond torte (which is pretty much pure marzipan, left over from Lindsey's birthday-boxing-day), we contented ourselves with a ham-cheese tosti for lunch, in a museum café.

Dinner was an omelet: L. cut up six potatoes, two onions, a good-sized chunk of guanciale, and cooked them all together until everything was done and the house smelled like heaven. Then she beat up a half dozen eggs and added them to the pan, just letting them set.

A green salad was all else needed.
Prosecco spento; Pinot nero, €1 per liter at the fill-up-your-jug shop

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ordinary osteria

Corte della Pazienza, Venice, June 8, 2011—
HUNGRY AFTER A LONG HOUR looking at art in the Ca' d'Oro, I asked the guy at the ticket window if Alla Vedova weren't nearby. Si, signor, right around the corner, he said; but there was something about the set of his mouth made me press for more information. Is it still good? Oh yes, still good, but still expensive.

Yes, I said: but can you find something that's good and not expensive? Of course, he said, eat where I eat: go down to the Campo S. Apostoli, turn left, take the first little street to the left; there are a couple of places, both good, both inexpensive.

We wound up at AE Soree (I can't explain the name): I liked the place for its €15 menu, for its name written in chalk on the soffit, and for the many ballpoint drawings made directly on the walls. We started with spaghetti al ragù, and I went on to braciole: a thin pork cutlet, simply pan-fried in olive oil, flavored only with salt and lemon juice. Simple and delicious. verdure.jpgWith it, typical inexpensive verdure cotte, slow-cooked beans, peas, and green beans, with half a tomato stuffed with bread crumbs and set under the fire.

The drawings turned out to have been made by one of the regular customers, a gondolier. I don't remember hearing any English spoken except at our table — but then, there was hardly anyone else eating: it was already two o'clock in the afternoon.
White wine in carafe
• Osteria AE Soree, Cannaregio 4371 (Calle dell'Oca); 041.5238052


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Birthday dinner

Corte della Pazienza, Venice, June 7, 2011—
FIDDLING AROUND WITH your fourth quarter-century brings Pazienza to mind: what better place to celebrate a 76th? So we did something we haven't done in weeks: actually reserved a table in a restaurant.

A nearby one, because we knew we'd be late; knew it would likely rain, and suspected high water. In the end, only the first-listed transpired.

We began with the house appetizer, a platter of periwinkles, squid, little fish, a good-sized prawn, a scallop-shell filled with goodies including of course scallop, baccalà, and arugula. We went on to pasta: mine was spaghetti carbonara, and was nearly as good as eating in Trastevere.

Some of us, but not the birthday girl, went on to yet another course: fritto misto: squid, shrimp and prawn (which I did not eat), fish; and verdure cotte: eggplant, porcini, and — oddly — Brussels sprouts, all of them quite delicious.

We liked this place. A snug pretty room, good service, nice cooking, clean and attractive, with an authentic Venetian feel. I'd come back any time.
White wine in carafe (and very good it was)
• Casa Bonita, Sestiere Cannaregio, 492, Venezia; 041 5246164

Monday, June 6, 2011


Corte della Pazienza, Venice, June 6, 2011—
WE WALKED DOWN TO San Marco today to take in the Correr Museum, partly for learning and culture, partly to keep out of the rain; and afterward, when we really did need to sit down for a while, I recalled a plain-and-simple joint nearby I'd read about on John Whiting's estimable website. It hadn't been tops on my list of places I want to visit, but it was nearby, we were tired, it was rather late (three o'clock), and it was raining, so in we went.

Cozy room. Twenty places at the tables. Friendly rushed waitress. Vague menu offering only categories (pasta of the day, Venice specialties, that sort of thing). But somehow homey and promising. We ordered a plate of vegetable for the table, and they were nice: carrots, eggplant, potatoes, onions, all sliced up and sautéed in oil and carefully salted.
Then I had baccalà manteca, for the third or fourth time in the last couple of weeks. The salt cod is soaked in several changes of water, cooked until tender, shredded with one's fingers, then beaten with olive oil as if one were making mayonnaise. The result, as you see, is not particularly photogenic, but it is delicious. Pungent, soft, textured, long on the palate. It's always served with polenta, just salt cod and polenta; and it's always welcome.
Tocai di Friuli in carafe
• Osteria Da Carla, 1535, S. Marco, Venezia (in the Sotoportego Corte Contarina, off the Frezzaria); 041 523 7855

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Joint effort

Corte della Pazienza, Venice, June 5, 2011—
BACK IN OUR TEMPORARY home, after a three-day holiday in Friuli, we decided it was time for a home-cooked meal. I peeled and cut up a number of potatoes and cooked them slowly in olive oil, salted of course, along with a few unpeeled garlic cloves, and a couple of onions which I'd peeled, tipped, and quartered, leaving the root end intact so they wouldn't fall apart.

Lindsey cut up a head of cauliflower and steamed it in salted water with a little olive oil, and I made the vinaigrette for the green salad, using lemon instead of vinegar. I quickly seared three scalloppini of vitelloni — the nearest equivalent I can think of in English is "baby beef," which we used to eat when I was a kid, but which I haven't seen or heard of since.

A simple meal, almost colorless. But tasty and easy.
Bianco Costaiolo, Frassine, nv (not very good, but cheap)

Last night at Cristofoli

Albergo Cristofori, Treppo Carnico, Friuli, June 4, 2011—
LAST NIGHT IN TWO senses: I write about this the next day, as you'll have seen by the datelines; and then it was also our last night's dinner at this delightful country albergo, where we had been received as honored guests, I've no idea why.

In the afternoon our hostess — let's call her Dora; I think I heard someone refer to her by that name — had proposed a risotto for the three of us as a first course, and we jumped at the suggestion. So that was how we began the meal: a beautifully made risotto, both creamy and al dente, based on chicken stock of course, flavored subtly but definitely with silex leaves.

I've since looked Silene vulgaris up in Wikipedia; it's what is called campion or bladderflower or, in our family, balloonflower. It grows wild; no need to cultivate it; and it's one of a number of greens foraged in the wild that crop up — ah, there — in la cucina povera, peasant cuisine. Such herbs are said to be particularly nutritious; they're also often strongly flavored, useful in heightening what might otherwise be a drab diet.

(English-language Wikipedia mentions only Spain in describing culinary use of silene; the Italian-language version is considerably more edifying.)

What with the stridoli, as the herb's called in Friulano, and the discreet use of Parmigiana, this risotto was anything but drab, and revealed a fine hand — which is consistent with the other meals we've had here. It was followed by little pork-loin cutlets nicely pan-seared and served with peperonata, grilled, then braised red and yellow peppers, sharp and sweet; and then a green salad.

The dessert was truly memorable: bowls of the tiniest little strawberries, (fragolini di bosco, fraises des bois), smaller than any I've seen except growing wild high in the Alps in France. There was nothing to be said about this: there's a particular kind of truth that transcends language. As had happened at the two previous meals, we all simply exchanged glances and grunted quietly. If you have to have a last dinner, this is the way to do it.
White wine in carafe
• Albergo Cristofoli, Treppo Carnico, Friuli

Location:Treppo Carnica, Friuli

Friday, June 3, 2011

Cucina Carnica

Albergo Cristofori, Treppo Carnico, Friuli, June 3, 2011—
VERY DIFFICULT TO WRITE about the food here. Carnica is a small region on the Austrian border, in the region of Friuli Veneto Giulio. Its cuisine is based of course on the products of its own soil and on its socio-political history. The first is fairly simple, dependent on soil and climate; the second is complex in the extreme.

The soil and climate gives wild herbs, corn, potatoes, milk and cheese, fruit and vegetables in season. The history gives influences from both Italy and Austria; from the Austro-Hungarian Empire; through Venice from Asia.

So tonight I began with an insalata di Speck: bacon salad. Lettuces, thin-sliced raw smoked bacon, and pickled zucchini, in a sweet-sour dressing. Then, Cjasons: something between ravioli and pot-stickers, filled with a sweet-savory mixture involving potato, mint, lemon-balm, cheese, and raisins. Afterward, Frico: potato and cheese cooked into a sort of thick pancake, served with a buckwheat polenta. Finally, a mixed salad of lettuces and grated carrot, simply dressed at the table.

This is heavy going, no doubt: cucina povera; peasant cooking. It's mountain food, and we were near snow today. It's a far cry from the simple fish and cichetti of Venice, but it's very much Veneto. What an interesting, complex world this is, and how beautifully it's expressed in its local cuisines!
White wine in carafe
• Albergo Cristofoli, Treppo Carnico, Friuli

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Cucina povera

Treppo Carnica, June 2, 2011—
A VACATION FROM VENICE, not entirely voluntary: it's such a busy weekend our apartment had been rented out for this weekend a year ago, so we have to get out of town. Let's go to the mountains!

We rented a car and, having consulted the Slow Food guide Locanda d'Italia, which lists "slow" places in the country (and the cities) where quality of life trumps trendiness, drove a couple of hours north deep into Friuli, a part of Italy we've never explored. I'll write elsewhere about the town, the albergo, and the area — if I pry myself away from the table.

Having lunched in the car, in a way, we had to wait for dinner to find out what we'd got ourselves into. Heaven, I think. I started with a magnificent plate of salumi: prosciutto, guanciale, salami, and bresaola, with a couple of hot little peppers stuffed with anchovy paste. My pasta was soft and delicate gnocchi flavored with silene, which grows wild as a weed but is harvested as a vegetable. (Lindsey had delicious little soufflées flavored with the same herb, for her antipasto.

My secondo was a simple slice of roast veal, nicely cooked, salted, and flavored with its own meat, with mashed potatoes on the side; and a simple green salad and the local cheese — both fresh and two years old — finished things off. What a fine dinner. "Cucina povera e semplice," the cook said to us — simple, poor people's cooking. "Ma cucina buona," we replied.
White and red wine in carafe
Albergo Cristofolo, Treppo Carnico, Friuli

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Campiello della Pazienza, June 1, 2011—
WE SPENT THE DAY at the Biennale today — well, partly at the Biennale, partly walking there and back: probably three miles each way, what with getting turned around and all. That works up an appetite, but the art took some of it away: and then, there aren't that many places to eat much more than a sandwich around there.

So that's what we did: ate a sandwich. A tartaruga, in fact; a turtle. Not a real one, of course: a sandwich on a bun whose general shape and size apparently looked like a tortoise to someone. Ours had prosciutto and brie and arugula in it, and on the side I asked for a bowl of small-leafed arugula which we oiled and salted. Not bad. Not memorable, and I didn't take note of the name of the place; but not bad.
White wine in carafe

Back home, finally, we had prosciutto and a delicious little melon from Sicily; then penne with butter, olive oil, and sage; and for a special treat a dessert: an apricot jam crostata from a shop down the street.
Fragolino as an aperitivo; Prosecco spento