Friday, December 30, 2011

Ham food (reprise)

Eastside Road, December 30, 2011—
WELL, HERE WE ARE again, the ghost of Christmas past: a good-sized slab of that processed ham food, as I call it; a baked potato with a good amount of olive oil on it (no butter, sour cream, or chives in this household!), and one of the crabapples I pickled two or three years ago. Gosh, those are good, and they set off ham perfectly, processed or not.
Cheap Nero d'Avola

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Lafayette, California, December 29, 2011—
steak-frites.jpgTHIS IS THE FIRST town I remember living in, but it's changed considerably since 1940. I doubt there was a bistro in town in those days, but of course we weren't a restaurant-going family, so I wouldn't have known.

After a doughy Starbuck's croissant for breakfast and an enjoyable stroll in the Ruth Bancroft Garden I was hungry. We met an old friend from Chez P. in the 1980s at the place of her choice, also recommended by others. I had standbys: an almost authentic but not really Caesar salad (no anchovies, fluffy croutons, cut-up romaine) and a quite nice steak-frites made with hanger steak correctly grilled rare and served in a wine-flavored reduction. Nice frenchfries, too.
Pinot grigio, Scarpetta (Veneto), 2010; Malbec, Level (Languedoc), 2010
Chow Lafayette, 53 Lafayette Circle, Lafayette; 925.962.2469

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dinner at Chez Panisse

Concord, December 28, 2011—
Chickens.jpgDON'T ASK WHAT we're doing here; it's a stupid mistake. Mine, of course. But since we are here, why not stop off in Berkeley en route, for dinner downstairs?

It was delicious, of course, and the dining room looks so festive and inviting. We began with tasty green olives marinated with just the right amount of lemon zest, then went on to the table d'hôte menu:
Warm chicory salad with pancetta, farm egg and toasted hazelnuts
Steamed local ling cod and shellfish brodo
Spit-roasted Riverdog Farm chicken stuffed with herbs, ragoût of wild mushrooms
and roasted potatoes with green garlic
Apple and candied Meyer lemon galette à la mode
The whole meal was beautiful. The dining room was full; everyone seemed relaxed and enjoying the evening. I don't see how you can do any better than this, but then, I suppose I'm biased.
Vouvray, Le Mont, Sec, Gaston Huet, 2007; Sauvignon blanc, Ojai, 2010; Santenay, Lucien Muzard, Champs Claude "Vielles Vines", 2009
Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; (510) 548-5525

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Let's take the day off

Eastside Road, December 27, 2011—
TIME WE FASTED, I think, and the bathroom scale nods in agreement. So it was a piece of toast with the cappuccinos, three or four dried figs, and that handful of almonds and cashews with the evening tea. Basta così. We'll dine well tomorrow, just you wait and see…

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day

Eastside Road, December 26, 2011—
NO SURPRISE HERE: as predicted yesterday, tonight reprised last night. Baccalà, ham, roasted root vegetables, green salad, pumpkin pie. And tonight I gave that delicious baccalà mantecato a little more attention. Dio mio; che una cosa bella! Definitely one of the Hundred Plates. It even has its own website, where we learn that it dates back to 1432, when Venetian navigator and merchant was shipwrecked above the Arctic Circle, and survived on little more than dried salt cod. And so the Italians have awarded it its own Confraternity,
Perchè il baccalà mantecato non è semplice cibo. É storia, religione, avventura, segreto tramandato di cuoco in cuoco, di madre in figlia: piacere del palato, della mente, del cuore.
Because baccalà mantecato isn't simply food: it's history, religion, adventure, and secret, handed down from cook to cook, mother to daughter: a pleasure of the palate, the mind, the heart.

Well, this particular baccalà was handed up from daughter to mother, and to father too, and we're both grateful for it, from the heart.

Christmas dinner

Eastside Road, December 25, 2011—
ham.jpgROAST GOOSE, FOLLOWED closely by a prime rib beef roast, are my candidates for Christmas dinner. But when the cook suggested ham instead I didn't hesitate. Whether my advancing age, or the nature of the season, I find nostalgia creeps in at such moments, and I thought of the feast-day hams my mother used to cook, with the delicious marrowbone, and the outside scored in diamond patterns, and coated with brown sugar, and perhaps rings of pineapple, and cloves.

So we went to one of the local upscale supermarkets in search of a decent natural ham. I was shocked, shocked I tell you, to find no hams in the butcher case. There was one pork leg roast: Is that what you mean? the "butcher" asked; No, it isn't, I want a cured ham, bone in, fat on, that we can cook for Christmas dinner.

We were directed to the refrigerated help-yourself case, and there they were: precooked hams, spiral-sliced hams, curious compressed hams, none of them with fat, or skin, or bones. We chose one of the compressed jobs: it looked like an old-fashioned beehive, those hemispherical ring-marked basket-weave beehives.

Well, it was okay. It wasn't ham, I said; Yes it is, said Cook. It's ham food, I countered — a little bit sullenly, I'm sorry to say.

Other things had gone wrong. The 1984 Joseph Swan Chardonnay was past drinking — we stuck the bottle in the fridge, corked, to use in risotto next month. My pickled carrots lacked bite and salt.

macarons.jpgBut mostly things went just fine. Our guests from down the hill brought spoon bread fixings (and cooked it for us in our kitchen) and a lovely baccalà mantecato to have with a bottle of Frexeinet as an appetizer. Cook made a fine roast vegetable
dish with carrots, parsnips, Delicata squash, celery root, garlic, marjoram and thyme. I dressed the green salad with shallots and a marvelous new olive oil from Les Baux (thanks, Michael!). And there was pumpkin pie with hard sauce for dessert. Oh: and, again from down the hill, made from David Lebovitz's recipe, a little tower of chocolate macarons.

Good thing it was all so good, as there was plenty left over, and we'll be eating Christmas dinner all Christmas week…

Zinfandel, Ridge (Lytton Springs), 1988: a little past its prime, but fragrant and delicious

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

Eastside Road, December 24, 2011—
WE TURNED TO Franco for our vigil supper: a sausage hot enough to be chorizo, I think, sure to keep us awake even through most of that hokiest of musicals The Music Man, a curious choice for Christmas Eve entertainment. (I'm not ready to see It's a Wonderful Life again, thank you; but I'd rather see it twice than ever return to Meredith Willson's excursion.) With the sausage, some red rice from the Camargue, dark and nutty, easily up to Franco's spices; and then the green salad; and as a special treat a slice or two of a very nice light fruitcake from J'amie Patisserie, whose first-rate macaroons and panettone we've found at the Santa Rosa farm market. A quiet evening: we'll feast tomorrow.
Cheap Nero d'Avola
• J'amie Patisserie, 706.767.5027; jamiepatisserieatgmaildotcom

A day.

Eastside Road, December 23, 2011—
cereal.jpgI THINK I'VE MENTIONED this before: bog-man cereal. Red wheat, white wheat, oats, barley, in equal parts, all in whole grains. You cover it with water, bring it to a boil, turn off the fire, add a handful of raisins, cover it, let stand overnight.
Next morning you bring it back to a boil, turn off the fire, cover it for a few minutes while you make the coffee, et voilà.

Well, this time it didn't work — for the first time in decades. Reason: only wheat: no barley, no oats. Wheat from a neighbor's farm: perhaps too early harvested. Still, it was delicious.

Lunch was tea and too many delicious cookies — after all, it's Christmas — at a friend's.
Dinner: The rest of yesterday's chicken soup, heightened by the addition of some pesto found in the back of the freezer — I hate to think of what may still be lurking there. End of year thing. Still, it was delicious, and followed by green salad.
Cheap Pinot grigio

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chicken soup

Eastside Road, December 22, 2011—
EVERYONE KNOWS IT as the cure-all, the family comfort, the perfect combination of nourishment, sympathy, and reassurance. Chicken soup. A dead bird in a hot bath, with a few aromatic vegetables to make it palatable.

Turns out a plastic container at the back of the freezer was filled with chicken meat, shredded from who knows what bird, on who knows what date. A box of organic chicken broth, a few carrots, a potato, the tops of the leeks we had, let's see, when, thirteen days ago.

But we'd begun with pork rillettes on toast, and ended with mâche in a shallot-and-sherry-vinegar vinaigrette. You can do worse than this.
Cheap Pinot grigio; Barbera d'Alba, La Loggia, 2010

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Osso buco

Eastside Road, December 21, 2011—
WE LOOKED AT THE MENU yesterday, and I thought about it from time to time today, and when we sat down in the restaurant and looked at the menu again there was no doubt. I mean, it's been twenty degrees Fahrenheit at our front door every morning for a week. This is osso buco season.

Wikipedia sums it up neatly:
a Milanese specialty of cross-cut veal shanks braised with vegetables, white wine and broth. It is often garnished with gremolata and traditionally served with risotto alla milanese.

There are two types of ossobuco: a modern version that has tomatoes and the original version which does not. The older version, ossobuco in bianco, is flavored with cinnamon, bay leaf and gremolata. The modern and more popular recipe includes tomatoes, carrots, celery and onions. Gremolata is optional.

Tonight's version was nothing if not revisionist. Read the menu description, which I overlooked on first viewing:
ACE Hard Cider braised pork, fennel seed gremolata, red cabbage & apples, crème fraiche spaetzle

Pork, not veal. Cider, not white wine. Red cabbage and apples. Why call it osso buco?
Still, it wasn't unpleasant, and the spaetzle were a nice touch. But you know? I think I'll make osso buco one of these days soon…
Zinfandel, Hawley "Ponzo Vineyard," 2010
• Zin Restaurant, 344 Center Street, Healdsburg; (707) 473-0946

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Sole almondine"

Eastside Road, December 20, 2011—
sole.jpgI DON'T KNOW WHY I ordered it. Years ago I heard someone refer to me, not knowing I could hear, as a francophile: perhaps I am. I do think Sole almondine is one of the great dishes, though not perhaps one of the Hundred Plates. Essentially it's just sole fillets, floured, dipped in beaten eggs, cooked in butter, and sauced with almonds that have been toasted in the pan drippings, which are then combined with lemon juice and white wine.

I expected something along those lines, though I knew it would be Petrale sole, not the Dover sole this quintessentially Parisian dish really requires. What arrived, though, was a Provençal take, heavy on the lemon, even heavier on vinegary capers. The almonds were not slivered but halved, and there were too many of them. The fish was a bit dried out.

Let's not be overhasty in blaming the restaurant: I ordered badly. I knew I was ordering badly when I did it. I should have had the fish tacos. Next time I will. I did like the buttery spinach, though, and the French fries. And the flourless chocolate cake, with a couple of ice creams, was marvelous.
Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina, 2010
• Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar, 403 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg; 707.433.9191

Monday, December 19, 2011

Another birthday

Eastside Road, December 19, 2011—
THEY SEEM TO COME thick and fast, these birthdays; one year the girl's in her teens, before you know it she's a grandmother. Oh well: sweet memories; good dinners.

Tuna grilled in the fireplace tonight, with a quinoa salad, and cauliflower florets braised with olives, aïoli on the side. Interesting, enterprising, grounded, and nourishing: just like the birthday girl herself.

Oh: and dessert: Linzer torte, with a syllabub on the side. Why only once a year?
Sparkling wine, Gloria Ferrer; Sauvignon blanc, Chapelle Ste. Marie, 2010; Zinfandel, Lodi, 2008


Eastside Road, December 18, 2011—
arugula.jpgA LONG DRIVE today, and the sort of dining, to give it too fancy a name, that seems to go with that. Breakfast at Porto in Glendale: croissant, caffelatte. Bread and cheese at a rest stop on Highway 5, with a little bottle of spicy V-8. A cup of delicious ice cream at Ici in Berkeley: Candied blood orange; Panforte.
Once home, a salad of arugula, dressed simply with lemon juice, salt, and a delicious new olive oil from Les Baux (thank you, Michael); and a fried egg sandwich.
Cheap Pinot grigio

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Pasadena, Dec. 17, 2011—
WHERE TO EAT tonight; always the same question; where to eat tonight. Five of us, varying demands and desires, Saturday night, eight o'clock theater curtain.

The old friend who is coincidentally a food professional who we'd met for brunch thought it over and finally recommended a chain restaurant. Apparently Pasadena really does have a dearth of good restaurants. (I have my favorite, but the rest of the party won't agree; besides, Tre Venezie takes time; it's not best for a theater night.)

So we wound up at Il Fornaio. I had a decent small green salad with a simple balsamic vinaigrette; then a plate of tagliatelle in Bolognese. Or so promised the menu. Lindsey thought the sauce acceptable, though in need of the promised Parmagiano that never appeared. I thought it quite lacking in depth.

Bolognese requires beef, beef stock, and flavorings: carrot, thyme, wine, onion — I list these in random order, as they occur to me. Olive oil, of course. This Bolognese may have had many of these things, but it had another thing no Bolognese should know: water. It was thin and lackluster, and, sorry Lindsey, I don't think the addition of grated Parmesan would have offset its basic blandness.
Nero d'Avola
•Il Fornaio, 24 West Union Street, Pasadena; 626.683.9797

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Pasadena, December 16—
WHERE TO EAT tonight, five of us, early, on short notice, on a Friday night, in front of an eight o'clock theater curtain?

We looked at Zagat, and consulted Open Table, and settled on a place not too far away with a curious name and a reputation for good food. I had a sliced grilled hanger steak, rare, flageolets with shallots on the side. 

The steak was covered with a sort of  tomato-modulated reduction, rather nice, and came with a square of gratinéed potatoes. The green beans were a tad undercooked and salty, like the steak, but pleasant enough. Only the casual service detracted from a competent meal out. 

Noir Food and Wine Bar, 40 N Mentor Avenue, Pasadena

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Poached chicken

Ojai, December 15, 2011—

OUR DEAR FRIENDS Jim and Lisa are putting us up tonight, and acquainted us with this provocative, truly clever main course: a whole chicken, flash-poached, then flamed with lemon-based spirits. We've never tasted anything quite like it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Berkeley sans Panisse

Berkeley, December 14, 2011—
LUNCH AT A PLACE new to us, down on San Pablo Avenue: for me, Minestrone soup, then Spaghettini alla Carbonara. The soup was vegetable soup in a water base, not stock; it was not hearty enough to be called a minestrone (that "one" suffix is an augmentative, and this was a lean soup); but it was flavorful and pleasant and at the price I didn't complain. The carbonara was made with pancetta, thankfully, not bacon: but it tasted a little smoky nonetheless — domestic pancetta, I would say. Still, this was a pleasant enough lunch. No complaints.
Sangiovese by the glass, 2010
•Luca Cucina Italiana, 2057 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley; (510) 649-9718
Dinner at a new restaurant on Telegraph Avenue in a location that's housed at least five restaurants in the last dozen years. We wish this place well; it shows promise and deserves its chance to make its way. We opened with a plate of patatas braves, nicely roasted potato wedges served with aïoli and a tomato confiture; then I went on to rather too complicated a dish: steamed ling cod (very nicely done) which had been battered, in a sense, with shoestring potatoes and served with kale and crisply steamed snap peas. Dessert was a delicious Seckel pear, poached, with honey and an over-acidulated whipped gastrique, a bit too recherché for my taste.
A decent Martini; then a nice Albariño, 2010; later, a surprisingly good house-made approach to an authentic Spanish anis
•Origen, 2826 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley; (510) 848-9200

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Chicken soup

Eastside Road, December 13, 2011—
A TOUGH DAY, beginning with a root canal job and ending with helping friends move. Well, no, thankfully, it didn't end with helping them move, it ended with helping them with Martinis and chicken soup.
Ironically, she'd made the soup for an ailing friend. But said friend was taken off to hospital before the soup could be delivered, so it served as our reward — I'm pretty sure another pot of soup will be in the works by the time friend is discharged from hospital.

After the soup, a nice green salad; before and after the soup, that delicious cheese I mentioned the other day — Joe Matos's St. George, named for the Azores island he's from, and made as it's made there, I'm told. Oh: and a bait of Dreyer's Rocky Road ice cream. A nice supper.
Sauvignon blanc, Geyser Peak, 2010 (grassy, fresh, clean, tasty); Vinho verde, Gazela (characteristic, pleasant, good acid balance); Merlot, Tony and Lorraine Vicini, 2008 (one of the best Merlots I've ever tasted, with the true varietal presence but with body and breeding as well)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Green salad

Eastside Road, December 12, 2011—
salad.jpgIT'S JUST SO good, the mixed green salad is. Reds and greens, sweets and bitters, softs and brittles: lettuce leaves — and those of a few other herbs sometimes — combine so nicely. I made the usual vinaigrette: a fair-sized clove of garlic, crushed, then mashed with a judicious amount of salt. A generous splash of olive oil to cover the garlic; let stand for ten or fifteen minutes. Then a careful amount of vinegar. These days we're using our own, made from Zinfandel we crushed last year — strong and full of character: I might have diluted it, but, like Bartleby, I prefer not. Oh: that's Acme walnut levain on the side: I love it.
Otherwise it's a fast day, so no wine tonight: water.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Frisée aux lardons (reprise)

Eastside Road, December 11, 2011—
IMG_1524.jpgONE SUCCESS DESERVES another, I think, so today we repeated last Saturday's salad. Same type of frisée, from the same farm, bought at the same market; same bacon, shallots, olive oil. Two changes: a splash of sherry vinegar in the skillet after cooking the shallots; a guest to dinner.

Well, lunch: we sat down to eat about 1:30, got up maybe three hours later. Leek-and-potato soup; the salad Lyonnaise, cheeses and rillettes, lemon pie. I doubt we'll need supper tonight!
Cheap Pinot grigio

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Odds and ends

Eastside Road, December 10, 2011—
DOLDRUMS TODAY, with one exception. The normal breakfast: toast (though buttered this morning, which is unusual) and cappuccinos. An apple for lunch. The last of that rescued-cassoulet soup and the usual green salad for dinner, with an ice cream sundae for dessert.

The one exception was a delicious Portuguese-style cheese nibbled at a friend's house: Joe Matos's St. George cheese, which Gaye likes enough to buy a wheel at a time, and I could imagine doing the same. Delicious.
Martinis tonight

Friday, December 9, 2011

leek-and-potato soup

Eastside Road, December 9, 2011—
IMG_1511.jpgWHEN IS IT, WHEN is it not, Vichyssoise? As is often the case, Wikipedia helps out, quoting Louis Diat, the famous chef of the Ritz-Carlton:
In the summer of 1917, when I had been at the Ritz seven years, I reflected upon the potato and leek soup of my childhood which my mother and grandmother used to make. I recalled how during the summer my older brother and I used to cool it off by pouring in cold milk and how delicious it was. I resolved to make something of the sort for the patrons of the Ritz.
Aha: it's the addition of milk — or, better, cream — that turns good old peasant leek-and-potato into uptown Vichyssoise. And the whole point, originally, apparently, was to cool it.

Well, it's winter here with a vengeance, 22° every morning for the last week; the fire's been burning nonstop, and I want my soup hot. We took our principal meal at midday today, and it began with leek-and-potato soup, maigre for lacking chicken stock as well as cream, and hot, and with a toast fried in butter floating on top. Delicious. Also a plate of cheeses — Stilton, Affinois, Gruyère; with some really amazingly deep and delicious Damson jelly. And "wild" arugula dressed with olive oil and Champagne vinegar.IMG_1512.jpg

And dessert! Lemon pie! Meyer lemon pie, made in the manner of a Key lime pie, with Graham-cracker crust and softly whipped cream… You can't do much better than this…
Cheap Pinot grigio

Croque baton

Petaluma, California, December 8, 2011—
croquebaton.jpgWE ALL HAVE GUILTY pleasures. Among mine: the Croque-monsieur, which I would nominate to the Hundred Plates except that among the many variations there are too many that seem to me not to measure up. Besides, I think I've already promoted the (generic) Grilled Ham and Cheese. (One of these days I'll have to bring some order to these matters.)

The best one I've ever eaten, I think, was served to me in the bar down at the Square St. Médard in Paris, where Les Caves de Bourgogne is now. Thirty years ago this was a rougher area; the bar was more ordinary. Still, the sandwich was on good bread, Poilâne in fact.

A true croque-monsieur requires really good bread. Also four other things: decent boiled ham; decent Gruyère cheese; Béchamel sauce; and that hyphen in its name. Don't ask how it got its name; no one seems to know. The earliest mention in the literature seems to be Proust, according to the French-language Wikipedia; but in this Internet epoch all such research seems circular at best, unverifiable in general.

Now today's question is, what the hell is a "croque baton"? I'd never seen the term before today, when it showed up (as seen here, no circumflex on "bâton") on the lunch menu at this bakery we like in Petaluma. Googling suggests it's a yuppieish word referring to a pressed grilled sandwich. The Dutch make pressed grilled ham-and-cheese, and call them Tosti's (Dutch nouns ending in vowels adding the apostrophe "s" to denote plural); the Italians of course call them panini.

But baton? Why "baton"? No idea. In any case, it tasted good. It was made with chopped ham and Gruyère — the cheese had been diced, I'm pretty sure — combined with a Mornay-type sauce, put between slices of bread, buttered, and grilled. The green salad with it was clean and flavorful and nicely dressed with good olive oil and salt. No complaints.
Della Fattoria, 141 Petaluma Boulevard North, Petaluma; (707) 763-0161

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The very last of the cassoulet

Eastside Road, December 7, 2011—
YES, I KNOW, I've already told you about the last of last year's cassoulet. Fact is, Lindsey found a little something in the freezer and, thinking it was bean soup, thawed it, and lo and behold.

But there wasn't really enough of it, nor was it (probably: I haven't inquired too closely) in good enough shape, to serve as a main course, even for just the two of us. So she turned it into soup, and it was delicious, and recalled pleasant evenings gone by.

Then on to Franco's sausages — tonight, a fine, redolent cotecchino, which always makes me think of Paolo, so dearly does he love it — and, of course, a green salad, dressed with oil and lemon juice. A simple supper, welcome after yesterday's fast.
Cabernet sauvignon, Hamilton Block (Coonawarra), 2009

Monday, December 5, 2011

Cannellini and salmon

Eastside Road, December 5, 2011—
beans salmon.jpgTIME TO BEGIN CLEANING out the garden, getting ready for next year. I picked the last of the cannellini the other day; Lindsey cooked them tonight, with thyme, marjoram, and savory. These herbs are subtle. I thought I detected sage, but it was the savory that had thrown me off. The summer savory, true friend of the bean, is long gone, but Lindsey has a little garden-variety savory tucked away in a border somewhere, and that did the trick, lifting these fresh dried beans very far indeed out of the ordinary.

With them, as you see, broiled salmon, one of the last pieces of the season, from out of the freezer and so a little dry but delicious nonetheless. We dressed it with salt pepper and lime juice, not lemon, as we'd warmed up with guacamole and tequila, and had a little of the lime left.

Green salad, of course; fruit, of course.
Cabernet sauvignon, Hamilton Block (Coonawarra), 2009: serviceable, friendly, screwtop

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Soup and salad

Eastside Road, December 4, 2011—
LUNCH TODAY as usual, peanut butter on toast and some fruit; then a late-afternoon party catered by Berkeley's Le Poulet, with deviled eggs, cold cuts, roast potatoes and aïoli, cheeses, and desserts. So we were content with the standby soup, sandwich, and salad for dinner: yesterday's pea soup; toast and nagelkaas; green salad with that delicious Eastside Zinfandel vinegar. Fruit, of course.
Yesterday's rosé

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Salade Lyonnaise

Eastside Road, December 3, 2011—
frisee.jpgFRISÉE AUX LARDONS : clearly one of the Hundred Plates. I can't imagine when I first tasted this absolutely perfect dish. I must have known immediately that it was perfect. Bistrot cooking at its most soigné; French cuisine at its most characteristic.

We were at the Farm Market in Santa Rosa today — in winter it's the nearest fairly complete market, with produce, bakery goods, fish and shellfish, a band that sounded like the Hot Club of San Francisco. Yael Bernier was there: we buy garlic and peppers from her at the Healdsburg market, and it's nice to know we can stay in touch out of season.

She had a beautiful head of frisée, and seeing it I was immediately struck with a strong desire for a Salade Lyonnaise. I looked it up online, to make sure I wasn't forgetting anything, and then made the dish you see here:

A little olive oil in the black iron skillet, got good and hot. Throw in some bacon you've cut into cubes: I used maybe three ounces altogether. When that's crisp, or as crisp as it can get in all that oil and bacon fat, throw in a couple of shallots chopped not too fine.

Oh! I forgot croutons! Oh well: cut a couple of thick slices of French bread, stale is better, into cubes, and toast them in a dry iron skillet with a little salt.

Meanwhile, boil some salted water; then turn it down and slide a couple of eggs into it to poach.

You've washed the frisée, yes? Then tear it apart, put it in a mixing bowl with the croutons, pour the bacon-shallot mixture over and toss, adjust for salt, distribute among the serving plates, and put a poached egg atop each one.

Afterward we had a baked potato, nothing more.
Rosé de soignée, Bergerie l'Hortus (Languedoc), 2010: crisp, fresh, clean, tasty

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fast; Erwtensoep

Eastside Road, November 30-December 2, 2011—
WEDNESDAY, AFTER TWO WEEKS of indiscretion partly excused by the national feast season that is Thanksgiving, and after having gained a number of pounds, it was time to fast, of course.

Then came two days of erwtensoep. I have to admit that much as I love The Netherlands, its culture and its people, its landscapes and its landscape, and as attracted as I am, even, to its language, I find erwtensoep an impossible word to pronounce. You leave out the "w," of course; but I think you sort of hint at it. "Air-ten-soup" doesn't quite do it justice. That "w" is a palimpsest of Proto-Germanic*, I find after a Google search, and it should be honored though not lingered over.

In any case, it's good old split pea soup. Lindsey fried up a little bit of bacon, then fried onions in it; then made the split pea soup in the usual way — but she'd found some leftover cooked kale in the freezer, and added it in: that, I think, made it Dutch. It was delicious last night, and it was just as delicious again tonight, always with a slice of toasted bread rubbed with un-Dutch garlic floating on top.
Cairanne (Côtes du Rhône), Domaine Catherine le Goeuil, 2009 (a little dull and unforthcoming)
*Proto-Germanic: *arwait=, *arwīt=
Meaning: pea
IE etymology: IE etymology
Old Norse: pl. ert-r f.
Norwegian: ert
Swedish: ärt
Danish: ert
Old Saxon: eriwit, erit f.
Middle Dutch: erwete, aerwete, arwete
Dutch: erwt f.
Middle Low German: erwete, ērt f.
Low German: pl. erwten
Old High German: arawīʒ f. (9./10.Jh.), bair. araweiʒ (10.Jh.) `Erbse, Kichererbse'
Middle High German: arwīʒ, ar(e)weiʒ, er(e)weiʒ, (spät) erbeiʒ st. f. 'erbse'
German: Erbse f.

Road food; Piperade

The road, then San Francisco, November 28-29, 2011—
IT'S DIFFICULT, these reconstructions of dinings past, even when only at the distance of two or three days. Still, one musters on.

Monday we drove a long way, leaving Portland about eleven in the morning, spending a short hour in Eugene with Penny and Gary and a slice of pizza and a salad, then driving on to Emeryville and a cheap motel. On such a day one's grateful for anything of flavor and substance, and the pizza margherita, with a Caesar salad on the side, qualified. I looked longingly at the wines available by the glass, thought about the five hundred twenty miles left to drive, and forgoddabouddit.
• Marché Provisions, 296 E 5th Avenue, Eugene, OR; 541.743.0660
Then it was on to Ashland, where we stopped for a coffee from Mix. Somewhere along the way we ate the ham sandwich we'd bought in Portland at Ken's Artisan Bakery. At our motel I settled into a glass of Cutty Sark, and so to bed.

Next day, Tuesday, we enjoyed a fish sandwich as a delayed lunch at Oakland's Sidebar, with a glass of fine white Rioja (Ostatu, Cosecha 2010, very delicious); and a dinner with friends at Piperade, where I feasted on a curious but delicious plate of local cod turned into bacalao on a bed of crème frâiche with a few oysters on top, then the piperade, sautéed Serrano ham with a poached egg atop the obligatory peppers and onions. Authentic, crisp and pointed flavors, refreshing, with a glass or two of Lagar de Cervera Albariño, 2009, and then a glass of Tempranillo, Baron de Ley (Rioja), 2004 (!), a deep, serious pleasure.
• Sidebar, 542 Grand Avenue, Oakland; (510) 452-9500
• Piperade, 1015 Battery St, San Francisco; 415.391.2555