Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Day on the road

Eastside Road, July 31, 2012—
BREAKFAST: A FINE cappuccino, but no decent pastries. Still, a fine cappuccino, good enough to have another, thanks to that good Temple roasted down the hill in Sacramento. Oh well: eating's not everything; after all today's Tuesday, and we haven't fasted in weeks…
• Café Mekka, 237 Commercial st, Nevada City; (530) 478-1517

…a couple of handfuls of walnuts in the car, and a fig bar or two. Then, at home in the evening, our own version of guacamole, and a Cornish pasty bought this morning in Grass Valley, famous for them. A little saltier than remembered, but a nice short crust and good meat-potato balance inside. Green salad afterward; and then a fine melon.
Salice Salentino, 2010
• Cousin Jack Pasties, 100 S Auburn St · Grass Valley
(530) 272-9230

Monday, July 30, 2012


Nevada City, California, July 30, 2012—
I DON'T KNOW WHY anyone would put any kind of melon in a green salad dressed with vinaigrette, let alone watermelon: I really don't. And yet, a woman at our table seemed to think it not only acceptable but completely normal. Thus are we reminded of cultural provisionality.

So here is a photograph of a salad of (mostly) arugula, dressed relatively benignly though with sesame seeds, yet with chunks of watermelon strewn atop. Not a serious problem; easy to avoid.

Afterward, a BLT: bacon, lettuce, and tomato — I'd asked the waiter to instruct the kitchen to withhold the avocado slices — on white bread, with a kind of aïoli. Not, taking everything into consideration, bad.
local red wine
Jernigan's Tap House & Grill, 123 Argall Way Nevada City; (530) 265-6999

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Gresham Street, Ashland, July 29, 2012—
LAST NIGHT OF OUR WEEK here in Ashland, where we stay every year with three other couples, as I mentioned yesterday. The Ashlanders, I call us. Four very different couples, with otherwise different enthusiasms and preoccupations, coming together for this purpose and, as an entire group, occasional dinners, maybe quarterly, back home in Sonoma county.

Tonight we ate at what can only be called a roadhouse, a kind of restaurant we like to patronize maybe once a month or so — we have a very informal monthly roadhouse schedule with one of the other couples, in fact. It's the kind of place for a Martini, a steak, and a salad, and that's exactly what I had. Okay green salad, with chick peas and croutons and a decent vinaigrette. Okay grilled top sirloin, buttered, with decent french fries and rather nice sautéed vegetables.
Chianti Classico, Rocca delle Macìe, 2009: characteristic, balanced
• Omar's, 1380 Siskiyou Blvd, Ashland; (541) 482-1281

Six of the eight Ashlanders, outside New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro:
Marjorie, Rhoanne, Gaye, your blogger, John, Mac.
Lindsey's holding the camera; Stefan's off in the bushes somewhere.

New Sammy's pig

Gresham Street, Ashland, July 28, 2012—
APOLOGIES FOR THE PHOTO: this is a difficult place to take photos in. What you're looking at is a plate of suckling pig, roasted and then perhaps braised a bit, I wouldn't know, with a circle of delicious creamy polenta, and garnished with olives, onion, little peas, and fresh corn; oh my it was delicious. Before it we'd had, as an amuse-gueule, a little cup of sorrel soup; and then I'd had a plate of salad and prosciutto and cooked dried figs. Dessert, of course: caramel ice cream on a slice of panforte.
Collio, 2010 I think, soft yet direct and full; Beaujolais, Domaine Dupeuble, 2010: light, of course, present, pretty.
• New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro, 2210 South Pacific Highway, Talent, Oregon; (541) 535-2779

Italian comfort food

Gresham Street, Ashland, July 27, 2012—
THIS RESTAURANT ISN'T new; I think we've been here before; but it's off the beaten track, hiding you might say in the middle of a block behind a typical Ashland shingled bungalow, and we hadn't been here as a group, we eight Ashlanders who rent a house here every summer for a week of playgoing, eating, drinking, and generally getting on each other's nerves or not. So we walked by and took a look at the menu: "Italian comfort food," L. said, and we proposed it to the others, and dined here tonight.

It's a four-course fixed-price menu, the price varying with the secondo, and you can eat à la carte if you like. I started with a generous salad: cannelini, asparagus, peppers, marinated artichokes, zucchini slices, provolone — a typical Italian antipasto, I suppose, senza salume.

Next, simple ricotta-filled ravioli in a brown-butter sauce with crisp fried sage leaves. This is a favorite dish of mine; I love crisp fried sage leaves.

Then, arista — pork loin, roasted with garlic and salt, sliced thin, served simply. This is a classic Italian dish, and was served with no apology or explanation whatever, and it was perfect, with the requisite salt and black pepper and its own fine juices.

I passed up dessert — others said the tiramisu was very good — in favor of a grappa. I asked for a teeny glass, and that was what I got, and I was happy.
Pinot Gris, Brandborg (Umpqua Valley, Oregon), 2010: bland, professional; Gavi di Gavi, Principessa Gavia (Piemonte), 2010: good character, good acid-grape balance
Cucina Biazzi, 568 East Main Street, Ashland, Oregon; (541) 488-3739

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Gresham Street, Ashland, July 26, 2012—
DINNER AT HOME tonight, seven of us around the table — the eighth off her feed: particularly unfortunate, since the menu had been her devising. We had salmon poached in white wine with lemons and herbs; and a big salad of barely cooked broccolini, green beans, and cauliflower; and Brandywine tomatoes; and bread with tomato salsa; and avocados; and for dessert, homemade affogati, vanilla ice cream in coffee. What more would you want? A hilarious play: George Kaufman's Animal Crackers. And so to bed.
"Ipsum" (Verdejo/Viura, 2010 (very nice, light, refreshing); Grenache rosé, Abel Clément, 2011 (good flavor, solid); Aglianico, Beneventano (Sicily), 2009 (rather dull and flat)

Nous nous amusons…

Gresham Street, Ashland, July 25, 2012—
IT TURNS OUT that most of the restaurants in this town are owned by a single family. Well, "most" is an exaggeration: but most of the ones we've been gravitating toward: Pasta Piatti, Mix, Sesame, Amuse…

This interests us because it's an interesting process, finding a restaurant that 1) four couples can agree on 2) can accommodate eight diners at a table 3) and serve them dinner by eight o'clock. (We generally have a play to get to after dinner.)

Tonight we settled on one of the high-end, white-tablecloth restaurants in town. I've mulled over that "white-tablecloth" description before. It's not completely satisfactory; lots of places have white linen these days (whether linen, cotton, or polyester being another matter). I mean by the category a restaurant with a certain standard of service, a certain knowledgeability about food, a certain attention to finish.

We began, for example, with a choice of still or sparkling water. Amuse-gueules appeared once our orders had been taken, introduced discreetly lest there be among us a diner or two unfamiliar with the concept. (I quite recommend the Wikipedia entry on the subject.) There was none, of course. We'd expect a restaurant called Amuse to offer amuse-gueules. Mine was a small cup of quite nice tomato-red pepper soup.

I started with a salad: shaved fennel, narrow-leaf arugula, a gently hard-boiled egg halved, with Meyer lemon dressing and a little bit of pickled onion; a nice salad that I'd have preferred tossed rather than layered.

Then an enormous pork chop grilled over wood, with flageolets, collard greens, a very nice piperade, garnished with some thick pieces of tasty bacon. A chop this size is hard to grill to my taste; this one seemed a little dry, cooked perhaps too slowly. The flavor was first-rate, judiciously salted, and the vegetables very nicely done. This is, to my awareness, the best upscale restaurant within the city limits.

Sauvignon blanc, Kriselle Cellars (Oregon), 2010 (light, undistinguished); Côtes du Rhône, Clos du Caillou "Vielles Vignes," 2009 (rich and deep)
Amuse Restaurant, 15 N. First Street, Ashland, Oregon; 541.488.9000

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

'Chokes and 'taters

Gresham Street, Ashland, July 24, 2012—
WE VISITED the quite fine farmers' market here this morning and made a haul — broccolini, salad, blueberries, garlic, a bottle of California oive oil, and these delicious new potatoes and artichokes, among other things. Time for Potatoes My Way:

Scrub the potatoes and cut them all to the size of the smallest one. Roll them around in a little olive oil in a roasting pan; then sprinkle them with salt and rosemary.

Meanwhile, trim and halve the little artichokes — they were about the size of my thumb. Rub them with the surface of a cut lemon as you work, and add them as you work to a bowlful of lemon juice and water. When all are done, toss them dry in a dishtowel, then add them to the potatoes, with a little more salt if you like.

Set them in a 350° oven for as long as it takes, shaking them around from time to time, and covering with foil if necessary to keep the artichokes from getting too brown.

With these, sweet Italian sausages and a green salad. What a delicious sweet summery taste!
Sauvignon blanc, Kenwood, 2011; Pinot noir, Fat Cat (Napa), 2011: light, flavorful.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tuna and cannelini

Ashland, Oregon, July 23, 2012—
AFTER A WEEK of truly rewarding but somewhat disorderly eating and drinking, and after a day of driving three hundred miles, we didn't want a whole lot of dinner.

I settled for a classic: tuna and white bean salad. The tuna was grilled to my satisfaction, which is to say very lightly, as you see, and it was first-rate. The salad was a revisionist one, though, with few beans and those Small Whites, not really cannelini; and the tuna was strewn about with sesame seeds, which are certainly not a part of the classic Italian repertory, not in my experience at any rate.

Still, this was a fine summer supper, with lots of decent bread to dip into olive oil and sprinkle with salt; and the dessert was just what we wanted: an affogato — which the establishment had apparently not heard of, but was happy to assemble from an espresso and a scoop of espresso ice cream.
Vernaccia di San Gimignano, 2010; Monica, Arciolas "Perdera," 2008 (a fine savory red, a real bargain here)
• Pasta Piatti, 358 E Main St, Ashland; (541) 488-5493


Looking into the Secret Society
Portland, Oregon, July 22, 2012—
ONE DOES NOT LIVE on bread (or lardo) alone; one must from time to time drink. This is a fine eating town, but it is equally fine when it comes to drinking. The kids — I mean by that our grandchildren living here — have a favorite place, and we spent a little time this last evening here.

You go up a flight of stairs to the second floor of what must a century ago have been a local social-club building, now housing a good neighborhood restaurant on the ground floor. At the top of the stairs, a landing big enough for a couple of love-seats and a low table, in case you need to wait for a table in the bar — very likely: it's small, and popular.

The bar is short but well stocked, and there are six or eight tables to sit at, in proper and comfortable wooden chairs: you may want to linger.

From the list of house cocktails it took only a moment to decide on the Hankypanky: Gin (sorry: don't recall the brand), Antica Formula Vermouth, Fernet Branca, with a goodsized twist, served up.

This was truly delicious, with the ingredients in perfect balance, and our conversation was fascinating, so I had another.

• The Secret Society, 116 NE Russell St., Portland; tel. 503-493-3600

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Portland, Oregon, July 21, 2012—
WE'RE A DISORDERLY group, I confessed to the nice young man behind the counter, Please be patient with us. He was, and the ten of us got our orders in relatively quickly, and sat at a couple of tables with our drinks. Little by little the food arrived, and it was, well, here's that word again, delicious.

I settled for grilled mortadella with provolone, marinated peppers, and a nice mustardy aïoli, on a ciabatta bun from Fleur de Lis, one of the many good bakeries in this fortunate city, with a side of french-fries heightened with herbs and Parmesan, and another of cold marinated broccoli rabe with red-pepper flakes. A fine lunch.
Fernet and soda; Peroni beer
• Lardo, 1212 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland; (971) 269-5853

Friday, July 20, 2012

Birthday dinner

Portland, Oregon, July 20, 2012—
SEVENTEEN OF US, I think, at table, all but eight of them descendents of ours, children and grandchildren, gathered at the table of an uncommonly generous and patient inlaw-of-sorts, our son's wife's mother's husband, who, with his daughter and son-in-law put on a wonderful spread.

We began in the front yard, with dips and crackers and cheese and guacamole and tomatoes and such, while Philippe was manning the grills where dozens of sausages, bell peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants were being readied for the next course.

Then à table! We moved inside for the Sausage Dance, Pavel's perennial rite, in which all join hands and dance counterclockwise around the table, then clockwise, chanting
Sau-sage! Sau-sage! We are going to Eat… You!
And then the corn on the cob, the sausages, the potato salad…

Then the green salad, of course; and finally the birthday cakes, two of them, one lemon, the other chocolate… it always takes me by surprise, how well lemon and chocolate marry…
Rosé, red…

Barley soup

Barley soup in production
Portland, Oregon, July 19, 2012—
SOMEWHERE AMONG THESE metaphorical pages there must be a comment or two about barley, a favorite grain of mine. I remember liking the taste of it in the late 1940s, when I occasionally munched on a small handful of rolled barley that we bought by the sack to feed to the pigs. In spite of the pigs, I associate the flavor of barley with cleanliness, almost with vanilla — sweet, clear, calm, spacious.

Lindsey found a book the other day: Zuppe: Soups from the kitchen of the American Academy in Rome, The Rome Sustainable Food Project, by our friend Mona Talbott, who presided over the Academy kitchen for a number of years. Last night she and Giovanna made this Minestra di zucchine, orzo e bieta: zucchini, barley and chard soup, involving zucchini with their flowers, a couple of small onions and a clove of garlic, olive oil and Parmesan, and yesterday's friend marjoram, yes yes. It was delicious, a perfect summer soup.

No need for a green salad after this leafy minestra: let's have some fine cheeses instead!
Cheap Pinot grigio

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Portland, Oregon, July 18, 2012—
A FAIR AMOUNT OF TALK about marjoram while dinner was being prepared. I guess Giovanna has it planted in the garden; I know we do, at home. It's one of my favorites, she said; me too, I answered. I have no doubt about individual differences in taste receptors (and taste reception as processed in the brain, for that matter); why shouldn't some of those differences be genetically linked, and passed from father to daughter?

Marjoram is the first herb I recall being attuned to. This happened sometime between 1945 and 1952, during the seven years my family lived on a broken-down farm; but I know the marjoram in question was not fresh; it was store-bought, probably the Schilling brand; and I had added it to a can of Le Sueur brand English peas, perhaps with a few tatters of torn-up lettuce. I'd got this idea from reading something, who knows where: in those days the only magazine that arrived was Farm Journal, and I doubt the recipe was in its pages. Perhaps in a newspaper.

Tonight we have orecchie, little ear-shaped pasta, if your ear is disfigured. Giovanna cooked some tuna pieces in a canned-tomato sauce that also involved capers and minced onion: as you see, marjoram is strewn atop. A few grinds of salt and pepper, and you have a fine meal; green salad afterward, of course.
Verdejo, Hermanos Lurton (Rueda), 2010; Barbera d'Alba, Ca' del Sarto, 2009

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Portland, Oregon, July 17, 2012—
QUINTESSENTIALLY FRENCH, though not the least Parisian, the crêpe is one of those perfect dishes — though God knows it can be abused: for example, with Nutella, or pineapple, or bananas. There are of course fine sweet crêpes; the Suzette perhaps best among them. But I like the savory ones best.

I've found three perfect crêperies: a cart that used to stand on the Boulevard St. Michel at the entrance to the Luxembourg Gardens; a restaurant-style place up on Montmartre, also in Paris; and Chez Erik, a truck that parked on the beach in Papeete. At all three I always ordered my favorite: épinards-oeuf-gruyère, spinach with grated Gruyère and an egg, cooked on the crêpe-iron, the buckwheat batter poured over it, then turned, the cooked spinach spooned on top, and the circular crêpe finally brought to a square by folding its rim four times toward the center.

Did those places drizzle crème fraîche across the top of the finished crêpe? Aucune idée. A crêpe hardly needs it, seems to me; but it's a nice touch.

Years ago a nice little place opened in San Francisco, with the charmingly Breton name Ty Couz: haven't been there in years; don't know if it's still there, or if it's held up. Even further back, Lindsey and I used to walk down to the other end of our block, on Francisco Street, to visit David and Alice, who cooked delicious crêpes; then the four of us would walk back up to our apartment, where Lindsey would make a delicious dessert — and so was born Chez Panisse, according to one version.

Tonight's crêpe was quartered rather than squared, as you see. It was light and delicate, I thought, and beautifully balanced inside. I'd have preferred the egg a little more runny, and incorporated inside the crêpe, but I'm not complaining. This is a good place.
Lillet Spritzer (Lillet, Herbsaint, Cava: sparkly and refreshing: a rich man's cider)
Suzette Crêperie, 3342 Southeast Belmont Street, Portland; 503.546.0892

Monday, July 16, 2012

Bean soup

bean soup.jpg
Portland, July 16, 2012—
JUST A SIMPLE HOMEMADE bean soup, enlivened with chopped sorrel and lovage from G's garden, and chopped onion of course, and a little olive oil floated on top. Refreshing and sustaining. Green salad afterward, with Emma's careful vinaigrette: oil, toss; salt, toss; vinegar, toss.
Cheap Vinho verde

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Evoe at closing time
Portland, July 15, 2012—
YOU CANNOT PERSUADE ME, no you cannot, that the Latin shout of joy evoe! is not cognate with the word used in Czech when answering the telephone: ahoy! (Both come from the Greek εὐοῖ, according to Wiktionary.)

foiegras.jpg The Bacchanalian rally-cry is also the name of a restaurant we like here in Portland, where tonight six of us gathered for a feast:
Foie gras with fig-anise bread and gooseberry sauce;

fave.jpgroasted fave with red salt and pepper;

salmon.jpgsweet delicious salmon made into gravlax in house;

meat.jpgtwo platters of charcuterie (of which only one is shown here) involving coppa, prosciutto, jamon de Serrano, various patés, and salume;

cogollos.jpgand cogollos, grilled halves of romaine, with soft cheese crumbles and a terrific anchovy sauce. Oh: And their marvelous gallego, a canned-sardine sandwich with piperade, which I loved exactly a year ago here.

This is a wonderful place, casual, comfortable, intimate: the only fault is its early closing hour. You want to hang out all night.
Prosecco; Albariño
• Evoe, 3731 Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, Portland; (503) 232-1010


Portland, Oregon, July 14, 2012—
DINNER AT HOME tonight, though not my own home, comforting after another long day on the road. A simple dinner, and very satisfying: spaghetti dressed with crushed anchovies warmed with garlic, sprinkled with parsley and Parmesan; and a green salad afterward, with soft velvety lettuce from the back yard.
Pinot grigio and Verduzzo, Masi "Masianco" (Veneto), 2009: soft, fragrant, supple, delicious

New Sammy's lamb

lamb chop.jpg
Talent, Oregon, July 13, 2012—
FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH it may be, but it's always good fortune to be in this cozy dining room, one of three or four in the old building, with the cheerful cow wallpaper, the shelves of books and bottles, and the friendly service.

The amuse was a delicious paté on a sliver of rough rye bread, just the right proportions for all the textures and flavors to lock in together. Then a complex first-course plate: a soft, beautifully textured vegetable mousse surrounded by a mirepoix of crisp or barely cooked fresh vegetables from the garden.

Then, how could I resist it, these lovely local lamb chops, grilled just au point, with a creamy risotto laden with peas, asparagus, and favas, each preserving its own texture and flavor but contributing to a rich, perfectly integrated dish.

Dessert: salt caramel ice cream with pecan torte slices. Memorable.
Champagne; Bordeaux, 2010
• New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro, 2210 South Pacific Highway, Talent, Oregon; (541) 535-2779

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Santa Rosa, California, July 12, 2012—
WE WERE OUT AGAIN tonight, third night running: movie, opera, movie. And a bite with a couple of old friends before the movie, to save time otherwise spent shopping, cooking, etc., etc. — because, as you'll soon see here, we hit the road tomorrow.

I warmed up with a not-Caesar salad. It's listed on the menu as "hearts of romaine with garlic croutons and Parmesan dressing": it lacks anchovies and raw egg, so it's no Caesar, maybe a Cesariot, if you know your Pagnol. Still, a refreshing salad; and afterward a pizza with tomato sauce, grated cheese, prosciutto, a couple of eggs sunny side up, and a few stalks of delicious thin asparagus. This joint is celebrated locally for its pizza: I thought it a little heavy and undercooked, but I'd go back for another one of these days.
Sauvignon blanc: Whitehaven, Marlborough (New Zealand), 2010: fresh, grassy, dry, pleasant
• Monti's Rotisserie & Bar, 714 Village Court, Santa Rosa; 707.568.4404


Eastside Road, July 11, 2012—
TOO MUCH TO DO around here to fix a dinner, so we ate plums and peaches from the garden for lunch, then, after dinner, toast and rillettes with an ear of corn and a carrot for supper.

When I was a kid there was occasionally a can of deviled ham — I'm not sure why. I think it's America's version of the classical French pork rillettes. Rille
is, according to Witkionnaire, a regional word for the pork taken from along the backbone, what we'd call pork loin: chop the meat, mix it with pork-fat, salt it and age it.

Our local sausage genius Franco Dunn sells it often at the Healdsburg market, and oh boy is it good on toast.
Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon, "Révélation" (Pays-d'Oc), 2010: serviceable, sound, cheap

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Duck leg.jpg
Eastside Road, July 9, 2012—
SOMEHOW, NOTWITHSTANDING that ear of corn on the plate, dinner seems Parisian tonight. Lindsey braised a duck leg from a nearby farm, and separately a small sweet cabbage from next door, sliced, cooked in butter, and combined with a couple of leftover steamed potatoes and some chopped shallots. I suppose it was the butter, shallots, and duck leg that combined to the Paris effect; in any case, delicious.

Next time, though, she says, she'll confit those duck legs. They were in fact pretty damn tough!

For dessert, plums and nectarines from the garden… our plum tree has given us about ninety pounds so far, in spite of blue jays and squirrels.
Côtes du Rhone, Seguret, Domaine de la Garnacière, 2005: fruity, rich, supple

Hamburger party


photo: Kaija Cornett
Eastside Road, July 8—
EVE'S BIRTHDAY TODAY — how'd twenty-nine years go by so fast — and she's far away in Wisconsin. Well, we made do without her, with a little party on the lawn down the hill, for which T had made lots of delicious side vegetable dishes: zucchini, and kale, and broccoli; and E stood over the Weber grilling hamburgers and chicken, and eight of us toasted the distant celebrant as another fine summer day faded into the night…
Carignan, Preston of Dry Creek, 2010 (big and delicious)


Eastside Road, July 7, 2012—
A FRIEND DROPPED BY for conversation and a Martini, and we prevailed on her to stay for dinner, to celebrate…

Ceviche! Lindsey'd run across this recipe in a recent column by David Tanis, and Dave the Fish Guy, at the Healdsburg market, had a nice solid local halibut yesterday. The result was a delicious, refreshing, summery light supper, everything local —
Berries and ice cream.jpg
including Nancy Skall's unparalleled stawberries and black raspberries, given added depth by the occasional mulberry from our own tree.

(Well, the ice cream came from a bit further down the road: Straus, our favorite store-bought ice cream these days.)
Rosé, Moulin de Gassac, 2011

Pork chop

Pork chop.jpg
San Francisco, July 6, 2012—
DOWN TO THE BIG City, with its capital "C," as we Berkeleyans always were taught to call it, here to see Mozart's The Magic Flute with a friend, and first to enjoy a Martini and an early supper at a favorite spot, too long neglected.

I first came here shortly after it opened, back in the 1980s I think. Since then, and for quite a while now, it's been under different management, shared by our old friends Judy Rodgers and Gilbert Pilgram. But it remains friendly, open, well lit, and a little bit eccentric; and I do like it.

The Martini was fine, just as I'd ordered it, three to one with a twist. Then I went on to in-house cured anchovies with celery, Parmigiano, and olives, a standby here; and then this delicious pork chop accompanied by slow-roasted onion, kale salad, and breadcrumbs. Caramel ice cream's on the list? Fine: make me an affogato of that, please, and I'll be awake all through the opera!
Vermentino di Gallura, Piero Mancini (Sardinia), 2010: clean, bright, accurate
Zuni Café, 1658 Market Street, San Francisco; 415-552-2522

Thursday, July 5, 2012

West of Marseille

Berkeley, July 3, 2012—
NO FAST TODAY, no indeed: we're in Berkeley; let's go to the restaurant. Chef's putting on menus from the south of France, "west of Marseille." Nîmes, that means, and the Camargue. We can fast tomorrow.

salad.jpgWe began with salad: green beans and cucumbers tossed with cherry tomatoes, basil, and crisp-fried little anchovies, in a drizzle of soft olive oil.

Then risotto — why not? the Camargue's noted for its rice — with roasted squid stuffed with breadcrumbs, squash blossoms, and scallions, a colorful dish with a fine mix of textures…

pork.jpgThen pork loin from the spit, in its rosemary-laden jus, and accompanied by a quick braise of peppers, zucchini, and eggplant — yet the effect was French, not Italian. Well, maybe a teeny bit Comté de Nice. Oh: and those marvelous little potatoes, buttery, crisp-edged, soft-centered…

clafouti.jpgThen, taking us back west of the Rhône, cherry clafoutis, one of my very favorite desserts, with a scoop of Kirsch-flavored ice cream. A marvelous dessert, just like Lindsey used to do in the old days.

We ate at my favorite table downstairs, in the kitchen, between the pastry and the salad stations, attentive to the intense yet easy focus this fine crew brings to its work. What a pleasure; what a distinct pleasure.
Txakoli, Ameztoi (Basque) (herbal, very dry, spritzy, very pleasant); Languedoc, Château La Roque Clos des Bénédictins (Marsanne, Roussanne), 2010 (smooth, deeply flavored, rather unctuous, perfect); Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Azienda Agricola Cos (Sicily), 2009 (a favorite winery of ours, beautiful varietal character, carefully made yet full of personality, deep, long-lasting)
• Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; 510.548.5525

Monday, July 2, 2012

Risotto; first corn on the cob

Eastside Road, July 2, 2012—
IT SEEMS FOREVER since we last had risotto — glad to see it return. Lindsey made it our usual way, frying minced onions in butter and olive oil, then frying the Arborio rice, then adding white wine from an old bottle, then the stock, a ladlefull or two at a time, slowly slowly, until finally the rice can drink no more. English peas in it, just like Milan.

We had the first ears of corn of the season tonight, too. I like a few drops of olive oil on mine, and a few crumblings of good sea salt; nothing more needed. Green salad, of course; black raspberries and ice cream.
Cheap Soave; cheap Primitivo

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sunday salmon

Eastside Road, July 1, 2012—
WE BOUGHT THE WEEKLY salmon — well, piece of salmon — from Dave the fish guy yesterday, at the Healdsburg Farm Market, and today I built a fire of grapevine cuttings and a little mesquite charcoal and cooked the salmon fairly slow, while Lindsey chopped dill and shallots and tossed them with a bit of salt. She cooked some asparagus, too, on top of the stove — not enough fire to grill it.

A squeeze of Meyer lemon juice on the salmon, another on the asparagus. Green salad afterward, with a lemon-juice vinaigrette tonight; and a slice of yesterday's sour-cherry pie with Straus vanilla-bean ice cream; nothing more could possibly be wanted.
Cheap Soave