Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Buttered barley

Portland, Oregon, December 30, 2013

DINNER AT HOME tonight, with Lindsey at the stove. She made her buttered barley, a dense, toothy pilaf of pearl barley flavored with butter and scallions, a dish I always enjoy. Green salad afterward, tonight with a lemon-juice vinaigrette.

Bottle ends: white; red 

À la française

Portland, December 29, 2013—

A QUICK DINNER tonight, sandwiched between a long afternoon movie and a drink date with friends, and the intended spot was packed to the rafters. Nothing for it but try a nearby place the Internet promised had an open table, so we wound up at a modest but rather proud little neighborhood French restaurant. 

I had this duck breast, gamy and delicious, quite rare as you see but to my taste, on a bed of white beans, with salsify, roasted mushrooms, and braised greens. Very nice

Macon white; Côtes du Rhône

• Cocotte, 2930 NE Killingsworth St, Portland, Oregon; (503) 227-2669

Sunday, December 29, 2013


Portland, December 28, 2013—

LUNCH AT AN EXCELLENT Mexican joint today: two tacos: chorizo, quite nice; barbacoan, phenomenal. A little bowl of guacamole afterward; a Margarita with. Delicious. Truly a first-rate Mexican restaurant. 

• ¿Por Que No?3524 N Mississippi Ave. Portland, Oregon; (503) 467-4149

INNER AT HOME: the fine sardines you see illustrated here. Pavel grilled them outside, while I chopped lemon zest, parsley, and garlic to sprinkle on them. With them, yet another serving of his inexhaustible "Russian salad," as described here yesterday, and then the green salad.  

Sauvignon blanc, Patricia Green Cellars, 2011: crisp, good varietal, slightly grassy 

Saturday, December 28, 2013


Portland, December 28, 2013—

WELL, ONE DOESN'T continue eating roast beef every day. Boxing Day we were content with two salads, starting with the next instalment of Pavel's Memory, whose recipe is good enough to share:

Dice fine: raw red bell pepper, celery root, onion, dill pickles, carrot

Dice less fine: apple, boiled potato

Combine, adding salt to taste and dressing (binding) with mayonnaise

The second salad was the usual green salad. With these, 

Gavi, Picollo, 2012

THEN, YESTERDAY, we were content with take-out pizza:



I thought the roasted yukon gold potatoes with taleggio, caramelized onions & pancetta was a bit on the bland side, but the one in the photo — lacinato kale with calabrian chilies, provolone picante, lemon & garlic — was truly delicious, the very judicious lemon finishing a marvelous combination. Interestingly, the thin crust was faintly sourdough, another nice touch. 

Pinot noir, Willamette Valley, 2010

Lovelys 50/50, 4039 N. Mississippi Ave. #101, Portland, Oregon; 503-281-4060

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas dinner

Portland, Oregon, December 25, 2013—

CHRISTMAS DINNER in the gracious Craftsman home of friends, and it doesn't hurt that they're friends from the food business. Let's see: we had smoked salmon with thin- sliced onions on rye bread, and Blue Point and Kumimoto oysters on the half shell, with a glass or two of Champagne, and then moved to the dining table. 

There this fine platter of sliced rib roast waswaiting for us, and beets, and mashed potatoes, and Brussels sprouts. Dinner rolls; horseradish cream. Green salad afterward, and bûche de Noël, and a formidable array of cookies, and why not a glass of Armagnac? Comes but once a year…

Côte-Rôtie, Benjamin et David Duclaux, "La Germine," 2009; serious and delicious. 

Chistmas Eve Lean

Portland, Oregon, December 24, 2013—

WE'LL HAVE MEAT enough tomorrow: tonight we make do with fish. But what a fine meal it was, beginning with a raw apple that, halved, showed the Christmas five-pointed star at its center, promising a good new year to come. (I'm told that on rare occasions the seeds make the sign of a cross instead, suggesting sorrows ahead.)

Then we had ice-cold vodka, and smoked salmon on buttered rye bread, and a handsome potato salad with apple and celery and onion carefully diced in; and tea and cookies, and games and disputation — all the fortes and faiblesses characteristic of these Zivny-Shere gatherings, for we were seven at table, none giving an inch, but all vivacious and engaged. And tomorrow we'll do it all again, this time at feast. 

Gavi, 2012

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Dinner with good friends

Talent, Oregon, December 22, 2013—

THIS IS THE SOUP that continued our dinner with friends who own one of our favorite restaurants. The photo doesn't do it justice, of course. We'd started with a perfectly delicious little piroshki, ground lamb in pastry, with beautifully flavored crisp grated beets, and then came this marvelous soup, Sibley Squasy with smoky bacom and pork belly, with sage and a few other intelligently chosen flavors.

That's the thing about Charlene's cooking: she has this deep knowledge and memory of flavors, not only the tops of the flavors but their depths as well: she can valibrate their interplays, always keeping an integrated, balanced end result in mind while she adds this, then that.

Then came the main course: sliced beefsteak duck breast, with a fine setting of vegetables — leeks, potatoes, carrot, kale, onion. And, interestingly, duck gizzards. A resourceful dish, drawing on the pantry and the garden; a sort of fast braise, a solid soup.

Dessert was an experiment in an Indian direction, involving milk, saffron, ginger, nuts, sugar, pineapple, and paneer. I liked it: it was a little exotic but nicely flavored , a counterpart to the soup that had opened the meal. We know how lucky we are to have friends like this, full of stories from interesting lives, connected to us through mutual friends and enthusiasms reaching back forty years. Everyday eating connects us all.

Vouvray pétillante, Huet, brut 2009; Moulin à Vent, vielles vignes, Hubert Lapierre, 2012

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winding down

Eastside Road, December 21, 2013—
TOMORROW WE EAT on the road; today we finish up the leftovers. I finished that wonderful cherry pie, for example, at breakfast — without ice cream, some of you will be glad to know. Lunch was bread and salami and cheese, odds and ends of cheese. Dinner, after the Saturday Martinis — which, incidentally, put paid to the gin supply; gotta replenish that! — was the last of the lean cassoulet.

And it finally brought to mind the most significant missing item: not confit; not goose flesh; not pork belly. Simply that little dotting of walnut oil. Oh well: next time.
The end of a bottle of cheap Barbera d'Asti

Friday, December 20, 2013

Catching up again…

Lemon and tangerine sherbets: here's lookin' at you!
Eastside Road, December 20, 2013—
CAN'T SEEM TO KEEP up to date these days. Well, they're short days, and busy ones. Things are bound to get under control next week, right?

Wednesday night we ate downstairs at Chez Panisse with a couple of old friends. It was a curiously conservative, old-school menu, I thought, beginning with a delicious pork terrine with black truffle, crisp-fried chanterelle slices, and frisée, then continuing with a cream of celery root soup with a float of hazelnut oil and crisp-fried sage leaves.

Then came a particularly fine-textured pork roast with soft, well-made gnocchi, with black trumpet mushrooms and wilted escarole. You may know by now that I'm a sucker for dinners whose courses re-state a theme: the crisp-fried garnishes and the presence of mushrooms tied things together even beyond the common note of pork. Lemon and tangerine sherbets restored us afterward; it was a fine, sober meal.
Prosecco, Glera, Marca Trevigiana (Liguria), 2012; Müller Thurgau, Manni Nössing (Alto Adige), 2012; Barbaresco, Produttori del Barbaresco, 2009
• Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510-848-5525
LAST NIGHT WE BEGAN the Christmas season as we have every year for the last half-century plus a bit: with a family birthday, in the birthday girl's home, just down the hill. That suggested a bottle of Champagne, after which we feasted on nice steaks cut from a pork leg, cooked on the griddle, and braised vegetables, and salad of course; and then Lindsey's almond torte frosted — very unusual, this, but very good — with chocolate icing.
Champagne, Piper-Heidsieck brut, nv; Zinfandel, Preston of Dry Creek, 2010

AND TONIGHT we dined en famille once again, with a cousin joining us at leftovers: potato-and-leek soup; that lean cassoulet from a few days back, and another romanesco in Deborah Madison's delicious sauce; the last of the very nice cherry pie.
Cheap Barbera d'Asti

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Back to Peru

Eastside Road, December 17, 2013—
THOSE ARE DELICIOUS potato croquettes: papas a la Huancaina,
Yukon gold potatos with ají amarillo‐feta sauce on butter lettuce; with chopped hard‐boiled egg and olive inside. The thin-sliced red onions, nicely salted almost to the point of pickling, added just the right touch of flavor and texture.

They were the first course of dinner at a favored local joint, with a couple of favorite old friends. I went on to Adobo de Chancho, a braised pork stew marinated with Chicha de Jora, whatever that is, and Peruvian beer and peppers, served with rice, Peruvian beans, camote frito and salsa criolla — again, whatever they are; I'm simply reproducing the online menu

Dessert: Suspiro limeño de lucuma: manjar blanco (caramel custard), topped with meringue flavored with port and cinnamon. The lucuma is an interesting fruit whose flavor is said to combine maple and sweet potato, neither particularly to my own personal taste: but it was so delicate as to elude me after the pork stew and the syrah.

We like this place. Very unassuming and straightforward, and you can hear your companions' conversation.

Syrah, McManis (Ripon)
meal.jpgSazón Peruvian Cuisine, 1129 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa, California; 707.523.4346

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Another feast

Eastside Road, December 16, 2013—
DINNER PARTY TONIGHT, and cook did herself proud. Especially considering she's immersed in preparations for the holidays, and at the same time continuing in her mad quest for a slimmed-down, cleaned-out pantry and fridge.

It was a French country dinner, beginning with a delicious potato-and-leek soup, creamy and unctuous. That was followed by a cassoulet-of-sorts, differing from the traditional version — the traditional version here, at any rate — for its much simplified meat content: instead of goose confit, cubes of pork, and sausage, she relied exclusively on Franco's sausage — Toulouse for the most part, but one or two Italian sweet sausages as well.

The beans were cooked in goose broth, though; the top was scattered with the requisite breadcrumbs; the dish was rich and filling and very persuasive. I was tempted to call it not cassoulet but something else, the feminine form of the word, but at the last minute looked that up online to be sure it didn't have a mauvais entendre, and I'm glad I did. Let's just call it Weekday Cassoulet.

Alongside, Deborah Madison's romanesco in green herb sauce: plenty of olive oil, capers, lemon zest, oregano and thyme, and for the rest see the recipe here or, better yet, get a copy of her wonderful book Vegetable Literacy. A delicious side dish.

And then dessert: sour cherry pie, with our cherries, and Lindsey's impeccable pie crust…
Sauvignon blanc, Quivira, 2012 (grassy, smooth, balanced: thanks, Mac!); Chardonnay, Marimar Torres, 1996 (deep, mature, complex, delightful: thanks, Henry!); Cabernet sauvignon, Simi, 2000 (edgy but good varietal, a little austere: thanks, Kendall!)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Turkey soup

Eastside Road, December 15, 2013—
THESE ARE THE DAYS of smaller delights at table, the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. At least that's often the way I think of them. It's almost as if we were consciously reining in, partly in the wake of whatever feasting Thanksgiving may have provided, but much more, I think, prospectively, as if our bodies were striking a defensive posture against Feasting Yet to Come.

We've been eating turkey soup. Not as much, cook tells me, as I think we have. And I'm not complaining: it's good soup. I think we're at the end of it: today I noticed the neck and gizzards sizzling away at the bottom of the soup pot.

We have other delights, of course. Lunch today involved Franco's guinea=hen terrine; you can't get a lot more delightful than that. We still have pears, and I picked a few more Pixie tangerines today, sneaking under the frost blanket.

salad.jpgThe daily green salad is always a pleasure: the garlic's showing its will to grow, and I have to cut the sprout out at its core, always thinking of Dylan Thomas…
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age…
Turkey soup, and winter thoughts. In a week we'll be elsewhere, and in the intervening week we seem to have three dinners already planned, two of them out…
Cheap Barbera d'Asti

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pork chop

Eastside Road, December 12, 2013—
DINNER IN TOWN, well, not our town, the next town, with a couple of friends. This is a curious restaurant, determinedly French, but often — as tonight — seeming like a hotel restaurant in a small provincial French town thirty or forty years ago. They know the proper techniques, but they're more dedicated to the local kitchen-garden produce, and the pigs from local farmers.

We split a house salad to begin with — lettuces, a carrot or two and segments of a beet, both nicely blanched and tender. It was well salted, nicely dressed with a mustard vinaigrette.

Afterward I had a pork chop, grilled, served with well cooked potatoes and apple sections, with a few deep-fried onion rings on top. I think there was some ginger involved, and a hint of garlic. Again, a sober, sound, nicely prepared dish, taking me back a few decades, in a very good way.

Lindsey's vanilla flan was very nice, but I chose to make dessert of a glass of Armagnac. We'd been in France, after all.
Pinot gris; Pinot noir, both local, in the glass
• French Garden Restaurant and Bistro, 8050 Bodega Ave, Sebastopol, California; (707) 824-2030

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Eastside Road, December 11, 2013—
OUR OLD FRIEND Judy Rodgers died last week, too young, after a hard year, leaving a husband, two stepdaughters, a number of friends, and a community of colleagues who respected her as uniquely gifted and devoted to her profession, which was cooking. I wrote about her on The Eastside View, and will say nothing more here.

Her monuments, apart from all the memories this community will always cherish, are her marvelous book The Zuni Café Cookbook and the restaurant whose kitchen she headed from 1987 for twenty-five years, Zuni Café.

I've written about her book here before. Judy's writing is clear, enthusiastic, and engaging; re-reading the early pages, in which she presents a bit of her own history, brings her into the room with a poignant immediacy. And we never find its recipes disappointing.

"Farrotto" is her own word, an apt one, to describe this pilaf made of the ancient grain farro, prepared like a risotto. Lindsey made it with turkey stock — some of you may have seen that coming! — and followed the recipe closely, flavoring the dish with onion, garlic, and sage as well as the dried porcini Judy specifies.

(Those porcini were a gift some long while ago — they keep for ages — from Bill Fujimoto, and reminded us of the many times we'd run into Judy at the old Monterey Market, when Lindsey was there buying fruit for Chez Panisse, and Judy was looking at produce for Zuni.)

We had a green salad with avocado afterward, and pears, and memories.
Cheap red blend, Spiral (California), 2012

Monday, December 9, 2013


Eastside Road, December 9, 2013—
AFTER THE GREAT Marmalade & Martini Marathon, did we then fast for three days? Well, not quite. Friday night, after the second day of marmalade — the more difficult day, involving cooking and bottling, half of it done with Lindsey — we were content with some bread and cheese and so on.
hot turkey.jpgOn Saturday, though, we'd recovered somewhat, and turned to the Second Thanksgiving for what leftovers we might fine. Hot Turkey Sandwich! Mashed potatoes, dressing, and gravy! Cranberry sauce! and, of course… pumpkin pie.

Sunday, though, we hit the highway for a friend's CD release party, arriving just in time for a final glass of bubbly before going out with a dozen or so members of the party to a local restaurant with a Southern theme. We had platters of spinach salad with spiced pecans, onion, goat cheese and pears and barbecued back ribs for starters; then I went on to a pulled pork sandwich with chips and cole slaw.

Unlike Eliane's CD, the dinner could have been better. On the other hand it could have been a lot worse. I may not be a fan of Southern-style cooking — though if Scott Peacock is nearby I'll gratefully include myself in.

Oh, yes: dessert: Red velvet cupcakes with a dollop of sweet cream cheese on top. My southern-plains cousins would have loved it.
"Cocina": Red blend (60% Malbec, 20% each Syrah and Bonarda), La Posta (Mendoza, Argentina), 2011: quite nice
Farmer Brown, 25 Mason St, San Francisco; (415) 409-3276

Thursday, December 5, 2013

2d Annual MarMar Event

Eastside Road, December 5, 2013—
Digging out the pips
Scooping out the flesh
Julienning the peels
WHAT DO WE SEE here? About 75 Yuzus — nearly 24 pounds, I think — in our kitchen sink. Yuzus are apparently a kind of lime, but they look more like a tangerine; they're fragrant almost like a Bergamot; they have a lot of seeds. Friends of ours have a garden-supply and housewares shop, and Yuzus are among the citrus trees they offer in pots. They are apparently quite prolific. Last year, asked what they might do with all this fruit, I suggested they bring them over for a marmalade-making party, for which I'd supply Martinis as a sort of reward for an afternoon's work.

It was such a success that we decided to do it again this year. In fact it's a two-day operation. After washing the fruit we cut them in halves, using stainless-steel knives, and dug out all those seeds. Last year we did this with the point of a small paring knife; this year we discovered an ordinary dinner-fork did the job more easily.

Then, still using the fork, we pulled the meat out of the shells. The pips were reserved in one stainless-steel mixing bowl; the meat went into another.

That done, we turned to the most tedious part of the job: cutting the empty shells into fine strips, à la julienne. Simplest way to do this: cut each half into halves again; flatten one of them onto the board, inside down, with the left hand; then, using a sharp stainless-steel knife, make parallel cuts for strips about 1/8 inch wide.

That done, we took a break for lunch: a couple of boxes of miso-and-ginger soup with a couple of handfuls of kale and chard thrown in. Delicious!

Then it was time to chop the reserved Yuzu flesh that we'd scooped out earlier. First we pressed the juice out of it, reserving it of course; then we put handfuls of the flesh on the board and chopped it roughly, removing cores, stray pips, and especially tough membranes.

At the end of the afternoon we put flesh and peel into a big 24-quart plastic container, nearly filling it, and added cold water to the brim, along with the pips, tied up in cheesecloth so we'll be able to remove them easily when they've done their work. Then we sat down with our reward: a nice gin martini, three to one, with a twist of — what else? — Yuzu. Tomorrow comes the hard part.

Oh, yes: dinner. Well, naturally, cold roast turkey, warmed mashed potatoes, dressing, and gravy, and cranberry sauce. Green salad. Pumpkin pie. A very nice day!

One more Thanksgiving…

Eastside Road, December 4, 2013—
NOW HERE'S ANOTHER THING to be thankful for: a second Thanksgiving dinner. Cook missed dressing the other night — traditional dressing, with bread cubes — and then too turkey was on sale, of course, the day after Thanksgiving; and besides, we hadn't had Henry over to dinner in quite a while…


Here's the result: the Lindsey-and-Charles traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Clockwise from upper left: dressing (you'll have to ask her about that), mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, Brussels sprouts with chestnuts, roast turkey and gravy. Green salad; goes without saying.

Did we have pie? We did: pumpkin pie; hard sauce.pie.jpgsalad.jpg
Cheap pinot grigio; Pinot noir, Josep Phelps, Freestone Vineyards, 2011 (thanks, Henry!)

Monday, December 2, 2013


Eastside Road, December 2, 2013—
WE'VE BEEN EATING a lot of meat lately, Cook said this afternoon when I asked what dinner would be; Tonight we're having vegetables. And she was right, at least on the second matter. You see them here: some Romanesco reheated, I think, from the other night, none the worse for that; and a roast stir-fry, if that makes any sense. I asked what was in it: I'll have to look, she answered. Had she really forgotten what she'd prepared?

Or, even less likely, was she protecting my tender sensibilities from the news I'd be eating butternut squash, or some other dreadful cucurbit?

I think I know what's in this mélange: zucchini, cherry tomatoes, a few garlic cloves, a carrot or two sliced crosswise, yes a bit of butternut squash lending its chestnutty texture, potatoes. The tomatoes lifted the dish beyond what might otherwise have been a winter's peasant's plate.

cheese.jpgAfterward, bread and cheese, because one needs one's protein. This is a d'Affinois, a soft creamy cow's-milk cheese rather like Brie but much fresher and younger.

And then of course the green salad; and a sliced pear — amazing how well the pears have been holding…
Cheap Soave

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Simple Sunday

Eastside Road, December 1, 2013—
AH, SUNDAY; EGGS for breakfast — and, since we had mashed potatoes for dinner last night, and had carefully not finished them all, mashed-potato-"pancakes" fried in butter to go with the soft-boiled eggs.

Supper was simple: a plate of salami, as you see here, with Kenter Canyon's fine bread, holding well a week after its purchase 400 miles to the south; and a green salad. A plate of pear and apple slices, and some chocolate.
Picpoul de Pinet, Mas de Daumas Gassac, 2011

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Market day

Eastside Road, November 30, 2013—
WELL, YOU'RE THINKING, it's Saturday, no doubt they went to market this morning; they probably bought the last lima beans of the season for the umpteenth time running, and I suppose there'll be sausage…

I certainly wouldn't want to disappoint you. This is how Lindsey cooks the sausage: nothing can be simpler. Black iron skillet, not too much heat. Turn them from time to time, of course.

The beans are cooked in butter, and those are indeed mashed potatoes, flavored with salt, pepper, and a little garlic I believe. Green salad afterward, and the last, alas, of the pumpkin pie. Tomorrow is another month.

Day after

pumpkin soup
pumpkin pie
Eastside Road, November 29, 2013—
THE DAY AFTER Thanksgiving: typically, a day for leftovers. Not for us. We began with a delicious pumpkin soup — well, okay, maybe technically that was a sort of leftover, as it was made of pumpkin left over from the making of the pie, which we'll get to a bit later.

Before it, though, Broccolini, chopped up and sautéed with garlic. Afterward, of course, a green salad, and then the one true leftover of the day, Lindsey's pumpkin pie, with a soft hard sauce (if that's not a contradiction in terms).

A quiet supper, with only a Martini before, and a Fernet and soda afterward; and so to bed.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Eastside Road, November 28, 2013—
DINNER DOWN THE ROAD with the neighbors tonight. First, in front of the fireplace, homemade crackers, cheeses, olives — what were those delicious seeds flavored with oil, pepper, salt? Don't know.

I do know we had this delicious turkey afterward. Green beans. Mashed potatoes. Yams and pecans — no marshmallows, I'm pleased to say.

Afterward, pumpkin pie. Traditional, with lots of good conversation. Family stuff. Thanks, Thérèse and Eric…
Cheap Pinot grigio (Sonia, Venezia, 2012; quite nice); Red, Spiral not bad, 2011

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Dogs and oil

Eastside Road, November 27. 2013—

AFTER THE FEASTING last weekend in Los Angeles, and fasting yesterday, today — the day before Thanksgiving — seemed a day to eat judiciously. Well, sorry to let you down. We had hot dogs

We had them the usual way: cook grilled them in the black iron skillet, turning them a couple of times, while warming the buns in the oven. With them, mustard, pickle relish, sauerkraut, and raw onions.

Those onions always remind me of my gratitude in being retired. For years it was not comfortable for me to eat raw onions; they invariably left me with an upset stomach. I tried them from time to time, of course, to verify this, and they always gave me trouble. The day after I retired, though, for some reason I was exposed to raw onions. I tried them, and for the first time in years they had no ill effect. Take what you like from this story.

On the side you see some broccolini, cooked simply with a little oil, a little water, a little garlic. And after dinner, of course, a green salad. Tonight we observed a historical breakthrough almost as dramatic as my restoration to raw onions: in the vinaigrette, our own olive oil. We picked 24 pounds of olives ten days ago, and took them to the community milling held once a year in Dry Creek Valley. Yesterday we picked up the result: our share of the community product was a half gallon of very green oil, unfiltered I believe, a little tangy, a little buttery, with a bit of a bite at the back of the throat.

You see it here in our stainless-steel salad bowl, covering a clove of garlic mashed up with salt. I use the fork for that operation, and just before serving the salad I whisk in the vinegar using the fork with a quick side-to-side motion, making a very smooth dressing. 

Then a tangerine and some dates. A good dinner.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Penne, taken out

Eastside Road, November 25, 2013—

NOT A CHANCE anyone was going to cook tonight, not after droving home from Los Angeles through two monumental traffic jams. We stopped at TJ and bought takeout — penne, as you see, in tomato sauce, with some kind of rubbery cheese. I don't recommend it. Still, in a pinch… 

Green salad afterward, of course..

Cheap Barbera d'Asti

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Factory kitchen

Los Angeles, November 24, 2013— 

One last restaurant down here before we head back north tomorrow. We'd seen two plays, and the second — a reading, actually, not a fully produced play — was called Alimento: a History of Food. Five actors and a clarinetist read, dramatically, a script culled from Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat's book A history of food (1992), a book I can't imagine why we do not own and I have not read. We'd had no lunch — it had been a complicated day, with breakfast in a good bakery across town, and then a trip to the Hollywood Farmer's Market — and by the end of the second play, nearly nine o'clock, we were ready to eat.

We'd booked at a new-to-us restaurant in the trendy factory district downtown, and there we split a nice salad involving fennel, frisée, arugula, and parsley, with thin slices of what struck me as Cara Cala oranges, and Taggia olives, and a lemon vinaigrette flavored with chili flakes. I then went on to the "porchetta" you see above: but a typical Italian porchetta it was not, though the fragrance was reminiscent of Roman roast pork at its best. 

Instead, this was — as the menu made clear — a slice of rolled-up pork belly, roasted with garlic and lots of thyme, and served with glazed red onion, carrot, fennel,, and celery. It was fragrant and delicious and extremely fat, and I loved it. With it I had ordered a plate of glazed cipolline which came in agrodolce, a sweet-sour thickened sauce any Chinese restaurant would envy. (Come to think of it, I bet this is a dish Marco Polo brought back from Cathay, along with the famous spaghetti.)

Dessert: panna cotta, with a streusel-like topping of caramelized very thin almond slices. All in all, a very pleasant place, not too lond (but of course it was late on a Sunday night), with interesting menu items and a fine wine list.

Arneis, Pio Cesare (Piemonte), 2012; Maggiorina, Le Piane (Piemonte), 2011

The Factory Kitchen, 1300 Factory Place, Los Angeles; (213) 996-6000

Catching up in Los Angeles

Living in a hotel, seeing a play almost every day (two today), driving considerable distances, and visiting the occasional museum show, it's not easy to squeeze in meals. But we manage.

Friday morning we met friends for brunch at a French-themed place not too far away (by Los Angeles standards). I'm a sucker for egg, spinach, and gruyère, so I ordered "Spinach Gruyere Pie with Poached Egg and Sliced Applewood Smoked Bacon." This turned out to be a spinach quiche in a pie-shell with a poached egg on top and a strip of bacon below, and apart from the pastry itself it was pretty tasty.

Julienne Fine Foods and Celebrations, 2649 Mission St, San Marino, California; (626) 441-2290
That was substantial enough that we opted only for bread and brie in our room later in the day and a Martini before the evening's play — a very good Endgame.

Saturday morning we tried the highly touted pastries and coffee a mile down our street, Huntington Drive. It was a perfect morning for the walk, and the cappuccino was good enough to have another. The doughnuts, though, from Snob Doughnuts ("a cup of joe and a side of dough") were fairly ordinary, and the in-house croissant seemed salty to me, though I liked its crisp, well-baked flakiness.

Taza, a social coffee house, 11 W Huntington Drive, Arcadia; (626) 538-2233

Lunch yesterday was in Pasadena, in a location that had been one of my favorite restaurants for a number of years — Tre Venezie, whose kitchen explored arcane byways of the three provinces of the Veneto. Alas, the restaurant closed a few years back. In its place, two years ago or so, a tapas restaurant opened, and a trusted source had told us it has a very good reputation. We contented ourselves with a plate of marvelously fluffy salt-cod fritters in a smooth, creamy ali-oli; a plate of padrones fried in very nice olive oil, and crema catalana with smooth, supple date sauce and a little chocolate mousse on the side.


Racion, 119 W Green Street, Pasadena; (626) 396-3090

Saturday night — last night — we had certainly the best dinner in quite a while, at a restaurant as impressive for its menu and its kitchen as it was for its sound level. We sat outside the restaurant's huge dining room, and regularly measured 90 decibels at our table. 

But the food made up for the noise. We started with two salads: "Genevieve’s Shaved Summer Vegetable Salad," little gems. housemade ricotta salata. mustard vinaigrette; and  a kale. endive. and arugula salad with a caper-anchovy vinaigrette, pecorino toscano, and  breadcrumbs.  These were beautiful salads, perfectly portioned, nicely balanced, with crisp, flavorful dressings and the right, discreet amount of cheese.

I moved on to agnolotti alla vaccinara: cacao pasta parcels with braised oxtail, burro fuso, grana padano, pine nuts, and currants — a marvelous dish, deep and resonant, rich and medieval-tasting, somehow combining culinary values of both the Veneto and Piemonte. I was very happy.

Lindsey ordered dessert, but they all looked rather equal to me, none standing out. One thing had jumped off the menu toward me, though: a veal tartare crostino, with shallots, parsley, lemon, capers, and tonnato sauce. In other words, back to Piemonte: carne crudo and vitello tonnato cleverly merged onto one plate. The waiter seemed a little surprised at first, but quickly agreed it was a perfect dessert.

Barbera di Monferrato, Zerbetta, 2011

Bestia, 2121 7th Place, Los Angeles; 213-514-5724

Friday, November 22, 2013

Firefly Bistro

South Pasadena, November 21, 2013—

WE WANTED A LIGHT supper before going to a play tonight, and remembered a place we'd liked last March. We'd forgotten that its menu ran toward the American South, and were surprised to find that Thursdays here feater Burgers, Beer, and the Blues; but we had a good time in a comfortable tented pavilion, eating early. We ordered identically: This composed salad, involving caramelized baby turnips, small grilled leeks, and blue cheese as well as the obligatory lettuces; and then a surprisingly delicious bowl of Swedish meatballs, very nicely spiced ground pork and beef (more like veal, actually), on a bed of fried grated potatoes, in a pool of very nice cream sauce, a bit of lingberry jam on top, and a liberal sprinkling of tarragon — surprising, but with lots of finesse.

Dessert: pecan pie with — gulp — peanut butter ice cream. Hmmmm.

Pinot grigio; Malbec

• Firefly Bistro, 11009 El Centro Street, South Pasadena; 626.441.2443 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pot roast

Ojai, November 20, 2013—

A DAMP cool evening after a long drive: the perfect setting for a slow-simmered pot roast. Our friends here had had the crock-pot going much of the day. The beef was succulent and perfectly cooked; ditto the potatoes, carrot, onion. All that and good conversation too (and of course the requisite green salad after dinner, and a nice campari-and-tangerine juice aperitif). No wonder I forget to take photos, or even notes on the wine, but I remember it was

Chianti, 2007

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Eastside Road, November 18, 2013—
NANCY'S LIMA BEANS have figured so often in these posts that I thought I'd give you an up-close look at them, nicely cooked to their natural chestnutty texture in a little bit of butter. Lots of them, tonight, as this is likely our last taste of them for the year. I know: I've written that before. But there's rain tonight; the season is finally changing, and we won't be at the market this next weekend…

Afterward, another look at cook's mixed vegetable bake: wintry vegetables like hard squash, onions, carrots, potatoes — chthonic things from underground, for the most part. I think the idea came from Deborah Madison's definitive Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Winter squash is not one of my favorite things, but mixed with the other vegetables they manage to get past the critic… especially when accompanied by a fine home-made biscuit!

Green salad afterward, of course, and fruit.
Bottle-ends: blanc du Var, La Ferme Julien; Salice Salentino

Monday, November 18, 2013


Berkeley, November 17, 2013—
TIME FOR ONLY a very quick bite between concerts (Mozart in Healdsburg; Erickson in Berkeley); what to do? We stopped in at what can only be called a brasserie on Shattuck Avenue, where Downtown prevailed a few years ago. And what do I mean by "brasserie"? Well, I lectured you the other day about bistro; let's look at the brasserie.

English-language and en français Wikipedia agree that a brasserie is open throughout the day, serves a limited menu, is generally fairly large. Beyond that, fr.wikipedia.org goes on to state, endearingly and very Frenchily,
Il n'existe pas de définition officielle permettant de différencier catégoriquement ce genre d'établissement d'un restaurant classique.
which is to say, l'Académie française has not (yet) ruled on the question of grammatically or linguistically distinguishing brasserie from conventional restaurant.

Lindsey had sardines, which she thought good; I had pork-fennel sausage, crumbled and served on flatbread that also involved a leek soubise and chunks of poached apple, along with rapini and a grating of pecorino. This dish was, I thought, not entirely resolved, but I was in a hurry.

Pinot grigio
Revival Bar+Kitchen, 2102 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510.549.9950

Hot dogs

hot dogs.jpg
Eastside Road, November 16, 2013—
IN PLACE OF DINNER today, a long drive north, a couple of hours at roller derby (don't ask), and a long drive back. So we made do with something quick and simple: hot dogs, even though there is presently, among other social evils, no baseball.

Rolls, mustard, sliced onion, sauerkraut, pickle relish, hot dogs. Green salad afterward.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Eastside Road, November 15, 2013—
ANOTHER BIRTHDAY DINNER rolled around — not mine, I hasten to say; a friend's — and how better to celebrate than dinner out, just the four of us, in a local bistro.

And just what is a bistro? I turn immediately to Wikipedia, who informs me
A bistro /ˈbiːstroʊ/, sometimes spelled bistrot, is, in its original Parisian incarnation, a small restaurant serving moderately priced simple meals in a modest setting. Bistros are defined mostly by the foods they serve. French home-style cooking, and slow-cooked foods like cassoulet, a bean stew, are typical.

The origins of the word bistro are uncertain. Some say that it may derive from the Russian bystro (быстро), "quickly". According to an urban legend, it entered the French language during the Russian occupation of Paris in 1815. Russian officers or cossacks who wanted to be served quickly would shout "bystro." [2] However, this etymology is not accepted by several French linguists as there is, notably, no occurrence of this word until the end of the 19th century.[3] Others say the name comes from a type of aperitif, called a bistrouille [4] (or liqueur coffee), served in some reasonably priced restaurants.
The article in the French edition of Wikipedia has other things to say, leading with
Un bistro (ou bistrot) est un petit café, un débit de boissons et parfois un petit restaurant. À Paris notamment, mais aussi dans toute la France, notamment Lyon, des chefs cuisiniers connus ou célèbres ont dénommé « Bistrot » une ou plusieurs annexes de leur restaurant gastronomique, restaurant(s) à formule le plus souvent, où ils utilisent des produits moins coûteux et ne proposent qu'une carte relativement réduite.
(Further, this article reveals that there are about 35,600 cafés and bars in France; that each year, about 1,000 bars shut down, and another 600 new ones open.)

To me, the defining characteristics of a bistro are: a casual ambiance, even promoting informal conversation between tables; a cuisine that speaks more of grill and stove than of prep or pastry kitchen; and a perennial menu (though perhaps with a cycle of daily specials) which must feature certain stock items (this is the formule French Wikipedia mentions): steack-frites of course, with aïoli or hollandaise to dip the fries into (never any ketchup!); duck confit; perhaps cassoulet; sole meunière; a braised beef daube; lamb shanks; steak tartare. The menu is heavily oriented toward meat, but there will be a good and copious green salad, dressed with a walnut-oil vinaigrette; and probably also a salade Lyonnaise involving frisée, lardons, and a (barely) poached egg on top. I'm probably forgetting a few things. Something chickeny, no doubt.

There are two bistros near us that I like; we opted for the one closest to our friends' home. And there Lindsey and I shred a butter-lettuce salad and a plate of sardines poached in olive oil with a "chorizo spice", onions, and garlic — not, to my way of thinking, a bistro dish, but rather a nice one.

And then I went on to a lamb shank, the Friday special, cooked slowly in white wine and garlic as is correct. It was very good, though I prefer the shank sawn into two or three pieces rather than left whole, so the marrow can contribute to the reduction.

Sauvignon blanc, Preston of Dry Creek, 2011; Syrah, Acorn, 2008 (both quite nice)
Bistro 29, 620 Fifth Street, Santa Rosa, California; 707 546-2929

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Leftover leftovers

Eastside Road, November 14, 2013—
LAST NIGHT THE FOLKS down the hill came up for dinner because we had a houseguest for the night, an old friend from The Hague, here visiting UC Berkeley for a week. What to have for dinner?

Let's keep it simple. Cook rummaged in the icebox (as I call it: others say "fridge") and found some mushrooms, a few carrots, half a white onion, one yam, a small butternut squash from somewhere. Elsewhere there were still a couple of potatoes and a couple of big red onions. Garlic, of course.

And we'd prepared for tonight by laying in eight of Franco Dunn's marvelous sausages — these his "Greek sausages," flavored with fennel and garlic and lemon and coriander seeds, I believe, and who knows what else. Well, Franco, of course.

Cook chopped the vegetables into bite-size pieces and tossed them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then scattered them on a big sheet pan and baked them in the oven. I built a fire in the Weber — grape prunings, oak, a few scraps — and grilled the sausages. We had a first course of Comté, Brie, and Caveman Blue cheeses, and a fine long evening of conversation.
Soave, Gaetano d'Aquino, 2012; Aglianico, Beneventano, 2012; Salice Salentino, Epicuro, 2011 — cheap wines all, but perfectly serviceable

BUT WE HADN'T finished the vegetables, nor even the sausages, so we dined off them again tonight, just the two of us, with some green beans, and raw carrots and pickled peppers as a side dish, and a green salad afterward, and tangerines, and chocolate mints…
Salice Salentino, Epicuro, 2011

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sausage and mash

Eastside Road, November 11, 2013—
THE NIGHTS ARE COLD but late summer's still on our dinner-table for some reason: we had one of Franco's fine Toulouse-style sausages tonight, with mashed potatoes, and probably the last of Nancy's lima beans this year; sliced tomatoes with our green salad. No photo: you've seen all this stuff before.
Salice Salentino (Puglia), 2011: cheap and tasty

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lunch al fresco

Eastside Road, November 10, 2013—
I CAN'T TELL YOU exactly what kind of peppers these are — not Padrones, I'm reasonably sure of that. Little Italian peppers whose name begins with "Fr," I think. We bought them a week ago at the Farm Market, from Lou Preston as I say, but from someone else as Cook says. Doesn't matter.

I just rinsed them in cold water, then dried them off, then fried them in olive oil, strewing salt on them while they cooked. With them, a pissaladière from a local baker who sells at the Sebastopol market, unusual because on puff-paste, but very nice. Afterward, a couple of tangerines from our little tree which, though standing in a terracotta pot, has given us at least half a hundred Pixies this year, and a couple of the last of this year's Arkansas Black apples, deliciously sweet.

That was lunch, with a glass of Picpoul. A new acquaintance called in the afternoon, with a delicious bottle of Cabernet sauvignon — Chavez Family Cellars, "Carlin's Blend" (Alexander Valley), 2007; and I toasted some Downtown Bakery & Creamery "Italian bread" to serve simply with olive oil and salt. The wine nailed down my sheepish conversion on the matter of California wines in general and Alexander Valley in particular.

Many California wineries have clearly moved away from the too big, too alcoholic "monster wine" imperative that made them so stupid, dull, and overbearing for so many years. Furthermore, this wine proved that Alexander Valley does not have to be just an imitation Napa Valley, which itself too often in the past released wines longer on ambition than achievement. This was a fine, rather elegant, nicely balanced wine, with plenty of fruit even though six years old.

So what shall we have for dinner? Let's just finish up the fusilli from a couple of days ago, and don't forget the green salad!
Cheap Pinot grigio