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, 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

À la française

San Francisco, November 9, 2013—
FOUND A NEW bistro, thanks to our friend Eliane, who led us down an alley transformed, Sunday evening, into something reminding me of vicoli in Rome, or a backs street in the vielle cité in Nice.

And there I saw, scrawled on the slate hanging next to the doorway, Lamb Shanks. Just what I wanted.

We sat on the terrasse, in fact chairs and tables set up out on the street pavement, and finished our Martinis, and were served this quite nice and very French Brandade de morue, and a basket of Acme baguettes, and a good house lettuce salad, and then I had my shanks. lambshank.jpgIn my opinion they were very much in the spirit of Richard Olney's fine recipe, which simply involves lamb shanks, garlic, salt, thyme as I recall, white wine, a heavy lidded pot, and a fair amount of slow cooking. It was served, as you see, in the heavy black iron pan in which it had presumably been finished, on a bed of greens, and it was good; ditto the tarte aux pommes I finished up with.

Marsanne, Domaine Habrard, Crozes Hermitage, 2011; Charbono, Nebuchadnezzar (Napa Valley), 2009
Café Claude, 7 Claude Lane, San Francisco; (415) 392-3515

Friday, November 8, 2013


Eastside Road, November 8, 2013—
BRING A POT of water to a boil; throw in some salt; add the fusilli; cook for eight or nine minutes. (Depends on the pasta: this was hard wheat.)

Meanwhile, chop up a lemon with a clove of garlic and a little salt, and open a can of tuna, squeezing out all the superfluous oil.

When the pasta's cooked al dente, drain it in a colander and add the lemon-garlic and the tuna, tossing them in.

Serve, grinding fresh black pepper on top. Here you see some nice green beans on the side.

Green salad afterward; then pears and a couple of chocolates.
Picpoul de Pinet, Mas de Daumas Gassac, 2011


Eastside Road, November 7, 2013—
A LITTLE OF THIS, a little of that today. For lunch, this guacamole, which I made in my usual way: roast a couple of habañera peppers, skin, core, and seed them, and chop them finely along with a good-sized shallot or two, half a bunch of cilantro, and half a small Mexican lime. I chop sea-salt right into this, using a mezzaluna Lindsey's father made for us. Then I mash this with a couple of avocados, adding a sprinkling of tequila. With it, tortilla chips of course; then a couple of pieces of garlic-and-olive-oil toast. Yum!

Then we hit the road, first to see a marvelous little exhibit of Richard Dienbenkorn works on paper, then to have an affogato (Lindsey) and a macchiato (me) at a café we like en route to San Francisco where we were going to a short concert-discussion.affogato.jpg Emporio Rulli seems very fancy inside: sparkling glass and mirrors, polished wood panelling, marble: but if you've travelled in Piemonte you know this is just how any reasonably upscale cafe is supposed to look. We like it. We feel comfortable here, and the coffee is just fine, ditto the vanilla gelato.

In the car, on the way home, a slice of focaccia from Downtown Bakery & Creamery; then before bed a nightcap: a glass of Mandarine, because we need our fruit, you know…

Emporio Rulli, 464 Magnolia Avenue, Larkspur, California; (415) 924-7478

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Show Dogs; A16

San Francisco and Oakland, November 6, 2013, —
LUNCH IN THE CITY, and this is what I Facebooked:
Good dog, decent red, nice part of town. Pick two. Just kidding.
We'd walked a couple of blocks of the Tenderloin from our car, parked on the street, and that's not the pleasantest stretch of urbanity. Show Dogs is at the corner of Market and Taylor, mid-Market, and that's not the pleasantest stretch of urbanity either. But, hey, we all gotta live however we can, and Show Dogs is making it a whole lot more pleasant. I had the boar sausage in a good bun with mustard and a catsup of poached cherries and a scattering of arugula; Lindsey had the Italian pork, with truffle aïoli, mustard, tomato, and arugula. All this stuff — mustard, catsup, and sausage — is made in house.

The place is run, I believe, by the folks from Foreign Cinema, and it shows: the food is delicious, the vibe casual buy somehow both indulgent and smart, the politics right. Show Dogs reminds me of Kees Elfring's Worst, in Amsterdam, and it's a lot closer, and we're glad it's there.
good Merlot, hefty glass
Show Dogs, 1020 Market Street, San Francisco; 415.558.9560
chard.jpgDINNER ACROSS THE BAY with a couple of old friends in the second-noisiest restaurant we've suffered this year: the dB meter hovered at 90 much of the time. But we suffered it gladly, because the food was amazingly delicious, the service friendly and attentive. I began with a plate of Swiss chard, sautéed with garlic and little chunks of preserved lemon — what a fine idea! — and a goodsized double handful of house-made taralli, half flavored with fennel, the other with black pepper.

chicken.jpgNext, roast chicken — a half pullet, I'd say — roasted with pancetta and served on a bed of broccoli di ciccio, pleasantly bitter and rich. The chicken was robust, perhaps a tad underdone but succulent, the skin very nicely flavored — they use good salt in this place, I think.

A16 is a new Eastbay outpost of the well-known restaurant of the same name in San Francisco, also noisy as I recall — we haven't been there in years; you can only get to so many places, fondly as you recall them. The cuisine concentrates on southern Italy and the wine list is outstanding. This is a great addition to the Rockridge scene; judging by last night — only a Wednesday, after all — it's already a big favorite.
Falanghina, crisp and delicate, then perfect with the chard and its lemon; Cannonau from Sardegna, both wines by the (inexpensive!) glass, don't know the details (couldn't photograph the wine list: too dark)
• A16, 5356 College Ave, Oakland,(510) 768-8003

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Eastside Road, November 5, 2013—
YOU ASKED ABOUT our coffee. Well, it's Fast Day here today, nothing else to write about, so here's our coffee setup.

We buy our coffee beans from Sweet Maria's, in Oakland. Currently we're drinking their Taller del Taller. (Nothing to do with Alice's mushrooms: taller is Spanish for "workshop.") This is a marvelous blend; I fully agree with Sweet Maria's description.

The Neighbor Down the Hill turned me on to roasting coffee at home a couple of years ago, when she gave me a popcorn roaster and a pound of beans. I soon burned out that roaster, and a replacement or two, and realized I'd be money ahead buying a dedicated piece of equipment. This FreshRoast roaster does about three or four days' supply at a time, since we only have coffee at breakfast. And while the purchase price is three or four times that of a popcorn popper, it's far outlasted that many of the cheaper things, and is easier to use: I just put the green beans in the glass container and plug the machine in.

You have to shake the popcorn popper, or take its lid off and stir the coffee beans; the Fresh Roast machine has a forced-air blower that takes care of that problem, and it continues to stir the coffee after the heating element goes off, cooling the beans. It's pre-set to 5.9 seconds of roasting, but I increase the time to 6.2 for these beans. (Other blends seem to have other optimum times.)

Home-roasted coffee is best after three or four days. I just leave it in the roaster glass to age, as you see; when the grinder's empty, the roasted coffee goes into its container, and it's time to roast the next batch.

(That Caffé del Doge can is full of green beans; the big plastic bag is there only to give you an idea of Sweet Maria's packaging. But I must say Caffé del Doge remains my favorite commercial coffee, with Tazza d'Oro a close second. Their only drawback: you have to be in Italy, the Veneto or Rome, to get them. There is or was a Doge outlet in Palo Alto, but it just isn't the same as being in Venice.)

I grind the coffee just before making it, of course, in a period Faema "Contessa" grinder I got used at Mr. Espresso, in Oakland. For years we drank Mr. Espresso's coffee, too, and I'm still partial to it, partly because Carlo's such a serious and loyal man, partly because, let's face it, his coffee continues to be sound and tasty. I suppose it's been supplanted by the new generation of roasters: Blue Bottle, Sightglass, Four Barrel and the like. But there's always room for the tried-and-true.

I make our breakfast coffee in our Faemina, which I know I've written about before. Lindsey found it in a second-hand shop on Grove Street in Berkeley, back in the middle 1960s. I borrowed $25 from my mother to buy it. It was brand new, I'm sure, still with its European power plug. It's designed for twice the voltage I have, so it takes a while to heat up — just enough time for me to get the coffee bowls out, slice the bread for toast, set the table, and step out onto the patio to verify the morning sky.

I imagine this reduced voltage has also prolonged the life of the heating elements, but it's been hard on the Faemina's two switches: one on-off, the other high-low. I've sent this Faemina to the shop more than once, sometimes with unpleasant results. Once, in New York where I'd shipped it for repair (it needed gaskets), various parts were stripped from it, and I've had to find their replacements. Last time, a local repairman rewired it incorrectly, putting each element on its own on-off switch, complicating things more than necessary.

We have our morning coffee with milk, foamed at the Faemina. Occasionally I'll have a black espresso in the early afternoon, and the Faemina does a good job of that, and this Taller de Taller, with a spoonful of sugar, is a delicious thing. (That's a photo of such a cup, hanging next to the stove-sparker, at the top center of the photo.)

If you don't want to roast your own coffee, well, I can understand your reticence, it sounds like a lot of work. But it really isn't, and the green beans go for less than ten dollars a pound, considerably less than good pre-roasted coffee, even supermarket-available brands like Lavazza (not bad) and Starbuck's (no comment).

I've seen Faeminas like ours listed on Ebay in the neighborhood of $700, but of course you can't be sure of their condition. I don't know what I'd replace it with. I hope I never have to.

Monday, November 4, 2013


Eastside Road, November 4, 2013—
NEITHER OF US really have any idea what to call it; I've just decided to call it hash. And I have only a rough idea of how Lindsey made it. Clearly she raided the icebox, and came up with a zucchini, a pepper or two, some mushrooms, a bit of Franco's breakfast sausage.

From the pantry: a head of garlic, separated into its cloves; a potato or two; maybe an onion. Yes, I'm sure an onion's involved.

All this got sliced and diced and scattered on a baking sheet, where I'm sure it also got sprinkled with olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake in a moderate oven, I'd guess, until done, I'm sure. It was really good, and smelled marvelous.
Pinot noir, Siebert Ranch (Russian River Valley), 2009: the last of the bottle, as good as the day it was opened.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sunday brunch

Eastside Road, November 3, 2013—
YES, IT'S TRUE, I've said before that "brunch" is not my favorite meal, but today's an exceptional day; we have to drive down to the city for an event which will obviate dinner, so let's make breakfast the Principal Meal of the Day. Here you see (or can perhaps barely make out) Franco Dunn's breakfast sausage, which comes uncased. I formed two patties, each a little bigger than a baseball, then flattened a bit and cooked not too fast in a black iron skillet.

I was going to fry the eggs in the sausage drippings, but there were none. This has to be the leanest sausage on record: there was no fat at all in that skillet; the patties kept everything to themselves. Oh well: a little butter and olive oil in the small egg-frying skillet, an old enamel one I use for nothing else, did the trick perfectly. Salt and pepper, of course.

The toast is the whole-wheat bread from Downtown Bakery & Creamery, in Healdsburg, lightly buttered. Afterward, caffelattes (thanks for your loyalty, Faemina!). What? No green salad? Well, maybe later…

Roast goose (redux)

Eastside Road, November 2, 2013—
HERE'S ANOTHER LOOK at the roast goose we cooked last Tuesday, served up as leftovers with, of course, Nancy Skall's unique lima beans. As I've said, roast goose is perhaps my favorite of all meats; and served cold as leftovers it's as delicious as served hot just carved (with some effort!) off the bird.

Yes, that's the liver at the right of the photo, and one solitary roast potato salvaged from last week's feast — there are never enough potatoes roasted in goose fat. And that dark mass at the top, perhaps not too appetizing in the photo? Prunes, chestnuts, red cabbage, the reduction of the cooking liquors — red wine, goose broth, cloves, cinnamon, allspice — oh what a delicious complexity of aromas and flavors!
Pinot noir, Siebert Ranch (Russian River Valley), 2009: deep, mature, well-balanced, smooth, good body, an excellent match; and thanks, Gaye and John!

A hamburger…

Oakland, California, November 1, 2013—
WHAT A WAY to begin another month of meals: in a downtown dive, taking me back nearly thirty years to my life as an inkstained wretch, eating a hamburger and fries with a glass of red wine.

Well, it could be worst. They've done nice things with the ground floor of the old Tribune Tower, installing a big bar surrounded by booths and tables, some spilling out onto the sidewalk it seems. If the old Trib had a bar like this downstairs, instead of the Classified Department, and had kept its reporters drinking at home instead of walking down the street, they might still be in business.

We'd had a nice tuna sandwich here a few weeks back, so hadn't hesitated to take a friend there for lunch. She and Lindsey seemed to like their grilled cheese sandwiches, but I found my hamburger too big, too rich — I shouldn't have eaten the whole thing at one go, especially not with all those french fries.

And as Oakland hamburgers go, I prefer the one at Hopscotch, as it came a few weeks ago, with a slice of griddled tongue on top…

Barbera, Preston of Dry Creek: big and rustic
Tribune Tavern, 401 13th St Oakland, California; (510) 452-8742