Friday, January 31, 2014

Lunch in the City

San Francisco, January 31, 2014—

WE REALLY DO LIKE this place. The room is bright and airy; the banquette is very comfortable, the staff is pert and bright and personable and chic, and the food is delicious.

The menu isn't long, and runs to pastries and sandwiches, but the food is delicious, attractive, and enterprising; and the patisserie very authentic, running to the eastern side of the Danube. The wine list is short but expressive. Oh, and the coffee is good too. What more do you want?

I started by nibbling a Teresa Oranovski, which is a bacon-and-cheese scone, chewy and savory; and moved on to a wild boar sausage, rather lean and piquant with paprika, served with sauerkraut, apple butter, and roasted fingerling potatoes.

Dessert: Linzertorte, as perfect a pastry as there is, and the Russian honey cake this place is famous for, a sort of blond Dobos torte, many layers of Genoise and honey cream. Fortunately I was able to share them.

Bodrog Bormuhely Löszbor, 2011 (Hárslevelu-furmint)

Strehn Deutschkreuz 2011 (Blaufränkish)

20th Century Cafe198 Gough Street, San Francisco, California; 415-621-2380

Thursday, January 30, 2014


Eastside Road, January 30, 2014— 

I DO LIKE the occasional visit to a Mexican restaurant, and we're blessed with two pretty good ones in town. Tonight we began with guacamole, chips, and a very good salsa roja; then I went on to this fine Tasajo — flank steak, grilled, served with grilled onions, a "secret" house sauce, mushrooms, and Serrano chile, with the inevitable rice, beans, ans salad. Flour tortillas for me, thanks. 

Margarita y mescal

• Agave Mexican Restaurant, 1063 Vine Street, Healdsburg, California; (707) 433-2411

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Judy's Chicken

Eastside Road, January 28, 2014—

DOWN THE HILL AGAIN to the neighbors' house for dinner. They like to cook in their wood-burning stove, and we like to eat what they cook.

Tonight's dinner was in fond memory of our friend Judy Rodgers, who died last month, too young. Among her great contributions to a better world was her roast chicken, whose technique she evolved with characteristic discipline, study, devotion, open-mindedness, and practicality, over a number of years.

As you see, Eric spatchcocked the bird somewhat. Following Judy's advice he salted it quite completely, then roasted it in this black iron pan perched on a couple of firebricks on the floor of his stove, a hot oak fire alongside.

The vegetables were delicious, cooked in the drippings as the chicken finished its roasting: carrot, turnip, potatoes, onion, mushrooms, all sweated together in the chicken-fat, all succulent and tender. 

Aferward, of course, a green salad; and then applesauce, whipped cream on top, and crumbled amaretti. What a fine dinner!

Sauvignon blanc, Chateau Ste. Michelle, 2012; Syrah-Sirah, Preston of Dry Creek, 2011; Cinsault, Preston of Dry Creek, 2011; Pinot noir, Concannon, 2011

Monday, January 27, 2014


Eastside Road, January 27, 2014—

HAPPY MOZART'S BIRTHDAY! We celebrate tonight with this delicious chick-pea stew, or, rather, stewed chick-peas. I wonder if Mozart would have known this dish? It's cosmopolitan enough for him, I think, with undertones ranging from Andalucia through Sicily to Morocco — places he only knew through his imagination, I suppose.

Dried garbanzos, as I knew them as a kid, or chick-peas, chiche-poix, ceci in Italian. Lindsey stewed them with chopped carrot and onion, parsley and cilantro, and a little coriander seed; and some canned tomatgo, not a lot, just enough to provide color. Oh: a dried chli pepper of some kind, and some chili flakes for good measure. Olive oil, no doubt. Salt.

Afterward, green salad; a tangerine; some chocolate. A fine supper.

Syrah-Sirah, Preston of Dry Creek,  2011

Pork chops ma façon

Eastside Road, January 26, 2014—

THE RECIPE ORIGINALLY comes from Elizabeth David, Lindsey reminds me, but it's been a regular item in our kitchen for so long that I think of it as notre façon, our way of dealing with a nice thick loin chop; one of the Hundred Plates.

We begin with a tablespoonful or so of fennel seeds, which I grind to dust in a mortar. A couple of cloves of garlic and some salt go kn next and are ground to a paste, which is then bound with olive oil. 

Normally at this point I add lemon juice, but I forgot this time — probably because the lemon tree, like all our citruses, is hidden underneath its winter coat, guarded against the cold. It's been twenty degrees nearly every morning for weeks now.

The fennel-garlic paste gets spread on the chops, which are then set under the broiler. They're turned once, the newly exposed side betting its share of the treatment, and cooked until done — don't overcook!

With them tonight, baked potato dressed simply with salt and olive oil, and the green salad.

Cheap Barbera d'Asti

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Another steak

Monterey, California, January 25, 2014—

WHAT, YOU WILL SAY, surely you're in a rut, Charles. I can only agree, but plead in my defense that I'm a red-blooded American boy, and I need my red corpuscles. Besides, I've been reading about Alexander the Great, and while I have no illusions I'm in that company, still, he's pretty inspiring, and an occasional beefsteak did him no harm. 

So here we are finally back toward our end of the state, dining in a restaurant recommended by a San Francisco newspaper whose critic suggested there was something French in the pedigree — and I was ready for something fairly traditional and French.

I began, though, with a Caesar salad (perhaps an ironic subconscious influence of Alexander's), and was pleased to find it only a tiny bit revisionist. The Romaine was chopped; the anchovies were white boquerones, there were a very few quite tiny chopped bits of sun-dried tomatoes in the mix. But I could swear the dressing involved raw egg, or at least coddled egg; there was a whisper of lemon juice I thought; the whole thing had a nice texture and mélange of flavors. 

Then I ordered the steak. Grass-fed; ten-ounce; grillec — not quite as rare as I'd expect, having ordered it rare, but not far off the mark. It came on a bed of roasted potatoes and winter vegetables: butternut squash (good boy that I am, I ate all that first, to get it out of the way), cauliflower, carrot. The red-wine sauce wasn't as buttery as it might be, but did taste of shallot. The steak was not as good as last night's rib-eye: neither the animal itself, nor the cut, nor the execution. But it grew in goodness as I continued to eat, and I much preferred this place to yesterday's.

We are in Monterey, first capital of the state, and something about this place made me at home. Old California; steers; wood; Mexican-Americans. I'd come back here any time.

Pinot noir, Canyon Road, 2012

• Market Restaurant, 2339 (North) Fremont Street, Monterey; 831.373.2200

Steak frites

Santa Monica, California, January 24, 2014—

TIME TO CELEBRATE, so out to a vaunted nearby restaurant for a favorite pecadillo: rib-eye. I so wanted this place to live up to its reputation, but much seemed just a bit off — the Martini was skimpy, though exactly to my specifications; the atmosphere was neither rustic nor a canyon, but vaguely institutional lunchroom; the service was competent, but a little too hearty and brusque.

Then the chard came. It was absolutely delicious: long-cooked, tasting a bit of beef marrow, well salted, with enough of the pot-licquor to ease the feel. I could eat this every night.

The steak was sliced, perfectly au point, very slightly garlicky, under a fine marchand du vin sauce. The fries were curious: yes, Curtis, a little soggy at first, but then not at all, quite crisp in fact. I can only think some were allowed to clump on the plate. It's true: fries have to be handled perfectly. It's not hard to do that, fortunately: but apparently any kitchen can slip up now and then.

We had a wheatberry pilaf, too, nicely flavored with aromatics — carrot, parsley, scallions. Dessert was a sort of apple turnover, not memorable. On the whole, not a place living up to its advance billing, not tonight, at least…


* Rustic Canyon Wine Bar, 1119 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica; 310-393-7050 

Thursday, January 23, 2014


 Morro Bay, California, January 23, 2014—

A FINE DAY to drive down the magnificent Californiia coast. We stopped for a cappuccino and a morning bun at Beth's Bakery in Mill Valley — what a pleasant place this is: if I'm eventually consigned to a village, and Healdsburg won't have me, maybe I could be content here. 

Then on to Gayle's Bakery and Rosticceria in Capitola, where we bought sandwiches — "Milano" for me (a sort of Caprese on a bun), tuna and cheddar for Lindsey. 

Dinner in this coastal town, where we stop for the night. I had a bowl of decent clam chowder: Boston style, innocent of Manhattan's revisionist tomato. A green salad heavy on spinach and Balsamic. Then fish and chips, with local halibut, crisply and lightly battered, quickly fried in good clean oil, with eighth-inch-section fries, also crisp and correct. I feel so healthy!

Pinot grigio, Mosby, 2011

• Off The Hook833 Embarcadero, Morro Bay, CA; (805) 772-1048

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Basic eating

Eastside Road, January 22, 2014—
DAY BEFORE YESTERDAY, the 20th, we fasted. Well, we had a few crudités — celery, carrot — and an apple. Basically it was fast day.

Yesterday it was grilled cheese and onion sandwiches, green salad afterward. GC&O is a favorite of mine. Either cheddar or a gruyère-type cheese will do; we used a delicious cheese whose name I cannot provide, as it was left in the fridge by some thoughtful houseguests a couple of weeks ago, without a label. A Comté sort of cheese, I'd say. The onions get sliced thin and are mostly hidden under the cheese; these were on a ciabatta bread. On the side, Romanesco, quickly steamed with a little olive oil.

Today we drove into town for lunch with the neighbor. Pizza? Portuguese? Parish, the little New Orleans-type café, for a muffaletta? Of the three "P"s, we decided on Portugal, and I had those grilled sardines you see up there: sardinhas assadas, grilled whole Monterey Bay sardines with a warm onion cebolada, and a little plate of quite plain, quite nice roasted potato.

Vinho verde, of course
Café Lucia,, 235 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg, California; (707) 431-1113; lunch & dinner daily

Leaving us needing only a light supper tonight: a hearty thick soup, an apple, a tangerine.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Daube; penne; bucatini

Eastside Road, January 19, 2014—
EATING EVERY DAY; but blogging maybe twice a week. It's not a New Year's Resolution or anything like that; it just seems to be what's happened here. I've only made one such resolution in recent years, and I've kept it — to drink a glass of water every morning is not as difficult as to overcome a certain degree of compulsiveness.

Anyhow we have been eating, every day, or nearly so:

Wednesday, January 15: After a day in the city, simply bread, cheese, and salad at supper.

Thursday, January 16: The fine Daube pictured here, which Patricia Wells calls La Broufade: Beef & White Wine Daube from Arles. It involves anchovies, capers, onions, garlic, tomatoes, cornichons, a bottle of white wine, a bay leaf, thyme, and a couple of pounds of braising beef. A daube is essentially a very slow-cooked beef stew from Provence. It is essential, I think, that it be cooked in terra cotta, under a lid. I favor a simpler one leaving out capers and pickles, adding turnips and potato, and cooked in a daubière, a somewhat more vertical ceramic pot: but this is a fine version, and this poêle from Vallauris, which we've had for forty years, did the job very well.

penne.jpgFriday, January 17: Back to Patricia Wells: I cooked the pasta sauce that so intrigued me when first I saw this book, Patricia Wells At Home in Provence (New York: Scribners, 1996): Provençal Penne, involving olive oil, onion, garlic, crushed red peppers, bay, fennel, tomatoes, and orange zest. Lindsey cooked the penne and sprinkled them with chopped parsley from the garden. Delicious.

Saturday, January 18: leftover penne.

Sunday, January 19: Out with friends today to brunch, which by the time we got there I, hungry, turned into a substantial lunch: very nicely sautéed chard; then a bowl of Bucatini, pictured below, with guanciale, tomatos, pepper, and Parmesan — and, as had also been true of the chard, plenty of red pepper flakes. No question about it: this place leans toward Calabria. I like it, though!

Bull Valley Roadhouse, 14 Canyon Lake Drive, Port Costa, California; (510) 787-1135bucatini.jpg
Pinot grigio for whites, Barbera d'Asti for reds

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Barley risotto

Eastside Road, January 14, 2014—
MUSHROOMS WERE FOUND the other day, mushrooms we'd bought a few weeks ago at a farmers market in distant Cloverdale — well, twenty miles distant, anyway — and then forgot about. They'd dried, of course, which only intensifies the flavor. Cook steeped them in a little broth and a little water, plumping them up, and chopped them, and put them in a barley risotto for supper, made in the usual way: a sofritto of onion and garlic in olive oil, the grain then fried a bit before the stock is added bit by bit. A little dry Vermouth, too. Chopped parsley on top.

Green salad, a tangerine from the tree, an apple from the market. Good supper.
Cheap Barbera d'Asti

Sunday, January 12, 2014


Eastside Road, January 12, 2014 —
OR, IF YOU LIKE, pannekoek, without that third "n" — the Dutch seem to be, er, waffling on that subject. Whatever. It's a flour-egg-and-milk pancake, somewhat thinner than typical American ones but thicker than a French crêpe, made as big as the skillet allows, say the size of a dinner plate, and there are almost always little bits of delicious things in the batter before they're baked, though you can get them natuur if you insist; and they should be served with stroop, the Dutch form of treacle (from which the term "blackstrap molasses" derives).

And it is or can be dinner, or supper at least. We have them often in The Netherlands, zachte Nederland, where my favorites are ham-(candied) ginger, or appel-rozijnen (apple and raisins). Tonight Cook made appel-speck, cooking up bits of bacon and, separately, thin slices of apple, and then putting them in the batter as it cooks in the black iron skillet.

Before this, just to set the meal off on a proper Dutch note, the unpronouncable erwtensoep, good thick pea soup not innocent of animal protein. Afterward we were back home in California with a good green salad.
Barbera d'Asti


Eastside Road, January 11, 2014—
WHY DO WE SO rarely think of sardines? There are not many more delicious quick suppers, nor many more nutritious. Cook sliced and toasted some white bread, sliced a white onion, washed some lettuce leaves, opened a jar of local dill pickles, and then a can of good sardines.

Whenever possible — and it seems to be every year or so — she buys a few tubes of that good Dutch mayonnaise (one of the few commercial prepared products we eat), and that comes in handy on this sandwich. And then afterward a good green salad, and what more do we need?
Cheap Pinot grigio

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Downstairs Chez Panisse

Berkeley, January 10, 2014— 

WHAT A FINE DINNERConventional, you might say; comforting and perfectly conceived and executed, I respond. We dined with two dear old friends from the 1960s, and we were served — splendidly —

apéritif: KIr

Yellowtail carpaccio with olio nuovo and shaved vegetable salad

Brandade feuilleté wilh black truffles

Rosé Bandol, domaine Tempier

Leg of lamb cooked à la ficelle in the fireplace with roasted garlic sauce, erbette chard gratin, and fried artichokes

Bordeaux, Saint-Julien: Château Gruaud Larose, 1990

Pistachio, Meyer lemon, and clementine gâteau glacé 

•Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510-548-5525

Thursday, January 9, 2014


Eastside Road, January 9, 2014—
YOU WILL HAVE NOTICED, Gentle Reader, that this blog has become somewhat more undisciplined these last few days: other matters have intruded.
Tonight, Thursday, we had a quick supper of bean soup and salad, with a glass or two of cheap Barbera dÁsti. Lunch had been an acceptable "hamburger" of Italian sausage with, yes, Curtis, French Fries, the narrow square-section type, not at all soggy or warmed-over.
Zinfandel, Sterling Vineyards
Carmen's Burger Bar, 1612 Terrace Way, Santa Rosa; ​​(707) 579 - 3663
YESTERDAY'S SUPPER was identical to tonight's; lunch was a delicious sandwich from a favorite butcher shop: pork roast, Italian vinaigrette, sweet peppers, provolone, pickled onions, thyme, aioli, Castel Vetrano olives on a ciabatta roll. A glass of that cheap Barbera would have been perfect, but we ate in the car, driving home from Berkeley.

The Local Butcher Shop, 1600 Shattuck Ave. on Cedar, Berkeley; 510-845-6328
Tuesday was a fast day, and I've told you about Monday. What remains to be blogged is last Friday's dinner at New Sammy's; I'll try to get to that soon. Gee! A week ago!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Penne with anchovies

Eastside Road, January 6, 2014—
IT'S A LONG TIME since we've had pasta, let alone penne. Also, we've been slighting our fish commitment. Let's assault both objectives at once. Lindsey mashed up anchovies with garlic, then added lemon zest, and precious tips of Italian parsley from the frozen tundra of our patio further dressed the dish. Just what the doctor ordered!
Cheap Pinot grigio


Eastside Road, January 4, 2014—

I'VE SEEN MORTADELLAS big as pigs, and I mean big pigs — but they were in Italy. Here, mortadella is somewhat more modest, say ten inches in diameter, a foot or two long. Made bland in the America of my youth, it was called " baloney," from Bologna, its Italian birthplace (or at any rate the city that perfected it). Who doesn't recall baloney sandwiches, lunch meat on sliced white bread, with bottled " mayonnaise" and Iceberg lettuce?

Tonight, though, it was Fra Mani prosciutto, silky and rather subtle, on buttered soft rolls with butter lettuce: very comforting after a long drive. 

Barbara d'Asti, Rocca del Olmo, 2010: perfect with this meal

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Farewell dinner

Portland, January 2, 2014—

STEAK-FRITES MUST SURELY be among the Hundred Plates. Together with duck confit and salade Lyonnaise, they define, for me, the Parisian bistro. Beef, butter, salt, red wine:  a perfect quadrifecta of things thought not to be good for you — ex ept that, excuse me, in fact they are good for you, in moderation; they build up the blood and muscle as well as — I'm convinced of this — the nerves, and Iuppiter knows we all need plenty of nerve these days. 

I write this, as I'm sure some of you will guess, a couple of days later, delayed by a six-hundred-mile drive, visits, cares, and miscellaneous delights. So I'll imevitably be forgetting things, in spite of a resolution to do better by note-taking. Suffice it to say: decent Martini, engaging waiter, great company, fine bread (after all, this place belongs to Portland's arguably premier bread-baker), good salad, fine steak-frites. I'd come back here any time. 


• Trifecta Tavern726 SE 6th Ave, Portland; (503) 841-6675

Thursday, January 2, 2014


Portland, Oregon, January 1, 2014—

TODAY IS THE BIRTHDAY of our dear Giovanna, the real reason we decided to stay on here for a week after Christmas, and we celebrated with the traditional menu at home:

Baked ham
Hopping John
Braised greens

and, afterward, cake, of course — a fine Bourbon-infused cake turned out of a Bundt pan and gently illuminated by the symbolic candles. 

Crémant de Bougogne, L. Vitteaut Albert, nv, in magnum

EARLIER IN THE DAY, though, we found time for a light lunch. I was content with a little trip to the French alps, by way of three cheeses:

Beaufort d'été
Abbaye de Tamie
Appenberg Mutschli

all of them raw cow's-milk cheeses, all fresh and delicious, washed down with

A glass of Rosé de Provence

New Year's Eve

Portland, Oregon, December 31, 2013—

NEW YEAR'S EVE! We  have dinner on this night with our old friends C. and K., a family tradition these last forty years, odd-numbered years at our home, even-numbered at theirs. This time, though, I proposed a drastic variation: let's all go to Portland! 

We dined at the most traditional place I could think of, and began with the traditional opener de rigeur: deep-fried onion rings, dipped in catsup, if you like, or (as I prefer) thinned French dressing. These onions are perfect: a thin brittle golden batter covering a thin, sweet, moist, flavorful onion ring.

I went on to traditional fare: prime rib roast — exceptionally for me, an end cut, my mistake — with grated horseradish and jus and a baked potato which I filled with olive oil, ignoring the butter, sour cream, chives, and bacon bits set down at the side.

Before that, an acceptable Caesar salad, with ancovies; afterward, crème brulée. 

Gewürtztraminer; Barolo, 2008; both by the glass. Next year I resolve to take better notes!

•RingSide Steakhouse, 2165 W Burnside St, Portland, Oregon; (503) 223-1513