Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Eastside Road, February 25, 2014—
FREQUENT VISITORS to this blog, if any there be, will suspect that I prefer my Caesar salads authentic. You may even know where I prefer to order one: Zuni Café, in San Francisco.

Occasionally, though, one finds one's self elsewhere; one scans the menu; what one really wants — especially at noon — is a composed salad. Today I prefer to forget the menu listing (though I find it charming enough to reproduce at the foot of this post). Sure, they call it "Caesar" in its heading. We all know that no Caesar Salad contains avocado, tortilla strips, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, chicken no matter what herd it hails from.

But it is a composed salad, and a tasty one, once you fork up the dressing from the bottom of the bowl. Lunch out in town with a young friend and a new salad: nice.
"Rosato" (Zinfandel, Syrah, Sangiovese, traces of three other varietals), Acorn Winery (Healdsburg), 2012
• Agave Mexican Restaurant, 1063 Vine Street, Healdsburg, California; (707) 433-2411menu.jpg

Monday, February 24, 2014

Pasta with peas and pancetta

Eastside Road, February 24, 2014—
COOK MADE THIS a couple of weeks ago, and it was so good we saw no reason not to revisit it. Pasta, of course, with peas, in a sauce involving cream, Parmesan, pancetta (I think I wrongly wrote "prosciutto" last time), and a little bit of thyme along with salt and black pepper. The green salad — we've been getting such tender, silky lettuce lately, and I dressed it tonight with lemon-juice vinaigrette, if that's not a contradiction in terms.
Pinot grigio: Grigio Luna (Veneto), 2012, only 12% alcohol, soft and fruity

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Eating lighter

Eastside Road, February 23, 2014—
AFTER THAT WEEK in San Francisco we're eating a little more lightly. Tonight, a quick pasta with tomato sauce. Yesterday, this quite delicious dish of chick-peas. Gren salads, of course. Ice cream with chocolate; apples.
Cheap Nero d'Avola

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Catchup: Albona; Boulibar; Fior d'Italia, Chez Panisse

Crafi con burro e salvia at Albona
Eastside Road, February 20, 2014—
HOME AGAIN, AND TIME to fill in a few details from the San Francisco Week. As I last posted, Monday's lunch was in the Washington Street house of a couple of old friends, where everything was delicious, well accompanied by a bottle of Pinot Grigio from Santa Barbara county. Then Monday night we decided to try out a place we'd noticed down the hill from our apartment. On our walk there, we passed another restaurant, whose owner was standing out on the sidewalk in front of the door — it was early in the evening, not yet six o'clock — and we struck up a conversation. This led to a tour of the kitchen, of which he was justly proud, and further conversation, during which I confessed we were on our way to another restaurant.

"Which one?"

"Albona, around the corner."

"Oh, that's a good restaurant. Tell them hello from Gianni."

We did, of course; and then, after a glass of Prosecco, ordered our dinner: for me, first, Sardele in saor ala Veneziana (the menu listings are in dialect): a sardine marinated in red-wine vinegar, with golden raisins and pine nuts, very Venetian); then, Crafi: house-made ravioli stuffed with cheeses, raisins, pine nuts, and nutmeg, in a simple sage and butter sauce. I do live Venetian cuisine, medieval-seeming with its sweet spices, and this place was very good; I see no reason not to go back.

Collio bianco, Zuani (Fruili), 2012: soft, refreshing, delicious

Albona, 545 Francisco Street, San Francisco
; 415-441-1040 (February 17, 2014)

Tartare at Boulibar
NEXT DAY, TUESDAY, we met an old friend for lunch down at the Ferry Building. Amaryll Schwantner has long been one of my favorite cooks: she is intelligent and thoughtful, attentive to detail, appreciative of the complexities and the simplicities of flavors and textures, and knows how to combine things on the menu and on the plate. On top of that, she's an extremely good chef, teaching and coaching and guiding her crew with what seems to an outside observer a diligent eye, a steady hand, and patient though exacting direction.

I ordered the steak tartare, hand-minced wagyu beef blended with urfa chili, black pepper, sea salt, olive oil, and discreet lemon juice, topped with sumac marinated sweet onion relish, and served, as you see, with rusks: it was first-rate. And the desserts! We had all three: yogurt panna cotta with
blueberries, blood orange, citrus, rose syrup, crystallized pistachios, and basil; bittersweet chocolate custard with an espresso foam topping, sesame nougatine, a delicious turkish coffee cocoa nib shortbread on the side; cannoli filled with a delicate meyer lemon ricotta and mascarpone. These are beautifully made, rivalling the very impressive work at b patisserie and 20th Century Café.

Bouli bar, 1 Ferry Bldg Marketplace, San Francisco; (415) 399-1177

THEN, FOR DINNER, back to North Beach. Gianni was standing behind the bar when we arrived about 7:30, busy, taking no notice of us. We were joined by a couple of friends in a comfortable red leather booth, very old-fashioned, and I ordered a Negroni, though my friend's Martini looked good.

saltimbocca.jpgSaltimbocca alla Romana at Fior d'Italia

We all shared a board of salumi, acceptable but not inspired, and then I had an order of spinach sautéed with garlic and olive oil, followed by Saltimbocca alla Romana, veal scallopini topped with prosciutto and sage leaves, carrots and green beans on the side, with roasted potatoes. Perhaps there was a little too much tomato. Otherwise, it was like eating at Vanessi in the old days: we enjoyed it.

Arneis, Pertinance-Roero, 2009(!); nice
  • Fior d'Italia, 2237 Mason Street, San Francisco; 415 986 1886NEXT DAY, WEDNESDAY, we were in Berkeley on business, then lunched with a favorite cousin too rarely seen — a delicious broth with potatoes and vegetables; bread and three fine cheeses; a fresh-orange compote, then pastries. With all this, a delicious inexpensive Albariño whose label I photographed to no avail; my telephone seems to have destroyed it. I'll try to find it again.

    THEN LAST NIGHT we ended our vacation week with dinner with another couple of friends in the café, and when I say that I think you know which one I mean. Here I began with a little Antico Carpano with soda, being just a teeny bit liverish, and then plunged into the house salad whose vinaigrette is always so nicely balanced and, because I couldn't resist it, braised pork shoulder with black-eyed peas, kale, and sage. It's been a sage week. The dinner was memorable, the company delightful. Vacation's over, and I gained five pounds or so.

    Rosé, Domaine Tempier (Bandol), 2012
  • Café Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510-548-5525
  • Tuesday, February 18, 2014


    Leavenworth Street, San Francisco, February 18, 2014—

    LUNCH YESTERDAY  with friends, their house, their cooking, delicious … roast chicken, greens, carrots, their own potatoes, mashed; their own hens' eggs, devilled…

    Dinner last night at a very nice local joint, Istrian cooking, we'll be back…

    Lunch today: a fine beef tartare at a favorite cook's new restaurant…

    Dinner tonight: North Beach traditional Italian…

    I'll try to fill in the details in a couple of days when I'm at a real computer, with a little more time…

    Sunday, February 16, 2014

    Brunch; supper

    Leavenworth Street, San Francisco, February 16, 2014—
    GOOD EATING TODAY, as seems to be customary. After our usual breakfast — café au lait, toast — we went out to brunch. (There were no eggs in the icebox this morning, so I was absolved from cooking our usual Sunday soft-boiled eggs.)

    We took a walk down Hyde Street, intending to go to a brunch stop on California; but were captivated by the charming yellow façade of a closer spot, and decided to give it a try. Good decision. We ordered identically: an "Apostrophe" wine cocktail to begin with, involving sherry and dark vermouth and rosemary; and then went on to soft scrambled eggs with mushrooms, spinach, and a small rectangle cut from a baguette, toasted, and garnished with, um, no idea. Well, pickled red onion, some kind of cheese…

    • Stones Throw, 1896 Hyde Street, San Francisco; (415) 796-2901
    SUPPER, AFTER A very good performance of Ubu Roi,was at a place we'd tried a few weeks back, and damned if I didn't order exactly the same dishes as I had then: hard-cooked quail eggs with celery, mayonnaise, and crisp shallot; then steak tartare with the requisite capers, mustard, and horseradish. A bit of dill, too, to distinguish this joint's tartare from all the rest. Utterly delicious.

    Pinot noir, Melville (Santa Barbara), unspecified vintage

    •The Cavalier, 360 Jessie Street, San Francisco; (415) 321-6000

    Saturday, February 15, 2014


    Leavenworth Street, San Francisco, February 15, 2014—
    YES: WHAT YOU SEE here is simply sliced roast pork, porchetta, cooked not alla romana but simply, in a manner reminding me of the Sunday night dinners at home when I was a kid.

    I asked at the kitchen on our way out, and was told the herbs involved were rosemary, oregano, and — well, there you are; I've got to where I can only remember two items of three. Sage, perhaps. That's what I'd have added, sage, and perhaps a little myrtle; but then not everyone has myrtle available.

    Whatever the herbs, the dish was first-rate. There was a green salad on the side, and I'd also asked for a side order of roast potatoes. They came with roasted slices of carrot and even yam as well, and I played dodgeball.

    We'd begun, the three of us, with a nice big platter of salume and an "insalata rustica" involving tuna, white beans, and chopped celery, with a hint of sage I thought, and a delicate addition of very thinly sliced red onion, all in a very pleasant vinaigrette. All in all, a very satisfying dinner.

    Pinot grigio, "terra alpina," Riff (Alto Adige), 2012; Corvina, "Scaia," Temita Sant'Antonio (Veneto), 2011
    •L'Osteria Del Forno, 519 Columbus Ave, San Francisco; (415) 982-1124

    Friday, February 14, 2014

    A splendid veal chop

    Leavenworth Street, San Francisco, February 14, 2014—
    LUNCH, YES, WELL, lunch was quite okay, once past the disappointment that the daily special — linguine with kale — was available only at dinner. I settled for a simple pizza, Calabrese, with ricotta and mozzarella, dried black olives and plenty of chili flakes. Afterward, a good affogatto — the ice cream here is quite good.
    Aglianico in the glass
    • Paisan, 2514 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley: 510-649-1031

    THEN DINNER TONIGHT at the home of a couple of dear old friends, and Andrew cooked. What a fine meal! After apéritifs — kir royale with pomegranate in lieu of cassis (a delicious inspiration) we sat down to a succulent, generous veal chop, beautifully sautéed, with a red wine reduction highlighted by I know not what green herb, asparagus on the side. And for dessert a fine apple-raisin-sliced almond tarte. This chop was one of the finest things I've eaten this year.

    Pinot grigio, Main and Geary (Sonoma county), 2012: very nice pointed flavor; Cabernet sauvignon, "Taxi Cab," private production from the chef's own hand, 1995, perfectly balanced, mature but still fruity — thanks, Andrew!

    Trattoria; bistro

    Leavenworth Street, San Francisco, February 13, 2014—

    LUNCH TODAY AT a typical, old-fashioned North Beach trattoria, chosen because of a chance reference to it by a Facebook friend who dined there the other night. When we walked toward it, a little past noon, the host was standing out on the sidewalk in its doorway, arms folded across his chest, enjoying the sun and the moment, just as they do in Italy. We were the first to dine, and were seated of course at the window.

    Of the daily lunch specials, it was porchetta romana that sang to me. Three hefty slices of pork roast, flavored pretty much with nothing but the animal's own innate succulence, in a dark jus, with a green salad on the side. The bread is particularly nice, and the olive oil served with it. Everything needed salt, but that was easily done…

    Sangiovese, Tuscany, nv

    Piazza Pellegrini, 659 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco; (415) 397-7355

    AND THEN A FEW HOURS later, dinner at another old standby, downtown, with a couple of friends, before an evening at the theater (Jez Butterworth's Jerusalem, long, sentimental, overdone, but a brave effort). To test the joint's authenticity — or at least its reliability — I started with celery-root remoulade, then moved to steak tartare. The remoulade was fine; it could have come from any self-respecting Paris charcuterie. The tartare was pre-mixed, sweet and fresh, nicely balanced. Nothing dramatic; quite satisfying.

    Côtes du Rhône in the glass

    • Le Central, 453 Bush Street, San Francisco; (415) 391-2233

    Wednesday, February 12, 2014

    Catered reception

    Leavenworth Street, San Francisco, February 12, 2014—

    SOME OF OUR FRIENDS labor under the delusion that we're always fortunate at table — and so we are, quantitatively speaking. No one is more aware than I how blest our tables are.

    But this photo may help persuade you that it's not all beer and skittles chez Shere: not to mention port and partridge. No. Occasionally we make do with whatever is provided. Tonight, for example, we attended a reception and symposium, on a subject unrelated to gastronomy, and we let the caterer decide. And this is what he proposed, starting with the unidentifiable dark thing at 11 o'clock in the photo and proceeding clockwise:

    Roast beef sandwich with horseradish creamParmesan-inflected dinner rollBread-like canapé with sundried tomato somethingA cherry tomatoA small Hungarian-style pepper, pickledFetaA Greek-style oliveSpring roll enclosing grated carrot, red cabbage, and bits of other raw vegetable

    Dessert: a brownie; a miniature Linzer-like tartlet

    Semillon blanc, California

    Tuesday, February 11, 2014

    Fusili with sausage, fennel, and red wine

    1 pound (5oo g) bulk sausage meat, broken into small pieces

    1 teaspoon fennel seeds 

    3 tablespoons tomato paste 

    2 cups (50 cl) dry red wine, such as Chianti 

    2 eggs, at room temperature 

    1/4 cup (1 ounce; 30 g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 

    Freshly ground black pepper to taste 

    Sea salt 

    I pound (5oo g) dried Italian pasta, such as fusili or penne 

    About 1 cup (25 cl) pasta cooking water 

    IN LIEU OF PHOTO, I set here the ingredients for another delicious pasta dinner, served last night to a charming young couple of our acquaintance. The recipe is from Patricia Wells's book Patricia Wells at Home in Provence (New York: Scriber, 1996), and it is indeed, as shewrites, a "hearty cold-weather pasta." I won't give you detailed directions on how to make it: you should have her book.

    Barbera d'Asti, Rocca dell'Olmo, 2011

    Sunday, February 9, 2014

    Soup and sandwich

    Eastside Road, February 9, 2014—

    IT'S A CLASSIC, of course, especially when you're too rushed for something complicated. Or you just don't feel like anything complicated. Soup and sandwich. When I was a kid it would have been canned soup of some kind, probably Canpbell's, probably tomato. We have more variety now, and organic…

    That's a commercial ted-pepper soup from a box, dressed up with a little arugula. But the star tonight was the sandwich: sardines, sliced onion, arugula, and mayonnaise on a local country-style bread. Delicious. Raw carrots and pickled peppers on the side, and an apple afterward. 

    Gascogne blanc, "Globerati," nv

    Saturday, February 8, 2014

    Lamb shanks

    Eastside Road, February 8, 2014— 

    SOURIS AUX AULX, Richard Olney calls this magnificent recipe in his book Simple French  Food (New York: Atheneum, 1985); I don't know why. It is surely one of the Hundred Plates. It is the simplest thing in the world to make.

    I ask the butcher to "crack" two lamb shanks — that is, cut them into halves, crosswise of course. I trim them of external fat and fell (the thin membrane that covers the flesh) and I salt them.

    Heat a little olive oil in a heavy pot, then brown the lamb in it, turning the pieces so all sides are browned. Then stand them up, throw in fifteen or twenty unpeeled cloves of garlic, cover tight, and let cook as slow as possible for an hour and a half. The important thing here is to use a heavy pot, just big enough to contain the shanks, and to cover it tightly.

    Throw in some dried herbes de Provence and continue cooking, adding a few drops of water if necessary. The meat will provide its own liquid. When tender, remove the meat to a hot plate, deglaze the pot with white wine, and put the resulting liquid and the garlic cloves through a food mill to make a succulent, unctuous, heavenly sauce.

    Serve with noodles —we used tagliatelle tonight — dressing them and the meat with that sauce. Green beans on the side; green salad afterward.

    Cheap Pinot grigio

    Friday, February 7, 2014

    Leftover loin; Jeff's pasta

    Eastside Road, February 7, 2014—
    THE THREE P's: Pasta; Peas; Prosciutto. That was dinner last night, the recipe courtesy of our friend Jeff, who was in a previous life a cook at Chez Panisse, and has since gone into quite another career. I like him and I like his recipes, which you can find (and subscribe to) here.

    This is a simple dish with a vaguely Roman feel to it — probably the cream-and-prosciutto combination makes me think of spaghetti carbonara. There's just enough cream-and-cheese to give the dish a smooth, almost unctuous quality. I thought I tasted quite a bit of nutmeg, but Cook assured me there was none at all — must have been in the prosciutto; don't know where she got it. Green salad afterward, of course, and an apple.

    The day before, Wednesday, we had a simple supper of cold sliced pork tenderloin — I see I forgot to tell you about that tenderloin Lindsey cooked the other day: well, you may not believe it, but I don't tell you everything here!
    Cheap Pinot grigio

    Monday, February 3, 2014

    Bœuf daube

    photo 4.jpg
    Eastside Road, February 3, 2014—
    ANY BEEF STEW is fine with me, especially in winter. But my favorite beef stew is what's called bœuf daube in the south of France, where it's made in a special ceramic vessel, called, of course, a daubière. The daubière is shaped perfectly to its purpose: it's vertical, narrowing toward the top, with a good lid that slips inside the opening to minimize the loss of liquid through evaporation.

    Alas, our own daubière is a little too small, just the right size for dinner for one, particularly because when you make stew you want to make double rations, because it only improves in the days after cooking. So I used a heavy copper pot with a close-fitting lid. Further alas: I couldn't find the book I generally cook my daube from, so settled on another: Michel Barberousse's Cuisine provençale (Editions chez l'auteur, Seguret (Vaucluse), n.d.), a curious book we picked up years ago. I simplified the recipe a bit, leaving out lard and substituting pancetta for French pork-belly, and adding a couple of turnips to the mix, probably inauthentic.

    Otherwise I stuck to the page: I cooked the chopped pancetta in olive oil without browning it, added a couple of small carrots and a stick or two of celery, then a pound of cubed lean beef, a small onion studded with a half dozen cloves, a couple of little branches of thyme and savory, a bay leaf, and a fair-sized Roma tomato, quartered. After the meat had browned a bit I added half a bottle of red wine and the zest of an orange, and let the whole thing simmer four or five hours.

    On the side I cooked another dozen or so cipollini onions and about that many white Paris mushrooms in a little olive oil, and Lindsey cooked up some potatoes. With a daube, pasta would have been more authentic: but, damn it, we like our praties. Green salad afterward, of course, and then an apple…

    photo 1.jpgphoto 2.jpg
    The stew before adding the wineCipollini and mushrooms cooking
    Cheap Nero d'Avola (for lack of a good Vaucluse red)

    Sunday, February 2, 2014

    Spanish omelet

    Eastside Road, February 2, 2014—

    THIS WAS A FAMILIAR dish when I was a kid: "Spanish omelet." Lindsey mentioned planning an omelet when we got home today, after a couple of days on the road, and I knew guacamole was in the works, so why not try to keep some kind of thematic unity?

    I chopped an onion rather coarsely and softened it in olive oil, then added three Roma tomatoes, also chopped. They cooked slowly while I made the guacamole in the usual way. 

    After we'd eaten the guacamole, with Friday's Martini postponed to tonight, I beat half a dozen eggs. I poured the cooked tomato-and-onion sauce out onto a dinner plate, added a little more olive oil, and poured in the eggs, cooking them the way I usually do for an omelet. When the bottom was done, I put the reserved sauce on top, folded the egg back over it, cut it in half, and that was it.

    With it, as you see, broccoli steamed with garlic and salt, and a couple of bagels the 20th Century Café gave us the other day. Afterward, green salad.

    Cheap Barbera d'Asti

    Saturday, February 1, 2014

    Crêpe Carlotta

    Salinas, California, February 1, 2014—

    WHAT YOU HAVE HERE is a crêpe Carlotta; I don't know why. It is a filled crêpe, involving a good deal of some kind if cheese; also peppers and tomato, and herbs, and such. On the side, a rice pilaf with savories, and a mixed sauté of zucchini, carrot, and onion. 

    I had a mixed greens salad before and a very nice, quite eggy crème brulée afterward. Lindsey had a chocolate Charlotte, and I thought about it, but decided Charlotte after Carlotta was just too eponymous. The place was fun, the volunteer staff pleasant, the food acceptable 

    Pinot grigio

    •Steinbeck House, 132 Central Avenue, Salinas; 831-424-2735