Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Three days

Eastside Road, March 28, 2015
PASTA WITH TUNA. That was my response when Cook asked for a suggestion today — a warm day that left little appetite for, say, liver and onions, at least not on Cook's part.

The pasta are the organic penne we buy at Trader Joe's. There was a recent scare on Facebook; a "friend" who lives in Los Angeles posted a query: what to use for pasta, now that TJ has dropped its organic pasta? But a recent shopping trip proved that our local TJ, at any rate, had no intention of dropping it.

I'm not sure, but my guess is that Cook browned some prosciutto in a little oil in the stainless-steel skillet, added chopped onions, then when all that was browned sufficiently stirred in a can of tomatoes. She always uses whole organic tomatoes, canned with no flavorings — no basil or anything else. She squeezes the tomatoes between her fingers into the skillet, presses in a clove or two of garlic, and lets things cook. Oh: and then a can of good tuna chunks, broken up a bit into bite-size pieces.

The penne are cooked al dente, of course, drained, and added to the sauce. The servings are garnished, as you see, with chopped parsley — fortunately the "Italian" broadleaf parsley has naturalized itself in many places next to the patio. Green salad; fruit.

Cheap Pinot grigio, Primosole (Puglia), 2013: serviceable

photo: Jim Shere
Eastside Road, March 29, 2015
DINNER ON THE PATIO: Well, first lunch on the patio: cold cuts and a good loaf of bread with our son, his wife, their youngest son. And then my brother and his wife arrive, and we continue — why not? — with dinner. I lit a wood fire in one of the grills, and when the coals began to burn down proceeded with:
Potatoes: small German butterball potatoes, halved, with unpeeled cloves of garlic and a dozen small young spring onions, in the grill basket, as you see

Asparagus: thin green stalks, peeled with a potato peeler, laid right on the grill

Sausages: the package said simply "Best Wurst," and had been brought a few days ago by a chef friend from Berkeley — Weisswurst, I suppose, and really delicious.

Green salad afterward, and chocolates for dessert (Thanks, Jim and Maria)
Rosé, Home Farm Lipton Daniel Vineyard (Dry Creek Valley), 2013; Zinfandel, Eric Ross Old Vines (Dry Creek), 2012; both true to type and terroir and really quite good (Thanks, Paolo)

Eastside Road, March 30, 2015
TONIGHT A REPRISE of that pasta with tuna. It was fusilli tonight, not penne; and frankly I much prefer the fusilli, I think they take and hold sauce better than penne do, and are not so heavy in the mouth.

The sauce was just as two nights ago, of course, except for having deepened a bit in flavor in the intervening time, as sauces will do. Tonight I was more struck by the taste of the capers. Is lemon somewhere in the background? Wouldn't be surprised; the little Meyer tree is doing its springtime thing…

Rosé, Grifone (Italy), nv: really not disgusting

Friday, March 27, 2015

Buttered barley

Eastside Road, March 27, 2015—
NO PHOTO TONIGHT : just a quick report : barley pilaf, buttered of course, with asparagus again because, really, how long can this last; green salad afterward.
Cheap Nero d'Avola

Bruckner 'n' burger

San Francisco, March 26, 2015—
YUP : WE'RE BACK at Zuni, on a musical afternoon and evening. Bruckner's Eighth Symphony in Davies Hall ; Bob Carrau at the piano at Zuni. I enjoy them just about equally, and I enjoy them a lot.

We left the concert hall a little hungry, so stopped off first at another favorite locale, where I had a knish and a bacon scone and my companion had that fabulous Russian Honey Cake — and we both had a glass of that wonderful Croatian Terzolo Malvasia I told you about a while back.

• 20th Century Cafe, 198 Gough Street, San Francisco; 415-621-2380

Then we hit Zuni, still in time for the hamburger, served only until six o'clock; with a very nice salad of arugula and thinly sliced Belgian endive, shallots, and chopped almonds, in a supple vinaigrette. And a Martini.

And Bob played the piano. What more do you want?

• Zuni Café, 1658 Market Street, San Francisco; 415-552-2522
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Bread pudding

bread pudding.jpg
Eastside Road, March 25, 2015—
BREAD, EGGS, MILK, onion, good salt, good black pepper, rosemary. Olive oil, I suppose. Baked in a gratin dish in the oven.

More than that I cannot tell you. I saw Cook cutting bread into cubes, say an inch on a side; I bet she soaked them in milk with beaten eggs, then squeezed it out, laid it into the pan, etc., etc.

Rather like pain perdu, or what we call French toast, no?

With nice (organic, of course) asparagus, delicious. We'd had a Pernod as an apéritif. Green salad afterward, and then an apple. The simple life is the best life.
Cheap white, Grifone(Italy), nv
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Chicken; pot roast

Eastside Road, March 24, 2015—
YOU CAN'T ASK FOR a plainer, more conventionally middle-American pair of plates than these : Chicken breast; Pot roast. In both cases, with mashed potatoes. My Missouri-born grandmother would be pleased. My Indiana-born one, too.

The chicken breast, which you see here on the left, was a ridiculously big, meaty thing, nearly a pound I think. I smashed it flat with the black iron skillet, and then Cook fried it in a little olive oil I think, and deglazed the pan to make a nice glaze for the chicken, and served it with the thinnest, freshest possible garden asparagus and the mashed potatoes, delicious with butter.

But you know what? I've decided the hell with chicken. Roast chicken is okay, of course: it has time to stew in its own juices, and you can flavor it — herbs ; garlic ; lemon : take your pick. But even with the bone in — as was the case with this chicken breast (because I think boned chicken loses a lot of flavor and probably nutrition as well, and avoid buying it, and besides it's absurdly expensive) — the white meat of a chicken breast seems to me bland in flavor and unfortunately grainy in texture, and I'm not gonna eat it any more. Unless I have to.
pot roast.jpg
THAT WAS SUNDAY. Yesterday we took a little drive — it just felt like that kind of day — and wound up eating dinner out. I began with this very nice green salad with a few sliced radishes. The cozy restaurant was next to a creek, and it seemed appropriate that there was watercress in the salad, along with the obligatory "baby" lettuces; and the vinaigrette was nicely done.

My pot roast was an honest plain hunk of beef, absolutely devoid of fat, a little stringy, cooked in the sensible no-nonsense manner my grandmothers knew, flavored with a bit of clove, I think. Those are caramelized cipollini on the meat, and braised spinach I do love spinach on the side, and mashed potatoes flavored with garlic and horseradish. Suddenly the whole think looks like a gorilla's portrait : I'm sorry about that ; it's just the way things turned out.

Dessert: Ice cream sundae. This was vanilla ice cream, and quite good ice cream at that, with salt caramel sauce, and whipped cream, and brandied cherries, with a discreet dusting of powdered sugar. I must say, I think the combination of vanilla ice cream and unflavored whipped cream — particularly when it is good cream, as was the case here — is a wonderful thing. Elective affinities, for sure.
Marsanne, Wellington Vineyards, 2011; Mourvèdre, Cline Cellars, 2011 ;
both Sonoma county ; both true to varietal but the red a little sweet
• The Fig Cafe, 13690 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen, California; 707-938-2130
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Monday, March 23, 2015

Parsi New Year at Chez Panisse

Eastside Road, March 22, 2015—
IMG_8686.jpgSO, THEN, Spring is officially here, and with it Parsi New Year. Outside Chez Panisse David has stenciled the symbols of good fortune in chalk, as he has so many times before: this is the nineteenth dinner Niloufer has prepared here to honor Kore's return from the underworld.

We've been lucky enough to attend many of these dinners over the years. The cuisine is of course Parsi, which is to say roughly Bombay Indian with ancient Persian undertones, reminding one of the ultimately unified source in Asia Minor of all that is good in cuisine as well as philosophy.

Niloufer Ichaporia King is an artist of cuisine; you can perhaps best understand her sources, instincts, and intelligence through her invaluable book My Bombay Kitchen (Berkeley : Univ. of California Press, 2007), as beautiful a book to read as it is to look at or to cook from.

This year's dinner seemed to us the best ever, a succession of courses whose flavors, aromas, textures, and visual appeal were beautifully conceived and skillfully executed — and accompanied by wines which seemed calculated to complement them. I apologize for the photos, which of course do not do justice.
To begin:
Passion fruit apéritif with spiced cashews, pickles, and Krishna's breakfast

This is what you do to put together Krishna's breakfast. You need Creamy Panir, Yogurt Cheese,… the ultra-simple Fresh Turmeric and Ginger Pickles; and chapatis…
My Bombay Kitchen, 65-66
Everything's in the book, so you can reconstruct this wonderful opener quite readily at home. Krishna, it should be said, "is not the Hindu deity but Krishna Riboud, a brilliant epicurean friend," as Niloufer explains in the recipe ; and it's typical of her generosity that she credits her.

Passion fruit apéritif : delightfully refreshing, this immediately took me back to a table in Fare, on Huahine, in the French Leeward Islands… another story…
Spring sprout chat with tamarind vinaigrette
"Chat" does not appear in the admirable index of My Bombay Kitchen, so must not appear in the text either. But Wikipedia tells me that " Chaat is a term describing savory snacks" throughout South Asia, and that the word ultimately derives from the Prakrit cattei (dots under the T's, please), which means "to devour with relish, eat noisily".

By now it seemed the entire dining room was eating somewhat noisily — you could sense people were excited with pleasure. I can't tell you what was in this salad, beyond portulaca, and fried crisp threads of something, and were those tiny little Mung beans?, and are these cross-sections of some kind of stems, perhaps?

The vinaigrette seemed unctuous, fruity, and very light; the dish was savory, but cleansed the palate of the very spicy pickled turmeric that had gone before…

Grüner Veltliner: Tatomer (Santa Barbara county), 2014, as delicious as any I've had from Austria.

Ritual dal with wild nettle swirl

This is the dish I always think of as typifying Niloufer's festive dinners. Sometimes it even incorporates gold leaf: this time I believe there were tiny fragments of silver leaf, a subtle promise of modest good fortune appropriate to the times.

You're supposed to have [dal] for births, birthdays, engagements, wedding days…, days of good fortune of any sort, and also, alas, when there has been a death in the household. The underlying lesson is that life cannot be led without experiencing both joy and sorrow in some measure, and we mustn't make too much of either, for both are fleeting. The second lesson is the beauty and value of simplicity.
ibid., p. 176
A painting, I exclaimed when it was set down — specifically, a Motherwell : I think he'd have been as happy as I was to see it, then smell it, then taste it.
Riesling, Domaine Ostertag, 2012 : another perfect complement
halibut.jpgOn, next, to
Northern halibut grilled in banana leaves with green chutney

Another painting. Isn't it beautiful? The package had been carefully tied with what looked like raffia; inside it, a filet of halibut, very soft and fragrant, very nicely poached, and spread with a chutney-paste very piquant with green chillies.

Would the wine stand up to this, we wondered…
Chablis, Terroir de Chablis, Patrick Piuze, 2013
halibut cu.jpgOh yes indeed, what a splendid wine, what a splendid course…
What could reasonably follow?
Parsi-style fried quail with mashed rutabaga, braised collards, and chicories salad

Such a difficult dish to capture in a quick photograph. The mashed rutabagas are hiding behind one of the quail quarters, I'm afraid: they were snowy white, smooth as butter — which had in fact been an important part of the preparation. The quail was breaded, as you see, and deep-fried, very crisp indeed on the outside, and perfectly cooked inside; and the greens complemented the dish splendidly.

As did the wine:
Mâcon-Cruzille "Les Vignes du Maynes, Cuvée 910, 2013:
light, yet deeply flavored, nicely balanced, fresh and refreshing yet lingering

And then the desserts…
Strawberry ice…

The intense strawberry red was almost shocking. First strawberries I've had since Nancy died, I said aloud without thinking; Nancy Skall was a wonderful gardener, an unforgettable presence at the Healdsburg farmers market, and her strawberries were always the best. So death did quietly flit through this ritual dinner, just as the dal had reminded us; Kore's here but half the year, the other half Persephone's away — but it was a bittersweet moment, not a sad one.

And what a fine granita!
…falooda, jalebis, and other favourite sweets

Faluda in Bombay is a glorious milk-shakey affair in a tall glass. At the bottom, there's a layer of soaked basil… with a slippery-crunchy texture that's like nothing else. On top … is a layer of translucent noodles made of wheat starch. … Milk appears to float over this foundation without disturbing it…
ibid., 278
Niloufer's recipe, in My Bombay Kitchen, involves basil seeds (which are soaked in water), three cups of chilled milk, about half a cup of rose syrup, and half a cup or so of ice milk. The seeds have a tapioca-like quality while escaping tapioca. The pastries, of course…

jalebis.jpg…included these incomparable jalebis, wheat-flour batter, first deep-fried in errant squiggles, then soaked in sugar syrup and sprinkled with chopped pistachios and perhaps a chiffonade of rose petalsand, tonight, yes, definitely, silver leaf.

Prosperous Spring to us all, and especially, dear Niloufer and David, to you, and many thanks for a thoughtful, delicious, ethical, splendid feast!

(And thanks to the unbelievable Chez Panisse crew for once again adapting, apparently effortlessly, to an exotic cuisine.)

• Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510-548-5525
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Eating last week.

Eastside Road, March 21, 2015—
ANOTHER EDITION of My Weekly Feeder : maybe I should re-title this blog. The week began on the 14th with a group dinner — that's part of the crew in the photo: l-r, Lindsey (Cook; Companion) seeming to supervise; Kees sweating the artichokes; Mary Jo tossing the potatoes in oil; one of The Neighbors Down the Hill making a vinaigrette for the salad, and Patient Blogger bent over a couple of shallots. (The photo was taken by Other Neighbor Down the Hill.) And what did we have? Well, you already have a good idea: but the principle protein source was Franco's good sausages, which Curt is grilling, out of sight, over a wood fire, whose smoke is billowing past the left-hand window.

I thought Kees's handling of the little artichokes was brilliant: peeled down quite far, sliced very thin, then "cooked" in nothing but good Eastside Zinfandel vinegar.

Many delicious red wines
Old chinese knife
How I mince shallots: the old Chinese knife
I want to show you what I use to mince shallots: this magnificent Chinese knife, which we found on the workbench in the original, dilapidated, detached garage when we bought our Berkeley house, down in the flats, in Berkeley. It was wrapped in a piece of Chinese newspaper dated, I think, 1923, tied with jute cord. When I unwrapped the package I found the knife completely covered with rust. I soaked it a couple of days in used motor oil, then took kerosene to it, and it cleaned up completely, with only a little pitting here and there.

The steel is hand-hammered, and takes and holds an edge beautifully. We have quite a few knives in our kitchen, but when I want solid control over a meticulous chore this is the one I reach for: the heel of my hand on its wooden handle, thumb and fingers gripping the sides of the blade, my palm pressing the smooth strong back of the blade, I need only pay careful attention the the fingers of that other hand…

Tarte d'Alsace

Sunday, March 15, we were too busy with one thing and another to make much of a dinner, and anyway it was my turn — so I did something that may surprise you: I bought one of those "tartes d'Alsace" in the frozen-food chest at Trader Joe's. Not only that: I bought a package of frozen chopped spinach, too. Organic, of course.

The tarte is a flatbread, in fact, garnished with a bit of ham cut into strips and Gruyère cheese. Nothing wrong with ham and cheese, one of the few exceptions to my rule forbidding the combination of meat and cheese.

And I have to confess once again my fondness for spinach in virtually any (cooked) form. This time I simply warmed it up with a little salt — not enough, as it turned out — and a a tiny hint of nutmeg. If I'd had a hard-boiled egg, I'd have sieved it on top for garnish.
Cheap bianco

3.16Corned beef.jpg

March 16: Since we're eating out tomorrow, let's have our annual Corned beef and cabbage tonight! St. Patrick's Day has a sad component in our household; it's the day my father-in-law died, ninety-four years old, in 1999. Corned beef was a favorite dish of his, though he was a full-blooded Piemontese, and we always have it partly in his honor.

This time Cook made a true colcannon, chopping the cabbage and cooking it with the mashed potatoes. The carrots are a traditional adjunct, bringing together the colors of North and South in an uneasy truce. Mustard on the side, of course, and no green salad tonight!
Cheap Nero d'Avola


March 17: Dinner in the Café tonight, with the same crew we'd made dinner with at the top of this page. I began with these delicious, soft, buttery, ricotta-filled ravioli, with beautiful new fava beans and chopped chervil, as I recall; and then went on to a duck leg en confit, with spring asparagus and celery root and potato purée, with just enough citrus in the duck-glaze to weld the whole plate into a marvelously integrated dish.

For dessert, an apple galette — Pink Lady apples, as I believe, though it's been a few days now — with dried sour cherries pointing up the flavor; and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.
Arbois Pupillin, Ploussard "Point barre", 2011:
lots of character, completely expressive of its terroir

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

The next day was fast day, and high time; and the day after that we finished what was left of our corned beef and colcannon, even better for having waited for us.

This brings us up to yesterday, as I write this on Saturday afternoon. We had company again, and dined with them chez the neighbors down the hill, where chorizo was cooked over a wood fire, and a delicious potato salad was served, and Cook had carried down her blood orange-and-onion salad, and then we had this magnificent dessert: simply a perfect lemon curd, supple and pointed, fruity, smooth; served with softly whipped cream and garnished with orange gel candies. Things don't get much better than this.

Zinfandel, Green and Red, Chiles Canyon Vineyards, 2011: smooth, deep, lingering finish
Red blend (Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane, Alicante Bouschet), Ridge (Sonoma county), 2012: nicely blended and integrated

Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Monday, March 16, 2015

Home again

Eastside Road, March 13, 2015—
HOME AGAIN, and content so to be, as always. Not that we don't enjoy the outings — in this case, to Ashland, there to see two Shakespeare plays and dine in two favorite establishments. But there's much to be said for one's own kitchen, especially when one's constant companion is an excellent cook.

Last night she made this farmer's hash at the left: a fairly quick sauté of bacon, potatoes, and onion, topped with an egg, served with buttered toast. A perfect conclusion to a day's drive.
Cheap Nero d'Avila
TONIGHT we had a three-course meal: first, thin green asparagus, quickly steamed and lightly buttered; then Jeff's shell pasta with peas and Pecorino, which you'll be familiar with by now; then green salad, of course.
Cheap bianco d'Italia
IMG_8633.jpgRestaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

One of the best

Ashland, Oregon, March 11, 2015—
THIS REMAINS AMONG my favorite five restaurants in the world, and we wouldn't dream of driving past without stopping in. Here you see only one of the reasons: the photo is taken early, before other diners have appeared, from my chair at my table, in one of three small rooms, ours containing only two tables, each for two diners.

Ambiance. But also service: Vern's pleasant hosting and professional (and knowledgable!) wine service, and then the discreet, good-humored waitress, whose name I have once again forgotten…

But you can't eat any of that, and that's where Charlene comes in. After all these years she's still at the top of her form; I think she always will be. To my taste she excels at braises and other such slow-cooked preparations; perhaps her own career is a metaphor for that. We dined on, let's see: I write this up three days later, so I reconstruct from memory…
amuse-geuele: cannellini purée in a tiny profiterole
green salad with pickled grapes, green onion, and blue cheese
plat: grilled lamb chops with braised kale, garlic, potatoes, cannellini beans with tapenade vinaigrette
dessert:hazelnut meringue with coffee ice cream and honey caramel
a glass of Champagne; Bordeaux: Château Lacoste (Garzac), 2012; Moscatel dorado, César Florido
amuse-geuelesaladgrilled lamb chopshazelnut meringue
• New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro, 2210 South Pacific Highway, Talent, Oregon; (541) 535-2779
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


 Ashland, Oregon, March 10, 2015—

WHAT A SCARE! We walked up to our favorite eating place in Ashland, since New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro is technically not in Ashland but in neighboring Talent, and it was closed! The door padlocked; the windows papered over, the sign gone!

So we stepped into our other favorite eating place in Ashland, since New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro is technically not in Ashland at all but in neighboring Talent, and asked What on earth has happened to Agave? Is it out of business?

Oh no, came the answer, no no, they've simply moved, they're around the corner, on Granite Street.

The location has always been a favorite of mine; years ago there was an okay Italian place there, remarkable chiefly for a Vespa parked as decor just inside the front door. After a few years it lost its appeal as far as we were concerned. Then it was a Greek restaurant, and we were hopeful: but one visit was enough; in spite of the attractive dining room, the pleasant patio, the obvious good will of the management, the food wasn't good enough to bring us back. 

But now Agave is there! We've loved this place for five years, since our friends Stefan and Rhoann introduced us to it. The menu never changes, and is always attractive and refreshing and, believe it or not, nourishing. The  drinks are great. The kitchen always smells absolutely clean but never smells of cleaning solutions, if you know what I mean; and all the staff are enthusiastic, good-humored, quick and alert, and pleasing to look at. And there's always enjoyable art on the walls.

The move to the new place is nothing but good. There are more tables, and the room seems less noisy; it's possible to have a conversation at table. Since Tuesday is Fast Day we shouldn't have been eating at all, and I forwent my usual duck-confit taco, which is extraordinary, and had only the guacamole and chips you see here — the tortilla chips here are amazing — and my favorite salad: shredded cabbage, carrot, lime, jalapeños, cilantro, and lime juice. Sets your teeth on edge, a bit, but so clean and refreshing after a long drive.

Margarita, of course

•Agave, 5 Granite Street, Ashland, Oregon; 541-488-1770

Monday, March 9, 2015


Eastside Road, March 9, 2015—
I AM A SUPERSTITIOUS man, and think seriously about the consequences of mentioning my good fortune. But I do have to say, from time to time, we are truly lucky, blessed people, my beautiful companion and I. We live in a marvelous setting, we have decent health and comfort, and we have gathered around us a remarkable family — intelligent, handsome, generous, upstanding, interesting, and entertaining.

We have managed to add to our natural family — three children and their spouses, eight grandchildren and four of them now with steady companions, and three great-grandchildren. And to them we have added three foreign "children" of our own, thanks to various exchange programs which have taken hold very nicely. And in addition to them there is our Dutch family, now three generations of them, our Dutch brother and sister who took in our own daughter for a year so long ago, and their four children, and then the next generation…

And then there are the special friends who have become so close over the years, so thoughtful and caring and appreciative of whatever little help and advice and sympathy we could give over the years, that they are family now as well.

Well: today Kees flew in from Netherlands, needing a week off from his restaurant; and Curt and Mary Jo drove up from the city, because they are old friends of his; and the neighbors down the hill walked up too; and we had dinner. Curt and I started a good fire of grape cuttings and fruitwood and charcoal in the grill. Kees helped prep the artichokes and potatoes. Lindsey had made a delicious cake. Curt and Mary Jo brought up some quail and some paté and who knows what else. And before long we had

Ricotta toasts
Shaved artichokes in shallot vinaigrette
Paté maison
Grilled quail on frisée
Roasted potatoes
Citrus almond cake
Rosé de Corbières, Domaine de Fontsainte, 2014; Cabernet sauvignon blend, Chez Panisse kitchen crew, 1993; Vino rosso, "Il Goccetto," nv; "GSM" (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre), Preston of Dry Creek, 2012; Sauternes, Château Climens, 1983
Seven of us at the table; fine conversation; an absolutely lovely evening. We are endlessly grateful to all these friends.

Lamb chops

Eastside Road, March 8, 2015—
FIRST GRILL OF THE YEAR. This is not good, climatewise: it's unseasonably warm here, the warmest winter on record, and one can only wonder what the summer will be. Still, it was a beautiful Sunday.

Cook asked what I'd like for dinner: How about lamb chops, potatoes, and asparagus? I built a fire of grapevine cuttings from last year and grilled the chops, with just salt and thyme, and we stove-top roasted the potatoes with olive oil, salt, and rosemary. Cook steamed the asparagus with, I suspect, a little butter.

Green salad afterward, and fruit. What a fine Sunday dinner…
Carignane, Preston of Dry Creek, 2009: a beautiful, fully developed wine


Grilled cheese at home

Eastside Road, March 7, 2015—
WE’RE DRIVING DOWN to the city again today for another concert, so let’s have another substantial late lunch in lieu of sleep-inducing dinner. Cook made a couple of delicious grilled cheese sandwiches and cooked some Romanesco to accompany them; green salad afterward; apple and a piece of chocolate — and then the long drive and Pauline’s marvelous music.
Cheap Italian white, Grifone “Bianco”, soft and harmless

Hamburger and salad

San Francisco, March 6, 2015—
LATE LUNCH OR EARLY supper: Caesar salad and a hamburger. These have been old standbys at this restaurant, each perfect to its type: but on this visit the salad didn’t seem up to snuff — the Romaine crowded on its plate, the dressing a little too sour of lemon juice, the anchovy and garlic components too retiring. The hamburger was on the mark, though — but, damn! I forgot to ask for French fries!

Sciaccarello-Nielluccio, Domaine Comte Abbatucci “Cuvée Faustine,” 2011: solid, fruity, very pleasant
• Zuni Café, 1658 Market Street, San Francisco; 415-552-2522
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's RestaurantsIMG_8499.jpg


Santa Rosa, March 5, 2015—
AN OLD FRIEND invited us to her house for dinner, for which she made posole, one of my favorite dishes. In fact, let’s elevate it to the Hundred Recipes. The main ingredients in posole are meat and hominy: I think of it as an essentially Southwest dish, originating among the Navaho, or is it the Hopi. Among them, of course, the meat will be lamb or mutton, but it’s just as good based on pork, as we had it tonight. A big bowl of posole, and a green salad afterward.

IMG_0361.jpgOh: and then Cook’s delicious blood-orange upside-down cake. Thanks to both the cooks!

Red wine, Trione Vineyards “Henry’s Blend” (Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet franc), 2011: very nice, sound, mature
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Eastside Road, March 4, 2015—
A ONE-COURSE MEAL is always welcome as far as I'm concerned: fewer dishes to wash up, and no need to make the evening vinaigrette. And this was a hearty and resonant dish, "resonant" because it recalled me to the Alps, which I love, and the mysteries of the Valtellina, where this dish originates, as described in the estimable Marcella Hazan's "green book," More Classic Italian Cooking.

It's not a colorful dish — which suits its mountain origin, I think, and its affinity, I would say, for cold weather. I'll let la Hazan describe it:
Pizzoccheri are beautiful brown-gray, broad. short noodles. They are cooked with potatoes and some vegetable, such as Swiss chard or Savoy cabbage, tossed with the soft local cheese and garlic-scented butter, and then run briefly into the oven. In place of Vattellina's good cheese, which is unavailable here, one can use fontina, which comes from another of Italy's Alpine valleys, the Val d'Aosta. It is a perfect substitute.

The startling color of the pasta comes from the buckwheat flour which is its principal constituent. Buckwheat, called grano saraceno in Italy — Saracen wheat — because it arrived from Asia Minor, grows well in hilly, cool country. An excellent gray polenta is made from it. Those familiar with Central European cooking know the hulled kernels of buckwheat, called kasha.
I don't know Lombardy well at all, apart from Bellagio and, of course, Milan; last year's read of I promessi sposi has made me want to investigate the area up between Como and Bergamo. The taste and texture and aroma of tonight's pizzoccheri made me think of a weekend we spent in the Carnatic Alps a couple of years ago, up north of Venice. There's Austria in this food, and Austria brings in the East.

Cook made it with Savoy cabbage; Swiss chard is also a possibility. Also buckwheat noodles, eggs, milk, potatoes, garlic, and of course the cheese — tonight, Fontina and Parmesan. (Unlike Marcella, I insist on capitalizing these cheeses; it's the respectful thing to do.)

As I say, one course. No salad; no dessert. The recipe is on page 200 of More Classic Italian Cooking.
Cheap Nero d'Avola
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants
Also now available, as a bit of an experiment: an e-book version of eating in Rome, downloadable here
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Monday, March 2, 2015

Pork chops, my way

Eastside Road, —
I'VE WRITTEN ABOUT THEM here before, but it's been a while — more than two years. The recipe came to us originally in one of Elizabeth David's books, I think, but I haven't looked at it in decades, I'm sure.

For two nice fairly thick boneless chops, I put maybe a three tablespoons of fennel seeds in a mortar with some salt and a chopped clove of garlic, and reduce this to a paste with the pestle. Then I add the microplaned zest of maybe half a lemon, and moisten the result with enough olive oil to make it spreadable.

I rub the fat edge of the chops on a black iron skillet, then get it good and hot, then add the chops, to sear one surface good and golden. While it's cooking I spread half the fennel-seed paste onto the top surfaces of the chops. When they're half cooked I turn them and spread the remaining paste on the cooked surface.

I probably turn the heat down after they've seared at first, then turn it back up when I turn the chops over, then down again. Depends on the chops. We like our chops just a teeny bit pink.

When they're cooked, I put them on the warm dinner plates, splash some white wine into the skillet to deglaze it, and then reduce the pan juices, which will have picked up a lot of the fennel-seed mixture; this gets poured over or spread onto the chops. And there you have it. We accompanied them tonight with the year's first asparagus, tiny and tender and sweet and welcome. No salad; an apple and some chocolate for dessert.

Cheap Nero d'Avola

LUNCH IN TOWN today at a well-thought-of restaurant better, I think, for dinner than for lunch, which offers a restricted menu. I had the "Tunisian Meatball Sandwich": ground lamb meatballs with grilled red onion, bell peppers, yogurt,
with mixed greens and very nice fries on the side. It was a little gloppy, but tasty.
House "Bloody Mary" (sake, kimchee, tomato juice)
The Spinster Sisters, 401 South A Street, Santa Rosa; (707) 528-7100
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants