Friday, August 21, 2015

Pasta, sausage

Eastside Road, August 21, 2015—
MORE OR LESS marking time today, after last night's feast, and the feasting promised for the weekend — just a plate of broad egg noodles and sausages of Franco's from the freezer, I suppose. Green salad. Good company. Can't complain.
Cheap Italian white, Grifone
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Birthday lamb chops

Eastside Road, August 20, 2015—
I AM ONE LUCKY guy, and I know it — to the point of survivor's guilt: eighty years old today, I've outlived my parents and most of my grandparents and even, sadly, two of my younger brothers. And I can still do a few hours' work; and heaven knows I keep my appetite and handle my booze. For the most part.

Best of all, I get to share all this with a Cook and Companion who deserves better but does not complain. On the contrary: she treats me well, bandages my wounds, watches my regimen, and cooks, day in, day out, like the pro she is.

She knows I love lamb chops, and English peas, so look at the main course of my birthday dinner: two fine loin chops grilled simply with salt, rosemary, and a little bit of garlic; buttered peas; sliced tomatoes. It's funny: my father wouldn't have lamb in the house, so I never tasted it until I was in college (and rarely then). Somewhere along the way I'd read of lamb chops and English peas as being a sophisticated supper, a club man's provender, to be taken of course with Bordeaux — Burgundy was for beef or, perhaps, goose. I was a terrible snob as a post-adolescent, striving to be more than I was, and this was the kind of supper I yearned for.

It was just what you want at eighty: solid, balanced, integrated, with memories attached (Provence! George and Barjols!), and made for the occasion. Afterward, of course, a good green salad. And then dessert…Cherries.jpg Cherries Jubilee! I didn't ask, but I bet they were our own cherries, from the freezer of course, flamed in Kirsch and brandy and put to vanilla ice cream… and even my favorite dessert spoon!
Garnacha/Monastrell 70-30%, Laya "old vines" (Almansa), 2013
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Eastside Road, August 19, 2015—
DINING AT HOME was a last-minute decision, and we hadn't really shopped for it — but there are usually a few eggs in the kitchen, and Parmesan; and Cook keeps frozen corn and soybeans on hand for an emergency succotash.

That makes a pretty good summer supper. I made the omelets — a two-egg for her, three for me. I whisk them up a bit with a dinner fork and cook them in a hot omelet pan. For years now, ever since seeing The Big Night with its memorable closing scene, I've used olive oil rather than butter. I grate the cheese ahead of time and strew it on top of the omelet when the bottom side is done, then fold the thing over and serve.

As you see, buttered toast is the garnish. Green salad afterward, and then pears and peaches. As I say: a pretty good summer supper.
Cheap Italian white
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Not grilled cheese

Eastside Road, —
NORMALLY THIS WOULD BE a fast day — it's Tuesday — but we've been working more than usual, so we cheated a bit. Ah, I said to Cook, grilled cheese. Well, no, she said, not grilled.

They were more toasted, in fact, in the black iron skillet, with no butter. Delicious Comté cheese. When I was a kid we rarely ate cheese, and when we did it was Velveeta, or some other processed orange cheese in a long rectangular box — stick-to-your-teeth cheese, either for grilled sandwiches or, more often, macaroni and cheese. It wasn't really very good, and my fondness for cheese, which is pretty selective, was slow to set in.

Among my favorites, the high-pasture types: Comté, Beaufort, Gruyère… they all have such a fine affinity with wheat, or come to think of it potatoes. They warm beautifully; their texture is solid, serious, and interesting; the flavor, rennetty, is focussed and long-finished. I do love those cheeses.

With the sandwich, green Zebra tomatoes, as you see, perfectly salted. A little fruit for dessert.
Cheap Rosé, Epicuro, unmemorable
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Pork chop my way

Eastside Road, August 17, 2015—
I PUT A COUPLE of garlic cloves with some salt in the mortar and crush to a nice juicy paste; then I add fennel seeds, oh I'd say a couple of tablespoons, and crush them too; finally I pour in some oil and grate in some lemon zest.

The resulting paste is spread on the top surfaces of the pork chops, which are then set under the broiler. When done on the first side, you turn them over and spread the rest of the paste on the new topside, then return to the broiler until done.

With them tonight rosemary-garlic-fried potatoes and some chard. Afterward, a green salad dressed with a mustard vinaigrette. Then a small melon, still not quite in season.
Garnacha/Monastrell 70-30%, Laya "old vines" (Almansa), 2013: earthy, good varietal character, full in the mouth, good finish
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Monday, August 17, 2015

A perfect day

Eastside Road, August 16, 2015—
AN INCREDIBLY HOT day today, up to 108°; but lots of work done: re-hung the gate to hinge it on the other side; worked further on the field; repaired a broken water supply only to reveal yet another leak to be repaired tomorrow or next day; began an electrification project long considered and longer postponed.

And then had the new neighbors to dinner — a granddaughter, her man, their baby. Tri-tip on the grill, and Jimmy Nardello and Alhambra peppers. I think the tri-tip, whatever it is, is foolproof: you need only salt it all around on getting it home from the meat-market, re-wrap it loosely in its paper, then perhaps oil it a bit before putting it over the coals.

Jimmy Nardello, whoever he was, was either a genius or a saint, perhaps both, to have come up with his sweet, pungent, unique peppers. Again: all you need is olive oil and salt and a good heat source.

And then Cook's potatoes with rosemary, olive oil, and garlic; and some sliced Zebra tomatoes; and a good green salad with an avocado afterward; and then ice cream with Lou's strawberries… and such great company and conversation… and a kerosene lamp on the table at the end of dinner, as the dark night gathers around with a promise of slightly cooler temperatures (at 9:50 PM it's 70 degrees, very unusual)…

And the dishes all in the dishwasher, and yes that is an empty Martini glass on the table even though it is Sunday…

Life is good. IMG_0716.jpg
Mourvedre, Preston of Dry Creek, 2012: strong, assertive, almost mature; sound and interesting
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Saturday salmon

Eastside Road, August 15, 2015—
SATURDAY: COOK WENT OFF to the farm market in town without me this morning — leaving me to work on other things — and returned eventually with not only the nice weekly hunk of local salmon but also the first lima beans of the season. We miss dear Nancy Skall, it goes without saying, but remember her fondly as we enjoy these lima beans, tended by her gardener on her soil now maintained by new owners. Things change; underlying things do not — at least that's how I prefer to look at things at the moment.
Rosé, La Ferme Julien
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Friday, August 14, 2015

Pasta con pesto

Eastside Road, August 14, 2015—
WE'RE LEANING IN to a difficult week; I won't say any more about it until next Sunday. Maybe not even until the day after that. Suffice it to say our attention is elsewhere and we are not really concentrating at the moment on our meals.

That said, I must say Cook gave a little time to some beautiful yellow bell peppers à la grecque tonight; a dish I'm slightly more likely to prepare, I think, than she usually is. She got down that nice iron grill I bought years ago at a flea market in Barjols, and roasted the peppers over one of the burners, then peeled them, sliced them, and put them in olive oil for an hour or two. With heritage tomatoes, absolutely delicious.

Afterward. penne al pesto — surprising how well that pesto is holding up — and the green salad.
"Bianco", Grifonie (Italy). This is apparently half Zibbibo, half Riesling; therefore just a little bit sweet, which I think works well with pesto (or any garlic-heavy preparation not involving meat). It's cheap. It works.
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Fusilli with red sauce

Eastside Road, August 13, 2015—
COOK GENERALLY PROVIDES enough sauce for two pasta meals, and it holds perfectly for a few days in the icebox. (Refrigerator, I mean.) So tonight she simply cooked a couple of plates of whole-wheat fusilli, which hold the sauce so well; and spooned the sauce over; and grated some Parmesan on top; and we had the usual green salad and then, as a treat, a bit of chocolate. Good supper.
Nero d'Avola, Epicuro, 2014
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Two salads

Oakland, California, August 12, 2015 —
TWO REALLY DELICIOUS salads today. At dinner, the huevo a la flamenca you see here: a very nicely poached egg with Serrano ham, fresh shell beans, and roasted peppers, with a bit of watercress to set things off.

That started off dinner, whose main course was a signature dish, "duck two ways," the leg made into a confit and pan-grilled, the breast sliced and sautéed. This was at a restaurant locally famous for its double duck dinners, a restaurant that meant quite a bit to us when it first opened, but which we've felt has somewhat settled into a routine in the last few years. It is in fact closing at the end of the month, after a heroic stand of forty years, no mean achievement.

The dessert was really quite delicious, a rose-water-flavored panna cotta with apricots and pecans; and our first appetizer, shared among the four of us at table, was a silky duck-liver flan with toast, cornichons, and olives, a very beautiful thing.

Cabernet sauvignon (with 7% Merlot and 7% Petit verdot), Ridge "Montebello", 1993: fully mature but ready for a few more years, deep and delicious with a fine finish (thanks, John!)

IMG_0696.jpgTHE OTHER SALAD had provided our lunch: Halibut tartare with lettuce, avocado, and Meyer lemon, in a perfectly calculated vinaigrette. The lettuce was the "Little Gems" variety, crisp and substantial; the vinaigrette was creamy; the halibut clean and full of flavor — beautifully conceived, this dish, and of course executed just as well.
Verdicchio di Matelica, Colle Stefano, 2014: flinty, crisp, nicely matched to the halibut
• Café Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, California; 510-548-5525

Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Those penne again…

Eastside Road, August 10, 2015—
YES: PENNE; RED SAUCE. Stick with the staples; they won't let you down. It seemed to me the sauce was particularly deep tonight — rich, I called it; Cook said the word implies fat when used to describe food, but I demur: to me it connotes depth and complexity. She's probably right; my idiosyncratic use of language confuses even myself. In any case, a fine meal, followed by a green salad dressed tonight with cheap "Balsamic" vinegar — gotta decant some of my own tomorrow — and yet another melon too early in the season, bought because, well, hope springs eternal in the human breast.
Nero d'Avola, Epicuro, 2013
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Monday, August 10, 2015

That hominy again…

Eastside Road, —
…AND ANOTHER MEMORY of hominy. I'm not sure we ate it often before 1944, when we left California, in the summer, to spend a year in Oklahoma: my grandmother's second husband had just died, and Dad wanted to help her out, installing electricity and running water in her house before another hard winter was upon her. (Come to think of it I'm not sure what my dining memories are from the war years, 1942-1945, when so much was rationed — though I do remember looking up at a can of sliced pineapple on a top shelf of the little neighborhood grocery store; no one ever had enough ration points to buy it…) The dinner-table in Oklahoma was of course quite different from anything I'd been used to, for reasons both of cuisine and ingredients. Much came from Grandma's garden, chicken house, and her milk cow. And soon after we arrived there was a hominy-making session: a number of women gathered to shuck corn and strip it from the cobs — was it dried? I don't think so. Then it was put to soak in water with ashes from the stove; and then after many rinses it was cooked and served. Many rinses, but not quite enough, I think. It tasted soapy. I can still remember the taste, something like the smell of socks washed in Fels Naptha and, again, not quite sufficiently rinsed. It was a hard life. Tonight's was much better. Canned, of course; and cooked with Franco's delicious chorizo, and onions, and scattered with cilantro…
Rosé, La Ferme Julien (Var), 2014: clean and serviceable.
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Saturday salmon

Eastside Road, August 8, 2015—
YOU FIGURED THIS OUT before I wrote the post, I bet, if you've been visiting for a while — it's a summer Saturday, the day for the Healdsburg Farm Market; salmon's in season; the first stand we head for is Dave Legros's. Haven't seen him in months; he's been out to sea, catching these guys. That's fine with us, though we do enjoy conversations with him.

Cook simply broiled it, and buttered some broad wax beans, and sliced up a fine heirloom tomato and one of our Meyer lemons. We had the usual green salad afterward, and then a small bowl of blackberries, because salmon's not the only thing in season.
Primitivo, Epicuro, as yesterday
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Birthday party

San Francisco, August 3, 2015—
DINNER PARTY for a dozen guests at a friend's birthday, prepared by her husband, a fastidious, meticulous, much travelled, endlessly cosmopolitan composer we've known for fifty years:
Poached salmon with salsa verde and aioli
Feta with za’atar
Edamame and nori
Dulce de membrillo con queso manchego
Champignons à la Japonais
Cauliflower with turmeric and cumin
Lentils and braised garlic
Baby zucchini
Korean black beans, beansprouts, and squid
Farro with Chinese chives
Focaccia Sachertorte mit Schlagsahne
Alas, my quick photo doesn't show everything, and certainly can't suggest the marvelous flavors and textures in this unique event, a very unusual one in that the courses came from so wide a variety of ethnic sources, yet everything went together to make a true meal.
Prosecco and lots of it; also white and red Burgundy
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Saturday, August 8, 2015


Eastside Road, August 7, 2015—
OK, LET'S JUST PRETEND nothing's missing. A few days off. Been busy doing other things. Maybe — no promise here, but maybe — I'll throw the missing items onto this space in the coming weeks. maybe not.

Yesterday I made pesto, the way I always do — I've posted that before a few times, I won't do it again just now. It involves a marble mortar, a wooden pestle, garlic (Rose de Lautrec is my favorite for this purpose), pine nuts (our own, or failing them Italian ones, not Chinese), salt (Ile de Ré), basil (the Genovese variety for preference), Parmesan and a little bit of Pecorino (about three to one, like a Martini), and of course olive oil.

Yesterday I noted a California oil on sale at our local upscale single-addressed family-owned supermarket: California Olive Ranch extra virgin, about thirteen dollars a liter. That's what I used, and while it's certainly not Tuscan — it doesn't claw desperately at your throat on the way down — and it's a little fatter, more buttery, than you might want for some other purposes — it was very nice in this application. We use probably a cup of olive oil a week, and we're not rich, so it's nice to find something like this.

Anyhow: the pesto. I pound the garlic with salt; add pine nuts and a little more salt, and pound away until I have a smooth paste. The salt helps cut the garlic and the nuts: when you have the right proportion, it all comes together. Then the basil leaves, which this time I cut up a bit first with scissors. Pound pound pound until there's not much identifiable left of the veins of the leaves. (Don't use the stems, and leave out any discolored leaves.)

When that's all pretty well amalgamated, pound in the grated cheese. The result by now will be a rather dense, hard, intractable paste. I keep using the pestle while adding a little oil; then simply push the pesto down into the mortar, or whatever container I want to transfer it to, and pour in enough olive oil to cover, keeping the air away from the sauce, and refrigerating it until it's time to use it.

The photo shows you the color. This is rather a skimpy serving, and I added another spoonful or two before tossing my serving before eating it. The pesto was just as green today, the second day we had it…

Green salad, of course.
Primitivo, Epicuro (Puglia?), 2013: a little dumb and dull, a little alcoholic, fruity
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants


Eastside Road, August 5, 2015—
WELL, NO, IT isn't really Mexicorn of course, but it suddenly brought memories of that curious canned vegetable to mind. Mexicorn was kernels of corn, bits of red bell pepper, and perhaps something else I'm forgetting at the moment, all canned, of course: when I was a boy there was only fresh vegetables and canned, no frozen vegetables, at first because they hadn't been invented, then because we lacked electricity and therefore refrigeration and freezers.

This is not Mexicorn, but it is, believe it or not, a Martha Stewart recipe, because Cook doesn't care where an idea originates, only whether it sounds promising enough to try. If she thinks so, it almost certainly proves itself.

We were in our local supermarket, a good one, supporting local farmers, and she found a promising ear of corn, and a bell pepper; we had an onion, and I'd bought a couple of tomatoes the previous day at the farm market. (In the supermarket we ran into an acquaintance who looked at our basket and remarked: One ear of corn. Yes, I said; Lindsey's frugal; but she can make a meal.)

Onion and garlic soffrito cooked in an iron skillet; add sliced red bell pepper; rice; chicken broth; fresh corn cut of one ear. You've already grilled a sausage or two in that skillet. A little salt and pepper as needed. Cover and bake until done — it's a sort of oven-made risotto. Top it with chopped cilantro and serve.
Rosé, La Ferme Julien
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants