Wednesday, August 31, 2016


IMG 9646
Eastside Road, August 30, 2016—
SINCE THE LONG WALK in July I haven't felt the need or desire to fast on Tuesdays. I lost about ten pounds on that walk, maybe more, and haven't yet got more than five of them back, not even after the Crawfish Boil two days ago. So we dined again today. Lunched, too, for that matter.

Lunch is on the frugal side — today, a couple of pieces of toast spread with rillettes (okay, okay, maybe not all that frugal), a glass of orange juice, a pear and an apple, a piece of dark chocolate.

Dinner: hominy, a staple hereabouts. I'm sure I've written about the hominy of my childhood, which came in a can and was simply boiled in water until it began to burn. We dressed it at the table with Gebhardt's chile powder and Schilling's garlic salt. How far I've come!

Tonight's hominy had also been released from a can, but it was cooked with browned chopped onion, a little bit of garlic, and slices of Franco's sausage, and dressed with lemon juice, as you see, and chopped cilantro. A delicious dish: you should give it a try.

Green salad afterward, bien sûr…

Cheap Nero d'Avola

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:  2016   2015

Birthday at Chez Panisse

IMG 9642
Berkeley, California, August 29, 2016—

VERY HARD TO BELIEVE, but Chez Panisse was forty-five years old yesterday. Tonight’s dinner was a re-creation of the original:

Pâté maison avec salade de mesclun
Magret de canard grillê aux olives vertes
Galette aux prunes et crème glacée à la Panisse

with two or three minor adjustments: an added amuse-bouche before and mignardises after; an alteration of the original price (it was $3.95 in 1971!); a considerable elevation of quality in terms of ingredients, culinary technique, service, and setting.

As I wrote last week, I’m forbearing adjectival comment on the dinners here. Here are the photos, and the wine list…

IMG 9637  1
amuse-bouche: roasted potato "chip" with aioli, salmon roe, chives
IMG 9638
pâté maison, mesclun salad, cucumber and onion pickles
IMG 9640
grilled duck leg and breast with green olives, whipped potatoes, chanterelles
And, of course, the galette seen at the top of the page — not prunes tonight but plutos, which did not exist when Chez Panisse was young!

Apéritif: Prosecco flavored with elderflower and thyme
Rosé: Domaine Tempier (Bandol), 2015
Cahors: Clos Siguiers, 2013
Marsala: La Vigna Miccia, Marco De Bartoli

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

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:  2016   2015

10th Annual Crawfish Boil

IMG 9632
Laytonville, California, August 28, 2016—

NOT YOUR TYPICAL Eating Every Day dinner today! We spent the afternoon at the rodeo grounds in Laytonville, where the 10th Annual Crawfish Boil was raising money to fund the community’s emergency ambulance team.

IMG 9630I’m not sure why, but there’s a sizable Cajun transplant from Louisiana to this small town in the wilds of the 101 corridor through Mendocino county. Their cooks turn out in force for these events. I cannot eat crayfish, unfortunately — or any other crustacea — but as you see I did not starve: there was a goat on the spit, five pigs in “Cajun microwaves,” an array of chickens spatchcocked on a frame over a fire, an enormous pot of beans, another of chicken-and-pork jambalaya.

A couple of bands had been flown in from New Orleans, I’m told, and they were fun to listen to. Jugglers on the dance floor, and little kids, aging hippies, people of every description. A great time had by all.

Beer, of course

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:  2016   2015

IMG 9625
IMG 9617
Clay working the Cajun microwave

Dave’s Flounder

IMG 9606
Eastside Road, August 27, 2016—
SATURDAY AGAIN, so the Healdsburg market. The flounder’s a little less expensive than the salmon, and we’re in the mood for flounder. Then there were those delicious lima beans from Middleton Gardens — are these the beans lamented Nancy used to call Musica? Don’t know.

Tomatoes from Preston of Dry Creek, green salad with lettuce from Bert and Mary, strawberries from Preston. It’s a great market!

Cheap rosé, Grifone (Italy), nv

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:  2016   2015

Franks and peppers

IMG 9599
Eastside Road, August 26, 2016—

ANOTHER EVENINGin front of the television set as the Chicago Cubs continue their sometimes hesitating march to the league playoffs. Tonight, New York style frankfurters, grilled as you see in the black iron skillet, and Jimmy Nardello peppers, somewhat ditto.

Cook and I differ on the subject of peppers: I adore them; she likes them, mostly, as long as they’re not too piquant. I think Nardellos are the perfect compromise between the one-dimensional flavor of bell peppers and the degree of piquancy I cannot share with my companion. Perhaps the pimento has a more interesting flavor, smoky and complex, but the Nardello is sweet and fruity. I just wash them, dry them, and cook them in a dry black iron skillet until the skins are charred; sometimes I scrape the skins off, sometimes — tonight — I do not.

Then I might put a little olive oil and a little water in the pan, cover it, and let them cook until tender. If they’re small enough, I’ll skip that step. Salt, of course.

Dogs, buns, mustard, relish. Peppers, and green salad afterward, and some dark chocolate from See’s. And baseball. A fine evening.

Rosé, La Ferme Julien.

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:  2016   2015

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Downstairs again

IMG 9588
Berkeley, August 25, 2016—

SINCE I HAVE, in the current inelegant phrase, a dog in this fight, I've decided from now on to suppress all adjectives from comments on this place, and simply list the courses, with photos when possible:

IMG 9580 amuse-gueule: Smoked salmon rillettes, chervil
apéritif: Prosecco infused with charentais melong and mint
IMG 9581 Fried squid with tomatoes, saffron finaigrette, basil, aïoli
Rosé de Provence, Château Pradeau, 2014
IMG 9584 Sheep's-milk ricotta gnocchi with Jimmy Nardello peppers
Mataòssu, Vigneto Reiné (Liguria), 2014
IMG 9588 Grilled duck breast with peach mostarda, sweet corn and shell beans, watercress
Bourgogne (Pinot noir), Domaine de Montille, 2013
IMG 9594 Red currant, raspberry,, and blackberry clafoutis
Jurançon, "La Magendia Llapeyre", Jean-Bernard Larrieu, 2012
I will say it was a delicious dinner and a visual feast.

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

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:  2016   2015

Friday, August 26, 2016


Eastside Road, August 24, 2016—

WE'RE GOING OUT tonight; no time to prepare dinner; no inclination to eat out. Quick, then! Franco Dunn's delicious pork rillettes on toast, a green salad…

Carignan: Preston of Dry Creek, 2014

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:  2016   2015

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Baccalà again

IMG 9560
Healdsburg, August 23, 2016—
LUNCH WITH my daughter in town today, a monthly affair we both enjoy. I'd thought to go to a Yucanateco place we liked a week or two ago, but it's not open Tuesdays, so we sauntered across the main drag to a Portuguese place I've neglected these past few years.

There we split a tasty Salada Portuguesa composed of chopped tender kale, slices of linguiça, corn-bread croutons, local São Jorge cheese, with an anchovy vinaigrettes — a complex, tasty affair — and then went on to, what else, bolinhos de bacalhau. There were a number of attractive items on the menu, but they all seemed to me more like dinner items than lunch fare; I still had some work to do today.

And who can resist salt cod? Not, as Constant Reader knows, me. This version was quite different from yesterdays, though it featured to same two basic ingredients, salt cod and potatoes. Yesterday's was whipped, creamy, sophisticated, ultimately Venetian; this was chopped, browned-crisp, vernacular, certainly Portuguese, garnished with nicely hard-cooked quail eggs and black olives. And, in the final analysis, as sophisticated as the other.

Vinho verde, Ribeira
•Café Lucia, 235 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg, California; 707-431-1113
IMG 9569SO FOR DINNER nothing needed beyond a nice farmer's omelet: A red onion chopped up and browned in a few small pieces of bacon, half a dozen small potatoes quartered and thrown on top to steam-cook under cover; half a dozen beaten eggs at the last minute. And green salad.

And, for dessert, a red Bartlett pear and a Seckel pear and a pluot from the garden, and a delicious late white peach from Dry Creek.

Rosé, La Ferme Julien

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:  2016   2015

Let's eat out!

IMG 9550  1

the photo doesn't do it justice…

Berkeley, August 23, 2016—

OUT IN THE back yard, that is; and not ours, Curt and Mary Jo's, friends of ours Who Cook. Curt has just built himself a deck kitchen — you see one corner of it in the photo, at the left. It houses a Tuscan Grill on the right (the movable grate's wooden handles jut out discreetly in the photo and a ceramic egg-type smoker-oven on the left; both burn either wood or charcoal.

What a feast! We began with Prosecco Negronis, then moved on to a delicious baccalà mantecato, I would say, baked in the ceramic oven. He'd poached the salt cod in "milky water" (or was it "watery milk"? I forget now), then after lifting out the fish cooked potatoes in the same juice until tender, and then creamed the whole affair using, I suppose, an immersion blender. An herb was involved as well, but again I plead forgetfulness.

That was the primo: Curt, like me, was just back a couple of weeks ago from Torino. Next came the secondo: fine Italian-style sausages grilled over wood, served on a bed of long-cooked greens. With them, delicious white beans, and fresh corn, on the cob, roasted back in that ceramic oven and finished on the grill. Ingenious. Brilliant.

Rosé, Ermitage de Pic Saint Loup, 2015; Garnacha, Laya
IMG 9543 IMG 9549
baccalà sausage, beans, greens, corn

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:  2016   2015

A balanced diet

IMG 9534
Eastside Road, August 21, 2016—

COOK DOES HER BEST to keep me healthy, she really does. One of her weapons is fish, which we try to eat at least once a week; and the presence of Dave the Fish Guy at the local market makes that relatively easy.

When we're down in Berkeley, though, she often stops by Monterey Fish. That's where the clams came from the other day, and that was the source of tonight's local flounder, which she floured lightly and fried, serving it with lima beans from Middleton Gardens and tomatoes from … well, somewhere else; not exactly sure where; local I'm sure.

Meantime my own thoughts had strayed in another direction, and I was the one who'd gone to the market yesterday — directed to buy only those lima beans. (Get at least two pounds!)

Our friends Bert and Mary had a basket of pimentos at their stand. It's the season for peppers: Padrones, Jimmy Nardellos, long Italians and Hungarians, and all the rest. I am particularly fond of the pimento, which Larousse Gastronomique considers a generic word describing just about any red pepper, but which I think of as essentially red, relatively round but with a pronounced point at the blossom end, sweet, but with more flavor than the ordinary bell pepper — and somehow a little smoky.

IMG 9532I got half a dozen of these little guys, each no bigger than the palm of my hand, and cut them in half lengthwise and grilled them dry in the black iron skillet, then added a little water and a little olive oil, reduced the heat, and covered them, to steam-cook them tender. (I later wished I had peeled them after grilling them: I was too impatient this evening!)

When they were done I set them on toasts and filled them with pork rillettes, yes I did. I suppose the rillettes countered the efficacy of the fish, healthwise, but I didn't really care.

Bellinis first; then rosé, La Ferme Julien

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:  2016   2015

Birthday dinner

IMG 9508
Santa Rosa, August 20, 2016—

HAVING SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED the first year of my tenth decade it seemed appropriate to celebrate, and with whom better than the Contessa and the dear old friend who introduced us to one another over sixty years ago.

Friend lives nearby, and suggested a hot new restaurant everyone seems to be talking about. We met early, at 5:30, when it was still possible to converse for a while, and warmed up with Martinis.

Then it was time to order. The Contessa and I split a Caesar salad, declining the waitress's offer to withhold the anchovies; and I went on to the pork chop you see here. I learned a valuable lesson: when the waitress asks how you would like it cooked, do not answer "no more than necessary." I don't like to order pork rare; it strikes me the result might be in fact rare pork; I like it rosy. This, as you see, came quite thoroughly cooked: the meat had good flavor but was dense and dry. My fault, the Contessa's expression seemed to say.

No matter: we're celebrating tonight. The succotash on the side was a nice touch, and we had an old favorite for our beverage, a wine we used to drink fairly often, when it was still affordable, but which we hadn't had for decades — and which turned out to taste just as it used to:

Chablis, Jean-Marc Brocard, "Montée de Tonnerre," 2014
and an Armagnac for dessert…

•The County Bench Kitchen + Bar, 535 Fourth Street, Santa Rosa, California; 707-535-0700

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:  2016   2015

Saturday, August 20, 2016


IMG 9495
Eastside Road, August 19, 2016—
ALMOST AS GOOD as mussels. Well, cooked like this, quite as good as mussels. Cook outdid herself tonight.

And the recipe came from Martha Stewart's magazine — which has been the source of a fair number of good dishes over the years. Here's what's in that generous bowl: a clove of garlic, an Italian sausage, a few small potatoes cut in half, a small bulb of fennel sliced up, a leek also sliced, some Pernod, a little clam juice, a pound or so of clams, a tomato cut into wedges, tarragon.

It all got cooked in the black iron skillet, and it was delicious.

Green salad; then a nice version of Flo Braker's buttermilk cake as baked by Mary Jo. Decked out with strawberries from Lucero Farm, bought yesterday at Berkeley's market.

Carignane, Preston of Dry Creek, 2013
IMG 9497

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:  2016   2015


IMG 9467
Berkeley, August 18, 2016—

FULL MOON, birthdays coming: let's see how things are going downstairs. Longtime Reader will know by now that that means a visit to Chez Panisse, which we've been associated with for forty-five years less ten days. (The next ten, not the first.) Dinner was, of course, excellent.

It began with an apéritif: Prosecco flavored (very delicately) with fig and thyme. This made me realize I've been neglecting our fig tree (among many other things); it's time to use its leaves from time to time in the kitchen…

With the apé, the amuse-gueule you see here: a radish, cut in half; a round of bread, toasted, covered with tapenade made with Lucques green olives and radish and flavored, as you see, with a twig of thyme, the herb that will tie tonight's dinner together.

Next came the salad: a carpaccio of tomatoes with fried squid and cucumber salsa. A complex dish, this; lots of color, texture, and flavor, all well balanced and integrated with its delicious olive oil.

Then a light, refreshing risotto, peas, corn, summer squash, just a sprinkle of each lending texture to the risotto, a subtle shaving of parmagiano and a very discreet scattering of minced black truffle.

Beefsteak: looked like a small filet mignon to me, grilled just more than rare and spread with chimichurri, and accompanied by shoestring potatoes, eggplant tian, and rocket leaves. The chimichurri was flavored not with oregano but with thyme, and it was first-rate.

Dessert: pasticcini, in this case tiny cream-puffs filled with strawberry and raspberry ice cream, whipped cream, garnished with fresh berries and just enough chopped praline. And now that I look at the photos, I realize the rhyming shapes and colors of the split radish and the dessert, the kind of thing I so appreciate about this place…

Rosé de Provence, Château Pradeau, 2014; Chardonnay, Les Varrons (Jura), 2012 (marvelous); Montsant, Joan d'Anguera "Finca l'Argatâ" (Catalunya), 2012 (deep, fruity, solid, satisfying)
Carpaccio IMG 9468 Risotto IMG 9473
Filet IMG 9479 Pasticcini IMG 9484

•Chez Panisse, 151 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 415-548-5525

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:  2016   2015

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Another sausage

IMG 9463
Eastside Road, August 17, 2016—
YES, YOU MIGHT SAY we've come to depend on Franco Dunn, Sonoma County's master salsiccieria, if that's the word: maker of artisanal sausages. I would like to know him better, to hang out with him, to shop and read and listen and learn. I know very little about him, considering that I exchange a few words with him most every Saturday I'm home.

I know he's widely read; that he knows a good many foodie heroes, that he respects traditions, that he's traveled a good deal if only, sometimes, second hand, that he apprenticed to a master in Italy, that he seems to be generally even-tempered, that he enjoys life and its pleasures.

I know that he makes consistently good sausages. At the Saturday market in Healdsburg you can usually count on three different cased sausages from him, ranging from traditional Toulouse to complex north African mixtures. They run around eleven or twelve dollars for four, which seems very reasonable to me; two sausages make a dinner for us.

From time to time you'll find something else. Rillettes, perhaps, or a paté, or occasionally guanciale or something of the sort. But there are always the cased sausages, and we've come to depend on them.

Tonight, on the side, summer squash and zucchini, and white and purple potatoes cooked with a little oil, a little salt, a little garlic, a little marjoram. Delicous. Green salad afterward, and gelato al limon, and a little chocolate.

Rosé, La Ferme Julien

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:  2016   2015

Driving home

IMG 9459
August 16, 2016—
A FEW MINUTES on the internet and we knew where we’d have the morning coffee, a short and pleasant walk from our cheap motel. And in fact the coffee was quite good, good enough (as I Facebooked) for a second cup — but there were no pastries. No, said the countergirl, there isn’t really a good bakery in this town; we make our own muffins, but we’re already out of them.

Spearhead Coffee, 619 12th Street, Paso Robles, California; 805-296-3327

Oh well: we recalled we still had sliced bread and butter back at the motel, a souvenir of yesterday’s discovery. Bob’s Well Bread Bakery to the rescue!

Lunch: a fine pizza from the Café Chez Panisse, eaten while driving the final leg home.

Dinner: as you see, salami, bread, and butter. Fra Mani salami, levain and butter from Bob’s Well Bread.

Rosé, La Ferme Julien

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:  2016   2015

Cortile, Paso Robles

IMG 9454
August 15, 2016—
WHAT A LONG drive it was, Marina del Rey to Paso Robles, the first hour and a half through the inevitable Los Angeles freeway traffic. And why Paso Robles? Because it’s one of the traditional halfway points on the Los Angeles-San Francisco drive, and because Ember, where we ate last night, is closed on Monday.

Brian, the chef at Ember, had suggested this pleasant Italian restaurant. The room is très chic, with a moderne color scheme and lighting, and a curiously dished ceiling that allowed me to attend to a conversation forty feet away at the diagobally opposite corner of the room.

The menu seemed heavy on heaviness: black truffles, foie gras — wait, is this really an Italian restaurant? Maybe a Paris-italien theme? In any case, we ordered exactly the same, the contessa and I: pappardelle (they looked like maltagliati to me) al ragù di cinghiale, pasta with a tomato-cream sauce with a generous scatter of “wild boar.”

The pasta was silky, fresh, made that day I’m sure, and perfectly cooked. The sauce was creamy and nicely flavored. With the pasta, the evening’s vegetables: cauliflower and broccoli, cooked al dente, not long-cooked in the currently fashionable Italian manner. A pleasant supper after a long day which had left us too tired for dessert.

Barbera, Pianeta, 2013
Il Cortile Ristorante, 608 12th Street, Paso Robles, California; 805-226-0300

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:  2016   2015

A great bakery

IMG 9447
August 15, 2016—
FEW THINGS PLEASE us more than the discovery of a fine bakery, and this morning we stumbled across one of the best. Well, “stumbled”: in fact last night’s restaurant hostess told us about it when we asked where in Arroyo Grande to have breakfast. The neighboring bakery, which I’ve written about here, is closed on Mondays — if you can wait, drive twenty miles south.

We did and were rewarded with truly excellent croissant and brioche and an interesting conversation with the friendly proprietor, who after thirty years in the television industry followed his passion and what is clearly an innate gift and began to bake bread, first for himself, then for friends, finally and inevitably for the community.

He uses artisanal flours and Normandy butter (though the butter he serves, with his sliced bread, he churns in his shop), and he’s researched available technology to good results, proofing his doughs carefully for maximum flavor and texture. We were so happy with him, and his products, that we left with a couple of ham-and-gruyère-on-flûte sandwiches for lunch later in the day, and a loaf of bread and a couple of canalés for later.

Oh, his coffee: Stumptown, and delivered from a well maintained espresso machine. This will be a routine stop from now on on our drives south.

Bob’s Well Bread Bakery, 550 Bell Street, Los Alamos, California; 805-344-3000 IMG 9448

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:  2016   2015

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Back to a favorite

Arroyo Grande, August 14, 2016— 

YOU SEE HERE a small piece of my Companion's pollo sotto un mattone, the ubiquitous chicken grilled (in fact griddled) under a brick. It was simply delicious: moist, succulent, full of authentic chicken flavor, garnished with a chopped version of the sautéeed greens that also nestled under the serving: mustarrd greens and broccoli rabe. Black pepper is involed as well, and the right amount of salt, and I wouldn't be surprised at some chile pepper, a very discreet amount.

We first visited this place a year or so ago, and I've been anxious to retturn, and am very happy we did. I began with panzanella, and it was just as delicious: the restaurant bakes its own bread and it is marvelous; the tomatoes were perfect, ditto the olive oil, ditto the fabulous ricotta. Perfect execution.

Also theee gnocchi, tender and seductive, in an earthy, spiicy  tomato sauce, with a garnish of broccoli. This is an exceptional restaurant, one of The Hundred.

Sparkling wine, Laetitia, nv, cuvée brut; Dolcetto, Palmina (Santa Ynez Valley), 2013

Ember, 1200 E Grand Avenue, Arroyo Grande, California;  +1 (805) 474-7700


 Berkeley, California, August 13 2016— 

IT'S NOT SOMETHING I often eat, paella; usually it's compromised by crustacea of various types, therefore beyond my grip. This one was not, though, and seemed an appropriate dish to down between two operas, each dealing with, let''s say, primitive issues. 

Fennel sausage, rice of course, squid ink, peas and the occcasional pea pod, mussels. At the center, aïoli and salmon roe. Garnish of lemons. 

We'd begun with patatas bravas, mushroom croquettes, and bacalao croquettes. Oh: and Coca: : flatbrcad topped with  Dijon honey cream, caramelized red onions, manchcgo, jamón scrrano, pears, and candied walnuts. 

I thought the aïoli on the paella should not have been flavored with truffle oil; otherwise the dinner was only a little exccssive and not at all troubling. I would go back happily. 

Sangría; Listan Negro/Tintillo: Suerte, 7 Fuentes, Valle de Orotravo: excellent.
La Marcha Tapas Bar, 2026 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, California; +1 (510) 647-9525

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Even simpler

 Eastside Road, August 12, 2016—

GOING OUT to the opera tonight, and want to stay awake: let's skip dinner, then, and concentrate on lunch. In front of the television, since the Cubs are playing the Cardinals today. 

I sliced some bread and some dry salami and washed a few leaves of lettuce, and brought them to table with the butter pot. Don't need anything else …


Eat modestly

IMG 9391 IMG 9396
Pouring the butter into the pilaf The finished dish
Eastside Road, August 10, 2016—

MODEST DINING, these summer days, when there are baseball games to watch on television (or listen to on the Internet), and applesauce to make…

Tonight it was back to Marion Cunningham's recipe for buttered barley. We'd bought the barley from a local farmer, and Cook made it the usual way, simply using water, not stock; cooking the pilaf to the tooth, adding the melted and slightly cooked butter, as you see. The dish also involves chopped scallions, and it is one of the Hundred Plates.

Green salad afterward, and then a surprise: an apple tart!


IMG 9405

Eastside Road, August 11, 2016—
TONIGHT WAS GIVEN to one of the aforementioned ball games, a particularly entertaining one ending with a walk-off walk in the bottom of the twelfth inning. Our Cubs won again.

How more patriotically to sustain one's self at a ball game, even at home in front of the television, than with a hamburger? Cook seared it in the black iron skillet and toasted those delicious Downtown Bakery buns in the toaster oven. Alas we have forgotten to refresh our supply of dill pickles, but a leaf of good fresh lettuce, a slice of tomato, and some slicelets of onion filled the gap nicely. Mustard, of course. Green salad afterward, of course.


RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating (and now brought up to date):  2016   2015

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Cherry pudding

IMG 9368
Eastside Road, August 9, 2016—

WHEN WE WERE first married, in 1957, one of the very few cookbooks we had was brand new: Cooking Bold and Fearless, a compilation of recipes sent in by amateur cooks, all of them men, as contributions to "Chefs of the West," a column that ran back in those quaint old days in Sunset magazine. The idea was that it was unusual that a man would cook in the kitchen; that if he did he was likely to come up with something — well, bold; out of the ordinary.

Many of the recipes failed to interest us at the time, and probably more would now if we were to go through the book page by page. But we've kept the book all these years, and so have our kids, because among the oddities, the roasts with too many things in the marinade, the oddly composed salads, among all those are a few things we immediately liked.

And tonight Cook returned to a favorite, one we haven't had in years. It's nothing but a cherry pudding, involving cherries, butter, flour, and sugar, with a few drops of almond extract. As the book's editor points out, the secret is to burn the butter, but not too much. Cook used to use commercially canned cherries for this, and it was among the repertory that captivated David and Alice when they walked up the block for dessert.

Tonight she used some frozen sour cherries from our own tree. We didn't get any this year — the birds got them all. But there were some in the freezer from a previous harvest: they store well.

The pudding always makes me think, these days, of clafoutis, another favorite of mine, but a little more involved. This is simpler, more direct, and I can see why Alice loved it.

IT WASN'T ALL we had for dinner, of course: there was a very nice risotto, made with a complex sausage of Franco Dunn's, whose ingredients I meant to record but forgot to — made according to his instructions: make an onion soffrito in the usual way (he uses both butter and olive oil); crumble the sausage in at the time you add the rice; then the white wine and stock. Then came some sliced tomatoes, and then the green salad.

But what I wanted you to know about was the cherry pudding. Such a delicious thing!

Cheap Pinot grigio

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:  2016   2015

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Contemporary Mexican

IMG 9359
Eastside Road, August 9, 2016—
PRINCIPAL MEAL of the day, we agreed as we drove in to town for a late lunch with a couple of friends. They'd suggested Mateo's, a restaurant I've been wanting to try for some time now. Mateo is a fine cook; he was chef at Charles Palmer's Healdsburg Hotel restaurant when it opened years ago, and while waiting to find a location for his own restaurant he ran a catering business that resulted in pop-up restaurants here and there, now and then. He's an artist, as I've mentioned here before.

Monday, 1:30 pm: the place was cool and nearly empty; a few tables were occupied out on the patio, but only one other inside, where we preferred the cool air and the quiet, inviting room. We began with margaritas, of course; then I went on to something substantial: Bistec Yucanteco, slowly braised beef in a thick Yucatan sauce with cubed potatoes, covered with tomato sauce and a few slices of raw red onion. This was piquant and satisfying, and so were the braised vegetables alongside: zucchini and summer squash, snow peas, green beans.

The plate is flanked with the inevitable rice and beans — black beans with a smoky, deep flavor; short-grain rice. A nice dish.

•Mateo's Cocina Latina, 214 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg; 707-433-1520

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:  2016   2015

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Out to dinner

IMG 9355
Eastside Road, August 8, 2016—

FRIENDS ARE SOMETIMES reluctant to invite us over to dinner, which is a pity. It's understandable, of course: some of them know Lindsey was a professional chef; some of them know I maintain this blog. Still, it's a pity. There's no better way to spend an evening than in the kitchen, then at the table, relaxed, with friends, in their own home.

Last night, for example, we joined a couple of old friends in their home in the Dry Creek valley outside Healdsburg. They'd invited another couple, for us all to meet, and we sat outside on a small patio and drank wine and ate olives and bread and cheese and figs, and then moved inside and ate delicious marinated-then-braised chicken and mushrooms and little roasted potatoes and wax beans, and then went out for a stroll in the deepening twilight, and then returned for apple pie with cream…

Really, we live a fortunate life, and simple things are best…

Viogner; Zinfandel; both Preston of Dry Creek, 2014, tiptop

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:  2016   2015

Sunday, August 7, 2016


IMG 9335
Eastside Road, August 6, 2016—

SATURDAY: FARM MARKET DAY in Healdsburg, and for the first time in a very long time Dave the fish guy was there — usually he's been out on his boat; don't know why he wasn't on this calm pleasant day. Anyhow there he was, and sold us this tasty, delicate flounder.

Middleton Gardens provided their incomparable lima beans. The lemon was an import, brought back from Oregon, where I'd bought it thinking of Fernet and soda, but never got around to it…

Gayle's peaches for dessert, and a nectarine Cook found in the garden under the tree, and some chocolate. A very nice simple supper.

Cheap Pinot grigio

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:  2016   2015

Saturday, August 6, 2016


IMG 9331
Eastside Road, August 5, 2016—

COOK SENT ME into town with a list today. Hmmm: a pound of boiling potatoes, a bunch of scallions, a half pint of heavy cream…

Part of the fun is imagining what she'll make of such a shopping basket. (It also included a bunch of carrots, a head of lettuce, and a loaf of bread; but those are standard repertory.)

What should appear at dinner but this marvelous salmon chowder! A piece of salmon too small for two, liberated from the freezer; a little bacon; some frozen corn; the potatoes and scallions and cream, of course. Butter, I'm sure. Delicious.

Cheap Pinot grigio

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:  2016   2015

Another sausage

IMG 9330  1
Eastside Road, August 4, 2016—

YES, ANOTHER SAUSAGE dinner: and I see no reason to defend the decision. We can hardly ever resist buying Franco's sausages, and sometimes they wind up in the freezer, and then of course they have to be liberated, and so it goes.

With tonight's, as you see, fresh sliced tomatoes, spinach, and steamed/mashed potatoes with butter and parsley. A delicious dinner, and melon to follow.

Cheap rosé

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:  2016   2015

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Another week on the road

IMG 9257
Eastside Road, August 3, 2016—

LAST THURSDAY, only a day or so after returning from a month away, we drove up to Oregon, there to see a grandson's wedding — the first such event in our family.

We broke the trip at an AirBnB in Phoenix, a few miles north of Ashland, arriving too late to do anything ambitious about dining, so we settled for a quick meal at our second-favorite restaurant thereabouts.

I had my usual: a Margarita; a cabbage-and-lime salad (shredded cabbage, carrots, jalapeños, cilantro, and lime juice); a delicious taco filled with duck confit.

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

FRIDAY WE DROVE on, much of the time on the fine old Territorial Highway, to the oddly named Noti, Oregon, where wedding preparations were under way on the grounds of the decommissioned public school — gradually being turned into an event center.

You're looking at the ceremony in this photo, but that was the next day, Saturday. The rehearsal was, well, a rehearsal; dinner afterwards was hamburgers from the grill, with all the fixings…

lots of Dolcettos

IMG 9313BY SATURDAY I was craving some salad, and we stopped in at a favorite Eugene restaurant for a Niçoise: Delicious barely-seared tuna, line-caught (I suppose) off the Oregon coast; garden lettuce, green beans, potatoes, and cherry tomatoes; perfectly hard-boiled eggs, fine potatoes, smooth and subtle aïoli.

•Marché, Fifth Street Public Market, 296 East Fifth Avenue, Eugene; 541-342-3612

IMG 9270 Dinner was back out in Noti, after the wedding: a huge dinner party at tables for eight, with salads, barbecued pork and beef, and plenty of good Oregon pickles.

Pinot noirs, Oregon and Burgundy

NEXT DAY, we decompressed at a family brunch back at Marchê — ten of us at table. I opened with a white Negroni, made with Suze instead of dark Vermouth, and went on to a second Niçoise, because, well, why not.

We had dinner at our AirBnB "home": polenta and sausages.

Rosato, then Barbera, both from Piemonte, neither of them recorded…

MONDAY WE DROVE OUT to Florence, on the Oregon coast, and then turned south, stopping for the night at Brookings. My contessa found a nice place for dinner — billed as a bistro, it is closer to a trattoria. After a nice green salad; I went on to lasagne, with well executed Bolognese and bechamel under a pleasant marinara sauce; and then a light, creamy tiramisù. IMG 9322
Zinfandel, Cline Cellars, 2014

•Black Trumpet Bistro, 625 Chetco Avenue no. 220, Brookings, Oregon; 541-887-0860

WE WERE LUCKY next morning to find two good cafés for the necessary morning espresso:

•The Bell & Whistle Coffee House, 16340 Lower Harbor Road, Brookings, Oregon •Northtown Coffee, 1603 G Street, Arcata, California; 707-633-6187

Northtown also provided us with first-rate BLT sandwiches to eat in the car on the way home — good bread, fine bacon, nice balance. All we needed, once finally home, was to open a can of cannellini and another of tuna, and chop an onion, and we had that classic Italian hot-weather salad… IMG 9327

TONIGHT WE DINED in again, with a small feast from the Wednesday farm market in town. Cook grilled a couple of pork chops in the black iron skillet, and with them we had corn on the cob from Brenier, fine Italian broad beans from Middleton Gardens, the requisite green salad, and a honeydew melon for dessert. Yes: we're home again in Sonoma County, and lucky to be here.

Cheap Pinot grigio

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:  2016   2015