Friday, November 30, 2018


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Hotel Berg en Bos, Apeldoorn, November 29, 2018—

ANOTHER DUTCH DELIGHT, or, one cannot live only on uitsmijters en biefstuk. The pannekoek, also spelt pannenkoek, is a thin pancake the size of a dinner plate, into which can be cooked a variety of things. The batter is somewhat like that of a crêpe, thin and soft: correctly cooked, as here, it remains a little soft, more like a Yorkshire pudding (though utterly innocent of meat) than an American baking-powder-hard-wheat-flour pancake.

I have two standbys: spek-gember of appel-rozijnen; bacon with ginger or apple and raisins, depending on my mood. For this first pannekoek in some time I had trouble deciding, so went with spek-gember-appel, and did not regret the decision.

The apples are sliced thin; the ginger is candied; the bacon is meaty and very lightly smoked. Over the pannekoek one drizzles stroop, very thick molasses-like syrup, and the trick is to get the right amount, so no trace is left on the plate when you've finally finished this feast.

     🍷beer: Veluwse Schavuyt (local)

•Pannekoekenrestaurant Berg en Dal, Hoog Soeren 30, Hoog Soeren, Netherlands; 📞+31 55 519 12 19

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Another biefstuk

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Gorssel, Netherlands, November 28, 2018—

WE BEGIN THE WEEK'S exploration of Gelderland with an outing to this small town south of Deventer and east of Apeldoorn, just within the provincial boundary. (A look at the map of Gelderland reveals the stupidity of political boundaries, but that's not a subject for this blog.)

There are only 4,000 or so inhabitants of Gorssel, which lies on a flat area of field and forest drained by the river IJssel; but the town supports a fine museum of 20th-century art, whose permanent collection reflected one man's taste, and a notable restaurant, where Hans proposed we have the day's principal meal at midday.

Loetje is in fact a chain of restaurants: half a dozen of them in Amsterdam; another nine or so beyond. It is known, Hans told us, for its steak, and so of course that is what I ordered. It looks like a hollandse biefstuk, all brown and brown; and in fact my first taste suggested it had been pan-fried and was even a bit burnt. Later bits disproved the burning: this steak was cooked to a perfect rare degree. I wish I'd though to photograph a slice.

It's a softball-steak, and the Countess — who ordered soup and capucijners, those delicious field peas — glanced at it when it arrived and recalled a similar steak we'd had decades ago in Oklahoma City.

Like that one, this was extraordinarily tender, with a delicate flavor perhaps overwhelmed by the rich gravy. It came with a bushel of french fries, very nice ones, and I ordered a serving of fried onions as well. Delicious.

Dessert: half the Countess's Dame Blanche: a fine soft milky vanilla ice cream with whipped cream and, of course, chocolate sauce.

     🍷Garnacha, Spain

•Loetje Gorssel, Hoofdstraat 26, Gorssel; 📞0575 -760 199

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Good and Dutch

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Apeldoorn, November 28, 2018—

LUNCH YESTERDAY back at Worst, where I had a nice vitello tonnato with a glass of simple white Burgundy; then the drive halfway across country, east, to Apeldoorn, our center for the next week.

We were all in the mood for something homey, and Hans suggested this herberg I'd often seen and wondered about but never, for some reason, in all the times we've visited here, tried out. It has the feel of an old way-station, with a small pub-like bar — almost a traditional Dutch bruinbar — complete with billiards parlor off to one side.

I had this excellent tomato soup, proudly listed as house-made on the menu: thick, nicely textured with chopped tomato, scallions, and capers, and flavored with (as I believe) fennel and cumin. With it, bread and a mild aiöli.

I went on to a gehaktbal Oude Loo, a softball-sized sphere of ground meat, broiled no doubt, and served with pickle, mustard, and gravy, with french-fries and mixed vegetables on the side.

Dessert: the countess can never resist the offer of a Dame Blanche, so we shared it. A curious, milky vanilla ice cream, quite good, and the obligatory whipped cream (a combination I very much like), and of course chocolate sauce. Nice.


•Herberg Het Oude Loo, Piet Joubertstraat 14, Apeldoorn, Netherlands; 📞+31 555 769876

Monday, November 26, 2018


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Spaarndammerbuurt, November 26, 2018—
ONE OF MY FAVORITE dishes here in Netherlands: the uitsmijter, an open-faced sandwich involving cheese (omitted today), ham, and three eggs sunny side up.

The name is the Dutch word for "bouncer," in the sense of the guy whose job it is to maintain order at the doorway of the bar — I suppose this was his usual meal, or more likely between-meal pick-me-up.

I don't usually omit the cheese, and I'm not sure why I did this time. It is generally Gouda, the semi-hard cow's-milk cheese about which a book could be written (and probably has), and at best it's a slightly aged one — but not a hard dry aged one; no need to bury an expensive cheese full of character under ham and eggs.

We had this one (for the Contessa ordered the same, but with bacon, oddly, in place of the ham) at a place new to us, comfortable, rather ordinary, a big room with a good-sized bar and, I noted, an even larger dining room adjacent, with big windows, good light, a very pleasant ambiance.

This was in an old building, formerly a traveler's pension, now a hotel with its own brewery, bar, and restaurant. I liked my uitsmijter just fine — I've eaten dozens, and this was like many another. With it I had a couple of Berenburgs made, as I understand it, on the spot. Berenburgs vary widely, though they all involve infusions of herbs (and maybe other things) in Dutch gin (jenever ) and syrup. I preferred one, gingery and lemony; the other seemed over-sweet and unresolved, and went into the cup of tea I had for dessert.

Pension Homeland, Kattenburgerstraat 7, Amsterdam, Netherlands; 📞+31(0)20 723 2550

Saturday, November 24, 2018


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Spaarndammerbuurt, November 24, 2018—

HERE YOU SEE one of the things that calls us back to Netherlands: verse haring, fresh herring, also called nieuwe ("new") or even groene ("green," so called when eaten on board ship, just after the catch).

In any case they are eaten raw, split, and boned. It used to be there was a season for this, but the advent of freezing has changed that; now you can get "fresh" herring just about anytime. (Freezing has also taken care of a problem that arose, I think, in the 1970s: the occasional presence of a parasite. I think freezing changes taste and texture, but it's a minimal change.)

The fish is sweet and sea-flavored, its texture pleasant. Dutch sushi, perhaps. Traditionally you bought one at a herring stand, held it by the tail, flipped one side than the other in chopped onion, and tipped your head back to take it in.

Or, as here, you get a haringbroodje, the split herring on a bun, with scattered chopped onion and sour pickle slices.

We bought these at Haringhandel A. van Dok, Haarlemmerplein, a twelve-minute stroll from our apartment. I like a small glass of jenever (gin) with my haring as a prelude to dinner, but this was lunchtime, and our refrigerator divulged a can of Heineken, not a bad chaser.

•Haringhandel A. van Dok, Haarlemmerplein 1a, Amsterdam; 📞+31 20 620 94 94

Friday, November 23, 2018

Back to Marius

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Spaarndammerbuurt, November 23, 2018—

A WEEK OR TWO ago I dreamed I was eating dinner alone in a restaurant — really alone, sitting at a long refectory table in an otherwise empty restaurant. The waiter brought a delicious grilled quail. When I'd finished it, a pigeon. Then a poussin; then fried chicken; then roast capon.

Then pheasant. Then Guinea hen. And finally, roast goose. Oddly, there was no duck; thankfully, no ostrich. Each plate was perfect. I ate in complete silence. It was like a religious service.

Last night, our first in Amsterdam in a couple of years I think, we were at our favorite table, next to the kitchen door where we could engage with the cooks — except that we didn't: they were very busy indeed: Marius was full.

We began with baked pike — baked or poached, I'm not sure which, and the skin crisped — served with spinach, borlotti beans, and tomato. The contessa's dish had a langoustine-inflected sauce; I had to do with a simpler but very satisfying one.

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Then pheasant! Sixty years ago and more this was not an unusual dish; the fields around us were loaded with pheasant. Since grapevines replaced cow-pastures, pheasant have been absent. It was the least familiar bird in that litany of poultry I had dreamed. But it's not unusual here in Netherlands.

This was roasted and served sliced, with sauerkraut, potato-and-apple puree, and chanterelles, with a fine reduction. Very dutch; very satisfying.

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Dessert: Semolina pudding with poached pears in a light syrup, very simple, very refined.

Friendly, attentive, polished service. Clean, bright, snug dining room, filled with happy, enthusiastic diners. This is one of our very favorite places.

     🍷Mondeuse, Château Mérande, Le Comte Rouge (Savoie), 2015: deep but fruity, tobacco, delicious
•Marius, Barentszstraat 173, Amsterdam; 📞+31 20 422 78 80

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Two restaurants

Eastside Road, November 17, 2018—
NO PHOTO TODAY: sorry. I didn't think I'd be writing this — not because I don't think the restaurants are worth writing about, not at all: because I thought I had definitively stopped writing about eating every day at all.

But habits die hard, so here I am again — to tell you that we really like this place in Santa Rosa: nothing special, a quiet, comfortable Italian restaurant, mostly veering toward the North Italian cuisine — the family owning it was, I think, from the Lago Maggiore area.

They bought a Victorian house in a residential neighborhood on the edge of downtown years ago, installed the restaurant downstairs, and lived upstairs. Over the years they've done well: they no longer live on the premises; the upstairs is now I've heard a private dining room.

There's a snug little bar to one side of the dining room, whose tables are set wide apart. The ceilings are high and there are pleasant landcapes painted on the walls. White tablecloths, of course.

Wednesday we dined with an old friend, beginning with cocktails — a Fernet Negroni for me — continuing with salad, then sole piccata, very nicely cooked in butter and flavored with white vinegar and capers. I had a decent zabaglione for dessert.

Ca' Bianca Ristorante Italiano, 835 2nd Street, Santa Rosa, California; 📞 707.542.5800

THE NEXT NIGHT we were in Oakland, dining with a couple of friends in a favorite restaurant we've neglected too often — there are so many favorites to juggle!

And this one is closing soon, after ten quite successful years — the frequent combination in this area: fatigue on the part of the principals; great difficulty finding and retaining good staffers in an area where housing is expensive and in short supply.

So this was our final dinner. We opened with cocktails — a "Gin Drink" for me, involving lime, genepi, and something else. Then a salad and then grilled duck leg and breast. We've known the principals for years; both Russ and Alison used to be significant members of the team at Chez Panisse. Russ cooks everything in a huge fireplace, and the duck was about as good as it can be — superb.

     🍷Mondeuse, Domaine Dupasquier, 2014: also superb

•Camino, 3917 Grand Avenue, Oakland, California; 📞(510) 547-5035

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Friday, November 16, 2018

Poor man's cassoulet

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Eastside Road, November 16, 2018—
COOK'S BEEN INVESTIGATING the freezer again, and turned up two containers of stock: pigeon stock from 2015, if you can believe it, and goose stock from last year.

She asked me to smell it after it had thawed, but I wasn't sure about it. I suggested she heat it, and when it was at a simmer I tried it: delicious — not at all rancid, which would be the only problem after all that time.

She'd already soaked white beans overnight, so it wasn't a long stretch of imagination to cook them in the stock, then add a couple of Franco's sausages — these his French Country and Provençal sausages. It's lovely to mash those beans down into the rich stock with the tines of your fork…

Afterward, nice bitter broccolini, sautéed with olive oil and garlic; and after that, strawberry shortcake. Viva la cuisinière!

     🍷Nero d'Avola, Regaleale, 2014: deep, round, nice.

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017     will I get around to 2018?

Friday, October 5, 2018

Penne rigate

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Viale Trastevere, Rome, October 4, 2018—
NEW TO US, one of today's places; a familiar, the other — and as it happened penne at both.

I'll start with dinner, at a pretty darn good place we discovered a couple of years ago when we were staying near the Piazza Dunant, around the corner, in the Monteverde region here in Rome. There, hungry, I opened with two fritti: a stuffed zucchini blossom and a filet of baccalà.

Both were delicious, lightly battered with bread crumbs and deep-fried just so in vegetable oil — semi, the waiter said, seed — safflower I suppose: in any case, light and neutral.

Filetto di baccalà seems to be considered a Roman specialty by the Romans, who, like all metropolitans, think of their pleasures as characteristic of their city. I eat salt cod wherever it's offered, and have enjoyed it especially in Venice (mantecato), Seville, and Porto. The Roman deep-fried version, certainly as prepared in this restaurant, preserves the flaky delicacy of the flesh. I could eat it every meal, maybe even breakfast.

I went on, at dinner, to penne rigate alla gricia, one of the Roman trinity of "white" pasta preparations. (The other two are cacio e pepe, soon to be discussed, and carbonara, to be discussed (perhaps) another day. (There is a "red" one, too: Amatriciana, also to be investigated another day.)

Gricia, according to Wikipedia, was likely associated with the town of Grisciano, like Amatrice not that far east of Rome. It is a frugal dish involving only five ingredients: the pasta, salt, guanciale, Pecorino, and black pepper. Six, if you count the water the pasta is cooked in.

Here the guanciale was properly cubed, say an eighth of an inch to a side, no more; and fried I'm sure in only its own fat, and tossed along with the grated pecorino into the pasta, which clearly had had some of its cooking water added back.

Part of the pleasure of these dishes, especially when served with penne, is scooping the thick sauce up with a little penne boat at the end of your fork. The cheese and thick pasta-water combines to make a kind of poor man's besciamella or béchamel. Salt and pepper were present but subtle. The dish was superb.

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penne cacio e pepe alla gricia

     🍷House wine, white
•C'era Una Volta, Piazzale Enrico Dunant 13, Rome; 📞+39 06 53627 8

LUNCH HAD BEEN at an Internet-discussed place up the Viale from home — why not try out the local joints? Here I ordered penne cacio e pepe, which is essentially alla gricia with the guanciale left out and a little more black pepper put in. The trick, of course, is to use good ingredients, and the pepper must be freshly ground. At home we use Tellicherry, and I'd be surprised if such good (and expensive) pepper had been used here — but I wasn't complaining.

The dish was nearly as good as the evening's gricia. With it I had a simple salad of narrow leaves of arugula, dressed at table (by me, not a waiter) with olive oil, salt, and "Balsamico". I'd have preferred lemon juice, but hadn't tnought to request it.

     🍷House wine, white

•Bruciapadelle, Piazza Ippolito Nievo 13, Rome; 📞+39 06 58138 60

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Monday Tuesday Wednesday.

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Viale Trastevere, October 3, 2018—

WE HAVE BEEN preoccupied, as I think I've suggested, with family and festivity; and as I have not mentioned with colds and fatigue, and so I'm reduced once more to a catchup post. Sorry.

Monday we ate simply, taking the tram 3 into Testaccio to lunch on panini at a pleasant pasticceria I've always liked the looks of. Sorry about the photo; I took it offline and it is small.

     🍷Bianco della casa
•Caffè Barberini, Via Barberini, 15, Roma ; 📞+39 06 5530 0488

In the evening we ate pizzas in front of the television, the whole family, watching our Cubs lose their tie-breaker with the Brewers. Very dispiriting, of course, and there was worse to come the next day. But man muss essen.

TUESDAY: Breakfast at our superb local pasticceria-gelateria, right next door: as usual, a croissant and two cappuccinos. Perhaps before leaving Rome I'll get around to a proper description of this place — serious but friendly, studied but du quartier, comfortable but almost austere.

Around the corner there's a supermarket, and there I had two mortadella panini made at the deli counter, serving well enough for our lunch.

IMG 1255Dinner: a farewell for Pavel, who would leave early next morning, at a local trattoria much praised by various travel sites and specialty dining blogs.

Others in our party were happier with the choice than was I, and not for having ordered differently: at least two of our party of eight had the same roast suckling pig that I ordered. Mine was charred on the outside, succulent within, difficult to get off the bone (I should have used my pocket Opinel instead of the provided "steak knife").

I liked the potatoes that came on the side, but thought the mixed vegetables mushy and lacking in character. Others disagree on this point. I should return when I'm over this cold, I suppose, but there are so many other places to try…

     🍷White and red, as usual house wines in carafe
•La Tavernaccia da Bruno, Via Giovanni da Castel Bolognese, 63, Roma; 📞 +39 06 581 2792

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WEDNESDAY: Now we're talking: Lunch at a very favorite spot, discovered last time we were here. I almost wished it had been raining; the dining room is elegant and comfortable. But the terrace is equally comfortable, and the secluded piazza, through which we saw no vehicular traffic the hours we were at table, is lined with interesting, picturesque buildings — no one could complain about outside seating here.

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On our last visit I was struck by the complexity and flavor of the tortino di baccalà e patate; I ordered it again today. It was beautiful.

Grace, conveniently on my left, offered me a few bites of her carciofi alla giudia, crunchy fried-and-flattened artichokes: this is I think the definitive version: you can't find them better.

My main course was tonarelli carbonara. Piperno is justly proud of its pasta, all made in house of course, and this carbonara was marvelous, balanced and unctuous. I forgot to photograph it, of course: too bad, as the egg yolk was particularly photogenic, even though well mixed into the pasta.

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I did however photograph the dessert, a crostata di visciole, a traditional Jewish cherry tart — did I mention that we're in the Ghetto? — as notable for its beautifully made pastry as its deep, very flavorful fruit jam. I'd have loved a grappa after this dessert, but it's midday…

     🍷Ribolla Gialla, Vinnae (Jermann), 2017, a lovely wine; and a glass of Tuscan red

•Piperno Ristorante dal 1860, Via Monte dè Cenci, 9, Roma; 📞+39 06 6880 6629

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And this evening I went out alone, the Contessa having adequately nourished herself at Piperno, for a modest plate of gnocchi alla romana al pomodoro e basilico at a neighborhood bistro-wine bar across the street from the railroad station.

As you'd expect from the location, the place was casual and tending toward hip, and the pasta could in truth have been better, ditto the sauce. But it was satisfactory, and my plate of mixed grilled vegetables — eggplant, zucchini, and peppers — was better, I thought, than those of the previous evening.

     🍷Barbera, 2017; sorry, forgot to record the label
•Shabby Bistrot, Via Pietro Manzi, 1, Rome; 📞+39 3927424379

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Sunday al fresco

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Viale Trastevere, September 30, 2018—

TEN AT TABLE: not a terribly large group as Sunday midday dinners go in this country. And dining at Cesare is a bit like dining in a country restaurant on Sunday afternoon: the atmosphere is so friendly, the menu so steady, the ambiance — here, outside — so warm and comfortable.

The photo shows the reason we're here: another cena nuziale for Francesca (in bright red) and her Hamza (to her right), with Hamza's Italian host "parents" flanking me at the end of the table, the Contessa on Fran's left, Giovanna at near left with her straw-hatted Pavel, Hamza's sister Meriem and Fran's sister Grace. The photo was taken by an obliging cameriere at the end of the meal; too bad we didn't think of having it done during the event.

Cesare is noted for its tonarelli cacio e pepe and other pastas are excellent as well, but I was in the mood for fish, and the baccalà alla romana here is excellent. Many of the others wanted dessert, but I was content with a grappa…

     🍷White wine della casa

•Trattoria Da Cesare al Casaletto, Via del Casaletto 45, Rome; 📞+39 06 53601 5

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IMG 1958RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017


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Viale Trastevere, September 29, 2018—

YOU ARE LOOKING into the kitchen of this local trattoria; the specials of the day are listed on the wall; the chef is sitting, resting after the midday service; an attendant reaches for something on a shelf.

Trastevere is full of tourists and students; you hear almost as much English as Italian on the crowded streets, maybe more. This place seems intended for locals, though. The interior looks like modest trattorie we've seen throughout the country. The few other diners we saw this midday — we entered late, a little before two o'clock — were Italian and, I'm pretty sure, Roman.

I had ravioli burro e salvia, ravioli filled with ricotta flavored with sage, served simply with melted butter and chopped sage leaves: a favorite of mine. Everything here was more than satisfactory. I'm sure I've eaten here before, but find no notice of it on this blog. I'm equally sure we'll be back.

     🍷White, della casa.

•Mario's, Via del Moro 53/55, Rome; 📞+39 065803809

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Friday, September 28, 2018


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Viale di Trastevere, September 28, 2018—

HERE WE ARE in the Eternal City once again, and why not? After a week of family reunion at home with relatives from Australia, a couple of weeks with family in Rome seemed like a good idea.

The tartare you see here was last night's dinner, preceded by bruschetti and a delicious salad of raw and cooked artichoke, arugula, pine nuts, and Parmigiano. I liked both. The tartare was served with minced shallot and parsley, mustard, and salt; the egg was fresh and flavorful. IMG 1020

The photo does not do justice to the salad, which was quite complex — the artichoke both fried in the Jewish style here and thin-sliced raw; the pine nuts plentiful (and Italian, to be sure, not Chinese), the oil quite deep and added at my discretion.

IMG 1026Dessert: a "deconstructed" Sicilian cannolo: Buffalo ricotta cream, candied Tarocco orange peel, chocolate chips, and broken cannoli shell. This was complex and generous, like this restaurant, a favorite of our Roman relatives — which boasts fine ingredients, many of them organic and some from the Slow Food "Ark of Taste" specific-to-region products.

We were seven at table, and had begun with an aperitif across the street, at a wine bar that in former days catered to the city's communists. We were a festive crew — and I was exhausted by the end.

     🍷Cesanese, Damiano Ciolli "Silene," 2016: fruity with a bit of edge

•Il Vinaietto, Via del Monte della Farina 38, Rome; 📞+39 06 68806 989
•Emma, Via del Monte della Farina 28, Rome; 📞+39 06 64760 475

Lunch had been at a place new to us, though getting on to thirty years at its site — recommended by friends who felt it had offered the finest dining they'd enjoyed on a recent tour of Italy.

It was very accommodating; the menu was interesting; the food tasty and characteristic. I didn't find it exceptional, but I probably ordered wrong — an insalata Nicoise, because after a very long day of travel I wanted greens, tuna, and salt. I'd go back to order better.

     🍷Bianco della casa

•Giulio passamilolio, Via di Monte Giordano, 28, Roma ; 📞+39 06 68803288

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Hot dog

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Eastside Road, September 18, 2018—

SIMPLE DINNERS these days, partly in order to thin out the freezer and the refrigerator, partly to save time needed elsewhere. It's okay: we'll make up for it before long, you can be sure.

Baseball is increasingly in the air as we near October, and with baseball come hot dogs. Here on Eastside Road those are generally Niman Ranch, whose meat we trust. You wouldn't know it by reading these posts, but we're pretty careful about the sources of the meat we eat, avoiding industrial products in favor of small, preferably local producers.

Cook sears these on top of the stove in a hot black iron pan, and we treat the buns to mustard, chopped raw onion, pickle relish, and local sauerkraut. Alongside, fennel and a tomato; afterward, green salad and a small bowl of ice cream — oh: and a pear and a few figs, from our trees. Life is good.

Yes, I know, I missed yesterday. It was a return of cannelini-and-tuna salad.

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Sunday, September 16, 2018


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San Francisco, September 15, 2018—

ZUNI IS A FAVORITE place of ours — I've dropped in from time to time since almost the beginning, which was in 1979, always enjoying the location and the ambiance and the vibrant personality — and the cuisine.

We'd spent an hour or two in the somewhat overwrought repressed sensuality of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood exhibition at the Palace of the Legion of Honor, and it was time to relax with an excellent Martini and a late lunch and a couple of dear old friends, and Zuni was the place that came immediately to mind.

I looked longingly at the oysters — a remarkable selection — but turned instead to a promised crépinette, pan-fried I think and served with shell beans, sautéed grapes, and what I recall — writing this the next day — as bok choy, or something of the sort, sweet and toothy.

The crépinette seemed to me lacking in the caul fat that seems to me obligatory. My first experience with crépinette was with those made and sold at the old Pig By the Tail, the charcuterie opened in 1973 across the street from Chez Panisse by my then tennis partner and occasional sparring partner Victoria Wise, the opening-night chef at Chez P. Crépinettes were a staple there, consistently absolutely first-rate, the right weight, texture, size, and complexity, and always wrapped in caul fat.

Well, this crépinette was not Victoria's, but it was very nice, well balanced between meat and spices, and the partnering grapes and beans were inspired.

     🍷Morgon, Marcel Lapierre, 2015

IMG 0917 2And for dessert, Parmesan cheese with dates, a Judy Rodgers standby — how we miss that woman! — with a glass of Averna amaro. Because, well, why not?

•Zuni Café, 1658 Market Street, San Francisco; 📞415-552-2522

THAT WAS YESTERDAY. Today we dined on that marvelous Italian salad: cannelini, onions, sage, salt, and olive oil. It's a favorite. Green salad afterward, and fruit, et moi je suis content.

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Friday, September 14, 2018


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Eastside Road, September 14, 2018—

IT MAY NOT be edible, Cook said, the onions being soprarosolate, as the Italians might say; never mind, I said, You know I like carbon, my grandfather loved burnt toast, and died 97 years old.

It was fit to eat. She'd browned the onions in the usual way, along with chorizo, and added a can of hominy, and on serving it strewn it with blossoms cut from some cilantro growing outside the kitchen door somewhere.

Green salad afterward, and then a bit of ice cream with warm caramel sauce.

     🍷Carménère, Panilonco (Colchaqua Valley, Chile), 2017: a little sweet for my taste, tannic

Thursday, September 13, 2018


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Eastside Road, September 13, 2018—
WE FIRST TASTED this salad in Italy, Cook says, and I'm sure she's right. I suppose it's a variant of the famous Caprese, which is tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. Well, perhaps not, now that I type those words and look at them; there's nothing in common except the Italian colors — green, white, red — and the presence of leaves and cheese.

Caprese is rarely anywhere near as good as it should be. This salad, which has become quite popular, has a mountain quality I like better. Bresaola is air-dried beef, uncooked, eaten in thin thin slices. It's associated with the Valtellina region in the Lombard Alps, where it was probably originally air-dried in the winter months.

Cook sliced the bresaola and arranged it on the plates, covering it with arugula dressed with lemon juice and olive oil, and added shavings of Parmigiano reggiano. The flavors and textures merge marvelously in the mouth.

(We bought this bresaola six weeks ago, in Salt Lake City, at Beltex Meats, and it is very good.)

IMG 0869Afterward, those three cheeses we had a few days ago with guests: a fine Brie, a Basque, a Moncenisio blue.

     🍷White: "Madam Preston," Preston of Dry Creek, perfect with cheese

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017


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Eastside Road, September 12, 2018—

ACCORDING TO THE article on Wikipedia the word is spelled "muffuletta." The article contains a section on the "pronunciation and orthography" of the word — eight different versions, not one of them containing an "a" in the second syllable. But the name, like the sandwich, underwent changes, you might say erosion, in its travels from Sicily to New Orleans, where the American version is said to have been created in 1906, at Central Grocery Company, on Decatur Street.

I wouldn't know. In nearly a month spent investigating Sicily I don't recall ever having run into a muffuletta, or a mufiletta, or a muffulitteḍḍu. And I've never been to New Orleans.

Wikipedia tells me the muffaletta is a round loaf of soft bread, say ten inches in diameter, crisp on the outside and flavored with sesame seeds. But Americans generally use the word to describe the sandwich, not the loaf. Again according to Wikipedia the sandwich is on a split muffaletta loaf — I will continue to spell it with that "A" — and contains layers of salami, ham, Swiss cheese, provolone, and mortadella, and — most importantly — olive salad.

That latter ingredient begins with giardiniera — lightly pickled celery, cauliflower, and carrot — which is chopped with olives, flavored with oregano and garlic, covered in olive oil, and steeped for at least a day.

Today was dad and daughter lunch day, and we went to a local breakfast-lunch place that features a New Orleans menu. It's fast, comfortable, not terribly expensive, not at all upscale. I like it.

I ordered a half muffaletta, and ate only half of it, taking the other half home for the Contessa. (I took an order of beignets, too, because they are particularly light and tasty here.)

I like the olive salad on this sandwich, but I fault the sandwich just a teeny bit for lacking balance. The printed menu does not indicate the presence of cheese, but it was there, conspiring with a rather bland ham to elbow aside the mortadella and provolone.

Maybe that's just me. Such sandwiches are individual tastes.

     🍷Beer: Plow Pilsener

•The Parish Cafe, 60 Mill Street, Healdsburg; 📞(707) 431 8474

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Penne, tomato sauce

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Eastside Road, September 11, 2018—

IF YOU TYPE the word "penne" into the search box up in the upper left corner, as I just did, you'll find at least a hundred posts to this blog, going back over the last ten years. And a surprising number of those posts — or maybe it's not all that surprising — contain a photo remarkably like this one.

Well, here they are again, those whole-wheat organic penne Cook likes so much, in that tomato sauce I like so much. We had the green salad afterward, of course, with my usual vinaigrette: mash a clove of garlic with salt, let it steep in olive oil, add red wine vinegar, whip with a dinner fork briskly (with a side-to-side motion, leaving the tines below the surface, you don't need air in the vinaigrette).

IMG 0861Strawberries are still in season, and Lou Preston's are our favorites at the moment, and Cook had some shortcake ready to go in the freezer.

     🍷Zinfandel, Preston of Dry Creek, 2015, yes yes

For lunch we'd gone out to the coast with a couple of friends visiting from Hawaii. Norman knew a place whose fried-oyster hoagy he particularly liked. Fine; we all have different tastes: I've never been particularly attracted to fried oysters. I had three of them my usual way: on the half shell, no lemon or vinaigrette. Delicious.

And fish and chips — local halibut battered very lightly and deep-fried in peanut oil, with good French fries on the side, and a generous glass of someone's Albariño.

Fisherman's Cove, 1850 Bay Flat Rd, Bodega Bay, CA ; 📞(707) 377-4238

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Monday, September 10, 2018

Fried egg sandwich

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Eastside Road, September 10, 2018—

WHEN I WAS a boy, ten and eleven years old, I walked a couple of miles to school every day carrying my lunch, usually in a beat-up paper bag — after lunch I folded it up and put it in my pocket for the next day. In the bag, two sandwiches and a piece of fruit, and maybe a hard-boiled egg.

The sandwiches were on bread my mother baked, bread that obeyed one of those rigorous life-cycles: when the yeast was new the bread was ballooned and full of holes; as the yeast wore out, over a couple of months, the bread got denser and the slices smaller.

There was always one fried-egg sandwich and one peanut-butter-and-something sandwich, jam or honey usually, though now and then Mom forgot that I did not share all her enthusiasms and made it peanut-butter-and-mustard, which I would carefully set aside in the garbage, or throw over the fence for whatever animal might be hungry enough to chance it, for our two-room school was in a village small enough to seem to be in the country.

We still have fried-egg sandwiches: they're quick and simple and tasty, perfect for those evenings you don't want to cook. They're better now, these sandwiches. They're on much better bread — sorry, Mom — from Healdsburg's Downtown Bakery or, as today, from Berkeley's Acme. The eggs don't have troubling dark or bloody spots, and the yolks are runny, because they don't have to be carried for miles.

And these fried-egg sandwiches have another advantage over those I carried to school seventy years ago: they're eaten hot. I do not recommend cold greasy fried-egg sandwiches.

A carrot; fennel. Dessert: a Greek cookie from that marvelous Greek restaurant of a couple of nights ago.

     🍷Zinfandel grape juice, fresh from our vines, in sparkling water


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San Leandro, September 9, 2018—
BACK AT OUR END of the state — actally more central: the Bay Area — we have dinner not far from the airport (Oakland) with a couple of friends who live nearby. They choose a newish neighborhood restaurant they hadn't yet visited, and it turned out to be another modest find.

The place is comfortable and interesting, with an open kitchen behind the (beer and wine only) bar, and a menu oriented (heh heh) toward Greek but especially Turkish cuisine.

I began with spanakopita, that delicious Greek version of a spinach quiche but served within layers of flaky pastry. This was as beautifully cooked as any I've had the pleasure to meet, with artful pastry, nicely browned, a just balance of egg, spinach, and onion, with a substantial serving of tzatziki and a bed of perfect little lettuce leaves.

IMG 0851Next, another special of the day, Moussaka. How could I resist the dish the restaurant is named for? This one was classic, with a fairly thin slice of toasted eggplant at the bottom, a Greek Bolognese with delicious tomato sauce, and a very generous layer of Béchamel on top. The mixture of spices was discreet and complex, and table talk distracted me from careful study, so I can't go into details.

I had a bite of the Contessa's dessert, a semolina cake soaked in simple syrup, flavored I suspect with orange-blossom. I'll have more tomorrow for lunch, I think. Servings here range from ample to absurdly generous; the kitchen is authoritative, the service friendly and graceful, the wine list interesting. It's off our beat, but we're likely to return.

     🍷Red, Villa Doluca (Anatolia), 2015: 40% Öküzgözü, 40% Alicante, 20% Carignan: deep, fruity, complex, very nice with this food

•Moussaka Mediterranean Kitchen, 599 Dutton Avenue, San Leandro, California; 📞+1(510)850-5020

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Sand dabs

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Los Angeles, September 8, 2018—

NOT A VERY good photo — and for that matter not a very nice presentation, but let's not be snobbish. Sand dabs are a favorite favorite of ours. I used to cook them often, when we still lived in Berkeley, buying them at Monterey Fish, and cooking them in saor, with shallots and golden raisins and white wine and butter and a drop or two of vinegar. Oh they were delicious.

A friend drove down from Westwood and saved us from the hotel tonight and drove us to Venice (speaking of in saor), and what should be on the menu, the extensive menu, but sand dabs. They were cooked more meuniére than saor, but that works too. I'm not sure the heavily garlicky mashed potatoes were the perfect accompaniment, but I ate every bite. There was also spinach hidden in that stack, and I do love spinach.

Dessert: a curious nectarine-and-berry "tart" that was almost a clafoutis — again, every morsel gone.

     🍷Chablis, Jean-Marc Brocard, vintage?

•James' Beach, 60 North Venice Boulevard, Venice, California; 📞(877) 564-4192

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Friday, September 7, 2018

A la grecque

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Los Angeles, September 7, 2018—
NOTHING BETTER than finding yourself in an unfamiliar and decidedly unpromising place and stumbling across a family restaurant full of heart, hard-working, true to its roots and careful about its sources. I wrote yesterday that we had no alternative to our hotel restaurants, but then today I looked at Google Maps and found a possibility a twelve-minute walk away. It was truly marvelous.

The busser was bilingual in Spanish and English, no surprise there, but the waiters worked in Greek as well — a language with which I have no familiarity at all, can't even say thank you — although I learned: ευχαριστώ. Nor do I know Greek cuisine, beyond a few simple dishes bordering on cliché — and that's about where I stayed tonight.

I began with the Gigandes you see above — beans we know as gigantes, because we used to get them from an importer of Italian foodstuffs. These were undoubtedly the same beans, imported dry, carefully prepared, chestnutty in texture, buttery and beany in flavor, cooked in a light tomato sauce with a very discreet sprinkling of oregano. The first taste proved we'd found a remarkable restaurant.

I went on past a small Greek salad to pastitsio, that Greek version of lasagne, partly because I knew it, because I succumbed to the nostalgia of tasting once again something I used to enjoy at the old Cafe Mediterraneum, partly because I thought it would be a good test.

IMG 0676The Greek-style Bolognese of ground beef (though innocent of tomato or carrot) was nicely flavored with herbs, thyme and oregano I would say, and folded into a light but substantial pasta, with a thoughtfully prepared Béchamel sauce on top, nicely served surrounded by quarters of pita bread.

We had to have dessert, of course. The Contessa had baklav a; I opted for galaktoboureko, layers of filo filled with custard, soaked in syrup. It could have been warmed more thoroughly; it had spent time in the refrigerator — but it had none of that frigo smell or taste.

Dear Veronese friends who spend so much time in Greece, we thought of you often tonight — I wish you could have been there with us. It was like eating in a family country restaurant in Italy — or, I suppose, Greece. The people, the industry, the enthusiasm, the hospitality were down to earth and full of bonhomie. Extraordinary. We will return.

     🍷Makedonikos, white (deep and flavored, similar to Viognier) and red (forthcoming and pleasant)

•Aliki's Greek Taverna, 5862 Arbor Vitae Street, Los Angeles; 📞+1 (310) 645-9555

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Steak and spinach

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Los Angeles, September 6, 2018—
WE FLEW DOWN this afternoon for a conference we take in almost every year, and there's no place to eat but the airport hotel we're staying in. It's going to be like this through Sunday lunch, so might as well make the best of it.

There are three "restaurants" here. Two are primarily soup-salad-and-sandwich places, and one of those features bigscreen televisions in each dining area. So we opted, being hungry and wanting a little calm and quiet, for the third alternative, billed as a steak house.

We ordered almost identically: a flatiron steak, rare for me, medium rare for the Contessa, a glass of red wine, a bottle of sparkling water, and a side of spinach. Oh, and dessert: "butter cake" with Bourbon ice cream for her, crème brulée for me.

You can judge the meal by the photo, of my dessert. Everything seems made to a formula and probably fairly early in the day. The beef tasted good and was correctly grilled, but lacked spark. I liked the spinach.

That crème brulée — a very heavy one, made well ahead of time, even burned ahead of time, served with a halved strawberry and lots of blueberries under a cage of spun sugar. There was nothing light or delicate here. Once I'd eaten the blueberries and rejected the strawberries and the cage, I was left with an egg dish more appropriate to breakfast. Oh well.

     🍷Malbec, Dona Paula (Argentina)

•JW's Steakhouse, Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel, Los Angeles; 📞+1 (310) 641-5700

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Penne, red sauce, Zinfandel

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Eastside Road, September 5, 2018—

COOK TURNED to an old favorite tonight, pasta with tomato sauce. The pasta is organic whole-wheat penne, which hold the sauce well.

She begins the sauce by browning ground beef with crushed garlic added toward the end, then adding tomato sauce she's made herself using a recipe of Alice's: she halves the tomatoes and roasts them in olive oil in the oven, then runs them through the food mill to remove the skins and pips and cans them in jars in the usual way. They are beautiful in every dimension.

Grated Parmesan cheese on top. Green salad later; then some fruit.

     🍷Zinfandel, Preston of Dry Creek, 1915. I'm one of those who think Healdsburg's Dry Creek Valley is the ground zero, the holy site for Zinfandel, and none is better, to my taste, than this.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Pork chop

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Eastside Road, September 4, 2018—

AS A GENERAL RULE we cook our pork chops ma façon, as I call it, my way, smeared with ground fennel seeds, salt, pepper, crushed garlic and olive oil. Tonight, though, Cook took the more conventional and, I would say, conservative route, simply dusting them with salt and pepper and pan-searing them in the black iron frying pan. Works just fine, I think.

With them, romanesco, steamed with crushed garlic, and mashed potatoes left over from yesterday. I do think mashed potatoes hold well and perhaps even age nicely overnight.

Green salad afterward.

     🍷The end of yesterday's rosé

Monday, September 3, 2018

Guest to supper

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Eastside Road, September 3, 2018—
FOR CERTAIN GUEST we lay in a bit of cheese for supper. I love cheese, though I cannot pretend to know much about it — it's a vast subject, and I avoid most vast subjects, I suppose fearing dilletantism. But I do like a bit of cheese after dinner, so welcomed the request to buy some this afternoon.

I wasn't very exploratory, settling on the conventional array of three: a soft mild one, a blue, a firm one. In that order, I quickly chose a promising Brie; a Moncenisio blue because I am fond of Moncenisio the mountain, pass, and village; and a Basque sheep's-milk cheese because, well, look at these sheep, they give the milk that makes this cheese.

P'tit Basque, it's called, a cheese as industrial-commercial as the photo below, found online. Istara makes the cheese, and we often drove past the factory when we were in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port early in July. We bought it there, too, in the covered market. I think it tasted just as good tonight.

I don't remember what the Brie was, but it was delicious, silky, a little pungent, sticky. The blue was big and rustic and rounded things out perfectly.

Dinner itself was simple: Franco Dunn's Boerwurst, from a South African recipe, lots of nutmeg; sliced tomatoes; buttery mashed potatoes. Green salad, of course; we didn't forget this time.

And dessert: some of those marvelous Golden Transparent plums from our tree, and fine chocolate chip cookies baked and brought by our guest. You're welcome any time, Gaye!

     🍷Rosé di Pinot grigio, Grigio Luna, Villa Borghetti, 2017
Ptit Basque

Happy birthday!

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Eastside Road, September 2, 2018—
AL FRESCO DINING at the neighbors' down the hill is always a pleasure — you've read about a few such occasions here before — and particularly a pleasure when it's a birthday, as is the case today.

Prominent at most of these meals: meat. In this case, chicken thighs and beef ribs, nicely smoked the morning of the party. And with them a smooth and elegant aïoli for steamed potatoes and green beans. And the best deviled eggs I remember ever having eaten (and they were duck eggs)! And a green salad we forgot about.

And dessert, of course — not the conventional cake, but a smooth rich chocolate pie with mounds of whipped cream. Thanks to all the many cooks — no spoiled broth here! Let's do it again next year!

     🍷Rosé, Emma Reichert, 2016;
Zinfandel, Preston of Dry Creek, 2015

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Salmon Saturday

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Eastside Road, September 1, 2018—
THE FIRST DAY of September, and fall is definitely in the air. Grape seeds are showing in the fox scat; leaves are browning, the light is lower. I love these days.

And it's Saturday, so market day. The salmon is from our local fish store — Alaska wild salmon, cooked in the Nancy Hachisu manner, thin-sliced onion and a drop of something with a little butter on top of the fish, which is then wrapped in aluminum foil and cooked under the broiler.

On the side, those delicious lima beans from Middleton Gardens; flanking them, eggplant and peppers from our Laytonville daughter-in-law, rescued — the vegetables, not the daughter-in-law — from two weeks' hibernation in our overcrowded refrigerator.

Green salad afterward, and then fine strawberries from Lou Preston. We are fortunate to live here — but then, we belong here.

     🍷Rosé di Pinot grigio, Grigio Luna, Villa Borghetti, 2017: a very nice wine indeed, simple, fresh.