Monday, April 30, 2018

Last week catchup

Eastside Road, Berkeley, and San Francisco, April 23-28—
1F2674AA A0B1 4AA4 BD27 0D3875E20512 MONDAY, April 23 — How can I have left so many days slip past? — was a flight day, beginning with a frozen croissant bought days earlier at a favorite bakery, then coffee at a pleasant neighborhood café we'd been depending on the last few days.
Lunch, much delayed, was a serviceable grilled cheese and ham grabbed at an eatery on our drive home; and I have to confess having needed a "gelato" by the time that drive got us two thirds of the way home. Too tired for dinner.

•Bakeshop, 5351 NE Sandy Blvd, Portland; 📞503-946-8884
•Saint Simon Coffee Company, 2005 NE Broadway Street, Portland; 📞971-703-4993
•LaLa's Creamery, 134 Petaluma Blvd. N, Petaluma; 📞707-763-5252

IMG 9185 Tuesday, April 24: A delicious improvisation: a fried-egg-and-bacon sandwich on nice dense rye bread, with savory sautéed vegetables on the side.
IMG 9189 Wednesday, April 25: Baseball night in front of the television. We're partial to the Niman Schell hot dogs, which I like with mustard but never catsup, chopped raw onions, pickle relish, and sauerkraut. Sautéed potatoes and carrots on the side; green salad afterward. The buns are from our local bakery, of course.

•Downtown Bakery and Creamery, 308a Center Street, Healdsburg

IMG 9214 Thursday, April 26: to Berkeley to meet last week's bride and groom, flown down from Portland for a short honeymoon in the Bay Area. We ate in the café, beginning with housemade salt-cod pizetta; I went on to a green salad and rich, redolent braised pork with chiles, oregano, lime, shell beans, and cilantro-flavored long-grain rice, with a bittersweet choclate pavé with caramel ice cream for dessert.

     🍷Zinfandel, Green and Red, 2016

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

IMG 9231 Friday, April 27: After a night at home and breakfast as usual we took the newlyweds into town to see the Downtown Bakery, then home to the neighbors down the hill for a fine al fresco lunch: a chopped salad, deviled eggs, cheeses and anchovies. Then a quick trip to deliver the pair to their San Francisco hotel and drinks at a favorite bar where the celery and parmesan, the anchovies and butter, the French fries and my Hanky Panky ae always dependable. Once home, only fruit and a chocolate seemed necessary.

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

Saturday, April 28: Cook smashed up canned sardines — we like those canned in spring water, not oil — with chopped onions and horseradish to make sandwiches, served with a bowl of store-bought red-pepper soup; green salad afterward, and an apple. And finally I'm beginning to return to normal after the nuptial feasting of the previous week…


Finally, yesterday, Sunday: Penne rigata tossed with chopped lemon, garlic, and anchovies; the green salad. I am well looked after.

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Portland catchup

Portland, Oregon, April 19-22, 2018—
IMG 9118 THIS IS WHY we were in Portland a week ago: the wedding of our granddaughter Francesca and her beau Hamza, seen here last Saturday at the reception, cutting a glorious cake baked by Giovanna and the Contessa and decorated by Thérèse — bakers all.

But first, let me catch up a bit. I've told you about the pizzas we had on Wednesday. Thursday, April 19, we cooked supermarket ravioli at home, with a green salad afterward — not bad.

     🍷Cheap Nero d'Avola

IMG 9080 The next day I took the groom to lunch in a downtown bistro where we had a little splurge: a bottle of 🍷Beaujolais-Villages, Le Bouteau, Pascal Granger, ‘16,
as it was listed on the menu: but in the event it was a 2014, holding up well for its age. With it, for me, a grilled ham-cheese baguette: jambon de Paris with Gruyère, a dollop of Dijon mustard, and mixed arugula and frisée. Not bad at all.

•Little Bird Bistro, 215 SW 6th Avenue, Portland, Oregon; 📞(503) 688 - 5952

That night we ate at home — not our B&B this time, but the home of the mother of the bride. It was a big dinner for the family, and all three of our children and their mates, seven of our eight grandchildren and their various beaux and friends, and all four of our great-grandchildren were there.

How to feed such a crew? Giovanna asked me to pick up the roast chicken dinners ordered in from Arrosto, and foccaccia from Pastaworks, and green salad and roasted potatoes. I really like Providore, a marketplace incorporating these subsidiary businesses; they have an interesting wine shop, a small but soigné cheese selection, and are a comfortable, well-lit, quiet place for lunch.
     🍷Many wines, of course, including a fine Regaliali Nero d'Avola
•Providore Fine Foods, 2340 NE Sandy Boulevard, Portland; 📞+1 (503) 232-1010

IMG 9102 The big day, of course, was Saturday, the wedding day. I don't think we ate lunch. I got a haircut in the morning, and most of us seemed to float around in a sort of haze. It was a splendid April spring day; all Portland was in bloom — dogwoods, cherries, azaleas and rhododendrons, tulips and hyacinths.

The ceremony was in the front garden of the bride's parents' house, and among the 150 guests or so it seemed most of the neighbors were present — along with all our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, the Contessa's sisters, various cousins, the bride's other grandparents and their daughter and her son and daughter.

It all went off without a hitch, and afterward we repaired to a nearby social hall for the reception: sixteen tables of various sizes seating from six to a dozen. Like the entire week of parties, the menu had an Italian theme with decidedly Algerian contributions, reflecting the couple's residence and the groom's birthplace.

We began with little frittata bites with asparagus, chèvre, soft herbs, olives, and piquilles; bread, butter, and anchovies, crudités, and bread with a sort of Algerian pesto made with fava tops and garlic.

IMG 9107 The bridal couple stood serving out the dinner, and the groom rather overloaded my plate: "Uncle Paolo" 's grilled steak with salsa verde; Merguez sausages, radicchio "Caesar" salad with grapefruit, tarragon, and green olives; honey and za'atar-roasted carrots; Farro with preserved lemon, red onion, and roasted kale.

Paolo is of course uncle of the bride, our son; he raised and butchered the steer whose steak we enjoyed, grilling it outside the dining hall over charcoal. There was plenty left over to enjoy the next day, spent in rest and recovery.

There was, of course, cake, as you see at the top of this post — two, in fact: a four-storey chocolate wedding cake with coffee crunch filling and coffee butter cream, and a "groom's cake," Lindsey's almond torte with sour cherry jam and chocolate icing. The bride's mother made the cakes, with her mother's help: this was a thoroughly professional job. The bride's aunt decorated the cakes, splendidly I thought, and my Lindsey made marzipan olive leaves to decorate the groom's cake.

The wedding theme was Mediterranean, as I've mentioned, and the olive leaves seemed to me an auspicious decoration, signaling as they do peace and return to safety. Long and happy years to the couple; this beginning of their marital adventure will long be remembered.

     🍷Campari Spritzes; Pilsner Urquell; Nero d'Avola, Perricone, "L'Isola dei Profumi"(Sicily), 2016; Cava, Torre Oria (Valencia), nv; Moroccan mint tea

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Thursday, April 19, 2018


IMG 9068
Portland, Oregon, April 18, 2018—
THESE DAYS I seem to crave sharp flavors more than usual: tomato, pepper, salt, lemon. Lunch was pretty good: good bread with sardines from the can. Dinner was even more to my point: for the many of us — three couples and assorted others — we ordered in four pizzas.

One of them was a Margherita, you can be sure. Not the slice in the photo, which was bizarrely, I thought, strewn with a few stalks of asparagus. The Margherita had less basil than I like but the sauce was first-rate.

I don't think pizza profits from being put in a cardboard box, any more than bread should see a container of any kind until it's cold, and then only when necessary. But there seems to be no other way to get fresh-baked pizzas home. Giovanna did slip them into the oven, on pizza pans, and that helped. But still.

     🍷Aglianico, Epicuro (I like this cheap red)

Lovely's Fifty-Fifty, 4039 North Mississippi Avenue, Portland; 📞+1 (503) 281-4060

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Egg and cheese

IMG 9060
Portland, April 17, 2018—

THE FIRST ITEM on the menu caught my eye, because when you're tired and a bit out of sorts there's nothing quite as restorative as a simple fried egg sandwich. But — wait a minute — with cheese? Egg and cheese? What an unlikely, unpleasant combination!

But then came immediately to mind: Cheese soufflé. Of course cheese and egg combine well, why this odd new prejudice? So I ordered the sandwich, with as an extra some Calabrian peppers, and it arrived in due time, and it was delicious. On very good bread, from Ken's Artisan Bakery, our favorite up here. Very nicely toasted. Piquant for sure with the peppers, but nicely balanced. I'd eat a couple more.

     🍷Beer: IPA from Great Bear Republic

Coquine, 6839 SE Belmont Street, Portland, Oregon; 📞503-384-2483

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Oysters on the half shell

IMG 9052
Eastside Road, April 16, 2018—
ALAS, WE WERE HAVING too much fun to think of taking photos. Friends — professional chefs, in fact — came up from Berkeley bringing lots of oysters and sausages, and whipped up a mignonette, and we stood around drinking "champagne," white wine and rosé, and eating oysters on the half shell, and then sat down to the sausages and sautéed apples and onions that Cook whipped up. (That's the one photo taken.) Green salad afterward, of course. Hours and hours of conversation and dining. A beautiful day.

     🍷Wines too many to list…

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Chicken with rhubarb

IMG 9043  1
Eastside Road, April 15, 2018—
AN UNLIKELY COMBINATION on first thought, I suppose. Cook is impressed with Scandinavian Comfort Food: Embracing the Art of Hygge, by Trine Hahnemann, a book of Scandinavian cuisine she'd heard about somewhere, and has made this item twice from it. You can see the recipe here. (There are also a number of recipes online.)

(I would say the chicken is baked, not roasted, but I don't know why I have this idea.)

The dish involves chicken pieces, shallots, garlic cloves, tarragon, a chunks of rhubarb stems, with enough sugar to cut their acid. Salt and pepper, of course. As the recipe stands I think the chicken is cooked too slowly, but it's a tasty dish.

     🍷Sauvignon blanc, Preston of Dry Creek, 2017

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Sunday, April 15, 2018


IMG 9037
Eastside Road, April 14, 2018—
THE LAST OF Marion's buttered barley, none the worst for being re-heated with perhaps just a little more butter.

And then, after the green salad — nice to get back to our own salad dressing! — another leftover: that blood orange upside-down cake.

I have to admit a sentimental attachment to upside-down cake: my mother made what seemed to me a marvelous version, possibly using a cake mix from a box when they became available after the war (my Uncle Clay designed the Duncan Hines box, says family lore) but covering the bottom-then-the-top with rings of canned pineapple, brown sugar, and maraschino cherries.

IMG 9009Cook makes a better cake, no doubt about it; and the artfully arranged segments of carefully trimmed blood orange are just as pretty as the pineapple. Delicious, too, with delicately flavored whipped cream…

     🍷Sauvignon blanc, Preston of Dry Creek, 2017

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Short day in San Francisco

IMG 9016
San Francisco, April 13, 2018—
HOW INTRODUCE OVERSEAS guests to San Francisco in just half a day — and that with an obligatory shopping errand?

We started out with lunch at a favorite spot, where I had roast asparagus with an egg sunny side up, lemon aioli, and arugula, a delicious slice or two of smoked salmon on the side.

For dessert, Russian Honey Cake, of course; we wouldn't visit this place without another slice.

     🍷Bistronauta Fehér 2015 (Hungary; unusual; very good)

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

Then on to Mission Dolores for a little history and ice cream a block away at Bi-Rite. It was a beautiful day, and the line was blessedly short. I had two flavors of the season, Orange Cardamom and Meyer Lemon, and they complemented one another perfectly.

Bi-Rite Creamery, 3692 18th Street, San Francisco; 📞+1 (415) 626-5600

We stayed in the Mission. A tour of Balmy Alley; a look at Precita Park; then a short hike to the top of Bernal Heights — the view from there never fails to impress visitors.

Dinner, alas, was at the airport, where we left our niece and her daughter to fly home to Australia, and consoled a grandson-in-law-soon-to-be who'd missed a connection to Portland with his first American hamburger and beer. Great to see him; wish the food had been better…

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Friday, April 13, 2018

Buttered Barley

Eastside Road, April 12, 2018—

MARION CUNNINGHAM's buttered barley tonight, one of our favorite dishes — a sort of pilaf, I suppose, of simply barley, steamed, tossed with chopped scallions and butter. Everything better with butter!

     🍷Sauvignon blanc, Preston of Dry Creek, 2017: true to varietal, and according to me the best Sauvignon blanc that isn't French is grown in Dry Creek Valley.

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

A day in Berkeley

IMG 8984
Eastside Road, April 11, 2018—

A SMALL LUNCH, since we're dining early. Where to take visiting Australian family to lunch? Let's go to Bartavelle, I'm exactly in the mood for an anchovy egg.

These are essentially four-minute eggs, cooked in steam I believe, halved, given a dollop of aïoli, a coiled rinsed anchovy, and a dusting of Maresh pepper. That's a delicious pickled carrot slice on the side; I've already eaten the cauliflower floweret.

There's no better pick-me-up than these eggs. With it, a slice of buttered toast.

     🍷A glass of Prosecco

•Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar, 1603 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley; 📞+1 (510) 524-2473
IMG 8999
The dining room at Chez Panisse, between seatings

DINNER WAS AT Chez Panisse, and it was luxe, calme, et volupté. We could relax and converse and leave everything to the superb service. We had:

IMG 8989🍷Aperitif: a glass of Prosecco delicately flavored with strawberry and thyme, with tiny gougères

Local halibut tartare, julienned vegetable salad, ginger vinaigrette, and mustard blossoms; with flatbread sprinkled with black nigella seeds.

Clean, sparkly, a true appetizer, waking the palate

🍷Grüner Veltliner: Domäne Wachau, 2015

IMG 8992 Clam chowder with Marash pepper and herbs

From the delicately pungent tartare, with its rather austere wine, to a remarkable version of chowder, delicate and springlike, light and complex, with a remarkable wine:

🍷Cour-Cheverny, Domaine Philippe Tessier, 2015: pretty, almost œil de perdrix, tawny on the tongue,

IMG 8997 Lamb: rack, loin, and leg stuffed with sorrel and breadcrumbs, all from the grill; with glazed carrots and potato purée
The stuffed leg of lamb was a gigot a la ficelle, hung by a string from above and in front of the coals in the fireplace. The heat causes the leg to turn slowly in one direction, winding the string to a point at which it has to reverse and turn in the other direction, roasting the meat evenly on all sides.

🍷Saint-Joseph, Vignobles Verzler, Chante-Perdrix, vintage?

IMG 8998 Wildflower honey ice cream with pistachio cake and tangerines
Nutty, dense, moist cake set off by a creamy ice cream; just enough sauce to bring it all together


•Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 📞+1 (510) 548-5525
Yes, we've been part of the Chez P family for 46 years…

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017


Eastside Road, April 10, 2018—

RIBS FROM THE fireplace, grilled over wood, served au naturel, with broccoli and potatoes. It was all delicious, and we were guests. How could it be better?

Apple pieApple pie a la mode, that’s how. Thanks, neighbors!

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Monday, April 9, 2018

Pork chops ma façon

Eastside Road,  April 8, 2018—

PORK CHOPS my way. I’m sure I’ve discussed this before: you put chopped garlic, salt, and plenty of fennel seeds in a mortar and grind it up to a paste. I add half a lemon zest, micrograting it in. Add olive oil ans a little lemon juice. 

I rub the white fat on the edges of the cold chops into the cold black iron frying pan, then get it good and hot and add the chops (salted when brought home from the shop). 

Spread half the mixture from the mortar on the chops as they cook. Turn when done on the first side and spread the remaining mixture. 

When done, deglaze the skillet with white wine, reduce, and pour over the chops. 

Tonight we had steamed asparagus alongside, green salad after, then a caramel pecan ice cream sundae. 

Riesling, Emma Reichart, 2016


THIS KIND of dinner: perhaps twenty tables each seating ten. Catered dinner. Dining with strangers. Master of ceremonies at microphone. Ceviche, green salad, beefsteak with Brussels sprouts and a sort of risotto. 
Sauvignon blanc; rosé of Pinot noir; red blend. 

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Beef stew

NOT A TRUE DAUBE, which is what I like to make, but a collaborative dish that turned out to be a one-dish stew, with lots of carrots. We browned the beef, but each thought the other had deglazed the pot: hence some lost flavor. Oh well: six of us ate pretty well …

But no photo…

Thursday, April 5, 2018


Eastside Road, April 6, 2018—

RISOTTO PRIMAVERA, you might almost call it, lightly flavored with a couple of Franco Dunn’s “risotto” sausages and, of course, Parmigiano. With it, asparagus, simply steamed and very lightly buttered.

Green salad afterward, then  tangerine. 

Riesling,, Emma Reichert (Nahe), 2016: light, dry, useful


Arugula, Parmesan, and almonds. Parmesan, anchovies and olives. A fine Martini. Central Coast goat “gouda” with fig jam for dessert. Nice. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018


Eastside Road, April 3, 2018—
NO PHOTO, just leftovers tonight — egg salad, made for today's lunch with a couple of visiting friends; the end of the tuna-bean salad, finally, and none the worse for maturing; an orange lentil sauté with onion flavored with cardamom and turmeric; then the green salad, again including spinach.

Speaking of cardamom, we were introduced today to a fine ice creamery — a Michoacan ice creamery, where I chose a small cup of cardamom ice cream. Beautifully made, thick and creamy, and delicately but thoroughly infused with the spice. The flavor was not layered on an ice cream base, or even folded into it; it was completely integral to the entire preparation. There are many flavors to be tried here, and the authentic paletas as well, some of them quite piquant I am told. We'll be back.

     🍷A little beer before lunch; a ginger beer with dinner.

•Frozen Art Gourmet Ice Cream, 500 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa; 📞(707) 331-2899

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Monday, April 2, 2018


IMG 8949
Eastside Road, April 2, 2018—
SPRING TRAINING went pretty well, which always alarms me — and in fact things havyen't been unrelievedly wonderful since the season opened last week.

Things in the ball park, that is. Here at the dining table, which I confess is in front of the TV when a game is on, things are just fine. Niman Schell hot dog, DBC* bun, organic dill pickle, decent mustard and relish — and one of Cook's quickly made but nicely flavored potato salads.

Green salad afterward, of course, tonight with spinach among the greens. A Pixie tangerine; a couple of chocolates.

     🍷Cheap white wine spritz

*Downtown Bakery and Creamery, Healdsburg

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Sunday, April 1, 2018


IMG 8944
Eastside Road, April 1, 2018—
THE NEIGHBOR STEPPED onto the patio a little before noon, bearing a plate in her two hands. "I brought you some pie," she said, and took it into the kitchen, then excused herself, in a hurry, and walked back down the hill.

Well, it's Easter Sunday: no surprise she'd made Spanakopita, that delicious traditional Greek Easter pastry — flaky pastry concealing chopped spinach, onion, and egg, along with who knows what else comes to hand.

It's the day we often drive into town for a big Easter backyard party at a friend's house, but not this time; I'm being told to avoid crowds of people, and especially little kids. So we stayed home, the Contessa and I, and made do with our books and our gardening. Crackers, cheese, and fruit for lunch, leftover salads for supper — a delicious potato salad that's only improved in the few days since Cook made it; a fine cannellini-onion-and-tuna salad; green salad of course.

And a delicious Spanakopita. Thanks, T!

It's nice to be back.

     🍷Blanc, La Ferme Julien

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating:

2016      2015     2017     maybe I'll get around to working on these one of these days…