Sunday, July 5, 2015

Fourth of July

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Eastside Road, July 4, 2015—
THE FOURTH OF JULY: Independence Day. We refer to it as our Revolutionary War, but there was no revolution; England persisted in its antiquated monarchy (as it continues to do): we simply declared our Independence.

We celebrated the occasion with a modest but delicious and nourishing lunch: chicken broth fortified with leftover pesto, and plums and figs from the trees.

In the evening, down the hill to the neighbors, where a fire had been set in the Weber, and things were afoot: a butterlied leg of lamb, a decent-sized tri-tip. a few ears of corn, salads involving tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, and who knows what else. Vanilla ice cream. Peaches and things.IMG_1492.jpg
Tocai Friulano "Borgo Buon Natale", Clendenen Family Vineyards (Santa Maria Valley), 2013 (thanks, John), quietly growing more complex and interesting;
Petite Sirah, Preston of Dry Creek, 2012; Syrah, Preston of Dry Creek, 2012 (both clean, fruity, full of varietal flavor, nearly ready)
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Hot Dog

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Eastside Road, July 3, 2015—
WE BEGIN TO CELEbRATE the holiday with the most American possible of suppers: Hot Dog, trimmings, cole slaw. The dog is reasonably correct, politically: from Niman Schell, or whatever it's called these days. The bun's from Downtown Bakery and Creamery in Healdsburg.

An onion sliced quite thin; mustard; pickle relish.

Onthe side a fine cole slaw Cook made from cabbage, onion, parsley I'd guess; who knows what else.

With cole slaw like this, no green salad needed. Fruit for dessert.
Salice Salentino, Epicuro, 2012
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Summer nights

Eastside Road, July 2, 2015—
HOT THIS WEEK! Too hot to think much about cooking; and I've been too busy to think about grilling. (Or even blogging, you may have noticed.) Today we settled for guacamole to begin with: I made it my usual way, chopping fine a mixture of cilantro, shallot, roasted Habanera pepper, and sea salt, this time adding three or four French breakfast radishes because they were there, then adding grated lime zest and blending the mixture with an avocado, moistening the result with lime juice and Tequila. No peas; no mango; decidedly no animal protein of any kind. This is how to make guacamole, as far as I'm concerned. Afterward, fusilli with pesto — just basil, garlic, pine nuts, salt, olive oil, and Parmigiano. Green salad. Fruit, naturally; it's certainly the season!
Cheap Pinot grigio
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Japanese

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Berkeley, July 1, 2015—
VISITORS TO THIS BLOG will have noticed by now the limited range of my culinary delights, whose center is, I would say, somewhere in a triangle whose three points are Nice, Venice, and Siracusa. Of course the San Francisco Bay Area is involved to, but basically as it coincides with the Triangle. In other words, Asian cuisines are not my thing.

Add to that my inability to deal with crustacea — any kind of invertebrate with legs — and you see the problem, social as well as culinary. I readily concede my failure to engage with some of the world's greatest culinary triumphs, not to mention exotic and arresting and intriguing tastes. But there you have it.

Still I make the occasional effort, as at this table. It's true my plate is the blank one, but that's only because I remembered to take a photo first. In the lower right-hand corner you see my main course: Charshu Miso Ramen: chicken and miso broth with braised pork belly, bean sprouts, minced chicken, and bamboo shoot. I suppose I ordered it because of a subliminal association of my own name with that of the ramen.

As a first course I had one of the triangles you see on the plate at upper center, and I liked it — an eggy sort of Japanese quiche, with interesting textures and flavors; I'd gladly have had a couple more of them. The ramen was good at first, while hot, but cooled off so quickly in its huge bowl that after gobbling all the pork belly — reminiscent of porchetta, I thought, but there's my italocentric taste talking! — I lost interest in the broth.

Still, it was a pleasant lunch, sitting outside on a warm balmy afternoon hearing the occasional train go by. I made my effort; I even attempted yet another unpersuasive engagement with sake.
Dewazakura: Oka; Dawasansan; Sobomare: Karakushi (the most neutral and driest of the three)
• Lyasare, 1830 Fourth Street, Berkeley; (510) 845-8100
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Berry time

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Eastside Road, June 29, 2015—
BERRIES — FRUIT in general — have been a recurring theme the last few weeks. What a fine lunch they make! Here, strawberries from Preston of Dry Creek, mulberries from our tree, apricots ditto. It's the first time our apricot tree has fruited, though we set it out a good three years ago. And you see most of the crop here. But how delicate and floral they are, how fresh.

The mulberry tree went in much longer ago, and has taken on good size in spite of lack of water and fertilizer. It's now too tall to harvest completely, even from my tallest orchard ladder, so we just leave lots of berries at the top for the birds, who then — so runs theory — leave the lower fruit, more hidden within the foliage, to us. Of course these birds are messy eaters, and I suppose contribute fertilizer of their own production to the tree.

We discovered, by chance, the one important rule about buying a young mulberry tree: buy one with fruit on it, so you can verify the quality. This is (as you see) a purple Persian mulberry tree, and the fruit is indescribably good, perfumed, rich, deep, suggestive.
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Duck breast at Zuni
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Zuni's Wedding Cake
SUPPER QUITE LATE at Zuni, after hearing Terry Riley's long and eventful string quartet Salome Dances for Peace played by Kronos. I had a duck breast salad, a fine confection of perfectly cooked duck sliced and served cold with roasted apricots, mustard greens, mustard-seed gremolata, and bee pollen; and, afterward, this little individual "wedding cake," a white cake with buttercream and raspberries, surprisingly filled, beautifully prepared in honor of marriage finally available to all. (Well, all but the already married.)

My companion had another marvelous plate: warm purple tomatoes with green beans, spring onions, bagna cauda, orange zest, and fried bread. The bread turned out to be more like sopaipillas, bringing Zuni closer to Zuni than I've known it to be since its very early days…
Merlot-Tannat, Domaine Chiroulet "Grande Reserve" (Gascony), 2010: deeply flavored but long in the tooth
• Zuni CafĂ©, 1658 Market Street, San Francisco; 415.552.2522
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's RestaurantsIMG_1455.jpg

Hominy again

Eastside Road, June 29, 2015—
I FORGOT TO MENTION the other day, when I was thinking about hominy during my childhood, that on a few occasions we actually had fresh hominy. Freshly processed, I mean. In late August 1944, when I turned nine years old, my parents, my kid brother and I took up residence in Welch, Oklahoma, a small town in the northeast corner of the state. It was a bit of a lurch, I suppose, but the previous few years had been so unsettled anything seemed not only possible but fairly certain.

We were there to help out my father's mother, whose second husband had recently been killed in an accident. She lived in a big two-storey clapboard house on the edge of town, with a barn, a milk cow, a dog, a few cats, and neither electricity nor running water. That was our purpose, to wire and plumb the house, as I understand it. Dad worked at a synthetic rubber factory producing Jeep tires; Grandma worked in the local hospital; Mom I guess took care of the household.

Among the most vivid memories of that year is the taste of freshly processed hominy. Corn was sliced off the cob and set to soak in a mixture involving lye. I'm pretty sure the lye was home-made, from wood ash saved from the winter fires; I remember the hominy tasted soapy. Come to think of it the soap was home-made too, also from wood ash, and it burned like crazy. And the laundry, and the "clean" clothes that came from it, had that same wood-ash-lye-soapy-grey-water smell.

We had hominy again tonight, a can of it, and some fresh corn from the freezer, mixed into the onion soffrito and the chorizo (thanks again, Franco), all garnished with chopped cilantro, and it was delicious. Green salad. Fruit.
Rose, La ferme Julien (var), okay.
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The weekly salmon

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Eastside Road, June 27, 2015—
WE'VE SETTLED INTO the Saturday routine: to the Healdsburg farm market in the morning, where we visit our favorite vendors: Dave for fresh-caught local king salmon (actually it's his daughter, I think, or perhaps a granddaughter, who's there most often; he's generally out on his boat); Franco for his marvelous sausage or, perhaps for a change, some chicken-liver mousse; Burt and Mary for their unique dark lettuces and sweet carrots; Renee for radishes and maybe another head of lettuce; Yael for her indispensable Rose de Latour garlic; no peaches today from Dry Creek because our own tree is sufficient for the moment; Middleton Gardens for favas; our neighbors for eggs (but the hens aren't laying yet!); Lou for a conversation about olives and maybe some vegetables or a loaf of bread…

Then in the evening, after the Saturday Martini, I build a little fire of fruitwood prunings and cook the salmon. Cook's got it ready, covering it with two or three grape leaves I've picked and put to soak. I let the fire die down to coals and grill the salmon in a "grill basket," a skillet-like pan with many perforations. Cook prepped the favas while we watched the news with our cocktails, which make the news easier to deal with. Green salad afterward, and some peaches and berries for dessert. Summer's here.
Rose, "La ferme Julien" (Var), nv
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants