Friday, February 16, 2018

Steak and potatoes

IMG 8677
Eastside Road, February 15, 2018—

ST. VALENTINE has come and gone, bringing Ash Wednesday with him — a curious and perhaps ominous conjunction that I don't recall ever experiencing before. But perhaps it means nothing.

Dinner last night was superb: Cook found a fine thick rib-eye at the local meat counter, and prepared it inspired by a recent NY Time recipe by David Tanis involving salt and pepper, garlic and rosemary. The steak sweats in those flavorings half an hour or so, and is then cooked on one side in a very hot skillet, then turned and finished in the oven.

Potatoes as she often cooks them, in butter, with salt, pepper, garlic, and chopped parsley.

We did not have salad: instead, my favorite green leafy (well, one of them): Swiss chard.

     🍷Dolcetto, Pecchenino "San Luigi" (Dogliani), 2016: ottimo, as the Italians say, simply the best.

Best of all, there was enough left of this feast (except for the chard) to have exactly the same meal tonight!

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Souvenirs of Yountville

Eastside Road, February 12, 2018—
ROAST CHICKEN again tonight, because we could eat only half of it last night. We don't usually resort to doggy bags: in fact, I think this may have been the first time I have willingly participated in such a thing, though the Contessa has been known to bring the occasional leftover home from a lunch somewhere. I was brought up to leave nothing behind on the dinner table, and old habits die hard.

So last night I asked the busser to put the dark meat of our bird in a little box, and not to neglect the bones from the breasts and wings which we'd eaten. Two more meals, we thought. But our instructions were not followed; the gnawed bones must have been felt infra dig. Oh well.

Cold roast chicken for dinner, then, with nice steamed buttery potatoes, and raw fennel, and a green salad.

But there is more. Cook found some prosciutto in the fridge at lunchtime, and made delicious grilled ham and cheese sandwiches with some Comté.

And breakfast! Instead of the customary toast, it was pain aux raisins, one of my favorite pastries, bought last night at Bouchon Bakery. This was truly a remarkable thing, buttery with particularly good butter, raisiny with dark and golden raisins, not too big but far from frugal. A great way to start the day.

     🍷Cinsault, Preston of Dry Creek, 2014 (at dinner, naturally)

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ad hoc

Yountville, California, February 11, 2018—
INTO ENEMY TERRITORY today — not Stanford, but the Napa Valley — to see an interesting exhibition of the photographs of Paul Child, documenting his life with Julia in postwar France.

And to dine. It was Paul Bocuse's birthday, Paul Bocuse who recently died, the celebrated inventor of La Nouvelle Cuisine back in the 1960s. This was important in its day for finally displacing what I think of as Swiss-Hotel Cuisine from the culinary establishment. It was, in a way, in its context, analogous to the arrival in our country, a little later, of "California Cuisine."

Thomas Keller, the celebrity chef of the Napa Valley (The French Laundry, Ad Hoc, Bouchon bakery) decided to celebrate this occasion with a menu inspired by Bocuse and cuisine nouvelle. Ad Hoc is a "casual" supplementary restaurant to the hautee cuisine tasting-menu The French Laundry, sharing its access to a fine salad garden, an extensive wine list, and the excellent Bouchon bakery, but lacking linen tablecloths, extensive presentation-heavy courses — and pleasant acoustics.

We dined early, 5 pm, and on a Sunday: but the room was soon packed with a noisy, rather young crowd, some with very small children. (We'd been amused, earlier, to see dozens of these people — daytrippers, I'd bet — out photographing themselves and one another in the fields of mustard blossoms currently filling the valley.)

The first course was a variant on salade lyonnaise: frisée, bacon chunks, a poached egg, a vinegary dressing. This is a favorite of mine, and this version was good. The frisée was in fact a hybrid of curly endive (the usual and authentic lettuce) and some other, sweeter, rather meatier lettuce; the bacon was lightly smoked in the American manner; and the egg was not really poached but slow-cooked to a low temperature in the current fashion: but the result was a delicious salad, and I'm sure Bocuse would have approved.

     🍷Graves, Ch. Villa Bel Air, 2014: just what a Sauvignon blanc should be

I'm not sure he'd have approved the next course — a whole small chicken , perfectly roasted, then split in half and presented just so, with little jus. The bird should have been more adequately salted before cooking, and I like the skin a bit crisper. I should roast my own damn chicken, I guess.

With it, a nice dish of tiny lentils and another of deep but I thought one-dimensional mushrooms.

     🍷Mondeuse, Domaine Louis Maguin (Savoie), 2011: a favorite varietal of mine, this was perfectly mature and true to type, deep and finished

Came next a cheese course, but not what you'd have found in the French countryside, where a chariot would trundle to the table offering a variety. This was a half round of local (Andante Dairy) Saint Marcellin-style cheese, with delicious buttery toast and a small pot of honey.

     🍷Bourgogne blanc, Roche e Bellene, 2014

And then perhaps the best course of the meal, unless the salad won that honor — a beautifully made, silky, deeply flavored custard, unfortunately not that well brulée, probably not to order. But the custard itself was fine, and brought its accompanying wine to life.

     🍷Jurançon, Charles Hours "Clos Uroulat," 2012: soft, fruit, balanced sugar, plenty of finesse
Ad Hoc, 6476 Washington St Yountville; 📞+1 (707) 944-2487

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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Pinsa; Merguez

YESTERDAY WE WERE down in San Francisco, as we seem so often to be, looking at art and, of course, finally eating. We'd skipped lunch for lack of time, so had a very early supper at a place I've been curious about.

A pinsa, it turns out, is a sort of foccaccia, a flat savory pastry laden with whatever you think you'd like and cooked in an oven. A sort of pizza, in fact. It's a Roman dish, they say: it's odd that in all the time we've spent in Rome we've never run into it.

At this particular pinseria the dough is made with a blend of rice, soy, and wheat flours, all imported from Rome. I ordered the Centocelle, named for a quarter of Rome we haven't visited but certainly will one day: it was loaded with tomato, mozzarella, artichokes, mushroom, olives, hard-boiled-egg, and prosciutto di parma, and it was very very very delicious. With it, a simple mixed green salad.

     🍷Aglianico del Vulture “Gricos,” Grifalco (Basilicata), 2014
No need to speak English here: this is a simple place; you'd have thought you were in an Italian province. Dark, cluttered with nostalgic old furnishings, in a dubious alley between Mission and Market. I can't wait to go back.

Montesacro Pinseria-Enoteca, 510 Stevenson Street, San Francisco; 📞(415) 795-3040

Eastside Road, February 10, 2018—
TONIGHT WE DINED at home, and it was one of the best dinners I've had in weeks. Cook found a couple of lamb sausages in the freezer, sausages our son had brought, made from lamb from his own animals, nothing but lamb and very thoughtfully mixed spices including coriander.

This gave Cook the idea of something North African or perhaps Middle Eastern. She charred and peeled two green bell peppers and two red ones, cut them into strips, and sautéed them in olive oil with onion and garlic, flavoring them with paprika, red pepper flakes and a bay leaf. The result couldn't be bettered.

Green salad; a tangerine.

     🍷Cinsault, Preston of Dry Creek, 2014 — an absolutely perfect match to the dish

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Monday, February 5, 2018

Sardines and such

Eastside Road, February 5, 2018—
YESTERDAY I MADE sandwiches for lunch — sounds unexceptional, but Constant Reader knows I’m rarely allowed to do the cooking. I found a decent-sized stalk of celery and half a white onion in the refrigerator, and chopped them up, along with a dill pickle. I washed four leaves of lettuce. I opened a can of sardines. I sliced four slices of that delicious Como bread from the Downtown Bakery, and threw everything together, and it was pretty good as I believe; Cook thought so too.

     🍷Cheap Pinot grigio

TODAY, on the other hand, it was lunch in the café, and what a delicious lunch. I started with a simple salad of butter lettuce, with a creamy Green Goddess-like dressing redolent with tarragon.

Afterward, roast pork loin, with leafy broccoli stalks — more leaf than stalk or flowerets — and a pungent tapenade. And remarkable french-fries, hand-cut, very thinly sliced, nicely cooked and salted. The pork was marvelous: tender, succulent, mature, perfectly roasted.

     🍷Arneis, Vietti, 2014
For supper we had a brandade and tomato pizzetta that we’d had the forsight to take home with us. This has to be among the best pizzas.

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

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Saturday, February 3, 2018


Eastside Road, February 3, 2018—
YES: penne rigata; tomato sauce of Cook’s own manufacture, grated Parmesan. Green salad after.

     🍷Garnacha, Laya, 2014

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Thursday, February 1, 2018


Eastside Road, February 1, 2017——
ONE OF THESE days I’ll tell the story of the old man who had to have his soup. “Pas possible, manger sans la soupe, » he said. I’ll tell it one of these days when I have a keyboard.

Tonight Cook made this soup: beans, ham, onions, celery, jalapeños, collards, garlic, a splash of cider vinegar. Chicken stock. Delicious.


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