Eating Every Day

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Leaving Pasadena

Eastside Road, April 15, 2014—
Time to catch up again
Los Angeles, April 12, 2014—
LUNCH AT THE MUSEUM today, since we're here anyway looking at a marvelous Alexander Calder show, and have only an hour or two before catching Macbeth back in Pasadena.

I've been eating too much anyway these last few days. I think I'll settle for this Treviso salad: asparagus, feta, boiled egg, gribiche, croutons. What's gribiche? Let Wikipedia explain. Whatever the etymology — Wiktionnaire says "Probable variante de grébiche (« mauvaise femme ») voir l’emploi adjectival culinaire de bonne-femme"— it's delicious.
Arneis, Giovanni Almondo Ïl Ciliegie", 2011
• Ray's and Stark Bar at LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles; 323.857.6180

Pasadena, April 13, 2014—
WE'D HOPED TO DINE at a new place on Colorado Avenue — promising for its reliance on local, sustainable provender, and for its canny North Italian menu — but on arrival found it simply far too loud for a party of four. There was no way we would enjoy an evening here.

I recalled seeing an attractive old-fashioned bar-bistro not far away, with steak tartare noticeable on its menu. Only a couple of blocks away: let's do it.

My Martini was acceptable, and if the tartare wasn't quite up to snuff — made and refrigerated in advance, a cold uninspired patty with the accoutrements mixed in, and cold tired brioche toasts on the side — the room itself was a marvelous study in retro. And we could hear ourselves…
Côtes du Rhône Villages, Château de Bord, 2011
Cheval Bistro, 41 South De Lacey Avenue, Pasadena; (626) 577-4141

Oakland, April 14, 2014—
A DAY ON THE ROAD: "breakfast" in the cheap motel office: a small muffin, so-so coffee, so-so "orange juice." Once in Oakland, though, 11:30 in the morning, we had time for a sandwich involving egg salad made with chopped grilled asparagus, parmesan, and arugula. On the side, pickled radish and carrot, mixed greens, and a first-rate hard-boiled "balsamic egg."

• Wood Tavern, 6317 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618
(510) 654-6607

Eastside Road, April 15, 2014—
AND NOW WE ARE PUNISHED with the common cold, picked up Aesculapius alone knows where on the travels over the last five days. It's Tuesday; we should be fasting, especially after the feasting of the past few days — but I'm supposed to be minding my protein intake, so we're eating; and we have these colds, so Cook proposes a nice thick garlic soup.

She'd found some turkey broth in the freezer — I think of it as Fortunatus's freezer, it's bottomless. Lots of crushed garlic; maybe an egg yolk or two — I wasn't looking. A green salad afterward, of course.
Red, La Ferme Julien (Rhône), 2012

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Acceptable and reliable

Pasadena, April 11, 2014—

MIDDAY, AND HUNGRY in Pasadena's "Old Town," a busy ode to complacent middle-class consumerism. Plenty of places to choose from, but we're right here at this one, we've tried it before and found it acceptable, why not?

I started with this plate of carpaccio — very thin slices of what's undoubtedly feedlot beef, but I rationalize they're very thin and probably won't kill me. Young, creamy, thin-sliced Parmesan. Arugulal. Lemon juice, and a scatter of capers in the judicious drizzle of olive oil. 

Afterward, orecchiete with sausage and… don't recall; didn't take notes. The theme this week is Calabria; I know it was nicely seasoned with chili flakes…

Acceptable Pinot grigio

• Il Fornaio, 24 W Union Street, Pasadena; (626) 683-9797

Thursday, April 10, 2014


Pasadena, April 10, 2014—

WE DECIDED TO LOOK for a new place for supper tonight, the four of us, down here to see three plays at the rep company A Noise Within. Our cheap motel is a ten-minute walk from the theater, but there's no decent place to eat nearby, so we looked at the map online to see what was close.

Ah; there we are: an Italian restaurant whose website promised comfort and utter lack of pretension. Forgetting for the moment what I'd had for dinner last night, I ordered a dish I like but rarely choose: Fettucini Alfredo. This wasn't bad, though the green salad that came before it was perfunctory. 

Not the dessert, though: Spumoni! The pink ice cream tasted properly of Nesselrode and a hint of bubblegum; the chocolate was decent; the green pistachio full of nice meaty nuts. I haven't seen this for decades, and was pleased to enjoy it this evening.

Pinot grigio in the glass, the first tasting of refrigeration, the second passable

• Nikki C's Restaurant & Bar, 470 S Rosemead Blvd, Pasadena, California; (626) 792-7437

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Back in Ojai

Ojai, April 9, 2014—

CRASHING WITH A FRIEND tonight.  He had a small jar of smoked salmon on hand, the gift of a friend who works up in Alaska now and then. 

So he cooked half a pound of penne al dente, then added the flaked salmon and maybe a quarter cup of crême frâiche. I shook in a few drops of vodka and ground a good big of black pepper into it. Toss and serve: can't go wrong. Green salad afterward, and for dessert half a cherimoya, with a nice almond tea cake from Crixi…

White Côtes du Rhône, "Heritages," Ogier, 2010 (a little oxidized but serviceable)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Catchup again

Eastside Road, April 8, 2014—
UNUSUALLY BUSY LATELY, but you can be sure we've been eating — up to today, when we resumed our weekly fast. More or less.

Last Thursday we dined at a place we like but, alas, seem to neglect — there are just so many good places to go to these days! I opened with the delicious grilled asparagus you see here, with grapefruit, lovage, and almonds. I never realized it before, but asparagus and lovage is a perfect combination, like lamb and rosemary, or chicken and sage: I'd better get a little lovage into the ground next week…

After that, the perfectly grilled pork leg you see below, with a crépinette alongside, on a bed of farro pilaf, with tiny turnips, sautéed rapini and, most delicious, a little crushed anchovy. What a fine dish — and how I miss the crépinettes we used to get so long ago at Pig by the Tail!
Syrah, Chante Perdrix (Rhone), 2012 (deep, fruity, and delicious)
Camino, 3917 Grand Avenue, Oakland, California; 510-547-5035FRIDAY AND YESTERDAY we actually ate at home — we do that from time to time. And I bet Constant Reader can guess what we had: Friday, penne with Lean Sauce — I call it that because I forgot, though I'd been carefully instructed, to bring a can of tomatoes home, and the usual browned-onions-and-porcini sauce was colored with a bit of tomato paste instead. I must say I liked it very much that way, with shavings of Parmesan on top, and of course a green salad afterward…
Cheap Barolo d'Asti

Last night we had our first chard this spring from the garden, from a volunteer that came up from last year — I haven't yet set any new plants out. Maybe I shouldn't: this is a big healthy chard plant and the insects have left it alone. (Maybe that long string of cold weather a couple of months ago will have thinned their ranks.) The chard is delicious, and it goes nicely with Franco's coriander-flavored "Greek" sausage.

Saturday we saw three plays in Berkeley — Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia, excellently produced by Shotgun Players; I hope I'll have time to write about that over at The Eastside View, but don't get your hopes up. Not much time for dinner, as you can imagine: we made do very well indeed with a sandwich from the exceptional Berkeley butcher The Local Butcher Shop: roast beef on a sourdough roll with melted Gruyère, butter, caramelized onions, thyme, raw spinach, sherry vinaigrette — we wanted only a glass of good red wine, but since we were eating in the car…
  • The Local Butcher Shop, 1600 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510-845-6328
  • BUT LIFE IS NOT ALL beer and skittles, as my mother used to say; Sunday afternoon we found ourselves at the memorial service for a good friend who we will miss a lot — at table, in fact, as he and his wife were frequent dinner companions. There were hundreds at the service, and afterward a few of us gathered at our friend's home, lifted several glasses to his memory, told anecdotes, and consoled ourselves with a couple of very comforting lasagne. Our Martinis this weekend will be lifted to his honor, though mine won't be Stoli, up, no floaters.

    Grilled pork leg at CaminoChard, "Greek"sausage, cauliflower at homePenne with lean sauce at home

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

    Ham hash

    ham hash.jpg
    Eastside Road, April 2, 2014—
    I DO LIKE, said Cook, To be able to step outside and snip all the parsley I need.

    It's one of the pleasures of this time of the year, a time that's come a little later than usual — enough rain has fallen that the Italian parsley that volunteers itself at the base of the cypress near the front door has sprung back up, a week or so after the first timid green leaf-buds appeared on the grapevines. Soon everything will be going full tilt and before you know it… but why think about mowing and weeding now?

    Let's investigate ham hash instead. Another meal that suggested itself from a Cook's tour of the refrigerator, which — relatively small though it be — never seems to tire of volunteering another meal. The hash began with sliced onions browning in butter, releasing a scent that would bring you back from near death. Then potatoes, dried porcini mushrooms that had been reconstituted in water, a little juice left from St. Patrick's corned beef, a slice of ham chopped up, all cooked together in the black iron skillet. Chopped parsley on top.

    Green salad afterward, and then a couple of tangerines. I've said it before; I'll say it again: life is good.
    Cheap Barolo d'Avila

    Away and at home

    Eastside Road, April 1, 2014—
    HERE YOU SEE, no April fooling, a bowl of minestrone, lovingly made by Cook of Things At Hand, and a fine way to end a rainy day — with, of course, a green salad afterward.
    Cheap Barolo d'Asti

    BUT LAST NIGHT, ah, last night, now that was something different. We dined downstairs — Berkeleyans and family will know what that means — on a particularly fine Piemontese-feeling menu:

    Spring vegetable salad with green garlic bagna cauda

    Arrosto di maiale al latte with spinach and grilled artichokes

    Cheese: BoDacious (chevre) (Bohemian Creamery)

    Page mandarin and grapefruit sorbetto with blood orange granita

    Bagna cauda, chez nous, is generally a cup of hot olive oil with lots of crushed garlic and anchovy and maybe, yes these days I would say certainly, a bit of butter, kept hot at table over a flame, into which we dip bread, raw vegetables including certainly cardoon, and other things I'm forgetting at the moment — you could look it up. Hardboiled eggs come to mind.

    At this table though Bagna cauda was much more discreet, as you'll see below. The salad involved green garlic stems, tiny turnips, lettuces of course, and raw early spring green peas, with the tiniest drizzle of perfect Bagna cauda threading its way through: hard to think of a more perfect combination of plates which I'd otherwise have thought mutually exclusive.

    As to Maiale al latte: when I was a boy, roast pork was a frequent luxury at the dinner table. Even more frequent, though almost never served with roast pork, was what we always called milk gravy. (I did not grow up in a kosher household.) To make milk gravy, as I think I've mentioned here before, you added a little flour to the skillet after you've roasted or fried the meat (which has of course been put on a cold plate to get cold and greasy); you scrumbled it around in the drippings with a spatula (in those days called a "pancake turner"); then you poured in some milk, continuing to scrub things around to make a clotted sauce that tasted much better, fortunately, than my description might suggest.

    So meat and milk is a serious and comforting thread in my makeup, unlike meat and cheese, about which I whined the other day. I'm not sure how this Maiale was cooked, but I know (because I asked) that it spent a couple of hours roasting. I don't think we've ever actually eaten Maiale al latte in Piemonte, and I'm not sure we've had it elsewhere in Italy. Roast pork always brings two things to mind: first, my childhood home, when it was usually leg of pork, frequently from one of our own pigs, and had been roasted in the oven of our wood-fired cookstove, and had been flavored with salt, pepper, and garlic salt.

    Second, Rome. Porchetta is a Roman glory, one of many of course, but certainly one. No garlic salt would ever have come near it; there should be as little industrialization as possible. This dish was superb. The artichokes set it off exactly right, recalling the Bagna cauda through mental association with cardoons; the spinach added iron and verdure; the meat itself was beautifully flavored and tender as Fitzgerald's Night.

    And then the sorbetti, made no doubt from those delicious Ojai citruses from Churchill Orchard — lots of pointed flavor, cold and crisp, the tattered granita setting off the scoops of sorbetto as the Bagna cauda had the salad. Menu with memory, that's what I like, and this one will stay in mine for quite a while!
    Seco Ca' del Merlo, Giuseppe Quintarelli (Veneto), 2011 (a splendid apéritif, not quite assertive enough against the Bagna cauda); Basadone (da Pelaverga Piccolo), Castello di Verduno (Piemonte), 2012 (rich, deep, not heavy, fruity and delicious)
    • Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510.548.5525
    salad with Bagna caudaMaiale al latteSorbetti