Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Back to the eatblog

IMG_1663.jpg
Eastside Road, July 28, 2015—
SORRY; I'VE BEEN BUSY. Not too busy to eat, of course; just too busy to write. Let's see: last time I told you about the miraculous Ojai tri-tip… that waa last Wednesday, though it seems a month ago.

The next day we simply drove home, slowly, in the heat, and since we hadn't fasted for quite a while we contented ourselves with a delicatessen sandwich bought in San Luis Obispo. The place is a local favorite; it was crowded when we stopped in, and rather charming, with a bevy of fresh-faced college students behind the counter focussing intently on their work, spreading mayo and mustard, artfully placing sliced pickles, dealing with little envelopes of pre-packed sliced meat and such as if they were holy objects. I wanted to take a photo but felt I'd be violating some kind of sacred trust.

Since then it's been H O T up here — 102° today, for example — too hot to cook: but we've been doing it. We stopped at a favorite butcher shop on Thursday and bought a couple of duck legs en confit. (Can't think of a graceful way to put it in English: confitted duck legs? confit'd?) They cooked slowly in one black iron skillet; diced potatoes in duck fat in another; frozen corn and soybeans made up the vegetable dish, and of course there was a green salad.
Salice Salentino, Epicuro (Puglia), 2012: cheap, fruity, rewarding
Sunday was Martini day, as Saturday had had to be skipped. Afterward we joined the neighbors and a guest for a potluck: we supplied Franco's amazing green chorizo, herbal and savory; the neighbors supplied a pork rollatino grilled over oak. As always, green salad. For the rest of the week, here's a summary:
IMG_1667.jpg IMG_1685.jpg
Saturday: Salmon, bruschetta, broad beans
"Bianco", Grifone (Italy), nv: cheap, soft, easy
Monday: Lentil salad
Salice Salentino
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Monday, July 27, 2015

Tri-tip

IMG_1654.jpg
Ojai, California, July 22, 2015—
JIM MET US at the doorway: rarely have I seen him look so glum. Dinner is ruined, he said, I overcooked the steak.

Particularly unfortunate as the beef was from a steer raised by an acquaintance, and we were gathered, the five of us, to celebrate the acquisition and, perhaps, just a little, to pass judgment on the quality of the animal.

Jim cooks such things on a smoker-grill on his oak-shaded patio behind his classy house in this delightful town. Now Hephaestus knows I'm no expert at grilling; I usually make a mess of it myself, through inattention — the chief destroyer of grilled meat, I think. Doubly am I ignorant when the contraption in question is a smoker. But as I looked at the pathetic thing lying on its cutting board, waiting to be sliced, I felt a little glum myself.

Is that all there is, Lisa wanted to know. It was dark and shrunken, and when I poked it with a forefinger it hardly yielded. Oh, it'll be okay, I lied, and we sat down at the table, and Jim sliced it.

But look at it! Medium rare, I'd say; truly I prefer mine a bit less cooked, but no one would complain about this. It was tender and tasty, still a bit juicy, quite innocent of marbling, and had — of course — a very nice crust.

Steak and salad, a simple green salad; a perfect end to a long day driving the endless streets of Los Angeles, ending in a quiet town in the country nestled among the citrus and avocado groves… and a good bottle of wine…
Garnacha/Monastrell 70/30%, Laya (Almansa, Spain), 2013
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Bigoli

Bigoli
Los Angeles, California, July 21, 2015—
YES, I HAVE BEEN on vacation for a week. You'd have been wrong to have thought I was on extended fast, though that was certainly an option. Since my last post — was it really eleven days ago? — we have eaten very well, mostly at home, either my brother's home in Australia or our own home in California. We had truly delicious soups, salads, steaks, salmon, and several other things not beginning with "S", and we even ate out once, at a restaurant we very much like in Berkeley. I've thought about catching you up on those events, but I've decided against it.

We're on the road again: a quick drive down to Los Angeles for a consultation. We stopped tonight per caso, as the Italians say, more or less randomly picking the nearest restaurant to come up on Open Table, and we ate well. No better than on several other occasions in the last eleven days, but well. Two things were, in fact, I think, remarkable. One was the pasta you see here, if you squint — no one will say I've become a better photographer in the last week or so!

They're house-made bigoli, a pasta I like very much for its density and substance. They're like strozzapreti in that respect, and while they don't hold sauce quite as well as the priest-stranglers they make up for that with their length, satisfyingly spaghetti-like.

No point pretending, though, that it wasn't the description of the sauce that made me order them: in the reestaurant's quaint typographical idiosyncrasy,
Bigoli al sugo di vitello, foie gras e quanciale
Veal sauce, foie gras and “guanciale”
The dish was unctuous, nicely weighted and balanced, slow-cooked, perfectly scaled.

And what a nice wine with it!
"Cinque Edizioni", Farnese (Abruzzo): Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Primitivo, Negroamaro, Malvasia blend, 2011
Rich, deep, complex, fine aromas (leather, tobacco); good balance, quick, rather intense flavor, nice finish
•Il Moro, 11400 West Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles; 310-575-3530
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Friday, July 10, 2015

Out in the country

IMG 1541
Mount Dandenong, Victoria, July 10, 2015—
A GOOD DAY for a drive out into the country, no? The low winter light breaking through clouds over the lacy tops of the double-tiered forest, tall scraggly eucalypts over tree ferns, past B&Bs and pancake restos, hugging the left on narrow winding roads up into the heights, over two thousand feet above sea level…

The destination was one of those (to me) improbable leisure centers: a petting zoo, a bocce court, lawn bowling, croquet, a (quite good) bakery, a casual restaurant. We got there just in time: the place was nearly full, but there was room for the five of us (plus baby Lola) at the last of a number of parallel tables-for-eight. The lunch menu is limited but rewarding, and from it I chose this Merguez roll: very nice sausage on what's described as a "brioche roll", with crisp onions, house-made pickles, and nicely cut and cooked French-fried potatoes.
Shiraz, Payten & Jones (Yarra Valley), 2014: a bit sweet, rich and ready, forward
Piggery Café, 1 Sherbrooke Rd, Sherbrooke, Victoria; +61 (03) 9021 2100
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Eating at the winery

IMG 1520
Warrandyte, Victoria, July 9, 2015—
A FANCY NEW WINERY had opened its restaurant just a few weeks before my last visit here, last fall, and my brother was eager to take us there this time to try it out. I must admit I had doubts when we drove in: very ambitious indeed, overdone architecture, ambitious grounds, bocce court, pergolas, grand entrance.

On the other hand, there were terraced planters next to that entrance, with carefully straw-mulched beds of cauliflowers, lettuces, and other vegetables; the host and at least one waitress were Italian; the lively interior smelled good, and the diners at tables were clearly happy.

This was Principal Meal of the Day, so we ordered generously, choosing "Anna's Choice" for our entrée (in Australia that word is used correctly, to mean first course), pizzas for our main course. But look what Anna (Gallo, wife of owner of the vineyard-winery-olive grove-restaurant) had chosen!

From top to bottom in the rather blurry photo (sorry):
Piatto Inverno : Parma prosciutto, cacciatore salami, marinated olives and a smoked, lemon-leaf-wrapped diavoletta cheese with housemade rosemary and garlic focaccia

Baccalà croquettes with cauliflower puree and green peppercorns

Pancetta Di Maiale : Crispy skinned pork belly with celeriac puree, fennel and scallop croquette and a cider sauce
You see portions for the four of us here, and I have to say everything was truly quite delicious. The pancetta was I suppose my favorite, succulent pork belly, with crackling on top and lardo underneath — you see it just below the skillet handle. I don't know the breed of pig, but it was rich and fruity in flavor, cooked exactly right.

The baccalà wasn't far behind: soft, delicate croquettes, just the right balance of potato and salt cod. The salumi were fine; the apple-and-celeriac remoulade nicely balanced and seasoned, even the grilled smoked cheese, a course that doesn't always appeal to me, was elevated by the grilled lemon leaves which, crisp and fragrant, proved edible themselves: I'll remember to do this at home. We scaled back our original order of four pizzas to only two, and it was a good thing we did; we weren't able to finish even them. I liked both. The Margarita wasn't perhaps authentically napolitano, being a little heavy on the cheese, but it was good; also a vegetarian pizza carrying a mixed load of brassicas. Others had dessert; I was content with quite a good espresso.
Cabernet sauvignon, Olivigna, 2012, beautifully restrained at 13.2% aocohol, mature, good varietal flavor, subtle finish
•Olivigna, 54-56 Brumbys Rd, Warrandyte, Victoria; (03) 9844 4676
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Soup; gnocchi

vegetable soup
Hill Court, Warranwood, VIC, July 8, 2015—
SOUP FOR LUNCH today, after a pleasant hour down in Warrandyte walking along the Yarra, then having a cappuccino and a very nice lemon meringue tart at a café I've come to like. I'm not sure how the soup was made: vegetable broth, probably, and lots of colors, textures, and flavors among the evenly diced cubes of carrot, celery, potato, and who knows what else — tomato and capsicum, as it's called here, surely involved as well.

Dinner at home too: on our part, delicious gnocchi with cheese melted atop in the broiler; on the part of the neighbors goat curry on rice. Green salad afterward.
Sauvignon blanc, Four Sisters (Central Victoria), 2014, grassy and assertie but nicely balanced; Cabernet sauvignon, Hazyblur, 2013, good varietal flavor
Cocoa Moon, Yarra Street, Warrandyte, Victoria 3113, Australia
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

another catchup

Hill Court, Warranwood, Victoria, July 7, 2015—
THE SIXTH OF JULY did not exist for us, and the fifth involved eating in airports and airplanes; I won't go into that. Tonight, though, dinner at home, Australian home, one of the three or four places in the world where I truly feel at home: roast chicken from the take-out, potatoes and onions from a farm market which Cook and I chopped up (the vegetables, not the market) and cooked slowly in olive oil, a nice guacamole to begin with, and how did we forget the green salad afterward? Conversation, I guess…
Bordeaux, Ch. l'Escart, 2011, old-school and pleasant…
Restaurants visited in 2015 are listed at Eatingday's Restaurants