Sunday, June 15, 2008

Party time

Vietnamese beef salad (see June 11); bread and cheeses; deviled eggs (thanks to Margery); green salad; cherries; ice cream with blackberry sauce

NO PHOTO TODAY, because, well, I forgot. We had a patio party, with friends and family, in a sort of Father's-Day-Farewell-to-the-Travelers celebration. This blog may well be winding down. It's been updated daily since the beginning, last December 10; and we've eaten in motel rooms, at home, in fine restaurants, and a Toyota showroom. Tomorrow we'll be at Chez Panisse; Tuesday at home; Wednesday I'll have dinner on an airplane; Thursday at Marius in Amsterdam.

It's going to be hard to post to this blog in the next few weeks. I'll be traveling light, without a laptop, and my European cell phone doesn't do internet. There may be the occasional internet café for sporadic updates, but I'm not counting on it. I'll keep a journal, of course, and may make some use of it when I get home. We'll see how it goes.

Have a good summer, everyone; eat well and often!

Pinot grigio; Marqués de Cáceres rosé de Rioja; Prosecco

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Baked potato

Potato, olive oil, salt; green beans; "Piemontese" sausage; green salad


THERE'S NOTHING MUCH SIMPLER: scrub a baking potato (russet, organic); slit it with a knife; bake it until it's done.

Some like butter or bits of bacon or sour cream. I like simply a pinching of sea salt and a generous drizzle of olive oil.

With it tonight, green beans from the market, simply cooked in the water they were rinsed it, with a bit of salt; and those delicious loose Italian sausages also from the market with of all things potato in them, which makes them "Piemontese," because potatoes signify the mountains. The usual salad.

Nero d'Avila

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tomato sauce

Tomatoes, onion, olive oil, garlic, anchovies; pasta; green salad


LINDSEY FOUND SOME WHOLE RED TOMATOES that she'd put in a ziplock bag in the freezer late last year. No point letting something like that slide past! She chopped some onions into the stainless-steel skillet where a little olive oil was heating and sweated them a little (nothing like that aroma; it would bring appetite to a dying man); crushed in a few cloves of garlic and a little salt; then added the (thawed) tomatoes, squeezed between her fingers, and let them cook while we had a delicious Martini.

Add a couple of anchovies sliced into pieces. Boil some pasta. Toss it all together.

Nero d'Avila

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sla ira (there'll be salad…)

Lettuces, oil, garlic, salt, vinegar; salami; bread


TOO HOT TO COOK; almost too hot to eat. Ninety-seven degrees today. An hour or so thinning apples and hoeing weeds and you're bushed.

And we had a theater date tonight: The Imagination Foundation saying goodbye to its Healdsburg studio, after six years of amazing work there with schoolkids, with an abstract, moving, stylized production almost entirely the work of its cast.

So, after the show, we came home to a tossed green salad. I've written about this so many times now: but I don't apologize revisiting it. Some of the lettuces were soft, subtle ones from the Farm Market in town -- specifically from the Kiff farm: remarkable lettuces. Others were ours: frisée, oakleaf, and some kind of red lettuce.

The usual method: Smash a clove of garlic; fork it and coarse sea salt to a smooth paste; cover with good olive oil. Just before serving, whip in vinegar with the same dinner fork.

We're using a mild California oil these days, and continue to use our own vinegar made from our own Zinfandel. A few slices of salami and a few slices of bread, and you've nearly got a complete meal.

Nero d'Avila

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Steak salad

Beefsteak, cucumber, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, red pepper flakes, shallot, mint; green salad


LINDSEY COULDN'T FINISH her steak Saturday night at Stark's, so she brought half of it home in what used to be called a doggy bag but is now some sort of Styrofoam box. Today she got it out and, armed with last July's issue of Gourmet magazine, made a very tasty dinner. The fish sauce was in the refrigerator, standing among all those other jars and bottles no one really wants to think about. The mint was from the garden.

The cucumber is sliced. The liquids, a bit of sugar, the pepper flakes, and the thin-sliced shallot are turned into a dressing. Cucumber slices and thin-sliced steak slices on the plate; drizzled with dressing; littered with chopped mint. Very refreshing in this kind of weather!

Pinot grigio; Nero d'Avila

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dinner in the Toyota showroom

Tortellini "Alfredo", rigatoni with meatballs in tomato sauce, green salad, garlic bread, cookies

WELL, I BLEW IT TODAY: once again I forgot to take a camera, and the cell phone was on the blink. So no photos. And that's too bad, because I'll likely never again eat dinner in a Toyota showroom.

There were maybe twenty of us, all recent purchasers of a new Toyota. We sat at long tables with folding legs, six of us to a table, and met the managers of the service and the parts department, and asked a few questions about our new cars -- how to improve fuel economy? when to use the "braking" gear? how does the tire-pressure alert work?

The pasta was in hotel pans over bains-marie, and surprisingly okay -- like decent airplane food. The salad was actively good, I thought. The garlic bread was below par: it reminded me of the Franco American bread Mom used to slather margarine on and then liberally sprinkle with garlic salt.

The cookies weren't great.


Monday, June 9, 2008

pizza al'uova

Pizza dough, tomato sauce, prosciutto, oven roasted artichokes, olives, egg, basil

Pizzeria Wine Bar Rosso, 53 Montgomery Drive, Santa Rosa; tel. 707.544.3221


THE FIRST TIME I TASTED a pizza with an egg on top was at the Café Chez Panisse, and it was extraordinary, so good I immediately thought of a song about it. Alice's pizza with anchovy and egg, it was called; I thought it was a sudden glimpse of another cosmos. Ich fühle luft von anderen planeten, as Schoenberg sang in his first quartet.

Well, that was years ago. Today we ate lunch at a nearby pizzeria everyone's been talking about, and what should I find on the menu but Uovo, egg. There were four of us at the table: Lindsey had an odd-sounding pizza, "Goomba," with saffron tomato sauce, roasted tomatoes, sliced meatballs and spaghetti on top; our friends both had the "Moto Guzzi," a white-based pizza with smoked mozzarella, sweet Italian sausage, roasted sweet onions and swiss chard.

Their pizze came as you'd expect, on plates; mine was served on a wooden peel set atop one of those lampshade-minus-covering affairs atop which you usually expect to find a platter of oysters. The waiter ceremoniously quartered the pizza with one of those disclike pizza knives, breaking the yolk, and I dug in.

The dough, in all truth, wasn't quite up to Chez Panisse -- or, for that matter, Pizzaiolo. But it was pretty good, and the topping was delicious. And it makes a pretty picture, don't you think?

2004 Verget du Sud Roussanne; 2005 Regaleali Rosso Nero d’Avola.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Petrale sole; chard

Petrale sole; chard from the garden; green salad


AT THE FARM MARKET YESTERDAY we bought a few fillets of Petrale sole caught the day before off our Sonoma coast, and tonight Lindsey floured them and cooked them simply, in butter with some lemon juice. I picked the chard just before dinner, surprising a little frog no bigger than my fingernail out from under a lettuce plant. Instead of garlic Lindsey chopped mild spring onions into the lettuces, some from the market, some from the garden, and we dressed it on the leaf with olive oil, salt, and juice from the rest of the lemon, which came from the tree outside the kitchen door.

But not everything is idyllic: Lindsey discovered some animal had climbed into the smaller of our two sour cherry trees to do its own harvesting, probably last night, and had broken several important structural branches in the process. The poor tree will need major re-shaping at its next pruning...

Pinot grigio

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Two parties

Lunch: bread; cheeses; salad; fruit
Piña Cabernet sauvignon 2005 d'Adamo vineyard
Dinner: rib-eye steak with marrow; creamed spinach
Ghemme Ioppa 2001

TWO PARTIES TODAY: lunch at home with an old friend, a simple matter of bread, cheeses (Brie, bleu, petit marcel, gruyère), a good green salad partly from the garden, and a nice bottle of Napa county wine. Dessert: apricots and cherries from this morning's market.

Then dinner at a local steakhouse to celebrate another couple of friends' 50th anniversary. After an opening Martini, the four of us shared a cheese fondue served with little roasted potato pieces. We went on to various steaks: mine was ordered quite rare and arrived nicely done to that stipulation; with it, a half marrow-bone.
I spread the marrow on the steak and let it glisten, then set to — politically perhaps not quite correct (since finished on corn, not grass) but, oh well, you can't be virtuous ten days a week.

The beefsteak was quite nice, fairly tender without being soft, and the creamed spinach nicely flavored with nutmeg but the spinach itself still persisting. French fries with a hint of truffle oil were tasty; also the corn-and-peas-and-favas flavored with butter and salt. A proper steakhouse, not cheap, but suitable to a golden anniversary...

Stark's Steakhouse, 521 Adams St., Santa Rosa, CA; tel. 707.546.5100

Friday, June 6, 2008


Lunch: raspberries from the garden. Dinner: tacos filled with beans, onion, chile pepper, tomato

EARLY JUNE: The nectarine limbs are hanging very low and need propping; the apples need thinning; the sour cherries are ripening; the raspberries are here. Like Swiss chard, raspberries always remind me of Lindsey's father, who loved every aspect of them: pruning, training, picking, eating. Lindsey has only a few bushes in her garden, and one scrappy black raspberry out by the gazebo. Picked dead ripe they need absolutely no dressing: no sugar, no alcohol, no cream; nothing but full attention while you're tasting them. They won't last forever.
Nero d'Avila

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A simple day at home

cappuccinos and toast; fruit; vegetable soup, bread and salami, green salad

THE FAEMINA IS BACK! I'm sure I've written about it before: how Lindsey found it in a junk shop in Berkeley, apparently brand new; how we had to borrow $12.50 from my mother because we didn't have the $25 they wanted for it; how for years we alternated between using it and giving up on it; how it came back from one disastrous repair missing a few parts.
A couple of weeks ago I took it down to Mister Espresso, in Oakland, for maintenance; gaskets were leaking, the piston was getting stiff… Alex sounded gloomy a few days later on the telephone: dismantling it risked wrecking it. Go ahead, I said; Exactly my opinion, he said.
Yesterday I picked it up, all tight and shiny (the Faemina, not me), and this morning we had our morning coffee as we like it. Not bad for a machine nearing sixty years old. Thanks, Alex.

P1010832.jpg   Then tonight this nice vegetable soup: leeks sweated in olive oil; chicken stock; peas, diced carrot, garlic cloves… a few slices of ciabatta, a few more of good salami… green salad with that tender "Dutch" arugula from the garden…
Cheap pinot grigio; cheap Nero d'Avila

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Mixed "baby" greens with sherry shallot vinaigrette, crostini with goat cheese and fig jam;
carrot and green garlic risotto cake stuffed with mozzarella with spring vegetable ragout

Rivoli Restaurant, 1539 Solano Ave., Berkeley; tel. 510.526.2542


Rivoli's maintained its high reputation among Berkeley restaurants since it opened in 1996, but after eating there shortly after that opening we hadn't been back until tonight — partly because there are other places we're loyal to in Berkeley, partly because we found Rivoli incredibly noisy the night of that first visit, and continued to hear similar complaints from others.

Tonight, though, we ate early, with a friend, and were able to converse easily. My salad featured young chard leaves among the lettuces, and the vinaigrette was very nice. There were six main courses, but one included shrimp which I can't eat, the braised beef seemed too heavy for the weather, and the Moroccan plate (lamb, duck, Merguez) also seemed a little rich. The salmon turned out to be farmed in Scotland (though, we were told, in an ecologically permissible way, somehow).

So I opted for this crisp risotto, nicely molded around a heart of creamy bufala mozzarella and garnished with salsa verde and a tasty ragout of asparagus, artichoke, and peas — a combination I particularly like. Only the tiny beet-leaf sprouts seemed irrelevant: but you have to concede to prevailing fashion from time to time.

Le Rose, Nerello Mascalese, Regaleali, 2006

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Dinner musicale in Piedmont

Smoked salmon on toast, chilis with and without beans, green salad, strawberry shortcake.

THIRTY-TWO OF US, more or less, gathered in a spacious room looking out over the bay, listening to Gyan Riley play Bach and Bonfa and his own music, drinking the host's wines, and enjoying conversatiion with their friends. Life is good.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The new Café Saint Rose

Galette: favas, green garlic, morels, ricotta; salmon baked in fig leaf; asparagus hollandaise sauce; bombe: mango, strawberry, vanilla, caramel ice creams


ONE OF THE MOST CONSISTENTLY rewarding chefs, Mark Malicki, has moved his Café Saint Rose out of its odd Santa Rosa location to an attractive road house a couple of miles west of Sebastopol. In addition to discipline and intelligence, Mark brings real heart to his profession, often working at cost for a good cause — tonight, fund-raising for the July breast cancer awareness walks.

The galette had a tender, flaky, buttery crust that can't be beat; inside, it was resonant with the dark flavors of favas, morels, and garlic, brightened by ricotta. On the side, incredibly flavorful little lettuces in a mild, supportive vinaigrette. Salmon on a fig leaf: the flavor of summer grills tamed and civilized, with spring asparagus in a classic presentation. The ice creams in the bombe were smooth, fruity, creamy. Café Saint Rose remains a favorite restaurant for us, in its small, classically California way recalling that legendary Lucchese restaurant Vipore.

bon rosé de Provence

Sunday, June 1, 2008

"Piemontese" sausages

"Piemontese" sausages, chard, garlic toast; green salad


THERE'S A GUY AT THE Healdsburg Saturday market makes sausages; he's connected to that excellent Geyserville restaurant Santi. Some little while ago he had some sausages he called "Piemontese," sausages made in the style of that Italian province in the Northwest from which Lindsey's father's family came. Naturally we bought some, but since we had no immediate need for them they went into the freezer.

What does he mean by Piemontese? They taste of pork; nutmeg; organ meat (I suspect lungs, perhaps other meats as well), are nicely bound somehow, haven't suffered from their time in the freezer which if anything has probably air-dried them a bit. There's also a bit of greenery: sage for sure, but what else? Whatever, I want more.

They came out today for dinner, grilled under the broiler in the oven. With them, ciabatta toasts rubbed with garlic and spread with butter, and delicious chard from the garden. And, of course, a green salad.

You can't do much better than this.

Nero d'Avila