Monday, June 28, 2010

Steak sandwich

Eastside Road, June 28, 2010 —
LOOKED AT ONE WAY, it's only leftovers and predictability. But I do think this was a delicious dinner — though thanks primarily to the good cooking that went into the leftovers. It was Friday night's steak, a few slices of which Lindsey had thoughtfully retained from Friday night's dinner, along with a bit of the sauce we'd made from the marinade. Warmed, served on toast, with a good green salad on the side and a few radishes for good measure — what more do you need?
Côtes Varois, rouge, "La Ferme Julien," 2008

Well, maybe not *every* day

Eastside Road, June 27, 2010 —
AFTER THE ROUTINE (and quite delicious) Sunday breakfast of a softboiled egg and buttered toast — and a couple of cappuccinos, of course — we took a long drive to San Jose to see a Wayne Thiebaud retrospective, then back to Berkeley for the memorial service of a long-ago acquaintance: no time between to eat except for a quick Caesar salad at the hotel where the service was held. Afterward, canapés and Champagne for the departed, and then before the drive home a couple of scoops of Mary Canales's delicious ice cream: one of vanilla, as good as any fior di latte I had recently in Italy, and one of crême fraîche and brandied apricots, yum yum. A curious and not wholly nutritious day's eating.
  • Paragon Bar and Café at the Claremont Hotel, 41 Tunnel Road, Berkeley; tel. (510) 843-3000
  • Ici Ice Cream, 2948 College Avenue, Berkeley; tel. 510.665.6054
  • Sunday, June 27, 2010

    Flounder

    Eastside Road, June 26, 2010—
    TO MARKET THIS MORNING, it being Saturday; dinner tonight from the market — flounder from The Fish Guy, Dave Legro, an exceedingly interesting fellow who someone should write about one of these days. Lindsey dredged it in flour and pan-fried it in butter and olive oil, and we squeezed lemon juice on it; that and a bit of salt was all it needed — delicate and firm, a very nice plat principal. With it, young favas and English peas; afterward, green salad, then some nice Brie; then angel food cake — I forgot to mention that last night — with peaches and strawberries. It's a nice season!
    Sauvignon blanc, Geyser Peak "River Ranches," 2008: clean and bright

    Saturday, June 26, 2010

    Grilled steak

    Eastside Road, June 25, 2010—
    SOME TIME AGO we drove up the Central Valley to have dinner, then next morning breakfast at a Portuguese restaurant we'd become infatuated with; breakfast was particularly good — you may recall reading about it here. So when I suggested grilling a steak for company, Lindsey suggested marinating it. As usual, she was right: my first instinct was to make a steak Florentine, with just salt and pepper, olive oil and lemon, but for that to work you need exactly the right beefsteak, and where to find that at the drop of a hat?

    But an ordinary tri-tip worked fine in the marinade: say a quarter cup of olive oil, half a bottle of red wine, three or four whole cloves of garlic, salt and pepper, bay leaves. I marinated the steak for 24 hours in the refrigerator, bringing it out a few hours before cooking to bring it to room temperature; then grilled it over charcoal, reducing the marinade, adding a little butter, and pouring it over the sliced steak.

    Alas we forgot to eat the grilled zucchini, but we did have a fine green salad…
    Côtes Varois, red, "La Ferme Julien"

    Thursday, June 24, 2010

    Sausage (again)

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, June 24, 2010—

    WHEN I WAS A KID we had sausage fairly often. It was almost always what I think of as "loose sausage", uncased, either store-bought or made at home from our own pigs. (Or perhaps it was made by the meat-processing plant Dad occasionally took our butchered pigs to, when he didn't have time or inclination to do the work himself.) I remember liking it, and looking forward to it: but in retrospect it probably wasn't anything special.

    Back in the 1970s we bought sausage in Berkeley at Victoria Wise's wonderful charcuterie Pig By The Tail. (Our daughter Giovanna worked there a year or two, as a teenager.) I particularly remember her delicious rillettes and crepinettes, and her Touraine-style sausage was indispensable when it came time to make cassoulet. Alas, Pig didn't last, but Victoria wrote a fine book, American Charcuterie, and we've made those sausages at home more than once for our own cassoulets.

    We're lucky here in Healdsburg to have Franco Dunn, who I wrote abouhere last October, as I mentioned a week or so ago. Franco apprenticed in Italy for a number of months, as I understand it, and is serious about his work, though relaxed and accessible in person at the Healdsburg Farmers Market where you can buy his sausage. (Also at the Santa Rosa Farmers Market, I've heard: see a photo here.) 

    Today, after yet another day working outside in the front yard — which covers about a small city block — we didn't feel like cooking. Hell: we didn't even feel like shopping. Lindsey remembered there were two of Franco's sausages left in the freezer for just such an emergency, and she cooked them on the stove in a small enamel pan, pouring off the fat as it oozed out from the pinholes she'd provided. She also remembered her mother's steamed potatoes with vinaigrette, which made a nice side dish. Green salad, naturally.

    Côte Varois, red, "La Ferme Julien"

    

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010

    Soup, not pasta

     

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, June 23, 2010—

    TONIGHT WE WENT AHEAD with the soup project. We picked up a box of chicken stock — not easy, that, at our local supermarket; there are many versions on the shelves, most of them with sugar, cane juice (whatever that is), or even honey among the ingredients. We finally chose what seemed the least alarming of the lot. I browned some little carrots in olive oil, then added a bit of water and covered them to cook them; then added them to the stock which I'd brought to a simmer. Then the same thing with a clove of garlic, quartered (it was a big one), and a couple of spring onion bulbs.

    soup.jpg

    Then I tossed in the leftover pasta from Sunday, and the leftover potatoes from yesterday, and when everything was hot we messed it forth, as the olde cookerye bokes doth tell, and it was good. Green salad (I like the lettuce we're using these days, called "Nancy" for some reason).

    Cheap Riesling, "Now and Zen"

    

     

     

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010

    Salmon

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, June 22, 2010—

    TO MARKET TODAY to buy vegetables and fish. The Fish Guy is such a reliable fellow, and so friendly: today he had a big jar of lemonade; and when I said to Lindsey Would you like some lemonade, sweetie, he broke out into a big grin: How long you guys been married, anyway? I told him, of course, and he smiled some more at the numbers of long-married couples he sees at the market… but I've strayed from the subject.

    salmon.jpg

    I sautéed some delicious little potatoes with the one good-sized artichoke that's appeared so far in my garden, along with a spring onion and a clove of garlic. I set them aside and Lindsey used the same pan to make a court-bouillon with some Cheap Pinot Grigio and some herbs to poach the salmon. Green salad, of course, since we had no chard today; and a novel vinaigrette, with finely minced radish and raw garlic in it.

    Cheap Pinot grigio; cheap Riesling

    

    Pasta, not soup

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, June 21, 2010—

    HAD INTENDED to make soup, really I had. We bought the vegetables for it at the Saturday market: carrots, potatoes, green beans, peas, onions, chard… but in the end, discovering we had not stock on hand, I went for pasta instead. I sautéed the onion and the green beans, then added the peas, then set them aside while cooking the pasta.

    pasta.jpg

    I chopped three raw tomatoes and a clove of garlic and added them to the drained pasta, along with the beans and peas, and tossed it; the chard I'd cooked separately in the usual way.

    Cheap Pinot grigio

    Sunday, June 20, 2010

    Father's Day Brunch

    Eastside Road, Healdsburg, June 20, 2010—

    WE DON'T OFTEN EAT "brunch," as I've noted here before. But Father's Day comes only once a year, and this year our friends Claire and Kendall, whom we see too rarely these days, suggested they drive up and treat us. So I called another friend for a suggestion, and when she mentioned Charlie's Grill it seemed a natural  though only two people in the world ever call me "Charlie." So off we drove to the golf club, where we discovered not only was it "brunch," it was "buffet," that other dining format I mistrust.

    But it was okay. I chose eggs Benedict, a couple of strips of bacon, some "breakfast potatoes," a biscuit; and, afterward, a little piece of gummy pecan pie. We sat out on the terrace on a soft midday, watching blue jays picking up crumbs and golfers picking up Mulligans. As the Gronings say, het komm minder.

    Orange juice; coffee

    • Charlie's Grill, 1340 19th Hole Drive, Windsor, CA; tel. 707.838.8802; www.windsorgolf.com/charlies.html

    Picnic party

    Eastside Road, June 19, 2010 —
    A COUSIN RETIRED after thirty-five years teaching: reason enough to celebrate. Well, a sort of cousin: but if you call her cousin, she's cousin. Anyhow certainly cause for celebration. Maybe sixty or eighty of us gathered in a regional park picnicground for speeches, songs, and reminiscences. And spaghetti with lemon and basil, chopped salad, green salad, grilled chicken, grilled roast beef, cake. Did I mention Marilyn's Italian-American? A good time had by all.

    Friday, June 18, 2010

    Sardines

    Eastside Road, June 18, 2010 —
    TO THE CITY today — Berkeley, I mean — for one thing and another, so we took time for a bite while waiting for the commute traffic to clear before hitting the road home.







    For me it was grilled sardines served on a bed of Gypsy peppers à la grecque. Delicious. And then a square of polenta with mascarpone and Parmegiana. Delicious again.
    Arneis, Porello, 2009
  • Corso, 1788 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; tel. 510.704.8004; www.trattoriacorso.com

  • Piroshki

    Eastside Road, June 17, 2010 —
    TO OUR FRIENDS in Santa Rosa for dinner: piroshki, bought from and made by the good women of St. Seraphim's. Piroshki, pirozhki, pierogi: however you spell it, mince stuffing, usually meat, wrapped in unleavened pastry, then cooked. These were meat piroshki, though one turned out to be cabbage and another one or two mushroom, and nicely flavored; I suspect some clove and cinnamon in there along with the salt and pepper. Green salad.
    An inexpensive Barbera we'd brought along, 2008, don't recall the label

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010

    Sausage

    Eastside Road, June 16, 2010—
    THE NEIGHBORS DOWN THE HILL were up for dinner tonight: I'd brought them a bottle of interesting wine from Sicily, but wanted to see/hear their responses to it, so asked them up and shared it with them. What a guy.

    We grilled sausages outside over charcoal and grapevine cuttings — the last of the Mangalitsa from four months ago, which I'm happy to report kept well in the freezer; and four Toscana sausages made by Franco Dunn, who I wrote about here last October. A very interesting contrast between the two, which complemented one another well, I thought. Lindsey cooked little potatoes and favas, and we had a green salad, and oh my what a delicious zabaglione for dessert, with strawberries from the market…
    Pithos, COS, 2008

    Nagelkaas

    Eastside Road, June 15, 2010—
    I MUST HAVE WRITTEN before about nagelkaas. (Googles it; gets distracted; looks up in earlier posts:) Nope. I've mentioned it three times, but never really written about it.

    Our love affair with Netherlands goes back to 1973, when I first visited Amsterdam; 1974, when I returned with Lindsey and we lived a week or two in The Hague; 1976, when we met our dear friends Hans and Anneke. We've visited frequently since, and walked the length and breadth of the country. In the last thirty-five years we've watched the country's cuisine move from dour and doughty to state-of-the-art: two of our favorite restaurants in the world are in Amsterdam.

    And, of course, there's nagelkaas. The Dutch word for "clove", the spice, is nagel, "nail", pronounced with a voiced fricative on the "g" for which I can't think of an English equivalent. Nor can I think of one for the cheese itself, which is simply unique and perfect. There are plenty of flavored cheeses, of course; I suspect it began as a way of improving otherwise bland cheese. We like Dutch cheese flavored with mustard seeds, and cumin seeds, and caraway seeds; but particularly the Frisian nagelkaas. We've found inferior cheeses flavored with cumin and caraway, but never with cloves. Perhaps the idea of eating cloves simply doesn't have sufficient appeal to justify extending it to bland cheese; perhaps the clove flavor simply needs the competition of a really good cheese to offset it.

    In any case we always buy a good-sized hunk of nagelkaas when we're about to leave Netherlands; vacuum-wrapped, the otherwise fierce American customs regulations relent and allow it in. (As they did a good hunk of Beaufort last week.) And we've finally found it more or less locally, at Dutch American Market and Import up in Beaverton, Oregon: we get to Portland even more often than we do to Netherlands.

    So tonight, too rushed again for a proper dinner, we made do with slices of nagelkaas on toast, and a green salad, and were content, even with only…
    …cool clear water

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010

    Fast and healthful

    Eastside Road, June 14, 2010—
    THERE'S SO MUCH work to be done outside here, there's not that much time to cook. Today Lindsey's solution was perfect: sardines on toast and a big green salad.
    Cheap Pinot grigio (I've missed you, CPG!)

    Sunday, June 13, 2010

    Strozzapreti

    Eastside Road, June 13, 2010—
    WENT INTO THE STORE to buy some milk, noticed some organic Roma tomatoes, bought three of them as well. I had pasta on my mind.

    I set a package of Rustichella d'Abruzzo's strozzapreti* to boiling in salted water, then halved the tomatoes crosswise, squeezed the seeds and juice into a strainer, chopped the tomatoes, chopped a clove of garlic and some marjoram from the garden.

    tomatos.jpg


    When the pasta was done, in about twelve minutes — the weeks in Sicily taught us to undercook our pasta — I drained it in the colander, returned it to the pot, threw in the tomatoes, garlic, and marjoram, added a spoonful-sized plug of cream from the top of yesterday's bottle of milk, and messed it forth, grating some Parmesan on top and grinding on some black pepper.

    Green salad.
    Rhone-style blend, "Madam Preston," Preston of Dry Creek


    *Strozzapreti: "priest-stranglers." Just about my favorite pasta shape, because the relatively thick pasta retains density after being cooked, and its pockets carry the sauce well.

    Home for halibut

    Eastside Road, June 12, 2010—
    THREE HOURS OF SLEEP, then breakfast at home for the first time in six weeks: two cappuccinos and buttered toast. And then to the Healdsburg farmers' market, a real pleasure; and for dinner baked halibut from The Fish Guy, peas from Lou Preston, potatoes from Yael the Garlic Lady, salad from Emmet Hopkins. Eat Local!
    Rhone-style blend, "Madam Preston," Preston of Dry Creek. Drink local too!

    Lost day en route

    En route, June 11, 2010—
    FLIGHT CANCELLED. We'd planned to fly back on Air Tahiti Nui, whose meals aren't bad, as I recall, but a strike in Papeete cancelled the flight, so we rebooked on American Airlines. Oh well: chicken in agar sauce, er, ginger sauce, with rice: edible. (The salad was not edible, but hunger prevailed.)
    Chardonnay

    IN CHICAGO, waiting for the continuation flight to SFO, a Martini and a beer, and a ham and cheese sandwich to take on the plane. Iceberg lettuce in the sandwich: nice and crisp and refreshing.

    Friday, June 11, 2010

    Last day in Paris

    rue les Petites Ecuries, Paris, June 10, 2010—
    WE TOOK CARE of another piece of unfinished business today, stopping in at a favorite place for lunch. I think we first found L'Ecurie in 1977; I know if you Google "Ecurie Whiting Shere" you'll find the history. (I write this at O'Hare, waiting for an airplane; I don't want to take time to look online for URLs at the moment.)

    When I get home, and get time, I'll write a little story about this place. In the meantime, I checked it out online to see what others were saying: for the most part, confirming my own opinions. (It was interesting, by the way, to note the differences between prevailing standards of user reviews on French websites compared with American ones, but that's another story.)

    When we stopped in, on a gloomy midday at about 1 pm, we were the only ones there except for a lone guy at a nearby table. (They're all nearby, of course.) He was making his first return in 30 years, and said he saw no changes.

    I had the lettuce-walnut salad with mustard dressing, then the skirt steak -- bavette cooked saignant, of course; and crème caramel for dessert. It was delicious.  

    Red wine in carafe in carafe
  • L'Ecurie, 2, rue Laplace, tel: +33 (0)1 46.33.68.49
  • Wednesday, June 9, 2010

    Home ties

    rue les Petites Ecuries, Paris, June 9, 2010—
    CALLED A COUPLE of old friends today to see if they were free for lunch: yes, and they'd take us to a place they knew, a real restaurant branché — meaning a trendy but authentic, low-key, comfortable, neighborhood place, up-to-date but solidly within the tradition of the Parisian restaurant du quartier, neighborhood restaurant.

    There we met the proprietor, who used to live in San Francisco where she ran the South Park Café and Le Mistral in San Francisco. She greeted Lindsey enthusiastically; she's a fan of Chez Panisse; she has Lindsey's book.
    #alttext#
    It is indeed a wonderful place. We had a taste of Philippe's foie gras, made in house, succulent and lean (if that's possible), pink and healthy, with a delicious raisin-mustard confit; then went on to a cool salad of fèves with shallots, dressed with argan oil, a very special flavor. Then I had a fine steak of tuna "à la Panama," with cucumbers sautéed in sesame oil. A fine, enterprising, imaginative cook here, choosing ingredients wisely from the global marketplace. Sophisticated; nutritious; entertaining; surprising. I like it.
    Rosé de Provence in carafe
  • Restaurant Laiterie Sainte Clotilde, 64 rue de Bellechasse, Paris; tel. +33 (0)1.45.51.74.61


  • At home tonight — by "home" I mean our odd apartment — we feasted on a roast chicken from a nearby traiteur, haricots verts with shallots, and rice, with cantucci brought from Italy dipped in red wine.
    Mâcon rouge, François Protheau & Fils, 2009

    What to think?

    Rue des Petits Ecuries, Paris, June 8, 2010—
    THE GUIDEBOOK SUGGESTED that a nearby restaurant was particularly interesting, and Lindsey recalled seeing a mention of it in David Lebovitz's blog, so we gave it a try.

    It is indeed an interesting place, with full-sized cartoons painted on the dark red walls, odd chandeliers from the flea market, a cat strolling the dining room, big boxes of produce standing just inside the front door. You do feel you're eating in someone's private home -- Miss Haversham's, perhaps.

    We ate à la carte, not the cheapest way to go; and everyone had the same thing: wild asparagus and morels to start, then pan-fried turbot. Everyone but me: I had a fascinating sautée of artichokes, carrot, turnip, onions, and an oddly flavored thyme; then slow-braised lamb with vegetables.

    The flavors here are very deep and as if wildly scented; I'm not sure what to make of it. At times it was as if I were in the Provençal garrigue, not a bad place to be; at other times it was almost as if some Indian spice were being added to the dish. ("Certainly not," said the waiter, when I suggested it.)

    My dessert: four delicious prunes beautifully swollen from the red wine they'd been cooked in, with a fat slice of citrus zest.

    A glass of Vouvray petillant; T. Joseph, Pierre Gonon, 2008 (demi-bouteille)
  • Restaurant Pétrelle, 34, r. Pétrelle, Paris; tel. +33 (0)1 42 82 11 02
  • Monday, June 7, 2010

    Traditionally Paris

    Rue des Petits Ecuries, Paris, June 7, 2010—
    LINDSEY'S BIRTHDAY. She wanted a quiet one, with a walk along the Viaduc des Arts, and a baroque concert in Ste.-Chapelle in the evening. Sounds good to the rest of us! So the main meal was taken in the middle of the day at a neighborhood restaurant we just happened upon, down near the Gare de Lyon, where she and I ate Italian while Hans and Anneke ate Dutch.

    We had a green salad with artichokes and shavings of Parmesan to begin with, then Lindsey had an entrecôte and I had beef tartare; cheese plates (Brie, St. Nectaire) in lieu of dessert. (The Dutch had herring salad and grilled daurade.)
    Chablis by the glass; Côtes de Rhone en pichet.
  • Restaurant Entre les Vignes, 27, ter. Blvd. Diderot, Paris; tel. +33 (0)1 43 43 62 84

    Then, after the concert, we strolled over to the Place St. Michelle for crèpes — well, galettes, really, buckwheat crèpes with Emmenthal, ham, and egg inside.
    Rosé de Provence by the glass
  • Tabac de la Fontaine, 3, Blvd. Saint-Michel, Paris; tel. +33 (0)1 43 54 08 02
  • Paris Re-run

    Rue des Petits Ecuries, Paris, June 6, 2010—
    WE WERE DOWN BY the Place de la Bastille for a tango concert in an Armenian church — I know that sounds improbable — and didn't really want to eat in that neighborhood, so we strolled into the Place des Vosges where I remembered eating at a quiet little neighborhood restaurant fifteen years ago. Nothing had changed. It's not great, perhaps not even really very good, but perfectly adequate when you don't feel like researching or delaying and you're hungry and willing to settle for good enough. I wanted lamb, and had three loin chops, cooked too slow and long, but piled on a stack of very nice haricots verts. The waiter forgot to bring the green salad.
    Côtes de Rhone
  • La Place Royale, 2bis, Place des Vosges, Paris; tel. +33 (0)1 42 78 58 16
  • Last meal in Italy (this trip)

    Asti, June 5, 2010—
    WE WANTED TYPICALLY Piemontese food for our last meal before heading for Paris, so at midday we stopped in Asti, with Dominique and Chuck, for lunch. Bagna cauda on the menu! True, it's the wrong season: but then it wasn't a main course, only an appetizer, served as a sauce over red and yellow pepperoni. Delicious. Afterward, agnelotti — the Piemontese equivalent of ravioli, with a Bolognese-type filling; and afterward the classic Piemontese bonet, a sort of chocolate-hazelnut pudding-cake, with very nice whipped cream on the side.
    Dolcetto, 2008
  • Pampa Magna, Asti
  • Friday, June 4, 2010

    Back at i Mandorli

    Cardona di Alfiano Natta, Monferrato, June 4, 2010—
    MUCH AS WE LIKE traveling, Lindsey and I, we like friends and family most of all. So we stop off in this country agriturismo to touch base with Gabriella and Franco once again, and with Dominique and Chuck who drive up from Nice for the night, and as always Gabriella insists on preparing dinner, which we eat out on the terrazza: little toasts with anchovies and olive oil, baked lasagne pasta squares with a simple and perfect tomato sauce, tender squid breaded and steam-baked in the oven, cherries from Franco's orchard, green salad; wine and limoncello of their own production. It doesn't, as they say, get much better than this.
    Barbera, "Nana" (F. Rampi), 2000
  • Agriturismo I Mandorli , via Troglia 1, Cardona di Alfiano Natta; tel. +39 014 192 2521; www.imandorli.it</small>
  • Thursday, June 3, 2010

    Trattoria Milanese

    Corso Buenos Aires, Milan, June 3, 2010—
    LINDSEY WANTED TRADITIONAL Milanese cuisine today, and so did I, and we wanted to introduce Francesca to it, so we researched Osterie d'Italia to no immediate gratification, and then looked on the Web, where we found what looked like just the place.

    Alas, Our Lady of the Dashboard, the GPS in our rented car, could not find it. We could not find it. The people at the restaurant could not explain where it was. After another long futile drive Mr. di Carlo was finally forced to throw in the towel and cancel the reservation. Lindsey said, Why not just go to Santa Marta.

    We first ate at the Ristorante Marta many years ago, with our friends Richard and Marta (!) and Dominique as I recall, and we've been back from time to time. It's a nice restaurant on the via Santa Marta, just off the Duomo, in the center of town. And there's a trattoria on the other side of the street. You go to Ristorante Marta and look at the menu, and then you look at Trattoria Milanese across the street, and you make up your mind.

    Increasingly we've wound up at Trattoria Milanese, which is of course perfect for traditional Milanese cuisine. So today we had some little artichokes à la Grècque, and we split a vitello tonnato, and went on to perfect, creamy Risotto alla Milanese with just the right touch of saffron, and then Cotellete Milanese, veal scallopine breaded, fried in olive oil, and served with lemon. Who needs dessert or cheese?
    Vino bianco in caraffa
  • Trattoria Milanese, via S. Marta 11, Milan
  • Slow in Milan

    Corso Buenos Aires, Milan, June 2, 2010—
    OSTERIE D'ITALIA TOOK US on a long long walk but it was worth it. Starting out from the Piazza 25 Maggio along the via Ascanio Sforza I immediately noted we were walking past number 5; our destination was number 75. "Hope this isn't one of those streets where each block has a single number," I said; and damned if it didn't turn out that way, or very nearly: we walked over a kilometer.

    In the end our osteria was tucked away out of sight in a dark courtyard between a couple of unremarkable buildings. (It's always a little amusing that the Italian word for these big apartment-office-hotel buildings is palazzo.)

    But ah, the food was delicious. We skipped any preliminaries, having just observed Milan's famous Happy Hour elsewhere, and dove into primi and secondi: for me, tomato-tinted (and flavored) tagliatelli tossed with snippets of fresh green asparagus, just barely cooked al dente, and lamb chops with pesto on a bed of potatoes Anna.

    My favorite cheese was on the menu, but when it arrived the Castelmagno was over the hill, neither soft and creamy-white nor streaked with blue but stagionata as if it were a crumbly Parmeggiano, a little ammoniated, and unacceptable. It went away and two other cheeses replaced it, a fine soft goat cheese and a beautiful Pecorino, accompanied by a dollop of chestnut honey.

    I had dessert, too, a small chocolate-chestnut flavored cake with apples in it. It was good, but Lindsey's île flottante was better. Fabulous, in fact.
    Collio, Ronco dei Tassi, Fosarin, 2008; Barolo, Marasco, 2003
  • Osteria Grand Hotel, via Ascanio Sforza 75, Milan; tel. +39 0289.511586
  • Tuesday, June 1, 2010

    The Best Yet

    Viale Monte Grappa, Reggio Emiglia, June 1, 2010—
    OKAY, TONIGHT THE BOOK finally came through, and paid for itself in spades. Osterie d'Italia, I mean; the Slow Food guide to casalinga — that Italian word roughly equivalent to "home cooking," but in a culture where that really means something.

    Lindsey found a promising listing for a restaurant in this city a little south of Parma, a city we've never visited before. We drove around looking for a hotel, finally found one with a parking space in front, a cheap hotel with a friendly proprietor who hailed from Santo Domingo…

    But I digress. The restaurant in question turned out to be exactly next door the restaurant, a study in distinctions not unusual in this country, as Lindsey pointed out.

    We began with a glass of methode Champenoise from Ferrara and a cortesia, or amuse-bouche, consisting of a shaving of fine roast beef with an amazing mirepoix of celery, onion, chive, radish, and arugula. Then came giardinera alla nonna, pickled vegetables as your grandmother might have made (and Lindsey's in fact did) and a plate of lardo, deliciously fragrant.

    My primo was gnocchi on a bed of puréed peas and potatoes; my secondo ox-tail, long-braised in red wine, under a nest of french-fried potatoes. That sounds like a lot of potatoes, but it wasn't; they were more garnish than contorni. I wish I could have managed a dessert, I really do, but I couldn't.
    Polena, Donnafugata, 2008; Teraldigo Rotaliano, Foradori, 2005; grappa di Moscato
  • Ristorante "A Mangiare," Viale Monte Grappa, 3/A, Reggio Emilia; tel. +39 0522.433600
  •