Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Piazzetta di Pazienza, May 31, 2011—
A FRIEND STOPPED BY yesterday to sleep on the couch — Venice being temporarily out of rooms, because the Biennale is opening in a few days — and after a long night and morning's conversation, catching up on things, we went over past the Ghetto for lunch.

I'd noticed the other day a very ordinary-looking place called Osteria al Bacco, and thought I'd remembered reading good things about it on line. Besides, I've always liked Bacco in San Francisco; who can resist a place named for the god of wine? And our friend's middle name is, among other things, Dionisio: so it seemed like the right place.

L. and I started with a platter of rather nice gnocchi in walnut sauce; then I went on to chicken breast pizzaiolo: that is, in a piquant tomato sauce. Others had fish, or spaghetti. We had green salads, dressed as usual right at the table with olive oil, vinegar, and salt; and steamed potatoes; and grilled vegetables; and for dinner four dessert-spoons attacked a single chocolate mousse, neither spectacular nor objectionable. A very pleasant place.
White and red wine in carafe
• Osteria Al Bacco, Fondamente Capuzine, Sestiere Cannaregio, 3054, Venezia; 041 721415

Monday, May 30, 2011

Just another bacaro

Piazzetta di Pazienza, May 30, 2011—
A BACARO, HERE in Venice, is simply an ordinary trattoria serving traditional Venice food, including cichetti, which, as I've mentioned before I think, are simply the Venetian take on what the Spanish call tapas, and that's about enough italics for one evening.

Of course a number of Venice trattorias use the word "bacaro" in their name, or next to it, or prominently on their signs or menus or, if they're ambitious enough, websites. So today, walking down the Sottoportego de Siora Bettina in the Santa Croce district, we fell upon a place something about whose name, or sign, or doorway, or menu, resonated with something I'd read in Rick Steves, or Slow Food, or the New York Times, or the Manchester Guardian. And we were getting hungry and a fairly lengthy sit-down wouldn't hurt. So after looking at the menu, in we went.

We sat outside in one of the usual giardini — oops, sorry about the italics, one of the gardens. Lots of tables under an old wisteria, a big rectangular umbrella giving a yellowish cast to the light. Menu only in Italian, as I recall; lots of nonItalian being spoken at tables around. Rushed, non-nonsense Italian women of a certain age for waitresses.

Let's have a baccalà mantecato for the table to start, I said; then I'll have the fegato Venexiano. Half a liter of white; a big acqua gazzata. By now you'll know that means salt cod, whipped with olive oil to a lovely soft consistency and accompanied by a square of grilled white polenta, and

strips of calve's liver, sautéed in butter and served with onions similarly treated, with another slice of the same polenta. Service and wine could have been better; food was quite acceptable. We didn't linger for coffee or dessert.
Nono Risorto, Santa Croce 2337, Sottoportego de Siora Bettina, Venice; 041 5241169

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A casa

Corte della Pazienza, May 29, 2011—
Causin.jpgNOW AND THEN you want a vacation from vacationing; you just want to hole up at home, catch up on some reading, play some cards, eat in your own kitchen. This was one of those days. We did go out on gelato research, only to find the one I most wanted to visit had closed shop, perhaps as long as ten years ago.

Causin is no more, though the fine old wooden sign still hangs over the door on the shuttered premises.
(A café opened in the building subsequently, irreverently turning one of the awnings inside-out to hide the word “Gelateria”; it too has gone out of business, two years ago, I'm told.)

We stopped in across the Campo Santa Margherita at one of the artisanal gelaterie thought to have taken the place of such fine old family institutions. This one, Il Doge, does not rise high on our list.

pasta.jpgSo we went our way home to lunch on another leftovers: pasta in tomato-rich ragù, with plenty of parmigiano and black pepper, and a nice green salad. Then, this evening, after an apéritif of Fragolino, melon from the market on San Leonardo, and prosciutto crudo from the minisupermarket, and the last of the Castelmagno and why not another chunk of parmigiano?
Prosecco spento

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Three arches

Campiello della Pazienza, May 28, 2011—
LUNCH OUT TODAY: one more restaurant on our Canale di Cannaregio. It is, in fact, the one we mistakenly thought was dalla Marisa ten years ago. First, though, we took a walk around the quarter in search of yet another trattoria, Trattoria Bertolini Maria Luisa, which Google Maps indicated was a little west of dalla Marisa. When we looked for it at its apparent location, though, it was not to be found. An elderly woman walking home from shopping told us it was on the Fondamenta: What, I said, Do you mean dalla Marisa?

Yes, it's the same place, she said; and this jibed with something the custodian of San Giobbe had told us fifteen minutes earlier: dalla Marisa has changed ownership in recent years, and is no longer the same.

Ten years ago we ate outside at Tre Archi, a pizzeria-ristorante named for the unique bridge it is near (though not so near as Marisa is, hence part of the confusion); this time, it being hot and breezy, we ate inside. It's a very nice-looking place, cozy and a little formal for its essentially casalinga or home-style fare. I began with a salad of nothing but rucola. I'd seen a waiter show a leaf to the American woman at a table opposite us, who had apparently asked what it was: oh, uhROOGyouluh, she said, recognizing the leaf. The leaves were tiny, clean, fresh, and tasty; I dressed them with nothing but salt and olive oil — Colavita, from a big bottle on our table.

Pizza.jpgAfterward, a house pizza, with ham, cheese of course, artichokes, and a fried egg. Essentially an uitsmijter, I joked: but of course no Dutch sandwich, however Dagwoodian, would have artichokes on it. It was a good-sized pizza, not truly great but quite respectable, and I ate every bit of it.
Pinot bianco in carafe; then a glass of house red.
• Ristorante Pizzeria Bar Tre Archi‎, Sestiere Cannaregio, 552, 30121 Venezia; 041 716438
Supper at home: mortadella on buttered bread, giardinera, green salad, Prosecco spento. Oh: and in the course of the day two gelaterie, because we're beginning to take more seriously this assignment to survey and perhaps prioritize the gelato to be had in this city. So far we've been to Paolin, Nina Nana, Vizio Virtù (my favorite so far), rather an ordinary place near Santa Maria dei Miracoli, and a very good walkup stand near us on the Rio Terà San Leonardo. One more to be sure to check, Il Doge on the Campo Sta. Margherita; then we'll begin listing more seriously.

From the oven

Campiello della Pazienza, May 27, 2011 —
ANOTHER TRIP TO a restaurant recalled from ten years ago. Maybe it would be fun to compare notes.

@’ alla Fontana , canale di Cannaregio: Here I had cozze, mussels from the Venice lagoon, that were so sweet, pungent, savory, rich, subtle, delicate, deep, that I couldn’t help exclaiming when the first one entered my mouth; I almost had tears in my eyes with pleasure. This was truly one of the most memorable things I’ve ever tasted. And afterward, coda di rospo, another fish found only here in the Lagoon, and simply cooked, poached or more likely just steamed, the fish having found its own flavor. This cuisine is extraordinarily delicate: perhaps this has contributed to the myth of the lack of good food in Venice. You don’t get hit on the tongue with beef, garlic, pepper, sharp olive oil. The food runs more to long-sweated onions, rice, white fish. It’s food for chessplayers, not footballers, I’m tempted to say; and the more you’ve read or thought about the near East, carpets, complexity, slowness — even if you’ve never been to any of that — the more likely you are to like it, and the more you’ll find.
2011: No longer listed in Slow Food's Osterie d'Italia, Alla Fontana has perhaps undergone a change in management. The place looks inviting from the street, though, and the woman who mops the floor at noon (it is open only in the evening) is the one who (having changed clothes) waits tables at night; there seems to be only one man in the kitchen.

Tonight, an eye on the budget, I had only this caprese to begin with: soft delicate mozzarella, good little tomatoes, fresh basil. The girls had mixed green salads, and they seemed very nice too, but I was hungry for tomatoes.
Then this fettuccini al forno, from the oven, with bits of white asparagus, and cream, and cheese, soft yet manly, beautifully browned on top, with exactly the right touch of nutmeg. Netherlands gone on holiday to Italy: I love it.

Dessert was a slice of tiramisù and it was good enough, but the zabaglione the girls ordered was better.

Conclusion: I over-wrote somewhat in 2001. Wonder if I'll feel the same way about 2011, ten years hence?

white wine in carafe
• Alla Fontana, Fondamenta di Cannaregio 1102, Venezia; 041 71 50 77

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Al Bacareto

Campiello della Pazienza, May 26, 2011—
LAST TIME WE WERE here (in Venice, I mean) for any length of time we stopped in late one night at a nice place not far from the Rialto. It was a hot night; we ate outside. Halfway through the meal we were serenaded by an accordionist: it was a very pleasant evening.

I wanted to check the place out again, particularly as it's among the relatively few Venice restaurants mentioned in this year's Osterie d'Italia, the Slow Food guide to eating in Italy. We got there a little after two; the tables in front of the restaurant were already full, but we sat at just as pleasant a section out behind, just at a window looking into the kitchen — a serving window, in fact: our food was handed through by the cook to the waiter.

We began with a plate of cichetti — Venetian "little bites," amuses-geule: rice ball, teeny polpetti, a little scallop on its shell with roe and sauce, a tiny sole breaded and fried, fried zucchini slices, that sort of thing. There were two little toasts spread with baccalà mantecato, too; and F____ and I thought the baccalà tasted off, though L. disagreed. I mentioned it to the waiter, who was surprised.

I went on to an orata, simply grilled and served with a triangle of delicious white polenta. Flaky, fresh, sustaining: a fine thing, this fish, making up for the baccalà which, the waiter agreed later on — perhaps after having tasted it himself — was troppo forte, too strong.
White wine in carafe
Osteria "Al Bacareto", S. Marco S. Samuele 3447, Venice; 041-5289336

That was lunch. Dinner tonight, as last night, in our apartment: melon and prosciutto, some giardinera or pickled vegetables, a piece of Castelmagno; still Prosecco; some chocolate. And so to bed.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

40 thieves

Campiello della Pazienza, May 25, 2011—
EXACTLY AS HAPPENED ten years ago: we decided to lunch at the Anice Stellato (= star anise), a slow-sustainable restaurant with a good reputation; we checked its hours to make sure it would work; we walked over at lunchtime; we couldn't get in. Not, this time, because it was full: because it was closed.

Sign in window:

(I'll be back soon, but not immediately). Inside, though, someone was working a mop, so I asked if they'd open. Yes: tomorrow.
Two other American tourists stood disconsolately outside, wondering what was the deal, so I explained. And we checked, they said, and they were supposed to be open today.

So we did just what we did ten years ago, and walked back thirty feet along the Fondamenta della Sensa to the Quaranta Ladroni, and had lunch. This time we ate in a nice little garden terrace out back, not on the Fondamenta, where we shared a portion of sarde in saor and then went on to baccalà mantecato, a Venice classic: salt cod whipped up with cream, served with polenta. Two purées, white and yellow: too hot today to chew!
White wine in carafe
• Osteria ai 40 Ladroni, Fondamenta della Sensa, Sestiere Cannaregio 3253, Venice; 041 715736

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dalla Marisa

Rio della Crea, Venice, May 24, 2011—
WE SPENT A MONTH HERE ten years ago, and collected a number of eating-places. Fortunately I wrote home about some of them; unfortunately the journal I kept, and Lindsey's, and our annotated guidebooks, were all borrowed by French gypsies and have not yet been returned. So we do the best we can by memory and nostalgia, and will be busy these next few weeks correcting mistaken impressions.

Among them, my misattribution of an excellent dinner we'd had at the Ristorante Tre Archi, only a few meters from our apartment this year. I attributed it to another restaurant a little further up the Canale di Cannaregio: dalla Marisa, highly recommended by Edward Behr in his quarterly The Art of Eating. We went up there for lunch today: pasta; primo; contorno; wine; water.


I had spaghetti pomodorini: cherry tomatoes, bits of feta cheese, eggplant. It was good, but it arrived far too late: my companions had already finished their pastas long since. My polpettone — ground meat and flavorings, amounting to an Italian-style “Salisbury steak”, was no more than routine. The price is right: with a quarter-liter of wine and another of water this amounts to €15. But I can't recommend the cuisine. Maybe dinner is better.
Prosecco and red wine in carafe
• Trattoria dalla Marisa , Fondamenta San Giobbo, Cannaregio 652, Venice; 041 720211 ‎

Monday, May 23, 2011

Tuna-bean salad

Rio della Crea, Venice, May 23—
Prosciutto.jpgBREAKFAST, LUNCH, AND DINNER at “home” today, in our Venice apartment. No bread for breakfast, but we did have coffee and milk and that delicious blood-orange juice so easily bought in grocery stores here; and if you don't have toast, well, packaged cookies will do.

Lunch was mortadella on bread, because we'd gone out to a nearby grocery store. Too bad we didn't think of getting a little butter: well, you can't have everything.

Dinner: after a few more stops at markets, boutiques, and a “supermarket,” we were able to dress the rest of yesterday's delicious melon with some strips of San Daniele prosciutto.


For the main course, I combined three cans of white beans with one of tuna, chopped in half a good white onion, then snipped in three huge leaves of sage with a pair of scissors. A little salt, a little olive oil.

Came next the green salad, a bittersweet head of butter lettuce, fresh and crisp, in my usual vinaigrette. We didn't need dessert: we'd had a gelato earlier at Paolin, on the Campo Santo Stefano. Life is good.
Prosecco spento, bought by the jug down the street

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Alla venexiana

Lagoon apartment, Venice, May 22, 2011—
THERE ARE MANY REASONS to spend some of your life in Venice: Fegato Veneziana is not the least of them. Eating in general is near the top for us, of course: fish from the lagoon; fruits, vegetables, and wine from the nearby mainland; the rich, knowing cuisine that's had centuries to steep in a complex, multicultural history.


To celebrate our first day here we took Fran to Montin, storied itself, walking through the dark tranquil dining room hung about with dozens of paintings left here by various artists and stepping out into the fine arbor. A smiling six-year-old girl, for example, clearly a member of the locanda family, brought us our basket of bread; then gravely walked away, hands clasped behind her back.

We looked at the menu, but I knew what I wanted: sarde in saor, arugula with shavings of grana padana, and fegato venexiana: good calves' liver sautéed quickly with onions and finished with red wine and butter, served with squares of grilled polenta. It is truly one of the Hundred Plates, and Montin, while it may not be illustrious, is among my Hundred Restaurants. It always reminds me of how things Used To Be, and that they still can, at least here.
White Trebbiano in carafe
• Antica Locanda Montin, Fondamenta di Borgo, 1147 30123 Venezia; +39 041 5227151

Two islands

Hutchings Walk, London, May 21, 2011—
LINDSEY THOUGHT A PLOWMAN'S lunch would be appropriate for a last lunch in this city, so I asked if there were a good pub nearby. Bald Faced Stag, came the reply; so we took a brisk walk through Hampstead Garden Suburb to East Finchley and gave it a try. We split a "Spanish Board" containing slices of lomo, chorizo, and salame; then I went on to a plate of fried sardines, while the others had bangers and mash, or in John's case kidneys. Not a plowman in sight.
Pale ale from the tap
The Bold Faced Stag, 69 High Road, Barnet, London

Lagoon apartment, Cannaregio, Venice, May 21, 2011—
A SMOOTH FLIGHT ACROSS Channel, France-Germany-Switzerland, and the Alps brought us to our present home, where Fran had supper waiting: Radicchio with olive oil and anchovies, then Penne alla Norma, with a nice ragoût beefing it up. A bit of Catania in Venezia, and why not? We're finally eating Italian.Norma.jpg
Vino nobile di Montepulciano, “Vecchia Cantina”, 2008

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Another cassoulet

Hutchings Walk, London, May 20, 2011—
WHAT A SURPRISE: John's serving us cassoulet for dinner! We've been continuing this friendly cassoulet duel for years now, fairly well web-documented. Each of us privately maintains his own, of course; each version reflects differences in local taste (English pork is tangier than Stateside); there's certainly room for both — though I definitely think, summer drawing near, this will be the definitively final cassoulet until November at the earliest.

Before it, a fine homemade celery-root remoulade; afterward, a splendid fruit terrine.
red wine, Preston of Dry Creek (California), 2008

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Hutchings Walk,Barnet,United Kingdom

Dover sole

London, May 19, 2011—
I DO LOVE FLATFISH; when we're anywhere near the North Sea I order it every chance I get. London's virtually on the North Sea, and L. wanted fish and chips for dinner: I asked for Dover sole. First, though, a plate of fried anchovies, to get me in the mood for Venice.

The sole was tender and delicate. Not as brightly fresh as it might have been, but good, fried simply in butter, served with lemon. I am content.
Pinot grigio, Baron Herzog (California), 2010 (earlier we'd tried, then rejected a very curious "French colombard" made in Israel: this is a kosher restaurant.)
Fish Fish, 30 Temple Fortune Parade, London; +44 20 8458 2375

Thursday, May 19, 2011

MY artichokes. MY lettuce.

Eastside Road, May 17—
A LIGHT SUPPER TONIGHT out of the garden. Salad first, a rarity here: leaves of speckled lettuce, green and red romaines, dressed with the current house vinaigrette: a clove of garlic mashed up with sea salt, steeped a few minutes in olive oil, whisked at the last minute with vinegar — these days, a white tarragon-flavored vinegar in which sour cherries had been pickled years ago.

With it, toasted Como bread from the DBC — The Downtown Bakery and Creamery, which L. opened with T. and Kathleen so many years ago, and Kahleen still runs so well. That Como bread makes the best toast.

Then, three more artichokes from our garden. I remember when I was in the sixth grade there was a kid who'd never seen an artichoke, had no idea what one did with them. He was from Colorado. I developed an odd attitude toward Colorado at the time, and haven't completely lost it since.
bottle-ends, white

Monday, May 16, 2011

Another night…

Eastside Road, May 16—
…WITH THE GIRLS. It's an annual thing, the middle of every May, L. and her four sisters getting together. This time as luck would have it I am the only male along, and though I grouse a bit I enjoy it. It was burger night tonight, but after an order of french-fries and "aïoli" for the table I contented myself with a "Caesar salad." L. couldn't finish her fish and chips, so I had a piece of that, too.

Venice is calling…
Martini; house Pinot grigio
• Healdsburg Bar and Grill, 245 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg; 707.433.3333

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ordinary Italian

Eastside Road, May 15, 2011—
WHY, A FEW DAYS BEFORE flying to Italy for a visit, would we go out to an ordinary local "Italian" restaurant? Because we were with others, and it was their choice. Cheap, relatively predictable, available. It reminded me of all those checkered-tablecloth Italian joints of fifty years ago: fake grapevines on the ceiling, empty fiaschi, a good-natured woman of a certain age waiting tables, booths, a menu running to pastas, pizze, eggplant parmagiana, all that.

I had a small house salad with "traditional Italian" dressing; the dressing arrived in a Chianti bottle with instructions to shake it up good. Then a plate of ravioli with meat sauce. The black pepper was in a shaker; the grated cheese in another. It could be worse.
"Burgundy," bulk California wine, nonvintage
• Giorgio's Restaurant , 25 Grant Avenue, Healdsburg; (707) 433-1106

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Truly the end

Eastside Road, May 14, 2011—
THE END OF THE CASSOULET, I mean. Tonight we finished the last of it. Let's look back over its history:
February 28: Six to dinner for the first poele.
March 2: Leftovers for the two of us.
March 13: Six to dinner or the second poele.
March 17: Leftovers for the two of us.
May 12: Four of us took care of most of the third poele.
May 14: The two of us polished off the last of it.
I wrote up a little account of the production of this cassoulet, but it isn't ready to release, not yet. But there's an earlier account up on the other blog, written three years ago and more; it gives a pretty good idea of what goes into it. We spend a few hours on the dish, distributed over a number of days. And it takes a few ingredients: a goose, eight pounds of beans, a bound of pork belly, 12 ounces of ham, a quart of goose stock, seven pounds of sausage, half a pound of pork fat, a few heads of garlic, an onion, a lot of bread crumbs…

Well, it was time and money well spent. Three memorable dinner parties, and three after-party leftover nights when the food was just as delicious. Twenty-two people served, probably thirty servings in all. I don't regret a bit of it, but I'm sorry it's all gone!
Bandol, Domaine de la Tour du Bon, 2007

Before the concert

Berkeley, May 13, 2011—
FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH, the only one this year. We were invited to the home of a new acquaintance: he wanted to introduce us to the Oakland East Bay Symphony, which I had never heard; and to sweeten the deal he threw in dinner. Alas, last-minute complications required the simplest of preparations; we were content with a tomato-based vegetable soup, a couple of good cheeses (Havarti; Cambozola), and a creamy green salad; for dessert, a ten-fruit frullato, much like those we used to enjoy fifty years ago at the old Il Piccolo on Telegraph Avenue. Nice supper.
"Viva La Blanc" (60% Sauvignon blanc, 40% Chardonnay), Rock Wall Wines, 2009; Sancerre, Daniel Chotard, 2009; Zinfandel, Monte Rosso Vineyard, Rock Wall, 2009

Last of the cassoulet

Eastside Road, May 12, 2011—
cassoulet.jpgTHE END OF THE CASSOULET, I mean, and not a moment too soon. Cassoulet is a cold-weather dish, not to be eaten in the merry month of May. And though it is chilly tonight, it is not what you'd call cold.

Still: we had that one last cassoulet in the freezer; it wouldn't really hold until next winter; why not have a couple of friends over and put this baby to bed? After all, we made it in late February; ate the first one March 1 and 2, the second two weeks later. Cassoulet holds well in the freezer; improves even, I think: but only up to a point. It's well known that fats turn rancid even when frozen, and almost as well known that cassoulets are full, let's not mince words, of fat.

So tonight we had our salad first thing, after some mixed nuts and delicious white wine — our guest was a winemaker, after all — and then dug into this last poêle of goose, pork, beans, garlic, breadcrumbs, stock, and other good things.

It was truly delicious.
Sauvignon blanc, Peterson Winery "Timber Crest Farm" (Dry Creek Valley), 2009; Bandol, Domaine de la Tour du Bon, 2007 (both of them sound, interesting, true to type, gratifying)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

An unexceptional day

Eastside Road, May 11, 2011—
YES, MAY 11. We begin our fifty-fifth year of marriage today, and as I posted to Facebook, "Fifty-four years of fun and frenzy, food and foolishness. What a woman! Smartest thing I ever did! "; and as a friend responded, "54 years of wonderful company and equally good food. We should all be so lucky."

In over a thousand posts to this site, and a few posted earlier to another, I've written about what I've eaten. When at home, of course, Lindsey invariably has the same meal (occasionally substituting a yam or sweet potato, which I loathe, when I have a good old baked Russet). You'll have noticed we eat out often. Occasionally I note her choices, but not always. Increasingly, I've noticed, we'll order the same. I've finally learned what some friends have known for years: she knows how to order from a menu; it pays to follow suit.

We decided not to go out to celebrate today. There'll be time to celebrate later in the month, and next month too, when we're back on the road. (You'll see.) But it didn't seem right to cook, either. I made a nice guacamole to have with a glass of wine with a friend, a fruit-tree expert who dropped by to help us plant a couple of almond trees — there's some nice symbolism there, planting two almond trees in one whole on our anniversary (one Marcona, one bitter-almond, to drive the symbolism home, I suppose).

We supped on some of last night's pasta salad, brought home from another friend's dinner-party. The table and conversation, and travel in search of them: these are close to the top of our enjoyments.

And did I mention: food, eaten in good company, sourced and prepared with care and affection, the essence of nutrition, is a mainstay of a good marriage. I am eternally and fully grateful to my best and closest friend for all these years.
Sauvignon blanc, Preston of Dry Creek, 2009
The photo's twenty years old at least, and not very good, and clumsily edited. But it gives an idea of our life here in the country.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lamb again

Eastside Road, May 10, 2011—
OF COURSE ONE COULD eat it every night of the week. Well, four nights of every week. Lamb, I mean. Tonight it was a seven-pound leg, not roasted but cooked on the grill — just how, I'm not sure; Mac did the honors, out in his back yard — we were eating out at friends'. Charcoal obviously involved.

He cooked it bloody rare, thank Aesculapius, and it had fine flavor: flesh, a little salt, the grass it had been raised on. With it a nice composed salad: fusilli, red and orange bell peppers, poblano pepper, scallions, sugar peas, wild arugula, in a delicious olive oil.

Dessert: Lindsey made a lime tarte. She'd wanted to make a Key lime tarte, but no Key limes were to be found; we had to be content with Persian limes. I'm quite content.
Prosecco; Pinot noir: Husch, 2007; "MSG" (Mourvedre, Syrah, Grenache), Preston Vineyards (Dry Creek), 2009

Monday, May 9, 2011


Eastside Road, May 9, 2011—
NOTHING NEW HERE, you'll say; every day there's a green salad. But look at this marvelous dinner salad L. came up with tonight!
First of all, a bed of lettuce leaves, from a head we bought in Healdsburg at the farmers' market on Saturday — from the Kiff farm. We were both immediately struck by these big, blowsy, perfect heads of butter lettuce, tinged with a hint of dark red: big floppy tender leaves, satin-smooth and delicious. I washed the leaves from one head on Sunday and rolled them up in a dishtowel which was then put into a plastic bag and set in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator; it'll keep for days.

Then on top of the lettuce that salad L. invented yesterday: tiny asparagus, scapes, favas, and the white of leek chopped fine (garlic scapes, not ramps, as I incorrectly wrote yesterday), tonight with a can of succulent chunky tuna added. A springtime Niçoise, you might say: who needs tomato, anyway?

With the salad, as you see,a couple of slices of toast, treated to olive oil and good salt from the Île de Ré.
Cheap Soave

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Hot diggety

Eastside Road, May 8, 2011—
IT WASN'T THE ORIGINAL plan, but you learn to be flexible. Guests cancelled at the last minute, so Lindsey retrieved three hot dogs and three buns from the freezer. Afterward, though, the composed salad already committed to: leaves of fabulous butterhead lettuce from the Kiffs, underlying a remarkable combination of tiny asparagus, ramps, and chopped leek, with fava beans, all just barely blanched. A fine thing, this.
Malbec, La Finca (Argentina), 2010

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The salmon are running

Eastside Road, May 7, 2011—
FIRST MARKET OF THE YEAR in our town, Healdsburg; first banter with Nancy, greetings to the Francophiles, congratulations to the Kiffs, conversation with Yael, nods to our neighbors the Hopkinses, smiles with Mary, who directs the place.

And first salmon of the year, because the California salmon — King, Coho — is back, after a couple of years away. That's good news. Slow Food International divides the world into various "Nations," named after their totem Food: ours here in Northern California is Salmon.

The Fish Guy was away from his stand. Where's the old man, I asked his daughter: Oh, he died last winter, she said. I crumpled a little against the counter, and she quickly explained that she was joking. Don't joke like that with a 75-year-old man, I said, but made it clear I was kidding, as she had been. I suppose he's stepped away to the bar, I added. I wish I were with him, she responded.

We bought a one-pound hunk of salmon. I was going to grill it outside, over grapevine cuttings, but it turned chilly tonight, so we cheated and broiled it in the oven. Salt, pepper, a sprinkling of vodka; three minutes on each side — as it turned out, a little too long in the broiler, but it's early in the game.

With the fish, the first fresh favas of the year. Afterward, a nice green salad dressed with salt, shallots, olive oil, and Meyer lemon juice. What a fine way to celebrate spring!
Cheap Soave (D'Aquino Gaetano, 2009)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Another Artichoke

Eastside Road, May 6, 2011—artichoke.jpg
DIFFERENCES OF SCALE apart — and in every discussion, differences of scale are decisive — artichokes are like grandchildren: you wait and wait for the first one; then after a decent interval the second arrives; before long they're abundant. So you linger and fawn over the first; you attend devotedly to the next (few); you accept the rest like the debt you're somehow owed.

(Don't pay too much attention to this, you youngest ones.)

Tonight we had the second of this year's crop. The first, three days ago, was a Globe artichoke. I like them, I guess, but they're not my favorite, and I'm a bit chagrined that three of the four plants I set out a couple of years ago are Globes. I prefer the one we had tonight, a Violet, with sharp thorns at the tips of the outer leaves, which had just begun to spread yesterday. It seems to me the Violet has more flavor. I'd prefer to pick them smaller, but at the beginning of the harvest you take them one by one, and one small one doesn't a supper make.

Lindsey cooked it just as she had the other: split it in half, since after all there are two of us, covered it in a stainless-steel pan with salted water, and simmered it until done, say 45 minutes.


With it, one of Curt's saucisses blancs, beautifully made, kept long but without compromise in our freezer, liberated for the event. Sausage and artichoke make a first-rate combination, I think; a candidate for the Elective Affinities list. And, on the side, more chard from the garden — white, red, and yellow, from plants that miraculously wintered over, with no assist from the gardener. And a fourth chard, a new one to me when I found it last year, an Italian variety with bigger, floppier leaves. All these chards seem to have gained in sweetness from the winter: L. says that's what they do, and I'll take her word for it, her word and the evidence on my plate. Afterward, green salad.
Malbec, La Finca (Argentina), 2010

Eating Out

Eastside Road, May 5, 2011—
YES, THE LIST of restaurant visits continues to grow; it's embarrassing, but apparently can't be helped. Today was complicated by the necessity to attend a business lunch, full of fascinating conversation I'm not yet ready to reveal, and nourished by a nice fresh green salad and a good-sized bowl of mussels in Pernod-flavored milky broth. I doubt the mussels were local, but they are surely sustainable, and not a one refused to cooperate with my stickyfingered assault.
• French Garden, 8050 Bodega Avenue, Sebastopol, California; 707-824-2030

Dinner with a couple of old friends at a hangout they proposed, a burger joint in fact — the American equivalent of a French bistro, I suppose. While others had more-or-less conventional hamburgers, I opted for the "lamburger," ground lamb on a bun, the usual hamburger garnish (lettuce, raw onion, tomato slice, pickle slices) and an odd south-of-the-border "aioli," flavored with cayenne as well as the obligatory garlic; and nice french-fried potatoes. It was huge, this sandwich was, and rather chewy; and it took me back to the days early in our marriage, fifty years ago, when we bought ground lamb for 25 cents a pound at the Blue and Gold Market on Berkeley's Shattuck Avenue, and broiled it and ate it with a little mint sauce.
• Carmen's Burger Bar , 1612 Terrace Way, Santa Rosa; (707) 579-3663

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Diana Kennedy

Berkeley, May 4, 2011—
DROVE DOWN TO BERKELEY today to see an art exhibit and a play — one of these days I really have to trot over to The Eastside View and catch up on recent cultural reports — so why not stop in at the Café for an early supper?

Chez Panisse is continuing its fascinating survey of Influences over the past forty years, celebrating one or another chef, author, or other food authority each week, leading up to the August 28 Fortieth Birthday of the restaurant. This week it's Diana Kennedy, whose pioneering cookbooks had much to do with introducing the manifold glories and subtleties of the Mexican kitchen to the rest of the world.

We began with a simple salad: small tender and delicate leaves of rocket, laced with a chiffonade of celery-root, dressed with a creamy mustard vinaigrette. We followed this with Puerco en mole Chatino: shredded pork (and some cubes) in Kennedy's rich, deep mole sauce. (A mole, two syllables of course, accent on the first, is a compound produced by mashing or grinding with mortar and pestle: "mole" is etymologically related to "mill." Guacamole is one of the most familiar such compounds.)

I made this same mole some years ago, from Kennedy's book — the first one, I think. It was fairly easy to make, but time-consuming and tricky to shop for, as it calls for a number of ingredients. Among them, pumpkin seed, which forms the base of the sauce. The result is earthy, complex, profound, aromatic, and beautifully balanced. It has that solid, wholly natural quality that signals something particularly nutritive: the complexities do not involve chemicals or synthetics.

Chez P's execution of this dish seemed to jibe perfectly with my memory of that of so many years ago, and made me want to tackle it again, probably this summer as it's a perfect hot-weather dish. Dessert was Cinnamon ice cream, very delicately cinnamonned, with bittersweet chocolate sauce and candied pecans, oh my.
Tocai, Quattro Mani (Slovenia), 2008; Zinfandel, "Chez Panisse," Green and Red Vineyards (Napa Valley), 2009
• Café Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; 510.548.5525

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Not so fast.

Eastside Road, May 3, 2011—
WE'VE BEEN WORKING too hard to fast today — grass and weeds are still ahead of us — but that doesn't mean we can't cut back. We skipped lunch, as we generally do these fast days, but after our tea and almonds-and-cashews we did have a light supper:
Half an artichoke each, a slice of garlic-and-oil toast, and a banana and a tangerine for dessert. But what an artichoke! Our own, first of the year, and full of flavor, blending perfectly with the olive-oil and garlic on the sourdough toast.

That mayonnaise? Store-bought. It's Zaanse Mayonnaise, very lightly flavored with Zaanse mustard. It comes in a tube, like toothpaste. (We never confuse the two, because the mayonnaise stays in the refrigerator.) Lindsey always buys a few tubes when we're in The Netherlands. I find it available online from shops in Australia, New Zealand, and Netherlands; I don't know if the Dutch store up in Beaverton has it.

I must say, this simple supper was really delicious.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Lamb chops

Of all the meats that we can eat—
Chicken, beef, or ham—
the one that tickles my palate the most
is Lamb, Lamb, Lamb
Eastside Road, May 2, 2011—
SO ALWAYS SANG Virgil Thomson, and who am I to demur? Lord knows there are many fabulous meat courses: Bistecca Fiorentina; braised guinea fowl; pork chops with fennel; roast goose; lamb shanks; a good roast capon… those are only the first that come to mind, and very quickly. But tonight we had the meat course I think is my very favorite.

It's simple: loin chops from a lamb the right age, young young young though with the taste of grass in its mouth; rubbed with salt and herbes de provence; grilled over grapevine wood. That's all there is to it, and hardly any dishes to wash up.

Of course it's not that simple. The lamb has to be good: lean (though fat under the skin is okay; just trim much of it away), healthy, above all flavored with terroir. The frozen New Zealand lamb is okay, but on the inert side. Lamb from salt pastures on the coasts is superb, of course, but not that easily found. In Provence, spring lamb, with the taste of wild herbs, is delicious: but often a bit too old.

Tonight's lamb came from our son's pastures: it was fed right, handled right, and beautifully textured. As you see, we had it with chard from the garden; at the back, some faux-mashed potatoes, steam-sautéed and mushed up. Afterward, green salad.
Malbec, La Finca (Argentina), 2010

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Eastside Road, May 1, 2011—
AS HAS PROBABLY BEEN said here before, I could happily eat soup at every dinner. Tonight Lindsey made a vegetable soup, starting with a soffrito of leeks, adding carrot, peas, favas, and what else. Some stock from the refrigerator, no doubt. Some diced ham she'd found someplace. She'll probably correct any mistakes I've made here. Afterward, green salad. You need no more.
Cheap Nero d'Avola