Friday, September 30, 2011

Pizza at the winery

Eastside Road, September 30,September 30, 2011—
WHAT! NO BREAD for breakfast? Well, we can manage; Lindsey made waffle batter last night. This was the first waffle I've eaten in years. It was good: maybe I should make some adjustments in my daily routines.

A slice of very old, previously frozen bread, toasted, for lunch, with a pear. In the evening, a trip to our favorite local winery, Preston of Dry Creek, to pick up a six-pack (we belong to the Wine Club) and enjoy a glass of Viognier and a few slices of pizza. Lou Preston is one of the best bakers I know, specializing in bread and pizza doughs; his winery is also a fine supplier of fresh local organic produce and olive oil; put together all this says pizza. It doesn't hurt that he's also raising pigs now: parts of them get into the mix as well.
That didn't leave a lot of room for dinner, once we got home. I picked some chard; Lindsey cooked it up, and a little pasta with pesto from the other day, and a sliced green tomato; we'll have melon a little later. And tomorrow we've got to get a loaf of bread.
Viognier, Preston of Dry Creek, 2009 (delicious, deep, slippery)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

New to us

San Francisco, September 29, 2011—
WE'VE WAITED TOO LONG to try this place, a more casual sister-restaurant of Quince, a white-linen Italian we've loved in the past. Since we were down in the City, as good Berkeleyans always referred to San Francisco in my youth, sixty years ago, and since it's open for lunch as well as dinner, today was the day. I had:
Shell bean minestrone
Tagliatelle with duck sugo
Plum and almond crostata
and everything tasted absolutely wonderful. Deep, rich, fine ingredients (the beans, the olive oil, the cheese, the pasta, the duck!); and surprising, fresh, refreshing, delicate (the dessert!). I'd go back in a minute, if it weren't so damn noisy…
Zibibbo, “Lighea,” Donnafugata, 2010 (crisp, fresh, sensuous); Frappato, Valle dell'Acate, 2010 (cedar, cherry, quick, mellowing)
Cotogna, 490 Pacific Avenue, San Francisco; (415) 775-8508

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Day after fast

Eastside Road, September 28, 2011—
WE TRY TO EAT normally the day after a fast day. I mean, I think, well, let's have an extra piece of toast this morning, we were so good yesterday. But then I don't do it. So here's a typical Day After Fast:

Breakfast: as usual, a slice of toast with honey, two cappuccinos. Well, three this morning, because the coffee is so good. I roasted it day before yesterday: two days seems the optimum delay. There's enough for another two or three mornings; then the cycle begins again.

lunch.jpgLunch: as you see, toast and nagelkaas; grapes from the farmers market, raspberries and pears from our garden. Water.

Dinner: Penne al pesto, as I promised you yesterday. Green salad. There may be more fruit before bedtime: we picked about forty pounds of apples this afternoon. And there are two more melons in the icebox…
Cheap Pinot grigio; Roussanne, Preston of Dry Creek, 2009 (fine varietal, dry honey, beautiful color)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Eastside Road, September 27, 2011—
TODAY'S FAST INCLUDES a bit of fruit: it can't be helped. Our little Duchess d'Angoulême, hardly taller than I am, gives us every year eighty pounds or so of delicious pears; they've got to be eaten. They keep for a while, of course, but only those you pick: the ones that drop have to be eaten. I force myself. Otherwise, the regulation toast and cappuccino in the morning, tea and nuts at tea-time.

To tease the appetite, though, I made pesto in the afternoon, to have tomorrow:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Salmon again

Eastside Road, September 26, 2011—
salmon.jpgI DON'T KNOW how long the coastal King Salmon season will last, but as long as we can get fresh wild line-caught salmon from our own waters, we'll keep eating it. Today Lindsey soaked a couple of fig leaves and wrapped the salmon steaks in them, first salting them. I built a small fire of grapevine cuttings and charcoal and grilled, first, some Nardini peppers; then the salmon.

Lindsey had sliced up some tomatoes and cooked some of Nancy Skall's delicious lima beans in a little butter; I made a vinaigrette — lemon juice this time, not vinegar. Afterward, Thompson Seedless grapes from the Farmers' Market, and another melon from my vegetable patch — that vine has given us half a dozen so far, all quite delicious.
Cheap Pinot grigio

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Eastside Road, September 25, 2011—
NOT TOO MANY MONTHS ago I had the idea that we should go out to dinner once a month with another couple at one or another of the many local remaining roadhouses. With one thing and another we haven't got around to this exercise in cultural inquiry until tonight, when we stopped in at the oldest such local.

The Washoe House was founded in 1857, and doesn't seem to have changed much since I first saw it in the middle 1940s. The menu is typical of its genre, and after a Martini at the bar — $3.50! — most of us tucked into the eight-ounce sirloin, pan-seared I would say (or more likely griddled), reasonably moist and flavorful.

With it, as you see, French-fried potatoes and a little ramekin of canned green beans. Those come in for their share of complaints on such websites as Yelp and Chowhound, but you know what? I like canned green beans; I rarely get them; and they always remind me of my youth, when they were staples, and fresh-picked green beans were the seasonal exotic.

Before this course, a rough green salad enlivened by a handful of canned kidney beans and a sharp oil-and-vinegar dressing. Afterward, because the waitress had got the mistaken idea it was my birthday, a bowl of vanilla ice cream with a lit candle in it.
House Zinfandel

• The Washoe House, Stony Point Road at Roblar Road, Petaluma, California; (707) 795-4544

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Eastside Road, September 24, 2011—
QUITE AN UNUSUAL MEAL for us today: a buffet. We were aboard a cruise boat on San Francisco Bay, celebrating a friend's birthday with a champagne brunch. Coffee and Mimosas poured at our table, and down the center of the table, ready for perhaps two hundred guests — for there were many such parties aboard; ours was only for four of us — a long table covered with tortellini, green salad, quinoa salad, quiche, frittata, croissants and rolls, salmon, bacon, scrambled eggs, French toast, ham, bacon, sausages, potatoes, fruit compote, and probably much more that escaped my notice or escapes my memory.

And then the desserts: petits fours, chocolate truffles, lemon bars, tarts, brownies and blondies, cookies of various shapes and sizes, fruits… Were there cheeses? There must have been, somewhere.

One could have all one wanted. Truly the earth is abundant.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sandwich. Salad.

San Jose, September 23, 2011—
FOR REASONS TOO TRIVIAL to go into here, we drove from San Jose to Berkeley this morning; then back here via Redwood City. Well, now I read that, even the peregrination is pretty trivial. Anyhow, the result was that we ate basically On The Road.

Sandwiches were bought in Berkeley at a fine new place, a butcher shop. Roast pork, with lemon harissa aioli, cucumber, mint, basil and greens on an Acme torpedo roll, as their Facebook page will tell you if you only "friend" them.

A Martini at our hotel.

A glass of anonymous white at the museum opening.

Just now, a "Caesar salad", minus garlic and anchovy, and a glass of Pinot grigio at our hotel. 11 pm: time to pack it in.

Fish before opera

San Jose, California, September 21, 2011—
BACK TO THE CAFÉ today, for a particularly delicious lunch:
Anchoïade with tomatoes and chervil
Halibut with aïoli, potatoes, wax beans, and tomato coulis
Apple-raspberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream
• Café Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510.548.5525

That was again the principal meal of the day, of course; nothing needed later but a splendid performance of Mozart's Idomeneo in San Jose.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Quiet dinner at home

Eastside Road, September 21, 2011—
BREAKFAST, THE USUAL; lunch, peanut butter on toast, a small piece of grilled steak found in the refrigerator, some fruit; cocktails with friends: a misguided reconstruction, from imperfect memory, of
Satan's Whiskers:
two parts gin
half part each dry and sweet vermouth
one part Mandarine
one scant part orange juice
generous dash orange bitters
shake with ice; strain; garnish with lemon juice.

Dinner: some tomatoes and green beans; then rigatoni al pesto — the end of this summer's basil crop. Raspberries.
Cheap Pinot grigio

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Café society

Eastside Road, September 20, 2011—
café.jpgLUNCH IN THE RESTAURANT today, upstairs, and delicious it was, as always:
Garden lettuce salad
House-made rigatoni with BN Ranch beef ragù
Bronx grape sherbet with raspberries and a gingersnap
Fino: Elcano, Gutiérrez Colosia; Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniannes, Syrah, Verzier (a rough country wine, growing more pleasant with the ragù)
• Café Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510.548.5525

That was the principal meal of the day, of course; nothing needed at home this evening but a green salad, a couple of tomatoes, that wonderful new Acme “Edible Schoolyard” bread, and a few slices of delicious nagelkaas.
Viura, Marques de Montañana, NV (still soft, but surprisingly more flavorful, supple, forward than when we drank the first half of this bottle, three days ago!)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Break that fast!

Eastside Road, September 18, 2011—
BREAKFAST WAS SO GENEROUS — thanks, John and Susan — that we decided Monday was this week's fast day. Two croissants, fresh-squeezed orange juice, a bowl of perfect melon cubes, coffee. We wanted only our handful of nuts with our tea, then a few green beans and some fruit in the evening. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Double Duck?

Oakland, California, September 18, 2011—
LUNCH TODAY ON THE patio at home with a friend visiting from Japan:
Pork sausage with thyme and rosemary 
Frittata with zucchini and parmagiano
Sliced tomatoes
DINNER AT AN OLD favorite restaurant we've been neglecting for years, celebrating its 36th birthday. It's well known for its duck dinners, but friends with whom we were eating had brought a bottle of Burgundy, so after a salad of endive and sliced tomatoes I had a nice beefsteak with Bearnaise sauce, pommes Anna on the side, and a thick rich chocolate pot de crème for dessert. Made with duck eggs, so I wound up in the clear after all. 

Sparkling wine, Roederer (Sonoma county); Vosne-Romanée, Domaine Méo-Comuzet, 1996
Bay Wolf, 3853 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland; 510-655-6004

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Samedi soir

Eastside Road, September 17, 2011—
WELL, NOT ONLY Saturday evening; all day Saturday. An exceptional day, meal-wise. First, of course, breakfast: two caffelattes, one piece of toast with honey. One of these days I'll write about honey, and how I loathed it for so many years, and then suddenly had my Saul-of-Tarsus moment, and came to Believe. But not just now.

Then, my share of a half-dozen Miyagi oysters on the half-shell with a glass of rosé. We'd met a friend in Healdsburg, brought him home for a pot of tea, and I'd taken him back into town; this was his way of saying So long, nice to spend a couple of hours. What a civil fellow, and how intelligent; how I like hearing him talk about looking at photographs and paintings — but that's another subject for another blogosphere.

Willi's Seafood & Raw Bar, 403 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg; 707.433.9191dave.jpg

Home for an ear of corn from this morning's market, and an afternoon at the desk. Then dinner: the routine farm-market Saturday evening. Line-caught salmon from Dave the fish guy, and here is, modestly turning away from the camera; and lima beans from Nancy Skall, because her beans are simply the best.

Tonight Lindsey chopped shallots onto the grilled salmon, giving it a subtly but completely different personality. I know we could live without shallots, but they're always there in the onion basket. They last for weeks, and now and then we get the urge; I chop them into a salad dressing in place of the usual garlic; or they go into a marchand de vinsauce for the now-and-then steak; or they answer some other urgent whim, as they did today. They transform anything they deal with.

The beans were cooked in a bit of butter, which makes virtually anything better, as the old tongue-twister has it.
Viura, Marques de Montañana, NV (soft, a little bland: this webpage describes it pretty well)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Off feed

Eastside Road, September 16, 2011—
nagelkaas.jpgAN ODD DAY, eating-wise, for whatever reason — too much time on the road earlier in the week; too much grazing yesterday and the day before at the National Heritage Exhibition of heritage foods. We skipped lunch today, and had a quick supper before driving into town for a string quartet recital (Haydn and Dvorak, with a new piece sandwiched in between).

Chard from the garden, some green beans, that delicious nagelkaas (clove-studded Gouda) on toasted Como bread was enough for supper, but later, after the concert, we had a banana, raspberries from the garden, and a couple of Graham crackers with icing left over from the cake Lindsey made for Chez Panisse's birthday a couple of weeks ago. Frugality is often its own reward.
Martini before supper

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Eastside Road, September 15, 2011—
THE USUAL BREAKFAST; then to a remarkable event at the fairgrounds: a celebration and demonstration of farmers and merchants and organizations involved with the saving of seeds. This is not the place for comment on that event: I'll just say that it was very impressive indeed, and ended with a very persuasive call to political action by the always articulate, intelligent, and informed Vandana Shiva. And what did we eat? A buckwheat ham-and-cheese crèpe. Later, at home, melon from the garden, and a peach, and a handful of nuts, and a glass of Scotch, if you please.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Ashland, Oregon; Eastside Road, September 14, 2011—
breakfast.jpgBREAKFAST AND LUNCH from the same place, but a hundred miles apart. Breakfast was just about my favorite: croissant and cappuccino. The croissant doesn't look quite traditional: for one thing, it's not crescent-shaped, as you see. But in every other way it's about as good as they get in this country: buttery, flaky, rich, manifold. Filling, in fact.

And my daughter taught me that when a cappuccino seems, well, a little too bitter, or even sour; it may be that's my fault for having ordered it with nonfat milk. At home I roast my coffee to suit that nonfat taste; it's too much to expect that on the road. Just as a properly roasted and extracted espresso requires sugar, so does that same espresso, converted to a cappuccino, require some butterfat in its milk. This is certainly true of Stumptown coffee, and I'll henceforth bear it in mind. It was a lovely breakfast.

Lunch was taken at a roadside rest area south of Anderson: a perfect Parisian-style ham sandwich. In other words, a flûte — a thin baguette, you might say — cut in half lengthwise, nicely buttered, and filled with thin slices of boiled ham. No mustard, no mayo, no lettuce, no tomato: bread, butter, ham.

It might have been nice to have a cornichon or two on the side, but this was a sandwich packaged “to go,“ so that might have been inappropriate. In any case, truly authentic, very tasty. Really nice bread, too.

(Dinner was a slice of toast rubbed with garlic, dribbled with olive oil, and salted; half a cantaloupe afterward. Ça suffit.)

• Mix
, 57 N. Main Street, Ashland, Oregon; (541) 488-9885

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Back in Ashland (again)

Ashland, Oregon, September 13, 2011—
TWO REALLY FINE meals in this oft-visited town today (we came up to see two plays, the cast-generated WillFul and a hilarious production of Molière's The Imaginary Invalid).taco.jpg

A favorite lunch, to begin with: a duck-confit taco, a delicious cabbage-lime-carrot salad, and a Margarita. I've written about this place several times before: for example, almost a year ago. I almost always have the same meal, sometimes with the guacamole to start with. The place is so clean; the food so fresh, wholesome, and tasty; the atmosphere so good-humored and often high-spirited, it's impossible to eat here without thoroughly enjoying yourself.

• Agave
, 92 North Main Street, Ashland, Oregon; tel:(541) 488-1770

Then dinner nearby at a restaurant we don't patronize often enough. It's at the high end of the scale, a bit of a splurge; but the kitchen is really good. I had beautifully cooked halibut on a bed of quinoa with sweet pepper-cucumber salpicon and, on the side, by my special request, this bowl of immaculate wild arugula dressed simply with olive oil and salt.

Lindsey had a pork chop with braised cabbage and spaetzle; Thérèse had sweetbreads with chanterelles and bacon: before, heritage tomato salad. And my dessert was extraordinary: grilled greengage plums and vanilla ice cream with fine olive oil, fleur de sel, and pine-nut sablée.
Quincy, Jacques Rougé, 2009 (clean, bright, soft)
• Amuse Restaurant, 15 North First Street, Ashland, Oregon; (541) 488-9000

Monday, September 12, 2011

Steak & potato

Redding, California, September 12, 2011—
LINDSEY THOUGHT SHE RECALLED eating at the Hilton Garden Inn sometime in the last few years, and we had to eat somewhere, since we were driving up to Ashland and were breaking the trip. Truth is, there aren't many places to eat between Sacramento and Ashland. Café Maddalena, in Dunsmuir, is probably still good: but it's closed on Monday.

So Hilton it was. I had a Caesar salad to start, then a "rare" six-ounce sirloin, baked potato and stir-fried squash, peppers, and onions on the side. Retro for sure. It was no better than you'd expect. Thérèse had had a better idea: just bring snacks.
Sauvignon blanc, BV, 2009; Cabernet Sauvignon, Clos de Bois, 2009
• Hilton Garden Inn Grill, 5050 Bechelli Lane, Redding, California; 530.226.5111

Steak and potato

Redding, California, September 12, 2011—
LINDSEY RECALLED EATING HERE sometime in the relatively recent past, though I didn't. You gotta eat somewhere, and there isn't any place decent between Sacramento and Ashland as far as I know. Well, Café Maddalena in Dunsmuir, maybe: but it's closed Mondays.

And we're breaking the drive to Ashland here in Redding, and you gotta eat. (Though we could have fasted, now I think about it.)

I ordered Caesar salad and the six-ounce sirloin, grilled rare, with a baked potato and those stir-fried squash, peppers, and onions that used to come with every eat-out dinner back in the 1950s. Best thing on the table was the bruschetta with tomatoes concassée, bits of raw garlic to liven things up. (The bread itself was marginal.)

As Thérèse said, we could/should have simply brought some snacks. Oh well.
Sauvignon blanc, BV, 2009; Cabernet sauvignon, Clos de Bois, unknown vintage (both served by the glass)
• Hilton Garden Inn Café, 5050 Bechelli Lane, Redding, California; 530-226-5111

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Eastside Road, September 11, 2011—
salmon.jpgA DAY LATE, but not a dollar short. Farm market was yesterday, but we had Saturday dinner tonight: Dave's line-caught salmon grilled in the broiler; Nancy's hand-raised lima beans cooked with a little butter; the last of that nice eggy potato salad from yesterday, a couple of slices of tomato. Late summer dining.
Cheap Pinot grigio

That sandwich again

Eastside Road, September 10, 2011—
AN OLD FRIEND VISITED today, as he does almost annually from his New York home, and we fed him on the patio, on the same sandwich we had two days ago on the deck up in Mendocino county. Well, not the exact same sandwich, of course; that had been completely consumed. But Lindsey reconstructed it, thus:
Last night I grilled a tri-tip roast over grape cuttings, while Lindsey made a nice eggy potato salad. This morning we went to market, where we bought a cucumber, some ripe heirloom tomatoes, a red onion, and that small-leaf “Pluto” Greek basil that's so flavorful; and we swung by the Downtown Bakery for four Ciabatta rolls.

Lindsey sliced the steak and the vegetables, and set out a tube of that delicious Zaanse mayonnaise she always buys when we're in The Netherlands, and we each made our sandwich to order. It was so good we had another for dinner — with a couple of ears of corn as a first course, and a green salad, of course, and finally a bowl of raspberries.
Pouilly Fuissé, Louis Jadot, 2006 (soft, rich, light, authentic: thanks, John!)

Friday, September 9, 2011


Eastside Road, September 9, 2011—
A COUPLE OF FRIENDS — good friends — drove up from Berkeley today to take us out to lunch in town, our choice of restaurant. I had one idea, someone else another. We settled on Willi's, always dependable.
The place has grown since last time we visited: one of the tourist shops, a boutique specializing in crystals and rocks — who needs crystals and rocks? — finally moved out, and the next-door Willi's Sea Food was suddenly twice as big. The new dining room / bar looks nice enough, but we four wanted to talk, impossible indoors; besides, it was a nice day. We sat on the familiar patio.

Let's see. Four of us, right? Let's start with a dozen oysters, oh well, make it a dozen and a half: six each of Kumamotos, Walker Creeks, and Miyagi. After all, we've finally entered a month with an “R” in its name. After that, the sole almandine at the left there, and then with it a couple of lobster rolls, and a tray of squid circlets, and did someone say ceviche? and what about those green beans?

The Miyagi were amazing: clean, bright, fresh, chewy, everything you'd want from an oyster on the half shell. The Walker Creeks not far behind. I liked the ceviche a lot; but had to decline the lobster roll — arthropods are not my thing. (Lindsey said it was terrific, the best thing on the table. Damn.)

Sole almandine always seems to me the perfect expression of old-style French cuisine, the kind of thing you knew was soigné, sophisticated, genteel. This was Petrale sole, and had enough spice to it to be distinctly Californio, not French. It had wilted spinach on the side, too, so of course I liked it. Only the green beans — haricots verts, in fact — disappointed me: bland, needing salt, with unnecessary cashews and irrelevant goat cheese on the side. I crumbled some of the spicy oyster crackers that came with the ceviche over them, though, and they glowed.

I prefer the Willi's down toward Santa Rosa, with its north-Africa-oriented menu (at least as I remember it, admittedly from at least a couple of years ago). We go now and then to another of the places in this local chain, Monti's; most recently for goat. And there's a steak-house. Maybe they're spreading themselves too thin; but they're still okay by me.
Rosé, Belleruche (Côtes du Rhône), 2010 (fresh, a little flinty, serviceable, refreshing)
Willi's Seafood & Raw Bar, 403 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg; 707.433.9191

Lunch on the deck

Orr Springs Road, September 8, 2011—
IMG_0710.jpgSANDWICHES ON THE DECK: some slices of grilled steak left from last night, a few Nardello peppers to stew atop, perfect tomatoes, sliced onion and cucumber, a bit of mayonnaise, all on a fine ciabatta roll from Downtown Bakery, and good friends, a polite Corgi mix, and the scent of fir trees. No electronics; no rush.

Later, back home, all we needed for dinner was a couple of poblanos, some more tomato, and a side of garlic toast. What! No green salad? We'll make up for that later…

Rustic dining

Orr Springs Road, September 7, 2011—
IMG_0700.jpgWE'RE ON A NON-technology midweek weekend, eating al fresco. (I write this, as I sometimes must, a day or two later.) Our friends have a fully equipped cabin ten miles out of Ukiah, in northern California's Mendocino county. Dinner: a marvelous grilled steak, these fabulous Nardello peppers, and corn on the cob — summer at its sweetest.

We first heard about these peppers last Saturday, at the Farm market in Healdsburg, when our friend Joey insisted we buy a few. They're wonderfully tasty, and so easy to cook: you just rinse them off, dry them, and throw them into a very hot black iron skillet, then sprinkle a little olive oil on them and cook them until they begin to blacken. Sea salt is all they need.
Sauvignon blanc, Lambert Bridge Bevill Vineyard (Dry Creek Valley), 2009 (about as good as Dry Creek SB gets, and that's SB at its California best); Cabernet Sauvignon, Husch La Ribera Vineyard, 2005(!), smooth, authentic, to savor

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Since it's Tuesday…

Eastside Road, September 6, 2011 —
A SLICE OF TOAST with honey and a couple of cafés au lait for breakfast; a couple of glasses of Prosecco and a handful of nuts and olives, a tiny bit of cheese for supper.

café.jpgThis is as good a day as any to mention that our coffee is of our own roast. I've been doing this since Christmas, when Thérèse gave me an electric popcorn roaster of the right type for the coffee detail — she'd been doing it for some time. Like her, I order my beans from Sweet Maria. These days I roast a third-of-a-cup at a time, three roastings at a time; that'll last three or four days. I roast it to what they call a Vienna roast, considerably lighter than the typical espresso roast.

A double shot of this from our Faemina, with about a quarter cup of nonfat milk, steamed to a gentle foam, makes the morning cup — bol, in fact; we bought two nice coffee bowls in Brittany, probably thirty-five years ago. Two of the morning cups makes a breakfast. Three, if I'm feeling self-indulgent.

Monday, September 5, 2011

El Sombrero

Eastside Road, September 5, 2011—
BERKELEY FRIENDS DROVE UP today to visit and to pick up some crabapples and pears (and some Kaffir lime leaves and bay leaves, and a few grapes to make some sourdough starter — it's that time of year), and we took them in to town for lunch at The Hat, as Healdsburg regulars refer to our favorite Mexican restaurant.

Funny: much as I love chiles rellenos, I'd never ordered them here. So today I corrected that, and was happy to find really flavorful peppers stuffed with cheese that had flavor too, not the bland stuff you so often find. The batter was light and fluffy, and the beans nicely cooked. We started with a bowl of tasty guacamole, and I washed it all down with a Tecate, and went home happy.

Dinner: another mess of fried padrones; another mess of marrowfat beans, some green beans on the side. Let's skip salad, yes?

Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, Armento, 2009; Cabernet sauvignon, Mayacamas, 1983. (Two more dead soldiers for the recycle bin.)
• Taqueria El Sombrero, 245 Center Street, Healdsburg; (707) 433-3818

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Eastside Road, September 4, 2011—
SUNDAY: SOFT-BOILED eggs for breakfast, with English muffins from the Downtown Bakery, and butter, because you might as well start the week out right.

Lunch: toast with peanut butter; fruit; orange juice.
Dinner: these fine tomatoes from nearby, with tiny basil leaves strewn over them, and padrones on the side. They're the hit of the market this year, of course; you just rinse them, dry them with a towel, and fry them quickly in a very hot black iron skillet with a little olive oil, then rub sea-salt between thumb and fingers over them.

Afterward, fusilli with pesto, and then mulberries, blackberries, and raspberries, all as local as can be.
Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, Armento, 2009; Cabernet sauvignon, Mayacamas, 1983. (An open bottle, only a glass or two missing, was thrust into my willing hand at the Chez Panisse party last Sunday; tonight I finally got around to tasting it. Wonderful to taste a wine like this, old enough to drink, full, rich, completely mature, still vivacious — and only 12% alcohol!)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Saturday salmon

Eastside Road, September 3, 2011—
SATURDAY: FARM MARKET: salmon. It's virtually certain: if we're at home, and it's between May and November, and it's Saturday morning, we're in Healdsburg, at the farm market. There are five or six favorite stalls; we nearly always buy something from each of them. And inevitably Saturday's dinner reflects this.
Today the provender was absolutely typical: salmon from Dave, The Fish Guy, an extremely interesting guy who catches the salmon he sells, at least as a general rule. We eat the local salmon whenever we can; it's so nice when political correctness coincides with deliciousness. (It generally does.) And with the salmon, lima beans from Nancy Skall, whose beans and strawberries are the best.

But if the provender was typical for our Saturdays, the preparation was different, at least for the salmon. I picked three or four fig leaves and soaked them for a couple of hours, then salted, peppered, and sprinkled vodka on the salmon and wrapped it in the fig leaves. In a wire clamp-basket over a fire of grape cuttings it steamed more than it grilled: but the peppers alongside grilled and roasted until nearly done. I finished all of this in one black iron skillet with a little olive oil.

I'm sorry: I've forgotten the name of those long skinny red peppers. They're Italian, and sweet, not piquant; and they were quite delicious. Next time I'll take notes.

A bowl of cherry tomatoes from the neighbor; maybe a peach or two before bed. What more do you want?
Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, Armento, 2009

Friday, September 2, 2011

Beans and pesto

Eastside Road,September 2, 2011—
NO, NOT SIMULTANEOUSLY, though now I think about it there's no reason beans wouldn't be good with pesto. But that's not the way it worked out.
The beans were lunch. “Marrowfat beans,” they were called, at the local farm stand where we bought them yesterday. We know them as “capucijners,” because we first met them in the Netherlands, and that's their native country; they were bred from Dutch peas in the last century — accounts vary as to where, exactly, and when; you could look it up. “Capucijners” because their color and shape apparently reminded the Dutch of the hooded habits of capuchin monks — funny to think these beans are related to espresso-with-foamed-milk!

They were delicious with sage and thyme from the garden. I thought too late that we have summer savory, too; but there's some beans left to cook; next time. It's a perfect match.

Also in the garden was a healthy basil plant, so I cut half its leaves this evening and made a pesto — just enough pine nuts left in the freezer; it's almost time to climb the pines for this year's crop. Dinner started with sliced tomatoes with Green Goddess Dressing, a nice late-summer dish; and went on to fusilli with the pesto.

Berries are in full season, too, of course; I picked a pint or two of blackberries, Lindsey found another pint of raspberries in her garden, and she combined them with strawberries from the same farm stand, sugaring them just enough to smooth and bring out the flavors. What a fine dinner; how nice to eat at home.
Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, Armento, 2009

Thursday, September 1, 2011

That fasting…

Eastside Road, September 1, 2011—
AFTER ALL THE DINING accumulated in the last few days — some of which I've yet to comment on here — it's time to return to routine. Today was the first fast day in over a week. As constant readers know by now, our weekly fast is relative. Since it's important to start off with a good breakfast, we begin fast — resume fast, now that I think about the root meaning of “breakfast” — after that meal.

But breakfast here is routinely pretty slender: for me, a slice of toast with a thin spread of honey, and two bowls of coffee with foamed nonfat milk. On fast days, the only other food I eat is a small handful of mixed almonds and cashews with a couple of cups of tea at six o'clock or so, while we watch the news.

We began doing this last December, partly to keep weight down, mostly for a little discipline, and to remember that many people in this world, perhaps most people, regularly go to sleep hungry. At first we had a baked potato for dinner on fast days, but we dropped that after a couple of months. Now it's just toast, coffee with milk, and nuts with tea. Water, of course.

It's amazing how readily one adjusts to the routine. Today, for example, we spent an hour in the gym; I walked and ran and swam; and I don't feel any hungrier than I usually do on a fast day. But I always think of my cousin Ruth, who used to be pretty hefty. Last time I saw her, years ago, she'd slimmed down quite a bit. Her sister explained that she'd joined some kind of cult, and that among their practices some involved eating: for example, they don't eat if they aren't hungry.

So many people in this country eat whether they're hungry or not. And of course they put down lots of beverages. Artificial sweeteners and corn syrup quickly go to fat. Various food additives, I'm convinced, alter the body's natural appetite perception: maybe we don't even really know if we're hungry or not any more.

We eat very little manufactured food. Sure, there's the occasional hot dog at a ball game. I drink maybe six beers a year. Our bread comes from the bakery; our pasta's almost always whole-wheat. At six feet tall, I weigh between 172 and 176 pounds, and I feel great. And I enjoy my food and drink, as you know, if you've browsed here before…