Monday, October 31, 2011

Salmon from the grill

Eastside Road, October 31, 2011—
WHAT SPLENDID WEATHER we've been having these last couple of weeks, sorry about that, East Coast…

So, another salmon "steak" out of the freezer and onto the grill, over charcoal this time. I brushed it with olive oil with chopped shallots in it, and salted and peppered it; it's a nice preparation. Six or eight of those delicious Nardini peppers had already roasted, whole, over the charcoal; I split and seeded them while the salmon was cooking. Lindsey'd cooked up another mess of Nancy Skall's peerless lima beans and sliced up a couple of tomatoes; and then we had green salad of course, and the last of yesterday's apple pie and Mary Jo's crisp — life is good…
Salice Salentino, 2009

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Boudin blanc

Eastside Road, October 30, 2011—
A COUPLE OF FRIENDS, cooks and caterers, arrived about two o'clock with leftovers from a recent job: time for a late October party.
We began with a big plate of padrones peppers, toasted in the black iron skillet with a little olive oil and salt; and went on to the delicious main course:
salad, grilled Boudin blanc, and a poached egg; mustard vinaigrette. Truly Curt — you see him above, leaning in from the right, a cap on his head — is a generous man and a genial one, and a damned good cook. From there, on to dessert: Lindsey's apple pie, Mary Jo's apple-quince crisp; ice cream.

Is anything better than a supper like this with friends and family? I doubt it.
Rosé: Cheverny, Domaine du Salvard, 2010; Château Lascaux, Coteaux du Languedoc, 2010; Barbera, Preston of Dry Creek, 2009; Riesling, Josef Rosch Kabinett, 2000; Muscat, Beaumes de Vénise, Domaine de Durban, 2005

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Chou farci

Eastside Road, October 29, 2011—
STUFFED CABBAGE, in plain English: but it's not quite that simple. You don't just hollow out a cabbage and fill it with something. Here's what you do — and basically I follow the recipe in Julia Child's second book, adapting it to what's available:

First you need a good sound cabbage, Savoy for preference, though today's was simply a big Dutch slightly curled one. You blanche it in a big pot of boiling water and, running a sharp knife down around the core, remove the leaves, one by one, setting them aside.
Then I browned a pound of ground veal and set it aside, then four Italian sausages which I'd liberated from their casings and crumbled up and set that aside, then a carrot, two leeks, a half-inch slice of Virginia ham, and the chopped core of the cabbage, with some thyme and sage. I combined all that with half a cup or so of cooked rice.

Then you lay out the outside leaves of the cabbage inside a stainless-steel bowl about the size and shape of the original cabbage, and sprinkle them with the meat-vegetable mixture. More leaves; more stuffing; etcetera, until all the leaves are in place.

You then fill up the bowl with beef or veal stock and put it in the oven at 350° or so and cook it until the cabbage is tender, and there you have it. What a fine meal it is!
Petite Syrah, Preston of Dry Creek, 2008

Alla Romana

San Francisco, October 28, 2011—
THE ETERNAL CITY — Rome — is among my very favorite cities for dining. There's nothing really like it, and most Italian restaurants in our country certainly fall short. But Locanda, in San Francisco's Mission district, makes a plausible attempt at Rome's inimitably simple-but-sophisticated cuisine.

Not that I really know: I only hazarded three courses. But the carciofa alla giudia was pretty authentic, and made memorable by the chiffonade of mint flavoring the soft, delectable artichoke. My pasta caccio e pepe was dressed with a pungent Pecorino and nicely peppered, though I did think the pepper unnecessarily exotic and single-varietal in flavor (a nit-picker's complaint, I admit). Dessert was a fine pine-nut tart with fior di latte gelato on the side, my favorite; and afterward I had a small chunk of perfect robiola with carta da musica bread, brown-buttered, and blackberry marmelade on the side. Delizioso.
A good Martini; then Malvasia, Carso, Edi Kante, 2008
• Locanda, 557 Valencia St., San Francisco, (415) 863-6800

Thursday, October 27, 2011

On dine en rouge

Eastside Road, October 27, 2011—
salmon.jpgWE DINE IN RED tonight, and drink rosé. Here's the setup: On Saturday we bought our weekly salmon, but knowing we wouldn't have a chance to cook it for a few days Lindsey stuck it in the freezer.

Then, Sunday, we visited Bob Cannard's farm for a Chez Panisse party, and of course we came home with an armload of vegetables — a handsome Savoy cabbage, some carrots, peppers, an onion, eggplants, tomatoes. I was thinking of stuffing the cabbage, and I probably will, Saturday morning. It's a favorite recipe of mine, and I'll be glad to share it with you.

But Monday we had leftover Bolognese to eat, and Tuesday we didn't eat, and yesterday, well, still a bit of Bolognese. And the vegetables were waiting. So tonight Lindsey sliced up the peppers and eggplants and a nice big spring onion, sprinkled them with olive oil and salt, and set them on sheet pans to roast in the oven.

Meanwhile I built a wood fire outside, with grapevine cuttings and a bit of old oak barrel, and I sprinkled the salmon with salt and pepper and a little olive oil and a handful of coriander stalks Bob had sent along with the vegetables, and grilled it over the fire, along with a couple of slices of bread.

The tomato was absolutely delicious, but then so was the rest of the dinner. Green salad, of course; maybe a pear a little later.
Rosé: "El Solà d'en Pol," Celler Xavier Clua Coma (Catalonia), 2010: fruity, substantial, easy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The last of the Bolognese

Eastside Road, October 26, 2011—
ACTUALLY, FOR ALL THE TIME we've spent in Italy, and considering how attractive we find the pastimes of the table, we've hardly set foot in Bologna, which offers what many think to be the pinnacle of Italian cuisine. I don't know why that is, exactly: probably because we've been too busy elsewhere. Our first allegiance is to Piemonte, the province of half of Lindsey's heritage. Then there's the attraction of Milan, with its trattorie and central location.

Venice, goes without saying. Verona, where our dear friends live. Rome, as we learned in a fine week back in 1988, and then for two wonderful months in 2004. (Buy the book!) Sardinia. Sicily.

We did have a splendid dinner in Emilia-Romagna a little over a year ago: that's as close as we've come to eating in Bologna. Otherwise, what we know first-hand about Bologna is the sausage, and Bologna ain't baloney, and the sauce. I wrote enough about it day before yesterday; there's no point adding more today.
Leftover rosés

Monday, October 24, 2011

Double Bolognese

Eastside Road, October 24, 2011—
OTHERWISE KNOWN AS "meat sauce," I suppose, Bolognese is one of my favorite things. Basically simply ground beef, tomato, onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf, salt, and pepper, with fat of course to bind everything together. There's a good history and recipe on Wikipedia. We often have a shorthand version, made simply all at once in the skillet by making the soffritto with either olive oil or some form of pork and chopped onion, usually omitting the celery and carrot (a mistake, in my opinion), then squeezing tomatoes in: this is the "red sauce" we so often have on pasta.

But the true Bolognese is a much subtler, richer, more highly evolved thing. I can well believe it dates back to the Sixth Century: or, rather, I can't believe it waited until then to be perfected. (And the addition of chicken livers is brilliant: I've never much liked chicken livers, but they'd be perfect in a Bolognese.)

Well: Lindsey made lasagna alla Bolognese last week, with the true recipe, and we had the last teeny little corner of it as a first course tonight. Then came
the dish you see above, fusilli with the extra ragù Bolognese she had cunningly set aside, and a little Parmesan cheese grated on top. Rich, profound, nourishing, totally satisfying. A little chard from the garden, with garlic crushed in. Later some fruit, no doubt, and we'll be ready for tomorrow's fast.

Cinsault, Preston of Dry Creek, 2008

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dinner on the farm

Glen Ellen, October 23, 2011—
SUNDAY SUPPER on the farm today: twenty or so of us, gathered for a farewell meal with David Tanis, who's leaving Chez Panisse after many years as downstairs co-chef. We were at Bob Cannard's farm, which supplies by far the lion's share of produce served at the restaurant, and the late afternoon light over the Valley of the Moon hills was strikingly beautiful.

table.jpgThe menu seemed to me the perfect expression of Californio cooking: ranch-style cooking drawing directly from what's available, pointed up with discreet use of exotic spices. It centered on a spit-roasted pig, a wild one Angelo had shot for the occasion — succulent, lean, full of flavor, healthy. The table was laden with salads and vegetables: slaw, poblanos stuffed with corn and cheese, sliced tomatoes, roasted beets, shell beans, onion salad, crudités. There were delicious sardines with lemon zest, peppers, and olive oil; there were olives of course, and grilled bread; there was sliced tongue with chimichurri.

For dessert there was an apple tart with figs cooked in red wine and whipped cream. And best of all, throughout, there was the company of cooks and diners, people who knew why they were so happy with what they were confronting; and good conversation; and memories and good wishes for the future; and generosity and gratitude.
Rosé, Domaine Tempier (Bandol), 2008; Zinfandel, Skye Vineyards (Napa); Syrah and Pinot noir, noncommercial (Sonoma and Napa counties) (true to varietals, sound and delicious)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Lamb again!

Eastside Road, October 22, 2011—
LAMB CHOPS ARE AS GOOD as it gets; lamb chops twice in a week is even better. Dinner with friends tonight, at their home, celebrating a birthday: artichokes from Castroville, boiled and served with lemon mayonnaise; then the chops, pan-fried, crisp and crunch outside, just rosy inside, flavored with salt and garlic. Nancy's delicious lima beans on the side because, after all, it's Saturday, Healdsburg Market day.
Cinsault, Preston of Dry Creek, 2008 (a nicely balanced, delightfully flavored wine)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Lasagne party

Eastside Road, October 21, 2011—
LINDSEY MADE THE LASAGNE a week ago, basing it on a recipe from Marcella Hazan, for another party. In the event we decided to set it aside for later: lasagna is, to me, a cool-weather dinner, not a hot-afternoon lunch.

In fact we both came to the same conclusion separately, each of us a little embarrassed to admit it — one doesn't normally serve leftovers to friends: but last week it was so warm, and the leftovers were so delicious, it seemed appropriate.

So we had the lasagna, finally, tonight. Just lasagna, or lasagna — as Wikipedia says, "As with all the other pasta shapes, is generally used in its plural form lasagne" — and a green salad. Plenty for all six of us (sorry you weren't there, Gaye and John!). Fresh pasta from the Phoenix Pastaficio. Béchamel sauce, Bolognese. (We asked the Phoenix guy for "plain pasta," and he relayed the request to the owner, a Frenchman who is serious about his metier. Oh do not say plain pasta, he said, I do not make plain pasta, plain, that means nothing, you cannot say plain pasta, it is egg pasta. I take his point.)

Dessert: ice cream sundaes: vanilla ice cream, with chocolate sauce, salt caramel sauce, chopped almonds, macaroon crumbs. Life with a pastry chef has its advantages.

Syrah, Radio-Coteau "Las Calinas" (Sonoma Coast), 2009 (nice varietal, forthcoming); Cabernet Sauvignon, Husch (Mendocino), 2007 (serious, a little austere); Cinsault, Preston of Dry Creek, 2008 (pointed, edgy, refreshing, straightforward)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lamb chop

Eastside Road, October 20, 2011—
ANOTHER LITTLE PACKAGE from the freezer tonight; another couple of lamb chops from our son and daughter-in-law up Laytonville way. Shoulder chops this time, as you see. After thawing them I sprinkled salt on both sides, let them come to nearly room temperature, and spread crushed garlic and a little rosemary on one side.

I'd picked cannelloni from the garden a couple of days ago and shelled them: those got cooked in water until tender, then flavored with a little salt and sage leaf. The green tomatoes are from the Healdsburg farmers' market. The chops were simply broiled in the kitchen stove; when this much baseball's waiting to be watched, no time to grill over vine cuttings outside. Maybe next week.

Green salad after, of course.
Montagne Saint-Émilion, Château Tour Bayard, 2007 (a little closed and tight, not what I'd hoped)

Farewell at Chez Panisse

Berkeley, October 19, 2011—
OUR LAST DINNER here from a chef we're very fond of, David Tanis, who leaves after a number of years as one of the two downstairs chefs, continuing his transition from remarkable chef to remarkable writer. A bittersweet occasion: but an absolutely wonderful dinner, très français:
Chilled beet soup with cucumber and horseradish cream
Petrale sole with chanterelles and thyme
Spit-roasted pork loin with flageolet beans and caramelized carrots
Warm buckwheat crêpe with roasted figs and wild fennel ice cream

As many know, I'm not fond of beets; they almost always taste like aluminum to me, some genetic flaw in my DNA, I'm sure. But the horseradish cream quite countered that tendency, and I found this version of borscht really delicious. Too, it put me in mind of Jeremiah Tower, who was fond of celebrating some vague Russian connection in his menus back in the early days of Chez Panisse.

Flat fish are my favorites, and this sole was in my favorite style, pan-fried in butter. Straus butter, in fact, which had been clarified, and leant a substantial flavor to a fish that can be bland.

The pork was from Ranch Llano Seco, up near Chico: remarkably consistent, even-grained meat, delicate in flavor, substantial in texture.
Chez Panisse, 1971

That dessert took me right back to Lindsey's years at the restaurant. In so many ways this meal personified years of history for us — culinary, social, familial; all the things Chez Panisse stands for to those of us (and we are thousands, I think) who are part of its long tradition. David has been at the center of this for so many years; from the late 'seventies, I think — as café chef in the 1980s; as downstairs chef for the last ten years. (The four Chez Panisse chefs work six months on, six months off, full time and then some, two in the café, two in the downstairs restaurant.)

For a number off years David's lived in Paris his off six months, sometimes offering a little pop-up restaurant. He has published two books, A Platter of Figs and Heart of the Artichoke, both with the Artisan division of Workman Publishing, both very beautiful and clearly written. In June he began a weekly column, City Kitchen, at the New York Times, and on leaving Chez Panisse at the end of this month he'll be settling in New York. I see, too, that he has an attractive and useful website.

Thanks for so much, David — your cooking, your experience and your experiences, your thoughtfulness, your intelligence. Don't be a stranger.
Savennières, Domaine des Baumard, 2008; Condrieu, Domaine Faury, 2007; Chardonnay, Lioco (Carneros), 2009 (in half bottle); Châteauneuf du Pape, Château de Beaucastel, 1990
• Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley; 510.548.5525

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Faster and faster

Eastside Road, October 18, 2011—
AFTER THE AL FRESCO feasts of the last couple of days, the Tuesday fast was welcome — but it turned out to be a fruit fast. No surprise: the garden and its orchard have been productive.

I couldn't help eating a fig from the neighbor's tree in the afternoon, for example, when we walked down past their house to get the mail; and that put Lindsey in mind of our own figs, a smaller variety, drier and more intense. There aren't many, but what there are are delicious, and they go nicely with the pears she salvages from among the windfalls: Comice and Duchesse d'Angoulême. Peeled to avoid bad spots, they are particularly delicious — I think pears should always be peeled.

In the afternoon I'd picked the first of the cannellini:
dry brown papery skins
inside, whiter than my bones,
cannellini beans

Monday, October 17, 2011

Lunch on the patio

Eastside Road, October 17, 2011—
tableleft.jpgtableright.jpgTHE WEATHER'S SO ODD, unseasonably warm and unnaturally humid, but we toughed it out on our patio, both today and yesterday, with a fine meal made for us by Sylvie and Jason, both of whom polished their culinary chops at the Chez Panisse program at the American Academy in Rome. That's Jason and Sylvie in the foreground, there at the left. What a fine menu!
green beans and cherry tomatoes
hard-cooked eggs
boiled potatoes
grilled bread
pan-seared tuna
green salad
aïoli, aïoli, aïoli

There were eighteen of us yesterday, and all with appetites. Today, though, even though there were eight of us at table, there was enough left from yesterday to have the entire feast over again. Don't think we don't know how lucky we are!
Rosés, of course

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Another market day

Eastside Road, October 15, 2011—
AND IT WILL COME as no surprise that another market day brings another market menu. They have been consistent because we like the menu: it seems to exhibit Elective Affinities. But no matter how often we repeat the menu, each reiteration seems to have its variation.

Most notably today, Padrones peppers, grilled dry with salt in the black iron skillet, joined the tomatoes and lima beans on the plate; and the salmon is now Coho; the King salmon has run its season out. I prefer the King, but the Coho's not bad.

Afterward, a bit of chocolate. A nice supper for a late-season market day.
Salice Salentino, Epicuro, 2007

Friday, October 14, 2011

Encore en France

Eastside Road, October 14, 2011—
I CALL THIS SITE Eating Every Day, and for nearly 1200 days now I've been pretty faithful. But I find I've forgotten last night's dinner, and that's too bad, because it was particularly delicious. It involved a salad with tuna and greens, and then gnocchi alla Romana, which is not the usual gnocchi at all but rather a sort of polenta. Well, I'm sorry: you'll have to take my word for it. It was upstairs at Chez Panisse, and it was delicious. Afterward we went to Aurora Theater to see A Delicate Balance, and I'm afraid the play drove the details of dinner out of my memory.

Afterward I spent an hour or two in one of my favorite cities, Grenoble, with our two daughters, who seemed to have been in their 'teens, and the man who later became the husband of one of them. Lindsey was not there. We spent a bit of time driving, then walking, then riding trams; we were in cafés and restaurants and a particularly interesting musée de la cinéma.

I woke up speaking French for a few sentences, then dressed and walked a block or so — we'd been spending the night at a friend's in Berkeley — to get caffelattes and croissants. Later, we stumbled on a promising boulangerie* in San Francisco: lunch was a jambon-beurre, than which nothing is more French; and at teatime we had a couple of canalés. (Dinner, at home, was sort of French by way of the southeast: polenta, an egg, mushrooms.)

In the remote past I've been described, from time to time, as a francophile. I don't think I am, really, though I certainly respect the French intellectual and cultural heritage. My culinary allegiances are more toward Italy, as you may have noticed. But it may be time to get back to France for a while — though I'll have to put the actual physical transport off for a few months.
*Alas, the bread from that boulangerie turned out to be not as good as it had smelled.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pesto di Basilico

Eastside Road, October 12, 2011—
I'VE BEEN TRYING to think of just when it was we first ate pesto, and how we may have learned of it. Certainly I never had pesto in my childhood. We had garlic, of course, though usually in the form of garlic salt. (That in spite of the fact that Dad always good-naturedly scoffed at his brother-in-law the Hungarian George because when they met George worked in a "garlic factory" in Salinas, and was something of a social outcast.)

No: I'm sure I met pesto fairly early in my married life. I don't know if it was served in Lindsey's childhood: her father was born in Piemonte, not that far from pesto's Ligurian homeland, but I don't recall her mother ever cooking particularly Italian. We probably met pesto, Lindsey and I, through reading Elizabeth David. Or maybe a little earlier, from Irma Mazza: here is her Herbs for the Kitchen (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, the 1947 tenth printing), with Lindsey's name on the flyleaf, and the annotation "Christmas 1961." Two bookmarks: one for meat loaf; one for general pasta-cooking instructions. There in the index, though, is Pesto di Basilico, and the entry, on page 309, reminds me that our first involvement with pesto was as a garnish on minestrone, usually the canned minestrone from the Habitat label, as I recall.

Irma Mazza was a Berkeley girl, I read in a nice little piece online; early in our marriage she lived in a brown clapboard house on Walnut Street, only a block or so from Chez Panisse. We may have met her: I'm not sure. In addition to Herbs for the Kitchen she wrote an earlier cookbook, Accent on Seasonin: we have them both, consult them rarely if ever, would never part with them. In those days there were few cookbooks — Moe's used book store, for example, up on Telegraph Avenue, had only a small case, no bigger than the computer hutch I'm looking at at the moment; I'd check it every week or two, and if there were a cookbook there we didn't have, I'd buy it if I could. The result is in the photo above, which doesn't include the working books, the ones we actually do consult, which are in the kitchen. (One of these days I'll put a bibliography here; it might be amusing.)

Today we had fusilli con pesto, with basil from the garden — there's nothing like pesto made absolutely fresh. (The way I make it is described, with photos, here.) Alas we don't have our own pine nuts at the moment: maybe I'll try to harvest some next week. Mazza ignores them altogether, which is probably preferable to using those from China.
rillette.jpg  canteloupe.jpg
What else: Oh: lunch today: toast and those wonderful rillettes of Franco's, with celery and tomato; afterward, the last cantaloupe from the garden, one of the most flavorful we'd picked — and they were all full of flavor.
Tempranillo, Terranal (Yecla, Spain), 2010: a little coarse at first, but quickly ingratiating, sidling up to the garlic

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fruit fast

Eastside Road, October 11, 2011—
THERE'S JUST TOO MUCH fruit around here not to eat it, even if it is fasting Tuesday.
Today, for example, we picked the last of the Belle de Boskoop apples (there are a few Arkansas Blacks in the box too), and I couldn't resist one. It was as big as my fist, and I have a pretty big fist. It's a fine apple, a curious one for its yellowish flesh and complex, slightly musky flavor — though I'm pretty sure it's a relative of the Gravenstein I grew up with. says
Eaten fresh, Belle de Boskoop is quite a sharp apple. This and its large size makes it unsuitable as a snack apple, but it can be nice cut into slices to share after a meal.
Well, my snack was a meal. And later, Lindsey fixed another one: a fig — it's a poor year here for figs, but there are a few — and a couple of pears, as we have those to contend with too. Life is hard.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Lamb chops

Eastside Road, October 10, 2011—
Chicken, beef, or ham —
The one that tickles my palate the most
Is lamb, lamb, lamb…
So used to sing Virgil Thomson, and so sing we.

Pavel has his Sausage Dance: in his Slavic way, when sausage is served, and the spirit moves him, he will put the platter of sausage in the center, and form a ring around it with his family, and they will slowly dance around it, chanting Sau-sage, sausage, we are going to Eat You. Lindsey and I do not do this; it seems barbarous. But we do occasionally, when the spirit moves us, glance at one another over a lamb chop, each of us thinking of Virgil, and our Lamb Song is not always merely silent.

Our daughter-in-law is, I think, the chief stock person in her family; our son is too busy with other things to attend to the ongoing daily requirements of tending animals. Among their beasts are sheep, and now and then we're the beneficiaries. Today, for example, we had four delicious little lamb chops.

I salted them and sprinkled Herbes de Provence on them and a little dried lavender, and Lindsey broiled them in the oven - it was too murky and busy a day to build a fire outside. I'd cut a couple of potatoes into dice and cooked them in fairly deep olive oil, say halfway up the sides of the dice, until they were brown and crisp. Chard, as you see, from the garden.
Lamb, lamb, lamb
lamb-y lamb lamb
lamb, lamb, lamb
lamb-y lamb, lamb
Chateau de Voiture, 2005; Salice Salentino, 2007

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Eating casually

Eastside Road, October 9, 2011—
WE SORT OF FORGOT about getting around to dinner today. After a morning of work in the garden, we had a heartier lunch than usual, thanks to Franco's rillettes. L. refused to buy any of his sausages at the Healdsburg Farmers' Market yesterday, so I got a little tub of pork rillettes instead and they are delicious. With some nice fresh tomatoes, and a last slice of that Mace cake, and pears, they seemed to make a dinner.

Then I remembered we could catch a play in town at five o'clock. That knocked out my plans for dinner, which would have involved lamb chops and the grill — that'll have to wait until tomorrow. After the play, the evening handful of nuts, and carrots and celery cru, and nagelkaas on crackers with tomatoes on the side, and chocolate, and more pears from our generous trees, and even a fig, and we are stuffed.

Coteaux de Languedoc, Chateau La Roque, 2009 (soft but focussed, a little floral, nice body, long finish)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The usual salmon dinner

Eastside Road, October 8, 2011—
SATURDAY: FARMERS MARKET: salmon from Dave; lima beans from Nancy; tomatoes from Emmet, the neighbor.
Dave warned us that this might be the last of the King salmon for this year, and suggested we get one or two extra, since they freeze well. I thought about it, but then we said No, best to eat seasonally: and Dave was quick to agree. But I thought about this salmon today; we do tend to take it for granted these Saturdays. I'll miss it, of course, and wanted to treat this one with extra respect.

No fig leaves, then; no grape leaves: just grilled over charcoal and grapevine cuttings, and seasoned with salt and a little lemon juice. The flesh was cooked just as we like it, soft, rare, almost creamy. What a noble fish this is.


And how well it pairs with Nancy's the lima beans, buttery, a little chestnutty in texture, a little grassy. And then the tomatoes. The weather's been great, too; cold nights, cool mornings, but bright warm days. Indian summer. And Crane melon from Emmet, and a slice of Mace cake for dessert — what a fine day's eating.

Salice Salentino, Epicuro, 2007: well balanced and dependable

Friday, October 7, 2011

Girls' night out

Eastside Road, October 7, 2011—
NO PROBLEM, I SAID rashly; you go ahead and have a good time; I'll fix dinner. I was thinking of rib-eyes and such guy things, of course.

hotdog.jpgGood, she said; Thanks: there's hot dogs in the refrigerator, and buns.

Oh well: there was a promising ball game on television tonight; hot dogs are indicated. When the time came I went out and picked some lettuce and made the vinaigrette; when she showed up I made the Martinis and got the condiments ready.

Since I wash the dishes, when I cook hot dogs I don't use the broiler: I just heat up a black iron frying pan and cook them dry, laying the split buns on top to warm. Amora yellow mustard; Heinz tomato catsup; Vlasic pickle relish. Don't let anyone tell you we never eat commercial products.

Sliced onion and a leaf of romaine on the bun. Green salad after, and Crane melon from the neighbor.
Syrah, Chateau de Voiture 2005, Unti vineyard (sound, mature, fine varietal — almost a Vieux Télégraphe! — nothing to suggest it might have been a noncommercial production. Thanks, John.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Eating out

Eastside Road, October 6, 2011—
WE THOUGHT IT WAS TIME to try a nearby restaurant we've heard good things about. We'd been there before, months ago; it seemed promising, though not quite focussed. Tonight, as we stepped in from the parking lot, some of the problems began to come into focus. Fortunately, they were not culinary problems: they were architectural.

We were four, with a reservation. There wasn't an obvious host stand, but one clearly wasn't meant to grab a seat without first checking in. I looked toward the bar and caught someone's eye: he came forward, got our name, guided us to our end of a table capable of seating eight, with a couple already at one end.

I have nothing against common tables. I'd requested something quiet if possible, and these seats were in a corner of the dining room, relatively quiet. But I found the menu busy and confusing, and things just weren't dropping right. No one's fault but mine; but who wants to be put into that situation?

Still: we aren't here to criticize, or to complain, but to enjoy dinner. Lindsey and I ordered exactly alike: braised greens for an appetizer; roast chicken afterward. The greens were nice, with anchovy paste, Parmesan, and onions. The chicken was succulent and well flavored, nicely salted, plump; and served with nicely cooked little black figs and delicious duck-fat-sautéed potatoes.

Dessert: apple-quince "pie," cooked in a small ramekin — again, like the greens, slow-cooked and deeply flavored. The food was first-rate; the service intelligent and graceful; only something about the building itself kept this from being thoroughly enjoyable.
Arneis, Palmina (Santa Barbara county), 2009 (flinty, citric acid, thin at first but opening with food); Dolcetto d'Alba
• Peter Lowell's, 7385 Healdsburg Ave., Sebastopol; (707) 829-1077

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fusilli con pesto

Eastside Road, October 5, 2011—
BACK TO THE ICEBOX, as I call it, for dinner: the rest of the pesto. Fusilli, as I've noted before, are the perfect extruded pasta for trapping sauces, though I'm beginning to wonder if a flat pasta — tagliarini, say — wouldn't ease the process of distributing a clumping sauce like pesto throughout the dish.

You see the problem here. Well, pasta is like motorcycles and chess: it teaches patience. We had tomatoes, too, and a nice big green salad with just about the last of that delicious vinegar we've been enjoying, the one that had had sour cherries pickled in it. I'll have to get busy and make another batch; there are plenty of cherries in the freezer, and they'll be good with various holiday meals in the next couple of months.

We had another cantaloupe, too. I picked the next-to-last today; this one was picked a few days ago. They're not much bigger than a softball, and I'd thought they'd be losing flavor by this time. Not at all: this was one of the best of the crop.
Pinot grigio, “Grigio Luna,” Villa Borghetti, 2010 (When opened a couple of days ago I thought this dull and closed, lacking in both flavor and aroma; tonight the second half of the bottle seemed much better)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Eastside Road, October 4, 2011—
FAST TODAY: BUT as I mentioned a week or two ago, there's so much fruit around here we have to cheat a bit from time to time. Today is one of those times: in the late evening we ate a small cantaloupe from the garden.

I set out one plant, in early August I think it was, and we've eaten eight or ten melons from it. The first was, of course, about the best, and certainly the biggest; one by one the others have gotten smaller — but their flavor has held up remarkably well. Tonight's was quite delicious. I pick them when they fall away naturally from the stem; when too many come off at the same time, they seem to hold well in the refrigerator — good thing they're small!

The word “cantaloupe” seems to derive from the Italian town Cantalupo, a summer papal residence, as I understand it, outside Rome. (The Italian source of that name must be something like “wolf song,” or maybe “sing wolf”; I don't know what that would have to do with the Popes.) I suppose the odd English spelling has to do with our getting the word by way of France.

Cantaloupes are, of course, cucurbits, like squash and cucumbers and gourds; and that is a very interesting family. People have strong attitudes toward cucurbits. Years ago I read a book that investigates the extent to which those attitudes have influenced language: Ralf Norrman's Nature and Language: a semotic study of cucurbits in literature. As I read it I thought it the most tedious book I'd ever encountered, but a review on Librarything, that indispensable website, persuades me that I was inattentive and, as usual, humorless; perhaps I should take it up again:
The text includes eleven black-and-white plates as illustration, the references are copious and informative, and the material on cucurbits and courtship, ranging as it does through Tolstoy, Ken Kesey, and Dickens is indicative of a fascinating exploration of our human curiosity about the plant world and its incorporation into the works of creative imagination.


Eastside Road, October 3, 2011—
FIRST REAL RAIN of the season: Let's have soup. There's always a box of organic tomato soup in the pantry. With it, as you see, a little chard from the garden, and a slice of toast with a little olive oil and maybe a touch of garlic; afterward, a couple of slices of nagelkaas — what a nice supper. A glass of water: we're driving down to San Francisco this evening for a concert…

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Eastside Road, October 2, 2011—
RICE, PER SE, has never been one of my favorite dishes: but I do dearly love risotto, whose creaminess offsets the granular quality too easily overcoming rice cooked otherwise. Tonight Lindsey made a delicious risotto, flavored only with its onion soffrito, our almost-daily cheap Pinot grigio, and a little bit of saffron. With it, Franco's fine sausage — this time a “French-style” sausage, sweet and herbal, simply broiled in the oven.

I've written before about Elective Affinities. Sausage and tomatoes don't automatically describe that automatic kind of attraction — by “automatic” I mean an inherent, predestined, inescapable mutual leap, of the sort so beautifully described by Goethe's novel of that name (at least in English; I don't recall the original German title, but I think Elective Affinities is almost a literal translation). Tonight, though, that happened: the herbs in Franco's sausage and the peculiarly musky, complex flavors in the heritage tomato from up the road just hit it off from the cradle.

Dessert: an “Apple oven cake” from Sunset magazine (the recipe is here), made with a single Belle de Boskoop apple — we've picked a lot of apples from our trees these last few days. Belle is another complex of flavors, cider and musk, cinnamon and citrus; and she made a very nice cake, almost like a clafoutis, which is a very good thing indeed.
Cheap Nero d'Avola

Salmon redux

Eastside Road, October 1, 2011—
I COULD BE WRONG, but as I recall, in my childhood we tended to have repeat dinners. I can't be sure which day was which, but it was as if Mondays were macaroni and cheese, Tuesdays were chili and beans, Wednesdays were liver and onions, that sort of thing. Other standards returned frequently but not necessarily regularly: Swiss steak, roast leg of pork, some kind of fish. Never lamb: Dad hated lamb.

Some kind of fish, but what? Now and then, in season, surf fish: Dad or buddies of his would go out to the coast and net them. At other times, fish sticks of some kind.

We have salmon every weekend, in season, as I mentioned here last week. I know the regular return of this dinner makes for uninteresting reading, but it's not my intention here to interest anyone; I simply record things.
What varies here is the method by which the salmon is cooked. If I get around to it, which is rare, we'll cook it outside on the grill, over charcoal or, my favorite, grapevine cuttings, wrapped in fig or grape leaves or not. If I don't get around to it, now and then it might be poached: but usually Lindsey broils it. Always we have it with those delicious lima beans, because they and the salmon come from the same source, the Healdsburg Farmers' Market — which also, this time, supplied those tomatoes. I lovely summer supper, even if it is Fall.
Cheap Nero d'Avola