Archive for the ‘Meats’ Category

Sidewalk Postscript:

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

        Now I’m on the way to my favorite coffee house/sidewalk café in my neighborhood — not one of the big chain coffee houses! — because I have my usual afternoon date to scribble on paper napkins.

        Yes, the cocoa is lovely, those Moroccan fellows make the best this side of Cazenave in Bayonne; and you can order it in English, French or Arabic. But it’s this inscribing on napkins that matters: a book has to be conceived somehow. Well, the regulars are at the next tables, maintaining their privacy and observing mine. It’s study hall, of course, with medical and dental schools not far off; I suppose I might learn some anatomy if I listened carefully. But the confessions of lovers are more interesting.

        Then there’s the distinguished looking woman who works so assiduously on Greek. When she has fellow students of Plato at her side I call her group the Spanakopita Brigade.

        Meanwhile, on the high street, everything is as yesterday or tomorrow: one’s likely to run into Fred the Mahler-loving bookseller with the marvelous muscles, macho Dino the Greek will be eyeing the girls outside his pizzeria, the pleasant beggar will be saying “Greetings!” in a bright C major. Now if Chester the terrier is outside Peet’s it’s time for tea!

        I will cringe at the dental school security officer armed like a Task Force for an invasion by Buck Rogers and his Naughty Martians bent on stealing a drill or two, and I will pity the several madwomen of the neighborhood.

        But I’ll rejoice in discussing the state of the world with Phil the mellow maestro of pots-pans-nuts-bolts as he waters the plants outside his hardware store, I’ll kibbitz with the jolly butcher from Puglia who sells me sausages and lamb and seems to have sprung from a 1935 musical and doesn’t mind my flamboyant fractured Italian; and I might run into an elegant friend with a zesty poodle who announces in quietly imperial tones, “I’m taking you to lunch”.   

        I will, in short, enjoy my Upper Fillmore.

Postscript by the Sea:

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

gt61_corsica_ferry.jpg

        On the high-speed boat from Nice to Corsica — the name of the line, amazingly enough, is Ferryterranée — you stand at the stern and watch the fast boil of the ferry’s wake. Spray and a meridional hypnosis are your portion in this Mediterranean surround. Thanks to the curvature of the earth the boat seems to be scratching an incision down the middle of a great blue egg laid flat as a Dutch landscape. The sky, of course, has become a dome; the French coast is disappearing.

        We traveled to Corsica to visit Henri Blumenfeld, Monsieur l’Inspecteur I call him, because he looks like a seasoned Maigret. Henri had the good sense to buy a vacation home overlooking the elegant bay of Calvi, a pristine crescent that reminds me of Carmel-by-the-Sea only there’s a fortress at its head instead of Point Lobos, and the mountains surveying the scene, with a toy train rattling by down near Lumio plage, are considerably more heroic than any hillside the Monterey Peninsula can muster. No highway in sight is wider than two lanes: this is a time-warp isle, a mystery even to savvy travel agents.

        Henri also had the good sense to marry Marie Jacqueline who’s a keen chef as well as the superb designer and custodian of a bougainvillaea and cactus-stuffed jardin. Thanks to her I can tell you about a symphony of gastronomic browns providing a footnote to our Daube recipe several pages back.

gt62_lunch.jpg        Marie Jacqueline dished up a daube featuring sanglier, that’s wild boar, marinating it in red wine, garlic, shallots and local herbs, and cooking it long and well, without tomatoes you should note. M.J.’s harmonizations for this aromatic stew were the biggest cannellini beans I’ve seen yet, surpassing, I believe, their Oakland Greek counterparts, and chestnuts simply taken from the tin and boiled to perfection.

        The warm, gently humid air on Henri’s terrace was superb, the company, including son Alexis, a marine biologist of a lyrical turn, excellent, the sunset a gorgeous rose, the Paris plane landed neatly in the distance, a ferry eyed its dock across the bay, the toy train mumble-rumbled by on schedule near crisp-cut little houses straight out of Cézanne, and, as Henri observed of it all, “C’est presque trop parfait.” But only almost too perfect!

        . . . Then it was back to Nice, the crossing too rough for a passenger to conjure metaphors, and home to San Francisco where, at ebullient Plouf, I was seduced by an upwardly mobile but not too chi-chi Salade Niçoise, perhaps the most elegant in my experience while retaining bistro status. To “duplicate” it you could begin with our Salade Niçoise but for the tuna element employ seared ahi slices, for the olive component tapenade toasts with their caper-accented spread, and weave through the lot strands of poached fennel. And where is the book on 100 Salades Niçoises?

        In Corsica I asked Henri (as I had other of the several European cousins I know on the Jewish side of my much-researched family tree – I seem, by the way, as what you might call an “artistic type” to identify much more with my Jewish half, although I was very close to my mother), at any rate I asked Henri how his immediate family had survived the Second World War in Paris, and he told me he and his siblings were distributed among several Catholic schools where, more or less as in a Louis Malle film, they sank into the Aryan woodwork.

        Matthias my Berlin Blumenfeld cousin told me “a good German” saved his grandfather back in the 30s and Matthias’ uncle went on to be a distinguished diplomat in Willy Brandt’s post-war government.

        In Holland my cousin Rob, the grandson of Freud’s larger-than-life colleague and eventual “victim” ViktorTausk (they had a disagreement and Viktor committed suicide) told me his Viennese father, working in Holland when the Nazis arrived, had to produce his pedigree, and when Marius Tausk’s lawyer back in Vienna tallied it up as extrmely damning from the Nazis’ point of view, Marius wired his lawyer, “That cookie recipe you sent me is not quite to my taste, would you send me another?”

        But we’ve gotten a long way from Corsica . . .

DINNER AT ALEX’S (OR RANCH-STYLE LAMB CHOPS)

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

        In 1986 we discovered Templeton, a short rise out of Paso Robles on U.S. 101, sleepy, oak-lined, a cross between artistic and hick, with Dianne Garth’s charminggt60_country_house_inn_templeton.jpg inn (whimpering closet doors, croaking loo, magnificent breakfasts, the sound at night of long freight trains rumbling clumsily down from the Cuesta Pass) and a down-home restaurant, Alex’s BBQ, where we ate our California “ranch” dinners, specialty of the region with their celery, olives and crackers, creamy croutonned salad and a main course of grilled meat, potatoes of choice, beans, salsa, garlic bread and, if baked potatoes were ordered, sour cream as well.

        I always ordered french fries, and borrowed Anne’s sour cream for them, applying the all-purpose salsa to sweetbreads or chops. Alex’s, alas, no longer graces Templeton, and to recreate a feed in the spirit, at least, of this engaging eatery I propose the adjacent Easy Ranch Dinner . . .

        The sequel to the above is that as this book headed toward the press we lunched at the original Alex’s, a mother church as it were of Santa Maria style barbecue at Shell Beach. This is a small resort south of San Luis Obispo with tawny hills bearing down on it like the landscape equivalents of mother hens — and it’s the neighbor, by the way, of the town whose name inspired W.C. Fields to add to his two-legged menagerie Mr. A. Pismo Clam.

        Not only were the beef ribs absolutely comme il faut but our sweet-as-apple-pie waitress also served us an excellent deep fried calamari steak, surf schnitzel in other words, breaded to the nines but not overbearingly so and accompanied by an uncloying tartar sauce any city-slicker chef would have been proud of. Well, I intoned, this is one of the three best restaurants between Silicon Valley and Santa Barbara along 101 and our waitress had to agree.

        But hold the ketchup — that “barbarous adjunct” as the impish Miss Toklas would say.

 

1. Fry some good lamb chops that you’ve marinated in a little olive oil.

2. Boil until nearly done some sliced potatoes, then sauté them slowly in a large pan with a little butter, turning them often to achieve an even browning — these are, in other words, our “broasted potatoes.”

3. Buy some good quality bottled salsa for the chops, sour cream for the potatoes, and warm a can of upscale kidney or black beans.