I’ve had a lot of heirloom apples at farmer’s markets in the past few years, but this gorgeous one escaped me until I did a West Coast road trip from Portland to San Francisco last week. It’s called a Surprise, and it turns out there’s a range of red-fleshed apples. Here are 9 other memorable foods from that trip:
-Pork chops from "hazelnut-finished" Tails & Trotter pigs at the culty, bold, communal-seating Beast restaurant in Portland. Staggeringly delicious meat—rich, complex, not gamey. Bottom line: what have we done to the poor, bland American pig?
-Roasted shallot vinaigrette at Tu Tu Tun Lodge on the Rogue river in Oregon. A dressing infused with a deep, sweet, roasted shallot flavor, over simple greens. When simple is good, it’s great—I’m trying to duplicate this in my kitchen right now.
-Pork chile rojo from Libby’s in Philo, Mendocino County. Slow-cooked pork in deeply flavorful red chile sauce, served with a nice glass of rosé: vin gris of pinot noir from the nearby Goldeneye winery. Savory, authentic Mexican food with local wines—zero pretension.
-“Root vegetables six ways” at Solage in Calistoga. Chef Brandon Sharp, who has worked with the likes of Thomas Keller and John Besh, is cooking precise, vivid but not fussy food at Solbar in the Napa Valley. His plate of turnips, celery root, parsnips et al, each cooked in a different way and presented as a composed plate, was exceptional.
-Wine grapes by the Sonoma roadside. The only grapes left to be picked were late-harvest zins, hanging black on the vine, little globes of concentrated California sunshine.
-Porter Creek Pinot Noir. From a small biodynamic winery perched on the western slopes of the Sonoma valley. Charming tasting room, charming staff, and perfectly balanced, true-to-the-fruit pinot noir. California winemakers are backing off on the oak and letting interesting grapes (viognier, carignane) play out in interesting wines.
-Open faced sandwich at Cap’n Mike’s Holy Smoke stand, Saturday farmer’s market, San Francisco. Thin-sliced tuna “lox” with cream cheese, walnuts and thinly sliced beets, on a slice of great bread: heaven.
-Aged goat cheese from Achadinha Cheese Company (based in Petaluma, eaten in San Francisco): Their “Capricious” cheese is aged over a year: hard, dry and crumbly, intensely goaty and caramelly, not too salty—what happens to pasty young chevre when it grows up and gets very, very wise.
-Risotto at Frances. From one of San Fran’s hottest restaurants, a reminder that risotto, done right, is far from the oversalty glop often served in restaurants: this was sweet from summer squash, earthy from butter-braised lobster mushrooms, and had the subtlest hint of saffron.