Nov
15
2013

Bibliophile

Notable Food Books of 2013

Article by Virginia Miller

2012 was an excellent year in cookbooks, holding in its months treasures like Nancy Singleton Hachisu’s inspiring Japanese Farm Food, Lonely Planet’s comprehensive Food Lover’s Guide to the World, the Middle Eastern mash-up from Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem, Photographer Todd Selby’s artful masterpiece, Edible Selby, or Magnus Nilsson’s fairytale ode to rustic Swedish cooking, Faviken.

2013 has likewise been a rewarding year in food books. Here are some of the best of 2013, whether cookbooks or non-fiction reads, many of them just out this fall or about to be released.

Books

INSIDE the CALIFORNIA FOOD REVOLUTION – Joyce Goldstein with Dore Brown

Goldstein BookI couldn’t be more proud to be a Californian reading Joyce Goldstein’s, Inside the California Food Revolution, a well-documented account of the way California cuisine of the past 40+ years has changed the way the country – and the world – eats. This isn’t merely research, however. Goldstein has lived it, being a pioneer with her restaurant, Square One (and subsequent James Beard award). Goldstein offers bios and background on a large array of influential chefs through recent decades, from Alice Waters and Susan Feniger, to Charles Pham and Wolfgang Puck. From Los Angeles to San Francisco, she digs into California’s influence on the way the country uses produce, approaches seasonality, empowers female chefs, its food purveyors and farmers, open kitchen cooking, casual quality dining, and countless other ways California shaped the nation’s restaurant revival by establishing trends over the past 40 years.

SAN FRANCISCO: A Food Biography – Erica J. Peters

SF A Food BiographyErica Peters’ San Francisco: A Food Biography is a detailed account of aspects of SF’s food history that aren’t often explored. Instead of highlighting hot chefs, restaurants, producers and movements of recent decades – a worthy subject often covered – Peters takes a historian’s longview. She delves into characters, restaurants and ethnic groups that shaped the city’s vibrant food culture back to Gold Rush days, and even before. Peters digs into signature recipes created here, markets, restaurants and retailers that made us a culinary destination over a century ago, even listing menus and recipes from historic restaurants and local cookbooks. The chapter detailing influential cookbooks from 1872 to the 1970′s is particularly fascinating. This book is a must for hardcore Bay Area food lovers/historians.

ANYTHING THAT MOVES: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture – Dana Goodyear

Anything That MovesAn enjoyable read I sped through in a couple sittings, Anything That Moves by So Cal-based Dana Goodyear, chronicles the foodie renaissance as we know it, the worldwide obsession with food, how it affects food journalism today (as detailed in the first chapter on revered LA food writer Jonathan Gold), the pursuit of extremes (insect, guts, blood) by hardcore foodies, or hunting for the rarest of products and edible parts by purveyors and dealers. Possibly the most rousing chapters are “Double Dare” and “Haute Cuisine”, delving into the complex subject of how much or if the government should be involved in telling us what we are allowed to eat. Bringing contextual perspective to the rise in “foodie-ism”, Goodyear quotes “a guy named Thad” in the introduction, who she dines with in LA. She says, “So is foodie-ism greed or resourcefulness? If it were a matter of survival, there would be no difference. But this movement is about pleasure – pleasure heightened at the brink calamity. Thad flashed a bright white smile and said, ‘If this is the end of the world, give me a fork and a knife.’”

Cookbooks

COI: Stories & Recipes – Daniel Patterson

CoiIt’s hard not to be inspired when glancing through the pages of Daniel Patterson’s ode to food, Northern California and his famed restaurant, Coi (with forewords by Harold McGee and Peter Meehan). The opening section (appropriately titled “California”) displays stirring photos of farms, ocean waves and San Francisco fog, while section two thoroughly outlines Coi kitchen techniques and practices. The book displays Patterson’s signature purity with regional ingredients like spot prawns and Monterey Bay abalone, or unusual combinations like carrots roasted in coffee beans, accented by mandarin oranges and mint. Interesting desserts include coal-toasted lime marshmallow or a beet rose with rose petal ice. Butter, cheeses and mushrooms are explored to an artful degree, all interspersed with minimalist yet compelling photography.

MANRESA: An Edible Reflection – David Kinch with Christine Muhlke

ManresaTwo Michelin-star powerhouse, Manresa, has been one of the Bay Area’s best fine dining restaurants since 2002. In his just released coffee table book (foreword by Eric Ripert), Chef David Kinch explores the best of his restaurant’s decade-plus history, from launching their produce supplier, Love Apple Farms, to produce illustrations and ingredients glossary. The book explores the complex, understated recipes of Manresa, whether cioppino jelly, fig and wild fennel confit, or smoked avocado ceviche. There’s also a drinks section of Manresa cocktail recipes and their house Chartreuse. The book is inspiring to page through, illuminating food, seafood, meat and produce as art form.

TREME: Stories & Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans – Lolis Eric Elie

TremeThis one was a shoo-in for me: both as an ode to the show, Treme, and to the city that haunts my dreams, New Orleans. Treme staff writer/story editor Lolis Eric Elie’s cookbook Treme is a tribute to one of the great food cities on earth. He offers background on numerous Nola chefs (such as John Besh, Susan Spicer, Leah Chase, Donald Link) as he shares some of their classic and forward-thinking recipes. There are also New Orleans-inspired recipes from famed NY chefs like David Chang and Eric Ripert, who have appeared on the show. Elie delves into regional specialties like yaka mein or the calas, legendary recipes like La Spiga’s buttermilk biscuits, and a section on classic and modern cocktail recipes from Nola greats like Chris McMillian, Chris Hannah, and Wayne Curtis.

SMOKE & PICKLES: Recipes & Stories from a New Southern Kitchen – Edward Lee

Smoke and PicklesFrom my favorite chef in Louisville, KY, in the entire South, Edward Lee, comes Smoke & Pickles, a tribute to his Korean American heritage, Brooklyn roots, and Southern restaurants. His Louisville restaurants feature forward-thinking Southern-Asian cuisine, putting him in the class of Roy Choi and David Chang when it comes to reinventing traditional cuisines, and marrying East and West in playful ways. As Lee notes, “My Korean forefathers’ love of pickling is rivaled only by Southerner’s love of pickling.” He explores all manner of meats, vegetables, bourbon cocktails, and, of course, pickling (like pickled jasmine peaches). Intriguing recipes fill the pages, whether Kentucky fried quail with Sczechuan peppercorns, soy and Chinese five-spice, Cola ham hocks with miso glaze, or tamarind-strawberry-glazed ham. Lee’s recipes are what I want to eat (yes to a rice bowl of sushi-grade raw tuna, avocado, pork rinds, jalapeno remoulade!), and even just reading through them inspires me with ideas. Save room for Togarashi cheesecake, which he serves at his newest restaurant, Milkwood.

PICKLES, PIGS & WHISKEY: Recipes from My Three Favorite Food Groups – John Currence

pickles pigs whiskeyI concur with this subtitle. These all important food groups are done justice by New Orleans native, Oxford, Mississippi resident, and James Beard-winning chef, John Currence in Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey. With irreverent playfulness he encourages us to drink while cooking and make sure we put on some good tunes. The joy of soulful cooking comes through in recipes, starting off right with a cocktail section, then moving on to boiling and simmering (stocks, soups and stews), pickling and canning, slathering, squirting and smearing (sauces), curing, preserving and stuffing (sausage and meats), frying (from pimento cheese fritters to Coca Cola-fried chicken thighs), and so on, ending with baking and spinning (pork fat beignets with bourbon caramel!) It’s a mouthwatering book exuding all the lusty joy of modern Southern cooking.

A WORK IN PROGRESS: Journal, Recipes & Snapshots – René Redzepi

Rene RedzepiIn a three part format of books in understated shades of green held together like a satchel of schoolbooks, René Redzepi keeps it straightforward with his new release, A Work in Progress. As an avid journaler since girlhood and one who loves to read journals, my favorite part of this collections is the refreshingly honest journal, which Redzepi committed to writing for a year to explore the challenge of pushing to greater creativity once named the world’s best restaurant. The mini-snapshot album is a mix of fun, frank photos of Noma staff exploits, dishes and visits from other chefs. The larger, hardback Noma Recipes book is another artful beauty from Phaidon (not unlike Faviken last year). It inspires with minimalist photos of animals, plants, and pure, impressive dishes, like silken fresh cheese accented by caramelized beech leaves and rye crumble.

I LOVE NY: Ingredients and Recipes – Daniel Humm and Will Guidara

I Love NYDaniel Humm and Will Guidara (Executive Chef and GM of Eleven Madison Park, also opened The NoMad) attempt the complicated: defining New York cuisine in their thick, 500 page tome, I Love NY. Going through ingredients alphabetically, from cucumbers and onions to trout and pork, they combed New York farms and food producers for made-in-New-York products and home grown ingredients, informing a dense collection of recipes and producer/farm bios, evocatively and warmly photographed. Whether crafting a celery root risotto, beer-battered apples, or a schnitzel sandwich, it’s the ethos stated in “How to Use This Book” that will strike a chord with food lovers: “Unless otherwise noted: Milk is whole, Cream is heavy, Eggs are large… Wine is dry… Herbs are fresh.”

IN THE CHARCUTERIE: The Fatted Calf’s Guide to Making Sausage, Salumi, Pates, Roasts, Confits, and Other Meaty Goods – Taylor Boetticher and Toponia Miller

In the CharcuterieHusband/wife team behind San Francisco and Napa’s Fatted Calf, Taylor Boetticher and Toponia Miller, have written In the Charcuterie, an artful guide to all things charcuterie and beyond, including what to do with drippings and broth, and how to make sausages and terrines. There are step-by-step photos on deboning birds, game, pigs, lamb, cows, plus best knives, meat sources, and a wide range of recipes from rabbit porchetta to goat shoulder birria.

ROOT to STALK COOKING: The Art of Using the Whole Vegetable – Tara Duggan

Root to StalkSF local and Chronicle writer Tara Duggan’s Root to Stalk Cooking is a useful compendium of recipes utilizing produce that is often thrown on the scrap heap. Fresh, easy to follow recipes jump out in sections like Roots (beet greens strata), Leaves (chard stalk hummus), Seeds (pea pod pudding), or Bulbs and Stems (celery slaw with apple peel and ginger dressing). This is approachable, everyday cooking that is healthy but not lacking in mouth-watering recipes (and photos).

ONE GOOD DISH: The Pleasure of a Simple Meal – David Tanis

One Good DishWith a simple purity that goes back to his decades as chef at Chez Panisse, David Tanis explores the glories of condiments, garlic toast, and food-in-bowls in his latest, One Good Dish, released in late October. With a global sensibility, he roams dishes that home cooks can prepare given quality ingredients, whether Moroccan carrots (mashed and inflected with cumin, garlic, ginger, cayenne, preserved lemon), or ham and Gruyere bread pudding using day-old bread (he’s big on the glories of bread, the first section entitled “Bread Makes the Meal”, highlights many uses of stale bread). Just try to resist James Cagney Egg-in-a-Hole, a slice of rustic bread cooked in a skillet with an egg in the center.

Written by in: Bibliophile |
Sep
01
2013

Bibliophile

Best Drink Books of 2013

Article by Virginia Miller

Here are some of the best or noteworthy drink books released this year so far, with one (Whiskey Women) out in October 2013.

THE COCKTAIL LAB – Tony Conigliaro ($29.99)

Tony Conigliaro BookLondon’s experimental cocktail genius, Sicilian Tony Conigliaro, blessed drink aficionados with his book, Drinks, last year in the UK, just released this summer in the US under the name, The Cocktail Lab: Unraveling the Mysteries of Flavor and Aroma in Drink, with Recipes. Updated with ounce measurements for an American audience, the artful book captures an intense level of experimentation that has made Conigliaro the Ferran Adria of cocktails, Adria being one of the chefs Conigliaro visited and learned from in his early days of research.

Conigliaro presents approachable recipes and alternatives for those who don’t possess sous vide, Rotavapor or centrifuge equipment he often works with. In fact, The Cocktail Lab is a fascinating read because of Conigliaro’s scientific and culinary research. Whether exploring the oft neglected realm of aroma with peer Audrey Saunders or learning from the great restaurants of the world (like Adria’s El Bulli or England’s The Fat Duck), his level of analysis is meticulous. He pushes the boundaries of what drink can be, delving into flavor, aroma and liquid form in unequaled ways.

He founded one of the most exciting bar menus in the world at 69 Colebrooke Row and later Zetter Townhouse, two of my favorite bars in London. I’ll never forget my visit to Drink Factory, his experimental lab in Pink Floyd’s old recording studio. Just as in a visit to his lab, his book delves into straightforward-yet-complex recipes, like a sweet broiled lemon margarita or a white truffle martini. Conigliaro explores texture and taste, whether working with seaweed in a Dirty Martini by the Sea, or taking on the greatest brunch cocktail, a Ramos Gin Fizz, moving it in new directions with Italian almond milk and maraschino liqueur.

The Cocktail Lab won Best New Cocktail/Bartending Book at Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards this July, being the kind of book that inspires just by glancing through it. It also remains a useful compendium of intricate yet approachable (often no more than three ingredients) cocktails.

The DRUNKEN BOTANIST: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks – Amy Stewart ($19.95)

Drunken BotanistA book that has taken cocktail and spirits geeks by storm this year, The Drunken Botanist, is Amy Stewart’s impressive tome to all things herbal and botanical, a detailed walk through history, uses, and engaging stories of plants, fruits and vegetables used to make alcohol.

From apple varietals used for cider to a thorough exploration of gin botanicals, Stewart uncovers plants with a botanist’s eye and a cocktail/spirit lovers’ appreciation. In fact, Stewart succeeds in writing a book more comprehensive than any yet seen on the subject, while keeping a lighthearted tone that offers something for a wide range of readers, from budding bartender to lifelong gardener and herb grower. No wonder it’s a New York Times bestseller.

WHISKEY WOMEN – Fred Minnick ($26.95)

Whiskey WomenFred Minnick’s Whiskey Women attempts what the group Bourbon Women seeks to achieve: “… to take back something they [women] had lost – a lady’s rightful place in whiskey history.”

Going back to the Sumerian women who invented beer, and the Egyptian woman who created the alembic still, Minnick confirms that women have been behind the greatest strides in alcohol – without receiving credit for it. Well-researched stories from hundreds of years back are fascinating tales of innovation, oppression, corruption and pioneering acts initiated by or inflicted on women in the name of alcohol.

Minnick digs into “tough Irish” and “aquavit-women” with respectful attention. There are stories of women-run distilleries like the very successful Mary Jane Blair Distillery, and of female moonshiners and outlaws, distilling since their teens.  No account of alcohol and women could leave out Prohibition, largely aided by the suffrage movement in reaction to rampant poverty, crime and debauchery often traced to alcoholic husbands. Minnick contrasts Temperance Women with a chapter, Women Moonshiners and Bootleggers, a riveting expose of women who kept booze alive during Prohibition. He comes full circle with Repeal Women Saving Whiskey, telling the story of Pauline Sabin, a Prohibition supporter who ended up being a crucial figure in its repeal.

Modern day whisk(e)y is not neglected, with stories of female master blenders (like Rachel Barrie, Helen Mulholland, Angela D’Orazio), executives and business women, or The First Lady of Scotch, Bessie Williamson, a secretary at Laphroaig who saved the distillery from military takeover and was instrumental in ushering in the demand for single malt vs. blends.

Whiskey Women brings praise and acknowledgement where it is due. Coming from a male writer, it speaks even louder, an enjoyable read of thoughtfully-assembled facts and stories illuminating the forgotten women of apothecaries and distilleries past.

AMERICAN WINE: The Ultimate Companion to the Wines & Wineries of the United States – Jancis Robinson & Linda Murphy ($50)

American WineA lovely coffee table book, American Wine explores the US wine revolution of the past few decades. Wineries across the country are grouped by region. In keeping with volume, quality and influence, the book certainly dominates in California, Oregon, and Washington, but covers winemakers from New York’s Finger Lakes to Hawaii.

With over 7,000 American wine producers today (merely 440 in 1970), British writer Jancis Robinson and Sonoma-based Linda Murphy, deftly weave through key moments in US wine history and noteworthy wineries via photos, 54 maps, bios, and stories. Robinson is the writer of The Oxford Companion to Wine and The World Atlas of Wine, while Murphy was the wine editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and New York Times‘ wine website, so one can be assured of an expert exploration of American wine with global perspective.

Photo: anillustratedguidetococktails.com

Photo: anillustratedguidetococktails.com

AN ILLUSTRATED GUIDE to COCKTAILS: 50 Classic Cocktail Recipes, Tips and Tales – Orr Shtul, Illustrations by Elizabeth Graeber ($20)

With whimsical artwork and a humorous, conversational tone, An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails ($20) is a fun, almost childlike, little guide to classic cocktail basics.

For the advanced fan, there are few new recipes or discoveries, and yet it’s an enjoyable collection and reminder of cocktail lore for the expert, as it is a useful compilation and introduction for the novice.

The illustrations and playful tone make cocktail history and education in staple recipes a pleasure.

THE CRAFT of GIN – Aaron J. Knoll & David T. Smith ($25)

CraftofGinCoverThe Craft of Gin ($21.25) is a useful overview of all things gin, from digging into typical botanicals used and where they’re sourced around the globe, to tasting notes on many craft gins from the US, UK and beyond.

Knoll and Smith study gin methodically and rigorously, exploring hundreds of gins in their websites, The Gin is In (Knoll) and Summer Fruit Cup (Smith). Besides an overview of gin history, they also interview a number of gin distillers of small, craft brands, and there’s a section on gin’s favorite companion, tonics.

Written by in: Bibliophile | Tags: ,
Sep
01
2012

Bibliophile

Fall Food & Drink Book Recommendations

Article by Virginia Miller

These six noteworthy new books are either just released or out this fall.

THE BLUE BOTTLE CRAFT of COFFEE: Growing, Roasting, and Drinking, with Recipes – James Freeman, Caitlin Freeman, Tara Duggan

Since its first kiosk in January 2005, Blue Bottle has been my first choice in coffee, from ethos (served immediately, individually, beans sold fresh after roasting) to taste. Musician James Freeman dove into coffee after being laid off from a corporate job post-9/11… the story of how he began is inspiring in the Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee book intro. Written with his wife, Caitlin, and James Beard-nominated food writer Tara Duggan, photography by Clay McLachlan illustrates sections on global growing regions, roasting, cupping, pour-over, siphon, espresso machines, and other techniques. Caitlin, resident Blue Bottle pastry chef and former owner of Miette, contributes over 75 pages of recipes – not so much utilizing coffee, but breakfast recipes “with morning coffee” from Blue Bottle cafes, desserts and treats “for dunking”, and contributing chef friends’ recipes like Stuart Brioza’s (State Bird Provisions) tuna melt with piquillo peppers. Though Blue Bottle has now gone nationwide with NYC locations, in these pages one waxes nostalgic over this Bay Area success story bringing us all better coffee. Released October 9.

DESTINATION COCKTAILS: The Traveler’s Guide to Superior Libations – James Teitelbaum

Chicago resident James Teitelbaum wrote the kind of book I would happily write, the first I’ve seen of its kind detailing the best craft cocktail bars globally. Destination Cocktails is a cocktail aficionado’s trusty guide to destinations in obvious places like NY and SF, to less obvious towns such as Reno and Cleveland. Internationally, the book covers the gamut from Wellington to Edinburgh (the latter city missing Bon Vivant and Ranconteur). There’s a few missing greats but like restaurants, information from bartenders to owners can change so quickly after publication. Despite those challenges, Teitelbaum gives a comprehensive collection that would set any budding or well-traveled cocktailian on the right path. From London (Worship St. Whistling Shop, 69 Colebrooke Row) to Denver (Williams & Graham), many of my global tops are highlighted, alongside cities/bars I’ve been hankering visit (ah, Tokyo!) Released September 1.

SPQR: Modern Italian Food & Wine – Shelley Lindgren & Matthew Accarrino with Kate Leahy

A beautiful, visual tribute to Italy, restaurant SPQR releases a book by its wine director, Shelley Lindgren (also of A16), and executive chef, Matthew Accarrino with Kate Leahy. The book features eight regions of Italy, each influencing creative recipes from SPQR‘s kitchen and from which Lindgren chooses wines. Her essays explore lesser known producers and varietals succinctly but with depth. Accarrino’s artful skill with Italian cuisine (which we thankfully can enjoy at SPQR) may not appear easy for most of us, but there are tips and photo breakdowns of recipes, small animal butchery and pasta-making. Photos by Sara Remington inspire with a romantic eye tempered by realism. Released October 16.

FORAGED FLAVOR: Finding Fabulous Ingredients in Your Backyard or Farmer’s Market – Tama Matsuoka Wong with Eddy Leroux

At a recent intimate gathering at Coi, I was privileged to spend time with Tama Matsuoka Wong, forager for Daniel restaurant in NYC (Daniel Boulud wrote the book’s forward), sampling bites made with ingredients she’d foraged with Coi staff while visiting the Bay Area. We celebrated her new book Foraged Flavor, out this summer, and I learned of her career change from lawyer to forager in New Jersey (my former stomping grounds), where her three daughters are involved in her foraging, cooking lifestyle. The book’s clean, classic layout shows of botany-style plant diagrams, seasonal groupings, and approachable-but-gourmet recipes like dandelion leaves with poached eggs and bacon. There’s foraging and growth tips and key characteristics of each wild plant, further spreading the foraging gospel.

COOKING OFF THE CLOCK: Recipes from My Downtime – Elizabeth Falkner

Longtime local chef Elizabeth Falkner recently moved to NYC, and though we miss her here, thankfully the Top Chef Master star, who was just shooting the upcoming season of The Next Iron Chef, released her second book this week (August 28th). As a James Beard-nominated pastry chef, her first book, Demolition Desserts, focused on the sweet side, while new Cooking Off the Clock is a volume of everyday, accessible recipe favorites. There’s sections on condiments (kimchee to tahini sauce), flavorful salads, playful snacks (three types of hot wings: Moroccan, Tabasco-honey, black bean-sesame-ginger), starches (noodles, pasta, grains, rice, main courses, like an old school beef stroganoff), a few of her beloved desserts (two versions of cherry pie), and pizzas, including her amazing pastrami pizza -like a Reuben pie, Russian dressing, shredded cabbage, thinly-sliced pastrami, and all – which I never forgot from her restaurant Orson and to which other versions have not compared.

DAILY DECADENCE: The Art of Sensual Living – Sherri Dobay

Sherri Dobay’s voice in the new Daily Decadence feels like a kindred spirit… though young, her romantic, sensual verbiage communicates that “old soul”, the kind of view with which I’ve seen the world since girlhood. For her, it’s through food, wine, art, nature, horses (she’s a rider). For me, it’s a dozen other ways, but the voice is inspiring as it is comforting. More memoir than cookbook, and formatted as such so harder to open up while working in the kitchen, recipes are not as much the draw as overall tone, with sections grouped around decadence (Divine Decadence, Decadent Simplicity, Decadence of the Seasons, Decadence of Letting Go) and wine recommends explored from a right-brain perspective rather than analytical tasting notes. Reading bits and pieces of the book at a time is like a sip of crisp, refreshing wine.

Written by in: Bibliophile |
Jul
01
2012

Bibliophile

My Latest Food Book Recommendations

These eight books are new spring releases, among the best of what has landed on my desk this year.

TRADITIONAL DISTILLATION: ART & PASSION – Huber Germain-Robin

Anyone who knows US craft distilling knows Hubert Germain-Robin, one of the pioneers in the American craft distilling movement. He was making world class, French-style brandies (he is French, after all) since the early ’80′s right here in Northern California at Germain-Robin, which he co-founded, an example to generations after him of what true, elegant brandies should be. As he states in the introduction, “When I came to California in 1981, I realized the unbelievable potential of the New World, with such diversity in grape varietals, microclimates, and less demanding restrictions than there are in France”.

He just released his first book, Traditional Distillation, and, as the inside cover states, it’s an ode to the “passion, art and poetry” behind distillation. I’ve seen a few (there’s really not many) technical distillation books that get into still types or cutting the “heads and tails” of a distillation batch. Germain-Robin’s book (the first in a series of books on brandy production) is a thoughtful essay, covering the technical but doing so in an artistic, poetic way. The book boasts an Old World, classic look, delving into the philosophy behind distillation as much as process. A romantic sensibility pervades this book and passion speaks from the pages – there is even poetry and classic art included, doing justice to the reason people like myself (one who rarely had a drink in younger years), fell in love with the artisan craft and history behind distillation. It’s a short, succinct book, but a unique one. Hubert captures the beauty of the craft, giving concrete advice for would-be distillers everywhere, ensuring that his incredible knowledge and legacy is shared with many more.

THE ART OF FERMENTATION – Sandor Ellix Katz

Just released June 12, The Art of Fermentation (with forward by none other than Michael Pollan) is sure to be the gold standard on fermentation. Katz published Wild Fermentation in 2003, at the time dubbed the “fermenting bible” by Newsweek. As the press release states for his new, elegantly understated book, he now has an additional decade of experimentation behind this one. The first book of its kind, it contains recipes, yes, but ultimately is a 400+ page textbook on all things fermentation, its history and processes, and DIY steps in a range of categories from meads, wines and ciders to meat, fish and eggs. There’s plenty of study material for food and drink folk alike, whether an extensive section on sour tonic beverages (from kombucha to kvass) or details on fermenting beans, seeds and nuts. Katz’ book makes me want to start fermenting my own potato beer immediately.

TAKE AWAY – Photographs & Text by Jean-Francois Mallet

A favorite of recent books is Take Away – with no words other than photo captions. Released in the US this April (first released in France in 2009), this beauty of a book is a virtual escape around the world, immersing the reader in street foodscapes and dishes from Shanghai to the Ukraine. Be forewarned: perusing this book is difficult on an empty stomach. And for those of us who thrive on travel and exploring every nook and cranny of a city or region, Mallet’s approachable, street savvy photography also induces travel lust.

CINDY’S SUPPER CLUB: Meals from Around the World to Share with Family and Friends – Cindy Pawlcyn

Cindy Pawlcyn is one of California’s trailblazing chefs, aiding Napa in becoming a dining destination when opening Mustard’s Grill nearly 30 years ago along with subsequent restaurants, like Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen. She’s written a few cookbooks, but I particularly enjoy her newest, out this May: Cindy’s Supper Club. A book based on favorite international recipes prepared in her supper clubs with friends, the recipes span the globe from Russia and Hungary to Lebanon, Peru, Korea. Cindy’s intros to each selected country and recipe feel comfortable, like a chef chatting about their travels and technique as you sit with them in their kitchen. Though recipes tend toward the heartwarming, soulful kind, many list more than ten ingredients and aren’t exactly simple. But for cooks ready to try something new yet not fussy, adventure lies within these pages, whether Flemish meatloaf in spicy tomato gravy or white gazpacho (made of white bread, milk, almonds, garlic, olive oil, sherry vinegar) with peeled white grapes.

PLATS DU JOUR: the girl & the fig’s Journey Through the Seasons in Wine Country – Sondra Bernstein

Just see if you don’t long to move to Sonoma after spending time with Plats du Jour, a large, photographic book capturing Sonoma’s vibrancy. With a range of recipes from Sondra Bernstein’s beloved girl and the fig duo and Italian restaurant, Estate, the book journeys well beyond recipes. Sectioned by seasons, there’s highlights on wine, cheese, and produce, pairing possibilities, origins of foods, cocktail hour menus, and seasonal menus to recreate at home. Interspersed throughout are drink recipes, such as the perennially popular lavender mojito from girl and the fig. Photos and stories of trailblazing Sonoma farmers keep the reader rooted to a sense of place. Though the variety of info might initially seem disparate, it weaves into an inspiring whole urging one to seek out ingredients from their own farmers markets and entertain or cook inspired by the invigorating spirit behind Bernstein’s book and the artisans of Sonoma.

SWEET CREAM & SUGAR CONES – Kris Hoogerhyde, Anne Walker, Dabney Gough

Bi-Rite’s ice cream essentially needs no introduction. For those in San Francisco, it’s already an institution. For foodies nationally, the beloved market’s ice cream has been written up in most national food magazines, among the best ice creameries in the country. Thankfully this spring, founders Anne Walker and Kris Hoogerhyde, along with writer Dabney Gough, have released a book, Sweet Cream & Sugar Cones, sharing many of Bi-Rite’s lauded recipes (yes, their legendary salted caramel ice cream, which spawned dozens of imitations around the nation, is included), and many more besides, including sweets far beyond ice cream, from cookies to pie. The book is grouped in ingredient-themed sections like chocolate, coffee, vanilla, citrus or nuts. I take to the herbs and spices section with recipes like basil or peach leaf ice cream, picante galia melon pops, and my favorite Bi-Rite flavor of recent years, Ricanelas (cinnamon and Snickerdoodles). Having already tried a couple of the recipes, they are easy to follow, and, of course, delicious.

SUNSET EDIBLE GARDEN COOKBOOK

Sunset has cornered DIY gardening and cooking for decades in their magazine and cookbooks, with recipes and step-by-step gardening instructions. Their latest book, Edible Garden Cookbook, just out this spring, is another winner with accessible recipes, growing-harvesting-storage-cooking tips and varietal lists on a wealth of vegetables (from peas to cucumbers), herbs (mint to thyme), and fruits (melons to stone fruit). Creative recipe twists enliven everyday dishes like an icebox salad layered in a casserole dish or kabocha squash filled with Arabic lamb stew.

THE BROKEASS GOURMET COOKBOOK Gabi Moskowitz
Review by Andi Berlin http://dinnerwithandi.blogspot.com

Chasing the elusive paycheck is a tiresome routine, but at least it’ll taste good with the new BrokeAss Gourmet cookbook from San Franciscan Gabi Moskowitz (not to be confused with Broke-Ass Stuart.) The former kindergarten teacher-turned-caterer-turned-Internet-celebrity founded the website BrokeAss Gourmet after seeing friends laid off from tech jobs and eating junk. Taking a conversational, gal-pal tone, Gabi guides us through the essentials of running an eclectic kitchen – from stocking a full pantry to boosting cheap proteins with flavorful sauces. Recipes like vegetable lasagna with wonton wrappers demonstrate her craftiness. The book is high on kitsch: rather than photographs, illustrations of animals stand beside cheeky anecdotes (“Because bacon really does make everything better.”) Moskowitz paints a vivid Bay Area landscape, adapting several recipes from ethnic joints and buzzy spots like Bakesale Betty. And if she relies too heavily on sriracha sauce, forgive her. When you’ve got to shove off to work early morning after morning, it’s often the call of the rooster that gets you going.

Written by in: Bibliophile |
Jul
15
2011

Bibliophile

What I’ve Been Reading Lately

I’m always reading – often not related to food or drink (give me poetry, classic literature, non-fiction, memoirs, religion and philosophy – I devour it all). But on the imbibing front, there are ever intriguing reads and resources to share…

Food

Mission Street Food: Recipes and Ideas from an Improbably Restaurant – Anthony Myint & Karen Leibowitz

Leave it to McSweeney’s to publish a book that is ode to a series of brilliant SF dining concepts, a recent history of cutting-edge food, and a vividly illustrated cookbook. Mission Street Food the book, makes me nostalgic for those not-so-long-ago early days of Mission Street Food, the experience. Through the book, I reminisced about favorite dishes served in that ultimate pop-up restaurant out of dingy Lung Shan, found my mouth watering for that incomparable Mission Burger out of Duc Loi Supermarket, and appreciated the current day incarnation of Mission Chinese. This book encapsulates it all, sharing many of the best recipes (with step-by-step photo instructions). We are lucky to have Myint and the Mission Street crew’s visions among us… and such a book to capture the experience.

Food Trucks: Dispatches & Recipes from the Best Kitchens on Wheels – Heather Shouse

Though Food Trucks (released this Spring) paints broad strokes of the rise in the phenomenon that is food trucks, it is a worthy snapshot of how this movement has risen nationally as the economy has suffered. It highlights ingenuity and fresh-thinking from chefs across the country who wanted to make food as affordable as it is exciting. It goes region-by-region through the US, listing a handful of trucks in various cities. Only five Bay Area trucks are listed (including Spencer on the Go! and RoliRoti), which is barely scratching the surface. Nonetheless, it’s a peek into a handful of individual stories and recipes of food trucks launched from New Orleans to Hawaii (including some of my favorite Oahu trucks).

Drink

America Walks into a Bar – Christine Sismondo

Though Sismondo is Canadian, she offers a detailed account of US history from the front row seat of its bars, taverns, saloons, speakeasies and grog shops in her new book, America Walks Into A Bar. She posits that the States’ most important movements, from Revolution to Prohibition, were birthed out of the communal gathering places that are our bars. Factual and historical, Sismondo keeps it seamless, though I found some chapters more interesting than others. Stories of tipsy judges ruling court cases out of taverns and women-bar owners indicted during Salem Witch Trials are engaging and worth a look for those curious about just how much drink has factored into our country’s foundation.

Written by in: Bibliophile |
Mar
15
2011

Bibliophile

Two Intriguing New Food Memoirs

Just released in early March, here are two new reads I’d recommend not only for foodies but for fans of absorbing, well-crafted memoir.

Life, On the Line – Grant Achatz & Nick Kokonas

When Alinea’s chef genius Grant Achatz writes a memoir, it’s destined to get buzz amongst foodies. When this visionary chef was diagnosed with stage four tongue cancer, threatened to lose his tongue and taste buds (something devastating to anyone, much less a celebrated chef), it was news well beyond the food world.

Achatz first memoir, written with his business partner, Nick Kokonas, is much more than a cancer survival story. It is concurrently more than a chef memoir. Appropriately titled, Life, On the Line, it may not be the most literary of food memoirs, but it is gripping. I couldn’t stop reading of Achatz’ humble Michigan roots, his rise as a chef under Charlie Trotter and Thomas Keller, and particularly the incessant drive that led him to opening his own, widely acclaimed restaurant just as he entered his thirtieth decade.

Life, On the Line is raw, honest, with a straightforwardness that is refreshing. A bittersweet tone underlies this impressive success story. I love Alinea as much as most who’ve had the privilege of eating there, and this book certainly acquaints me in a real, unsentimental way with the minds behind it.

I’m already plotting how I can get to Chicago after his unparalleled concepts of Aviary and Next open…

Blood, Bones & Butter – Gabrielle Hamilton

Who knew chef of NY’s beloved Prune, in the East Village, was first and foremost a writer? Early word on the street was that her book was, as Anthony Bourdain himself said, “the best memoir by a chef ever.”

I find the hype a bit high, but do think cooks and food lovers will find much to savor in Blood, Bones and Butter. Though I found it not as compelling as Achatz’s Life, On the Line, Hamilton shines in her mastery of the English language, making it a more pleasurable read.  From idyllic, dreamy parties her parents threw at her rural Pennsylvania childhood home, to the devastation of their divorce that led Hamilton to support herself in restaurant jobs from teen years on, her choice of words creates vivid pictures of each era of her life.

Amidst dish-washing and butchery, she describes her move back to school at “the Harvard of the Midwest” (University of Michigan), where she gets an MFA in fiction writing. It’s an intriguing journey from writing to unexpectedly running her own restaurant. You can’t help but feel writing is her first calling.

As she describes the lamb roasts of her youth, you clearly envision it, and acutely wish you were there: “… the sun started to set and we lit the paper bag luminaria, which burned soft glowing amber, punctuating the meadow and the night, and the lamb was crisp-skinned and sticky from slow roasting, and the root beer was frigid and it caught, like an emotion, in the back of my throat.

Written by in: Bibliophile |
Dec
01
2010

Bibliophile

Books for holiday gift-giving

For the foodie and drink hounds among you, here are a few recent book releases to delight and enlighten.

FOR THE WINO

Secrets of the Sommeliers by Rajat Parr and Jordan MackaySecrets of the Sommeliers, a new book from local SF treasures (sommelier extraordinaire Rajat Parr and drink writer Jordan Mackay) is the best wine book to come across my desk in awhile. Stories from a range of the world’s best somms and winemakers stand alongside insights on tasting, purchasing, storing, pairing, ordering and serving wine. Sections Thinking Like A Sommelier and The Wine List deliver a true insider’s perspective and expertise. This intelligent, understated book is a must for any wine lover, budding or educated.

FOR THE TIKI FANATIC

Beachbum Berry Remixed by Jeff Berry - Whether a retro tiki fanatic or one who prefers drinks reminiscent of an island getaway, this book from modern-day master of tropical cocktails, Jeff Berry (aka Beachbum Berry), satiates. Colorful vintage photos and graphics illumine mid-century history and tiki culture. I try out a number of the recipes on friends, some from top bartenders, many classic, never-before-published or “lost” exotic drink recipes. I have not run across one yet that is less than crowd-pleasing. Remixed combines Berry’s first two books, Grog Log and Intoxica!, adding 107 recipes for one comprehensive collection.

FOR THE CONSCIENTIOUS COOK

Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights: Recipes for Every Season, Mood, and Appetite by Sophie Dahl - A cookbook by a famous model is among the last places I’d look as cooking source (I’m skeptical enough of ultra-skinny cooks like Giada). But Dahl is no typical model, having written three books and as a self-professed, avid eater. She’s the daughter of brilliant writer Roald Dahl and actress Patricia Neal. Her oft-discussed weight, modeling at real world sizes (like 10), convinces me she understands “voluptuous”. Her recipes may not be the most challenging on the shelf, rather they are approachable as the book’s layout is charming. As she does not eat red meat, there’s plenty here for a vegetarian. Whether you’re making brown rice risotto with pumpkin or something as simple as flapjacks, Dahl’s personable approach draws you in while her seasonal recipes comfort.

FOR THE DRINK AFICIONADO

Boozehound: On the Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated in Spirits by Jason Wilson – Though Boozehound by Washington Post’s spirits columnist Jason Wilson contains over 50 drink recipes, it is more a study on a range of spirits, history mixed with personal experience. His journeys to distilleries around the globe play as engaging travelogue, with breakthrough moments sipping an unusual liqueur or uncovering hype around others. It’s like reading a food memoir but with drink as the backdrop and instigator. The chapter Bitter is Bella made me miss Italy’s fabulously bitter palate; I began craving aquavit and bacalao reading Water of Life. His stories of researching tequila in Jalisco, Mexico, or chatting with Borje Karlsson (Karlsson’s Gold Vodka) rekindle my own memories. He explores sips as far-ranging as bianco vermouth, sloe gin, Barolo Chinato and pisco. There is education here, certainly, but via a pleasurable, relaxing read. Like a fine drink, at its finish, I found myself thirsty for more.

FOR THE COCKTAILIAN

Speakeasy: The Employees Only Guide to Classic Cocktails Re-Imagined by Jason Kosmas & Dushan Zaric - An elegant book from bartenders behind Employees Only in NYC’s West Village, this book lists a range of recipes from classics (e.g. the Martinez) to new drinks that play like classics, such as the Provencal. We have seen compendiums of classic recipes before, but this one ups the game with thoughtful directions and NY flair. Four sections cover categories like aperitifs, punches, cordials and homemade syrups. Inspired by Prohibition-era speakeasies, these two were doing “speakeasy” long before it became a trend. As they state in the section Mastering the Perfect Cocktail: “Every Cocktail Has A Story”. Speakeasy helps you tell stories through the preparation of a drink.

Written by in: Bibliophile |
Oct
29
2010

Bibliophile

In conversation with David Wondrich about his new book, PUNCH

When drink historian and Esquire columnist David Wondrich speaks about drink, you listen… or read, as the case may be. His latest book Punch, which releases on 11/2, is the first of its kind on the glories and history of the punch bowl. I had the privilege of speaking with Dave over the phone from his home in NY. He answered the question, “Why punch?” Or, to quote his book, what makes punch “necessary”?

Dave deems punch, “The great social beverage of all time… now more than ever we need beverages that promote friendship.” He also calls punch “more gentle than cocktails”, its preparation “easy and utterly pleasurable.”

It becomes readily apparent: the punch bowl is communal, ideal for a group or festive gathering, less laborious than individual cocktails and a hell of a lot more fun. Or as Dave states in the book’s Preface: “Most of Punch’s stories are of warm fellowship and conviviality and high-spirited gatherings afloat on oceans of witty talk”, not to mention a few “battles and brawls.”

We’re not talking about “frat juice” or fizzy, sweet flowing bowls here. We’re talking honest-to-God punch: boozy, delicious, layered with citrus, raw sugar, varying spirits. The book starts with a comprehensive history, who drank punch, and where. He mentions the book “started as a big chunk cut out of [his first book] Imbibe!”, which he expanded on.

Dave Wondrich (photo source: www.astorcenternyc.com)

The convivial punch houses of yore sound so appealing, I ask Dave if he envisions their return to modern day? “I certainly hope so.” Besides Rickhouse here in SF, some of his favorite bars for punch around the globe include Hix in London, Brooklyn’s Clover Club (a dangerously close distance from his home), and Manhattan’s Death & Co. He’s also says he’s a fan of Savoy Cocktail Night at SF’s own Alembic (hear, hear!)

Gorgeous Le Grand Punch at private Benedectine party w/ ice orb

Ever the thorough historian, Dave uncovers punch’s roots – like most classic drinks, the original creator isn’t known, though there are countless early references. One of his strongest sources is Google Books, where he digs up old newspapers, pamphlets and rare books before he then might cross reference in the libraries of New York or London. Another research source?  “I am trained as an academic so I have a lot of 1600’s books… I start with a  lot of blank space and start to fill that in, using every kind of source possible… I’ll track down the original source, and don’t settle for first mention.”

I asked if he’d ever write the book he wishes existed (mentioned on page 6 of Punch): a detailed source on distilling, its origins, history and importance. He says it’s a project “too big for any one person to bite off unless they have all the time in the world and know multiple languages,” but he “could tackle parts of it” in collaboration with others.  He surmises it would take at least three co-writers, fluent in languages from Dutch and German, to Chinese and Indian, to be able to read and translate ancient texts.

What we’re more likely to see Wondrich write about next is how the American style of drinking, particularly our contribution of cocktails and in spirits, went global. He’s already done “tons of research” for presentations he’s given, fascinated by our legendary cocktail showcases in world’s fairs, for one, and how the rest of the world began to imitate techniques initially launched here.

A liquid nitrogen punch bowl

Though Wondrich deems Punch‘s Book II for “total mixology geeks”, I find it a useful, necessary account of ingredients, tools needed, and proper measurements, particularly his spirits recommendations under Ingredients.

Naturally, a good half of the book is recipes, ranging from Milk Punch to American Fancy Punch. When asked which ones he makes the most, he named the bracing Chatham Artillery Punch on page 248 (a Savannah original, one I’ve walked down Savannah streets imbibing, though far from a well-crafted version). Back in the day, a local paper described the punch thus: “As a vanquisher of men its equal has never been found.” Dave says the recipe in this book (there is another in Imbibe!) “claims to be the original, and very well might be”, though when it comes to  traditional recipes, “they get passed down like a game of telephone”, each iteration evolving.

One of his biggest crowd-pleasers (which people consume in “shocking amounts”) is his own recipe of Royal Hibernian Punch (p. 269):

“Prepare an oleo-saccharum with the peel of three lemons and 6 ounces of white sugar. Add 6 ounces strained lemon juice and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add to this 12 ounces Sandeman Rainwater Madeira, stir and pour the Madeira shrub into a clean 750-milliliter bottle. Add enough water to the bottle to fill it, seal and refrigerate. Fill another clean 750-milliliter bottle with filtered water and refrigerate that, too.

To serve, pour the bottle of the shrub, the bottle of water and one 750-milliliter bottle of Jameson 12 or Redbreast Irish whiskey into a gallon Punch bowl, add a 1 1/2 quart block of ice and grate nutmeg over the top.

Yield: 9 1/2 cups.”

Written by in: Bibliophile |

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