Sicilian Cookies by Galina Dargery (2011)
NEW YORK CORNER
SUMMER READING LIST
pleasures of eating and drinking and traveling
well make for good reading during the summer,
not least at the beach when you can pick out a
few recipes, then go shopping and cook them up
that evening. Here are books that seem
particularly valuable this season. Note well
how many are from smaller, more independent
publishers at a time when the big guns seem to
have run out of new ideas in favor of
celebrity cookbooks cobbled together by
Where There's Smoke: Simple, Sustainable, Delicious Grilling by Barton Seaver (Sterling Epicure, $30). Before everyone else jumped on the farm wagon, Barton Seaver was preaching the wisdom of sustainable food, and doing so with a Southern style that also prefigured what has now become a fad. This volume, his second, is mostly devoted to cooking on the grill, but there's a whole lot more here, from wonderful salads and vegetable dishes like autumn caponata to pickled smoked peaches and preserved lemons. He's even got a recipe for smoked pork ribs he calls "blasphemy" because they don't take 24 to smoke and grill. His notes on the numerous varieties of dry woods that add specific flavors to food is a bonus.
New York à la Cart: Recipes and Stories from the Big Apple's Best Food Trucks by Alexandra Penfold and Siobhan Wallace (Running Press, $18). I'm not sure what is better about this book--the recipes or the stories, for the former show the extraordinary range of NYC's food truck cookery while the latter put you in touch with the kind of lovably eccentric cooks who go this route, from NYC's Extravaganza Cart to Miss Softee, whose ice cream truck makes everyone happy to see owner Chrissy Michaels every day. It's amazing how people come up with single-minded ideas like the Cinnamon Snail, the Kimchi Taco Truck, Hallo Berlin, Donatella's Meatball Wagon, Schnitzel & Things, and so many more, and the authors give a thorough history of the cart venues in each borough. And then, there are those recipes!
The Audacity of Hops: The History of America's Craft Beer Revolution by Tom Acitelli (Chicago Review Press, $19.95). Hard to believe that a half-century ago there was only one true craft brewery in the U.S.--Anchor Brewing in San Francisco. Now there are more than 2,000, and Tom Acitelli chronicles their rise to prominence and challenge thrown at the bland American corporate beer conglomerates. Told with affection and solid scholarship, this is a tale of feisty entrepreneurs and suds heads, often pitted against companies at first scoffing then terrified of the increasing market share stolen away from brands like Budweiser and Miller. It's doubtful we will need another book--maybe just an update in ten years--of this thoroughly researched volume,a classic of its subject and form.
The Duke's Table: The Complete Book of Vegetarian Italian Cooking by Enrico Alliata (Melville House, $40). Though vegetarianism has a long history and some impressive crusaders, the shrill tone of the vegan branch these days makes this book all the more appealing for its sensible, expert, Italian-style treatment by Enico Alliata (1879-1946) of Sicily, an island far richer in grains and vegetables than in meat, although seafood abounds in the Mediterranean. The Duke's own table, based on healthfulness, was always a feast, even when all vegetarian, and he had no problem using good amounts of eggs, butter and cheese to enrich a dish, including ice creams and parfaits for dessert. With 1,000 recipes at hand, you are unlikely ever to dine without a delicious veg alternative to the proteins on your plate, and for vegetarians, this book will keep them busy for years, working their way through dishes like macaroni timballo falso, Neapolitan soup with fried dumplings, red risotto, and vegetarian "foie gras" made with ricotta and black truffles.
American Wine: The Ultimate Companion to the Wines and Wineries of the United States by Jancis Robinson and Linda Murphy (U. of California Press, $50). Jancis Robinson is easily our most respected--and indefatigable--wine writer, and here, after several editions of The Oxford Encyclopedia of Wine, she, with the unflagging assistance of Linda Murphy, gives us the most thorough and up-to-date examination of where American viniculture has been and is headed, without simply tossing together thousands of boring wine notes. The brief, to-the-point profiles of winemakers, the descriptions of the AVAs, and the much-needed information on emerging regions like Georgia, Delaware and other states is invaluable. It's also a beautifully put together book, as one has come to expect from the U. of California Press.
French Wine Châteaux: Distinctive Vintages and Their Estates by Alain Stella (Flammarion, $85). Were this only a gorgeous evocation of French wineries and dining rooms, complete with a few recipes for dishes like flaked crab and avocado tarta with slow-roasted tomatoes and apples, it would make a fine gift book for your enophile friend. But here is a volume that proves that Google and Wikipedia will not soon be putting printed books out of business: it is too rich a fount of personalized information, appreciative prose, and an understanding of the French soul, particularly when it comes to wine. There are no cowboys here, no garagistes, no consultants pushing up alcohol levels. This is a book on the grand tradition of French winemaking in all its glory and hard work that has provided the world a standard by which to judge all that has come afterwards.
Honey, Olives, Octopus : Adventures at the Greek Table by Christopher Bakken ( U. of California Press, $34.95). It is hardly at all odd that it should take a foreigner to express the beauty and history of a culture like Greece's, where so much has been left to ruin like its Hellenic monuments. American Christopher Bakken, who spent many years in Greece and taught there, gives us a sweet and loving portrait of a culture, primarily through its food. He writes beautifully--"If Asia Minor is a giant, then Chios is his severed left ear"--and you can sense he labored over every word to describe the exact look, taste and smell of fresh olive oil or aged cheese. There is singing and dancing here, and exhilaration and exhaustion, as much a fine travel narrative as a food book.
Braise by Daniel Boulud and Melissa Clark (Ecco Books, $19.99). One comes to expect Daniel Boulud to be, if not the last word on a subject, at least one of the most authoritative, and his new book Braise, with food writer Melissa Clark, capitalizes on that precision of French technique Boulud first learned then perfected over decades, making him one of the world's most revered chefs' chefs. Braising liquid is in his blood, so that just reading the names of dishes--"Pork and Swiss Chard Caillettes with Tomato Sauce," "Royal Shoulder of Lamb with Saffron, Raisins, and Pistachios" and "Ham Hocks in Jamaican Jerk Sauce" should send you hurtling to the market and into the kitchen. Good, too, is his inclusion of offal like tripe and hearty items like stuffed pig's foot. You can be sure all these recipes will work and delight any who attempt them.
The Perfect Meal: In Search of the Lost Tastes of France by John Baxter (Harper Perennial, $14.99). The chronic lament about France losing its gastro-soul has gone on for decades now, even though there is not a village in Provence where you still can't get the most beloved old regional dishes. But John Baxter, concentrating here on Paris, is no whining nostalgist. He is a man of great bonhomie and good humor, daring to prepare a "perfect" 12-course meal of old-fashioned French cuisine that includes lamprey eels and a whole roasted ox. This is not, however, really a cookbook but a revelry told with engaging passion for the exotic background of a dish or an ingredient, as when he tells us "Lampreys were believed to send women into sexual frenzy like the one that possessed the mythological nymph Callisto," who, after a hearty meal of eels and some lovemaking with Zeus, was turned into a bear. This is the book you keep in the kitchen, by your bedside, even in the bathroom, to peruse slowly and greedily.
NEW YORK CORNER
by John Mariani
One Bryant Park
Aureole is open for Lunch Mon.-Sat., Dinner nightly; Fixed price dining room dinner, $89; five-course tasting menu $118; "Bubbles after Broadway" Menu Mon.-Sat. 10 PM-11:30 PM.
DO TRY THIS AT HOME!
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Any of John Mariani's
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❖❖❖FEATURED LINKS: I am happy to report that the Virtual Gourmet is linked to four excellent travel sites:
Everett Potter's Travel Report:
I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, ForbesTraveler.com and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star places as five-star experiences."
Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contributor John A. Curtas., who since 1995 has been commenting on the Las Vegas food scene and reviewing restaurants for Nevada Public Radio. He is also the restaurant critic for KLAS TV, Channel 8 in Las Vegas, and his past reviews can be accessed at KNPR.org. Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.
Tennis Resorts Online: A Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991).
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