Drink of the Moment: Lillet

Again, I told you I was in the mood for some drinks:

Thanks to Amy and Lisa for this lovely summer cocktail: Lillet over ice with a splash of seltzer and a slice of lemon (or I've also used lime in a pinch). When I was introduced to this drink, Lisa used the white Lillet (the only kind I thought existed). However, when Adam came home the other night with a fresh bottle, he had bought the red. Both are refreshing on a hot summer evening. Cheers!

Eat, drink, and enjoy the last days of summer

Comfort Food and Before Sunset

I had a shit day, and I don't mind sayin' it: Shit. Day. I was following a new library job lead...burned a day of vacation to do it...trekked to the Bronx...and it just didn't pan out. I'm enormously disappointed and depressed about the whole business. Which I assure you it'll take me one day to get over. That's my M.O.: one day of self-pity and depression, followed by weeks of screw-them-I'm-moving-on bravado and sassiness.

The Husband being so rad, he volunteered to pick up Kiddo from camp and take her out to dinner so I could have some Grown-Up Time. Which, naturally, meant cooking and turning on one of my Top 3 favorite movies: Before Sunset (warning: do not watch before seeing Before Sunrise!). I made myself Jamie Oliver's summertime pasta and it was just what the doctor ordered. Click on the link to get the recipe (hint: it's vair vair easy). I did, however, change two things: 1) I used a 1/2 c. of plain ol' extra-virgin olive oil and a 1/2 c. of lemon olive oil, and 2) I used fresh spinach fettuccine from Eli's, as opposed to the tagliatelle that Jamie calls for. This allowed me to use fresh pasta already in my fridge but, unfortunately, it didn't allow for the nice color contrast between the white pasta, the green parsley, and the bright yellow lemon:

I poured myself the last bit of the 2007 Campos Reales Tempranillo we already had open: I should have known that a Spanish wine was not going to be the perfect pairing for an Italian dish. It wasn't bad - just meh. So for my second bowl of pasta (I told you people I was depressed), I poured a 2007 Kris Pinot Grigio from Italy. Result! The bright fruitiness really refreshed my palate and cut through the richness of the pine nuts and the olive oil in the pasta.

This meal - and the three glasses of wine consumed with it - was the epitome of the term "comfort food." Enhanced with movie lines like this:

"Happiness is in the doing, not in the getting what you want."


"There are so many things I want to do...and I end up doing not much."

Eat, drink, and take comfort in food, wine, and romantic movies


New York Times: Pirate Restaurants

Today’s NYT Dining section “got me where I live”, to quote a former friend of mine. This article wiggled itself down to my core and just took up residence there…and I don’t think it’s leaving anytime soon.

The theme of the article: underground restaurants*.

The idea is that people – however many you can realistically feed in your own home – pay you a “donation”, they come to your place, and you make them dinner. The article calls it the “anti-restaurant.” People bring wine so then you aren’t selling them any. The idea, of course, is to have the cozy, intimate, community-based experience that a restaurant rarely, if ever, gives you. The concept is like a bed-and-breakfast…only you don’t let people spend the night after the meal.

I’m so passionately, insanely in love with this idea. I love cooking for people, I love trying new recipes, I love planning menus, I love scouring cookbooks and I even love cleaning dishes (it brings the whole dinner experience full-circle for me). I love having people laughing, drinking, eating in my home. I love my dinner table and I love my Crate and Barrel linens. Shopping for ingredients is sensual (All the eye candy! All the touching of things! So many choices!) and strategic (get the heaviest items last, make sure nothing goes bad between store and home, substitute ingredients on-the-fly if something you want isn’t available). I want to have great conversations and cook creatively without the Kiddo telling me she sees a speck of green or a visiting relative wanting their meat cooked well-done.

So I want to have an underground restaurant. That’s ultimately what it boils down to. I have enough good music, good books, good wine, and good food in my house to make this really enjoyable. I want to be part of a community of people who enjoy home-cooked meals as much as I do. I want to meet interesting people who have interesting jobs who love interesting food. I know they exist in this city…I just haven’t met them yet. Maybe an anti-restaurant is the solution for me... If not having one in my house - like I have the time! - then certainly going to one in someone else's home.

See? I told you: the article “got me where I live.”

Eat, drink, and never dismiss your crazy ideas too quickly…

* Photo at left courtesy of Gabriele Stabile of the New York Times

NOTE: The article mentions one of the cooks wears a t-shirt that says “Meat is Murder – Tasty, Tasty Murder.” While I’m not ballsy enough to actually wear that shirt, I sure wish I was…


Bacon and Chocolate: an inspired pairing

- From the Chicago Sun-Times, chocolate-covered bacon ("bacon truffles") are being served up at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, as well as the Minnesota State Fair.

- YumSugar has an actual recipe up, but I definitely wouldn't use semi-sweet and white chocolate. Instead, I'd go for something like this.

- I kid you not: the bacon-chocolate martini.

- Oh, the weird deliciousness continues: bacon chocolate chip cookies with maple cinnamon glaze!

- Oh, people. It keeps going: bacon-pumpkin-chocolate-chip-cookies! Dammit, if only I baked! I must have these! The Soul Twin has one those fancy-schmancy KitchenAids...I should beg her to make me some of these and bring them to me next time she's in NYC. Any else reading this a NY-er willing to bake for me? Pleeeease? I'll invite you over for dinner and I'll make you a friggin feast. You bring dessert: specifically, these cookies. Because that's the kind of bossy hostess that I am. (Update: our friends J & L just left our apartment after a night of chimichurri sauce and steak...I mentioned this recipe...and L says she reads my blog...maybe they'll make me the cookies???? Because, you know, they're...bakers...)

- I bought Vosges' Mo's Bacon Bar while on my vacation in Oregon, and I luuuurved it. Salty, sweet, crunchy, smoky. Bacon and chocolate make sense, just like coffee and chocolate do: the smoky saltiness of the bacon brings out chocolate's natural qualities. I highly recommend Mo's Bacon Bar. Asking yourself why you would possibly try such an odd combination? Well, shut off your brain and ask yourself "why not?" Just do it.

- Last but not least, look what the Husband brought home from work:

Seriously, the bacon spins around...

Eat, drink, and realize bacon really does make everything better

Reading Wish List

There are many books I have read that I want to read again. These are books that affected me at the time I read them, and I want to experience them again; in many cases, it’s been 15 or so years since I’ve read the book so it would be fascinating to re-read a book I loved when I was 16 now that I’m in my 30’s.

Additionally, there are books I have never read. They have been on my “to-read” list for ages upon ages, and I’m hoping that someday…someday…I’ll actually be able to read them. In most cases, I already have these books sitting in on my personal bookshelves, spines uncracked, waiting for someone to open them.

So here is my wish list of books I want to read again…or for the first time:

1. Harry Potter series. I read the whole series so voraciously, so impatiently, that I really didn’t enjoy it, you know? I’d like to start over and really savor the whole experience.

2. Lord of the Rings trilogy. I read it because I was so hyped up on the movies. Now that the movies have come and gone, I’d like to re-read it. Though I don’t see how I’ll ever get Viggo Mortenson and Orlando Bloom out of my head. Naturally, I don’t mind if they stay…

3. Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. I’ve never even looked inside this book. I suppose it’s because I know I don’t have the right amount of time in my life now to really enjoy it, soak it all up, and learn all I want to. I want to show it proper respect. And best as I can tell, I won’t have time for this until I retire.

4. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. In high school, I had all the time in the world to sit in the local coffeehouse in Placerville, CA and read this cover-to-cover. Oh, to have the time to do that again!

5. Discovery of France by Graham Robb. As a self-proclaimed Francophile, I desperately want to read this. It sits on my shelf at home, mocking me, reminding me that such a small fraction of time is my own. It’s become so much more than a book about France to me: it’s become a symbol of all those passions I have so little time to pursue. Seriously.

6. L.M. Montgomery (everything). Again, back in high school when I had nothing but time to read, I read every one of her books sitting in the local coffeehouse. The coffeehouse had a cute patio with a fountain, and I’d sit out there on sunny-but-freezing winter days, wrapped in a thick wool sweater and gloves, cradling my mocha and getting lost in PEI. And I’m longing to do it again.

7. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I fell in love the first time and want to fall in love all over again.

8. Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers. I was obsessed with the movie as a kid. So much so that I've never read the book because I feared it would taint my nostalgic, sentimental, warm memories of the Julie Andrews classic. Nevertheless, I’m determined to read this before I leave this earth, childhood illusions be damned.

Eight books…which doesn’t even scratch the surface…

Eat, drink, and revel in your younger years when you were able to fill your time with books


End of last week: Dinner with the Lutz family

One of my go-to summer meals: Chicken and Peaches Platter (Real Simple, July 2006). Really, no recipe is necessary. One rotisserie chicken (antibiotics/hormone free from Fresh Direct, already roasted), almonds (I've used slivered or sliced, whatever you have on hand...the recipe actually calls for chopped whole), blue cheese (I use gorgonzola), 2 peaches, salad greens. For the dressing, I pour a couple tbsp extra virgin olive oil, a tbsp (or so) of white wine vinegar, and salt and pepper into a bowl and whisk with a fork. I dip a piece of lettuce into the dressing and taste for seasoning. Then pour over the platter. This dinner is the working mom's DREAM. The Kiddo eats the peaches, almonds, and cheese only - the grown-ups eat it every delicious morsel.

Remember I told you all about Mario Batali going to "the Goog"? Well, all "Googlers" got a free copy of Mario's Italian Grill. Bastards. So this is the first recipe I tried from the cookbook: Portobellos with Arugula and Parmigiano. Grill 6 portobellos on the grill (or on your stovetop castiron griddle, in my case. Mario's recipe calls for 6 shrooms...I only used 2) for 5-8 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk 1/4 c. evoo, 1 tsp anchovy paste, 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, and 1/2 tsp dried thyme, crumbled. Spoon this mixture over the grilled mushrooms and let sit for 30 minutes (just enough time to give the Kiddo a bath!). Once the Kiddo was out of the bath, I tossed arugula (enough for 2 adults) with evoo and lemon juice, salt and pepper. I put the arugula on the platter, added the mushrooms, and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano on top. Mario's recipe calls for 6 mushrooms (as stated earlier), but I only bought 2 since it's just us. I did, however, make the full amount for the marinade, which worked well. In the future, I will probably add another tsp of the anchovy paste - there was lots of sweet balsamic but not enough salty, fishy anchovy paste.

This is another Mario Batali recipe from Italian Grill: Fresh Robiola Wrapped in Mortadella. Forget the fancy name - I couldn't find robiola so I used fresh ricotta from Cheeses of the World. Or you can use fresh goat cheese. Have fun experimenting with Italian cheeses. I bought a dozen slices of Italian mortadella from Cheeses of the World, along with the ricotta. Make burrito-esque packets: lay the mortadella down, shape the cheese loosely into a log, place a basil leaf on top. Fold the bottom of each slice over the cheese, then fold over the sides and roll the cheese up in the mortadella. Try to get the mortadella w/o pistachios. However, if you have no other option (like me), just double it up (so I actually only made 6 packets out of my dozen slices). Place the packets on the hottest part of your grill (or stovetop cast iron grill) for 2 minutes on each side. You want grill marks and a crispy exterior. Place on platter. Toss some salad greens with evoo, red wine vinegar, and sea salt. Serve right away. These were so rich that the Husband and I ate only one packet each. The next night I had one of the packets for leftovers: put it under the broiler for about 3 minutes and you get all the gooey-cheese-crispy-meatness from the previous night. Delectable leftovers.

Eat, drink, and revel in easy-to-prepare weekday feasts!

Mock Caldecotts 2009: First Elimination Round

This blog post is a little late…

As the children’s materials specialist, I chair the children’s book selection committee (CBSC). Among many duties, one of the perky fun things we get to do is plan the Mock Caldecott Awards in the winter. In July, we started our first round of reviews. Frankly, there weren’t a lot that stood out tremendously, nothing truly special…in our opinions, anyway. As a result, we were incredibly wishy-washy on a lot of the titles. As of now, here are the books definitely in the running:

- Drive by Nathan Clement
- How I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevitz
- A Kitten Tale by Eric Rohmann
- Before John Was a Jazz Giant by Carole Boston Weatherford, illus by Sean Qualls

And here are the books that we labeled, wishy-washily, as “maybes”:

- Building Manhattan by Laura Vila
- I, Matthew Henson: Polar Explorer by Carole Boston Weatherford, illus by Eric Valasquez
- Lady Liberty by Doreen Rappaport, illus by Matt Tavares
- My Friend, the Starfinder by George Ella Lyon, illus by Stephen Gammell
- Planting the Trees of Kenya by Claire Nivola

Lastily – and I’m sure to hear some cries of surprise and, perhaps, outrage on these ones – here are the definite “no” votes. Which means we won’t consider them for our final Mock Caldecott discussion and voting:

- Big Plans by Bob Shea, illus by Lane Smith
- A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee
- Fartiste by Kathleen Krull, illus by Boris Kulikov
- Grasshopper’s Song by Nikki Giovanni, illus by Chris Raschka
- Grump Groan Growl by Bell Hooks, illus by Chris Raschka
- House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson, illus by Beth Krommes
- Imaginary Menagerie by Julie Larios, illus by Julie Paschkis
- Kids Like Us by Carole Lexa Schaefer, illus by Pierr Morgan
- Market Day by Carol Foskett Cordsen, illus by Douglas Jones
- On the Farm by David Elliott, illus by Holly Meade
- Searcher and the Old Tree by David McPhail
- Singing to the Sun by Vivian French, illus by Jackie Morris
- United Tweets of America by Hudson Talbott
- We Are the Ship: the Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson
- What to Do About Alice? by Barbara Kerley, illus by Edwin Fotheringham
- Wonder Bear by Tao Nyeu

As I’m sure you can see, there are a lot of stellar books we haven’t looked into yet (Wabi Sabi and Steel Town immediately come to mind). Also, all those books listed above certainly weren't unanimous votes - there were lots of dissenters and advocates for certain books. Our next “elimination round” is coming up in October so I’ll keep you posted!
Stay tuned!


"The good life is inspired by love and guided by knowledge." ~ Bertrand Russell

Things I learned this week:

1. Storing your cheese in plastic wrap (guilty!) doesn’t allow it to breathe. Best to wrap it in parchment paper and then store it in a cool place, like your wine refrigerator (I have two of those!) or the crisper section of your fridge (source: Food and Wine, July 2008).

2. Coach Farm has been making artisanal goat cheese since 1983 – I had no idea! I buy their goat milk (soooo sweet) and their triple cream goat cheese (it tastes like grass in the freshest way you can imagine) from Fresh Direct, of all places (Source: Food and Wine, September 2008).

3. So I found out that “spangleferkel” is a type of German sausage. Where did I hear this fabbity-fab tidbit? Why, from Georgia Nicolson in Then He Ate My Boy Entrancers**, of course. So I wanted to look into what spangleferkel is, and I found this poetry blog from a teenager in Renton, Washington. I wonder if she got the word from the book? Also, in the midst of researching spangleferkel, I discovered Georgia Nicolson has her own Wikipedia page with everything you’d want to know about the series. Vair vair amusant.

4. If you pour a glass of wine and you see condensation on the bottle or your glass, it’s too cold. I’ve served whites this way, so good to know. If it’s too cold, it affects the nose of the wine and you’re not going to smell all the herbs and citrus. I also learned that the glass you drink out of truly matters, and that the word “reserve” on a wine label really means nothing. (Courtesy of Natalie MacLean)

5. I learned that reviewing children’s books for a journal isn’t all it’s cracked up to be: you have to read a lot of crapola…and you can’t just close the book one-third of the way through and get your free time back. Nope. You not only have to finish the book, but then you have to find words to describe it…in an eloquent way that will hopefully get published. Better yet, this month I have a 3-book series…so triple the crap. I don’t want to read crap: I want to read Louise Rennison and my food and wine books!

Eat, drink, and learn something new each day

* Cheese photo courtesy of Wendell T. Weber and Food and Wine

** I discovered from Louise Rennison's site that my luuuurve match is Dave the Laugh. This is not a surprise in the least to me. In fact, I couldn't be any more predictable. Masimo and the original SG? Puh-leez. Give me someone who makes me laugh any day.


Poetry Friday: the wine edition

I'm inspired by this article in the NY Times about Napa's Cabernets. It made me long to be home, lounging on my balcony, drinking an "elegant" and "graceful" glass of wine. I've never participated in a Poetry Friday before, but I'll do lots of things in the name of wine:


Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That's all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.

~ W.B. Yeats (found here)

Eat, drink, and read wine-related poetry

Slightly OT: mad people, international languages, and kids' empty heads

* Miss Erin once again proves her awesomeness. Squeaky Books interviewed her for their newsletter and, in the interview, Miss Erin lists this as her favorite quote of all time:

"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…" ~Jack Kerouac

That. Is. Awesome. I've never read that quote before; I particularly love "desirous of everything at the same time." That very brief phrase describes me entirely.

* Thanks to my AL Direct email, I have discovered Livemocha where you can take online language courses (free!) and chat with fellow language learners around the world (free!). I signed up for a course in French but I haven't had lots of time to get into it. I'd like to take Spanish too, just to learn some basics to get along. But I'm stoked. This is a great idea!

* Last, from my AL Direct email again, this picture was in the sidebar of the email:
Am I the only one who finds this image deeeeply disturbing????

Two-year-olds: Plop them in front of the TV and give them a Coke!

According to this article, the French government is no longer allowing its TV stations to air shows aimed at children under 3 years old. Apparently, there are entire channels (BabyTV* and BabyFirstTV) dedicated to programming for the under-3 set, 24 hours a day. I had no idea this 24/7 baby programming existed until I read this. The odd thing is that these channels are available through satellite, which the French government actually can’t ban. So French households will still be able to access BabyTV. However, what the ruling does is prevent French stations from promoting the channels or any other shows aimed at very young children.

I have mixed feelings about this. For one, I’m against government legislating the way in which people should parent their children; they’re integrating themselves into households in a scary, Big Brother sort of way. Not to mention that you can’t legislate good parenting. Do you really think that just because parents won’t be able to use BabyTV as a babysitter they will, instead, spend lovely quality time with their children? Ummm, somehow I doubt that. Why do I suspect that they’ll either 1) find some other activity to keep their kids out of their hair, thus not spending more time with them, or 2) they’ll still park their kids in front of the TV, only watching something wildly inappropriate for their age range?

On the other hand, it’s frightening when Big Business starts treating young children as consumers. There’s a whole hook-‘em-when-they’re-young mentality to all this baby programming that sends up red flags all over the place for me. And if their parents aren’t going to look out for their best interests (and, really, preventing very young children from watching TV for hours a day is in their best interest), isn’t it up to society-at-large to take care of them? And society-at-large is certainly going to be affected when all these TV-fed children are unleashed into its folds. Stations like this do not exist for the good of the children, as much as Big Business and some parents would like to think so. Instead, they exist for the convenience of the parents and to create consumers.
Ultimately, I feel channels like BabyTV are a symptom of a bigger problem, which is the consumer-frenzy that has gripped the world. And I’m all for slowing down a bit and keeping things within reason. Let’s put a stop to seeing our** children as nothing but future consumers.

* Not only can you get BabyTV through satellite on your set, but you can also get it online (sit your kids in front of the computer!) and you can also listen to Babio (baby radio) on their website. I don't know, but it just doesn't seem right to be streaming like this with young children. Let's just hook 'em up to an IV!
** I use "our" in a very collective sense because, as most of us know, we're affected on a daily basis by other people's parenting decisions. So those who don't have children should still care very much about this.


Yet another playlist to add to my iPod...

Adam Roberts (a.k.a Amateur Gourmet) has either worked magic to create a 36-hour day for himself...or he just doesn't sleep. In addition to Amateur Gourmet and making videos over at Food Network, he has now started Food Songs with his friend Dan. It's exactly what it sounds like: a blog about songs involving food. Apparently there are enough songs to create an entire blog...

"I swear, you'll LOVE this!"

I’m sure you’ve had this happen to you, children’s lit folks… You’re reading a book (or, in my current case, a series) and you are in love with said book. You have become an evangelist for the book among your kidlit friends (which you don’t usually need to be because, you know, they already love the lit).

However – and here’s the conundrum – the person you know would love the book the most…is averse to kidlit. It doesn’t have anything important to say. Or, perhaps even worse, they don’t have any feelings about children’s literature at all. They haven’t read it since they were kids. You say “a kids’ book” and you watch their eyes glaze over. Oh, you know the types. Then to take it even further, let’s say that, by describing the book, you’ve sold your friend on it. Yes! Victory! So you show them the book and, sure enough, it has a “kiddie” cover…theeeeen the eyes-glazed-over effect takes hold. Damn. I almost had ‘em.

This has happened to me too many times to count – I still haven’t convinced the Husband to read any Scott Westerfeld, which irks me to no end. The reason this is fresh in my mind now, though, is because I couldn’t get the Soul Twin interested in Louise Rennison’s Georgia Nicolson series when she was visiting this last weekend. This is a woman who cried with laughter while reading Bridget Jones’s Diary (helllllloooooo, Helen Fielding, when the hell are you going to write a new one and show that Sophie Kinsella how it’s done?!). I read passages to the ST, I used British slang all weekend (“sheer desperadoes”), I told her about Angus and Gordy (the ST is a vet)… Nothing could pull her back from the Land of Glazed Eyes and Pasted-On-Uh-Huh Smiles. Nothing.

What kind of a readers’ advisor am I?! Wait, don't answer that. But have you had success "selling" a children's and/or YA title to a non-believer? If so, what book were you pimpin'?


Can great writing actually be taught? Or does it only come naturally?

As I shared earlier, I'm in the midst of reading Red, White, and Drunk All Over: a Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass by Natalie MacLean. I'll post an actual review once I'm done with the book, but I just had to share my favorite passage so far:

My second glass tasted like a sigh at the end of a long day: a gathering in, and a letting go. I felt the fingers of alcoholic warmth relax the muscles at the back of my jaw and curl under my ears. The wine flushed warmth up into my cheeks, down through my shoulders, and across my thighs. My mind was as calm as a black ocean.

Oh god. All this time I've been wanting to put words to that feeling I have when I get home every day and pour that first (and second) glass of wine. Now those words exist. What a fantastic piece of writing.
Eat, drink, and wish you could write like that too!

I often read a book while stirring risotto...

-- This might be some of the strangest news I have heard in children’s literature: David O. Russell, director of I Heart Huckabees and Three Kings, is partnering (if you will…) with Simon & Schuster to write a middle-grade book series called Alienated. Russell has said that the series is about two kids who work for an “old tabloid that covers the world of freaks and aliens.” He will simultaneously write the screenplay for a film by the same name. Huh.

Thanks to Shelf Awareness (who got it from the NY Times) for this piece of news that still has me scratching my head…

-- I have recently discovered Café Tasse. And I think I’m in luuuuurve.

-- I anticipate my monthly issue of Saveur with bated breath – it is hands-down my favorite foodie mag. The latest issue proved why: there is this fabuloso article about how Saveur changed offices and now they’re in the East 30's here in NYC. Naturally, that means they had to design a brand-spankin’-new test kitchen. The article mentions the words “food editor”… and “kitchen assistant”… They talk about walnut chopping blocks and kitchen islands on wheels (multiple islands...I just want one). They talk about making the space warm and welcoming, yet functional. They mention that, when they’re working late at night, people will just sit on the countertops, chat, and generally hang out. Naturally, the article is chock-a-block of beautiful photos of said test kitchen. So here’s my question: what in the hell do I have to do to work there? I’m considering selling my soul… Which I suppose I couldn’t do because part of the reason I love food so much is because I’m an incredibly soulful person. But…whatev. I’m just trying to convey to you how badly I want a job like that…

-- Liz B. brought to my attention the issue of posting book jackets on blogs (or library websites, Amazon, etc.). Copyright law gives me such a headache; I find it endlessly confusing. I probably have quite a few things posted on my blog that I shouldn’t…but they add to my content, I’m not claiming the images as my own, and I’m receiving no money for them. And I’m not publishing the work in its entirety (i.e. the book). Doesn’t this count as fair use? My final thought is that I’m sure that if I was using something illegally, it would certainly piss people off and I’m sure they’d let me know.

I’ll probably be off for a couple days – my Soul Twin (BFF, if you must) is visiting from North Carolina. We’re basically going to spend the next three days eating and walking ourselves into a stupor. Which is my favorite thing to do with the Soul Twin. And my favorite thing to do in NYC…which is why I moved here.

Eat, drink, and do both as often as possible with your chosen family.


Newspaper Food Sections Around the Country

New York Times: * Apparently, Waverly Inn is the place to go. I wouldn’t know – that kind of thing is so not my kind of scene. Ugh. * Yet another article convinces me that I belong, not in the U.S., but in someplace like Italy, running my own inn and giving cooking classes. It's much sexier than doing a Barbara Kingsolver. * I loved Mark Bittman’s recipe for chapatis because I am attracted to any sort of bread baking that doesn’t require yeast and kneading: unfortunately, Bittman never explains if one can make them over a gas stove flame, for those of us in BBQ-less crappy NYC apartments (though, at the risk of sounding like a total arse, I distinctly remember that they made chapatis over a gas flame in Bend It Like Beckham. I'm just sayin'...). Making chapatis and chicken tikki masala are tops on my list of food-to-do’s.

San Francisco Chronicle: * Earthbound spinach won a taste test for the best bagged spinach. * Plums are all over the place lately and, in addition to lots of info about the different kinds of plums, this article has a recipe for Grilled Plum Salad with Brandy Mint Vinaigrette. Just what the doctor ordered this summer! * Like most foodies, I love cooking over an open flame, and this article reminisces about cooking sloppy joes over a fire at Brownie camp. Which made me think of making “banana boats” at camp. Anyone else? We’d split a banana with a knife, through the peel on one side without cutting through to the other side, and we’d place it in a piece of foil. Then in the crevice of the banana we would shove as many mini-chocolate chips and mini-marshallows as possible. Wrap up the whole thing with the foil. Then we would literally throw the packages in the campfire. A couple minutes later, a camp counselor would fish the “boats” out of the flames, and we would carefully unwrap them once they had cooled a little bit. I’m sure you can imagine the hot, gooey, sugar-sweet mess inside… Grab a spoon and enjoy!

Washington Post: * I liked the article titled, “The Prodigal Tomato’s Triumphant Return.” It’s written by Tim Stark, who also wrote Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer. * Speaking of tomatoes, the recipe for Pasta with Fresh Tomato, Roasted Garlic, and Brie sounds delectable, especially the idea of letting the sauce sit 1-2 hours to let the flavors really develop (though this step isn’t necessary). Hell, I’ll eat anything that has Brie in it.

Chicago Sun-Times: * If your kitchen is anything like mine, you also throw away a ridiculous amount of produce each week that has gone bad. This article includes some ideas for using all your fruit and veggies, buying the right amount, and saving money and waste.

Eat, drink, and enjoy all the brilliant food-writing available to you


Good things to greet you in the morning...

* I love dem fightin' words in the morning (post-coffee, of course). Oz and Ends socks it to G.P. Taylor, rightfully so (did you know he's the next C.S. Lewis? It's okay - you're forgiven if you didn't). Apparently Taylor likes to hit back...Oh, I hope so.

* WhileI was drinking my coffee, I sifted through the cool pile of F&Gs that I recently got from Scholastic's Spring '09 list. Barbara McClintock...Jeremy Tankard...Mark Teague...Sara Varon...At this point I am so loving my job. And then I unearthed Tillie Lays an Egg by Terry Golson, photographed by Ben Fink, which features hilarious pictures of Golson's own hens. I have no cover art or pictures because it's so new, but take my word for it: this book is a hoot. What I can show you, though, is Terry Golson's so-cool "Hen Cam" (yeah, Susan, I am totally thinking of you right now) and Ben Fink's photography site (no info about the book yet). Look for Tillie in January 2009.

* This isn't the first time I've wanted Rebecca's job over at Cooked Books: today she is featuring a menu from McDonnell's Drive-In, a popular L.A. restaurant in the 30's and 40's. A couple things: 1) what is a Broadway soda??? The text is blocked and I want to know!, 2) a double-decker peanut butter and jelly sandwich...with lettuce? Intriguing..., and 3) I love the quote on the menu - "Good food is good health." Indeed.

* We Are Never Full has a fantabulous post up re: Forbes' Top 10 Richest Celebrity Chef list. Not surprisingly, Rachael Ray is at the top of it, worth $18 million clams a year. Now, I'll confess here that Rachael Ray doesn't bother me as much as she seems to piss off most people: in fact, I'll defend her because we "perky" gals need to stick together (Katie Couric is part of our clan too). What I do take issue with is that Rachael Ray just isn't really a chef anymore. Heck, I'd argue she's hardly a cook anymore. She is a brand. Get her off this list. Here are the rest:

2. Wolfgang Puck - $16 million
3. Gordon Ramsay- $7.5 million
4. Nobuyuki Matsuhisa - $5 million
5. Alain Ducasse - $5 million
6. Paula Deen - $4.5 million
7. Mario Batali - $3 million
8. Tom Colicchio - $2 million
9. Bobby Flay - $1.5 million
10. Anthony Bourdain - $1.5 million

I was mildly surprised that Mario Batali was as low as he was, and I was annoyed that Deen was on there at all. But as a commenter said over at We Are Never Full: "All I can say is at least Sandra Lee isn’t on that list…because if she was, a vein in my head would burst…" Ditto.

Eat, drink, and make peace with Food Network's success


Cue "Eye of the Tiger": I can't give up yet!

So you can imagine how out-of-this-world-excited I was today when I saw that NYU had posted the booklist for my first Food Studies class. Because I’m soooo geeky that way.

- Of Frankenfoods and Golden Rice: Risks, Rewards, and Realities of Genetically Modified Foods by Frederick Buttel (Woo hoo!)

- Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West by William Cronon (Yeah, baby!)

- Agrarian Dreams: the Paradox of Organic Farming by Julie Guthman (Bring it on!)

- Sunset Limited: The Southern Pacific Railroad and the Development of the American West, 1850-1930 by Richard Orsi (Awesome!)

- American Agriculture in the Twentieth Century by Bruce L. Gardner (Fantastic!)

- Centrality of Agriculture: Between Humankind and the Rest of Nature by Colin A.M. Duncan (Okay, I paused here – it’s an $80 book. Whatever! I’ll use plastic!)

- Larding the Lean Earth by Richard Stoll (Rock on!)

- Dolly Mixtures: The Remaking of Genealogies by Sarah Duncan (Sheep? Cool!)

- Home Grown: The Case of Local Food in a Global Market by Bruce Halweil (Brilliant!)

So I bought everything on the list, except for American Ag in the 20th Century, which I checked out from the library. I clutched my card like a 5-year-old using it for the first time. I checked out the book. I took it back to my desk at work and cracked it open with enormous anticipation. Here is a sample of what I read:

The bearing of inequality on poverty is that, for a given income standard, or poverty line, and a given level of mean income of a group, the greater the inequality of income the larger the percentage of the group below the poverty level.

And I do not lie: The Whole Book Reads Like This. Don’t believe me? Let me randomly skip 100 pages ahead…Okay, here’s a sample from this page:

Although the sales and membership of cooperatives grew under the Capper-Volstead Act, it soon became evident that exemption from antitrust was not sufficient to confer decisive market power upon agricultural producers.

To quote Georgia Nicholson: Oh, what in fresh hell?

Eat, drink, and try not to second-guess your decisions.

Wine Notes from Oregon

So I had a few glasses of wine in Oregon (snicker, snicker), though I didn’t actually go wine-tasting (seeing as I don’t want to take Kiddo with me, Adam is a beer guy, and the pretensions of wine-tasting are definitely not my mom-in-law’s thing). Instead, we did something much more our style: we drove to Cost Plus and picked out local Northwest wines there.

One wine was Snoqualmie Vineyard’s Naked Chardonnay from the Columbia Valley. “Naked” of course because it is made from organically grown grapes. I enjoyed this one because it was rather warm during our Oregon visit and I appreciated that this wine didn’t thwonk me over the head with its oak and butter notes. It was light in every way, yet still flavorful with just enough stone fruit, butter, and wood to give it some weight.

My mother-in-law and I both loved Firesteed’s 2006 Pinot Noir from Rickreall, Oregon. Cathie had already bought the bottle sometime before we arrived and we both liked it so much that, when we were at Cost Plus, she bought another bottle. It was well-balanced with mellow wood, full of herbal and floral scents and flavors. It tasted like nature, like it belonged in the outdoors.

In interesting (stark, even) contrast to the Firesteed was the 2006 Pinot Noir from Benton-Lane Winery (really cool label). This wine was “certified sustainable and salmon safe.” It was extremely fruit-forward…in fact, it kind of blasted me with it, along with the strong scent of roses. Cathie and I just weren’t fans of this one. It lacked the earthy, soil flavor and balance that I love in a pinot. This struck me as a pinot in cab’s clothing.

Now, my question is this: was the Benton-Lane just a different pinot from the Firesteed? Or was it a bad pinot? I’m taking a guess the Benton-Lane was just not good. Like children’s literature, in wine there is a difference between quality and taste. Sure, I enjoy wines that more knowledgeable people would call poor quality (Clos du Bois, dammit), but they’re just my personal taste. Likewise, there are great quality wines that just aren’t my taste, like Merlot. The B-L was neither my taste nor was it good quality. I’m in the midst of reading Natalie MacLean’s Red, White, and Drunk All Over and she had this to say about pinot noir:

In the New World, pinot noir is sometimes brutally treated to extract maximum flavor to compete with bolder wines such as shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. Grapes are left to ripen to excess on the vines, the juice is fermented for an extended period and then heavily oaked. Wines made this way taste cooked, sweet, and heavy, qualities that prompt some to mock them as ‘vinicolas’.

In my vast knowledge of wine (hahaha!), I’m guessing that is what happened with the Benton-Lane. But I don’t know either. I find wine endlessly fascinating and confusing. So much so that I’m tempted to go back to the top of this post and replace all periods at the ends of sentences with question marks. Observe:

In my vast knowledge of wine (hahaha!), I’m guessing that is what happened with the Benton-Lane?

Eat, drink, and use declarative sentences.


REVIEW: Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

So after a marathon reading weekend, I have finished reading Stephenie Meyer’s Breaking Dawn. And now I’m going to talk about it so LOOK AWAY if you don’t want to read the spoilers!!!

So in some ways, the book was everything I wanted it to be…yet, in so many other ways, I felt bitterly disappointed. I vividly remember reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and thinking, if only for a moment, “Oh my god, Rowling’s going to do it! She’s really going to kill off Harry!” I really believed she might…after all, there was an 800-page build-up to The Moment. But as you all know, Rowling copped out. Not only that, but she even gave us a damned epilogue that is now the bane of the entire Harry Potter series.

Yeah, so Meyer did the same thing. Long story short, I feverishly read 700-pages, building up to the final showdown with the Volturi. And I actually found myself thinking, “Yes! Meyer’s gonna kill of Bella and Edward!” I actually found myself hoping she would, hoping that she’d be the rare brave author who wasn’t so infatuated with her own creation that she couldn’t take that big leap. It would have been so rad to have Bella and Edward die on the battlefield together, while Jacob lives happily ever with “Nessie” (!). But we all know that Meyer didn’t go there. Hell, she didn’t even give me a single battle scene, let alone any deaths (whatever, who cared about Irina anyway?).

The bane of the Twilight Saga will be Bella getting married and having a baby at 18 years old. Really. I can’t believe, with all the possible endings to a series, this is seemed to be the right conclusion to Meyer. A half-vampire, half-human baby that grows at an insane rate?! Wha…?!

What did please me, though, was that Meyer still managed to surprise me. For one, I really didn’t think she’d turn Bella into a vampire. So that was cool. For another thing, the whole middle section being narrated by Jacob was friggin awesome – it’s about time we got inside his head. Also, I wasn’t even convinced Meyer would have them get married. I certainly wasn’t prepared for Bella to get knocked up (yes, kids, you can get pregnant on your first time)! And have her body ripped apart by the monster fetus! And then have Jacob imprint on the baby! And, um, the sex was pretty incredible – down pillows torn to shreds! Bedposts totally destroyed! Vampires never get tired and can do it all night! Wow, we could all use a little vampire sex!

So I didn’t hate it…but I didn’t love it. I’ll always remember the first book…there’s no way Breaking Dawn will be memorable for me.

In conclusion, a couple more things:

- Okay, I’m admitting this publicly: I still don’t get the chess pieces on the cover. Can someone make me feel like an arse and explain it to me? I have no doubt I’m missing something obvious, particularly since nothing about this series is particularly subtle.

- Anyone else actually see Stephenie Meyer’s playlists for the series on her website? In the past year I’ve downloaded most of the songs and have them in their own playlist on my iPod (which I consequently listened to most of the time I was reading Breaking Dawn). That’s because I’m the biggest nerd ever. But I can thank Meyer for introducing me to Blue October and Muse.

- Check out Bookshelves of Doom’s spoiler-laden review. Yeah, what she said.

- I also agreed with Entertainment Weekly's review. And Teen Book Review put it well when she made a distinction between loving a book and enjoying your time reading it: I also did not love this book but I did enjoy reading it this weekend. Dear Author also had a good review with some interesting discussion going on in the comments section: with Bella getting married and pregnant at 18 years old, can we ignore the "inadvertent subtext informed by the religious culture of the author"? Another commenter also wrote this: "A masochistic girl who is in love with a gay vampire while a pedophilic werewolf loves her." This made me snort-laugh and reminded how silly all of this is, really.


Off on another mini-holiday

I'm flying out tomorrow morning for the beautiful green yonder...otherwise known as Oregon. So I'll be back blogging in about a week.

In the meantime, read "Touched By a Vampire," Laura Miller's article over at Salon.com. Laura obviously doesn't think much of the series, but her article is thoughtful and articulate. Which I much prefer to the flaming and trolling, thank you.

Eat, drink...instead of hanging out at a Breaking Dawn party tonight!

Top 10 Cooking Books

I’ve run across a few Top 10 Cookbook Lists lately, namely over at The Amateur Gourmet and this article in The Star. I had heard of most of them and own quite a few; luckily, there were none that I took real issue with. Adam (The Amateur Gourmet, not my husband) mentions The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook “not to cook from, just to have.” I see what he’s saying – there are definitely books I keep around because they’re beautiful but I don’t really use them. However, I certainly wouldn’t put those books in my Top10.

So you see what’s coming, right? Yep, I have to do a Top 10 of my own. These are the 10 Books I Could Not Live Without in my Crappy NYC Kitchen:

1. Barefoot Contessa (all of them) – Ina Garten. I have all but Parties! and I use them multiple times a week. Most recipes are manageable for the novice cook. Note: her recipes aren’t terribly friendly for the one- to two-person family; her serving size is usually for 6-8 people, which always makes for a ton of leftovers for our 3-person family.

2. Field Guide to Produce: How to Identify, Select, and Prepare Virtually Every Fruit and Vegetable at the Market by Aliza Green. Truly, I couldn’t live without this. It tells you the origin of every fruit and vegetable, including when it is in season, how to store it, what to look for when buying, and complementary flavors. Amazon has the Look Inside feature on this one so you can browse through it.

3. Patricia Wells’ Trattoria by Patricia Wells. Tough call because I love her Vegetable Heaven as well, but Trattoria is still my go-to book for simple, fresh, easy recipes. No beautiful pictures in this one…just beautiful food.

4. The French Market: More Recipes from a French Kitchen by Joanne Harris and Fran Warde. Classic French food without being pedantic or clichéd. Beautiful color photos of France.

5. The New Food Lover’s Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Another resource I can’t live without. Especially when my daughter asks me, every meal, which foods contain vitamin C – I’ve looked up apples, mushrooms, and many more… Also gives brief histories and discusses different varieties and preparations.

6. Timing is Everything: The Complete Timing Guide to Cooking by Jack Piccolo. I don’t live and die by the times listed in this book; however, when I have dealt with an unfamiliar cut of meat or a new vegetable, this book has been invaluable at giving me a cooking guideline.

7. What to Drink with What You Eat by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page. As I mentioned before, the definitive guide.

8. Cooking with Jamie and Jamie’s Italy by Jamie Oliver. I’m hooked. Some recipes are super-simple (Fifteen Christmas Salad) and some appear to be so difficult that I can’t attempt them until I have a proper kitchen. A little something for everyone…

9. Everyday Italian by Giada de Laurentiis. I know, total cliché, right? Nevertheless, her recipes are a godsend for a full-time working parent. They’re easy to make with easy-to-find ingredients, not to mention that it actually includes recipes my Kiddo will eat (yay, pasta!). For better or worse, this continues to be one of my go-to cookbooks.

10. I know not technically cookbooks, but I could not live without Saveur, Gourmet, Food and Wine, Cooking Light, and Bon Appétit. I tear out the recipes and keep them in a notebook, which I wrote about here. If you can’t afford subscriptions to all these, your local library should have most, if not all, of them (and they all have lots of content on their websites). But for heavens’ sake, PHOTOCOPY the recipes! Do NOT rip out the pages of the library’s copy. Sheesh, people.

Note: I just checked out Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes from the library and, from my first glimpse through it, I think this could be a new favorite. Cream Puffs in Venice reviewed it.

Eat, drink, and cultivate your food library.