Excerpt: BLOOD, BONES, AND BUTTER by Gabrielle Hamilton

Oh, you guys.  Wow.  I was incredibly lucky recently to score a galley of BLOOD, BONES, AND BUTTER by Gabrielle Hamilton (Random House, March 2011).  When I heard that Anthony Bourdain had called it "the best food memoir by a chef ever. EVER" and that Mario Batali said that he would "apply for the dishwasher job at Prune to learn from my new queen", I knew I had to read it.  So here's a spoiler:

It really is that good.

I loved it.  I savored every word.  I won't do a full "review", as it's still five months out from publication.  But here is an excerpt of a section that particularly spoke to me:

I want to do the cooking.  It is what grounds me, gives me pleasure, and is the best way for me to communicate with the Italian-speaking family and to make a contribution.  But it can also make me feel like the hired help.  While Michel babysits the kids at the pool for the day, dozing in and out of naps and reading the newspaper and having fluid conversations with people in his native tongue I am nagged by an emptiness while I am neatening and organizing the drawers and shelves in all the cabinets, and it continues as I move up and down each aisle in the grocery store, and interferes still while I am chopping each onion at the newly created cooking island in front of the kitchen stove.  By the time I check out at the grocery store and I've put this grocery bill on my personal card, sauted the onions with the potatoes, and wiped down the counter, I feel precariously poised exactly between totally perfect, as if I am exactly where I should be, and totally fucked-up, as if I were bankrolling my own martyrdom. [quoted from advanced reader's edition]

Oh my god.  Yes.

Is this the "best" passage I could have shared?  Perhaps not.  But this section summed up so many of my own conflicted feelings about cooking for my family and friends: I love cooking...but...god, I'm so not the caterer, dudes.  I am not the Alice to your Brady Bunch.  And the best food writing, in my mind, is that which reflects back to us our own experiences, our own passions, our own humanity.  Which BLOOD, BONES, AND BUTTER accomplishes.  In spades.  I most certainly wasn't doing coke lines and living on my own at 16 years old...but somehow, some way, Gabrielle Hamilton's experiences still end up being my own.  And don't even get me started on her passage about women in restaurants: I'm not a chef in a restaurant but Hamilton still manages to mirror my own feelings about being a woman in a professional environment.  It's brilliant.

To keep myself from going on and on, I just want to end by saying this: buy it.  Mark it, pre-order it, schedule it on your Outlook.  This is the second coming of M.F.K Fisher.  And I do not say this lightly.

Eat, drink, and jump on the Gabrielle Hamilton bandwagon.


Foodie Books for Kids: Dessert

In April 2009, I shared my thoughts on the darling book Dessert First by Hallie Durand, illustrated by Christine Davenier.  It really was a divinely sweet book, and Davenier's illustrations were pitch-perfect with the whimsy and the humor.  And Simon and Schuster's publicity package was attention-grabbing, for sure.

Fast forward more than a year and I'm now in publishing.  I don't get all the ARCs and review copies from other publishers at work anymore, for the most part...though, if there's a book I'm dying to have I send an email to my counterparts in other houses, begging for a copy (Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly and Jane by April Lindner being my two recent "book begs").

So imagine my surprise when I recently received a package at my home; it was from Simon and Schuster and addressed to Pinot and Prose.  Strange.  Open it up and this is what was inside:

Just Desserts!  The next book in the series.  Isn't that packaging clever?  Designed to look like a bakery package, twine and all.  Here's what was inside the bakery box:

Hardcovers of Just Desserts and Dessert First, along with a paperback copy of Dessert First.

I haven't had the chance to read it yet - can you believe I'm already reading Fall 2011 books?! - but I'm looking forward to it.  And I want to thank Simon and Schuster.  I'm guessing that the book came to me only because of a glitch in the database somewhere...but I'm glad for it.  What a fun treat to receive.

Eat, drink, and get your Just Desserts.


Foodie Weekend: Eataly

I've missed you guys!  It's been an eventful two weeks: sickness ('tis the season), best friends, seemingly endless food and wine, conferences, and day-to-day living.  I'll be in Minnesota this coming weekend for KidLitCon and can't wait - I've never been to Minneapolis - or anywhere in Minnesota - so it'll be a new adventure.  Not to mention that I'll see folks from last year's conference, like Liz Burns, Jen Robinson, and Maureen Kearney.  On top of which I also found out today that one of our new authors - Anne Ursu - will be there as well!  She has a book with Harper coming out in Fall 2011 so I'm excited to meet her in person.

But all that aside, let me tell you about my weekend.  The Soul Twin (aka my BFF) was visiting - hopefully, hopefully, the last trip she makes before moving here - and so we decided we had to hit up Eataly.  Eataly, for those not in-the-know, is Mario Batali's foodie venture with Joe and Lidia Bastianich.  I won't go into the details of the place.  For that, there's the New York Post, the New York Times, Eater NY, Huffington Post...and a ridonkulous amount of other sources.  But for the layperson, here is a taste (pun, unfortunately, intended) of our inaugural trip to Eataly:

The wait for La Pasta was an hour long so we settled for La Pesce.  I'm being sarcastic, of course.  It was amazing.  The crudo was fresh and interesting; the Soul Twin particularly loved (as did we all, I assure you) the diver scallops with tangerine-pressed olive oil.  I begged everyone to let me order the salt cod, as I've always been too lazy to make anything with salt cod myself.  It was very good but definitely not the highlight of the meal.

I had never had razor clams before and the flavor of these was as it should be: like tasting the sea.  That said, these were a bit sandy?  Or gritty?  Is that normal?  I'm not sure, being a newbie to razor clams.  Nevertheless, the flavor was outstanding.

I could make Eataly into FIVE blog posts.  So I'll break it down.  Here are a few things you need to know:

  • Get there before noon on a Saturday if you want to avoid waiting on the sidewalk.
  • The vegetable restaurant - La Verdure - seems to have the shortest lines.  And if the rest of the place is any indication, I don't think you can go wrong by going there instead of any of the other places.
  • Want to go food shopping?  Stop by the bar in the middle first.  You can shop while sipping a fabulous rose.  Which we did.
  • Don't expect to buy too much, at least the first time you go.  We walked through like zombies, just staring at everything, unable to act.
  • Have recipes that require obscure pasta shapes you've never heard of?  Write them down before you go to Eataly!  Almost guaranteed that you'll find them here.
  • It's not cheap.  In fact, it's one of the most expensive food shops I have ever visited.
  • Thinking about buying produce at Eataly on a Saturday?  Please remember that Union Square Greenmarket is only about 8 blocks south of Eataly.  Support local produce...and get that amazing fresh pasta from Eataly.
  • They have as much for the wine lover as much as for the beer lover. You know about Adam and his beer: he passed the available Dogfish Head for an Italian beer and loved it. But don't tell Sam Calagione...

So I'll end my post by trying some Italian:

Mangiare, bere, e amano l'Italia!


Wine Labels

I don't usually buy a bottle of wine here, a bottle of wine there.  When I buy wine, I usually go on a shopping spree, if you will - I buy 12 bottles minimum (to get a discount) every 3 months or so.  I either visit my favorite local shop, Wine Room of Forest Hills, or we get a ZipCar and trek out to Jersey for Total Wine*.  The latter of which we did yesterday.

Dragging a nine-year-old child through Total Wine is a feat, to say the least.  Especially since Adam is usually doing his own beer shopping as well - they have an excellent selection.  I mean, it is waaaay boring for Bug and I only thank goodness my mom didn't try to do the same thing to us three kids when I was growing up.  Can you imagine trying to control an 11-year-old (me), a 9-year-old (my brother), and a one-year-old (my sister) through a wine store?!  The sad thing is that my mom probably needed a glass of wine more back then than I do now, dealing with us kids.  Anyway...

So I came up with a way to entertain Bug: she gets to pick one bottle that I buy, based on the "prettiness" of the label.  And as long as it's affordable.  She loves it.  She goes through the store, finding the wines she likes, looking for the "maybe" bottles.  Yesterday, she found this one:

She saw it and exclaimed - okay, she yelled really loud: "IT'S THE WHOMPING WILLOW WINE!!!!"

As mentioned before, our household is obsessed with all things Harry Potter and this label just screamed Whomping Willow to her.  And as luck would have it, I've actually had the Gnarly Head Zin before, as its 1) incredibly affordable, and 2) located in Lodi, CA, very close to where I grew up.  It's big and juicy, of course, but it also has a nice earthiness to it that prevents it from being too jammy.

So, yes, dear readers, I have managed to tie together Harry Potter and Zinfandel.  Not bad, eh?  How's that for tying together children's books and wine?

Eat, drink, and sometimes judge a wine by its label.

* Soooo off-topic but had to share: any time I say "Total Wine" I think of that line from The Breakfast Club.  You know the one?  "If I lose my temper, man, you're totaled."  And Bender replies, "Totally?"  Then Emilio Estevez says, "Totally."  So I say "Total Wines."  Then I expect all of you to reply, "Totally?"  I know.  Weird.  But had to share.


"Spicy" Carbonated Drinks

Up until a couple years ago, Bug hated carbonated drinks, declaring them "spicy" and "hot".  Which I never understood.  I just thought she was messing up her words.

Which is why I found this article at Food & Think so interesting: "The Science of Fizz."  Apparently Bug wasn't entirely off-base.


Weekday Meals, Part 2: Antipasti and Soft-Boiled Eggs

This is the conclusion to my week as a single parent.  I intentionally left the "easier" meals until last.  So on Wednesday, we had "antipasti."  I call it antipasti, but I do believe it's not the traditional sort.  Anyway, I made myself a little salad with a honey mustard vinaigrette (approximately 1/2 tsp. honey mustard, about 3 tbsp olive oil, approx 1/2 tsp. sherry vinegar**, kosher salt and pepper to taste). 

I cut up a pear for Bug, as well as sliced up some smoked mozzarella (she loves the stuff). 

For me, I included some buffalo mozzarella, which I sprinkled with flake salt, fresh pepper, and lemon zest.  I've also discovered the joys (seriously, it's near-ecstasy) of smoked duck, thanks to my local purveyors Hudson Valley Duck Farm at Fresh Direct

Add some salami, which Bug loves, and some triple cream Brie...you have a meal!  Not just any meal, but a rather - dare I say it? - decadent meal for two young ladies without their knight?  Who needs a man, right?

For Thursday, we made one of Bug's favorites: Soft-Boiled Eggs with Artichoke Bread Fingers*, courtesy of Clotilde Dusoulier's Chocolate and Zucchini cookbook:

Of course, I don't call them "artichoke bread fingers" - she'd never eat them.  So it becomes: "Hey, hon, how about eggs with dippers tonight?"  Enthusiastic choruses of hallelujah and Mom is a hero.

Adam came home around midnight on Friday so I had still had one more night to get through.  Friday night.  You know what I did?  I ordered a pizza to be delivered, like any normal human being.  And called the week a success.

Eat, drink, and don't just survive...THRIVE.

* The site this links to is the recipe...but gives no credit to Chocolate and Zucchini.  So I give it here.  That is where I got the recipe.

Note: This is fun.  All the photos of the antipasti meal posted here?  Taken by Bug (aka my 9yo daughter).  I was rushing around: opening wine, getting the table set...  And she asked if she could take photos.  And this is the result.  Am I proud?  Totally.


Together Again!

Adam got home late last night, about an hour after I fell asleep and looong after Bug had gone down for the night.  I hardly responded when he spoke to me at midnight, even though my mind still registered his arrival.

So when I woke up this morning, I was thrilled he was there.  As I'm sure you guessed, we were awakened by Bug...with a hug!  She climbed on Adam, hugging him, which then woke me up.  Perfect, right?

We got the idea to make Adam breakfast in bed as a welcome home gift:

We made bacon - our favorite kind, from Dickson's Farmstand Meats in Chelsea Market - with scrambled eggs.  And I found some Eckerton tomatoes at Manhattan Fruit Exchange yesterday so I cut those up, and tossed them with salt, pepper, lemon zest, and olive oil.  Bug was in charge of making toast and buttering it.

Breakfast in bed on a sunny Saturday morning.  Really, at that moment, I knew that I didn't need anything else in the world to make me happy.

And, as a treat to myself for making it through a challenging week, I poured a glass (okay, fine, two glasses) of prosecco.
Eat, drink, and enjoy happy reunions.

Weekday Meals, Part 1: Naan pizza

Alas, I had such grand visions of blogging all week.  Now I know that should I, under tragic circumstances, be a single parent, I don't think I could keep up this blog.  Time was so not my friend for the past five days.

Nevertheless, I was able to capture our meals sans Adam.  On Tuesday, it was naan pizza:

This...well, this turned out not great.  Serviceable, at best.  My plan was for potato and ricotta pizza.  I heated the oven to 400 degrees with my pizza stone on the bottom rack.  I drizzled each naan with olive oil, then added salt and pepper to taste.  I spread each naan with Pomi strained tomatoes, followed by fresh ricotta.

I left Bug's as is.  To mine, I added some boiled potato slices and red pepper flakes.  Then both naans went into the oven for about 12 minutes.  Once out, I added fresh thyme to my pizza and shaved Parmesan to both our pizzas.

The result was nearly crap, actually.  I was entirely too generous with the sauce so, once combined with the already moist ricotta, turned the naan completely soggy - you can't really see it in the photo but there were POOLS of liquid on top of the pizza.  And because there was too much sauce, the pizza was overly sweet, in my opinion.  And it looked bland - I think a spell under the broiler would have done those potatoes good.

The good news?  Bug inhaled it.  Loved it.  So I guess that's good...

Eat, drink, and in all things moderation.