© Chris Quinlan
In our July issue
, Frank Bruni wrote a great piece
about cooking from chef Jonathan Waxman’s new book, Italian, My Way
. I was fortunate enough to experience the book with much less effort than Bruni put in—Waxman cooked from it Monday night at the fantastic Frasca Food and Wine
in Boulder, Colorado, as part of their Monday Night Wine Dinner
series. Italian winemaker Giampaolo Venica poured some of his hyper-aromatic, unoaked whites, like the Venica & Venica
2010 Sauvignon Blanc Ronco delle Mele, with Waxman’s dishes.
© Chris Quinlan
Waxman and the Frasca team
It was the chef's fish courses that really blew me away. (Maybe it was the perfect preparation—Waxman was assisted by Frasca chef Lachlan Mackinnon Patterson (an F&W Best New Chef 2005) and his team—or perhaps it was coming off a meat-centric weekend at the F&W Classic in Aspen). Smoked-trout-and-mascarpone crostini was sweet and smoky, swordfish carpaccio with English pea and herb vinaigrette melted in my mouth and a superlight, tempura-style fritto misto was fantastic. Mackinnon Patterson said it best when he called Waxman “the most soulful chef” he’s cooked with.
© Jen Murphy
Apple tart at Castello di Vicarello
Earlier in the year I had a chance to spend a weekend cooking with the amazing Aurora Baccheschi Berti at her dreamy 12th-century castle-turned-hotel, Castello di Vicarello, in Maremma, Tuscany. Staying at Vicarello is like staying at fabulous friend’s home with nonstop food, wine and adventure (Aurora’s husband, Carlo, takes groups wild-boar hunting at his nearby lodge, Valle di Buriano. Aurora and Carlo spent years in the textile business and have quite an eye for design. The seven rooms and villas of Vicarello are outfitted with unique antiques, old issues of Art Forum, oversize bathtubs and quirky touches like a zebra-skin rug. But it’s the kitchen that’s truly the heart of the house, and that’s where guests gravitate. Carlo and Aurora, and often their three charming sons, are the perfect hosts, offering up glasses of Brunello and slices of wild-boar prosciutto. Aurora hosts impromptu cooking lessons, and dinners are a two-hour-plus affair. I got a taste of the Tuscan winter on my visit, but Aurora’s just-released cookbook, Tuscany My Way, gives me a chance to recreate recipes from all four seasons at Vicarello. Inspired by the castle’s gardens, the book has more than 100 recipes organized by season, like carbonara withfava beans and apple tart. It’s one of the most transporting cookbooks I’ve seen and the next best thing to a trip back to Tuscany.
© Lois Ellen Frank
The Basics for Tomahawking Champagne.
In Part II of my occasional series, Don’t Necessarily Try This at Home (Part I featured two-year-old vintage eggnog
from Jonathon Sawyer
of Greenhouse Tavern
in Cleveland), I’d like to spotlight tomahawking Champagne
as a potential holiday trend. I first heard about this from Holly Arnold Kinney
, who owns the iconic Rocky Mountain restaurant The Fort
, outside of Denver. Instead of the classic, and dramatic, French practice of “sabering” Champagne
—hitting the bottle neck with a saber at just the right angle so the cork pops off—the Fort uses a tomahawk to do the same job.
In her cool new coffee-table book, Shinin’ Times at the Fort
, Kinney goes into even more detail: “My dad taught his pal Julia Child
how to tomahawk a bottle of Champagne, and later that week, she taught Jay Leno
how to do so when she was a guest on The Tonight Show
.... [but] the bottle Julia used was weak and broke all over the set! Although she grabbed a second bottle and tomahawked it perfectly, NBC decided to use the broken-bottle take to promote the show.”
I’m fairly certain I have the most fun job in the world. Yesterday I attended a chocolate-and-wine pairing
event hosted by Green & Black’s
, the UK brand of organic, fair-trade chocolate. Micah Carr-Hill, the company’s Global Head of Taste (how’s that for a title? His job might be even more fun than mine) guided a group of journalists and bloggers through a pairing of six different chocolates, with wines ranging from a lychee-scented Gewürztraminer for the Peanut & Sea Salt Chocolate (my favorite) to a spicy Amarone-style red with the 85% Dark Chocolate. This was experiential learning at its best: We discovered through tasting that floral whites often complement milk chocolate’s sweetness, and more astringent reds can bring out vanilla notes in bitter dark chocolate. I’ve always assumed that big, tannic reds are chocolate’s best match, but my new favorite chocolate-friendly wine was actually a raisiny sherry, which played on the chocolate’s earthy, nutty flavors. Green & Black’s has also published a new book of chocolate-dessert recipes, just released in the US last week, available here
. I’ll be showing off my new pairing inspirations when I try out the recipes at our holiday party this year.
Rachel Saunders of Oakland, California’s Blue Chair Fruit is a jam obsessive. In fact, she reminds me of one of my other favorite obsessives, Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream. Both are perfectionists and tinkered for years until they felt they had something perfect. Yet they never tire of creating new flavors or combinations, so what they sell is always fresh and inventive. (I should also mention that both artisans are featured in F&W in December, with a mini essay from Jeni and a recipe from Rachel).
I love Rachel's new book because it’s super comprehensive: She not only explains how the bubbles on a high sugar jam look small and shiny when the jam is done or very close, she shows you what that stage looks like in photographs, too. And while she includes 120 or so of her own jam recipes, she gives you enough information in the first few chapters to improvise and create jams of your own.
To tell the truth, I’m not much of a jam maker but Sara Remington’s photographs throughout the book make me wish I were. This is a great book for real homesteaders or those who just like to pretend.
The end of the year is my favorite time in the food world because of the overwhelming influx of inspiring cookbooks. Over the next few weeks, I will write up some of my new favorites.
I’ve always loved the 1-2-3 cookbooks by Rozanne Gold — the series is filled with clever recipes that only use three ingredients. That’s why I was thrilled to see her latest cookbook Radically Simple. In it, she looks at the entire world of flavors, often recombining them in fascinating ways to make recipes that might seem gimmicky until you try them. For example, in Smoked & Fresh Salmon En Chemise she wraps fresh salmon in slivers of smoked salmon before blasting the fillets in a hot oven. The fish takes on this rich bacon-like note and is delicious with the tangy tomatillo-herb sauce she serves on the side.
Other recipes are pared back to a small list of superflavorful ingredients: Her Chicken Thighs with Rosemary and Two Paprikas (sweet Hungarian and smoked Spanish) is a perfect weeknight dish. Besides the minced garlic that’s rubbed all over the thighs, the recipe only contains the ingredients in the title but tastes amazingly complex.
This is the book I'll be pulling off the shelf the next time I'm stuck in a cooking rut.
At The Meadow, in Portland, Oregon, Mark Bitterman has spent the past five years selling a mind-boggling array of salts, from Japanese deep-sea salts to rose pink Himalayan salt blocks. Former F&W Best New Chefs like Naomi Pomeroy and Gabriel Rucker pop in not just for the salts but also for Mark's expertise, since he's spent years experimenting with all of his inventory. Now there are two ways for people who don't live in Portland to get a bit of Mark's advice, too. The first is his new cookbook, Salted, which is a field guide to artisan salts complete with recipes. The second is a class at The Meadow's new branch in Manhattan. The West Village shop is unofficially open this week; tonight Mark offers his first salt-tasting class, which will focus on finishing salts. Tickets are $30, and the event also includes wine tasting.
My colleague Kate Krader recently blogged about her three highlights
from last weekend's New York City Wine & Food Festival
. I'm going to add two more to the list.
* My friend Cricket Azima taught a kids' cooking class on Saturday, part of the Kids Get Cooking! segment of the festival. She deftly led 50 kids (some even clad in chef jackets) in making panzanella. Nothing beats seeing a bunch of kids happily dicing veggies, all yelling "Mangia, mangia, mangia!" ("Eat, eat, eat!" in Italian) in unison.
* On Sunday, Rocco DiSpirito cracked jokes during his culinary demo, as he shared secrets for making over comfort foods from his latest book, Now Eat This! Rocco related how he wanted to find a way to have real fried chicken, while cutting out a lot of the fat: "Who needs another baked chicken recipe?" he said. He consulted Harold McGee, father of all things scientific in the kitchen, and discovered that less time in oil = less fat absorbed. So, he came up with the idea to poach chicken in broth until almost cooked through, dunk it in the requisite buttermilk bath and flour coating, then flash-fry it very quickly in hot oil. Chicken that's crispy and lower in fat: genius!
© Courtesy Harper Collins Publishers
I admit it: I can be one of those Brooklyn
cheerleaders that food writers Jeffrey Steingarten
and Josh Ozersky
complain about. But even they must admit that the borough has a food movement going on, whether or not the scene rivals Manhattan's. A cookbook that just came out should help everyone judge for themselves exactly what's happened in the last decade in Kings County: The New Brooklyn Cookbook
by Melissa and Brendan Vaughan
. (Full disclosure: The book's photographer, Michael Harlan Turkell
, is a friend of mine.) The "old" guard—like Al Di La
and Saul—are included in the 31 restaurants profiled, but so are newer names like Beer Table and Vinegar Hill House
, all with recipes. Local artisans like Shane Welch of Six Points
Craft Ales and the women of Hot Bread Kitchen
also make appearances. Even if you can't bring yourself to cross the Brooklyn Bridge, it's worth checking out what you're missing.
F&W features intern Chelsea Morse fuels her pasta obsession with a great new cookbook. Here, her review:
The Geometry of Pasta, recently released from Quirk Books, successfully walks the line between functional cookbook and coffee-table eye candy. While so many glossy, oversized contemporary cookbooks are too beautiful to bring near a stove, graphic designer Caz Hildebrand and chef Jacob Kenedy’s book would be equally at home on a marinara-splattered countertop as in a stylish living room. The novel-sized hardback is printed on matte paper, illustrated with dramatic Art Deco–style illustrations of more than 100 pasta shapes, from agnolotti to ziti. Accompanying each entry is a short history and description of the shape and a handful of recipes best suited to that particular pasta. The sleek black and white images have the mesmerizing quality of Escher prints, and the recipes—not just Italian, but Greek, Hungarian, American and more—are equally inviting. Hard-to-find shapes, like pansotti (a triangular pasta with a round center cut, giving it the name “big bellies”), come with instructions on how to make the pasta at home.