Category Archives: Culinary Arts

Cooking: The New Yorker Top Cookbooks Of 2019

From a New Yorker online article:

2019-Rosner-Best-CookbookWhittling down my favorites to a mere Top Ten was an insurmountable challenge—and there were still so many I didn’t get to, all of them floating in that literary quantum state of potential perfection. (No doubt my favorite book of all is among them, and I’m cursed never to know it.) If this is indeed a time of crisis, I suppose it’s a comfort that at least our kitchens—and, for those of us in skirts, our knees—will be warm. My list is organized alphabetically by author.

 

Ruffage: A Practical Guide to Vegetables,” by Abra Berens

All vegetable cookbooks, as a rule, are wonderful, but too often they blur together into a sort of generic, Wendell Berry-and-dirt-under-the-nails quietude of awe: behold the first pale green of spring, lo the beauty of the humble parsnip, and so on. It’s the voice in “Ruffage” that makes it so marvellous—a sort of sharp, lusty fierceness that one doesn’t normally see applied to beets or celery. Berens writes intimately without being precious, a mode that reflects her recipes: approachable but stunningly lush, gently coaxing out walloping flavors from humble materials.


South: Essential Recipes and New Explorations,” by Sean Brock

This far-reaching compendium decodes the culinary pillars of the entire American South, from the moss-swagged South Carolina Lowcountry to the rolling hills of the Appalachian Piedmont. Shrimp and grits, fried bologna, five types of corn bread—it’s all here. Brock, a celebrated chef, is one of the great practical historians of Southern cuisine, and here he focusses on the whys as much as the whats: we get to know not only his favorite heirloom beans and grains but the soil that feeds them and the people who grow them; we learn not just why it’s worth tracking down certain cultivars of tomato or regional varieties of country ham but the reasons (often tragic) that they’re now so hard to find.


Amá: A Modern Tex-Mex Kitchen,” by Josef Centeno and Betty Hallock

Tex-Mex, as a cuisine, often gets slighted when it comes to serious culinary consideration, but, at Los Angeles’s celebrated restaurants Bar Amá and Amácita, the chef and restaurateur Centeno gives this essential American cuisine the spotlight it deserves. This book is less an accounting of the restaurant’s menu than a tale of Centeno’s coming of age within Tejano culture and learning to find pride in his family history. Stories and recipes from generations past (fiery steak fajitas; a gooey, chorizo-flecked queso asadero) share space with playful remixes of Texan and Tex-Mex classics, like lobster taquitos and carne guisada Frito pie—not to mention nearly an entire chapter dedicated to “Super Nacho Hour.”


Zaitoun: Recipes from the Palestinian Kitchen,” by Yasmin Khan

Khan, a former human-rights campaigner, shifted her job description in 2016 with “The Saffron Tales,” a marvellous compendium of Persian cuisine. In her second volume, she turns her empathetic eye to the kitchens of Palestinians living in Israel and the occupied territories and also abroad. The result is a feast of spiced soups and stews, zingy greens and pulses, and rich sweets scented with rose water and honey. Khan pays particular attention to subtle regional differences, including the chili-and-garlic-filled cuisine of the Gaza Strip, which is rapidly disappearing behind a devastating blockade.

Where Cooking Begins: Uncomplicated Recipes to Make You a Great Cook,” by Carla Lalli Music

Whether in a farmers’ market, a mobile Web interface, or a fluorescent-lit suburban grocery store, Music’s philosophy of food is that it all starts with the act of acquiring it mindfully: buy ingredients often and in small quantities. Her book, full of beautiful photographs and written with a breezy, conversational voice, uses an arsenal of herbaceous, acidic, high-impact recipes to introduce key techniques and ingredient formulas that can turn any shopping trip into a gorgeous meal. Each recipe includes copious twists, spins, and alternatives: an ideal tool kit to transform a timid cook into an adventurous and confident improviser.


The Gaijin Cookbook: Japanese Recipes from a Chef, Father, Eater, and Lifelong Outsider,” by Ivan Orkin and Chris Ying

Orkin, a New York Jew who married a Japanese woman, has Japanese children, and spent years living in Japan, immersed in Japanese culture, has built a formidable career making some of the best ramen in the world. This is one of those rare cookbooks that’s both tremendously insightful and genuinely funny, exploring the various ways that identity, tradition, language, and love work together (or, sometimes, directly against one another) in the home kitchen of a blended family. From a starting point of simple, foundational recipes—rice, eggs, noodles, dashi—he guides the reader into slightly more involved Japanese, Japanese-American, and Japanese-American-Jewish dishes, including recipes ideal for drunken weekends, picky kids, or both.


Tartine: A Classic Revisited,” by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson

When the original Tartine cookbook was published, in 2006, it was a near-instant classic: at last, the extraordinary breads, cakes, tarts, and pastries produced at the San Francisco bakery could be made anywhere, so long as a home cook had the equipment (and exacting, patient temperament) to make it happen. Thirteen years later, Tartine has grown from a single storefront to a California empire with multiple locations (plus a few in Seoul), and its industrial ovens are still the gold standard. This book lightly updates fifty-five of the earlier recipes and introduces sixty-eight more, their flavors updated for more modern palates and diets—it includes two dozen gluten-free options—all truly exceptional.


Nothing Fancy: Unfussy Food for Having People Over,” by Alison Roman

There’s something so refreshing about a cookbook that straight-up rejects the idea that cooking always needs to be a special and precious act. Roman’s food is bright and worldly, without a hint of tweezer-y fuss. Her alluringly irreverent thesis, first laid out in her blockbuster début book, “Dining In,” and elaborated upon in this volume (which, despite its dinner-party focus, is full of straightforward recipes with clever twists that work beautifully for everyday meals), stays just this side of the line between empowering and impatient: just make the damn food. Trust the recipe. Have some fun.


Joy of Cooking: 2019 Edition Fully Revised and Updated,” by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, Ethan Becker, John Becker, and Megan Scott

For the past ninety years or so, readers have been blessed with a new edition of “Joy of Cooking” roughly every decade. This version—the result of years of work by John Becker and Megan Scott, the newest generation to be added to the cookbook’s byline—brings the grande dame of the kitchen bookshelf definitively into the now. Becker and Scott retested and updated some four thousand classic “Joy” recipes and added six hundred or so new ones that reflect more current tastes and interests. There’s a whole section on fermenting now, not to mention vegan options, a sous-vide guide, and a dramatically broadened appreciation for international cuisines and ingredients. (For gift-giving, the printed version of “Joy” is a beautiful, massive object. But, for your own use, my advice is to invest in the digital edition: with so many recipes, and so much densely packed information, this is exactly the sort of scenario when an e-book—and its internal search function—is a cook’s best friend.)


Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking,” by Toni Tipton-Martin

Ostensibly a companion to Tipton-Martin’s award-winning “The Jemima Code” (which I listed as one of my favorite food books of the past twenty years), “Jubilee” stands on its own as a wide-ranging, celebratory collection of recipes that trace the black culinary history of America. Rum-spiked fruit fritters, cinnamon-scented sweet-potato biscuits with salty country ham, a broccoli-and-cauliflower salad with a tangy curried dressing—each of the recipes in this extraordinary book has a provenance, whether it’s a classic restaurant, a modern celebrity chef, or the recorded techniques of an enslaved cook. Despite their deep roots, the recipes—even the oldest ones—feel fresh and modern, a testament to the essentiality of African-American gastronomy to all of American cuisine.

To read more: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/2019-in-review/the-best-cookbooks-of-2019

Food Trends: “Kitchen United” Delivery-Only Restaurants Wins “2019 Innovator Of The Year”

From a Restaurant Dive online article:

Restaurant Dive Awards 2019“What virtual kitchens, or the Kitchen United concept does, is create a new economic model, where no longer do [restaurants] have to invest in expensive real estate and fancy front-of-house overhead and dining rooms, [they] can share kitchen space, optimize capital that is there and hopefully create a more profitable model for delivery,” NPD Group Vice President David Portalatin told Restaurant Dive. 

When Kitchen United received $40 million in funding from RXR Realty during the summer, it became clear the two-year-old shared kitchen startup is paving a path for rapid expansion. The company will partner with the real estate company to open kitchens in New York City and the tri-state area.

This partnership fits within Kitchen United’s overall goal of opening 400 kitchen centers and 5,000 kitchens within the next few years. But it certainly isn’t alone in opening virtual kitchens, or restaurants without a traditional retail storefront. Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats have all been trying their hand in delivery-only restaurants over the last two years.

To read more; https://www.restaurantdive.com/news/innovator-kitchen-united-restaurant-dive-awards/566463/

Top Restaurants: Sydney’s “Firedoor” Leads Fiery “Australian BBQ” Trend

From a New York Times online review:

Lennox Hastie Chef of Firedoor Photo by Con Poulos New York Times“Australian barbecue” is not, however, what Lennox Hastie, the chef at Firedoor, would use to describe his own cooking. Nor is it a term that’s been used much by anyone to describe any type of cooking. Here, the word “barbecue” is generally synonymous with the American term “cookout,” and, much like the cookout, it remains an integral part of Australia’s national identity.

Firedoor, which opened in 2015, is a prime example. Wagyu with Onion at Firedoor Photo by Con Poulos New York TimesThe kitchen is powered entirely by wood — there are no electric or gas ovens, burners or microwaves. Mr. Hastie came to this style after working five years at Asador Etxebarri in the Basque Country, where the chef Victor Arguinzoniz cooks local ingredients over fire using multiple types of wood. Mr. Hastie takes a similar approach, but with pointedly Australian ingredients.

One of the restaurant’s most thrilling dishes is a whole marron — a large freshwater crayfish native to Western Australia. The marron is grilled, split open and smothered in sea blite, a coastal plant related to samphire, and sunrise lime, a hybrid citrus created by crossing the native Australian finger lime with a calamondin (itself a cross between a mandarin and a kumquat). There are plenty of smoky, charred meats on the menu as well: pork chops, duck hearts and Wagyu all get their turn on one of the many grills.

To read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/05/dining/australian-barbecue.html

Cocktail Books: “Botany At The Bar – The Art & Science Of Making Bitters”

Botany at the Bar The Art & Science of Making Bitters BookBOTANY AT THE BAR

The Art and Science of Making Bitters
Botany at the Bar is a bitter-making handbook with a beautiful, botanical difference—three scientists present the backstories of exciting flavors of plants from around the globe and all in a range of tasty, healthy tinctures. Botanists Selena Ahmed, Ashley Duval, and Rachel Meyer take us on an enlightening trip throughout the plant world as they share their unique expertise on the ecology, cultural practices, and medicinal properties just waiting to be discovered at the bottom of your glass. Notes on the origins of bitters, the science of taste, and phytochemistry are followed by a neat guide on how to extract and make herbal infusions at home. Add enlightening plant profiles with a mix of unique botanical drink recipes, and this is a truly fascinating experiential insight into the vital meaning of biodiversity today.

Travel: “Courmayeur”, An Italian Ski Town That Foodies Love (WSJ)

From a Wall Street Journal online article:

Super G hotel, home to two restaurants overseen by Milan chef Andrea Berton. PHOTO FRANCESCO LASTRUCCI FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Super G hotel, home to two restaurants overseen by Milan chef Andrea Berton. PHOTO: FRANCESCO LASTRUCCI FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Courmayeur, both a town and a ski resort, boasts nearly as many ambitious, full-service restaurants as it does lifts on the slopes. Even on bright sunny days with powdery trails, the big question tends to be, “What’s for lunch?” The village, nestled in a snug valley on the south slope (the Italian side) of Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak, is a typically sleepy mountain town for much of the year with around 3,000 full-time residents. But when the ski season kicks into high gear, its restaurants, bars and cafes all come roaring to life. It’s a favorite winter escape for residents of Italy’s fashion capital, Milan, a straight two-hour shot up the highway. 

For the urbane crowds in from the city on winter weekends, Courmayeur is as much an epicurean as snow-sports destination, known for its mountain cheeses, wild game and cured meats, and for its increasingly serious restaurants. Top tables on and off the slopes can book up weeks in advance. The region’s minerally white and earthy red wines come from some of the highest altitude vineyards in Europe. The sparkling Cuvée des Guides is made 7,000 feet above sea level on the slopes of Mont Blanc, with a tasting room atop one of the state-of-the-art Skyway Monte Bianco cable car stations.

To read more: https://www.wsj.com/articles/an-italian-ski-town-where-the-food-rivals-the-views-11574791692

Future Of Eating Out: Chef Eric Rivera’s “Addo: Incubator” Maximizes Tech To Serve Better Food

From a Wired.com online review:

Addo Restaurant Eric RiveraEvery possible step is done online, and for most meals customers must reserve—and often pay—in advance, essentially buying tickets through a service called Tock that’s mostly used only by high-end restaurants. This means no host manning a podium, no reservation or PR teams, no extra staff on a slow night, almost no food waste, and better guest communications. It also allowed them to go from 20 employees to four full-time and three part-time workers.

Within moments of arriving at Seattle’s Addo restaurant, I was handed a Nintendo Switch controller and a can of Georgetown Brewing Company’s Bodhizafa IPA.

While chef Eric Rivera shuttled back and forth to the kitchen to bring out Puerto Rican snacks, Addo’s director of operations Ingrid Lyublinsky took another controller, jumped into a game of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on a giant projector screen hanging inside the front window, chose Pink Gold Peach, and shot down the track riding a Bone Rattler while someone shouted Pew! Pew! Pew!

To read more: https://www.wired.com/story/eric-rivera/

Food & Wine Review: Colorado Wine Regions Expand Amidst Challenges For Vineyards At Highest Elevations In The World

Colorado Wine CountryVineyards in Colorado are mostly nestled in the temperate, high elevation river valleys and mesas of Mesa and Delta counties, with some acreage in Montezuma county. Colorado’s grape growing regions range in elevation from 4,000 to 7,000 feet and are thus among the highest vineyards in the world, resulting in hot days accompanied by cool nights.

Grand Valley AVA wines in Colorado

The ‘continental climate’ in these regions create day to night temperature variations topically ranging from 25 to 30 degrees during the grape maturation months of August and September. The long warm daylight hours of intense high-altitude sunlight mature the fruit completely and build the natural sugars. The cool evenings cause the grapes to retain the acids so vital to premium winemaking. However, the high altitude can also present a challenge to grape growers, in that the average frost free growing season ranges from 150 to 182 days.

Website: https://coloradowine.com/the-tradition/

AMERICA THE BOUNTIFUL Regions once considered wine deserts are producing in-demand bottles as a new wave of winemakers boldly redraw the map of American wine regions. ILLUSTRATION BETH HOECKEL
AMERICA THE BOUNTIFUL Regions once considered wine deserts are producing in-demand bottles as a new wave of winemakers boldly redraw the map of American wine regions. ILLUSTRATION: BETH HOECKEL

Read Wall Street Jouranl article on young winemakers: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-wines-to-buy-this-thanksgiving-a-guide-to-americas-up-and-coming-regions-11573836307