Archive for December, 2007

An Evening with David Wondrich & Classic Cocktails

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

David Wondrich, a co-founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail, has contributed to cocktail literature a truly important book with IMBIBE! From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to “Professor” Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar. Imbibe is a richly researched work which examines the roots of America’s cocktail preeminence.

Wondrich will be visiting Rabelais on Friday January 4th from 5-7pm, where you can meet and chat with the drink master and have him sign copies of the book. At 7pm we will move to the Upstairs Room at RIRA (72 Commercial Street, Portland), where Wondrich will speak about Jerry Thomas and American cocktail history, while mixing up some of history’s greatest libations for us to taste.

Please join us for both legs of the journey; copies of the book will be available at both locations. And many thanks to Portland’s best bartending asset, John Meyers, for helping us put this together.

Wondrich is a contributing editor for Esquire and writes for The New York Times, Saveur, Real Simple and Drink. He holds a Ph.D in comparative literature. Imbibe! is published by Perigee. In the New York Times, William Grimes wrote an extended article about Wondrich, his book and the historical American cocktail, which can be found here.

Science and Wine

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

“No longer need you doubt whether a wine truly does possess flavours of exotic coffee, chocolate, Asian spice, roast duck and blackberry and prune liqueur. Genes from those very animals and plants could be spliced straight into the grape’s genome. Forget hours spent swilling, swirling, sniffing, gurgling and spitting—it will all be there in black and white, in the sequence data.”

The Economist weighs in on transgenic-GM wines. Can’t science and business leave this one thing alone?

Meatpaper in the news

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

Sasha Wizansky and Amy Standen, the editors of Meatpaper and both former committed vegetarians, get profiled in today’s NYTimes. :

“The magazine names the present moment, when braised pork belly is comfort food and savvy diners know their Charolais from their Chianina, the “fleischgeist,” or spirit of meat.”

We loved Meatpaper’s inaugural issue when it came out, and now the new issue arrived here at the store yesterday. It includes a salute to chef Chris Cosentino’s favorite part of the cow – the heart – entitled “Captain Beefheart.”

!?Meat Cocktails?!

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

OK. I like meat as much as the next guy, well actually more than the next guy, but this is a bit beyond the pale for me. News of meat cocktails in the Observer and here.

An Oyster Night Report

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

Two weeks ago, Rosamond Cummins joined us for the Slow Food Portland Oyster Night and has written very nice report on her experience. You can find it at

Our Picks for the Season

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

Here’s our list of recommendations for the holiday season. Some are very new, others a bit older, but all are good reading and good eating.

Mouth Wide Open: A Cook and His Appetite by John Thorne (North Point). From the author of Serious Pig and one of America’s truly great food writers, this is memoir with recipes, all about real food in New England.

The Kitchen Diaries, A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater (Gotham). One of our favorite books, Slater takes you through a year of delicious, comforting and honest food, all accompanied by impressions of his daily cooking life.

Beyond Nose to Tail: More Omnivorous Recipes for the Adventurous Cook by Fergus Henderson (Bloomsbury). A follow-up to The Whole Beast by the famed chef of London restaurant St John. Henderson focuses on using all parts of the animal. In this second book he has an expanded section of desserts from his pastry chef Justin Piers Gellatly.

The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Ten Speed). The much-awaited US publication of what we think is one of the best books out there on the issue of meat, from the politics to raising to butchering to sourcing to cooking.

The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese by Jeffrey Roberts (Chelsea Green). Both a reference and a guide book to artisan cheese makers across the country with pictures and contact information.

The Year of the Goat: 40,000 Miles and the Quest for the Perfect Cheese, by Margaret Hathaway (Globe Pequot). A New York City couple drops it all and travels America to follow their dream. On the way they visit goat herds, goat auctions, cheese makers, butchers, and many others. Now they live on a small Maine farm looking forward to their own goat cheese some day soon.

Molecular Gastronomy and Kitchen Mysteries both by Herve This (Columbia University Press). Molecular Gastronomy, all about the new science of food, is broken down into one hundred distinct chapters, and explains what’s behind the taste and texture of your food. Kitchen Mysteries is the newly-released follow up. Both will change the way you experience cooking and taste.

1080 Recipes by Simone and Ines Ortega (Phaidon Press). Published by the same folks who brought us The Silver Spoon, 1080 is a Spanish Joy of Cooking – a truly beautiful book with a comprehensive take on Spanish cuisine and charming illustrations by Javier Mariscal.

Made in Italy, Food & Stories by Giorgio Locatelli (Ecco). A weighty tome on modern Italian food, Locatelli shares his history, his views on the state of food and fantastic recipes from the perspective of one of London’s great chefs. Be prepared to learn from this one; Locatelli devotes 36 pages to the concept and execution of Risotto.

American Food Writing: An Anthology: With Recipes by Molly O’Neill (Modern Library). The New York Times food columnist brings us a collection of American writings spanning three centuries of writing. From Meriwether Lewis to Alice B. Toklas, Edna Lewis to Richard Olney, and James Beard, M.F.K. Fisher, James Villas all the way to Michael Pollan. It’s sure to be a classic for the armchair foodie, though there are recipes here for the kitchen cook as well.

Secret Ingredients, The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink (Random House). Another lively collection of writings about food pulled from the historic pages of The New Yorker magazine, including works by A.J. Liebling, Joseph Wechsberg, Calvin Trillin, Adam Gopnik, Bill Buford and Anthony Bourdain.

The Tenth Muse, My Life in Food by Judith Jones (Knopf). The editor of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (among many, many other classic cookbooks) weaves the story of her life. A lovely read by a truly charming woman.

The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters (Clarkson Potter). The powerhouse behind Chez Panisse, and a creator of modern American fascination obsession with local fresh food, guides the reader through her approach to the kitchen.

The Basics: The Foundations of Modern Cooking by Filip Verheyden and Tony Le Duc (Melville House). This jewel of a book takes you concisely through the ground work of ‘the basic’ techniques and recipes. An essential for the novice and the gourmet alike, it delivers a real food education in a small, precise package.

A Geography of Oysters: The Connoisseur’s Guide to Oyster Eating in North America by Rowan Jacobsen (Bloomsury). A guide to everything about American oysters: culture; history; geography; recipes and what to drink with oysters.

Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone by Deborah Madison (Broadway Books). The tenth anniversary edition of our all time favorite treatise on what to do with any vegetable.

Cucina del Sole : A Celebration of Southern Italian Cooking by Nancy Harmon Jenkins (Harper Collins). Maine’s very own has a new cookbook on the cuisine of Southern Italy with lots of history and delicious recipes.

Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich (Artisan). The ‘Queen of Chocolate’ (Cocolat) branches out with simple, pure flavors from basic ingredients. Highlighting the use of local fruits and classic tastes like vanilla and honey and buckwheat, Medrich makes the simple sublime.

The Wines of Spain by Julian Jeffs (Mitchell Beazley). The Spanish wine territory is as old as that of France but evolving at a very rapid pace. This book helps make sense of these changes and the many new choices available.

Au Pied du Cochon by Martin Picard (The Restaurant). From the eponymous Montreal restaurant, a rousing romp through nose to tail eating. This cult classic is on the shelves of most chefs in town.

Pork & Sons By Stephane Reynaud (Phaidon). An affectionate tribute to the pig by a French butcher with recipes built around all the parts of a pig, including sausages, hams, terrines, chops and more. If you crave pork, you’ll love this book.

Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon by Claudia Roden (Knopf). The latest work by this much revered expert on Middle Eastern Cuisine. Roden was recently profiled in The New Yorker.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois (Thomas Dunne Books). A pastry chef and a scientist combine forces to give the home baker formulas to bake real chewy, crusty bread within a manageable time frame.

The $330,000 fungus

Saturday, December 1st, 2007

A 1.5kg truffle sold for approximately $330,000 at auction tonight in London. The auction, held at Giorgio Locatelli’s Refettorio, benefitted several charities.

So many cookbook round-ups

Saturday, December 1st, 2007

‘Tis the season, for “year’s best” lists: tops tens, best ofs, etc. etc. A few magazines, newspapers and websites have weighed in already: Epicurious, with its safe but quirky list; The New York Sun with some excellent choices, including Tartine, Marcus Samuelsson’s Soul of a New Cuisine, Michel Richard’s Happy in the Kitchen, and Amy Sedaris’ odd entertaining book, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence.

One of the best of the lists is done by the website Their list focuses on books that can help us to eat well when we eat locally and it’s a list worth spending some time with.

The most influential list is likely the NY Times Holiday Books Cooking round-up, this year written by Dwight Garner. The list is, for the most part, right on, recognizing the current supremacy of British food books. Fergus Henderson, Nigel Slater, Simon Hopkinson are all here, the one American he compares favorably with these guys being John Thorne, whose brand new title, Mouth Wide Open we’ve been looking forward to for months, and which I’m now reading. He also recommends two other favorites of mine, Giorgio Locatelli’s Made in Italy, and Lilia Zaouali’s Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World, a wonderful introduction, with history and recipes, to the roots of Arabic cuisine.

The perplexing inclusion here is Greg and Lucy Malouf’s Artichoke to Za’atar, a new book on Modern Middle Eastern cuisine due out in February, 2008. The publisher’s moved up the publication date (to be in time for this review?), but the book is not in stock at most distributors at the time of this writing, and so another promotional opportunity is lost – even at Amazon, whose site says they only have five copies of the book. This situation is especially confounding as the Maloufs have another wonderful book which was just released this November, certainly in time for such lists, called Saha: A Chef’s Journey Through Lebanon and Syria. With bookstores everywhere trying their best to sell books this holiday season, it would be nice if journalists and publishers could figure out which books they actually want to promote.