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Thursday
Apr142016

The New Cocktail Hour by Andre and Tenaya Darlington

Hand-crafted food, drinks, clothing, furniture, bicycles... the list runs forever into the distance. I’m tired of the buzz, the overkill about craft products. When I saw “hand-crafted drinks” on the cover of The New Cocktail Hour, my heart sank a little, and my jaded attitude began to awaken.

But this is why books can be magical. I held the book in my hands. I opened it, turned the pages. Began to read the introduction, gaze at the layout, admire the sublime photos and get a feel for what Andre and Tenaya were aiming for. And fell in love.

The New Cocktail Hour isn’t an accumulation of old drink recipes passed forward. The authors aren’t newly minted hipsters passing themselves off as experts. These two admire the beauty and traditions of the cocktail culture. They have reverence for history, and an understanding that food, attitude, environment, and passion all play a role 

Eras of American history, and various themes, determine the flow and composition of the book. This is an interesting and ambitious scheme. Food pairings are suggested along the way. When did you see that before in a cocktail compilation? Early on is “How to Host a Party with Three Basic Bottles.” Brilliant. 

When I came across “The Hemingway Bar” I was sold, all in. Five of the legendary writer’s recipes are within, as well as a call-out to another author’s book on the topic of Hemingway’s drinks.

Even the size and feel of The New Cocktail Hour pleases me. This isn’t an encyclopedia. It fits nicely on a bookshelf or in a drink supply cupboard; it’ll also be at home conspicuously left out when friends are over. Every time I turn a page I’m learning, whether it’s basic drink prep and craft, or letting my taste buds run wild reading recipes.

Andre and Tenaya Darlington have created an essential addition to cocktail literature. 

#newcocktailhour, @Running_Press, @andredarlington, @MmeFromage

Monday
Apr112016

Deliciously Ella Every Day by Ella Woodward  

Woodward’s second book is as delightful and appeals to me nearly as much as her first effort, Deliciously Ella (http://johnkoenig.squarespace.com/books-and-music/2015/9/30/deliciously-ella-by-ella-woodward.html).

Yes, she’s a plant-based, gluten-free cook and recipe creator (in England Ella is nearly an industry unto herself). I find her simple meals to be elegant in design, simple in execution, and wonderful sides to a steak or roast or chicken breast. Couple that with pretty graphic design encompassing nice white space, and I find myself relaxing a bit, just turning the pages of Deliciously Ella Every Day

Her focus this time seems to be oriented towards snacks, lunches and smaller meals. She’s a fair number of dessert recipes, for which I have little interest, but I know it’s a big deal for many. I just don’t want to throw that sugar and syrup into my body very often, but I’m sure the resulting desserts are wonderful. My taste buds have gone without much sugar for so long I’ve no attraction. I think that’s a good thing for me!

Give Deliciously Ella Every Day a good spin in the kitchen; my first try will be her Herbed Lentil Bowl, found on page 151. I enjoy lentils, don’t eat them often enough, and need a recipe such as this so mine don’t come out plain and tasteless.

www.deliciouslyella.com

@deliciouslyella, #deliciouslyella, @ScribnerBooks


Monday
Apr112016

Myron Mixon’s BBQ Rules: The Old-School Guide to Smoking Meat by Myron Mixon with Kelly Alexander  

I love BBQ. I’ve enjoyed Texas BBQ many times, Kansas City BBQ once (Arthur Bryant), and a bunch of joints in the midwest, none of which stand up to the south. My experience with BBQ at home involves a slow cooker - crockpot and sauces, mixed together and left to cook for hours. Myron Mixon, on the other hand, is the real deal where smokin’ meat is concerned. And so is his new book, Myron Mixon's BBQ Rules.

This guy has more than 200 BBQ championships to his name; he uses a homemade coal-fired masonry pit for cooking and smoking. So what did I learn from a buy on this level? How does it apply to me and my gas-fired grill on the deck? These days, I’m happy if the brats and burgers don’t break into flame and burn without cooking!

Turns out Mixon is a smart guy, aware that a book only appealing to smokers and BBQ fanatics like himself would sell few copies. Frankly, nobody would have given him a book contract for something only competitive BBQ people would understand or care about. He gets into depth for those who want to build or buy a set-up on a par with the best BBQ joints in the country, but devotes plenty of time and space to those of us using charcoal and gas grills, too.

BBQ Rules is broken into five parts:  Rules & Helpers, The Hog, Birds, The Cow, and Extras. Interesting, isn’t it? There is a wonderful feel to the pages, intensified by the black & white photography, the old charts and graphics, and creative white space surrounding the text. Every once in a while I found myself lost for a minute in one of the evocative photographs of old, from a different era, BBQ joints interspersed throughout the book. These are wonderful, and make a big difference in the feel of BBQ Rules. Old school indeed!

I’m looking forward to using Mixon’s barbecue sauce recipes. His Mustard-Based BBQ sounds particularly interesting to me. Can’t wait to use it on chicken!

As winter slowly recedes, grills and BBQ pits throughout the country are throwing off their tarps and getting cleaned up for grilling season. Take Myron Mixon with you to the backyard, dig a pit, and give some new BBQ techniques a try. Smoke some meat, learn about the best wood to use, how to select the proper cuts for smoking. What can go wrong?

@ABRAMSbooks, @myronmixon, @Lord_of_Q, #myronmixon, #BBQrules


Monday
Apr112016

Brooklyn Bar Bites: Great Dishes and Cocktails from New York’s Food Mecca by Barbara Scott-Goodman  

Not for hipsters only, Brooklyn Bar Bites uses the vibrant bar food scene of Brooklyn as a jumping-off point for recipes to be enjoyed by the rest of us. Clearly there is a vibrant, lively scene happening there (so different from when I used to hang in Brooklyn in the late ‘1970s and diners were right out of Saturday Night Live and John Belushi skits).

The majority of the recipes (and beautiful photographs by Jennifer May) in Brooklyn Bar Bites are cocktails. And do they look and sound amazing (I’m glad it’s morning while I write and read through the book, else I’m afraid I’d be drinking!) Don’t be afraid to dive in and try some of the small-plate food recipes, along with the drinks. 

Broken down by establishment, I find the sense of neighborhood strong on the pages of the book. There are some seriously beautiful back bars pictured in here. You will be hungry and thirst as you page through Brooklyn Bar Bites. I can imagine this book serving as an enjoyable tour guide for many who will visit Brooklyn. 

@Rizzol_Books, #brooklynbarbites

 

Wednesday
Mar302016

Tacos - Recipes and Provocations by Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman

Chef Stupak is a bit of a rebel in the food world. Rolling with a nice career as a world-class, respected pastry chef, a few years ago a persistent urge to innovate and follow his passion led Alex Stupak to shift gears and explore Mexican food. His restaurant Empellon Cocina is winning awards, innovating food and cooking in the world of Mexican cuisine.

Read Tacos. And I don’t mean only read the recipes. Stupak and Rothman wrote fascinating essays accompanying the food prep. I wonder if Stupak wrote Tacos to give himself a forum for his views about why Mexican cuisine isn’t given the respect he feels it deserves, and about how immigrant food is treated in this country. The man has strong opinions, wondering why Mexican food isn’t treated with the same respect French and Italian cuisine is, for example.

Tacos is so much more than the simple title implies. Work your way through these recipes, learn to truly savor food and spice and the process, and you’ll come out a superior cook in the kitchen with new skills and appreciation for what can be done with Mexican food.

@alexstupak, #tacos, @penguinrandomhouse