Food 52’s 2014 Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks

2014PigletCookbooks

Here we go! It’s the 2014 Piglet from Food 52, their annual tournament of cookbooks, has started. I love it for a couple of reasons; because cookbooks are awesome and the judging panel adds a unique perspective to the books. The lineups of books that go through cookbook bracketville are always notable and this year is no different. And the judges are always interesting and neck-deep in the world of food and moving the conversation of food along.

For the 2014 Piglet, I’m backing Smoke and Pickles by Edward Lee. Most know of Edward Lee during his time on Top Chef Texas and he’s been plying his trade at his restaurants in Louisville, Kentucky for some time. What I enjoyed about his book was his storytelling and his perspective from learning in New York to moving to Kentucky and embracing the culture, lifestyle, and purveyors of the Bluegrass State. And the recipes I’ve cooked from his book have been great.

Until we know about a winner, there are three weeks of decisions to be made. I, for one, look forward to reading along. As one does with books.

Here are the books:

  • Balaboosta by Einat Admony
  • Family Table: Favorite Staff Meals from our Restaurants to your home by Michael Romano and Karen Stabiner
  • Flour, Too by Joanne Chang
  • Fresh Happy Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes by Jane Coxwell
  • Notes from the Larder: A Kitchen Diary with Recipes by Nigel Slater
  • Roberta’s Cookbook by Carlo Mirarchi, Brandon Hoy, Chris Parachini, and Katherine Wheelock
  • Robicelli’s: A Love Story by Allison and Matt Robicelli
  • Saving the Season by Kevin West
  • Smoke and Pickles: Recipes and Stores from a New Souther Kitchen by Edward Lee
  • Summerland: Recipes for Celebrating with Southern Hospitality by Anne Quatrano
  • The A.O.C. Cookbook by Suzanne Goin
  • The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz
  • The Art of Simple Food II by Alice Waters
  • The New Persian Kitchen by Louisa Shafia
  • Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison
  • Whole-Grain Mornings by Megan Gordon

Here are the judges:

  • April Bloomfield
  • Brian Boitano
  • David Chang
  • Amanda Cohen
  • Nicholas Day
  • Kerry Diamond
  • Tad Friend
  • Andrea Gentl
  • Aran Goyoaga
  • Evan Hansen
  • Kat Kinsman
  • Liz Larkin
  • Joshua Malina
  • Tejal Rao
  • Maxwell Ryan
  • Sam Sifton
  • Christina Tosi
  • Emily Vikre

The 2013 Piglet: Food 52’s cookbook tournament of champions

piglet

Cookbook nerds. We are everywhere. We frequent bookstores that only carry cookbooks. We think we have enough cookbooks. But we never have enough. We sometimes forget which ones we have and find ourselves doubling up on copies. And we love them. We love our cookbooks. Their stained pages. The stories they can tell. And like sports fans have March Madness, we have our tournament; The Piglet. There is even a bracket (PDF). From the fine folks at Food 52, this is their fourth annual cookbook tournament and it launches later this week. I heart the Piglet. You should too.

I wrote about the Piglet last year and touched on why I loved this series. The varying ‘judges’ that weigh in on the winners. The books that were the ‘competitors.’ Last year was particularly entertaining because of the championship round. On one side was the book of decadent indulgence from the Joe Beef crew from Montreal. On the other side, was the mad scientist baked goods book Momofuku Milk Bar. And it was judged by Alice Waters. Alice Waters. The chef that raised the bar for thoughtful, seasonal, and considered California cookery. The chef whose highbrow nature didn’t exactly jive with the debauchery of Joe Beef or the addled sweet tooth of Momofuku Milk Bar. The chef whose recap of the championship was dripping with disdain for the two books. Can there be a reluctant champion? Because that is the crown that Alice Waters bestowed Joe Beef.

As with any new year, things start anew and we are onto the next Piglet. Of the 16 books in this tournament, I have five of them. Of the judges, I’m only familiar with a handful of them. Which is a big reason why the Piglet showdown is entertaining. Different voices, different books. While I couldn’t fathom the bile Alice Waters had for last year’s finalists, at least she stayed on brand. And I’m curious to see how the judges insert themselves this year.

I’ll be sure to follow the tournament along. In fact, I’m betting on Canal House Cooks Everyday by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer. It was one of my favorite books of the holiday season. We’ve been fans of the Canal House and their thematic food volumes for a few years. We were fortunate to have conversations with Melissa and Christopher on their recent visit to Seattle, where we got to hear their stories and how much fun they had with compiling all of their Canal House lunches. Which is the emphasis of Canal House Cooks Everyday. I particularly enjoyed the weather reports sidelining the recipes. Their writing has a way of welcoming us into their world. And now with the Piglet, cookbook nerds have the chance to feel a little closer to a bunch of new cookbooks, their recipes, and the chefs behind them.

Food 52’s 2012 Piglet

Photo courtesy of food 52

We’re through the first week of the Piglet – Tournament of Cookbooks; Food52’s annual cookbook battle royale. For cookbook nerds like yours truly, the Piglet is great fun. It’s a tournament where the folks at the food community website Food52 take 16 cookbooks published over the last year, pit them against one another bracket-style and have the books judged by various food-loving celebrities. It could be someone like Mario Batali or Nora Ephron weighing in on a winner. Like anything involving a bracket and a chance to place your bets to a winner, The Piglet is a fun read into the biggest, baddest, and boldest cookbook in the land.

This is the third year of the Piglet. The first year’s winner was Seven Fires by Francis Mallman with Peter Kaminsky. I have this book and yes, it is awesome. I particularly like the recipe for cooking an entire cow. But my personal favorite that year was David Chang and Peter Meehan’s Momofuku. Year Two’s winner was Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce with Amy Scattergood. We’re now into the 2012 edition and I’m looking forward to seeing how this Piglet shakes down.

If the first two days of this Piglet is any indication, we’re in for a fun ride. Day One had the domestic goddess Nigella Lawson seducing us with her words. Day two had the delightful Celia Sack of San Francisco’s Omnivore Books weighing in. The third review by James and Caitlin Freemand of SF’s Blue Bottle Coffee, didn’t quite have the lushness of Lawson’s review or the perspective of Sack’s review. Conversely, the Freeman’s felt a bit stilted in my mind, and I couldn’t identify with their viewpoint. Reading these editorials often provides as much perspective about the cookbooks as the critics.

Which is one of the fun things about the Piglet. Because they have reviewers from various disciplines and industries; there will be unique and divergent opinions on cookbooks. Some might love the photographs, some might enjoy the clarity and detail in the recipes. One of my favorite reviews was from the 2010 Piglet when Grant Achatz’ review pitted Canal House Cooking Vol. 1 vs Real Cajun. What I enjoyed about the review was that Chef Achatz’ critiqued two books, each with recipes and styles radically different from his restaurants. His voice made for a great read. I loved it.

There are a few more weeks left in the Piglet, a bunch more reviews, and plenty of opportunities for some upsets. Like the glory of March Madness, we should be in for some surprises. Until then, visit Food52’s Piglet and stock up on those cookbooks. I’m at 336 and I’m getting a bit of an itch to go shopping.

How to make what I made at Will Bake for Food

Another great Will Bake for Food is in the books. With a donation total of over $2500 and a wagon full of donated goods, the two Jennys have created another fun community undertaking. From the army of food bloggers that showcased their wares to the throngs of giddy customers, we had a great time and enjoyed being involved with it. Thankfully, all of the festivities were to benefit the noble efforts of the Emergency Feeding Program of Seattle and King Country. And here is how to make the baked goods I brought to the hoedown.

  • Frank’s Granola

I’ve already shared my recipe on how to make my version of granola, so please visit the post. The key takeaway; granola is easy to make and your imagination can create any combination that you like. Feel free to add nuts, dried fruit, candy, or anything else to your mix. The important part is knowing the ratios and not adding too much bulk that it won’t brown. And keep an eye on the granola after 60 minutes; this is the moment where it’ll start turning golden brown, feel free to stir to distribute the granola.

  • Brown Butter Nordy Bars

Growing up in Seattle, shopping at Nordstrom is a rite of passage. As a kid, the opportunity of having a Nordy Bar from the Nordstrom Cafe was a highlight of these trips. It was a perfectly dense, slightly rich, and delicious sweet treat. A hybrid between a blondie and a cookie, this was one of my favorite things about Nordstrom visits.

A recent twitter chat with some friends brought the Nordy Bar back into my mindshare. Naturally, it was to be made for Will Bake for Food. I did a bit of research and landed on this recipe that seemed close. Wanting to elevate it a bit, I thought of browning the butter to add that distinct nuttiness that brown butter gives.

The Brown Butter Nordy Bars were excellent. But they weren’t exactly a Nordy Bar as I remember it. I think I’ll spend some time researching the Nordy Bar and tweaking the recipe to see if I can create that perfect snack that I had growing up. And maybe start a grassroots campaign to have Nordstrom bring it back. Stay tuned.

  • Compost Cookies

These cookies have been written ad nauseum on the blogosphere and I wanted to include my take on these delicious cookies for Will Bake for Food. Made famous by New York’s Momofuku Milk Bar, the chief baker, Christina Tosi used the notion of clearing out your pantry of various sweets and savory snacks to use in a cookie. It is awesome.

I’ve had the benefit of having the original cookie at the Upper East Side Milk Bar and through their online ordering system. But the recipe for making them at home hasn’t been crystal clear. Before the recipe was released in the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook, plenty of bloggers offered their take on how to make it. Some were close, but weren’t quite there. Then, the Amateur Gourmet found the recipe on the Live! With Regis and Kelly website, which is oddly random in its own right. So the recipe was available for all. Still, they weren’t quite right; they were close, but they weren’t the perfect compost cookie. I made a few different batches after reading the comments in the Amateur Gourmet posts and noticed that others shared my issue; the cookies ran, the ratios were a bit off, etc.

Then the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook came out this fall. Bakers rejoiced. I was able to see Christina Tosi recently at Seattle’s Book Larder to talk about the book and her history at Milk Bar. One of the chief takeaways that I had was her use of glucose in baked goods. This bit of food science was something she picked up from kitchen experience and cooking school and something I’ve never considered in baking (she’s a pro for a reason, folks). Glucose is an invert sugar syrup that aids in keeping the cookie crisper longer and add body and texture. I wouldn’t have known this without hearing Chef Tosi talk about her baking techniques. I now think I’ll work glucose into more of my baking.

Without further ado, here is how to make the version of Compost Cookies that I made for Will Bake For Food:

Continue reading

My Fall 2011 cookbook wish list

Photo: Raphael Brion/Eater NY

The good folks at Eater recently posted a robust list of buzzy cookbooks coming out this fall and holiday season. It’s not just cookbooks; tomes on cocktails, food history, memoirs, miscellany and more dot the field. And this food nerd is particularly excited for most of them. With the rundown of cookbooks, Eater took a wide angle glance at the season’s books that dabble in the world of food and wine. I’m selfishly narrowing the list to the books that I want. Here they are:

-Eleven Madison Park the Cookbook by Daniel Humm and Will Guidara

In my trips to the Big Apple, three restaurants stood out to me; Fatty Crab, Le Bernardin, and Eleven Madison Park. Each had a uniquely wonderful experience. Particularly for Eleven Madison Park. Going there, I had high expectations, but I wasn’t prepared to be blown away by our meal. It was amazing. And knowing how Chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Danny Meyer have evolved the restaurant, I’m anxiously awaiting this book.

-The Art of Living According to Joe Beef: A Cookbook of Sorts by David McMillan, Frederic Morin, and Meredith Erickson

When we visited Montreal last year we partook in some great meals. Au Pied du Cochon and Kitchen Galerie amongst those. However, the neglect of going to Joe Beef continues to eat away at me. So this new book from the folks in the Sud Ouest neighborhood will allow me to get a feel for the restaurant. And then I can plan another visit to Montreal to indulge in more of the city’s food. With Joe Beef atop the list.

-The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria by Ferran Adrià

Continuing Adria’s culinary domination is this latest book. Built on the notion of Family Meal; the dinner made by a restaurant’s staff before service starts. And when the inspiration and ideas come from his El Bulli, even more exciting. Another in the line of great Phaidon books that delve into Ferran Adria’s world.

-Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi

The march towards Momofuku world dominance continues. This time in the form of Chef Christina Tosi’s irreverent, creative, and tasty sweets and baked goods. If one ever goes to NYC’s Momofuku Milk Bar, one will find things like Crack Pie, Compost Cookies, Cereal Milk Soft Serve Ice Cream; hopefully all of these things make it to the book. I can’t wait to find out.

-CakeSpy Presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life by Jessie Oleson

Head Spy Jessie Oleson and her valiant Cuppie the Cupcake arrive via book form to share recipes and whimsy in this book. You should dabble into the world of CakeSpy for the subversively light-hearted look at baked goods. Plus, Jessie is rather awesome.

-The Seasonal Cocktail Companion: Recipes and Projects for Four Seasons of Drinking by Maggie Savarino

If you’ve had a drink at Madison Park Conservatory or read her column in Seattle Weekly, you know that Maggie Savarino knows her way around liquor and spirits. This book adds a seasonal component to cocktails; taking a look at what’s fresh and applying them to libations.

There you have it; a half-dozen new cookbooks that I’m looking forward to. And if there are some others that make their way to me (Mario Batali’s new book, the cookbook from the Voltaggio brothers, Jacques Pepin’s latest), I won’t say no to them either.

Where should you get these new cookbooks? Amazon is of course the option, but why not support your local independent book store? Even better, go visit Seattle’s own Book Larder when it opens this October. It’ll be Seattle’s first culinary bookstore and all sorts of great events will happen there. See you around the reading room. And then the kitchen.

Remembering a dear friend.

This post originally went out on Seattlest.

That’s our dog. Her name is Feta. She’s a shedding, loving, bear of a St. Bernard. We call her ‘walrus’ every so often because of how she lies down. She’s a bit anxious and is still getting used to people. Sometimes, she’ll meet someone that she’s comfortable with, calms down, and nuzzles up next to them and she will be the dog we know she can be. One of the people she took immediately to was our friend Kim Ricketts. If you’ve ever met the amazing Kim, you’d know that her presence was magnetic. Feta figured that out. And all of Kim’s friends knew this as well. We had a cherished friend and a special person.

Kim Ricketts was a remarkable person. She had an uncanny ability to inspire and connect. Her love of reading was infectious. I remember all of my times with Kim. They each had their own story. And as a longtime book person, stories are one of the things that fueled Kim. Connecting people was another. And for that I’m also thankful. For Kim connected us to so many people; authors, chefs, visionaries. She introduced me to people that soon became my friends. Talk to any local chef, food writer or purveyor, and reader, they’ll each have a great Kim story.

Kim Ricketts passed away Monday after a fight with blood cancer and AL amyloidosis. A brave soul if there ever was one, I was honored to call her a friend. My thoughts and prayers are with all those close to her

A few stories that I’ll always remember of Kim. A few years ago, as I was just dipping my toe into the world of the local food community, I wanted to attend her Cooks & Books event with Eric Ripert. I barely knew Kim (or anyone else in the Seattle food scene) at the time, but she was so warm and welcoming and wanted me to be there. I said that I would be coming by myself. What did Kim say? “You can sit with me and Eric!” Honored to say the least. She barely knew me, but welcomed me openly. That’s the type of person she is. It was an amazing night, all brought to us by Kim.

Another story; Kim can be a whirlwind of conversation and movement. It’s a delightful thing. She’ll get engrossed with meeting people and catching up with friends. On one of the first occasions that I met her, I noticed that her voice was starting to go (as it was apt to do). Ever the gentleman, I offered her a cough drop. She said, ‘Honey, there is nothing that will help with this voice.’ She then continued to converse with those nearby. She would always lose her voice by the end of the night. I can still hear that voice in my head. It’s a distinctive one; raspy with a hint of a squeak. Undulating in tone and volume. Can you hear it? I always will.

An all those books that are stacked next to Feta? They’re from the many events that Kim held around town, the many events that I was fortunate to attend. We sent this picture to Kim in the winter. Of course there are stories in these books. But I’ll remember the stories of when I got these books. The dinners they were shared over. The conversations that were started by them. The friends made from them. Ultimately, I’m thankful of the time that I spent with Kim and to be a small part of her story. It still continues by carrying on her legacy. We can start by having dinner and a conversation with friends.

Donations in her honor can be made to the Seattle Public Library and 826 Seattle.

Pouding Chômeur ice cream

A few weeks ago we went over to our friend Viv‘s ‘dorm commons’ for a good ol’ fashion ice cream social. What made this decadent dessert party unique was that the other guests of the day were local foodies with equally unique perspective on food; all ready to bring their A game with their ice creams. So I needed to step up and bring something clever, fun, and most importantly delicious. Enter Pouding Chômeur ice cream.

What is Pouding Chômeur you ask? It’s a rich, sweet dessert native to Quebec. It takes a simple cake that is baked along with a sauce that uses a hefty amount of heavy cream and maple syrup. Translated it means ‘poor man’s pudding’ and the humble ingredients reflect that moniker. We had pouding chômeur during our trip to Montreal and our dinner at Martin Picard’s famed Au Pied du Cochon. Prior to the trip I knew nothing about this dish. After an epic dinner, our server recommended the pouding chômeur. Out came this amber-hued dessert that sat with a scoop of ice cream. It was delicious; endlessly sweet, highlighted by the distinctive notes of the maple syrup.

So when the invite to the ice cream social went out, I wanted to do something with pouding chômeur. After scouring the Internet, I never found a recipe for pouding chômeur ice cream. Lots of recipes with interpretations of the dish served it a la mode, but nothing combined the two. So from necessity comes innovation; I decided to make one up myself. Besides, it’s just a twist on a bread pudding ice cream.

As for the ice cream base, I ended up using a mascarpone ice cream. My thoughts were that the cheesy tang of this ice cream would provide a nice contrast with the sweetness of the pouding chômeur. And the mascarpone ice cream recipe is ridiculously easy to make.

In the end, the pouding chômeur ice cream came out really well; dense chunks of the cake, swirls of the maple cream throughout. It made for a clever take on two things I’ve enjoyed and a delicious and unique dessert to boot.

So you want to take a stab at making your own? Follow along after the jump: Continue reading

Summer of grilling has begun

With the great weather that Seattle had last week, many a weekend warrior dusted off their grills to put food to flame. I love summer because a great meal is as easy as opening up the backdoor, lighting a fire, and getting dinner (or lunch) rolling. Although I will say that I’ve grilled in the rain, cold and in pitch black conditions, but I’m okay with this. That’s why they make grill lights and fleece; to cook outdoors when the elements go bad. Or so I’ve heard. But as we get going with the long nights that summer offers, here are some great grilling books that I find myself turning towards of late.

Two cool grilling books for the summer:

Going for Seconds Gift Guide 2009

Tis the season for holiday shopping. Throughout the year, I’ve shared what I think has been interesting in the world of food. As the year closes and gift-giving is at the top of mind for most people, trying to find that perfect something for those near and dear to us can be challenging. Here are my suggestions on fun gifts for the food and wine aficionado on your list. Now let’s do our part to spur the economy!

First off, I want to list the items that I want someone to give to me. If anyone feels generous…

  • Kitchen-Aid 90th Anniversary Stand Mixer

I think this thing is awesome. And only because of the candy apple red and glass bowl. As I’ve been delving into more and more baking (and wanting to make my own pasta), I’ve been yearning after a Kitchen-Aid for awhile. You will be mine, oh yes, you will be.

  • Bob Kramer’s Meiji Knife by Shun

Having a great chef’s knife is key to working in a kitchen. Bob Kramer is one of the very best knifemakers in the world. He’s partnered with Shun to make knives and I’m taken with the beauty of their cutlery. This one in particular fits the bill for what I want out of a knife. Another wishlist item that I’d be thrilled to slice and dice with.

Now for a few more achievable gift items for those close to you; here are a few items worth looking into.

Continue reading

Thanksgiving leftovers, courtesy of David Chang

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. A holiday that is centered around food. And this is the reason why I feel that Thanksgiving is pretty awesome. It’s the start of the holiday season, you’re around friends and family, and you can stuff yourself silly with food; all together it’s a winning combination. But amongst the volume of eating you’ll find yourself with a mountain of leftovers. Unless you can go through a 14 lb turkey, several side dishes, and pumpkin pie, chances are you’ll need to find something to do with them. Have no fear, David Chang has ideas for Thanksgiving leftovers. And they sound amazing.

David Chang is the brightest culinary star of the moment. An opinionated and supremely talented chef who has been a game changer in the restaurant world. His Momofuku restaurants are considered some of the best in New York and his style of food is utterly unique and blow-your-mind delicious. Recently, he and Peter Meehan released an amazing cookbook, Momofuku, that tells the story of Chef Chang and his restaurants. Needless to say, David Chang knows how to make enticingly tasty food.

Last year, I wrote a couple of short posts about Thanksgiving; one was about what wine to have with the dinner, the other was what to do with the leftovers. Chef Chang has taken what to do with those leftovers to another level. In a recent article in Food & Wine magazine, Peter Meehan did a short feature on what David Chang would do with Thanksgiving leftovers. And the results sound amazing. For example:

What’s really cool about some of these recipes is that they aren’t too ‘chefy,’ – recipes that are crazy complicated with obscure ingredients and technique most home cooks don’t have. Most of these recipes are straightforward and use the leftovers that stick around from Thanksgiving. I’m already looking forward to trying some of them.

Enjoy this Thanksgiving! Take in the moment, exhale, eat up, and most of all have fun!

Photo courtesy of Food & Wine