Cool food book: Phaidon’s Coco

In the world of cooking, I’m always amazed at the ability of the chef. The culinary artists that can take ingredients, technique, and personal style to create something amazing and delicious. Their ability to elevate the food they work with is a big reason why I love food so much. We live in a chef culture where television networks create stars out of these folks; they become a part of pop culture, not just food culture. In some cases this is a good thing. Food fans will travel far and wide to experience their cooking. They’ll devour their food and their cookbooks. All of this I think is very cool. That is why I am completely taken with this food book; Coco. If you love food and chef culture, you will too.

The premise of the book is this; take 10 of the world’s true ‘masters’ in food, and have them pick 100 chefs that are emerging chefs worldwide. Coco: 10 World-Leading Maters choose 100 Contemporary Chefs comes to us from the folks at Phaidon. You may know them from their cookbooks like Silver Spoon, Pork & Sons, or 1080 Recipes, but their entire product line is excellent. I first discovered Coco on a recent trip to New York and stumbled upon Phaidon’s store in SoHo. This day happened to be their grand opening and much impulse shopping commenced. Coco was there and when I leafed through it, I instantly fell in love with the premise.

Here is a rundown of the 10 masters featured in the book:

  • Ferran Adria
  • Mario Batali
  • Shannon Bennett
  • Alain Ducasse
  • Fergus Henderson
  • Yoshihiro Murata
  • Gordon Ramsey
  • René Redzepi
  • Alice Waters
  • Jacky Yu

The format of Coco is to spend some time with each of the 100 selected chefs. There is a brief bio, some recipes, and one of the masters will espouse on their choice. What’s interesting is to find the theme that binds the choices of the masters. I love learning about food and the people that make it, so I enjoyed the write-ups. For instance, you could delve into what Mario Batali values; a sense of niches, an appreciation of history, and high standards.

What I like about Coco is that you can pick it up to leaf through a few pages at your leisure. It’s a weighty book that clocks in at over 400 pages (!), but flip through it, open it up randomly and read about a chef you’ve never heard of before. It also has the ability to be a good resource; traveling to the Bay Area? There are about five chefs doing their thing there. New Orleans? Always a great eating city and they have two representatives. Locally, Seattle is proudly represented by Kevin Davis and his Steelhead Diner. I’m a fan of the place and so is Chef Batali. You’ll find all sorts of interesting chefs and restaurants around the world, so when globetrotting strikes your palate will be ready.

One of the interesting tweaks about food lovers is that we acquire and accrue cookbooks voraciously. Chances are we never ‘read’ the entire thing. Most of the time they are used to impress our fellow food friends. But they always serve to inspire us. They give us ideas. Point us in a direction we may not have considered. And Coco is all of these things.

Rick Moonen’s Ode to the Ocean

When we went for our trip to Las Vegas this summer, we wanted to get away, but we also wanted to visit a particular restaurant; Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood. We wanted to go not just because it’s consistently recognized as being one of Las Vegas’ best restaurants, but also because of the principles and ideals it and its chef/owner Rick Moonen holds.

Last year I had the good fortune to attend one of Amazon.com’s Fishbowl events. Fishbowls are small gatherings where visiting authors chat about their books and do a signing. The Fishbowl I went to welcomed Rick Moonen to celebrate his book, Fish Without A Doubt. As a food nerd, I enjoyed the event because Chef Moonen talked about his history as a chef, the opportunities and challenges with writing a book, and also his personal responsibility to be mindful of the ocean and the catch that comes from it. Coming from what the Seafood Choices Alliance named in 2006 as the ‘Seafood Champion‘, his words hold much weight. He was engaging in that tough, yet amicable New York way. His enthusiasm for cooking and sharing what he knows was apparent. We chatted briefly about seafood and where he planned on dining while in Seattle. He said that Steelhead Diner was on the docket and I mentioned how I was a fan. Armed with his business card, he said to stay in touch. Cool.

Here are the three cool things about Rick Moonen and his RM Seafood:

Cool Food Book: Ferran Adria’s Food for Thought, Thought for Food

Much like other food nerds, I love food (and wine) cookbooks. Much like how teenage girls gobble stuff up about vampires (Buffy is so much better), food geeks are voracious with food books. And why not? They provide solid insight, light the spark of inspiration, and provide a level of information and complexity that we love. Even the famed David Chang of Momofuku fame goes nuts over cookbooks. Whenever I visit bookstores, I always swing by the food section to see what’s new and soak in the visual merchandising. One book really caught my eye; Ferran Adria’s new book with Richard Hamilton and Vicent Tolodi, Food for Thought, Thought for Food. Adria’s new book? Heck yes.

Ferran Adria is in the conversation of the best chefs in the world. His restaurant, El Bulli, is often considered the best restaurant in the world. Stepping into the lore and detail of these two things is something that I always find fascinating. I soaked up that TV show where Tony Bourdain was able to step into the kitchen of El Bulli. I looked forward to the release of A Day at El Bulli, the Phaidon book that illustrated the inner workings of Adria’s restaurant. Now I have another resource to pull back the curtain of Ferran Adria.

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Cool Wine Book: Heard It Through The Grapevine

While in Alaska last weekend, I wandered into the local’s bookstore of choice; Title Wave Books. I love stepping into bookstores and taking in the visual merchandising, the potential, and the dance of shopping. The clever ways that stores try to sell their stuff is something that I find entertaining (although a background in visual merchandising may have something to do with that). And like any good food nerd, I popped over to their food and wine section and was taken with one book in particular. Matt Skinner’s Heard it Through the Grapevine called out to me.

I knew of Matt because he is Jamie Oliver‘s wine guy. Jamie’s cookbooks are often great, always fun, and I liked the little touches that Matt would have for wine pairings. When I saw this book at Title Wave, I was intrigued enough to pick it up. A make-or-break deal with any food reference cookbook is to have a proper balance of visuals and content. We’re no longer in a culture where a cookbook can skate by on copy; it’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is. I’ve picked up and put down plenty of books that don’t have the initial grab and Matt’s Heard it Through the Grapevine definitely kept my interest.

This is a pretty fun wine information book. Matt’s style of writing is very easy to digest and take in. This makes for a decent read where the information is balanced with the brevity. It’s broken down to five main sections; Shopping, Drinking, Eating, Sleeping, Well-being. I will say this though; this book is more of an intro to the world of wine. I knew most of what Matt mentioned, and it doesn’t exactly break any new ground. But the nature in how the information comes forth feels fresh. That is why I think this book is cool.

One of the search terms that I get on this blog is ‘how to drink wine’. Kind of a funny term, but it makes sense. With the growth of wine drinking, the vast choices available to consumers, and the truckloads of information out there; a book like Matt’s will be helpful to wade through it all. Heard it Through the Grapevine just came out this spring and would make for a fun book to give as a gift to a friend that wants to step into the world of wine.

Eric Ripert. Ethan Stowell. Kim Ricketts. Me?

Having the opportunity to take in greatness doesn’t happen too often. But when it opens itself up to you, you have to take it. Thus began my food adventure for a dinner by Ethan Stowell for Eric Ripert. The occasion was to celebrate Chef Ripert’s recent book, On The Line, but it could also be about celebrating food.

One of the things I love about blogging is sharing my experiences. What is blogging but a diary that the world could read? Mine just happens to be about food and wine. That’s why I have to share this great event that I was fortunate enough to be a part of. Because isn’t a great meal about sharing?

First off much credit goes to Kim Ricketts, and her friends Judy and Kirsten. Kim is awesome, she hosts these really cool book events all over the place. We conversed at the FAT event last month and talked about how great the Eric Ripert event will be. She got the thing rolling and was kind enough to have me join them at their table. Always an honor to be a VIP, and I was thankful for it.

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Revisiting the new Elliott Bay Café

Pioneer Square has an embarrassment of riches in the lunch department. We’ve covered a bunch and now we have a new entry that has the potential to be the best in the area. It’s the Elliott Bay Café; an old standby that has undergone a recent refreshing. We can thank Tamara Murphy for this rebirth. The Elliott Bay Book Co. is already a destination, but with a great cafe it can be a local institution.

I knew that Chef Murphy would take over the café but it wasn’t until Nancy Leson’s article that I realized that the cafe was open and running. I made the trek for lunch and after reveling in that experience, I’m sure I’ll go again.

The Elliott Bay Café is famous without most locals even knowing it. Word off the street is that it served as inspiration for the coffee shop on Frasier. Cool huh? The updates that Tamara and team have made are for the better. The lighting is warmer, the walls have been refreshed, and the beautiful textures of the wood – the EBC now feels like a place that you can spend some time in. It’s part of a bookstore, of course you’ll want to linger! Now you can eat some good food during your time there.

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Cool wine book: Red, White and Drunk All Over

Yup, that’s the title of this really fun wine book by Natalie MacLean. Red, White and Drunk All Over was one of the most fun informational food and wine books that I’ve read in the past few years. That’s why I think it’s another cool book for you. Or for someone as a gift. Even if you’re not into wine, you’ll be engrossed with Natalie, her narrative and how she grew and learned as a wino and a writer. It’s like reading a magazine in it’s brevity and flow.

First off, this is a great wine reference book. What’s really cool is that within its information is a great story. Nat shares her experience as a wine writer, spending time in places like Napa Valley, Burgundy, and Champagne, but she molds her perspectives into a reference and an informational slant. Tough thing to do without feeling preachy, but Nat’s style of prose prevents it from being stiff.

That’s the biggest thing that I love about the book. Nat takes a big object like wine that can be pretty intimidating and makes it approachable. Perfect for newcomers. Want to learn about food pairing. She’s on it. Glassware research? Check. Burgundy? She’s got you covered. Hosting a party? Holla. Along the way it’s dotted with fun little anecdotes. Did you know that toast comes from ancient Rome when before meals, soldiers would dip charred bread into the wine? Thus, toasting before a meal began.

It’s a quick read too. You could breeze through it or treat it like a textbook and keep notes. Isn’t that the great thing about really good books? That you’ll take something with you that resonates long after you put the book down.

Revel and read Nat’s book. Her website has all sorts of good info and she has a free newsletter; Nat Decants. The lady does have a way with words.

Red, White and Drunk All Over is one of those books that you’ll find yourself bringing up in conversation. Read it for yourself or give it to a wine-loving friend or to someone who wants to take the next step to wine geekhood. Cheers to that.

Palace Ballroom Cookbook Bonanza!

Short notice, but the good food folks at Tom Douglas Restaurants are hosting this really cool sounding event on Monday night, Dec. 1st, at the Palace Ballroom. It’s called the Ultimate Holiday Cookbook Social, and it sounds like a blast.

There will be a ton of chefs and authors there to sign books and dish up some of their specialties. Holla to the fact that we have so many awesome local chefs here in Seattle! And it’s $20 bucks to get in! Some of the chefs/authors on the docket are Thierry Rautureau of Rover’s, Leslie Mackie of Macrina Bakery, Fran Bigelow of Fran’s Chocolates, and Tom will be there too. There are a gaggle of others so make sure to check out the roster.

The chefs and authors will be autographing their books too. Should be a fun event and a good chance to cross off some holiday gifts off of the list. You’ll need to RSVP, so please email christinal@tomdouglas.com. And I promise this will be the last Tom Douglas post for awhile; this event was too cool not to mention.

Photo from Nancy Leson’s All You Can Eat blog

Cool Food Book: Fat

 

Here is another very cool food book that deserves some attention. It caught my eye with the title – Fat. Yup, it’s a book about cooking with fat and it is as great as it sounds.

Discovered this book from an event that the awesome Kim Ricketts was hosting. The author is Jennifer McLagan; her first book was called Bones and this book focuses on the ultimate flavor instigator, fat. The book’s full title is Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes. But just calling it Fat is pretty rad.

Chef McLagan uses scientific research to show that fat is beneficial and historical evidence to highlight that fat is important culturally. Plus its delicious. Raise your hand if the idea of bone marrow rice pudding gets you giddy. She was fun to listen to her talk about her viewpoints on food and fat; how fat was once considered good. Fat paycheck. Fat of the land. But the tide has turned in the last 30 years and now we’re more mindful than ever in our relationship with fat.

Her goal now is to debunk that thought and to highlight how fat is beneficial to us – that the push towards nonfat moved us towards toward refined carbs and things like high fructose corn syrup. But she isn’t necessarily a crusader, mostly she just wants to highlight how delightful and pleasurable fat can make food.

The book is broken down by butter, pork fat, poultry fat, and beef fat. And it’s littered with fun anecdotal stories and enough research to justify cooking with fat. Some of the recipes are fun to just read the titles. Here is the roll call for some that just sound delightful without even knowing the ingredients;

  • Brown Butter Ice Cream
  • Slow-Roasted Pork Belly with Fennel and Rosemary
  • Bacon Fat Spice Cookie
  • Foie Gras Butter
  • Bacon Baklava

I could go on, but I really do love this book. It’s probably my favorite food book of the year.

Give this book as a gift for your food friends that love the glory of bacon or the benefit of marbling or would embrace roasted bone marrow with open arms. You know, that friend that would gladly indulge in Bacon Ice Cream. The title alone will get the conversation started, but the content will keep the conversation going.

Cool food book: The Devil’s Food Dictionary

In Nancy Leson’s awesome food blog, she wrote about this really interesting book: The Devil’s Food Dictionary by Barry Foy. The premise of the book is very cool; a cheeky look at the world of food. It’s been written about a bit in the blog world, and all seem to tout it’s hilarity. I’m going out to grab a copy – and it’s almost gift-giving season, maybe a good idea for that food nerd in your life.