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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Good Food and Wine Books

THE FLEXITARIAN DIET; the mostly vegetarian way to lose weight, be
healthier, prevent disease, and add years to your life (McGraw Hill,
2009, 285 pages, ISBN 978-0-07-154957-8, $24.95 US hard covers)is by
Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, LDN (licensed dietician). She's heavily
involved in the online and TV nutrition world, as well as print and
cooking schools. Her main thrust here is simply to cut down on red
meat. "Flexitarian" means the same as omnivore: you'll eat everything.
But in moderation and balance. There are a range of options here, such
as flexible meal plans, meat-substitute recipes, and time of day. No
need to completely give up meat, dairy or fat. Typical one day programs
include vanilla spice French toast with berry syrup, arugula salad with
figs and goat cheese, grilled primavera on rigatoni, and peach
raspberry crepe. The trick is not to overdo it.
Audience and level of use: men, those trying to lose weight the easy
Some interesting or unusual facts: studies show that flexitarians
weight 15 percent less, have a lower rate of heart disease, diabetes
and cancer, and live about four nears longer than carnivores.
The downside to this book: just another diet book but more acceptable
to men.
The upside to this book: good layout of meal programs.
Quality/Price Rating: 84.

4. LAST CANADIAN BEER; the Moosehead story (Nimbus Publishing, 2008,
178 pages, ISBN N978-1-55109-691-9, $29.95 Canadian hard covers) is by
Harvey Sawler, a Maritime writer who has often written about New
Brunswick businesses. Here he has conducted interviews with family
members and the company's communications area, and he was given access
to the corporate archives. His book is a straightforward business
history, and like all private family ownerships, there are the
inevitable disputes over money and direction. The current leader of the
firm is sixth generation Andrew Oland, born in 1967, one hundred years
after the firm was founded. He currently makes 13 different beers, some
for different markets. While other beer labels have been sold to
American and European interests, Moosehead remains independent. Sawler
has come up with lots of historical or archival photos, mostly black
and white. He has colour plates of labels and their changes over the
Audience and level of use:  beer lovers, history buffs, culinary
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: The appendices list and
identify the names of the family members through six generations. There
is also a list of awards since 1950 (were there no records before 1950?
Or no awards given?), a list of their markets for beers, and some
advertising slogans.
The downside to this book: NO INDEX, which is a shame.
The upside to this book: good contribution to Canadian corporate
business history, and to beer marketing.
Quality/Price Rating: 85.
5. 200 BEST PANINI RECIPES (Robert Rose, 2008, 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-
7788-0201-3, $27.95 Canadian paper covers) is by Tiffany Collins, who
currently serves as culinary spokesperson for the Texas Beef Council.
35 panini here are made from beef; this represents one-sixth of the
book. Panini, for the uninitiated cook, are pressed and grilled
sandwiches. You can take almost any sandwich and make it into a panini:
just keep the ooze factor to a minimum. This book has several hundred
recipes, if you count all the variations, and it is a good place to
begin. The arrangement is by format or content, such as breakfast and
brunch panini, vegetarian, seafood (smoked salmon, red onion, cream
cheese and caper panini), poultry, meat (beef, caramelized onions and
blue cheese panini), deli, leftover, panini for kids, and desserts
(chocolate, hazelnut and strawberry panini). She has riffs such as
classic Reuben panini, Montecristo panini, Philly chicken panini,
chicken Caesar, lobster fontina, even pizza panini. Some of the preps
are glamorous such as the sardine and balsamic tomato panini. Others
are upscale. The type of bread is up to you, she says, but ciabatta and
focaccia are best according to the author. The book shows the standard
Robert Rose approach: larger typeface and additional leading,
avoirdupois and metric measurements, colour plates with page
references, cooks notes, and index.
Audience and level of use: basic sandwich primer.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: see above.
The downside to this book: this is a sandwich book, and you can easily
"panini" any sandwich.
The upside to this book: there is a chapter on condiments.
Quality/Price Rating: 83.
6. COOKING UP A STORM; recipes lost and found from the Times-Picayune
of New Orleans (Chronicle Books, 2008; distr. Raincoast, 368 pages,
ISBN 978-0-8118-6577-7, $24.95 US paper covers) is edited by Marcelle
Bienvenu and Judy Walker. All the preps come out of the Times-Picayune
newspaper. It is interesting that the newspaper became a post-hurricane
swapping place for old recipes that were washed away by Katrina. There
are about 225 recipes here, along with the stories of how they came to
be. They have been collated from the newspaper archives, local readers
and chefs, and local restaurants. Both classic and contemporary are
repped here, so you'll get a dose of beignets, chicken with okra, red
beans and rice, grits, and local drink recipes. It is wide-ranging, and
not all recipes are Creole or Cajun – it is more like a community
cookbook from New Orleans and the parishes. And it means that there are
many non-Creole dishes such as "Mexican lasagna" or "liver with onions"
or "beef kababs".  Arrangement is by course, from apps to desserts,
with, of course, a lagniappe chapter. The book concludes with a guide
to local descriptions of food, such as po-boy or gumbo. Recipes use
avoirdupois measurements, but there is a table of metric equivalents at
the far back. Anecdotes and pictures of a lost New Orleans complete the
Audience and level of use: Creole food lovers.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: pain perdu, seafood gumbo,
fresh corn and shrimp chowder, banana bread, anise cookies, praline
cookies, and muffuletta.
The downside to this book: typeface is a bit light, especially since
the ink used is beige or green. It can be hard to read at time.
The upside to this book: a good project, to keep recipes in print.
Quality/Price Rating: 88.

7. 300 SENSATIONAL SOUPS (Robert Rose, 2008, 384 pages, ISBN 978-0-
7788-0196-2, $27.95 Canadian paper covers) is by Carla Snyder and
Meredith Deeds, both food writers living in the US Midwest. This is a
nice database of classics and contemporary soups, along with
international preps such as pho, harira, minestrone, or African peanut
soup. It is arranged by major ingredient. There are separate chapters
for meat, veggies, beans, cheese, poultry, fish, and styles such as
chowders, cold soups, and dessert soups. At the beginning there are
notes on soup stocks, and at the end, there are notes on garnishes and
toppings. As is standard with any Rose cookbook, the ingredients are
expressed in both avoirdupois and metric measurements, the typeface is
clean and lean and large, and there is plenty of white space for adding
your own notes.
Audience and level of use: basic soup primer.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: veal burgoo, chilled curried
pear soup, chicken-squash-sausage soup, lasagna soup, arugula soup with
salmon and roasted grape tomatoes, guacamole soup.
The downside to this book: there are some colour pix of the soups, but
really, you cannot see much, just the garnish and the top layer. This
is true of all soups, so why bother? It just adds to the expense of the
The upside to this book: nifty collection.
Quality/Price Rating: 86.
8. A YEAR OF WINE; perfect pairings , great buys, and what to sip for
each season (Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2008, 250 pages, ISBN 978-
1-4169-4815-5, $24 US hard covers) is by Tyler Colman, aka Dr. Vino,
author of the award-winning wine blog He encourages wine
lovers to "drink different". This is a book about a year of wine
enjoyment and "pairing wine with food". Thus, it is arranged by season,
and then by month. He begins with January in winter. Staples here
include champagne, sweet and/or older rieslings, BA whites, burgundy,
barolo, N Rhone, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, and zinfandel. Other sweet
wines are included. The heavy and fruity wines would get you through
the cold winter months (if you live in Canada or the northern part of
the USD: what about Southern USA?). In summer, it is lots of Prosecco,
vinho verde, unoaked whites, Malbec, lambrusco, roses, Beaujolais, and
moscato. He has recommendations for every season, mood, budget, event,
and suggestions for gifts. A highlight for me was the timeline for what
goes on in a winery and vineyard over a twelve month period.
Audience and level of use: basic primer, with a twist.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: He has a "sommelier survey"
in which he asks wine professionals queries such as: how does context
matter? Your fave pairings? Fave wines by season? Best season for
drinking wine? Your best food and wine occasion?
The downside to this book: there's a lot of entry level and wine primer
stuff here, Also, the index does not list all holidays or events, such
as Christmas, and so you'll have to go to the appropriate month.
The upside to this book: some producers are recommended, but in
different price ranges.
Quality/Price Rating: 87.

9. BAKING FOR ALL OCCASIONS; a treasury of recipes for everyday
celebrations (Chronicle Books, 2008, 396 pages, ISBN 978-0-8118-4547-2,
$35 US hard covers) is by Flo Braker, baking cookbook author and food
writer and educator. Log rolling is by Chuck Williams, Nigella Lawson,
and Alice Medrich. "Occasions" here really means mostly for
entertaining, for a group of people. It is organized with these
occasions in mind. There's a section on makeaheads which can stashed
and finished off later. Another is on fresh fruit. The compendium of
200 preps covers most events. The first 50 pages is a baking primer.
Her baking is a very exact science. Ingredient listings have volume and
weights in both metric and avoirdupois. Even so, there are conversion
charts for US/UK/Metric forms. A good reference book, but you must
follow the rules first, as they are explained in the primer and cook's
Audience and level of use: cooks who want to become bakers.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: chocolate chip cookie logs;
trufflewiches; Neapolitan bars; yogurt pound cake; pumpkin ice cream
profiteroles; almond apricot berry buckle.
The downside to this book: typeface is too light, being sans serif and
narrow in the ingredient listing.
The upside to this book: separate indexes by recipe categories, such as
tarts, turnovers, pies, cupcakes, pastries, and the like.
Quality/Price Rating:

10. CHOOSING THE RIGHT WINE (Teach Yourself, 2008; distr. McGraw-Hill,
36 pages, ISBN 978-0-07-162102-1, $14.95 US soft covers) is by Beverley
Blanning, a freelance writer and Master of Wine. This book is one of
500 in the Teach Yourself series (the original self-help series). The
emphasis in all the books is on "shelf help" – read notes and form
observations and opinions. This is the latest wine primer, and it is
pretty basic: you won't find any extraneous material here. The book is
ideal for any wine classes, and it is certainly cheap enough. No
pictures, which is a good thing. Blanning's role is "to provide the
tools to make choosing wine stress-free" and "to give an overview of
the most interesting wines". You can learn a lot about wines without
actually doing much tasting. That was the premise of the bluffer's
guides. Major topics here: how to taste, grape varieties, terroir,
winemakers, regions, and buying-storing-serving. She has a Q & A,
glossary, references, bibliography, list of websites, and an index. She
also has material on how to be a green wine shopper, with material on
organic wines, biodynamic wine, and recycling. In every section, there
are blocked off passages labeled "try these", which are the structured
wine tastings to have on your own. You are supposed to compare your
notes to hers. No brands are mentioned.
Audience and level of use: standard primer.
Some interesting or unusual facts: In the UK, the excise duty on a
bottle of wine is 1.46 pounds (1.87 on any sparkling wine). VAT is
additional. This is a flat rate, not a markup. Thus, the more you pay
for wine in the UK, the more value you get for the liquid contents.
The downside to this book: slightly British orientation, which is
The upside to this book: no pictures of wine bottles or other twee
stuff. And thus, no specific wine producers are mentioned.
Quality/Price Rating: 90.

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