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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Acceso Spanish Wine Tasting, Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Time and Date: Thursday, October 25, 2007 12 PM to 5 PM

The Event: Acceso Canada 2007: tour of Spanish wine producers looking for
agents and distribution in Ontario. Sponsored by the Economic and Commercial
Office of the Embassy of Spain.

The Venue: Roof lounge, Park Hyatt Hotel

The Target Audience: wine press, sommeliers, restaurants, trade.

The Availability/Catalogue: very informative booklet, with all the relevant
data of names and addresses, labels, background text, etc. But no FOB

The Quote: "There are some nice wines here, but few to compete against
existing wines at the LCBO Vintages"

The Wines: 19 wineries had presentations.

**** Four Stars (90 - 93):

- Bodegas Bleda Divus Monastrell 2005 Jumilla (FOB 7 Euros)

- Bodegas San Isidro Sabatcha Syrah 2006 (2.5 Euros)

- La Coleccion Tenere Crianza 2004 Rioja (4.2 Euros)

- Bodegas Franco-Espanolas Baron d'Anglade Reserva 2001 Rioja ($40 in

- Bodegas del Medievo MDV 2004 Rioja (100% graciano) (12 Euros)

- Liberalia Enologica Cuatro 2003 Toro (5.53 Euros)

- Bodegas Marques de Velilla Doncel de Mataperras 2004 Ribera del Duero
(15.25 Euros)

*** Three Stars (86 - 89)

- Bodegas Bleda Castillo de Jumilla Crianza 2004 (FOB 3 Euros)

- Bodegas San Isidro Genus Monastrell/Syrah NV (3 Euros)

- Bodegas Franco-Espanolas Rioja Bordon Gran Reserva 1999 ($25 in Quebec)

- Rosalia de Castro Paco & Lola Albarino 2005 Rias Baixas (5 Euros)

- Adegas Moure Fuga Mencia 2006 Ribeira Sacra (3.21 Euros)

- Abadia de Acon Crianza 2003 Ribera del Duero (7.9 Euros)

The Food: roast beef, lobster (but only a few white table wines were
offered), crab cakes, cheeses, breads, etc.

The Downside: several producers were coy about FOB prices. I needed them for
a marker of quality/price ratios.

The Upside: a good cross-section of wines which are available on the export
market, and an indicator of where Spain is at right now.

The Contact Person:

The Effectiveness (numerical grade): 89.

Monday, October 29, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Chez Jacques (Pepin)

CHEZ JACQUES; traditions and rituals of a cook (Stewart, Tabori &
Chang, 2007, 272 pages, ISBN 978-1-58479-571-1, $54 hard covers) is by
the ubiquitous and lovable Jacques Pepin, well-known chef and cookbook
author. The book, meant to accompany a PBS series, weighs almost four
pounds, and will serve as a handy item for exercise, especially in
conjunction with the Indian spice route book (below), which weighs the
same. Balance both books in both your hands while you are not cooking.
This is Pepin's tenth PBS series; he has authored over 20 cookbooks.
The 100 recipes here are his personal faves (or so he says). Here he
cooks at home in Connecticut. Each dish has an anecdote related to the
food or its construction, sort of like a "Proustian Madeleine" In some
ways, it is more a picture book and art book - it is illustrated with
some of his paintings - meant for the coffee table (Stewart Tabori &
Chang is an imprint of Harry N. Abrams, the well-known art book
publisher). He does have an extensive discussion on what makes a
recipe, but the book is French-styled all the way. WARNING: the recipes
are in narrative style (which I love), like the old Gourmet magazine
recipes used to be.
Audience and level of use: gift giving, coffee tables, fans of Pepin.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: pate of pheasant; frogs legs
with garlic and parsley; pasta with mussels and shrimp; lobster
souffle; snails in artichoke bottoms; chicken liver timbale; berry
The downside to this book: too many pictures of Pepin, and there are
only 100 recipes
The upside to this book: there is a metric conversion chart for the US
weights and measures used.
Quality/Price Rating: 84.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: What to Eat for What Ails You

WHAT TO EAT FOR WHAT AILS YOU; how to treat illnesses by changing
the food and vitamins in your diet (Fair Winds Press, 2007; distr.
Canadian Manda Group, 368 pages, ISBN 978-1-59233-236-6, $27.95 paper
covers) is by Winnie Yu who writes frequently for national magazines on
topics concerning health and nutrition. The promo sheet in the
publisher's catalogue identifies her as Winnie Scherer, under which she
may also have written. In fact, the original title for this book was to
be "The Encyclopedia of What to Eat for What Ails You", and the
subtitle was to be "a complete guide to special diets and nutritional
cures for everything from arthritis to warts". I suspect the word
"cures" bothered the lawyers in the due diligence process.
Nevertheless, this is good medical and nutritional advice, and the "A"
section now begins with "acne". For each condition (e.g., psoriasis)
there is a one or two page description, notes on what to eat, what NOT
to eat, and nutritional supplements. There are also separate strategies
on how to handle each condition, notably on how to reduce your stress
or learn to see your trigger points. Typical entries cover rosacea,
diabetes, high blood pressure, CFS, alcoholism, canker sores, lupus,
even cancer. And she is spot on, at least for those conditions I have.
Over the years I've searched books and the Internet on diets for my
problems, and she has done a nice job of summarizing. So there is every
likelihood that she is okay on all the other areas I know nothing
about. For almost all conditions, the foods to avoid are always salt,
trans-fatty acids, and refined foods, followed by saturated fats,
alcohol, and caffeine. Get rid of those six items, and you'll be almost
free of your health condition. Why? Because these six products are
KNOWN to weaken your own natural immune system. She concludes with a
resources list of books, articles and websites. As well, there is an
extensive index.
Audience and level of use: those looking for ease, reference libraries.
Some interesting or unusual facts: Many illnesses can be controlled by
identifying and avoiding specific foods, as well as lifestyle or
environmental factors that trigger flare-ups.
The downside to this book: there could be missing information, such as
under "Ear Infections" she doesn't cover animal dander which is a known
cause of ear problems.
The upside to this book: she has material on special diets, nutritional
supplements, and healthy foods for each ailment.
Quality/Price Rating: 89.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Whole Grain Breads

PETER REINHART'S WHOLE GRAIN BREADS; new techniques, extraordinary
flavor (Ten Speed Press, 2007, 309 pages, ISBN 978-1-58008-759-9, $42
hard covers) is by the author of "The Bread Baker's Apprentice", a
Beard Award winner from 2002 (his second Beard: the first was in 1999).
In fact, he was cofounder of Brother Juniper's Bakery in Santa Rosa, CA
and is currently on faculty at Johnson and Wales University. In this
thorough and comprehensive book, Reinhart gives us 55 master formulas:
all with baker's percentages, nutrition facts, ingredient measures in
volume, ounces, and gram measures, cooks notes, and timings. The book
claims 150 instructional photos plus 40 styled food photos of the
finished product. Whole grain is the emphasis; delayed fermentation
biga is the method. Types covered include hearth breads, sandwich
specialty breads, international breads (stollen, brioche, pumpernickel,
hutzelbrot), bagels, flatbreads (injera, roti, chapatis, naan, pita),
and crackers. The style is scholarly, and you must be a committed baker
(or, at least, really love bread) to follow along. More details are at
his blog His book concludes with a huge
resources list, a nicely chosen selection of websites listing blogs,
bakeries, grain mills, flour producers. As well there is a books list
and a glossary. This is a really good reference tool.
Audience and level of use: the bread lover and bread maker.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: three rye hearth bread, 100%
sprouted grain bread, lavash, graham crackers, ciabatta.
The downside to this book: it can be slightly more technical than
needed, but then he is now an academic in teaching mode (different from
"showing mode").
The upside to this book: he has ingredient measures in three styles.
Quality/Price Rating: 92.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

REVIEW: Restaurant Cookbooks

RESTAURANT COOKBOOKS - are the hottest trend in cookbooks.
Actually, they've been around for many years, but never in such
proliferation as now. They are automatic sellers, since the book can be
flogged at the restaurant and since the chef ends up being a celebrity
somewhere, doing guest cooking or catering or even turning up on the
Food Network. Most of these books will certainly appeal to fans of the
chef and/or the restaurant. Many of the recipes actually come off the
menus of the restaurants involved. Occasionally, there will be, in
these books, special notes or preps, or recipes for items no longer on
the menu. Stories or anecdotes will be related to the history of a
dish. But because most of these books are American, they use only US
volume measurements for the ingredients; sometimes there is a table of
metric equivalents, but often there is not. I'll try to point this out.
The usual schtick is "favourite recipes made easy for everyday cooks".
There is also PR copy on "demystifying ethnic ingredients". PR bumpf
also includes much use of the magic phrase "mouth-watering recipes" as
if that is what it takes to sell such a book. I keep hearing from
readers, users, and other food writers that some restaurant recipes
(not necessarily from these books) don't seem to work, but how could
that be? They all claim to be kitchen tested for the home, and many
books identify the food researcher by name. Most books are loaded with
tips, techniques, and advice, as well as gregarious stories about life
in the restaurant world. Photos abound, usually of the chef bounding
about. But of course there are a lot of food shots, verging on
gastroporn. The endorsements are from other celebrities in a
magnificent case of logrolling. If resources are cited, they are
usually American mail order firms, with websites. Some companies,
though, will ship around the world, so don't ignore them all. Here's a
rundown on the latest crop of such books -

* ROSA'S NEW MEXICAN TABLE (Artisan, 2007; distr. T. Allen, 278 pages,
ISBN 978-1-57965-324-8, $45 hard covers) is by Roberto Santibanez,
current executive chef of Rosa Mexicano in Manhattan. The restaurant
wants to expand to 14 locations by 2008. It has been in Manhattan for a
quarter of a century, and this "mediagenic" chef now serves one million
meals a year. The book's title is very confusing: is this a book about
New Mexican cooking from the state of New Mexico (that initially got my
attention: I love New Mexican food)? No, it is essentially a book about
what's "new" in Mexican cooking. We've seen it all before...The updated
classics here include tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, torta, ensaladas,
etc. For festive dinners, he suggests a taco party, a cocktail party,
vegetarian dinner, and BBQ. Modern recipes involve the likes of shrimp
with crabmeat. There are chapters on the basics of preparing tortillas,
cooking with chiles, stuffing enchiladas, making Mexican rice, and
slow-cooking pork. The book is being pushed as "home-cook-friendly",
and that may very well be with its roasts, adobos, and rubs. The
publisher has US volume ingredients but no metric tables of
equivalents. There is a source list and a Spanish-English index.
Unfortunately, there is also an excessive use of colour which makes the
book appear too party-ish. Despite its title, this is a basic Mexican
cookbook, useful for fans or beginners. Quality/Price Rating: 82.

* SMALL BITES BIG NIGHTS (Clarkson Potter, 2007, 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-
307-33793-1, $38 hard covers) is by Govind Armstrong, executive chef
and co-owner of Table 8 restaurants in Los Angeles and Miami, and soon
to be a presence in Las Vegas and New York City. Food editors Ann
Wycoff and Alison Steingold assisted. His restaurant's theme is small
plates and cocktails. He began working for Wolfgang Puck at age 13, and
the original forward to this book was supposed to be written by Puck
(as announced). But for some reason, Puck was replaced by Tyler
Florence (who he?). Most recipes in the book serve eight; there is an
annoying use of the number "8" to stand in for "-ate", as in educ8, l8,
d8. Does Table 8 mean a table for eight? Or is it a stand in for
"tabulate", as in adding up the prices. Each recipe has an expression
of its difficulty level. Chapters cover the pantry (basic sauces and
mixes listing 75 items to have on hand all the time), hors d'oeuvres
[sic], grills, dinners, comfort foods, savouries. There are only a half
dozen desserts. The resource list is mostly Californian, not much use
to Canadians. Some items are hard to buy: do you have a source for
squab liver? Typical dishes include sea scallop carpaccio, grilled
chicken thighs, panna cotta, lamb osso buco, roasted sunchoke soup.
While this is a stylish, good-looking book, there are too many pictures
of the chef and there are some typos (p.25: how much olive oil?).
Still, you can use the book for ideas. Quality/Price Rating: 83.

* THE YOUNG MAN & THE SEA; recipes & crispy fish tales from Esca
(Artisan, 2007; distr. Thomas Allen 253 pages, ISBN 978-1-57965-276-0,
$45 hard covers) is by David Pasternack and Ed Levine. Pasternack is
chef of Esca, an Italian seafood resto in NYC. This fish book comes
with the logrolling of Mario Batali (actually, Mario may be a partner
in the operation - this is unclear), Anthony Bourdain (who endorses
everybody anyway), Daniel Boulud, and Ruth Reichl. Pasternack is best-
known for his Italian-style sushi, which he calls "crudo": quality raw
fish with crunchy sea salt and fresh citrus juice. His chapters include
crudo, pasta, grills, pan-frying, and some shellfish. Indeed, most of
the past recipes here call for shellfish and not finfish. There is
yellowtail with spaghetti squash (no pasta here!), a baccala (salt cod)
salad, spaghetti with tuna meatballs, fettucine with shrimp (in diverse
styles), and marinated sardines with roasted eggplant. There are good
cook notes, gastroporn photos, and a slight sources list (where do you,
as a private consumer, get ultra-fresh fish - of all kinds - outside of
NYC?). US volume measurements are used for the ingredients, but there
are no tables of metric equivalents. Most disappointing: there are no
wine recommendations. Quality/Price Rating: 85.

* HONGA'S LOTUS PETAL; pan-Asian cuisine (Gibbs Smith, 2007; distr.
Raincoast, 232 pages, ISBN 978-1-58685-893-3, $37.95 hard covers) is by
Honga Im Hopgood, with Lise Waring (a focusing professional writer and
editor living in Telluride). At age 26, Hopgood opened her restaurant
in Telluride, Colorado, a "trendy" ski resort town, although I know it
better as a bluegrass festival town. Previously, she had operated a
street cart in Telluride, saved her money, and then opened her resto 16
years ago! It is basically "pan-Asian fusion", which means lots of SEA
ingredients all mixed in. It also embraces "global fusion" with its
recipes such as Asian gazpacho, Asian cioppino, Asian fish tacos, and
blackened tofu. Through her sushi and curries, and adroit use of
vegetables, she manages to employ food from China, Vietnam, India,
Polynesia, Japan, Thailand, et al. Her main focuses on the ingredients
are that they be organic or natural, hormone-free, sustainable, and
similar green patterns. Which is hard to do at heights of 8,000 feet.
Brian Hartman created many of the recipes in this book while working as
the head chef. There are many little dishes, such as laab (an open
ended Thai salad), smoked salmon rangoons, and poke (Asian ceviche).
Indeed, these are elegant, upscale, versions of Asiatic street food.
The print is large, and the material is well-laid out and photographed.
There is a glossary, resources list, and metric conversion charts for
the US volume measurements used. Quality/Price Rating: 89.

19. AT HOME WITH MAGNOLIA; classic American recipes from the owner of
Magnolia Bakery (John Wiley & Sons, 2006, 157 pages, ISBN 978-0-471-
75137-3, $35.99 hard covers) is by Allysa Torey, who opened Magnolia
Bakery in New York's Greenwich Village in 1996. She had also authored
"The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook" (1999) and "More from Magnolia" (2004).
This time the book is an all-purpose cookbook of family dishes, ones
she uses at her upstate New York home. As such it is trading in on the
Magnolia name. There's nothing wrong with that, so long as the
purchaser/reader of the book knows that the recipes here are not just
for baked goods. 93 preps cover all courses (it's arranged that way),
and deal with retro-styled comfort food - such as corn fritters with
chile-lime mayonnaise, eggplant with cherry tomato sauce, tomato lentil
soup with spinach and corn and brown rice, baked vegetable cavatappi
with besciamella sauce, chicken with mustard cream sauce. While the
preps are expressed in US weights and measures, there are no metric
tables of equivalents. A bonus: the index is in large print.
Quality/Price Rating: 82.

20. VIJ'S ELEGANT & INSPIRED INDIAN CUISINE (Douglas & McIntyre, 2006,
205 pages, ISBN 978-1-55365-184-0, $40 paper covers) is by Vikram Vij
who opened Vij's Restaurant (which is named after his grandfather) in
1994. Earlier he had worked for several restaurants in Europe and
Canada; he also now has his sommelier certification. 80 recipes come
from his operation, with 10 more for signature spice mixes at Vijs. He
covers the basics (mainly herbs and spices) plus ingredients and
equipment; there are also some suggested menu combinations. The book is
upscale in presentation and oversized. There are lots of descriptions
of the restaurant and its unique pottery dishes, decor, etc. Typical
dishes include oven-braised goat meat in fennel and curry, seared
striped bass, and grilled chicken breast in lemon-ghee dressing. Each
prep has a generic wine recommendation by varietal and region, such as
a California zinfandel. This is useful, but he could also have used
more BC wines as alternate choices. Quality/Price Rating: 85.

21. COOKING WITHOUT FUSS (Pavillion, 2005, 2007; distr. Raincoast, 160
pages, ISBN 978-1-86205-765-4, $22.95 paper covers) is by Jonny
Haughton. He's the owner-chef of The Havelock Tavern in London's Brook
Green; the 100 recipes in this book are some of the most popular ones
from that restaurant. It has the feel of upscale British pub grub, with
creations such as smoked haddock gratin, potato gnocchi, or chicken and
Parma ham terrine, beet and celeriac and bacon soup. This is a UK book,
with suppliers and resources from the UK, and all the recipes in
metric. It also has a faulty index: "aubergine, sweet potato and
cauliflower curry" is indexed ONLY under "potato" and "cauliflower".
There is no entry for sweet potato or aubergine, and certainly no
cross-reference from eggplant. Quality/Price Ratio: 80.

22. MODERN THAI FOOD; 100 simple and delicious recipes from Sydney's
famous Longrain Restaurant (Periplus, 2003, 2007; distr. Ten Speed
Press, 177 pages, ISBN 978-0-7946-0487-5, $31.50 hard covers) is by
Martin Boetz, executive chef and co-owner of Longrain in both Sydney
and Melbourne. Drinks are by Sam Christie, sommelier and maitre d' and
co-owner of the same restaurant. The 100 preps here are "recreated and
streamlined for the home cook", as the book says, with 15 contemporary
cocktail recipes from the bar. There is an illustrated glossary and
food and wine pairing principles. Recipes include chili jam, green
curry paste (and other curry pastes), egg wet rolls with pork and
shrimp, red curry duck, and calamari with sweet soy and ginger. Both US
and metric measurements are given for each ingredient. There are large
type fonts, and great close-up photos. Quality/Price Rating: 84.

23. REFRESH; contemporary vegan recipes from the award-winning Fresh
restaurants (John Wiley & Sons, 2007, 212 pages, ISBN 978-0-470-84084-
9, $28.99 paper covers) is by Ruth Tal, owner of three locations of
Fresh (in Toronto), with recipe development by Jennifer Houston. This
is the second edition of "Juice for Life: modern food and luscious
juice" published in 2000. In the meantime, the restaurants had moved
and reopened with new names, such as Fresh on Bloor. The website,
confusingly enough, retains the same title:
The recipes here are what is currently being served at the restaurant;
hence, the mushroom pizza is gone (it used to be one of my faves and
the fave of my server). Vegan principles here are observed. There are
75 pages for juices such as fruit smoothies, veggie cocktails, shakes,
elixirs, wheatgrass concoctions. The menu food of 115 pages details 94
dishes, sauces, brunches, and desserts. 17 supplements and herbal
tinctures, all of which are to be added to juices, are discussed. There
is a bibliography and a glossary. Typical dishes include a flu fighter
cocktail, a detox cocktail, green goddess rice bowl, portobello and
walnut salad, rainforest stir-fry, and curried garbanzos. While there
is general index and a recipe index (allowing you to go directly to
your fave off the menu), there is no ingredient index. US weights and
measures, but no metric tables of equivalents. Quality/Price Ratio: 85.

24. FRESH; seasonal recipes made with local foods (Douglas & McIntyre,
2007, 194 pages, ISBN 978-1-55365-245-8, $34.95 paper covers) is by
John Bishop, with Dennis Green and Dawne Gourley, and stories by Gary
King. Bishop opened his eponymous restaurant in 1985, and has since
authored three other cookbooks from Bishop's menus. Green and Gourley
currently work at Bishop's (he's chef, she's pastry chef) and have also
contributed to prior cookbooks. This work comes with strong logrolling
from Jamie Kennedy, David Wood (now an artisanal cheesemaker), and
James Mackinnon, co-author of BC's "The 100-Mile Diet". The book makes
a point of having a sustainable kitchen at the restaurant and at your
home as well. It is arranged by season, spring through winter. 100
recipes are complemented by anecdotes about the people in the West
Coast food business. Some dishes here include honey pound cake, nut
roast with mushroom and sweet onion gravy, and lamb shoulder with Dupuy
lentil stew and zucchini ragout. US weights and measures are used, with
two pages for metric conversion tables. Worth a look. Quality/Price
Ratio: 82.

25. WHITE HOUSE CHEF; eleven years, two presidents, one kitchen (John
Wiley & Sons, 2007, 328 pages, ISBN 978-0-471-79842-2, $29.99 hard
covers) is by Walter Scheib, a long-time corporate chef who ran the
White House kitchens for 11 years. His collaborator is Andrew Friedman
who has done this sort of work for many other chefs (more than 15
books). Currently, Scheib runs, a catering-
consulting-cooking class company. Here is life at the Executive
Mansion, with tons of anecdotes. Ultimately, he was let go, but because
he did not "resign", he was publicly "fired" and not given a letter of
recommendation. Thus the book covers from his audition process to his
controversial departure. He was chef for the Clintons and the Bushes.
Talk about two different lifestyles and two different White House
kitchens! The range is from midnight snacks to state dinners for 700
people, holiday menus for several thousand guests, and family dinners.
He has a classic description of 9/11, with staff evacuations and
feeding several hundred security and rescue personnel. Read all about
the gossip and the pecking order at the White House through the topical
index. Typical preps here include acorn squash gnocchi, grilled
artichokes and roasted peppers, Texas green chile and hominy casserole,
garlic polenta, and grilled chicken breasts with lemon pasta and
broccoli. Quality/Price Rating: 86.

26. WHERE PEOPLE FEAST; an indigenous people's cookbook (Arsenal Press,
2007, 192 pages, ISBN 978-1-55152-221-0, $24.95 paper covers) is by
Dolly and Annie Watts (respectively, mother and daughter) who used to
run the Liliget Feast House in Vancouver for 12 years (Dolly closed it
in 2007). This is the only First Nations fine dining establishment of
its kind, garnering a four star review in the New York Times. In 2004,
Dolly was declared winner on an episode of "Iron Chef". Canadian West
Coast native cuisine depends on seafood, game, fruits and veggies).
Thus, there are 150 preps here for oolichans, venison, grouse, salmon,
crab, and berries (among other foods). Plus suggestions and
substitutions where appropriate. Thus, there are 8 bannock recipes, 12
blackberry, 12 raspberry, 11 wild rice, 17 salmon, and 14 venison (I
counted them on your behalf). The recipes are mainly US measures with
no tables of metric equivalents, but lengths and weights are in both US
and metric, all of it a little confusing. Some typos include "445"
grams in a pound, and the index is - strangely - in one column on each
page. Preps include Indian (their term) tacos, wild shepherd's pie,
crabapple and raspberry jam, alder-grilled butternut squash, and wild
buffalo burgers. Quality/Price Rating: 88.

More reviews at

Friday, October 12, 2007


MINDLESS EATING; why we eat more than we think (Random House Audio,
2007, RHCD 1048, abridged, 5.5 hours on 5 CDs, ISBN 978-0-7393-4037-9,
$39.95 set) is by Brian Wansink, a food psychologist who is director of
the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. He's a marketing and
nutritional science prof. It's a bit of a screed, read by the author
himself, about why we may not realize how much we are eating, what we
are eating, or - as he puts it - "why we are even eating at all". After
all, eating is a basic function, but sometimes it becomes all
obsessive. His audiobook gives us the facts and lore that we'll need in
order to make healthier decisions and choices at the table, in the
restaurant, out in the supermarket, and at the office. Wansink even
says that we can lose ten to 20 pounds over a year, just by paying
attention to details and not denying ourselves. The book has been
abridged by Lynn Lauper, and the abridgement possibly improves on the
original book by cutting to the chase.
Audience and level of use: those who want a slow but steady weight
Some interesting or unusual facts: He's written three professional
books on food and consumer behaviour.
The downside to this book: there is neither index nor table of contents
to figure out where you are in the audiobook.
The upside to this book:
Quality/Price Rating: 88.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

TRADE EVENT: G7 Portuguese Wine Tasting, Toronto, October 9, 2007

The Time and Date: Tuesday, October 9, 2007 2:30PM - 6 PM

The Event: "Art in a Glass" - a wine tasting of Portugal's G7 wine

The Venue: Ontario College of Art and Design

The Target Audience: wine press, sommeliers, LCBO, private consumers.

The Availability/Catalogue: a full range of wines were presented, both entry
level and high end, some on the General List, others Vintages, and still
more on Consignment. The catalogue was full (and mostly correct), with
vintages, regions, agents' names, names of the grape varietals, and alcohol
content. Its only drawback was its physical structure: the letter size paper
in a spiral binding was too big and floppy.

The Quote: A highly placed official told me "Sogrape has left the group, but
J. Portugal Ramos has every intention of joining".

The Wines: we actually tasted only six producers since Sogrape has left.
With J. Portugal Ramos in line for joining, three of the new G7 will be
repped in Ontario by FWP Trading. I did not taste every wine. Here are my
quality/price ratings (value for the dollar) for my faves:

**** Four Stars (90 - 93):

- Quinta da Garrida Reserva 2003 Alianca ($24.95, PMA Canada)

- Quinta das Baceladas Bairrada 2004 Alianca ($21.95, PMA Canada)

- Quinta dos Quatro Ventos Douro 2005 ($27.95, PMA Canada)

- Aveleda Follies Alvarinho 2006 ($15.95, Vintages)

- Aveleda Follies Touriga Nacional/Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 ($22, Maxxium)

- Tinto da Anfora Grande Escolha 2005 Bacalhoa ($40, FWP Trading)

- Palacio da Bacalhoa 2004 ($45, FWP Trading)

- Esporao Reserve White 2006 Finagra ($17.95, Vintages)

- Esporao Reserve Red 2004 Finagra ($25.95, Vintages)

- Periquita White 2006 Jose Maria da Fonseca ($9.45, P. Dandurand)

- Quinta de Camarate 2005 Fonseca ($14.95, P. Dandurand)

- Dao Quinta de Penedo 2006 Messias ($21.95, Signature)

*** Three Stars (86 - 89)

- Quinta da Garrida Dao 2004 Alianca ($13.95, PMA Canada)

- Charambra 2005 Aveleda Douro ($8.65, General List)

- Aveleda Follies Chardonnay/Maria Gomes 2006 ($18.95, Vintages)

- Meia Pipa 2005 Bacalhoa ($15.15, FWP Trading)

- So Touriga 2003 Bacalhoa ($24.80, FWP Trading)

- Monte Velho Red 2006 Finagra ($12.95, Vintages)

- Vinha da Defesa Red 2005 ($22.71 licensee, FWP Trading)

- Periquita Reserva 2004 Fonseca ($14.95, P. Dandurand)

- Quinta do Cachao Touriga Franca 2004 Douro Messias ($21.45, Signature)

- Quinta do Cachao Grande Escolha 2004 Douro Messias ($23.45, Signature)

The Food: La Petite Fete did the catering - great chicken liver pate, smoked
trout on scallion biscuits, polenta with goat cheese, plus assorted quality
cheeses (blues, cheddars, triple cremes, etc.) at room temperature.

The Downside: I couldn't take home any of the meerkat figurines which were
on display.

The Upside: lots of room to hang out, and some friends to talk over the

The Contact Person:

The Effectiveness (numerical grade): 84 (it was lightly attended, many
people were still away over Thanksgiving).



Wednesday, October 10, 2007

TRADE EVENT: Chilean Wine Festival October 3, 2007

The Time and Date: Wednesday, October 3, 2007 2PM to 4:30 PM

The Event: Chilean Wine Festival

The Venue: Fermentations Cellar, Distillery District

The Target Audience: wine trade

The Availability/Catalogue: a high slim booklet, with copious data on all
the wines: names, regions, vintage years (some incorrect), varietals,
availability, prices. Wines were sorted by agent. Wines could be purchased
through the General List, Vintages, Consignment, and private orders.

The Quote: "Great food, lots of room, but it seems lightly attended. Lots of
elbow space."

The Wines: I did not taste all the wines. Here are my faves, with a QPR

**** Four Stars (90 - 93):

- Casa Marin Gewurztraminer 2007 Casona Vineyard ($35, Tannin Fine Wines)

- Casa Silva Viognier/Sauvignon Gris/Chardonnay Quinta Generacion 2005
($19.95, Churchill, but Vintages in July 2008)

- Garces Silva Chardonnay Amayna 2005 Leyda ($24.75, Whitehall)

- Haras de Pirque Albis 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere Maipo ($56.95,
Mark Anthony)

- Luis Felipe Edwards Shiraz Gran Reserva 2006 Colchagua ($14.95, Classique)

- Montes Alpha Chardonnay 2005 Casablanca ($23.95, Whitehall).

- Montes Alpha Syrah 2005 Colchagua ($23.95, Whitehall)

- MontGras Ninquen 2004 Colchagua Cabernet Sauvignon ($27.95, Kirkwood

- Morande Red Blend 2003 Maipo ($47.25, Majestic)

- San Esteban Laguna del Inca 2006 Syrah/Cab/Carm/Sangiovese Aconcagua
($24.95, MCO)

- Castillo de Molina Chardonnay 2006 Reserva Casablanca ($13.20, Corby's)

- Santa Rita Chardonnay Medalla Real 2005 Casablanca ($18.95, Vintages)

- Santa Rita Triple C Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere 2004 Maipo
($44.95 but moving to $70 with next vintage, Mark Anthony)

- Tabali Shiraz Reserva 2006 Limari ($16.95. Vintages)

- Veramonte Primus 2006 Casablanca Carmenere/Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon ($20,
Churchill Cellars)

*** Three Stars (86 - 89):

- Valdivieso Malbec Single Vineyard ($22.60, Carriage House)

- Casa Silva Cabernet/Carmenere/Petit Verdot Quinta Generacion 2004 ($21.95,
Churchill Cellars)

- Casas del Bosque Chardonnay 2006 Casablanca ($14.95, Vintages Dec 2007,

- Miguel Torres Gewurztraminer/Riesling 2007 Santa Digna ($15.95, Pacific

- Montes Sauvignon Blanc Limited Selection 2007 Leyda ($15.15, Whitehall)

- Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($23.95, Whitehall)

- Perez Cruz Syrah Limited Edition 2005 Maipo ($24.95, Vintages)

- Santa Alicia Chardonnay Reserva 2006 Maipo ($10.75, General List

- Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva de Familia 2006 Casablanca ($17.95,

- Tabali Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2005 Limari ($14.95, Connexion

- Tabali Carmenere Reserva 2006 ($14.95, Connexion Oenophilia)

- Veramonte Chardonnay Reserva 2006 Casablanca ($13.95, Churchill Cellars)

- VIA Sauvignon Blanc Chilcas Aguas Fresca 2007 Casablanca ($19.95, Vergina)

- VIA Pinot Noir Chilcas Piedra Feliz 2006 Maule ($19.95, Vergina)

The Food: fabulous cheeses, empanadas (chicken and/or beef), salsas, plus
two separate stations for trying food with red or white wines (a seviche and
a chicken-pesto station).

The Downside: some of the lighting was too diffused, which made reading the
catalogue difficult in the corners. Also, it took me about 20 minutes to
register (and this cut into my tasting time), even though I had RSVPed. This
wait needs to be fixed, especially since I noticed that people around me
seemed to be in a bad mood from the wait. At least we could have been
offered the catalogue to peruse. I just used my MP3 player, listening to a
Bing Crosby radio show from 1944. I just thought that you'd like to know

The Upside: great food, some interesting high end wines.

The Contact Person:

The Effectiveness (numerical grade): 89.


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

REVIEWS: The Restaurant Cookbooks for September 2007


...are one of the hottest trends in cookbooks.
Actually, they've been around for many years, but never in such
proliferation. They are automatic sellers, since the book can be
flogged at the restaurant and since the chef ends up being a celebrity
somewhere, doing guest cooking or catering or even turning up on the
Food Network. Most of these books will certainly appeal to fans of the
chef and/or the restaurant. Many of the recipes in these books actually
come off the menus of the restaurants involved. Occasionally, there
will be, in these books, special notes or preps, or recipes for items
no longer on the menu. Stories or anecdotes will be related to the
history of a dish. But because most of these books are American, they
use only US volume measurements for the ingredients; sometimes there is
a table of metric equivalents, but more often there is not. I'll try to
point this out. The usual schtick is "favourite recipes made easy for
everyday cooks". There is also PR copy on "demystifying ethnic
ingredients". PR bumpf also includes much use of the magic phrase
"mouth-watering recipes" as if that is what it takes to sell such a
book. I keep hearing from readers, users, and other food writers that
some restaurant recipes (not necessarily from these books) don't seem
to work, but how could that be? They all claim to be kitchen tested for
the home, and many books identify the food researcher by name. Most
books are loaded with tips, techniques, and advice, as well as
gregarious stories about life in the restaurant world. Photos abound,
usually of the chef bounding about. But of course there are a lot of
food shots, verging on gastroporn. The endorsements are from other
celebrities in a magnificent case of logrolling. If resources are
cited, they are usually American mail order firms, with websites. Some
companies, though, will ship around the world, so don't ignore them
altogether. Here's a rundown on the latest crop of such books -

11. KILLER CHILI; savory recipes from North America's favorite
restaurants (Chronicle Books, 2007; distr. Raincoast, 112 pages, ISBN
978-1-932855-60-9, $19.95 spiral paper bound) is by Stephanie Anderson,
a food and lifestyle writer who has previously authored "Killer Pies"
in this series. Here are 50 recipes from named restaurants from all
over North America: 10 apiece from the Northeast, Midwest, South,
Western States, and Canada. From Canada, we have the Boiler House in
Toronto (lobster chili) and McSorley's Saloon (veggie chili). The
Tomato Fresh Food Cafe in Vancouver also has a vegetarian chili. The
basic ingredients are all explained: beans, peppers, meats, spices, and
liquids. Then the variations begin with chorizo sausage, beer, seafood,
veggie, and something called "Tuscan" (more noted for its rosemary and
fennel than for anything else that is particularly "Tuscan"). There are
addresses and descriptions for all the restos, including either a pix
of the food or of the establishment. Welcome to the world of bowls of
reds (Texas), Christmas (New Mexico), and five-ways (Cincinnati). The
spiral binding is useful since it makes the book lie flat. But a major
drawback is the teeny tiny typeface used in the index, which is also
NOT an ingredient index but just a title index. Quality/Price Rating:

12. MORIMOTO; the new art of Japanese cooking (DK Books, 2007, 272
pages, ISBN 978-0-7566-3123-9, $50 hard covers) is by Masaharu
Morimoto, the God in the Iron Chef television series (he was virtually
unbeatable). He is an awesome giant in the food world, although he
looks a little silly in the cover photo with the hair on his chinny-
chin-chin. A fixture on the Food Network since 1999, he also owns
restaurants in New York, Philadelphia, Tokyo, and Mumbai. He has his
own brand of sake and beer. His top log rollers (endorsers) include
Mario Batali, Anthony Bourdain, and Ferran Adria. Here, in this book,
he presents over 125 recipes which re-invent Japanese cooking with
modern sensibilities. Lots of terrific gastroporn, plus plenty of
photos of techniques. The whole range is here, with individual chapters
on sashimi and sushi, noodles and rice, fish and shellfish, poultry,
meats, veggies, eggs, desserts, plus the requisite condiments. There is
also a glossary and an all-US sources list. He goes into great detail
on techniques (such as stuffing lotus leaves) and plating philosophy
(the latter is terrific stuff). The book is oversized and heavy, so
you'll need to make photocopies of any recipes you'd actually want to
try: grilled quail, lamb carpaccio, tofu and spicy pork sauce, beef
belly tartare, tempura vegetables with XO dipping sauce. Recipes are
expressed in US volume measurements and US/metric weight measurements; there
are NO metric tables of
equivalences for the volumes. Quality/Price Rating: 88.

13. THE KITCHENS OF BIRO; simple SpanAsian cuisine (Gibbs Smith, 2007;
distr. Raincoast, 168 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-0117-3, $35.95 hard bound)
is by Marcel and Shannon Kring Biro. They are stars and producers of
the Emmy Award-winning PBS cooking series "The Kitchens of Biro".
They've written other cookbooks, and he's also owner of Biro
Internationale, an integrated cuisine company consisting of
restaurants, cooking schools, branded merchandise (e.g., pots and
pans), and food consultancy. This current book tries to fuse the simple
Asian food with the rustic Spanish food, to produce such preps as a
saffron shrimp and leek soup, or a manchego and tomato and spinach
tarte flambee, or a salmon teriyaki satay with garlic-fried rice and
mixed greens. The book has the usual gastroporn photos, which seems a
bit out of place in preps stressing their easy and simple nature. While
all the ingredients are listed with US weights and measures, there is a
table of metric equivalents. The sources list mostly refers to Biro
branded products, which can be found through
All courses are covered, although a core chapter deals with sushi and
tapas, almost forty pages long. Try chipotle pork with mushrooms or his
trio of empanadas. Quality/Price Rating: 87.

14. A GREAT AMERICAN COOK; recipes from the home kitchen of one of our
most influential chefs (Houghton Mifflin, 2007, 286 pages, ISBN 978-0-
618-65852-7, $43.95 hard covers) is by Jonathan Waxman, who once chefed
at Chez Panisse (in the early 1980s) before opening Jams in New York.
He is now chef-owner of two restos, one being on the US West Coast. His
style has been characterized as contemporary American cooking. Notable
log rollers include Bobby Flay, Alice Waters (of course), and Colman
Andrews. Tom Steele is the focusing writer. The recipes are meant for
home cooks, with a philosophy of "less is more". Here are conceptions
such as red pepper pancakes with corn sauce and smoked salmon (the
created classic for Chez Panisse), crispy chicken and goat cheese
burritos (his most ordered item), pizza with bacon, scallions, parmesan
and tomatoes (his favourite family supper), and a simple grilled
chicken with fries (his signature dish). Other, typical dishes include
deep-fried calamari with chipotle mayo, shrimp with caper mayo, and an
eggplant with pepper, zucchini, and pesto sandwich. Basic, but
thorough, prep notes are included, most with a pix. Large print and
more leading make this book more enjoyable for the older folks, the
stoners who lost their way after Berkeley...As for knives, you'll find
that he has migrated from Wusthof to Japanese steel. Courses are
arranged from starters through to desserts. US volume measurements are
used, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/Price
Rating: 89.

15. TRATTORIA GRAPPOLO; simple recipes for traditional Italian cuisine
(Gibbs Smith, 2007; distr. Raincoast, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-0215-
6, $35.95 hard covers) is by Chef Leonardo Curti of the Santa Ynez,
California operation, Trattoria Grappolo. The resto has been open since
1997, serving casual Italian fare as well as catering services. The co-
author is James O. Fraioli, food writer and photographer. There is
plenty of in situ photography, making this book a perfect example of
the genre. Logrollers include at least five non-cooking celebrities,
and I'm not even going to bother to list their names...The cuisine is
Calabrese; the wines are Santa Ynez Valley (site of the movie
"Sideways"). There are 100 dishes, arranged by course, including pizza
rolls from Venice, salmon carpaccio with capers and arugula, black
squid ink risotto, and roasted Italian sausage with cannellini beans.
And there are some really great wine suggestions with brilliant write-
ups of at least four or five lines each: good work, wine guys! At the
end of the book there is listing of some 75 wineries to visit (with
addresses, phone numbers, websites, etc.) plus a metric conversion
chart. The type size is large enough for good readability.
Quality/Price Rating: 87.

16. TASSAJARA COOKBOOK; lunches, picnics & appetizers (Gibbs Smith,
2007; distr. Raincoast, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-0097-8, $35.95 hard
covers) is by Karla Oliveira, a nutritionist and professional chef
(over 25 years) with a lot of credits. The Tassajara Zen Mountain
Center (Buddhist monastery in California's Ventana Wilderness) is
famous for its healthy vegetarian cuisine, including its bag lunches.
This book contains many recipes for savoury breads, pates, sandwich
fillings, granolas, salads, chutneys and relishes, sauces and
marinades, and baked goods and sweets such as cookies (vegan and
dairy). It is fabulous fare for appetizers and small plates, as well as
lunches for vegans and vegetarians. You can even use the recipes and
ideas to prepare school lunches for your kids; it'll be a lot healthier
than the high-fructose corn syrup stuff in prepared foods. There's a
concluding chapter on prepping the food, such as the composition of a
sandwich with all of its accoutrements (such as condiments, pickles,
cheese/butter/eggs, vegetables, fruit), what to put spreads on to, and
lunch bag ideas for carrying the food, and metric conversion charts.
Try some basil-lime-pumpkin seed pesto, or roasted eggplant compote, or
almond pate, tempeh salad, couscous salad, and cappuccino coins.
Quality/Price Rating: 90.

17. AMERICAN MASALA; 125 new classics from my home kitchen (Clarkson
Potter, 2007, 264 pages, ISBN 978-0-307-34150, $44 hard covers) is by
Suvir Saran, with Raquel Pelzel as the unidentified focusing food
writer. Saran had previously authored "Indian Home Cooking", and is the
owner of Devi in Manhattan. In 2008, he expects to launch a chain of
informal and casual Indian restos named, ahem, American Masala
(originally described in the promo sheets as "American Masala fast-food
chain"). More details are at He has a ton of log
rollers: Michael Ruhlman, Mark Bittman, Sheila Lukins, Mollie Katzen,
Gael Greene, and even Marion Nestle (author of "Food Politics"). This
is outright US fusion food, with tamarind glazed turkey and jalapeno
cornbread stuffing, Indian shrimp scampi, and pistachio and cardamom
pound cake. Basically, you add Indian spices (cumin, coriander,
cardamom, and saffron) to US dishes such as mac and cheese or meatloaf.
Masala is, of course, the Hindi word for a blend of spices. His topics
embrace chutneys and condiments, appetizers, salads, soups and stews,
right through to desserts and to breakfasts. A list of resources for
suppliers is at the end of the book. Weights and measures are only for
US, and there are no metric conversion tables. There's not a lot in
this book that you could call innovative, but certainly there are lots
of interesting preps for the beginning home cook. Quality/Price Rating:

18. NEIMAN MARCUS TASTE; timeless American recipes (Clarkson Potter,
2007, 288 pages, ISBN 978-0-307-39435-4, $57 hard covers) is by Kevin
Garvin, Executive Chef and Vice President of Neiman Marcus Restaurants.
John Harrisson is the focusing food writer. Founded in 1907 in Dallas,
Neiman Marcus now has 36 stores and 50 restaurants across the USA.
Their first restaurant opened in 1953. This book is part of their 100th
anniversary celebrations. So you'd think that there would be 100
recipes? Actually, there are 110 - and not one of them refers to
chocolate chip cookies! The legendary Helen Corbitt created many preps,
and some of these are still on the menu somewhere in the 50
restaurants. Signature dishes for the resto and modern updatings from
Garvin (who arrived in 1994) fill the book. Part of the book is a
history, with photos and reproductions of older menus. There is also
some material on the development of food preps, with photos of people
(too many for a regulation cookbook; this book must be viewed as a
souvenir of the store). Arrangement is by course, with breads and
morning pastries, cocktails and beverages, and some basics. While there
are all kinds of additional notes and a glossary, there are no tables
of equivalents for the US volume measurements used. Typical preps
include very tomatoey minestrone, savory pretzel sticks, blue cheese
and walnut and port pate, stuffed flounder, creamed chicken a la king,
and baked cheddar grits. Quality/Price Rating: 82.

19. GREAT BAR FOOD AT HOME (John Wiley, 2007, 127 pages, ISBN 978-0-
471-78183-7, $21.99 hard covers) is by Kate Heyhow, a food author and
writer with a website Her current books attempts to
re-create small bites from various bars (cocktail, wine, brewpubs)
around the world. About 50 recipes cover such things as caviar tortes
with toast points, gougere, tangerine yakitori, bresaola carpaccio with
parmesan capers, salmon cassis, Spanish smoked paprika wings. Preps are
generally not sourced as to resto origins. US weights and measures are
used, and there is no table of metric equivalents. She has some nice
notes on pairing foods with cocktails and beers. Quality/Price Rating:

20. TWO MEATBALLS IN THE ITALIAN KITCHEN (Artisan Books, 2007, 319
pages, ISBN 978-1-57965-345-3, $45 hard covers) is by Pino Luongo, New
York chef-owner of three and more Italian restaurants in Manhattan, and
Mark Strausman, a co-owner with Pino and a chef in his own right. Both
of them diss each other all the time (they've known each other for over
two decades), and, according to this book, they have the 150 recipes to
prove that they are both right. Who knows? Anthony Bourdain and Daniel
Boulud are the two prominent log rollers...Take the meatball challenge
yourself. There are nine classic and creative takes on meatballs, plus
material for vegetarians and seafood-lovers. This is a book about
culinary competitions, a sort of Iron Chef at home game. Chapters cover
dried pasta, fresh pasta, risotto, oven cooking, grilling, what
Italian-American cooking is all about, Sunday dinners, and desserts.
There's a glossary, and ingredients are expressed in both US and metric
weights and measures! Try penne with veal and sage sauce, pasta with
eggplant and sausage, fettuccine carbonara, Sicilian couscous, grilled
stuffed pork chops, or chocolate biscotti. Quality/Price Rating: 88.

21. BOBBY FLAY'S MESA GRILL COOKBOOK; explosive flavours from the
southwestern kitchen (Clarkson Potter, 2007, 278 pages, ISBN 978-0-307-
35141-8, $44 hard covers) is by the famous Iron Chef America Food
Network guru who tied with Susur Lee in one of the series exciting
performances. To Flay's credit, there is not a single log roller on the
dust jacket. He opened Mesa Grill in 1991, and went on to open in more
locations and then with other restos. He has appeared a lot on TV. More
details are at his website Here he is assisted by
his business assistant Stephanie Banyas and by a focusing food writer,
Sally Jackson. It is surprising that this is his first totally
Southwestern cookbook. His other seven books have dealt with grilling
and family food, with some tangential Southwest recipes. After all, it
has been 16 years since he opened Mesa Grill (two dishes still remain
today that were on the opening menu: shrimp and roasted garlic corn
tamales, and BBQ duck-filled blue corn pancakes). He believes in smoky,
earthy, fruity, and spicy flavours - almost as a replacement for the
usual salt, sweet, bitter, and sour. There are 150 recipes here from
his resto, covering drinks, appetizers, soups, salads, mains, sides,
sauces, desserts, and even brunches. Lots of pix on food and the
restaurant itself. A good index, a sources list, but no metric tables
of equivalents for the US volume weights and measures. Try pumpkin
French toast with allspice butter and fig-maple syrup, creamy green
chile rice, chile-rubbed rabbit with green pea risotto, cumin-crusted
chicken with cotija and mango-garlic sauce, queso fundido with roasted
poblano vinaigrette. Quality/Price Rating: 90.


Saturday, October 6, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Good Calories, Bad Calories

GOOD CALORIES, BAD CALORIES; challenging the conventional wisdom
on diet, weight control, and disease (Knopf, 2007, 605 pages, ISBN 978-
1-4000-4078-0, $35.95 hard covers) is by Gary Taubes, a correspondent
for "Science" magazine. He has won three Science in Society Journalism
awards. He argues that refined carbohydrates are most likely the
culprits not only in obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, but also in
a host of other chronic diseases, including cancer. This book is the
culmination of five years of research in sifting through data. Early
studies of isolated populations who ate traditional diets became obese
and suffered chronic diseases when white flour, sugars, and simple
starches were introduced. These refined carbos have an effect on
insulin, leading to insulin resistance and "Syndrome X" (1988). He has
historical chapters on the different kinds of diets. His conclusion is
in the epilogue. Basically, the only way to lose weight and to keep a
healthy size is by removing refined carbos from our eating. Obesity is
the direct result of increased insulin. He has seventy pages of
extensive end notes and bibliography.
Audience and level of use: reference libraries, dieters.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: High-fructose corn syrup
(HFCS-55) is the devil. He calls for rigorous controlled trials of the
long-term effects of sugar and HFCS.
The downside to this book: there is nothing on MSG, or on how addictive
HFCS is. The book still needs an "Executive Summary": what should we be
The upside to this book: he examined thousands of studies.
Quality/Price Rating: 89.


Wednesday, October 3, 2007



...all reflect a boom in the cookbook publishing business. A paperback
reprint will lower the cost to the purchaser, and also give a publisher
a chance to correct egregious errors or add a postscript. Some will
reissue a book in paper covers with a new layout or photos. Others will
rearrange existing material to present it as more informative text
while keeping the focus tight. Here are some recent "re-editions"...

12. RED, WHITE AND DRUNK ALL OVER; a wine-soaked journey from grape to
glass (Anchor Canada, 2007, 304 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-66155-3, $22
paper covers) is by my colleague and fellow Wine Writer's Circle of
Canada member, Natalie MacLean. It was originally published last year
in 2006, and had then been described as "engaging", "practical", and
"pleases the palates". It covers the zany obsessiveness of wine
aficionados in North America. Topics include being an undercover
sommelier for a night, visiting vineyards in France and California,
retail stores, wine critics, and wine collecting. She has added a new
chapter "Wine Meets Its Toughest Matches", about pairing wine with
foods such as artichokes, curries, chocolate desserts, and salads.
Check out There is no index, which is a
shame: this is a distressing trend in most books of eclectic essays and
memoirs. It would only take a few hours and two book pages to produce
an index, but it would add immeasurably to the worth of the book
(easier to re-find data). This is a good read, although I've never
liked the title (I have a personal bias against anything cutesy with
alcohol-related social behaviour). Quality/Price Rating: 85.

13. CALIFORNIA WINE COUNTRY. Fifth edition (Compass American Guides,
2007; distr. by Random House Canada, 379 pages, ISBN 978-1-4000-1783-6,
$27.95 paper covers) is from Fodor's Travel, a well-respected publisher
of travel guides. It has been written by John Doerper, Constance Jones,
and Sharron Wood. It has been regularly revised over the years; indeed,
it even has its own ISSN (which is used for serially-issued
publications and magazines). It's well-photographed, indexed, and
mapped...and even well-written. It is a top-to-bottom guide to all
things vinous in most of the state (nothing on Mendocino, little on
Amador). Intro material includes wine history and wine culture,
followed by winemaking "techie" stuff, including wine-tasting tips. The
big regions are Napa and Sonoma, followed by the Central Coast. Winery
listings appear in geographical order, following the most common
driving routes. Each region has a series of suggested itineraries,
along with the usual accommodations and dining places. Top choices are
indicated. Many colour photos make this book heavy in weight.
Quality/Price Rating: 87.

14. SOUP KITCHEN (Collins, 2005, 224 pages, ISBN 978-0-00-775637-7,
$19.95 paper covers) has been edited by Annabel Buckingham and
Thomasina Miers. It was originally published in the UK in 2005, and is
now available here in Canada. This is a collection of soup recipes from
top British chefs such as Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver (chickpea, leek
and parmesan soup), Claudia Roden, Gordon "Bad Boy" Ramsay, Delia Smith
(cauliflower soup with roquefort), Michel Roux Jr, and Prue Leith
(tomato and basil soup). About 100 recipes from 100 contributors;
British orientation in style and ingredients. Metric measurements are
used. 70% of the royalties go to a variety of homeless charities.
Quality/Price Ratio: 85.
But see also ---

15. SOUP'S ON! Soul-satisfying recipes from your favorite cookbook
authors and chefs (Chronicle Books, 156 pages, ISBN 978-0-8118-5262-3,
$25.95 paper covers) is a collection of recipes that were donated to
the book from chefs and cooking teachers. Half of the recipes were
previously published by Chronicle. A portion of the royalties goes to
NextCourse, a nonprofit organization that educates women in the San
Francisco County Jail on nutrition and cooking on a budget. Among the
donations are Charlie Trotter's lentil and bacon soup, Martin Yan's
crab and asparagus soup, and Michael Chiarello's pork and orange stew.
There is also Deborah Madison, Peggy Knickerbocker, and Cat "Iron Chef"
Cora. This is sort of a US equivalent to the UK book above, except it
costs more money and has fewer recipes. Still, it is for a good cause.
Quality/Price Rating: 85.

16. LOW-SALT COOKBOOK; a complete guide to reducing sodium and fat in
your diet, 3rd ed. (Clarkson Potter, 2007, 329 pages, ISBN 978-1-4000-
9762-3, $21 paper covers) is from the American Heart Association. It
was originally published in 1990 by Times Books, and was last revised
in 2001. The publisher promises that this current edition has been
completely updated and revised with 50 new recipes, over 200 in total.
The revision also includes the latest dietary info and tips on
substituting ingredients, plus how to avoid hidden sodium in prepared
foods and in dining out. Many of the preps are associated with DASH
(Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). There are various appendices
on herbs and spices, ingredient substitutions, and ingredient
equivalents. Each recipe has the usual healthy listing of total fats,
cholesterol, sodium, carbs, protein, calcium, potassium, calories, and
dietary exchanges. Quality/Price Rating: 88.

17. LOTUS ASIAN FLAVORS (Periplus Editions, 2007; distr. Ten Speed, 241
pages, ISBN 978-0-7946-0492-9, $49.95 hard covers) is by Teage Ezard,
an Australian chef who also has restos in Hong Kong. He promotes his
preps as "Australian free-style". This book was originally published by
Hardie Grant Books in 2006 in Australia. He claims inspiration from
Chinese dim sum, and both Malaysian and Thai hawker markets and
vendors. His dishes here in this book are designed to be served on
platters or in bowls, eaten with chopsticks, forks or fingers, simple
and casual. Typical dishes include: drunken chicken, fried eggs with
crab, spicy tom yum soup with shrimp, coconut laksa with Chinese
doughnuts. There's an ingredient listing and a list of all the recipes
arranged by major ingredient (beef, curry, dim sum, soup, poultry,
etc.). Quality/Price Rating: 85.

18. BEARD ON FOOD; the best recipes and kitchen wisdom from the dean of
American cooking (Bloomsbury, 2007; distr. Raincoast, 337 pages, ISBN
978-1-59691-446-9, $32.95 hard covers) is a collection of short essays
by James Beard. It was originally published in 1974, and over the years
it has picked up an introductory note from Julia Child (in 1999),
illustrations in 1983, more notes by Mark Bittman in 2007, and both a
health and a supply update from Mitchell Davis in 2007. This book was
re-published to coincide with the Beard Foundation's Taste America
Festival in September. Beard had selected items from his weekly
syndicated newspaper column, 1970-1974. They reflect his beliefs,
pleasures, memories, and prejudices. Recipes are in narrative style
(which I prefer) and in lighter (barely photocopy strength) typeface
which I dislike. There is both a subject guide to the recipes and a
traditional ingredient index (but there is no entry for "hamburger":
you have to check "beef" for that product). There are no tables of
metric equivalents. Quality/Price Rating: no need to buy if you already
have any of the earlier versions, but otherwise 85.

19. SOUTHEAST ASIAN FOOD; classic and modern dishes from Indonesia,
Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Rev. ed.
(Periplus Editions, 2007; distr. Ten Speed, 572 pages, ISBN 978-0-7946-
0488-2, $37.50 paper covers) is by Rosemary Brissenden from Australia.
It was originally published in 1969 with many revisions over the years;
the last was in 2003 by Hardie Grant Books. This current work has been
Americanized. Recipes have been arranged by country, and within, by
style of cooking. There is a table of measurements for small metric
conversions, but otherwise the recipes have both metric and US volumes
and weights. Malaysia and Singapore have the largest allocation (154
pages), with Laos as the smallest (22 pages). Typical basic preps (all
sourced as to origin) include fish curry with coconut milk from South
India, stuffed cucumber consomme from Bangkok, chicken in soy sauce
from Java, beef or lamb sate from Indonesia, and green bamboo stew from
Laos. Six desserts are listed separately. About 500 recipes are here,
and there is a concluding bibliography for further reading. Elizabeth
David once said that this was "A book that every serious cook should
possess". Quality/Price Rating: 90.

20. THE JAPANESE KITCHEN; a book of essential ingredients with over 200
authentic recipes (Kyle Cathie Book, 2007; distr. Raincoast, 240 pages,
ISBN 978-190492-066-3, $24.95 paper covers) is by Kimiko Barber, who
has authored many other Japanese cooking books. It was originally
published in 2004. It was a winner of an International Association of
Culinary Professionals' (IACP) Award for Design. She categorizes 100
ingredients (soba noodles, umeboshi pickled plums) and produces 200
recipes. The book is about the kitchen, with its tastes, uses, and
health benefits. Most of the preps here are classics, such as deep
fried rice cake, udon noodle soup, lotus root in sweet vinegar, green
bean salad, sushi, sukiyaki, chicken teriyaki, et al. But there are
rarities too, such as gobo (burdock) stir-fry or kenchin jiru. There is
a history of the foods used. All of the recipes have volume and weights
as found in English countries, but with no metric tables of
equivalents. And the design IS fabulous...Quality/Price Rating: 86.

21. CULINARY MATH. 3rd ed. (John Wiley and Sons, 2007, 262 pages, ISBN
978-0-470-06821-2, paper covers) is by Linda Blocker (a former math
teacher) and Julia Hill (a public accountant). They both have taught at
the Culinary Institute of America. This is the third edition of the
workbook. The authors have updated and improved the practice problems,
clarified content, and added new photography. They have also produced a
website ( where you can practice food
costing on an Excel food cost form. There's a wealth of material here
for the office computer usage. Each chapter covers a specific aspect of
math, with descriptions, situations, methods, and practice problems.
There is space for calculations. Important topics include conversions,
yields, recipe costing, beverage costing, recipe size conversion,
various formulae and charts, and so forth. Not for the
innumerate...Quality/Price Rating: 95 (industrial standard).

Monday, October 1, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Questions of Taste

QUESTIONS OF TASTE; the philosophy of wine (Oxford University Press,
2007, 222 pages, ISBN 978-0-19-533146-2, $34.95 hard covers) has been
edited by Barry C. Smith, an academic who teaches philosophy at the
University of London. It is a collection of 10 essays, by different
people, dealing with the philosophical issues of tasting wine. Each
contributor has something to say about how we taste wine, based on the
quotation from Voltaire, "Taste invites reflection". It obviously sets
us apart from any other living creature, that is, the ability to
discuss merits. The essays are based on the proceedings of an
international conference entitled "Philosophy and Wine: from science to
subjectivity", held in December 2004 at the University of London. This
makes it all scholarly, with end notes and bibliographies for further
reading. It is meant for the serious wine consumer, especially the ones
who read about wine. Five philosophers, a linguist, a biochemist, a
winemaker (Paul Draper, who got his college degree in philosophy), and
a wine writer (Andrew Jefford) try to illuminate the philosophical
issues surrounding a love of wine, always returning to the initial
"why?" Questions posed: can wines be brawny? (reflections on wine
vocabulary by Adrienne Lehrer), what good is knowledge in enjoying
wine? (Kent Bach). Does a wine expert enjoy wine more than a novice
does? How much should we care about what experts say about wine? This
is not an easy book to read; it is a bit turgid in places.
Audience and level of use: for philosophers, for advanced wine
Some interesting or unusual facts: well, there is a famous quote that
brings us down to earth: "What's all the fuss about wine? It's just a
bloody drink"
The downside to this book: Jancis Robinson's name was prominent on this
book, yet she wrote only a three paragraph foreword (and one of the
paragraphs is used as a logroller on the dust jacket). Editor Smith had
previously written the "Wine and Philosophy" article for Robinson's
Companion to Wine (2006), also published by Oxford. Hmmmmm...
The upside to this book: a great read on the experience of enjoying
wine. Try to read it with a glass of great red wine next to you.
Quality/Price Rating: 90.