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Thursday, January 24, 2008

BORDEAUX 2005 in Toronto, Canada, Jan 22/08

The Time and Date: Tuesday January 22, 2008 2PM to 4 PM

The Event: Vintages Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux 2005 Tasting Event,
for the trade. Over 100 wines from over 75 chateaux.

The Venue: Four Seasons Hotel, Regency Ballroom

The Target Audience: wine media, sommeliers, food and beverage managers.

The Availability/Catalogue: many of the vaunted, ripe and
classically-structured 2005 wines were available for pre-order. This was not
strictly a futures event, and stock will begin to arrive over the next few
seasons. But many could still be pre-ordered by Feb 8/08. My tasting
catalogue, as with all previous LCBO tasting catalogues, was well-laid out,
clear, had prices, and connected well with the labels on or at the tables.
And as with all previous LCBO catalogues, this one fell apart after 30
minutes. Their printer has a problem with staples.

The Quote: "What vintage is this wine?" - gushed-heard from one young blonde
lady. Did she not know where she was? Or was she a gate crasher?

The Wines: I could not taste every single red wine, but I tried. I did not
taste any white Pessac or any Sauternes/Barsac, for there was no time and
palate left. The best wine values of the show were Chateau Beaumont ($19.85)
from Haut Medoc and Chateau Greysac from Medoc (not available for purchase,
but regularly selling for under $20 US). Both were well-aged already, ripe,
and with a textbook mouthfeel and length, and exceptional at the price:
these are wines to have while waiting for the other 2005s to come around.
Here were my faves of the show (not in any order except by stars), although
just about all of them are closed:

**** Four Stars (90 - 93 in Quality/Price Rating terms):

- Château Chasse-Spleen ($65)

- Château Phelan-Segur ($70)

- Château Talbot ($72)

- Château La Conseillante ($309)

- Château Leoville Barton ($309)

- Château Troplong Mondot ($329)

- Château Angelus ($392; $784 for magnum)

- Château Lynch-Bages ($215)

- Château Figeac ($174)

- Château Pichon-Baron ($197)

- Château La Couspaude ($99)

- Château La Lagune ($109)

- Château Canon ($133)

- Château Leoville-Poyferre ($199)

- Château Beau-Sejour Becot ($114; $228 for a magnum)

- Château Langoa Baron ($113)

- Château Clarke ($32)

- Château La Gaffelière ($110)

- Château Poujeaux ($47)

- Château Dufort-Vivens ($54)

- Château La Dominique ($73)

- Château Lagrange ($96)

*** Three Stars (86 - 89 in Quality/Price Rating terms):

- Château Dassault ($54)

- Château Camensac ($36)

- Château Grand Puy Ducasse ($46)

- Château Bouscaut ($42)

- Domaine de Chevalier ($82)

- Château Latour-Martillac ($49)

- Château Smith Haut-Lafitte ($125)

- Château Canon-La-Gaffelière ($138)

- Château La Dominique ($73)

- Château Beauregard ($55)

- Château Branaire-Ducru ($160)

- Château Léoville-Barton ($309)

- Château Haut-Bages Libéral ($85)

- Château Lynch-Bages ($215)

- Château Pichon-Longueville ($198, $396 magnum)

The Food: hard to beat duck terrine, chicken liver mousse, roquefort cheese,
stilton, brie, dried fruit, several kinds of breads, and the like.

The Downside: it may have been just a trade function, with tastings rather
than orders, but does that excuse a certain rudeness from many of the French
pourers? They talked amongst themselves while we were standing in front of
them, waiting for wine to be poured, glasses outstretched so that there
would be no mistake about what we wanted. Other pourers were writing notes
and text messaging. And it wasn't just to me either...On the other hand, the
LCBO Product Consultants were lively and alert, as if to compensate.

The Upside: a great opportunity to taste some serious wines at serious

The Contact Person: try Shari Mogk-Edwards through

The Effectiveness (numerical grade): 95.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

AUDIO REVIEW: IN DEFENSE OF FOOD; an eater's manifesto

IN DEFENSE OF FOOD; an eater's manifesto (Penguin Audio, 2008, unabridged,
6.5 hours on 5 CDs, ISBN 978-0-14-314274-4, $38.50 Canadian) is by Michael
Pollan, author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma", which was the top-rated
non-fiction book of 2006. The picture of leaf lettuce on the cover pretty
well tells it all; it is accompanied by the text: "Eat food. Not too much.
Mostly plants." Some of this material was previously published last year in
the New York Times' magazine; that article was meant as a follow-up to his
2006 book. As he plainly makes clear, the real evil in food is the ideology
that controls everyday eating. Pollan calls it "nutritionism"; it promotes
nutrients above the food itself. In many ways, it is a lot like the movement
of the late 19th century with Kellogg and Graham and their flours and foods.
When you diet, you end up changing your balance of nutrients in your foods.
Thus, a low-fat diet becomes a high-carb diet. When "additives" and
"supplements" provide nutrients, you really don't know if they will work in
the same way as in "food". Another argument against nutritionism is that new
discoveries and new research methods have overturned the past: butter is
better than its trans-fat replacement, free-range food is better that
battery food, no fresh eggs were used in the 1960s cholesterol trials
(frozen and powdered eggs were used, and that skewed the results), fat is a
carrier in our bodies for natural nutrients and thus must be present in our
diet. He goes on to show that many studies were flawed. For example, a half
billion dollar eight year study of low-fat diets for women showed that the
target range of 20% of total calories from fat intake was never achieved.
The lowest it got was 29%. Because food corporations make their money on
both novelties and long shelf lives, then all processed foods should be
avoided. He produces what we can call the "The Michael Rules". Some don't
rules: don't eat food incapable of rotting; don't eat food with unfamiliar
ingredients and/or HFCS (high fructose corn syrup); don't eat food that make
health claims or are dietary supplements. Some do rules: do eat mostly
plants (especially leaves); do eat wild foods; do pay more to eat less; do
have a glass of wine with dinner. This book has been read by actor and
writer Scott Brick, who also narrated the 2006 "The Omnivore's Dilemma".

Audience and level of use: For retrovores (those who eat food that was
raised the way they used to be raised) -- anyone concerned about what they
eat, or looking for guidance on how to eat wisely.

Some interesting or unusual facts: "I'm hoping this book will give people
tools so they don't have to be dependent on people like me"

The downside to this book: while he has good material on fructose corn
syrup, he has nothing on the other devil, MSG, nor on preservatives in
general. While all the text is here in unabridged format, there is no
listing of the reading sources nor of the index and websites, which is a
shame. Quality/Price Rating: 94.

Monday, January 14, 2008


...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"...

* BILLY'S BEST BOTTLES; wines for 2008 (McArthur & Co., 2007, 200
pages, ISBN 978-1-55278-683-3, $21.96 spiral bound) is now in its 18th
edition. I got it too late for inclusion in my annual gift article,
wherein I discussed other wine annuals. The wines in Billy's listings
are all available at the LCBO's General List and some as Vintages
Essentials, in Ontario; most will also be found in other provinces and
American states. He leads off with his plea for wine drinking by mood,
and this mood determines the strength level of the wine. His "Wine By
Mood Spectrum Chart" (also at is for food
and mood matches, based on fresh wines, medium (body) wines, and rich
wines, subdivided by white and red. This is the "Six Pack" approach to
wine drinking. Each wine has advice on how to serve plus plenty of food
matches and ideas (but the recommendations for pizza are for tomato-
sauce and cheese pizzas only). There is a wine calendar for upcoming
events in Ontario, but mainly for the GTA region. Wines are indexed by
category and by country. But this index can be ripped out in the book
store for a listing of the 200 or so wines. This is the major drawback
of any spiral bound book. Also, there are not many details about grape
varieties for the Euro wines. But it exhibits a no-nonsense commonsense
approach to wine, and there is an updated list of touring wineries in
Ontario. Quality/Price rating: 87.

* WEEK IN WEEK OUT; 52 seasonal stories (Quadrille, 2007, 255 pages,
ISBN 978-1-84400-502-4, $45US hard covers) is by Simon Hopkinson,
former chef at Bibendum (1987-1995). He is now a full time UK food
writer. The material in this volume was previously published in The
Independent Saturday magazine between December 1994 and April 2002. If
necessary, Hopkinson reworked the recipe. Jason Lowe was the original
photographer, and he is back with some presumably new settings. There
are 52 productions here, beginning with Winter and moving through
Autumn. It is an eclectic mix, relying on seasonal availability. All
recipes, of course, are for home use. Each week Hopkinson focused on a
particular ingredient or foodie topic at the time. The recipes take
their lead from the time of year, and usually there are three or so
each week. Try roast quails with butter and lemon; tomatoes stuffed
with crab and basil; cold veal with sliced egg and anchovy sauce; hot
strawberry and almond pie. Quality/Price rating: 88.

408 pages, ISBN 978-0-15-101261-9, $22US hard covers) is by Michael
Broadbent, MW, probably the most experienced fine-wine taster in the
world, with 55 years and more in the wine trade. He also writes a
monthly column for Decanter (and has done so for the past 30 years).
This "pocket" book, in a decent 4.83 x 6.75 size, in two colours (black
and red inks), updates his previous 2002 book, MICHAEL BROADBENT'S
VINTAGE WINE; fifty years of tasting three centuries of wine at $80, so
it is a bargain book. He's shortened the format, leaving out much
material from the original 560 large size pages. The original big book
began life in 1980, with a revision in 1991 and 2002. This, then, is a
third revision, and certainly more affordable. Dropped are his profiles
of personalities and many of his anecdotes. Also dropped are Madeira
entries, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, various appendices
and indexes. Added are updated notes over the past five years, and a
re-assessment of all vintages.
The sources for his wine notes are from collectors' cellars, wine
auctions, legendary tastings, wine society events, and his own personal
cellar. He is not consumer-driven like Robert Parker. Most tasting
notes have been rewritten and made smaller. France gets 300 pages,
Germany 45 pages, California has 20 pages, and Vintage Ports get 25
pages. Bordeaux has the biggest chunk of space, naturally, for it has
long lasting, mostly expensive, and widely available wine (plus of
course the Brits are just across the Channel from Bordeaux and have an
intimate history of involvement in the wine trade, as with Madeira and
Port). Bordeaux is the wine which turns up in cellars and auctions
everywhere. Most of the whites here are Sauternes. Red Burgundy is
mostly DRC. Icewines? Well, none from Canada, but there are a handful
from Germany (eiswein). There is also a chart specifying ullage levels
and wine terms. Quality/Price rating: 95.

* THE GOOD HOUSEKEEPING COOKBOOK; 1,039 recipes from America's favorite
test kitchen. Rev. ed. (Hearst Books, 2007; distr. Canadian Manda
Group, 608 pages, ISBN 978-1-58816-561-9, $24.95US hard covers) has
been edited by Susan Westmoreland, the Food Director of "Good
Housekeeping". It has been often revised over the years; indeed, I grew
up with previous editions. It's a basic book, nothing too fancy,
arranged by product or course. Thus, there are chapters on appetizers,
soups, stews, quick and easy weeknight meals, quickbreads, desserts, as
well as products such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, veggies
and fruit. The boards inside the covers have tables of equivalents,
substitutions, pan volumes, and food equivalents. There are test
kitchen tips strewn throughout. The pages are clay coated which allows
for colour photography, an added bonus. Plus the pages clean up better
should you spill any foods or oils on them. More recipes are at The book jacket says: "By the time our
recipes appear on these pages, they are guaranteed to work in any
kitchen, including yours. We promise." Quality/Price rating: 90.

* SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND; with eight around the table (Quadrille,
2006, 2007, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-84400-507-9, $29.95US soft covers) is
by Ruth Watson, an award-winning UK food writer and food editor (Daily
Mail). She has twice won the Glenfiddich Award. This book was
originally published in 2006 in hard covers, and the paperback reprint
is a straight reissue, right down to the Jamie Oliver logrolling. The
basic intent is to provide stress-free weekend entertaining, when you
can be focused entirely on the guests and the meals. All of the recipes
can be prepared in advance, or made to a quick cook stage a la minute.
No cook starters are emphasized, as well as one-pot dishes or roasts.
The key, of course, is planning. British emphasis. Quality/Price
rating: 85.

* THE 100-MILE DIET; a year of local eating (Vintage Canada, 2007, 266
pages, ISBN 978-0-679-31483-7, $19.95 paper covers) is by Alisa Smith
and J.B. MacKinnon, a couple living in Vancouver. They are both authors
and magazine writers. This current book is the 2007 paperback reprint
of the hard back book. They make a year-long attempt to eat only food
grown and produced with a 100-mile radius of their apartment in
Vancouver. They did it when they discovered that the food ingredients
that we eat have traveled 1500 miles on average. It's a little easier
to do this on the west coast where the climate is milder and the
growing season is longer. But there is no denying that imported foods
such as coffee and chocolate would have to go, as well as non-BC wines.
For Ontario, we'll have to eat a lot of root veggies and hydroponics.
But no matter...The book is well-written and enjoyable on its own
terms: it makes you think. Quality/Price rating: 91.

* NEW GOOD FOOD; essential ingredients for cooking and eating well.
(Ten Speed Press, 2007, 284 pages, ISBN 978-1-58008-750-6, $19.95US
paper covers) is by Margaret M. Wittenberg, global VP of Whole Foods
Market, where she has worked since 1981. Logrollers include Mollie
Katzen and Heidi Swanson, but, really, only Marion Nestle counts here.
The book was originally published in 1995; here, it has been
extensively revised and expanded. For years it had been a bible for
buying, storing and preparing whole foods. There are seven new
chapters, including one on whole grains. Grass-fed beef and antibiotic
use in meat production is covered, as well as organic labeling and new
nutritional findings. She also covers fruits and vegetables, breads,
pasta and noodles, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, oils, poultry and
eggs, dairy products, seafood, and seasonings. Just about everything
mentioned can be found at the larger health and natural food stores
(think: Whole Foods), so that makes the book exceedingly useful. Other
useful items include seasonal produce charts and preparation advice. No
recipes, but there are cooking guidelines for each product. It is nice
to see that the bibliography has very few articles from before 1995.
Quality/Price rating: 92.

* ONE-DISH VEGETARIAN MEALS; 150 easy, wholesome, and delicious soups,
stews, casseroles, stir-fries, pastas, rice dishes, chilies, and more
(Harvard Common Press, 2007; distr. National Book Network, 200 pages,
ISBN 978-1-55832-369-8, $29US hard covers) is by Robin Robertson,
cookbook author (she's written about 14 of them), chef, and vegetarian-
cooking instructor. The book collects the best recipes from three
earlier works ("Rice & Spice". "Pasta for All Seasons", and "The
Vegetarian Chili Cookbook"). I assume that one-third of the recipes
come from each book. But all courses and forms are covered anyway,
including lunches, dinners, workdays and weekends. There are also
dairy-free options. Quality/Price rating: 88.

* HISTORY IN A GLASS; sixty years of wine writing from Gourmet (Modern
Library, 2006, 2007, 376 pages, ISBN 978-0-8129-7194-1, $16.95US paper
covers) has been edited by Ruth Reichl, the current editor of Gourmet
magazine. It is a companion piece to Endless Feasts, which was a
collection of food essays from sixty years of Gourmet. The current book
was originally published in 2006 in hard cover; this is the paperback
reprint. The seventeen writers here include Gerald Asher and Frank
Schoonmaker, who were long time regular columnists. Hugh Johnson, James
Beard, Andre L. Simon, and Frederick S. Wildman Jr. are other notables.
There's a lot of American history here, beginning with Repeal and the
War. Madeira, pinot noir, Ray Bradbury's dandelion wine, Oregon,
Washington, Chile, Spain, Chianti, sherry and others complete the
picture. Well worth a read. Quality/Price rating: 90.

* THE BEST LIFE DIET (Simon & Schuster, 2007, 283 pages, ISBN 978-1-
4166-8492-6, $17.50US soft covers) is by Bob Greene, an exercise
physiologist and certified personal trainer specializing in fitness,
metabolism, and weight loss. He has written 10 other similar life-
altering books. This is a paperback reprint of the 2006 hard cover, a
monster of a bestseller. It details a diet plan, lifestyle advice, and
healthful recipes. This is the guy who helped Oprah Winfrey shed a lot
of weight. Here are any menus along with recipes for several weeks'
worth of eating. But don't forget the exercise. He has metric
conversion charts as well. Check out his website
for more material. Quality/Price rating: 89.

* PASTA PASSION (Quadrille, 2007; distr. Ten Speed, 304 pages, ISBN
978-1-84400-449-2, $18.95US paper covers) is by Ursula Ferrigno, a
chef, consultant, and food writer who specializes in Italian cuisine.
It was originally published in 2003, and has now been revised and re-
laid out. The hook here is that pasta is a) a staple, b)a five minute
meal, and c)a source of energy complex carbohydrates. She data on pasta
shapes (and which sauces are best matches for which shapes) and fresh
pasta. 150 recipes range from the basic (spaghetti with red peppers and
tomatoes) to the upscale (vincigrassi aperto: open lasagna with cep
mushrooms and prosciutto). Topics include light and healthy recipes,
make aheads, and everyday, as well as easy and impressive recipes.
There are even some dessert recipes (e.g., Neapolitan ricotta tart)
which use pasta. Quality/Price rating: 88.

* SPICE; recipes to delight the senses (Periplus, 2005, 2007, 273
pages, ISBN 978-0-7946-0489-9, $39.95US hard covers) is by Christine
Mansfield, an Australian chef now working in Covent Garden's East@West.
She is also a cookbook writer, and this is her fourth such book. It was
originally published in 1999 and revised and updated in 2005. This is
it's first North American appearance. Aromatics are used from Sri
Lanka, Japan, Singapore, Tunisia, China, Thailand and China. It now
comes with an introduction by Charlie Trotter. There is an extensive
glossary of the major spices in the world, followed by material on dry
spice blends (garam masala, curry, berbere, five spice powder (although
the Chinese version has six spices, two [anise and fennel] with the
same flavour profile), wet spice pastes, condiments, oils, and sauces.
The arrangement is apps to desserts. There is a 10 page discussion on
matching wines to spices, and this is quite good and useful. She has an
international list of spice suppliers and a bibliography;
unfortunately, the book listings appear not to have been updated since
the 1999 edition. Try pepper sourdough bread; chili cumin dal; eggplant
masala; chicken livers with pickled lamb's tongue, mustard spaghetti
and garlic sauce. Quality/Price rating: 89.

* THE GLOBAL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WINE (Wine Appreciation Guild, 2000, 2001,
912 pages plus CD-ROM, ISBN 978-1-891267-38-3, $75US) has been edited
by Peter Forrestal. Here are 36 wine experts who cover various regions;
they are all named. Tony Aspler deals with Canada. The book was
originally published in Australia and was reprinted by the WAG. I have
no idea why I was sent a review copy, for the book is neither new nor
up-to-date. Yet the book proclaims "Another feature of this massive
book is that it is up to date...This book has run to a tight schedule
without compromising its integrity." There are two paragraphs detailing
how they cracked the whip in order to keep the book current - but only
as of 2000. Hey, there have been tremendous changes since 2000! Good
pictures and maps, but shame about the text. To compound the matter,
the book was apparently mailed to me at the end of October 2007, but
sat in the San Francisco post office until the end of 2007. Ah, well.
The one real redeeming value is the CD-ROM which allows for single word
searches and contextualizing. Quality/Price ratio: unrated.

* COCKTAILS; style recipes (Simon and Schuster, 2005, 2008, 96 pages,
ISBN 978-1-4165-7101-8, $15.95US paper covers) is by food and drink
writer-editor-author Norman Kolpas. It is a paperback reissue of his
2005 book. There are over 50 easy-to-make drinks, both contemporary and
classic, plus tips and ideas for party planning. It has been organized
by type of drink and type of occasion, featuring stunning photography.
The book concludes with a glossary and an index. Quality/Price rating:

* THE INSULIN-RESISTANCE DIET. 2d ed. Rev. and exp. (McGraw-Hill, 2008,
240 pages, ISBN 978-0-07-149984-2, $16.95US soft covers) is by Cheryle
Hart, M.D., and Mary Kay Grossman, R.D. This book originally came out
in 2001, and since then it has sold 150,000 copies. The eating plan
here is fully described: how to lose weight by linking carbs and
proteins to control blood sugar. Or, as the authors state: "How to turn
off your body's fat-making machine". The latest info is, of course,
incorporated into the text. The authors claim that 95% of their
patients successfully lose weight using their plan's Link-and-Balance
Eating Method, self-tests, and food lists. 45 recipes are included, as
well as shopping and restaurant strategies. Quality/Price rating: 91.

* THE RIVER COTTAGE MEAT BOOK (Hodder & Stoughton, 2004, 2007; distr.
McArthur, 544 pages, ISBN 978-0-340-82638-6, $29.95 soft covers) is by
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, a UK writer and Channel Four broadcaster.
He lives at "River Cottage" in Dorset, and fights for real food and
meat in England. This is his third cookbook in the River Cottage
series. It was published in 2004, and here gets a paperback reprint at
a reduced price. The original edition sold 165,000 copies, so lots of
people are eating lots of meat. This is a tightly researched, from a
British perspective, book on meats such as beef, lamb, pork, poultry,
and game. There is a side excursion into offal. 40% of the book is
about meat; the rest is about recipes scattered amongst cooking
techniques with their own chapters (roasting, slow cooking, fast
cooking, barbecuing, preserving and processing, and using leftovers in
soups and stocks. There is a bibliography and a British resources list
of suppliers. He includes a small section on a dozen mood categories,
with page references. So for "Sheer Comfort", we can have cold roast
beef open sandwich, rice pudding pork, daube, beef in stout, Irish
stew, red flannel has, spaghetti bolognese, and others. All the dishes
we associate with the UK are here, such as steak and kidney pie, jugged
hare, roast belly of pork, roast grouse, oxtail stew, pork pie, and
roast beef (the full monty, he says). Of course, his shepherd's pie is
made with lamb. Many more details are at Quality/Price
rating: 89.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


...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 -

15. DISH ENTERTAINS; everyday simple to special occasions
(HarperCollins, 2007, 247 pages, ISBN 978-0-00-200772-6, $44.95 hard
covers) is by Trish Magwood, owner of dish cooking school and Food
Network chef. It comes with an endorsement by Linda Haynes, cofounder
of ACE Bakery.
This is basic stylish entertaining, with no sit down dinners. There are
two categories - everyday simple weekday, and special occasions. The
emphasis here is a collection of passarounds or buffets. She has a
tapas and cocktail party (with guidelines for quantities) and a family-
style dinner gathering from serving platters. She passes along many
caterer's tips and tricks, as well as time saving techniques. The range
is from appetizers to desserts, and many preps have been on her "Party
Dish" TV show. The 115 recipes call for special equipment that you may
not need to use otherwise, but if you are in the catering game, then
they are essential. Her dishes include balsamic pesto chicken, mocha
tortoni mousse, smoked trout and avocado, and soup shooters. But one of
her photos of pancetta looks suspiciously like prosciutto, and there is
a consistent misspelling of "hors d'oeuvre" - it's not pluralized. But
there are both Imperial and metric measurements used in the ingredients
listings, a plus. Her website is which has
Magwood's schedule and a bevy of other recipes. Quality/Price Rating:

16. CRESCENT CITY COOKING; unforgettable recipes from Susan Spicer's
New Orleans (Knopf, 2007, 405 pages, ISBN 978-1-4000-4389-7, $44 hard
covers) is from Chef Spicer who owns two restos in New Orleans: Bayona
(in the French Quarter) and Herbsaint (on St.Charles). Paula Disbrowe,
a chef and a food writer, is the focusing co-author. Notable log
rollers include Lidia Bastianich ("dazzles the palate"), Mario Batali
("sense of place and tradition"), and Daniel Boulud ("exciting and
original recipes"). This is Southern cooking meets Creole/Cajun,
expressed through 175 recipes. Most dishes come from her restaurants.
There is a sources list for mail orders (all US) and an extensive
index, with initial letters highlighted in red. Typical dishes include
pickled shrimp, Bayou chicken wings (actually, frog legs), Mexican
green gazpacho with shellfish, crayfish pies, and gumbos. There are
also quite a few "international dishes" (e.g. pork sate, Asian noodle
salad, and the like) that seem a bit out of place in a New Orleans
book. At the end, there is a large cocktail section. The recipes are
printed on coloured paper, which makes it difficult to photocopy, and
sometimes to even read. The ingredients are expressed in US volume
measurements, but there are no tables of metric equivalents.
Quality/Price Rating: 84.

17. ASIAN FLAVORS OF JEAN-GEORGES (Broadway Books, 2007, 290 pages,
ISBN 978-0-7679-1273-0, $50 hard covers) is by Jean-Georges
Vongerichten, founder of eponymous establishments such as JoJo and
Vong, Jean-Georges, plus several others such as Spice Market, Rama (in
London), more in Shanghai and Las Vegas. He spends most of his time
developing recipes and overseeing his empire of 18 restaurants. For
this book, to have more Asian credibility, log rollers include Asian
chefs Nobu Matsuhisa (owner of restos Nobu and Matsuhisa, "ingenious
combinations") and Toronto's own Susur Lee (owner of Susur and Lee,
"unique and nuanced food palette of taste sensations"). Hmmm...There
must be something about these chefs who name restos after all of their
first, middle (if any), and last names! His book is pan-Asian, and
reflects the recipes at Vong, 66, and Spice Market (the latter deals
with Asiatic street food). The 175 recipes are arranged from apps to
desserts: cold sesame noodles, lobster summer rolls, ribbons of tuna
with ginger marinade, corn and crab soup, avocado and radish salad with
onion tempura, squab with egg noodle pancake. The ingredients are
expressed in US volume measurements, but there are no tables of metric
equivalents. Quality/Price Rating: 86.

18. NIGELLA EXPRESS; good food fast (Knopf, 2007, 390 pages, ISBN 978-
0-676-97976-3, $50 hard covers) is by Nigella Lawson, a food goddess
with a popular series of TV shows and books ("Nigella Bites", "Feast",
"Forever Summer"). The bumpf alliteratively describes this book as
"featuring fabulous fast foods". There are the usual short cuts
(expressed with flair) and time-saving ideas. The basic rule for speedy
food is to make every single ingredient earn its place in the
composition: "minimize effort by maximizing taste". And, also, there is
minimum stress for maximum enjoyment (also, just turn off your cell
phone). The layout is superb, and thank God it has metric weights and
measures for the listed ingredients. There is material on party
presentations, speedy suppers, quick breakfasts, calming food, holiday
quickies, pantry and larder storage items. Basic quality stuff includes
only organic eggs, unsalted butter, fresh herbs, infused oils, and dark
70% chocolate. Try breakfast bruschetta, chopped ceviche, lamb shanks
with beans, butternut and sweet potato soup, and lamb tagine. It is
quality food in a quality book (it even comes with a ribbon
bookmarker!) but the price is sticky for a "fast food" book.
Quality/Price Rating: 83.

19. THE ART OF SIMPLE FOOD (Clarkson Potter, 2007, 406 pages, ISBN 978-
0-307-33679-8, $44 hard covers) is by Alice Waters of Chez Panisse
fame. She shares co-authorship with Patricia Curtan, Kelsie Kerr, and
Fritz Streiff, who are never actually identified in the book. Curtan is
given two credits: one for the illustrations, and one for the design.
There are 19 culinary "lessons" and foundation approaches for starting
from scratch (how to make fresh pasta, do a risotto, sauteeing,
grilling, making omelets, making custards, etc.). This is part one. The
second part is a collection of 250 recipes for cooking everyday
(sauces, salads, soup, pasta, breads, eggs, cheese, veggies, flesh, and
desserts). Her principles are simple, and have been influenced by
Richard Olney and Elizabeth David from the 1960s: eat locally, eat
sustainably, eat seasonally, shop at farmers' markets, plant a garden,
compost and recycle, cook simply, and others. Quality/Price Rating: 89.

20. CIOPPINO'S MEDITERRANEAN GRILL; a lifetime of excellence in the
kitchen (Douglas & McIntyre, 2007, 234 pages, ISBN 978-1-55365-251-9,
$60 hard covers) is by Pino Posteraro, owner-chef since 1999 of this
restaurant and Cioppino's Enoteca, both in Vancouver. These high end
restos emphasize Mediterranean fusion cuisine. The 100 recipes here
come from the restaurant, adapted for the home cook. The reference
section includes sauces, flavoured oils, pasta dough, confit vegetable
preps, and the like. The oversize book is very heavy, and you might
want to photocopy any recipes before rolling up your sleeves. There is
a memoir section (with photos) and a strange page about sous-vide
cooking (which he does in the restaurant), but then says no one should
do it at home. Yet the book is meant for home cooking. The term is not
indexed. Metric weights and measures are used throughout, which is an
excellent sign of a careful cook. Instructions are explicit, with
service and prep times. Suggested wines are mostly Pacific Northwest
and Italian, although there are some French and Chilean picks.
Unfortunately, he is quite explicit about label names and vintage
years, and only gives one wine per dish instead of a range of choices
to accommodate the reader's local market. Quality/Price Rating: 87.

21. PACIFIC NORTHWEST WINING AND DINING; the people, places, food, and
drink of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia (John Wiley &
Sons, 2007, 270 pages, ISBN 978-0-471-74685-0, $41.99 hard covers) is
by Braiden Rex-Johnson, a food editor who has been writing about
Pacific Northwest food and wine for more than 15 years. Here, in this
part travel part cookbook, she takes us to a variety of restaurants,
arranged by region or state. The dedicated space is roughly a third
each for Washington, Oregon, and BC, with 15 pages on Idaho. There is a
listing of wine and food festivals in the area. The idea of Northwest
cuisine is basically paired with the wine culture. Seafood, lamb and
fruit play prominent roles. There is good material here on food and
wine matching. Recipes are cited as to source, with the names and
addresses and websites of the restos. The 113 recipes, even for BC,
have US volume measurements and no metric tables of equivalents. There
are really nice colour photos, including one of the dimples on the
outside of a stainless-steel wine tank. From BC, we have recipes from
Feenie's, Araxi, C, Sooke Harbour House, Tinhorn Creek, and others.
It's about time we had a book like this for the Niagara Frontier-Finger
Lakes regions. Quality/Price Rating: 89.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Oxford Companion to Italian Food

THE OXFORD COMPANION TO ITALIAN FOOD (Oxford University Press, 2007, 637
pages, ISBN 978-0-19-860617-8, $39.95 hard covers) is by Gillian Riley, a
food historian who makes major contributions to the Oxford Symposium on
Food, and author of "Renaissance Recipes" and the National Gallery Cookbook.
She's assisted by five contributors, including Anna del Conte and Carol
Field, but she's done the bulk of the detail work, including the writing of
all the unsigned articles. There are 900 articles here, in an A - Z setup
for all of the entries (and no recipes). Major categories of topics include:
history, society, culture, variety of cuisine, myths, dishes and prepared
foods, ingredients (e.g., seafood, sweets, vegetables, herbs, meats, pasta),
delicacies, cooking methods, culinary terms, implements, regional
specialties (e.g. Emilia-Romagna), baked goods (amaretti, bruschetta,
cornetto, panettone), cheeses. There are 75 biographies of important
Italians, mainly chefs. She has some good clarifying notes on the
differences between emmer wheat (farro) and spelt. Unfortunately, there is
not much on wine or on other beverages - probably outside her scope. The
index has large type; it is extensive with copious cross-references. And
there are internal cross-references as well, where appropriate. Headwords
stand out clearly. She provides a long and up-to-date bibliography. Basic
question: why start with Italian food? Why not French food? Just asking...

Audience and level of use: Italian food lovers, librarians, hospitality
schools, food reference book collectors.

Some interesting or unusual facts: Ciabatta is very recent. Its dough was
described in 1985 by Carol Field as "utterly unfamiliar and probably a bit

The downside to this book: not really a downside, but how far along is
Oxford going with all of its Companion series? In Food and Drink alone they
can mine the field with at least 100 titles. The one map of Italy is a puny
black and white affair. And there are the occasional errors of pagination in
the index (e.g., emmer wheat).

The upside to this book: there are small, occasional black and white photos
which are informative. She also manages to cover mediaeval cookbooks, and
food in Renaissance paintings.

Quality/Price Rating: 95 (great price, even cheaper on Amazon.Ca)