Search This Blog

Monday, November 2, 2009

Food and Wine Books In Review, Aug- Oct 2009

THE TROPICAL VEGAN KITCHEN; meat-free, egg-free, dairy-free dishes
from the tropics (Home Books, 2009; distr. Penguin, 179 pages, ISBN
978-1-55788-544-9, $18.95 US paper covers) is by Donna Klein, author of
other vegan cookbooks. She's a free lance writer for several
publications, writing on vegan and vegetarian matters. There are 225 or
so preps here, covering the tropics of the Caribbean, Africa, South
Asia, and Latin America. There is a primer on tropical fruits and
veggies with data on buying and storing. Each recipe has a nutritional
analysis. Arrangement is by course, with many soups and salads.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements,
but there are metric tables of equivalents. It is a straightforward
book, covering avocado, banana, chayote, jackfruit, kiwi, mango and
more – 20 in all. Two recipes or so on a page, many with cook's notes.
And just about everything is fast and easy to do.
Audience and level of use: vegans and vegetarians looking for spicy
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: avocado-cucumber sushi
rolls; black bean and tropical fruit salads; spicy Bolivian-style
lentils over rice; cabbage stuffed tortillas;
The downside to this book: I would have liked some menu suggestions.
The upside to this book: she includes chilies as a tropical item, thus
there are many preps here with different peppers in the mix.
Quality/Price Rating: 89.
4. ALMOST MEATLESS; recipes that are better for your health and the
planet (Ten Speed Press, 2009, 148 pages, ISBN 978-1-58008-961-6,
$22.50 US paper covers) is by Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond.
Both are food writers living in Philadelphia. Here are 60 plus preps
that de-emphasize meat. It includes vegetarian variations on meat-based
recipes for flexitarians. Meats here are flavour enhancements and
garnishes. Most of the preps are classics and standbys, re-jigged to
have less meat but more veggies. So the recipes remain delicious but
also healthier and even economically worthy since there are less beef
and pork to buy. Preparations have their ingredients listed in
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no metric table of equivalents.
There is also a bibliography and website listing for healthier eating.
Audience and level of use: first to those meat eaters who want to cut
back on their meat consumption.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: shrimp and slow-roasted
tomato risotto; chicken and biscuit pot pie; turkey verde soup; turkey
and pinto bean corn bread pie; caramelized onion meat loaf; albondigas;
grits roulade.
The downside to this book: more recipes are needed.
The upside to this book: seems to satisfy the need for less meat.
Quality/Price Rating: 86.

5. MODERN SPICE; inspired Indian flavors for the contemporary kitchen
(Simon & Schuster, 2009, 265 pages, ISBN 978-1-4165-6659-5, $25 US hard
covers) is by Monica Bhide, who has authored two previous Indian
cookbooks. Despite that, the publisher needs a half dozen logrollers,
especially from Mark Bittman and the head of Here are some
125 recipes plus some essays (a few like memoirs), which covers
culinary trends in Indian food in North America, contemporary updates
of Indian classics, and notes on Indian culture in North America. She
also has a guide to the modern Indian pantry. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is a metric
table of equivalents. More details are at
Audience and level of use: Indian food lovers looking for some North
American adaptations.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: pan-seared eggplant with
ginger and honey; baby besan crepes with potatoes; pomegranate-mango
toss; chicken breast stuffed with paneer; stir-fried lamb; strawberry
and kiwi pudding; guava fool; salmon with kumquat chutney.
The downside to this book: there are eight photos, not particularly
inspired – and with no page references to the recipes.
The upside to this book: larger typeface is very useful, especially in
the index.
Quality/Price Rating: 87.
6. JAM IT, PICKLE IT, CURE IT and other cooking projects (Ten Speed
Press, 2009, 148 pages, ISBN 978-1-58008-958-6, $24.95 US hard covers)
is by Karen Solomon, a San Francisco food and lifestyle writer. This is
a handy collection of some 75 recipes for making what the publisher
calls "artisan foods" at home. There are preps here for homemade
cheeses, condiments, smoked meats, pickles, noodles, crackers and
breadsticks, popsicles, jams, and cordials. Just like the book from
decades ago, "Better than Store Bought". She also has ideas for
creative packaging should you want to give any of these preps as gifts.
He guide has projects that can be completed over a weekend. And to that
end, she has detailed instructions, timelines for planning ahead,
shopping lists, and how to inventory your pantry. The book is arranged
by themes: munch it, bottle it, brine it, noodle it, hook it (fish),
hunt it (meats), milk it, jam it, sugar it, freeze it, unwrap it 
(candy), and drink it. There are several photos of techniques. Keen
instructions and storage notes are useful. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no metric
table of equivalents.
Audience and level of use: great for generation Y to learn about how to
make these things at home instead of spending money on purchased stuff.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: ricotta salata; kimchee;
marshmallows; chocolate fudge pops; beef jerky; olives; mustard.
The downside to this book: I would have liked more recipes for more
home prepping.
The upside to this book: good to have a book to appeal to younger,
budding cooks.
Quality/Price Rating: 86.

7. HOW TO LAUNCH YOUR WINE CAREER (Wine Appreciation Guild, 2009, 354
pages, ISBN 978-1-934259-06-1, $29.95 US paper covers) is by Liz Thach
(developer of the Wine MBA program at Sonoma State University) and
Brian D'Emilio (Director of Talent for Foster's Wine Estates Americas).
Together, they detail job descriptions, educational and skill
requirements, the ladder to success in one's career, how to get
started, job hunting strategies and the like. Apparently, there fifty
career roles in the wine business. Each chapter ends with a guide to
available resources (books, websites, and conferences). The appendix
has an "Action Plan Worksheet). Along the way, there are in-depth
interviews with some important wine people, such as Michael Mondavi,
James Laube of the Wine Spectator and Leslie Sbrocco, wine author.
There is a long and useful chapter on wine writers and wine educators,
and how to get there. The book is written and arranged by typical
career divisions, including winemaker, viticulturist, wine marketing,
public relations, distributors-importers-direct sales, retailing to
stores and restaurants, wine writers, wine educators, administration,
and wine supplies. There are a lot of strategies here for job-hunting.
Audience and level of use: wine schools, students, career changers.
Some interesting or unusual facts: E-commerce/web specialist or manager
roles focus specifically on the winery's Internet presence. They manage
website design, e-commerce software and sales, and email
communications. Wineries offer customers the opportunity to purchase
directly via the Internet.
The downside to this book: big chunks are not applicable to Canada,
which has liquor monopolies.
The upside to this book: the book is focused on just the US wine
Quality/Price Rating: 88.
8. 200 FAST & EASY ARTISAN BREADS; no-knead, one bowl (Robert Rose,
2009, 317 pages, ISBN 978-0-7788-0211-2, $27.95 Canadian, soft covers)
is by Judith Fertig, an American food writer, book author, and recipe
developer. It is a fairly easy and useful compilation of preps, being
based on the Sullivan Street Bakery's (and others') lead recipe in the
New York Times a few years back. The basic premise is to create a biga,
to let the bread breathe on its own. This means no proofing, no
kneading, and no baking on the same day. You can wait several days. The
result is a more interesting kind of bread, here made with instant or
bread machine yeast. (Bread machines are not called for in this book,
but the bread machine yeast is needed). Arrangement is by type of
bread, such as whole-grains, seeded, filled, flavoured, slow-rise,
gluten-free, festive breads, brioche, bagels, bialys, buttery yeast
breads, and more. But the book makes concessions to its dual audience
of Americans and Canadians: throughout the book, there is a box for
nearly every recipe headed "Baking with Canadian Flour". The box
explains the difference between US and Canadian flours and how to
compensate. It was off-putting after a dozen times: there must be some
150 occurrences of it in the book. Recipe preparations have their
ingredients listed in both avoirdupois and metric measurements.
Audience and level of use: basic bread baking primer.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: slow-rise herbed polenta
dough; granola dough; Roquefort and walnut fougasse; sun-dried tomato
and feta flatbread; rustic Italian hoagie rolls; sour Graham dough.
The downside to this book: the constant view of the Canadian Flour box
becomes boring.
The upside to this book: it should encourage more cooks to do baking.
Quality/Price Rating: 86.
9. WINESPEAK; a vinous thesaurus of (gasp!) 36, 975 bizarre, erotic,
funny, outrageous, poetic, silly and ugly wine tasting descriptors
(WineSpeak Press, 2009; distr. Wine Appreciation Guild, 346 pages, ISBN
978-0-9800648-0-3, $29.95 US paper covers) has been compiled by Bernard
Klem of For eight years, Klem has collated wine
tasting terms from real wine reviews in English. I'm there. So is
Richard Best from Oakville. Terms are organized in 27 different
categories of appearance (clarity, colour, and age), smell and taste
(17 here), balance, complexity, typicity, and finish. There are another
20 categories of special collections, such as a series of words
describing terroir, chocolate, and minerals-rocks (have we ever sucked
rocks?). My fave from these last categories is the description
"California Chardonnay is like giving Pinocchio a blow job". Near
misses to: "health hazard", "can be cellared for up to 10,000 years",
and "mutt of the blend". This may be a fun book, but it is also a
serious book: people actually wrote these words. Klem is hard at work
on a second edition, and maybe he'll propose some Parker numbers for
the words.
Audience and level of use: wine freaks and completists, new wine
writers looking to expand their vocabulary.
Some interesting or unusual facts: none of this was made up.
The downside to this book: he misses a few Internet phrase generators
such as the Silly Tasting Note Generator. Also, he misstated my first
name as "Anthony" (Anthony Tudor was a ballet choreographer), although
my website is correct and so is "Tudor's Faint Praise Index".
The upside to this book: whew, what a collection, very complete. There
should be no complaints. Just memorize everything.
Quality/Price Rating: 91.
10. WINE SECRETS; advice from winemakers, sommeliers, and connoisseurs
(Quirk Books, 2009; distr. Raincoast, 191 pages, ISBN 978-1-59474-261-
3, $19.95US hard covers) is by Marnie Old, who also authored the wine
half of "He Said Beer, She Said Wine" (2008). She's a Master Sommelier,
a native of Winnipeg, and now a Philadelphia-based wine writer. She's
taken excerpts from the writings of 40 important wine people. I am
surprised at how many of these people I actually know, such as Don
Ziraldo, Gina Gallo, Ed Sbragia, Michael Mondavi, Tom Stevenson,
Randall Grahm, Jean Trimbach, and Natalie MacLean. Most of the rest I
had heard of. Topics range from basic winemaking, terroir, oak
treatment, old world/new world styles, tasting wines, aroma-body-
acidity-tannin, closures (twist tops, corks, boxes, et al) – forty in
all at four pages or so each. Then Marnie puts her own spin and
comments on the advice. Little bios are given for each source.
Audience and level of use: good gift book
Some interesting or unusual facts: Wines that will age gracefully for
decades are becoming rarer every year.
The downside to this book: I would have liked more comments and
The upside to this book: fairly comprehensive for beginners.
Quality/Price Rating: 89,

No comments: