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Archive for Books

BOOK: Craft Beer World


A gift for beer lovers. Photo courtesy Dog ‘N’


Looking for a gift for your Memorial Day hosts, or for Father’s Day? Instead of a bottle of wine, how about some craft beer?

Package the beer with a copy of Craft Beer World by Mark Dredge

With the explosion in the popularity of craft beers across the globe, more must-try beers are available than ever before.

Craft Beer World presents more than 300 of the world’s most innovative and delicious, showcasing the best of each style in 50 different categories.

From an American IPA bursting with citrusy C-hops or an Imperial Stout full of dark roasted malts, the book explains the key characteristics of each, from classic to cutting edge brews.

There are also nuggets of beer information, including how to serve different beers and how to pair beer with food.


Also consider a beer flavor wheel, a shortcut to comparing styles.

Another type of beer flavor wheel provides descriptions of the myriad flavors of beer.

Whether you’re looking for bitter beers or brews with hints of chocolate or coffee, these guides reviews will point you in the right direction. There’s not just one perfect beer to suit your taste buds; there are many!

Check out the different types of beer in our Beer Glossary.



A beer flavor wheel provides instant comparisons. Photo courtesy Beverage Ideas.




BOOK: Brassicas, Cooking The World’s Healthiest Vegetables


Eat your vegetables—make that, eat your
Brassicas. Photo courtesy Ten Speed Press.


Frequent readers of THE NIBBLE know of our devotion to cruciferous vegetables, also known as brassicas, from their Latin name in taxonomy*.

For a long time, brassicas have had a mixed reputation. People who know how to cook them adore them. Beyond the deliciousness, brassicas are superfoods—nutritional powerhouses packed with potent, cancer-fighting phytonutrients (antioxidants).

But anyone who has been served overcooked brassicas—when the sulfur compounds top the mushy texture with an unpleasant aroma—might just concur with George H.W. Bush, whose mom, we’re betting, didn’t cook the broccoli al dente.

Brassicas get the respect they deserve in a new book, Brassicas: Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables: Kale, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and More by Laura B. Russell, published this week in hardcover and Kindle editions.

One word is missing from that title: delicious. “Healthy vegetables” sounds too much like an admonition from mom or grandma. “Healthy and delicious” is a win-win.


And that’s what you’ll get in this cookbook. It showcases 80 recipes for broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and leafy greens such as arugula and watercress. Recipes are easily tailored to accommodate special diets such as gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan.

The recipes prove that brassicas can taste delicious when properly prepared in ways that let the flavors shine through (no blanket of cheese sauce is required—or desired). When roasted, for example, Brussels sprouts, a food avoided by many, reveal their inherent sweetness that other preparation techniques take away. Caramelizing cauliflower in the sauté pan makes it so lovely that each individual will want to consumer the entire caramelized head.

This is a book for people who love their brassicas, and for people who don’t love them yet. Give copies as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gifts, and to anybody who should eat more veggies.

The handsome hardcover volume is $17.04 on The Kindle version is $10.99.

*Kingdom Plantae, Order Brassicales, Family Brassicaceae, Genus Brassica.



FOOD FUN: Corned Beef & Cabbage Tacos

Who thought that inspiration for St. Patrick’s Day would come from La Tortilla Factory?

Corned beef and cabbage tacos!

We love fusion food, but these tacos do present a challenge:

Should we serve them with mustard, or with tomatillo salsa?

The answer to this question and others concerning nouvelle tacos can be found in the new book, The Taco Revolution by Brandon Schultz.

The book covers both traditional and new recipes, with chapters for beef, chicken, fish, pork, vegetable, breakfast and specialty tacos, plus sides, sauces and taco party advice.

On the nonconventional list, there are fusion tacos galore, including:

  • Avocado and tofu taco
  • BLT taco
  • California roll taco with wasabi sauce and soy sauce for dipping
  • Caprese taco with mozzarella, tomato and basil
  • Chicken salad taco and tuna salad taco, both with mayo
  • Chicken tikka taco (say that three times fast)
  • Falafel tahini taco
  • Hawaiian pizza taco
  • Korean taco of rice and kimchi
  • Orange chicken taco
  • Reuben tacos with sauerkraut and thousand island dressing
  • Smoked salmon and cream cheese taco
  • Steamed broccoli taco
  • Thanksgiving taco with turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce


    Tacos for St. Patrick’s Day. Photo courtesy La Tortilla Factory.


    Salivating or simply intrigued? Get your copy at in hardcover or Kindle editions.



    HOLIDAY: National Deviled Egg Day

    Curried deviled eggs. Here’s the recipe. Photo


    It’s National Deviled Egg Day.

    Even people who rarely, if ever, eat a hard-cooked egg can’t help plucking a stuffed egg off the tray.

    You can celebrate plan or fancy. For the plainest, mash the yolk from a hard-cooked egg with some mayonnaise, Dijon mustard and salt, and garnish with sprinkle with paprika. Our Mom liked to mix in pickle relish (although this recipe is actually a stuffed egg—see the difference below).

    For fancy, take a look at these recipes:


  • How To Make Perfect Hard Cooked Eggs

    Stuffed eggs were a popular dish as far back as the Roman Empire. There are many different recipes for stuffed eggs through the centuries, but the term “deviled eggs” originated in 18th-century England.

    “Deviled” refers to the use of hot spices or condiments in a recipe—paprika, mustard, hot sauce, horseradish, chiles, etc.

    So all deviled eggs are stuffed eggs, but only stuffed eggs with hot spice are deviled eggs.



    For 50 new and creative deviled egg recipes, take a look at D’Lish Deviled Eggs: A Collection of Recipes from Creative to Classic. Here’s a recipe from the book, which fuses ingredients from the California Roll:


  • 1 dozen hard-cooked eggs

  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon wasabi paste (or 1 tablespoon wasabi powder mixed with 1 tablespoon water)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 2 ounces crabmeat (1/3 to 1/2 cup)
  • 24 small cucumber fans

    How about 50 new deviled egg recipes? Photo courtesy Andrews McNeel Publishing.

  • Sesame seed-seaweed sprinkle (nori komi furikake*)
  • 2 tablespoons fish roe (tobiko)
    *This mixture of crumbled nori sheets and toasted sesame seeds has many other uses. It is delicious on rice and potatoes, with eggs, even in plain Greek yogurt.


    1. HALVE the eggs lengthwise and transfer the yolks to a small bowl. Set the egg white halves on a platter, cover and refrigerate.

    2. MASH the avocado well in a mixing bowl with a fork. Add the yolks and mash to a smooth consistency. Add the mayonnaise, wasabi paste and salt and mix until smooth. Taste and season accordingly.

    3. SPOON mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain or large star tip, then pipe the mixture evenly into the egg white halves. Or fill the eggs with a spoon, dividing evenly.

    4. TOP each egg half with a little crabmeat, a cucumber fan, a sprinkle of furikake and about 1/4 teaspoon of fish roe.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Become A Master Soda Maker

    Here’s a fun Father’s Day gift that will open your eyes to how great it is to make soda at home—and how much more popular you’ll be once you start doing it!

    Anton Nocito, proprietor of P&H Soda Co. in Brooklyn, New York, has assembled his techniques and ideas into a new book, Make your Own Soda: Syrup Recipes for All-Natural Pop, Floats, Cocktails, and More.

    All you need is a bottle of seltzer or a Sodastream and you’re on your way to becoming a great soda maker—and to enjoying real soda, without ubiquitous artificial colors, flavors and questionable sweeteners. You’ll:

  • Whip up your own syrups with fresh fruits and spices
  • Serve up egg creams and egg shakes
  • Make truly superior ice cream sodas
  • Deliver gourmet hot drinks

    Cherry Lime Rickey. Photo courtesy Make Your Own Soda | Clarkson Potter.


    Grapefruit soda with homemade grapefruit
    syrup. Photo courtesy Make Your Own Soda |
    Clarkson Potter.


    Then, relax with your creations. Natural sodas are vibrantly flavored: the zing of just-squeezed citrus juice, the intensity of ripe berries, the subtle perfume of fresh herbs.

    And the ability to customize a drink that’s as sweet (or not) as you like, with conventional or low glycemic sweeteners (we successfully substituted agave nectar for the sugar).

    Handmade syrups make all the difference in recipes for all-natural soda pop, floats, cocktails, punches and more: The book has a total of 70 recipes, simple and fun. Beautiful photographs make you want to make every one. This is cookbook that any soda lover will love.

    Anthony Nocito is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute and was an executive sous chef in the Union Square Hospitality Group. Artisanal soft drinks are obviously one of his passions. They may become one of yours, too.



    To show you how easy it is, here’s a sample recipe from the book. If you remember Brigham’s and Bailey’s casual restaurants in the Boston area, you remember the Raspberry Lime Rickey, as seductive a soft drink as ever graced a soda fountain—brightly colored, sweet and tart, a favorite of kids adults alike. Nocito’s version is a cherry lime rickey—very satisfactory. But you can always make a batch of raspberry syrup and relive the memories.

    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • 2 tablespoons lime syrup (recipe belowk)
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • Dash of citric acid solution
  • Seltzer
  • 2 tablespoons sour cherry syrup (recipe below)
  • Wedge of lime, for garnish

    1. FILL a tall glass with ice. Add the lime syrup, lime juice, and citric acid solution.

    2. ADD the seltzer, float the cherry syrup on top and garnish with the lime wedge.


  • 1¼ cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Zest of 4 limes
    1. BOIL water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the zest and remove the pan from the heat. Steep for at least 1 hour. Let cool.

    2. STORE in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 14 days.


  • 2 quarts fresh sour cherries, pitted
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Juice of ½ lemon
    1. COMBINE cherries, sugar and lemon juice in a medium saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

    2. STRAIN the syrup through a fine-mesh strainer; discard the fruit solids.

    3. STORE in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.



    BOOK: Ice Cream Sandwich Recipes

    If you’re looking for something special for summer hosts, how about hundreds of ideas for ice cream sandwiches?

    Not only are ice cream sandwiches a cool summer dessert, but these dazzling recipes will get even hesitant bakers into the mood—and may inspire you to host a few ice cream sandwich summer socials.

    For sure, Cookies & Cream: Hundreds Of Ways To Make The Perfect Ice Cream Sandwich, by Tessa Arias, has inspired us.

    There are 50 recipes for both sweet and savory sandwiches, using simple ingredients to deliver very creative flavor combinations. The recipes include both the ice cream and the cookie or other sandwich base.

    Instructions are simple to follow and thorough: You can give this book to a young teenager (and we’d encourage that, because one cookbook leads to another, and self-sufficiency in the kitchen).


    Spend the summer making dazzling ice cream sandwiches. Photo courtesy Running Press.


    You can switch the flavors around to make hundreds of different combinations.

    The recipes are divided by category:

  • Classic, such as Rocky Road and Snickerdoodle
  • Chocolate, including Grasshopper and Peanut Butter Cup
  • Real Dessert, from Cannoli to Carrot Cake
  • Fruity, such as Lemon-Blueberry and Strawberry Balsamic
  • Sinful, including Dulce de Leche and Red Velvet
  • Boozy, such as Margarita and Tiramisu
  • Holiday, like Candy Cane and Gingerbread
    We want to make every recipe in the book!

    The hardcover book is just $12.72 on How much better can it get? Order your copies!



    PASSOVER: Matzaroni & Cheese, A Passover-Friendly Mac & Cheese Recipe

    The Passover mac and cheese alternative.
    Photo courtesy Passover Made Easy.

      A couple of weeks ago we published a modern Passover recipe, Eggplant Wrapped Chicken, from the new cookbook, Passover Made Easy.

    Passover begins at sunset on Monday, March 25th and continues for seven days. Here’s a kid-friendly recipe that puts a new spin on mac and cheese.


    Wheat products can’t be consumed for passover—no bagels, no pizza, no pasta. But for kids whose favorite meal is mac and cheese, the authors have created an substitute. “This is an easy dinner that will get all the troops running to the table when the hot, cheesy, and bubbling dish emerges from the oven.” they say. The recipe makes 6-8 servings.


  • 5 matzahs, broken into small pieces
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 container (16 ounces) sour cream
  • 1 container (16 ounces) cottage cheese
  • 3 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella or muenster cheese, divided


    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. In an 8 x 8-inch baking dish, arrange 1/3 of the broken matzah pieces.

    2. BEAT eggs in a medium bowl. Add sour cream, cottage cheese, butter, salt, and 1 cup shredded cheese. Pour 1/3 of the cheese mixture over the matzah. Repeat with two additional layers of matzah and cheese.

    3. TOP with remaining 1 cup shredded cheese. Bake for 40 minutes. The cheese on top should be brown and bubbling. Serve immediately.



    PASSOVER: Start New Traditions With These Recipes

    Passover begins at sunset on Monday, March 25th and continues for seven days. Observant Jews celebrate the first two nights with seders, featuring recipes that have been in their families for generations.

    But how about some 21st-century Passover recipes—if not for a seder, then for the other five days? There are more than 60 modern, creative Passover recipes in a new cookbook, Passover Made Easy. Some of the recipes that are calling out to us:

  • Brisket Eggrolls
  • Citrus Beet Salad with Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • Eggplant-Wrapped Chicken
  • Espresso Macarons with Chocolate-Hazelnut Cream
  • French Roast with Fresh Spice Rub
  • Frozen Lemon Wafer Cake
  • Jalapeño Lime and Ginger Salmon
  • Pecan Pie with Cookie Crust
  • Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup
  • Schnitzel Nuggets with Apricot Dipping Sauce
  • Spaghetti Squash Kugel
  • Tortillas with Tomato-Mint Salsa and Guacamole
  • Vegetable Lo Mein

    There’s plenty of time to pick up a copy and plan for Passover. Photo courtesy Passover Made Easy.


    The easy to prepare, sure to please original recipes were developed and tested by best-selling cookbook author Leah Schapira (Fresh & Easy Kosher Cooking) and co-founder of, an online kosher recipe exchange; with Victoria Dwek, managing editor of Whisk, a kosher food magazine.

    Pick up a copy for yourself or as a gift: it’s just $10.87 on There are fascinating culinary tidbits, useful preparation tips, full-color photos for each dish, step-by-step plating and food styling secrets, and a wine pairings and Seder wine guide.

    As a bonus, all but four of the 60 recipes in the book are gluten-free. And of course, the recipes can be enjoyed all year long. Here’s one recipes from Passover Made Easy to start you off; next week, we’ll publish Matzaroni, the mac-and-cheese alternative:


    Eggplant-wrapped chicken, one of the
    modern recipe alternatives. Photo courtesy
    Passover Made Easy.





  • 1 tall eggplant
  • ½ cup oil
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Pinch coarse black pepper
    Meat Mixture

  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ pound ground meat of choice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

  • 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Pinch course black pepper

    1. PREHEAT oven to broil. Grease a baking sheet. Cut eggplant lengthwise, 1/4-inch thick, to get 6 or 7 slices. Reserve remaining eggplant scraps. Place eggplant slices on prepared baking sheet. Brush slices with oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil 5 minutes per side, until second side is beginning to brown. The slices should appear as if they were fried. Remove and set aside.

    2. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Peel and finely dice remaining eggplant to obtain ½ cup diced eggplant. Heat oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and diced eggplant and sauté until soft, about 5-7 minutes.

    3. COMBINE onion mixture with ground meat in a small bowl. Season with salt and garlic powder.

    4. SEASON chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Place a tablespoon of the meat mixture into each thigh and roll up to close. Roll an eggplant slice around each stuffed chicken thigh. Place, seam side down and close together, in a baking pan. Cover and bake for 2½ hours.

    Serve with mashed potatoes or your favorite Passover-approved grain,* and your favorite green vegetable, steamed or sauteed lightly with garlic.

    *Grains forbidden during passover include barley and all types of wheat. Grains such as quinoa and rice were not known during biblical times so are not forbidden. Extremely religious people will avoid any grain.



    BOOK: Marmalade, by Elizabeth Field

    Marmalade could become your new signature dish. Photo courtesy Running Press.


    When Elizabeth Field was growing up, she didn’t like the bitter orange marmalade that her parents loved to slather on toast. But as an adult, she was introduced to homemade marmalade and became a convert.

    Her new book, Marmalade, Sweet & Savory Spreads For A Sophisticated Taste, may inspire you to begin your own marmalade journey.

    Charmingly designed and photographed, it inspires a get-together: Make a day of marmalade-making with a friend. It’s quality time together that yields jars and jars of provisions and gifts. Friends and colleagues will clamor for it.

    If they tax your generosity, you can simply buy them a copy of the book:


    Give a man a jar and he has marmalade for a week. Teach a man to make marmalade and you give him marmalade for a lifetime. And hopefully, there will be gift jars in it for you.

    Get your copy here.

    Don’t worry that fresh fruit season is waning. There are 11 citrus marmalade recipes as well as fall-winter flavors such as Double Ginger Pear and Quince Raspberry Marmalades.

    And you must make lots and lots of the savory Red Onion Marmalade. It goes with sandwiches, burgers and just about every type of grilled or roasted fish, meat and poultry. There isn’t enough onion marmalade in America. It will be an unforgettable holiday gift.

    The author also provides recipes for buttermilk biscuits, brown soda bread and popovers to enjoy with your marmalade; and shows you had to use the spread in main dishes such as Marmalade Roast Duck and Glazed Country Ham.


    Marmalade originated some 2,000 years ago as a solid cooked quince and honey paste, the precursor of Spain’s famed membrillo, served with Manchego cheese as a popular dessert. It was on the tables of ancient Greeks and Romans.

    Some time around the 10th century, the Portuguese replaced the honey with sugar. They called it marmelada after the word for quince, marmelo.

    Marmelada was a luxury product and a popular gift among noble families. Sugar, produced in the subtropics, was a very expensive import until the 1800s. For example, it wasn’t until 1874 that the British government abolished the sugar tax and made “white gold” affordable to the average citizen.


    They’re related, but different, styles of spreads. Check out our Jam Glossary which explains the differences among these terms and others (chutney, confiture, conserve, curd, fruit butter, gelée, fruit curd and fruit spread).

    Find our favorite brands of store-bought spreads.



    BOOK REVIEW: Life, On The Line

    Life, On The Line, has a double meaning. Photo courtesy Gotham Books.


    Uber-foodies know the name Grant Achatz (pronounced AK-its), the wunderkind chef whose brilliant career, laden with the top honors and awards,* almost came to a tragic end.

    In 2007, the year after his Chicago restaurant, Alinea, was named the best in the country by Gourmet magazine, Achatz was diagnosed with Stage IV squamous cell carcinoma cancer of the tongue (there is no Stage V). The protocol to save his life was to remove his tongue and part of his jaw, which would have ended his ability to taste and to speak. He was 33 years old, one of the world’s great young chefs.

    Fortunately for Achatz and his many friends and fans, his business partner, Nick Kokonas, found a clinical trial at the University of Chicago, which used chemotherapy and radiation instead of surgery. Treatment was gruesome but successful; the chef’s sense of taste, obliterated by the treatment, ultimately returned. The food-loving universe sends a million thanks to Kokonas and the doctors involved.

    In October 2008, Achatz and Kokonas published Alinea, a hardcover coffee table book featuring more than 100 of the restaurant’s recipes (exquisite, but not for the beginner!).


    In March 2011, the team’s second book, Life, on the Line: A Chef’s Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat, was published. It is now available in paperback and Kindle editions.

    Life, On The Line

    We received a review copy earlier this year, but it got fused into a pile of books waiting to be read (the pile is 44 inches high). Finally, with a rare day of free time (Independence Day, like most national holidays, is one of our book catch up days), we cracked it. We started reading in the morning, headed to a friend’s house, plopped onto a chaise longue and breezed through all 390 pages before we went to sleep—taking an hour or so to watch the fireworks and interact with other house guests.

    Beautifully written (the voices of Achatz and Kokonas are virtually identical, leading us to guess that a professional writer iced the cake, as it were), we eagerly devoured chapter after chapter.

    *Food & Wine’s “Best New Chefs,” 2002; James Beard Foundation”s “Rising Star Chef Of The Year,” 2003; Gourmet magazine’s “Best Restaurant in America,” 2006; James Beard Foundation’s “Outstanding Chef,” 2007; Restaurant magazine’s “#1 Restaurant in North America” and “#7 Restaurant In The Word,” 2010.


    Life, On The Line has a double meaning, detailing Achatz’s life as a chef on the kitchen line and his almost miraculous survival, when the cancer put his life on the line. Like many top chefs, he has a passion, energy and work ethic that seem almost unbelievable. There are many people who work ridiculously long hours, but few of those jobs require the combination of constant creativity, staff supervision and training, and pressure to produce perfection for five or six hours at the end of a long day—not to mention standing on your feet in a hot kitchen.

    Young Grant, who grew up in the small town of St. Clair, Michigan, began his culinary career peeling vegetables and cracking eggs in his grandmother’s café—a family affair that included his mother and aunts. He notes, “I never got an Easy Bake oven or a play kitchen. I played every day at the Achatz Café….”

    His parents then started their own successful restaurant, and by high school he had assumed weekly shifts at Achatz Depot—alongside his parents, uncles and cousins.


    Grant Achatz receiving a 2009 James Beard Award, one of several different Beard Awards, for his Alinea cookbook. Photo courtesy James Beard Foundation.


    From Student To Star

    After high school, Achatz headed to the prestigious Culinary Institute of America. He began a restaurant externship at Grand Rapids’ finest restaurant, starting at the lowest level: peeling vegetables and prepping ingredients for the meals, making soups and salad dressings. In a mere month, he was moved to the roast/grill station on the hot line—a fast-track promotion for the 19-year-old culinary student.

    To fast-forward: Achatz then began as a commis, or prep cook (from the French word for assistant), at the celebrated French Laundry in Napa Valley. (Do you know the different positions in a professional kitchen?
    Here they are, from top (chef de cuisine or executive chef) to bottom (kitchen assistant).

    French Laundry was then regarded as the best restaurant in America (and remains a contender for top honors, depending on who’s creating the list). Achatz rose to sous-chef under mentor Thomas Keller before taking over the kitchen at Trio, outside of Chicago. One of his best customers was Nick Kokonas, who three years later bankrolled his next move: chef/co-owner of Alinea. Far more than serving as financier, Kokonas became the all-around business partner most entrepreneurs can only hope for.

    The heart and soul of the book is Achatz’s journey from culinary school to top of the world at a very young age. No prima donna, he is Everychef. His path was similar to that of many gifted chefs, most of whom work fourteen hour, backbreaking days to create beautiful cuisine. Not every chef wins the accolades Achatz has and/or ends up owning a renowned restaurant, but most of them merit an A for effort. If you enjoy a great restaurant meal, Life, On The Line will give you a far greater appreciation of it.

    Once Achatz and Kokonas begin to discuss a partnership, Achatz’s chapters alternate with those penned by Kokonas, who provides a perspective on restaurant development and management (not easy—another reason to more deeply appreciate that delicious meal).

    The book comprises behind-the-scenes insights—general management and front of the house views from Kokonas, back of the house perspectives from Achatz. It’s a serious book, with one amusing section early on (amusing to us, frustrating to Chef Achatz):

    The young culinary school graduate decides to leave his unhappy job at Charlie Trotter’s after eight weeks (read the Chapter 5 and you’ll see that writing well is the best revenge). Using his savings (“There aren’t a whole lot of ways to spend money in St. Clair or Grand Rapids….”), he embarks on what he believes will be an inspirational three-star restaurant tour of Europe, booking dinners at Les Crayères (average meal, condescending service), Georges Blanc (grey, overcooked squab and indifferent/insulting response from the chef and maitre ‘d) and Enoteca Pincchiori in Florence (good but not celestial). His best meal was at an unnamed family restaurant with superb home cooking, that happened to be on a bike route he took.

    He returned to the U.S. and found his inspiration in California, with Chef Thomas Keller at The French Laundry. To get the tryout, he wrote a letter a day for fourteen days, telling Chef Keller why he wanted the job. The rest is culinary history.

    If you’ve never had Achatz’s food, by the middle of the book you’ll feel as if you had. It’s a delicious gastronomic experience.

    Alinea: A New Train Of Thought

    Alinea is an editor’s mark denoting the beginning of a new train of thought, exemplified by a new paragraph. It is more commonly known as the paragraph mark, less commonly as the pilcrow. The literal translation from Latin, a linea, means “off the line.”

    There’s a double meaning: Alinea represents a new train of thought about food, and as a restaurant, the food comes “off the line.” The line is the section of the kitchen where the food is cooked.

    You have to know, or know of, Achatz’s food to be in love with this book. Then, you can see, smell and taste every dish he describes.

    We were fortunate enough to dine twice at Trio during his tenure, and then at Alinea. We love the total experience he creates: innovative, intellectual, breathtaking and exquisitely delicious food, presented in new ways, down to the custom-made serving pieces designed to showcase a particular dish. Why serve a slice of seared foie gras with rhubarb purée, when you can purée the foie gras, mold it into a thin, hollow cylinder and fill it with rhubarb foam?

    The presentation comprises small tastes of many different courses (maybe 18, maybe 40), that push the envelope and create a memorable evening.

    Molecular Gastronomy

    We are cautioned by Kokonas not to refer to the cuisine as molecular gastronomy, which is perceived of by some of its finest practitioners as having overtones of gimickry and mad-scientist cooking. The U.K.’s Heston Blumenthal dislikes the term, believing it makes the cuisine sound “complicated” (it is!) and “elitist” (it is!).

    Ferran Adrià, the Catalan chef, has referred to his cooking as deconstructivist (not exactly tasty-sounding!). Deconstruction is a method in which the elements of a classic dish appear in a different shape or form.† Hervé This, the “father of molecular gastronomy,” reintroduced the concept in 2004 as “culinary constructivism.”

    According to Blumenthal, whose restaurant, The Fat Duck, has been named the best restaurant in the world more than once (for the past three years, the honor has gone to Noma in Copenhagen, helmed by chef/co-owner, René Redzepi, an El Bulli alumnus):

    “The fashionable term ‘molecular gastronomy’ was introduced relatively recently, in 1992, to name a particular academic workshop for scientists and chefs on the basic food chemistry of traditional dishes. That workshop did not influence our approach, and the term ‘molecular gastronomy’ does not describe our cooking, or indeed any style of cooking….

    “We may use modern thickeners, sugar substitutes, enzymes, liquid nitrogen, sous-vide, dehydration, and other nontraditional means, but these do not define our cooking. They are a few of the many tools that we are fortunate to have available as we strive to make delicious and stimulating dishes” (see the entire statement).

    Some chefs prefer the term “culinary physics” and “experimental cuisine.” Anything is fine with us: Just tell us what it is!

    Otherwise, we nominate “innovation cuisine,” given that this decade’s innovation can become the next decade’s mainstream. To decide for yourself, check out some of the techniques here. There are emulification, fragrant foams, vapors, gelification, spherification, reverse spherification, other reshaped liquids, fatty liquids transformed into powders and other concepts from food science.

    Here’s a history of molecular gastronomy. You can also pick up a copy of Hervé This’s book, Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor.

    As Kokonas wrote in an online article: “A trip to El Bulli restaurant in Roses, Spain under the direction of chef Ferran Adrià let Grant know that you could take classical technique, apply equal measures of whimsy, intelligence, creativity and technology, and transform the dining experience.”

    Some of Achatz’s dishes (from Trio and Alinea):

  • Essence of Pizza, ultra-thin potato starch paper imbued with flavors of garlic powder, tomato powder, paprika and fennel pollen, along with congealed mozzarella fat, the size of a stamp.
  • Cumin Candied Corn, a losenge of savory corn panna cotta wrapped in cumin-flavored sugar film.
  • Wild Turbot With Hyacinth Vapor, the fish in a small bowl set in a larger one filled with fresh hyacinth flowers, over which boiling water is poured to create an aromatic environment (other dishes had environments created from burning cinnamon sticks or oak leaves).
  • Stock set up to resemble a sponge, imbued with flavors of the sea.
  • A micro-sandwich of passionfruit sponge between layers of dehydrated prosciutto.
  • If you’re inspired by this menu, book a trip to Alinea. It’s not an easy reservation to get, but the book tells us that January is the slow month.

    January is not Chicago’s kindest month, but the experience will be worth it. Try to rea the book first.

    †In a simple example, think of Eggplant Parmesan, deconstructed. Instead of the fried eggplant slices baked with mozzarella and tomato sauce, the eggplant is sautéed in olive oil and topped with ricotta and sauce. Instead of breaded slices, bread crumbs are used as a garnish.



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