Category Archives: Book

Food Historian Karen Hess Dies

Karen Hess, who “translated” cookbooks from as far back as Colonial and American Revolutionary times era into contemporary English, died on May 15 at the age of 88. Her 1981 work, Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery, handed down in the Washington family, is considered her most important academic work. Her best-known work, The Taste of America published in 1977, was co-authored with her husband, journalist John Hess. The couple returned from France, where they had lived for nine years, and tried to open America’s eyes to its predilection for processed, packaged junk food. Fellow food historian John Martin Taylor was quoted as saying, “the book was a scathing statement” of the was America was eating. Think of her as the American food world’s equivalent to Rachel Carson and her Silent Spring or Jessica Mitford and The American Way of Dying — women who used eloquent words to sound alarms in very different areas.

Zagat Rates Fast Fooderies

I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry about the news that Zagat Guides, those slim, maroon guides that rely on “suveyors” to evaluate and rank restaurants, now has rated chain restaurants, including fast-food places. Each restaurant listing carries a numerical score and also quotes evaluators’ comments, just as for what I think of as “real” restaurants. Zagat did this in conjunction with “The Today Show,” a surprising (to naive me, anyway) confluence of committed foodies and the mass-est of the US mass television audience (OK, maybe “American Idol” or “Dancing With the Stars” is even mass-er, but you get my drift).

Zagat has released two new surveys, one covering 24 fast-food chains and “mega-chains” (at least 5,000 outlets), and the second covering 21 sit-down “family” restaurants. Both are food-service places that I take pains to avoid. In any case, Zagat Fast-Food Chains 2007 and Zagat Full-Service Chains are out, with a preview online as PDFs. Zagat says that 5,500 “diners” rated chains on food, facilities, service and overall, plus the specific categories of burgers, chicken, fries, shakes and child-friendliness in the fast-food group. If you’re in suspense, know that Panera Bread came out at the top of the overall fast-food rankings and Outback Steakhouse did the best in the full-service category.

‘Chocolate and Zucchini’ Author’s Book Tour

Clotilde Dusoulier, a young woman whose captivating Chocolate and Zucchini blog about food and cooking in Paris has been a foodie favorite since it eased into the blogosphere in late 2003, has written a cookbook. The American edition of Chocolate & Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Paris Kitchen has just been published by Broadway Books, an imprint of Random House. The reviewers who have seen it have been swooning: “”Dusoulier has contagious enthusiasm for her local Montmartre markets. Reading “Chocolate and Zucchini” is like going on a slightly frenetic shopping spree — in other words, irresistible” enthused Paris-Match.

Born and raised in Paris, Dusoulier lived in San Francisco for a couple of years after college and it was there that she developed her passion for food. She learned about cooking from her mother and is also self-taught, a perfect melding of her French roots overlaid by her American experiences. Her blog is full of her carefully indexed recipes (mercifully and pragmatically given both in metric and American measures), as well as her observations about food, restaurants and related topics that intrigue her. I have blog envy; hers attracts 4.5 million visitors a month, and I’ve been a lot of them.

Dusoulier is embarking on an American book tour. Alas, Denver is not on it, but here are the US cities scheduled thus far (book signings are free and begin at the time indicated; cost for others is given):

New York – Tuesday, May 15. 12:30 p.m.
Dean & Deluca (560 Broadway, SoHo)
Book signing, free meet and greet, 12:30 p.m.

Boston – Wednesday, May 16, 7:00 p.m.
Chez Henri (1 Shepard St., Cambridge)
Book signing and dinner, $75 for glass of wine, three-course dinner and signed copy of the book); reservations required (617-354-8980)

Boston – Thursday, May 17, 6:30 p.m.
The French Library (53 Marlborough Street)
Catered luncheon, talk and book signing; $15-$20 (I’m not sure why this price range);reservations required (617-912-0400). Chef Jean Claude Carvin of La Riviera Gourmet will prepare three recipes from the book.

Chicago – Saturday, May 19, 12:00 noon
Froggy’s French Café (306 Green Bay Road, Highwood)
Book signing and luncheon; cost TBA; reservations required by calling call Lake Forest Bookstore (847- 234-4420)
Chicago – Sunday, May 20, 1:30 p.m.
The Book Cellar (4736-38 North Lincoln Avenue)
Book signing and free meet and greet

Seattle – Monday, May 21, 7:30 p.m.
Impromptu (4235 East Madison Street)
Book signing and food-and-wine event, in collaboration with Shauna and Dan of Gluten-Free Girl; $45 including copy of the book; reservations required (206-860-1569).Admission: $45

Seattle – Tuesday, May 22, 7:00 p.m.
University Bookstore (4326 University Way NE)
Book signing and free meet and greet

Sonoma County, CA – Wednesday, May 23, 7:00 p.m.
Bovolo (106 Matheson St., Healdsburg)
Book signing and three-course dinner; $25; reservations required (707-431-2962)

Berkeley, CA – Thursday, May 24, 7:00
Cody’s Books (1730 Fourth Street)
Book signing and free meet and greet
San Francisco – May 26
Book Passage (Ferry Building, 1 Ferry Plaza #421)
1:00 p.m.
Book signing and free meet and greet

Jacques Pepin to Appear in Denver

Jacques Pepin, an eloquent, elegant French chef with true celebrity status in the culinary world, is coming to Denver for two intense days to promote his newest book, Chez Jacques: Traditions and Rituals of a Cook ($45), published last month by Stuart, Tabori & Chang. This most recent of his 20 books is both a visual stunner and a sentimental journey. It is partly an art book featuring 200 photographs and some of the chef’s own paintaings, partly autobiographical and partly a cookbook with 100 of his favorite recipes. Even though he had been the personal chef to three fussy French heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle, he became a public figure in this country when he co-starred with the late Julia Child on the award-winning “Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home” television series on PBS.

Denver has been high on M. Pepin’s radar screen, since his daughter, Claudine, moved to the Mile High City. She co-owns and operates a cooking school called A Cook’s Kitchen at 850 Ogden Street. In fact, she and her father will host a private cooking class on Monday evening at the school, but it is unsuprisingly sold out. Other Denver appearances on his calendar are:

Monday, May 14
Marczyk Fine Foods, 770 East 17th Avenue
10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Book signing
Marczyk will prepare a recipe from the book. Therefore, reservations are requested; call 303- 329-8979

Steuben’s, 523 East 17th Street
12:00 noon to 2:00 p.m.
Meet and Greet luncheon and book signing
Reservations at 303-830-1001
Tuesday, May 15
Strings Restaurant, 1700 Humboldt Street
11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Meet and Greet luncheon and book signing
Reservations at 303-831-7310

Tattered Cover, 2526 East Colfax Aveue
2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Book signing

Barolo Grill, 3030 East 6th Avenue
7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Meet and Greet dinner and book signing
Reservations at 303-393-1040

R.I.P., Sharon Tylor Herbst

When I need to check food terminology, spellings (including accent marks in other languages), definitions or ingredients or cooking and baking techniques (no matter how exotic), I turn to my little bible: The Food Lover’s Companion. Its creator, Sharon Taylor Herbst, passed away on January 26 after battling ovarian cancer for three years. Sadly, the cancer won. I never met her, and yet I mourn her.

The first edition of the Food Lovers Companion took her three years to research and write, and was published in 1990. The three editions printed thus far have sold more than a million copies. I bought two of them for myself and others for foodie friends. The current edition contains nearly 6,000 entries, organized alphabetically, like a dictionary or encyclopedia. Several on-line food sites use The Companion for their definition of terms sections. The fourth edition is due out in September.

Tara Duggan, the reporter who wrote Sharon’s obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle, noted, “Part dictionary, part encyclopedia, the current edition of the book defines almost 6,000 food and wine terms. Many publications use it as a reference, including The Chronicle, for answering such questions as whether to capitalize Caesar salad or what goes into devils on horseback, for which the book provides two definitions. One is ‘wine-poached prunes stuffed with a whole almond and mango chutney, then wrapped in bacon and broiled.'” I sense that Duggan wrote that both with awe and admiration.

Her husband, Ron, wrote The New Wine Lover’s Companion. Individually and together, the Herbsts wrote 16 books on food and drink. They lived in Bodega Bay, CA, in the northern reaches of Marin County, but Sharon was born in Chicago, grew up in Denver and met her husband when they both worked at Denver hotel restaurant. She attended Colorado State University.

‘The Joy of Cooking’ and the joy of cooking

The Joy of Cooking, the first cookbook for many of us and a standby for foolproof recipes of all sorts, is celebrating its 75th birthday — if a book can have a birthday, that is. I have shelves full of cookbooks and cooking magazines, and one of my pleasures is riffling through them when I need a recipe for something. I find that I go in waves when it comes to finding recipes — specific ethic cookbooks aside. At one point, the first book I pulled off the shelf was one by James Beard. At other times, compendiums of a year’s worth of Sunset recipes or one of the hefty volumes with a collection of recipes from Gourmet. Still at other times, it was something by Julia Child. When I’m in a Mediterranean mode, I rely on one of books by Franco and Margaret Romagnoli or Martha Rose Schulman. I mark up my cookbooks and my recipes, noting the date that I made the changes, any modifications that I made and whether the dish was particularly good or disappointing.

One volume that I use over and over is my own compendium of clipped recipes that I have organized, cookbook-like, by category in a large ring binder. I spent all of yesterday at REI in Denver for a snowshoeing promotion (I have written two snowshoeing books). It was after 4:30 when I got home, and I still had to whip up something a dish for a potluck that started at 6:00. I paged through my trusty noteboook and found a chicken recipe that did not call for anything I did not have in the house.

I previously made it on Aug. 31, 1989, and if I could identify the magazine I clipped it from, I’d credit it here. The recipe follows with my slight modifications. The original calls for heavy cream; I used more marjoram than called for, and I sliced the chicken differently from the original, because I didn’t want to bring anything that needed a knife to a potluck. Preparing this dish took only about half-an-hour, making it the perfect busy-day dish.

Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, trimmed
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 large shallot, peeled and minced
1/2 cup white wine
2/3 cup half-and-half
1 tsp. dried marjoram (or fresh, if available)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped sundried tomatoes (I used jarred tomatoes, packed in oil, and drained them lightly)

Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry with paper towels. Cut chicken on the diagonal into about 1/2-inches slices. Cut longer slices in half. In a heavy skillet over moderately high heat, melt butter. When the foam subsides, add chicken pieces. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute over moderate heat, stirring occasionally to turn the chicken pieces until they are opaque on all sides (about 5 minutes). Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon. Add shallot and saute, stirring, about 1 minute until softened. Whisk in wine, cream and marjoram until blended and smooth. Stir in sun-dried tomatoes. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and cook, uncovered, for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Return the chicken to the pan and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes. Serve.

Yield: If not making for a potluck where people tend to take a small portion of (almost) everything, I estimate that it would serve 6 as an entree, perhaps accompanied by rice or noodles.