Friday, December 31, 2010

Cookbook review: Mosh Potatoes

Mosh Potatoes: Recipes, Anecdotes, and Mayhem from the Heavyweights of Heavy Metal is entertaining. I'm not sure how useful it is as an actual cookbook, but it's definitely entertaining.

It features recipes from the heavy metal community--the bassists, guitarists, drummers, singers, etc., of bands from Iron Maiden to KISS to Alice Cooper to the unfortunately named Alabama Thunderpussy. I use the word "recipes" loosely, because while some of these guys actually cook, there's a lot of "Cheese on Toast"-type recipes. As you might expect, there are some very questionable ingredients--Miller Lite, Coke, Jagermeister, Top Ramen, and canned mushrooms all make an appearance. As you might also expect, a lot of the recipes feature some variety of grilled and/or hamburger meat, some variety of hot sauce, and some clever name ("666 Sauce," "Satanic Burrito," "Metal Meat Logs," the really unfortunately named "Hot Rod Penis Loaf").

Fortunately, some of these guys can actually cook, and not just on the grill. There's "Reindeer Sausage and Pasta," "Fresh Tuna Nicoise Salad," "Cayenne Bourbon Salmon," even "Fair Trade Vegan Avocado Fudge." Some metalheads are vegan, apparently. Some of them might even drink good beer and not Miller Lite, although you wouldn't know it from their recipes.
So it's not a cookbook I'd own. But if you're into metal, or making Jagermeister Grilled Lamb, it might be more useful for you. Either way, it's worth checking out at the local library for its entertainment value. Put on an old Judas Priest album, flip through this book, and think about how glad you are that your high school metal days are long behind you.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Jamon iberico

I'll only say this once. If you can find jamón ibérico, buy it. I don't care that it's $60 a pound (or more). It's worth every penny.

Jamón ibérico is a type of cured ham, made in Spain. Like proscuitto, only so much better. It must be at least 75% black Iberian pig, fattened exclusively on acorns. The finest jamón ibérico is called jamón ibérico de bellota (acorn). This ham is from free-range pigs that roam oak forests along the border between Spain and Portugal, and eat only acorns during this last period. The exercise and the diet has a significant impact on the flavor of the meat; the ham is cured for 36 months.

It tastes buttery. I know you're thinking, "How can ham taste like butter?" Well, it does. It tastes like ham and butter and every good thing all rolled into one sublimely fatty piece of meat. This is NOT for cooking with. This is for eating, all by itself. I've had boyfriends I liked less than this meat.

I got some for my parents' recent visit. I got a quarter-pound. It never made it off the paper it was wrapped in; I believe it saw the light of day for approximately 30 seconds before it was gone. It's a rare treat, but a delicious one.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wines from my collection: Bouchard Aine & Fils Pinot Noir 2009

Another entirely respectable pinot noir for under $10. I like the Cellar No. 8 better, but this one doesn't make me cringe like most under-$10 pinots.

It's light, clean, and fruity. It probably won't stand up to heavier foods, but then, you shouldn't be drinking pinot noir with heavier stuff anyway. A good bottle for weekday drinking.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cookbook review: India: The Cookbook

India: The Cookbook is a monster tome. It's billed as "the biggest Indian cookbook ever published," and I believe it. With 1,000 recipes, this is the one Indian cookbook to own.

I say that because for years I've been searching for one good comprehensive cookbook for each variety of ethnic food I love. The Joy of Cooking for Chinese food, Thai food, Indian food, and so on. It's surprisingly difficult. When I can find big reference-type cookbooks, they're usually geared to natives, not to relative beginners who may have trouble finding fresh curry leaves or fermented bean paste. But I think I can find cross the Indian book off my list now.

First, the packaging. Very clever--it comes disguised as a bag of basmati rice. It's big, it's colorful, each section is a different page color. And while the recipes do use a lot of hard-to-find ingredients (asafoetida, nigella seeds, tamarind extract), there are plenty of recipes that I can easily duplicate. Beet curry, fish stew, garlic naan, good old tandoori chicken.

I'm very excited about this cookbook. I love Indian food, and since I live in the 'burbs now, it's not like I can go out to eat for good Indian food anymore. I'll have to make it in-house. With this cookbook, I feel like I can do that. Phaidon, I hope you publish cookbooks just like this one for all the other ethnic cuisines in the world.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Roasted beet, barley, and feta salad

More fun with beets!

1 cup pearl barley
4 medium beets, roasted, peeled and diced
1 shallot, minced
a big block of feta, crumbled
juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil

Cook the pearl barley. Combine all. Serve hot or cold.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Cookbook review: A Geography of Oysters

A Geography of Oysters: The Connoisseur's Guide to Oyster Eating in North America isn't really a cookbook, it's a book about food. Which I guess I should really make a separate category for.

Anyway, if you like oysters (and have access to them, more importantly), this is a great book to read. I learned how oysters grow and reproduce, how they're harvested, where that only-eat-oysters-in-months-with-R-in-them rule came from, and why a good martini is a better pairing with oysters than wine. Also, the book goes into all the different varieties of oysters in the world. I'd gotten as far as East Coast oysters vs. West Coast oysters vs. Gulf oysters, but there are so many more than that.

It made me want to go out and eat some oysters.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Snow ice cream

Take a bowl of fresh-fallen snow. Add vanilla, sugar, and milk or cream to taste, until it's just the consistency of regular ice cream.

Merry Christmas!

Wines from my collection: Yalumba Viognier 2008

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Why am I writing about viognier on Christmas, you ask? Well, because this was one of the wines I served at my wedding. And we're drinking the last of that supply. And because it's my first married Christmas!

This is another great under-$10 bottle to keep a supply of. Rich, floral, not too sweet, very silky mouthfeel.

And really, what's Christmas without good cheap wine?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Wines from my collection: Cellar No. 8 Pinot Noir 2008

Finally, a decent $9.99 pinot noir.

Just in time for Christmas! Happy Christmas Eve, everyone!

It's been a struggle to find a reliable cheap pinot noir for under $10. Or even under $20. But this one fits the bill. It starts out a little simple and thin, but opens up nicely to reveal strawberry and peppery notes. Not too jammy, not too alcoholic, a great weekday wine.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Salty Screw

I had a bunch of fresh grapefruits and oranges to use up, so I juiced them all and made this. It's vodka, fresh grapefruit juice, and fresh orange juice. Somewhere between a Salty Dog and a Screwdriver, so I call it the Salty Screw.

The key is the fresh juice.

And it has fresh juice, so it's, you know, healthy.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pita bread

This was my first time making homemade pita bread, but it definitely won't be my last.

It was actually really easy. The trick is to roll it really really thin, otherwise it won't puff.

2 teaspoons yeast
3 cups flour (I used one cup whole wheat flour and two cups bread flour)
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil

Proof the yeast (place in a bowl with the water, which should be very warm but not hot. Let sit until it bubbles). Add the rest, mix to form a ball, and knead for 10 minutes. The dough hook on your KitchenAid, on low, is genius here. Cover the dough, and let rise for two hours or so, until doubled.

Divide in 8 balls, and let the balls rise for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 400. Roll the balls really really thin. I mean it. The thinner they are, the more they'll puff. If they don't puff, you haven't rolled them thin enough. Then place two or three rolled-out pitas on the stone, and let cook for 3-5 minutes, or until puffy. Repeat.

I served with the beet hummus from yesterday. But I'm also making more to use as road food.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Beet hummus

When my parents visited last weekend, my mom brought me the last of her garden--a bag full of beets, a big spaghetti squash, several acorn squash, another bag full of kale, and so on. Because we're getting ready to undertake our annual Holiday Drive Across America, I needed to use up all those beets.

This beet hummus is inspired. Tastes like regular hummus, only, you know, with beets. It was amazing with homemade pita bread--recipe for that tomorrow--and as a bonus, I peed purple the next morning.

4 medium beets, roasted, peeled, and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons tahini
juice and zest of one big lemon
1 small garlic clove (really, just one; more than one will be unpleasantly garlicky)
1 tablespoon cumin
Salt to taste

Puree. Eat.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Fish CSA: Haddock

The second offering from my fish CSA was two big whole haddock. Fortunately they were already gutted.

One is still in my freezer. The other I stuffed with a lemon and roasted whole. Here's what you do:

Snip off the fins with a good pair of scissors, and place the fish on a bed of foil in a dish big enough to hold it. Preheat the oven to 400.

Squeeze a lemon over the fish, and then stuff the halves inside the belly cavity. If you like, add a good 1/2 cup or so of white wine over all.

Sprinkle with good salt.

Fold the foil over the fish, making a tent, and bake for 45 minutes or so.

Remove the foil bed to a platter, and with a good knife, flip the top half of the body of the fish over, revealing the spine. Grab the tail and pull the whole skeleton toward the head. The whole thing should come off all at once, leaving you with the fish's head, spine and tail (which you can drop right into a stockpot, to make stock with) and two big fillets of fish meat. There may still be some small bones in the fillets, but that's the beauty of cooking fish whole--the deboning/filleting process takes approximately two seconds after it's been cooked.

I served with green beans and sweet potato fries.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cookbook review: Baking by James Peterson

Baking by James Peterson is an enormous, step-by-step, multi-picture guide to baking just about anything. Sponge cake, challah, apple tartin, blueberry pie, you name it. I've never had an big sweet tooth, but this book makes me want to go make some chocolate fondant.


Some of the information in the book is incorrect.

The reviews point to serious typos, in both ingredients and baking times. The recipes aren't listed by weight (a serious no-no for serious bakers, as the only way to get a truly accurate flour measurement is by weight), and some of the information is just plain weird. For example--he asks you to press the graham cracker crust onto a cheesecake AFTER it's already been baked. Huh? I don't even know how that would work. Plus, he calls for a blueberry pie to be top-crust-less. Everyone knows a good blueberry pie has a top crust.

So I'm not sure I can actually recommend this cookbook. It's very inspirational, I'll give it that. I love James Peterson's other tomes (especially Sauces); I think I'll peruse some of his others, and keep looking for a good all-purpose baking book.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Beef stew with sweet potatoes and green beans

I made this for my parents when they were in town. My dad is a notoriously picky eater, and even he loved this.

It's essentially the same recipe as Beef Stew with Butternut Squash, only with sweet potatoes. I roasted, peeled and chopped the sweet potatoes before adding them. Also, I left out the onions (my mom is allergic) and threw in an entire head of garlic instead. At the last minute, I added two or three big handfuls of frozen green beans.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Zucchini crudo

Or zucchini tartare, if you prefer. Essentially raw zucchini sliced very thin, spread out over a plate, and marinated with the juice of half a lemon and half a lime. Sprinkle feta cheese on top (maybe a little red onion, too) and serve.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wine from my collection: Bear Flag

This is a fun wine.

I selected a bunch of inexpensive wines at random during my latest stock-up; at $9.99, I figured I'd give this one a try, despite (or because of?) the crazy label. So-called "critter wines" tend to be drinkable but not especially tasty.

But Bear Flag was actually pretty good. Their "soft red" blend is a mixture of tempranillo, zinfandel, and a couple of other things, and was very smooth and well-balanced. Not too sweet, not too tannic. I really liked it with stinky cheese. I think I'll have to make it a point to seek this one out in future. I like having good under-$10 wine around for everyday drinking.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wine from my collection: McWilliams Pinot Noir

It's hard to find a drinkable pinot noir under $20. I got this one on sale for $9.99, so I wasn't optimistic. But it's pretty darn close to drinkable. I'm not sure I'd seek this one out again, but it went down a lot better than I feared it might.

It's smooth, not too tannic, sufficiently fruity. It is better if you finish the bottle all at once; the next day it wasn't nearly as tasty.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cookbook review: The Essential New York Times Cookbook

Gotta have it.

The Essential New York Times Cookbook is, you know, a collection of all the recipes that have appeared in the Times. I have the older Craig Claiborne NYT cookbook, and it's comprehensive but dated. This, however, is brand-spanking new, featuring all the things that weren't on the food scene in the earlier edition--quinoa, miso, bison.

I looooooooooove it. I especially like the Table of Contents for each section, listing each recipe. It's big, it's beautiful, you're getting me a copy for Christmas, right?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cookbook review: Keys to Good Cooking by Harold McGee

You'll remember Harold McGee from On Food and Cooking, the magnum opus of food science and kitchen lore. It's hefty, but indispensable.

His new book, Keys to Good Cooking, is essentially a big pretty book of kitchen tips. How to achieve the perfect hard-boiled egg, how to select fresh watermelon, how to sear steak, that sort of thing. It's fascinating stuff, but the book lives in that weird neverland of not-quite-a-reference-book, not-really-a-book-you-want-to-read-from-cover-to-cover. It's the sort of book you want to dip into periodically; it'll be difficult to absorb all that information otherwise. Like I said, fascinating stuff, but there's a lot.

I haven't decided whether I want my own copy of this or not (I got it from the library; I audition a lot of my cookbooks that way). I think I'd like it better if it were a Twitter feed I could subscribe to; a new kitchen tip every day!

(Speaking of Twitter feeds, you follow mine, right?)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

And the winner is...

...mlr-86! Send an email with your contact information to, and I'll send your copy of Recipes Every Man Should Know right away!

Cookbook review: How to Cook Like a Top Chef

Now, here's a cookbook I don't like.

(It's rare, I know.)

How to Cook Like a Top Chef is a spin-off from the hit TV show. First, if you don't watch the show (like me), the cookbook is essentially useless. There are some interesting recipes in it, but most of the book is dedicated to celebrity worship--interviews with the winners and contestants, that sort of thing. All the recipes are paired with a name (John Besh's Frozen Cauliflower Blintz, Rick Bayless's Chile-Garlic Shrimp). That in itself isn't bad, but if you don't know the name, then who cares? The recipes look good, but the presentation is a major turn-off.

If you're a fan of the show, you may get a lot more out of this book. But if not, don't bother.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cookbook review: Recipes Every Man Should Know

There are some things everyone should know how to do, regardless of gender, age, or urban environment. Drive in snow and ice. Change a tire. Sew a button. Open a bottle of champagne. Fix a running toilet. Build a fire. Pack. File a tax return (correctly). Clean (properly, and on a regular basis). And of course, cook.

There is nothing sexier than a man who knows how to cook.

Let me repeat that. Ladies, be sure your husbands/boyfriends read this.

There is nothing sexier than a man who knows how to cook.

Picture Daniel Craig as James Bond, rising out of the ocean in Casino Royale. Now picture him making you breakfast in bed. See?

Anyway. Most men haven't gotten the memo that women really do want them to be able to cook competently, which is why there are books like Recipes Every Man Should Know. It's your basic starter guide, pocket-sized and discreet. As you might expect, it's heavy on the meat-and-potatoes, chili, and grill lore.

Fortunately, there are other recipes, as well, some of them even involving green vegetables. Greens with Bacon, Garlicky Spinach, Roasted Asparagus. I support that. Even basic cookie recipes, and a diagram on how to properly carve a turkey.

So in an effort to improve marriages everywhere, I'm giving this cookbook away to some deserving male! Guys, leave a comment, and I'll select a winner at random!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Using the CSA veggies: Minestrone with kale, turnips and Napa cabbage

I made this using the standard soup architecture.

In several tablespoons of bacon fat, I sauteed:

1 chopped onion
a few minced cloves of garlic
several finely chopped stalks of celery and two big carrots

When that was soft, I added:

the equivalent of two cans of white beans
a 28-oz can of whole tomatoes
two peeled and chopped turnips
3/4 cup Israeli couscous
enough chicken broth to float the whole thing
the rind from a hunk of parmesan cheese
Italian seasoning
salt and pepper
a bay leaf

After 15 minutes or so on medium heat, then:

1 chopped head of kale
1 chopped head of Napa cabbage

Cook until just wilted, and serve.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New veggie CSA!

So in addition to my new fish CSA, I'm in a new veggie CSA, as well. If you're in the Boston area, check out Enterprise Produce. Because it's winter in Massachusetts, it's a six-month time commitment, with a box of stuff every week. Sometimes it's what you would expect from winter in Massachusetts--my first box had kale, potatoes, carrots, buttercup squash, turnips, and Napa cabbage. But they subcontract out to other CSA farms on the East Coast, meaning I also got a bag of mesclun greens, a box of cherry tomatoes, fresh green peppers, and a huge grapefruit. It was a pretty decent haul.

Based on that first box, I'm optimistic about the next six months. It was $700 for six months; between that and the fish CSA, the only grocery shopping I'll be doing in the next six months will be to replenish the pantry. That's $115 a month for fruits and veggies, another $40 a month in fish; that's $145 a month to feed two people. Not bad at all.

By summer I'm hoping to have laid in my own garden here, thus negating the need to join a CSA. It'll be my first garden; stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Fish tacos

I used the cooked flounder from my fish CSA to make fish tacos.

Any white fish will do (flounder, tilapia, even catfish), cooked and in pieces. On a tortilla, layer the fish, then shredded red or Napa cabbage, then salsa. Maybe a little salt. Done! And really good.

It's ironic that I moved from Southern California to Boston before I made my own fish tacos.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Adventures with flounder

First: I apologize for the lack of photojournalism to accompany this post. It's hard to take pictures when your hands are covered with fish guts. I'll try to do better next time.

(Also: that is a stock photo of a flounder. The ones I got were lighter in color, a couple of pounds each, and a little prettier.)

I picked up my first delivery from my fish CSA, which consisted of three whole flounder, a couple of pounds each. When I say whole, I mean whole. They were so fresh they hadn't been gutted or scaled. So I had a project ahead of me when I got them home.

Here's what I learned:
1. Lock the cats up first. (I didn't.)
2. You can't freeze whole fish with the guts still inside. You have to clean them first.
3. I didn't bother to descale them.
4. Flounder guts are not actually in the middle. They're off to one side, immediately under the head. Basically their guts live in their chin.
5. My super-sharp professional knives weren't up to the task of cutting through fish scales and skin, which is actually very tough. What did work: my super-heavy-duty professional kitchen scissors. (Also called kitchen shears.)
6. Between my impromptu biology lesson ("Where are the guts?...What are THOSE? Oh, lungs.") and figuring out that scissors worked better than the knives, it was not a pretty or clean butchering process. Just as well I didn't take any pictures.
7. Fish decapitation is very easy with good scissors.

So, in summation: with whole fish, first cut off the head. Find and remove internal organs. Snip off fins/gills if necessary (not necessary with flounder).

Then, since I had three cleaned fish in front of me, I figured I might as well roast them all at once and eat them later.

It's also best if you clean fish the night before trash day, so that fish remains can go immediately outside, and not stink up your house any more than it already is.

I didn't do anything fancy to the fish. I put some olive oil in a roasting dish, added the fish, flipped them to coat on both sides with the oil, and baked them for about 20-25 minutes at 400, until the skin was crispy and the meat was opaque.

After they cooled, I peeled off the skin, removed the remaining bones (and tails), and put the remaining meat in the fridge. I predict fish tacos in my immediate future.

Then I took the three fish heads (minus guts, of course--those got thrown away) and the bones/skin/leftovers and made a big batch of fish stock. I threw it all into a big pot, added a roughly chopped carrot and a couple stalks of celery, two big glugs of white wine, and maybe four cups of water, and let that cook down for a couple hours. When it cooled, I strained it and popped it right into the freezer.

I'll continue sharing fish butchering stories and fish recipes as the CSA continues!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fish CSA!

Well, isn't this exciting! I was afraid that in the move from SoCal to Boston, my CSA days were over. (At least until the summer.) Happily, I was wrong!

For those that don't know, CSA stands for community-supported agriculture. Typically you pay a flat fee upfront, for x number of shares over some time period. Usually you can specify large or small box, weekly or biweekly, where you'd like to pick it up, then on your set day you go pick up a box of fresh fruits and veggies. In Cali, I was paying $177 for 12 weeks of small biweekly shares; meaning I was paying $29.50 per box for six boxes of fresh fruits and veggies, year-round. They were grown locally, meaning my food dollars were supporting local farms and farmers, and my produce was usually organic and pesticide-free.

Well! Upon settling in here in Massachusetts, I promptly checked out the CSA options, figuring I'd be out of luck until at least spring. Turns out I am now the proud member of both a fish CSA and a winter veggie CSA (which I'll blog about later in the week, so stay tuned).

A fish CSA (CSF?) delivers several pounds of fresh-caught, local fish, either whole or in fillets. What fish you get depends on what they catch. Naturally I signed right up (whole, biweekly), since fresh seafood is one of the primary advantages Boston has over San Diego--oddly enough. Thanks to my new friends at Cape Ann Fresh Catch! ($120 for 12 weeks; so $20 for each biweekly delivery, or $10 per week. That's a deal in my book!)

So for the next twelve weeks, you'll be getting lots of great fish recipes!

Yesterday I got my first delivery, of three big fresh flounder. Tune in tomorrow for my flounder adventures, including how to butcher fresh fish with a pair of kitchen shears, and why flounder guts aren't located where you think they'd be.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

And the winner is...

Cole! Cole, send your name and address to and I'll send your copy of The Geometry of Pasta right away!

Butternut squash lasagna

I made this with just butternut squash, no greens; it was great, but a little sweet. Next time I'll add some sort of greenery to this, to cut the sweetness. (I adapted the recipe, below.) You don't need to cook them first, the moisture from the squash should do that while the lasagna's baking.

2 big butternut squash, cut in half, seeded, roasted, and peeled
2 boxes no-bake lasagna noodles
a big handful of fresh sage
a few tablespoons of butter
1 1/2 lbs ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1/2 cup or so heavy cream
2-3 big handfuls shredded mozzarella
lots of shredded parm
1/2 to 1 cup chicken or veggie broth, or some white wine and the rest broth
nutmeg, salt, pepper
greenery: fresh or frozen spinach, kale, collards, or dandelion greens would work well (enough to layer heavily). If you use frozen spinach, thaw it and squeeze the excess water out first.

Roast the butternut squash and let cool. Peel it and mash it up in a bowl. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat; when it begins to bubble, add the sage leaves and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the sage and butter all together to the squash mash, along with the broth and some salt and pepper. (It will be a little runny.)

Add the ricotta, mozzarella, eggs, cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg together in a separate bowl, along with a handful of the parm.

Spread a little of the cheese mixture around your lasagna pan, and layer as so: noodles, cheese, squash, greenery, sprinkling of parm, repeat until you run out of something or run out of space in your pan. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, or until the cheese on top is bubbly and browned.

This is a great vegetarian dish, and hearty enough for carnivores, too.

Butternut Squash on FoodistaButternut Squash

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cookbook review: The Geometry of Pasta

The Geometry of Pasta tells you the perfect pasta shape for the perfect sauce. Not every shape goes with marinara; just as there's a reason most people use elbow macaroni in macaroni and cheese and not, say, ziti. It lists all the different types of pasta, which sauces go best with each one, and then gives recipes. There's broccoli rabe with orecchiette; pappardelle with zucchini and zucchini flowers; and more obscure shapes, like strozzapreti (with squid and broccoli) and chifferi rigati (with green olives and tomatoes).

You probably won't be able to find a lot of these shapes at your local supermarket, so unless you make your own pasta, it'll be difficult to utilize every recipe in this book. Nevertheless, I love the drawings, and I love the recipes. And being a nerd, I appreciate the scientific explanation behind surface texture = type of sauce.

So I'm giving away a copy! Leave a comment as to your favorite pasta shape by midnight tonight, and I'll choose one at random!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Wine Week! Wine book review: Opus Vino

Opus Vino is the book you buy when you've graduated beyond all the rest of this week's books. It's ginormous. This is 800 pages of full-color illustrations and descriptions of 4,500 individual wine varietals, and each wine region's top producers and rising stars, covering the owners, the grapes, the wine styles, and the best vintages.

It's a wine reference book in the truest sense of the word. It's not a book you're going to want to sit down with and read cover to cover, like the Windows on the World book. (Don't drop it on your foot, either.) It's not going to tell you which wine under $15 will go best with your Christmas turkey, or what the difference is between Champagne and sparkling white wine. It will tell you the history of every top vineyard in France, and which labels they produce. It will also impress the hell out of your wino friends.

Next week: I drink actual wine, and tell you about it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Wine Week! Wine book review: Windows on the World Complete Wine Course

Wine Week continues here on Broke Foodie! This week: I review all different kinds of wine books (just in time for the holidays). Next week: I drink wine, and tell you about it.

Windows on the World Complete Wine Course: 25th Anniversary Edition by Kevin Zraly is the mothership of wine reference books. ("Reference" as opposed to "buying guide.")

This book takes you through every aspect of wine: grape varieties and types of wine, where they're produced, how to taste it, how to match it with food. It's the book version of the perpetually-sold out class, taught by the former wine director of Windows on the World. (Yes, that Windows on the World, the one on the top of the World Trade Center.) It's divided into eight sections (White Wines of France, Red Wines of California, etc.).

The other books this week have been primarily buying guides; they describe specific labels, so that you can take that book into your neighborhood wine shop and get that exact bottle. This book lists some specific labels, but it's more a book that gives you all the background information about wine you'll ever need. You'll really feel like an expert after reading this book. It's pretty super-awesome; after all, it is America's bestselling wine book.

Tomorrow: a really, really big wine reference book.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wine Week! Wine book review: Oldman's Brave New World of Wine

Wine Week continues here on Broke Foodie! This week: I review all different kinds of wine books (just in time for the holidays). Next week: I drink wine, and tell you about it.
The two books I've reviewed so far this week concentrated on the most affordable wines, for average people. Those books were essentially buying guides for regular people.
Oldman's Brave New World of Wine by Mark Oldman is a book about all kinds of wine, from the cheap end of the market to the expensive end, and it's an educational book as much as it is a buying guide. That's why I really like this one--because it teaches me something new about wine, in addition to showing me what specific bottles I'm most likely to enjoy.

Also because it has really fun charts.

For each section, it plots the different varietals against Adventure and Price. So an average Malbec will rank low for both Adventure and Price, but Reds from the Loire will rank much higher in Adventure. Classic Cabernet will rank high in Price, but low in Adventure. And so on.

There are great random bits of information scattered throughout, fun lists (vegetarian friendly wines, best wines to go with bacon, good wines for Thanksgiving, and so on), and lots of stories. Basically, after reading this book, not only will you feel like a wine expert, but you'll want to drink a lot of it. I support that.

Tomorrow: the first of the really big wine reference guides.