My Top Four Cookbooks of the Past Year (and the dishes I crave the most)

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My love for cookbooks outweighs my love of well, regular books. This was not always so.

At least, if you walk into my room…that’s what you’ll see. And I’m sure once I move in to my new place, you will see them up front. Easy access. Arranged in no particular order. Probably on my night stand. In the kitchen. And on my coffee table.

I will probably have a few Cook’s Illustrated and the latest Lucky Peach magazine in the open air as well. Yes, I am a doofus.

I revisit cookbooks like most of you do with The Giver, and the Catcher and the Rye or Mere Christianity. I suppose that’s what they’re for. They are tools. Only, they have changed over the years. At least from what I used to remember about cookbooks.

If you look in some of my mom’s cabinets, you will find cookbooks from church. Usually a congregation compiles some of their favorite recipes from dinner on the grounds, or pot lucks and ice cream socials. “This is Rev. Waller’s favorite pecan pie..”

so on, and so forth.

Of course, there are the classics.
Rambauer’s “Joy of Cooking”.
Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.
Getting a little older,
“Larousse Gastronomique”
and Auguste Escoffier’s “Guide to Modern Cookery”

Since food, and food culture are taking off in the states, there have been a lot of beauties to come off the shelves and into my admiring arms. I admit, I study them like textbooks. Only, these days, they can read like a good narrative. Each recipe gets an explanation, which I like. I enjoy diving into the minds of cooks, not just for the secrets in their dishes, but for the chord it strikes deep in their memory.

I’ve acquired many of them since diving deep into the culinary world, but there are four in particular that I’ve bought this past year that are of importance to me. Also note, many of these were not published in the past year, just the ones I’ve hit hard. **If this is boring, you can probably head straight down to the closing, and call it a day**

Joe Beef 1_Credit Tourisme Montreal, Pierre-Luc Dufour

 

The Art of Living According to Joe Beef: A Cookbook of Sorts
I love chefs David McMillan and Frederic Morin of Montreal.
I believe all industry professionals should own this book. The recipes are outrageous and decadent. Their story, and the early days of Joe Beef are enlightening as a person who wants their own place some day. They are kings of hospitality. They are hopeless romantics, collectors of vintage dining ware and stories, and strive to be excellent dining companions. I hope that one day, I will make it up there.
Dish I dream about: Lievre a la royale

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The Zuni Cafe Cookbook
I feel like if I would have met and/or worked for Judy Rogers, I would have fallen in love. She recently passed away, but the last time I was in San Francisco, I popped in here for a few small plates and a couple of very strong cocktails. It was nothing short of perfect, as the memory of my time still makes me feel all tingly. It’s a staple in the SF dining scene, as classic as it is relevant. Oysters. Fries. Roast chicken. It’s just too much. A warm and inviting homage to bay area cuisine, and fine, simple but exquisite cookery.
Dish I dream about: Zuni roast chicken and bread salad / oysters from the raw bar

CKNliver

A Girl and Her Pig
April Bloomfield. Swoon. Women chefs are more intimidating to me than male chefs. I’ve worked for both and I can say they all work really, really hard. But, this isn’t as much about her being a woman, than it is her love for cooking. I’ve listened to her talk about cooking, and I’ve watched her cook. She loves eating. She’s hard on her cooks and is particular about getting a dish right. She makes me want to cook better. Her food is just sexy as hell, which in my eyes, makes her just as much. It’s satisfying, rich, and thoughtful. Her passion is addicting, and I hope that someday, I’ll still have the love that she carries for her food, cooks, farmers and purveyors.
Dish I dream about: chicken livers on toast / also: lemon caper dressing

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Le Pigeon: Cooking at the Dirty Bird
Gabriel Rucker and his team are champs. Gah, I know. I know. I suppose I had to make an homage to Portland. There were a lot of incredible cookbooks that have recently come out of Portland. I had the chance to eat there just once, for an anniversary. It’s one of those dinners that a poor couple saves up for and knows they’re going to get $150 tab and be perfectly okay with it. (Like we did.) The atmosphere is dark and candlelit. Open kitchen, beautiful service and the food is rich and sexy, as is the wine they pair so closely. This cookbook is so fun to look at. Beautiful plates, and really just a great story about a chef finding his sweet spot. It’s encouraging to see the community of cooks in a city and how they all found their niches, eventually. Le Pigeon is a shining example of people who always aim to use the best, and who cook beautiful, authentic, really fun food.
Dish I dream about: beef cheek bourguignon, pommes puree and glazed carrots

If I haven’t already made you insanely hungry for your lunch hour, then I must insist you acquire these and have fun with them. Everyone has the right to good food, not just the elite. It might take some time to get where you want to go, but these dishes weren’t built in a day. They take a lifetime, really. They build upon one another, just as we do.

So, I must ask, what is your favorite cookbook and what dish do you crave the most??

 

A Birthday NOT on Instagram

Food, Story, Wine

I’ve been thinking a lot about consuming experience.

For example, Hannah and I went out to dinner for her birthday this past Sunday night at Le Pigeon here in Portland. I had set aside tip money for the dinner because sometimes, you just need to celebrate and go big. I was so giddy and nervous  (similar to how I feel when I get to eat at Tanuki!) Hannah has a thing for little french restaurants and like the responsible food lover I am, it felt important to experience this level of dining.

We sat in the corner near the big windows — being able to see the whole restaurant, the open kitchen and other diners. We sat at the end of a long table with another couple who didn’t seem to talk to each other. They quietly sat and took pictures of their food and ate it while it was too hot and just things I don’t quite understand.

I’ve been learning how to smile more while eating. Especially if it’s good. It’s so discouraging to be a part of someone’s meal and wonder if they’re even enjoying what they eat. Cooks look at that kind of thing. “Is anybody out there enjoying their food?” To see hoards of people chewing food like cows munchin’ cud — it can be a little disheartening.

Everything we ate at Le Pigeon had so much flavor — so much complexity. I ate the flash fried pigeon with liver toast, grapes and white anchovies along with beef cheek bourguignon (my favorite thing ever!) — both of which were so ridiculously good I almost blacked out. That could have been from the wine, though.

Hannah ordered the rabbit and eel terrine with peaches, avocado and foie-miso vinaigrette – (shyeah, foie-miso) and the shortribs with scallops, succotash, tomato jam and padrons.

I mean, everything just worked.

I said out loud, “I wanna do food like this…”

It’s one of those dining experiences where you can just feel that the folks in the kitchen cook with passion and a great love for the ingredients. It was such a special time for me and Hannah. We “ohhh’ed and ahhh’ed” over every bite and soaked it all in.

I imagine some people in the world eat like this all the time. It becomes second nature to blow that kind of money at a restaurant. But for those of us without much money, we choose to spend our resources on things that will stick in our minds. Some people buy TVs and if that’s what they wanna do, then by all means.

We have to be careful though, because it’s easy to turn these things into everything else we consume without thinking. I always want to be aware of that. To know it’s a luxury for us to eat like this. To know it’s special. To recognize its part in celebration.

I will always remember that meal, sitting across from Hannah, processing a year and everything feeling okay.

I love those times;

and for that, I’m thankful beyond what I could have captured on Instagram.