NYT Dining Section: a special review

Way back when I started this blog, I did a weekly recap of the New York Times Dining and Food section. Unfortunately, I discovered that it's just not in my personality to keep something up that regularly. So it dropped off and I only sometimes link to it.

That said, it hasn't stopped me from reading the section and I do so religiously every Wednesday. So imagine my shock when I saw an article about hibiscus-infused tequila in yesterday's paper...starring my high-school-friend/ex-h.s.-boyfriend/fellow NYC fan, Damon Dyer. He is the head bartender at the Flatiron Lounge* and, if you haven't been there, you must go. Their drinks are unique, delicious, and potent.

Tell Damon I sent you and, for extra laughs, mention Michael Bolton and/or Natalie Cole. Do NOT, however, make any Tom Cruise/Cocktail jokes - I cannot be responsible for Damon's actions if you were to do so.

Eat, drink, and say hi to Damon and his crew!

* For all you kidlitters, you have no excuse not to stop by the Lounge - it is on 19th St. and Books of Wonder is on 18th St. Shop with the kids and drink with the adults.


Julie & Julia trailer!

The trailer for Julie and Julia is out and, I must say, it looks way better than the book, though it should be noted that I liked the book more than most...it's just that Julie Powell's neuroses can be pretty grating by the end. I had my doubts about the movie, but I shouldn't have...especially considering La Streep.

Is it just me or is Amy Adams channeling early Cynthia Nixon in Sex and the City?

Thanks to Alice Q. Foodie for the info - this totally made my workday!

These links are waiting for you...and they're still hot.

It's a glittering extravaganza out there. Here's what's happening:

In other news, I realized that yesterday's post was my 400th. Yowza! Just thinking about it makes me exhausted. And in six weeks from yesterday, I'll be starting culinary school. And in four weeks from tomorrow, I'll be on the SLJ Day of Dialog panel. All I need now is to get appointed to an awards committee and my life would officially be my bizarro life.

Eat, drink, and just go with the flow.


Talkin' 'bout a revolution!

Civil Eats has inspired me again with a rousing post. I was particularly interested in remembering the "true costs" of the food we eat. Even if you don't consider yourself a "foodie" - and shouldn't we all be? - please check out their post.

If nothing, the "peanut scare" and the swine flu outbreak should prove that it's not about being a "foodie" and its elitist trappings. We are all affected by our food system.


My Weekend in Pictures

All you New Yorkers will understand...I was in heaven this past weekend.  It was our first truly sunny weekend...sunny enough for a California girl like me to get her fix.  It was all about the food, the sun, and Central Park for me.  Here's a glimpse:

The first Lillet with lemon of the season!

Grilled shrimp, grilled asparagus, grilled bread...it's a theme!

Me with my new short haircut...I got about 4 inches chopped off earlier that day.

After 2 years of talking big, I finally planted herbs on our balcony!

Our picnic lunch: crostini with roasted garlic, New York blue cheese, and salami; dried apricots and grapes (all Central Park photos taken with my phone - forgive me!)

Bug eating a popsicle at the children's playground in Central Park

Tulips at the carousel in Central Park

Balloons at the Central Park carousel

Sunday night's dinner: Roma tomatoes, rosemary ciabatta, roasted garlic, buffalo mozzarella, basil, salt, pepper, olive oil, balsamic vinegar.  Toss.  Eat.

It was a phenomenal weekend.

Eat, drink, and cheers to a new season.

SLJ Day of Dialog; or The Day I am Over-Chicked

The news is officially out: I am going to be on a panel at School Library Journal's Day of Dialog, which will take place before BEA begins. Here is all the info:


Are bloggers having an impact on what we read, what we add to collections, what we recommend? Here what avid bloggers Liz Burns (A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy), Laura Lutz(Pinot and Prose), Cheryl Klein (Brooklyn Arden), and author Libba Bray have to say about it.

Moderated by Betsy Bird, SLJ blogger and librarian, New York Public Library

We'll be on from 9:15 - 10:15 a.m...which is wicked early for me to get from Queens to Brooklyn. Dang. The magic day is Thursday, May 28th.

So a few years ago, I did something awesome for the Husband...I don't remember what it was now. But Adam shook his head and said, "Dang, I am so over-chicked." I was, like, "What is that????" He explained that it was a phrase he picked up at work, and it is meant to describe a man who is with a woman who is just waaaaay too awesome for him. Or, for instance, when you see that couple out on a date and she's dressed up smash-bang beautiful-awesome...and he's the schmuck in jeans? Yep, he's over-chicked.

So I'm feeling insanely over-chicked on this panel. I mean, have you seen this group?! I'm over-chicked big time. It will take everything in me not to start laughing in the middle of it all and exclaim, "What am I doing here?!?!"

Nevertheless, I'll keep it under control, make sure to look really cute, and have a great time. With this group, I expect lots of sarcasm and laughter...not to mention that I'll learn a crapload of new stuff, I'm sure.

Be there or be square, dudes.

* Anyone else see the spelling error in the panel description? It's torturing me slowly and painfully...please change it ASAP, SLJ...before I lose it...

Twenty by Jenny

In case you weren't already convinced that Jenny Brown is a rock star (for all you kidlitters), now you know for sure:

My Shelf Awareness email announced this morning that Jenny is kicking off her website Twenty by Jenny. She recommends books for specific age ranges and sends out a free monthly newsletter. The website is attractive, easy to navigate, and the art is fantastic.

Go check it out!

Community Gardens

When we moved to NYC two years ago, we got rid of our car. And I've never looked back.

However, sometimes you find lovely little niches and nooks when you're driving around, and this weekend was no exception.

We rented a ZipCar so that we could go to Home Depot and stock up on pots, soil, and herbs for our balcony (more on that later). On our way, I discovered that we have a community garden down the street from us: Project Eden!

The bad thing about the car? There was no way to pull over and explore. If we had been on foot, I could have checked it out. But I'll be going back in the future so look for a report in the coming months...

Eat, drink, and explore your local communities - you never know what you'll find!

Note: Further research shows that my community garden was actually started around 1992!


REVIEW: Young Samurai: Way of the Warrior

When it comes to books, I love being proved wrong.  That shows you how much I love books.  I have always said I don't "do fantasy"...but Graceling totally proved me wrong (my review).  I also said that I don't "do zombies"...but Forest of Hands and Teeth proved me wrong (my review).  That was a page-turner if I ever saw one.  Dang.

So when I got invited to dinner with Chris Bradford, I knew I was going to have to read his book.  Little did I know it was about samurai.  Again, I don't "do samurai" and ninjas and the like...though I guess I kinda do since I'm in love with Wink!: The Ninja Who Wanted to Be Noticed by JC Phillips (Viking).  Nevertheless, Bradford's book Young Samurai: The Way of the Warrior (Hyperion) is a 359-page tome.  So I was sort of grumbly about delving into it.

I can't tell you how happy I am to report that I was wrong about this one as well.  Apparently, I do samurai now.  The story is action-packed and compulsively readable.  And kids will unwittingly learn a thing or two about historical Japanese culture.  12-year-old Jack Fletcher is on a ship heading for "the Japans" when it is attacked by nefarious ninjas.  Everyone save Jack is killed, including his father, by Dragon-Eye and his band of killers.  Jack is rescued by a samurai, Masamoto, and brought back to health by Masamoto's family.  They adopt him and Jack learns the way of the warrior because 1) he has no choice, and 2) he wants to avenge his father and take on Dragon-Eye.  Of course, Jack learns along the way and many themes are explored: honor, trust, friendship, truth, family.

It would be really easy to say this is a "boy book" but that's undeservedly pigeonholing the story.  Being brought up in England more than a hundred years ago, Jack is shocked to learn that Japanese girls train as samurai as well, and there is plenty of girls-kick-ass action.  Each character is very strong and not one of them seems one-note or flat.  In particular, I really enjoyed Jack, and Bradford excels at making him a real 12-year-old boy.  He's stubborn and headstrong, but he's also confused and scared.  He cries, and he's homesick...but he also wants to make his father proud and show respect to his adopted family.  It all has an up-and-down nature to it, which is spot-on for the age.  And the reader never doubts whether Jack will succeed in the end.  Of course he will.

Frankly, there is little to criticize here.  This is Bradford's first book and, as expected, there is sometimes a self-consciousness in the writing.  Sometimes he's telling too much and not showing.  Additionally, it's very clear that Bradford is passionate about the Japanese culture and the martial arts - he is a black belt himself.  While this makes for a truly authentic storytelling experience, all the details sometimes slow some of the action.  But I assure you that these are quibbles - overall, it's a stellar reading experience.  And lucky for all of us, the book has an open ending so let's hope there's more to come.

As for the dinner with the author I mentioned earlier, it was fittingly an action-packed night.  We dined at Japonais and the food was excellent.  I actually ordered chicken for a main dish - I don't know what possessed me, but I believe it was the chestnut sauce that came with it.  Lucky for me, it was rather good, if a bit on the dry side.  Chris Bradford is one of the nicest authors I've met to date; he's super-friendly and talkative, and he just seemed flattered that we were all there and very interested in what he had to say.  His story about proposing to his wife in Cuba was priceless.  The best part was that he brought his samurai sword!  We weren't too sure that the restaurant would be keen on him pulling out a sword so the ten or so of us gathered all around Chris, forming a bit of a wall.  Then he pulled the sword about halfway out of its sheath and showed us all its parts.  It was incredibly beautiful.  I think it can also be said that, if Betsy were still doing her Hot Men of Children's Literature, Chris would make the list.  Who doesn't go soft when hearing a British accent?

Don't think you "do samurai"?  Well, start with Young Samurai: Way of the Warrior.  It could change your mind.

Notes on the cover:

The book came out in the UK more than a year ago, and here's their cover:

I'm more drawn to our cover.  However, I can't show it to you, but on the back of the American cover is this great illustration of Jack.  He's depicted full-body with his samurai sword and he's looking down.  I think this would have been a better front cover because it would have pulled in all those kids that don't think they like samurai stories.  The front cover is very imposing and I think the art on the back cover is more intriguing.  But that's me...


Baby, I'm a STAR!

Some reasons my job makes me roll my eyes.

I don't blame publishers.  I don't.  We all have to make a buck and, obviously, I'll buy these no matter what because there is a demand for them.  But I don't wanna.  *pout*

I just want to live in a perfect world where publishers don't have to print the books of famous people to make ends meet.  Is that too much to ask?  


Rolling the dice

I have officially thrown my name in the hat for the 2012 Caldecott Committee.

Here's hoping!


Bring on summer!

I was browsing through my Picasa folders and I found this:

Helloooooo, summer!

This was the ceviche I made last summer, actually, and forgot to blog it.  Thanks to running with tweezers for the recipe - it was fantastic.  She says you can use catfish, but we used shrimp since that's about the only seafood Bug will eat.  But doesn't this just look like summer personified?  With chips, a mojito or a cerveza, sitting on the balcony (or in your yard for you suburban dwellers), listening to some summer-esque tunes...

Which makes me think about another of my playlists: "Barcelona".  Now, I don't think a single one of these songs is actually sung by someone from Spain.  Nevertheless, it evokes a mood and I play the list interchangeably when we eat Spanish, Latin, or South American cuisine.  Here is a sampling:
  • "Bamboleo" - Gipsy Kings
  • "Moorea" - Gipsy Kings
  • "Andalucia" - Bill Whelan (Riverdance soundtrack)
  • "Maridos Majaderos" - Pedro Luis Ferrer
  • "Brazil" - Pink Martini
  • "Galanton" - Lura
  • "Represent, Cuba" - Orishas (Yes, this is from the Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights soundtrack.  It's still a fun song.  And a fun movie.  Don't be a hater.)
  • "Patria" - Ruben Blades
  • "Sodade" - Cesaria Evora& Bonga
  • "Angola" - Cesaria Evora
  • "Pordiosero" - El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico
Eat, drink, and get ready for warmer days!

NOTE: You guys, I still couldn't get the accents right.  I didn't have an "option" key on my keyboard and every time I did the alt key and the "e", I kept getting that "thunk" error sound.  I'll keep trying...


REVIEW: Dessert First by Hallie Durand

Many weeks ago, I had dinner out with my friend Jenny.  When she suggested we eat at The Mermaid Inn, I immediately agreed, as I thought the name was about the corniest, most fun, coolest thing ever.  The food was excellent, and I had the enormous pleasure of having my first raw oysters...It's just like everyone has told me: they taste just like the sea.  Which I consider a huge compliment, saying a food tastes just like the place from wence it came.

 In the course of our conversation, a new children's book came up: Dessert First by Hallie Durand, illustrated by Christine Davenier (S&S, May 2009).  I had read about the publicity package from Fuse #8 so the book was definitely on my radar.  As it turns out, Jenny is friends with the author and was able to hook me  up with a package of my own.  Very sweet, indeed!

 Third-grader Dessert Schneider is part of a food-loving family: her parents own a restaurant called Fondue Paris, which of course serves fondue.  Naturally, Dessert loves all things sweet and chocolate-y.  It is this love for desserts that ultimately gets her in trouble, as she eats her mother's strictly-off-limits Double-Decker Chocolate Bars and has to struggle for redemption.  In the end, of course, Dessert grows up a little, learns a lot, and even gets to enjoy dessert. 

It's impossible to read this book and not use the word "sweet."  Dessert, though a troublemaker in the tradition of Ramona and Clementine, has a good heart and spunky spirit.  There are funny parts and, surprisingly, a number of very poignant moments.  Durand definitely gets girls at this age and infuses Dessert with a healthy dose of independence balanced by a desire to do good.  There was one passage that I particularly loved, but I don't feel right sharing it because it's the very last paragraph in the book...and wouldn't that just dull everyone's enjoyment, reading the last morsel before tasting everything that comes before!  So I'll share this part about Dessert's dog, which made me snort-laugh: "Chunky sleeps on my bed.  He weighs 140 pounds, but I always tell him he is light as a feather because he has a great spirit."  Darling.   

The food descriptions are also rather nice.  Obviously the fondue one really got me going:
I took my skewer and put a big piece of bread on the end. Then I started rolling it in the fondue. When there was lots of cheese wrapped around my bread I took it out. I blew on it three times and put the whole thing in my mouth.
Makes me salivate...which is a necessary quality in a foodie book, of course!  In addition, there is a scene where Davenier's artwork steals the show: when Dessert wakes up in the middle of the night, the Double-Decker Chocolate Bars are calling to her from the refrigerator.  Davenier - in the ARC, anyway - depicts the refrigerator with swirly letters "Deeeessssserrrrrt" rolling from within, beckoning Dessert to take a late-night bite of the bars.  We've all been there, right?  Hilarious.

That's not to say the book isn't without faults.  It's totally my adult brain working here, but I found it somewhat implausible that Dessert's parents would own a restaurant and spend so much time at home - any adult knows what kind of hours anyone associated with restaurants works.  Now will that bother kids?  Not likely.  On that same note, the restaurant has a French theme, complete with a French chef and pastry chef.  But my research confirms that fondue is Swiss, not French (okay, okay, my research was Wikipedia ).  Additionally, the only two people depicted in the restaurant are Gaston (yes, really) and Dominique...but where are the other restaurant players, particularly those of other ethnic origins?  Because as we are all aware, a large portion of most kitchen staffs is not Caucasian.  Again, do I think kids will notice this?  Definitely not.  I realize I'm being nit-picky.  However, the restaurant plays a major part in the whole book so I just kept noticing this stuff over and over again.

Overall, this was a pleasure to read and the title alone has mass kid appeal for 2nd - 4th graders.  Just put it on display and it'll be snatched up!

 Eat, drink, and don't forget dessert!


Other reviews:


Another reason to love Oregon

I posted my Ode to Oregon a few weeks ago, but now MC (my mother-in-law) has just upped the ante: South Salem High School (in Salem, Oregon) has a CULINARY ARTS TEAM!!!!  And they're competing nationally at the ProStart Invitational in San Diego, April 24-36!  Good luck, Saxons!

* Apologies for the stupid ad that you can't turn off...


Lori's BoB Picks

So Lori sent her Battle of the Books picks.  Yeah, I don't see any way I can win at this point, given that she didn't pick Graveyard to go all the way.  Here are her picks:


Octavian over Ways 
Graveyard over Trouble 
Chains over Washington 
Arthur over Tender (Um, so I don't know anything about either of these, but Arthur has a MUCH better cover.) 
Frankie over Ship 
Hunger Games over Porcupine 
Graceling over Underneath 
Lincolns over Nation


Graveyard over Octavian 
Chains over Arthur 
Hunger Games over Frankie (This was a tough call and I could really go either way...) 
Graceling over Lincolns


Chains over Graveyard (I think LSP will go with the historical fiction book.) 
Hunger Games over Graceling



Jon Scieszka and I are in a fight

He totally destroyed my bracket. Check out the rest of the action at SLJ's Battle of the Books blog.

So Lori - fellow Queens librarian extaordinaire - and I are officially competing for a bottle of Casa Lapostolle Sauvignon Blanc...and, thanks to Jon, it looks like I'll be paying up. For the record, here are my picks:


Octavian wins over Ways
Graveyard wins over Trouble
Chains wins over Valley Forge
Tender Morsels wins over Here Lies Arthur (but I really want Arthur to win!)
Frankie over Ship (tough one!)
Hunger over Porcupine
Graceling over Underneath
Nation over Lincolns


Graveyard wins over Octavian
Chains wins over Tender Morsels
Hunger over Frankie
Nation over Graceling


Graveyard wins over Chains
Hunger wins over Nation


Graveyard Book wins over Hunger Games

See what I mean? I'm completely screwed now.

Garden-Based Learning

I was in North Carolina this past weekend and had an interesting conversation about schools and teachers with the Soul Twin. Between my experiences with Bug in the public school system and the conversations the Soul Twin and I have had with teachers we know, I'm just feeling sad about the state of education. With the testing and the standardization and the pre-packaged curriculum, it seems teachers are left so little room, if any at all, for innovation or for tailoring their lesson plans for the individual needs of their students.

However, this morning Civil Eats had an inspiring blog post for me about garden-based learning (GBL). I think she is right on the money and it makes me feel so hopeful. I'm excited to get involved with projects like this and, once I get my culinary degree, I hope I can help out even more. Here are some links for you to peruse:

Life Lab Science Program

French Fry: Learning about Food in School

Garden-Based Learning, Dept. of Horticulture, Cornell Univ.

University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources

Collective Roots


And that is just a sampling of all the organizations and websites dedicated to garden-based learning - there is A LOT more available.


Foodie Books for Kids: Tony and the Pizza Champions

I have repeatedly failed at making homemade pizza. My yeast doesn't work...or I roll it out all lumpy and uneven...or I burn the crust. I can't even get the pre-made Whole Foods kind right - I can never get an even crust and end up with a trapezoidal shape that is really thick in some places and paper-thin in others. Then Nigella Lawson turned me on to using naan and I've never looked back.

My troubled relationship with pizza dough aside, pizza is absolutely one of my favorite foods ever...if not the favorite. I love the play of salty and sweet, and I adore its endless diversity. I read about its cultural history, and I dream of new topping combinations. It really is the Every Food: there's a flavor for everyone. It can be vegetarian, vegan, meatlovers...I think it can even be gluten-free.

So imagine my delight when I got Tony and the Pizza Champions (Chronicle) in the mail! It's by Tony Gemignani (two-time Food Network pizza-tossing gold medalist) and illustrated by Matthew Trueman. It's the story of "Tossing" Tony, "Quick" Ken, and their team of master pizza-tossers who get invited to compete in the World Pizza Championships in Italy. In the midst of their travels, the reader learns all kinds of pizza trivia (in England, people sometimes order pizza with sweet corn and tuna fish on top...which, I have to admit, kind of makes me nauseous). The team travels to Italy where they compete against Brazilians and Italians, but can the Americans take the gold medal?

Each of the team members in the story is actually based on a real-life person, and the book ends with photos of each guy ("Silly" Siler really does ride a unicycle). Additionally, there's a recipe for "Tossing Tony's Pizza Dough" as well as instructions for tossing the dough. The book also says you can go to www.chroniclebooks.com/pizzachamps "to see videos of Tony making and tossing dough." But when I went to the site I saw a video of Tony "balling" the dough but the others weren't working...which is always the problem of including Internet content in books.

Overall, the story is spunky and fun - it has a lot of boy appeal, especially with its subtle play-with-your-food encouragement (though, I assure you, girls will enjoy this equally). The illustrations are reminiscent of Giselle Potter...but much more my taste than Potter's work. Body proportions are out of whack, but the formatting and bold colors have a grounding effect. There's definitely a cartoon quality to the art, which helps its appeal. This feels like a foodie book that is actually created with kids in mind - firstly, it's actually about a food that kids will eat! And it lacks the preciousness that sometimes seeps into foodie books for kids - no shades of pink here, no baking, no anthropomorphic animals. Just straight up stunts, action, and joy. An absolute blast.

Eat, drink, and give pizza another try.

NOTE: Once again, I find myself doing a complete 180 from the Kirkus review. What is up?!

You know you're a foodie when...

...you find this waaaaaay sexy.

Buh-bye date due stamps!

The Washington Post weighs in on the date due stamp being a thing of the past.

I have to admit: I'm kinda with him on this issue. It's not about the more-work-for-the-customer issue (though he is right about that)...I think it's more romantic and personal for me.

I loved seeing the other dates stamped and imagining who else checked out the same book. And I loved when I checked out a book more than once and could find my own previous date stamp on the card.

Now, there's just a complete disconnect with anyone else who might have checked out the same book as me. As if we need yet another disconnect from our fellow humans.

All that said, Montgomery County is only now getting rid of their date due stamps??? I was under the impression that most of the country had already done this...

Is it November yet?

I just spotted the cover art for Splendor:

Now the waiting and pining begins...


Linktasticness: The Young Readers' Edition

I'll admit it: children's literature has gotten short shrift from me lately. I know, I know. It's just that, with all the bacon and wine out there, I was momentarily distracted. But I'm about to remedy that and give kids' books their due.
  • Teen blogger extraordinaire, Miss Erin, has a new look to her blog. Lovely. It inspires me to change my look at some point, as I used the generic Blogger design when I started up. Someday soon...
  • So this is late of me to be reporting, but SLJ has kicked off their 1st Annual Battle of the Books. BOB has their own blog, and Brown Bookshelf also had a great post about it. I've filled in my picks and I'm hoping my friend/colleague Lori will compete with me: winner gets a bottle of Casa LaPostelle Sauvignon Blanc - one of our shared favorites. Like everyone, I can't believe the Frankie/We Are the Ship match-up...come ON!

  • I just got the inside tip - and hopefully it's okay to share - that School Library Journal will be hosting their first-ever Day of Dialogue (but they're spelling it Day of Dialog?) at BEA this year. It will be on Thursday, May 28th. Stay tuned for more news!
  • Books of Wonder here in NYC is having a ridiculous amount of events coming up. I would love to meet Dan Yaccarino and, while I don't feel the need to attend the event, I do have to compliment Viking for Troll's Eye View: A Book of Villainous Tales : that cover is absolutely wicked awesome! Not to mention that the book is a veritable who's-who of children's and YA authors. Well done!
  • I was forunate enough to meet one-on-one with the Director of Children's Publicity and Marketing at Chronicle Books recently to hear about their upcoming titles. It doesn't come out until September, but I am particularly excited about Creature ABC by Andrew Zuckerman, which is a concept book version of his adult title Creature . It's stunning and will appeal to a large age range - keep an eye out for it.

  • At a publisher's preview yesterday, a couple of us were bemoaning the fact that we hadn't read anything truly exciting lately. What's going on? Even if I'm hearing buzz about the book, it usually has a cover that so turns me off that opening the book becomes all but impossible. Lots of meh. Especially in the middle-grade fiction department: I keep joking with my YA compatriots that they get all the good stuff! Picture books are faring better - here are a couple of the books I'm really excited about*:
- The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney (Little, Brown, 9.09)
- Tsunami by Kimiko Kajikawa, illustrated by Ed Young (Philomel, 2.09)
- Birds by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek (Greenwillow, 2.09)
- Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas (Beach Lane, 1.09)
- Dinotrux by Chris Gall (Little, Brown, 6.09)
- Wink: The Ninja Who Wanted to be Noticed by J.C. Phillipps (Viking, 3.09)
* Based on what I've seen so far. For instance, I haven't seen Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Gennady Spirin or A Book by Mordecai Gerstein yet. I also really want to see Redwoods by Jason Chin.


Spain...On the Road Again (The Book)

Like all good librarians, I check books out from my local library.  Like a bad librarian, I love to write in my books...which is why I am a book buyer.  I dog-ear to mark my place and I love using a highlighter to mark special passages.  And my cookbooks are the worst: they've been dog-eared and highlighted...but I also spill things on them and make all kinds of notes for each recipe I try.  I'd feel bad except that I feel that I'm personalizing my books and, years from now, perhaps my grandchildren will read all my notes and be able to see the passages I loved and it'll make it all more personal.  But what I do with cookbooks is check them out from the library first and try some recipes to see if the book is worth buying.  If I like the test group, then I'll go ahead and buy it so I can start making my notes.  

I recently checked out Spain: A Culinary Road Trip by Mario Batali "with Gwyneth Paltrow."  And the first three recipes were a smashing success.

I made the Tortilla Espanola* first, and it was simple beyond belief.  I didn't change a thing from the recipe and, as it suggested, I served it with jamon and a salad for dinner:

The second dish I made was the empanada.  This one surprised me a bit because I'm used to eating empanadas in restaurants where they come more individually packaged.  This dish confused me as to the difference between calzone and empanada (is it just the difference between Italian and Spanish?).  Either way, the flavor was rich and outstanding.  I halved the recipe for Adam, Bug, and me and it was more than enough for the three of us: I had enough leftovers for two lunches.  And be careful on the cooking time - I cooked it about 27 minutes and it was about 7-9 minutes too long - perhaps because I had halved the recipe.  Anyway, watch the cooking time:

The last dish was the migas, and it was both unique and simple.  The flavor was insane.  I did modify the heck out of this one.  Unfortunately, I don't have photos (my parents were here and I didn't want to be all weird and bloggy about our dinner)...but here is my version of the recipe:

4 c. bread crumbs (I used a baguette)
2 c. panko bread crumbs (I ran out of baguette)
1/3 c. olive oil
6 garlic cloves, not peeled
1/2 lb. Spanish chorizo, casings removed and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 lb. pancetta in one piece, cut into 1/2-inch dice

A large bunch of grapes
4 roasted red peppers, peeled, seeded, and cut into wide strips

Tear up approximately 1/2 a baguette into a food processor.  Process until roughly ground.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over med-high heat.  Add the garlic and stir until lightly browned and fragrant, 1-2 minutes.  Add the chorizo and pancetta and cook, stirring, until the meat is lightly browned and starting to render its fat, about 8 minutes.  Add the bread crumbs (baguette and panko), mix thoroughly, and cook, stirring, until the crumbs are lightly browned (the crumbs are going to soak up all the oil and pork fat - I told you it was insane).  Serve with the grapes and roasted peppers (peel the cloves if you like, or let your guests do it...I peeled mine).

The only thing I would change about this one is I would double the garlic.  Seriously.  The garlic ends up getting roasted in its skin so it's incredibly soft and sweet.  It takes each bite to the next level and we all ended up fighting over the measly 6 cloves in the recipe.

So this makes it official: this cookbook is a buyer!  I'm looking forward to writing notes in the margins for posterity!

Eat, drink, and be okay with owning a book by Gwyneth Paltrow.

* Apologies for my lack of proper accents on the Spanish words.  Does anyone know how to do this on Blogger?  Normally I just import from Google Docs, but...


Two weekends ago, I went to a Twilight viewing party and had an absolute blast. Heckling and unintended laughter were encouraged, and we made wildly inappropriate remarks about Robert Pattinson's ridiculously good looks, despite the odd makeup. Our hostess served, among other things, Hot Tamales, Twizzlers, Swedish fish, strawberries, raspberries, red wine...get the theme? And we all sported Team Edward/Jacob shirts...any guesses which one I wore? It was a case of "30 going on 13"...

In the midst of the event, we admitted to listening to the songs on Stephenie Meyer's playlist*, and I praised Meyer for introducing me to Blue October. And then I further admitted that I made a "Bella & Edward" playlist, comprised entirely of Meyer's music, and listened to it continuously while reading Breaking Dawn. Believe me, people, this isn't an easy thing to admit. See how I'm willing to make a fool of myself in front of all of you? Now, that is love.

But that got me thinking of playlists. They're so personal: how many times have you looked at a friend's playlists and thought, "Huh? I don't get the organization or the vibe or what they were going for." Which is why I am fascinated by how others do it.

Music plays an integral, inextricable role in my cooking and eating every night. Seriously, not a single night goes by that I am not playing music. One of my favorites to cook to on weeknights is the "Martini - cheers!" mix. I usually play this while I'm cooking, waiting for Adam and Bug to get home. Sipping wine and munching on a couple slices of Idiazábal is usually involved. Here is a sampling of my "Martini - cheers!" mix**:
  • "Pick Up the Pieces" - Average White Band
  • "Got to Be Real" - Cheryl Lynn
  • "Hiphip Chinchin" - Club des Belugas
  • "Ain't That a Kick in the Head" - Dean Martin
  • "The Best is Yet to Come" - Frank Sinatra
  • "We Are in Love" - Harry Connick Jr. (Don't laugh!)
  • "30 Something" - Jay-Z (thanks, Amy!)
  • "Golden" - Jill Scott
  • "Mucci's Jag MK. II" - Joey Altruda
  • "Une journée fade" - Kohndo
  • "It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over" - Lenny Kravitz
  • "Chilly Winds Don't Blow" - Nina Simone
  • "Sea Lion Woman" - Nina Simone (Feist ain't got nuthin' on Nina!)
  • "Anna (El Negro Zumbon)" - Pink Martini
  • "Let's Never Stop Falling in Love" - Pink Martini
  • "Austin Powers (Soul Bossa Nova)" - Starlight Orchestra
  • "Caramel" - Suzanne Vega
  • "The World Keeps on Spinning" - The Brand New Heavies
  • "Beyond the Sea" - Robbie Williams (is it wrong to prefer this version over Bobby Darin?)
  • "Jump in the Line" - Harry Belafonte
Eat, drink, and don't forget the music!

* I linked to the "soundtrack" for Twilight but, if you click on each of the books on the left side of screen, you'll see that Meyer made a soundtrack for each book.
** All of these songs should be available through iTunes - I checked before posting them.


I'm sorry for my lack of posting lately. My home computer has utterly failed me, and I have had extremely limited Internet access for the last week. Add two rounds of houseguests in the past week and, well, you know how it goes.

I'll be back soon! With photos! And reviews! And news!