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Brain Food


August 13, 2013

Give Women What They Want. Not What You Think They Need.
By Francine Cohen

Booze for Babes cover image.jpg

Booze for Babes: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Drinking Spirit Right, and its author Kayleigh Kulp, is ready to be your agent of change if you let it/her be.

This soon to be published tome that will quickly become a must read for the Skinny Girl/whipped cream vodka set is destined to turn things around for female drinkers everywhere; much as it did for Kulp. The author began as an uninformed imbiber who admits, “I really didn’t have any preferences. I was a victim of that marketing – I would drink bottled cocktails and all the flavored vodkas that are the weird candy flavors. It was because I didn’t know enough to care.” Now, like you, she knows plenty. And she cares!

This appreciation began on a DISCUS (Distilled Spirits Council of the United States – trip to visit whiskey country for a travel story she had been assigned. There, her eyes were opened. It was the first time she’d ever experienced whiskey production and she notes, “There was such an impact being able to see how it was made and see all the products. This was a whole new world of exploration that I had already done with food and wine but never the brown spirits my husband had been drinking for example.”

She continues, “I came back home and discovered my favorite whiskeys and in talking to my girlfriends about this new passion and drinking whiskey while out with them they were asking, ‘why are you drinking whiskey?’ and so I wondered why do I and my girlfriends have this issue and my husband his friends don’t?” Continue Reading…

Brain Food


July 15, 2013

Brian Van Flandern’s Sophomore Book – Craft Cocktails – Debuts With Much Fanfare
By Francine Cohen

Photo courtesy of Assouline

Photo courtesy of Assouline

Craft. Think about that term in relation to furniture makers and you conjure up a small workshop with myriad tools; each with their own unique purpose. Each wielded by an artisan who has dedicated many years to mastering the intricate details that go into making his final product a work of art. The craft of the bartender is no different. And nothing illustrates this more beautifully than Brian Van Flandern’s second cocktail book which includes 50 of his own recipes plus 20 from the likes of Jim Meehan, James Menite, Eryn Reece, Julie Reiner, Dushan Zaric and other professionals from Clover Club, Death & Co., Employees Only, and PDT – the stunningly photographed Craft Cocktails.

Van Flandern explains how Craft Cocktails, his second book, came to life, “After the amazing success of Vintage Cocktails I wanted to release a book that would be appreciated by the multitude of fellow mixologist but still be accessible to the masses. Vintage Cocktails was released in late 2009. It won Best Cocktail Book of the Year 2010 from the Gourmand Cookbook Awards in Paris. It is now in its fifth printing and is distributed in dozens of countries throughout the world. Even though the recipes are simple classics, I was thrilled that so many industry professionals really loved the layout and design of the book. When I left Michelin Three Star Restaurant Per Se in 2007, I wanted to write a book showcasing the recipes that Continue Reading…

Brain Food


May 31, 2012

By Thomas McNamee
Story by Mort Hochstein

It was a surprise to me when, recently, I mentioned Craig Claiborne to a knowledgeable friend and he did not recognize the name. In the sixties and seventies, Claiborne dominated the Manhattan food scene and had a nationwide and international influence as restaurant critic and food editor of the New York Times. Quiet and retiring, he was a powerhouse who wrote two dozen books and fathered restaurant criticism as we know it today.

In those years, I produced Claiborne’s appearances on the Today program and occasionally accompanied him when he reviewed restaurants. On one memorable occasion in the mid-sixties, I worked with him as he gave sushi its first major showcase on television. I thought I knew the man. How wrong I was.

A stunning new biography, The Man Who Changed The Way We Eat, portrays Claiborne’s contribution to gastronomy, in the palaces of haute cuisine and in the kitchens of cooks, great and humble. Author Thomas McNamee celebrates the mild mannered Southern gentleman who propelled the food revolution of the last century and we learn almost more than some might care to know about his troubled private life.

McNamee, who also gave us Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, traces Claiborne’s culinary career from his childhood in the kitchen of a renowned Mississippi Delta boarding house where his mother, Miss Kathleen, served the hush puppies and country ham of the region, but also offered sophisticated Creole cuisine which she had learned in New Orleans. He traces another food influence, Claiborne’s navy stint in World War Two, service under fire on the cruiser Augusta in the Mediterranean and eight months based in Morocco and Algeria where he discovered French bistro cooking along with the tagines and spices of North Africa.

After military service, Claiborne studied classical French cuisine and hospitality at the famed Swiss hotel school in Lausanne and returned to the States after two years to begin a campaign that would take him to the New York Times. He worked as a publicist—unhappily-, tended bar and was a receptionist at Gourmet, writing and editing without a byline. He also wrote freelance and his articles brought him in 1957 to the attention of the editor of the Times’ women’s pages, who took a chance on an unseasoned writer, but not before passing him on to Turner Catledge, her managing editor. Catledge, like Claiborne, had attended Mississippi State College and that, Claiborne noted in a memoir, helped clinch the deal.

But nothing happened accidentally with Claiborne. He knew that he’d have to interview with the tough, but folksy editor, and came in ready to play the ‘ol’ boy’ routine with Catledge. The two Mississippians palavered Delta fashion; reminiscing about school days down south and Claiborne was on the first step to inciting a food revolution.

Once on staff, Claiborne slogged his way through assignments, most not related to restaurant reviews. Cannily, when he did review restaurants, he invited senior editors and their wives to join him; on the company, of course. His goal was to make them court him and he dreamed up pleasurable assignments to make research enjoyable. He avoided restaurant reviews as much as possible because Continue Reading…

Brain Food

BRAIN FOOD – Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine

March 30, 2012

by Mark Oldman
Story by Vincenza Di Maggio

There are two kinds of wine enthusiasts. There are the wine snobs, those who have perfected the ever-so-gracious swill of the wine glass (utilizing just the right amount of wrist action), are scandalized by the mere thought of putting an ice cube in their wine, and who can’t resist using words like “spoofalated,” “obsequious,” and “malolactic fermentation,” – terms that anyone not a member of the insider world of wine might confuse with a foreign language.

There are these people, and then there’s Mark Oldman – whose book Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine, winner of the 2011 Georges Duboeuf Wine Book of the Year Award, proves that this sort of wine personality is rare; and a welcome exception to the rule.

Let’s face it; the majority of our guests are not wine experts. Oldman sympathizes with those wine lovers who find themselves at a loss when it comes time to order from a wine list. He says, “How is one supposed to choose, make a $30-50 investment within 30 seconds, based on what producer name is? Sometimes I look at wine lists and shake my head. How is someone supposed to know how to order with just the basic information?”

In his book Oldman put together a list of “Brave New Pours” – unfamiliar wines that are either on the cutting-edge or worthy of rediscovery – and is clearly descriptive in his explanations of the qualities of each wine type. The book is filled to the rim with insightful findings, such as his discovery (wine snobs continue reading at your own risk) that some red wines are actually better when “shocked” or slightly chilled in an ice bucket, and his innovative deduction that rose’ wine is underappreciated or, as he so hilariously puts is, “Is misjudged as the vinous equivalent of Mariah Carey’s hemline or Donald Continue Reading…

Brain Food

BRAIN FOOD – Ecole du Valrhona’s Cooking with Chocolate: Essential Recipes and Techniques

February 14, 2012

By Vicky Ruvolo Minchala

There are dozens upon dozens of chocolate technique cookbooks in this world. However, Frédéric Bau’s Cooking with Chocolate: Essential Recipes and Techniques stands tall above the competition. Although many of the recipes are straightforward enough for most amateur cooks to understand, this essentials book is clearly better suited for professionals.

Valrhona asked eight world renowned chocolatiers to break down the basics and go beyond in this one-stop-shop chocolate tome. Bau slowly introduces his reader to the world of chocolate with basic techniques such as bonbon fillings, pastry doughs, mousses, and ice creams. Then the pages swiftly change gears to discuss chocolate theory; cocoa percentages, chocolate myths, and the process from bean to bar. Before the reader realizes it, they’ve have begun to comprehend the essentials and are reading (and more importantly understanding) the more advanced recipes that follow.

Private chefs and caterers will enjoy the section on Candies and Confections since every recipe is simple, elegant, and beautifully bite sized. The chocolate caramels in this section are a wonderful starting point for any chef looking to add a signature touch to a dessert tray. Need a little more inspiration? Try making the Sesame Topped Choco-Cinnamon Ganaches; clients will think you hired a chocolatier for their event. Professional pastry chefs will enjoy the section titled Trends which explores the savory side of chocolate in recipes such as Lobster Jus under a Light Cloud of Bittersweet Chocolate or Cod Fillet with Green Tea Béarnaise and Smoked Milk Chocolate Sauce.

But wait, there’s more! For those of you who learn better by watching someone else do it first, Valrhona includes an instructional DVD. Is there anything else you could ask for in a technique book? The Ecole du Grand Chocolate Valrhona makes the essentials of chocolate both approachable and professional for any chef looking to either brush up or expand their chocolate knowledge.

Leave it to the Ecole du Grand Chocolat Valrhona to create one of the most comprehensive chocolate techniques book published to date.

Chocolate Flavored Caramel Bonbons
Makes 30-40 caramels

5 ½ oz (50g) bittersweet chocolate, 70% cocoa
1 cup (250ml) whipping cream
1 pinch of salt
1 ¼ cups (9 oz/250g) granulated sugar
2 tsp. (15g) honey
1 tbs. butter, diced

Silcone molds/ or Confectionery frame and baking sheet

A day ahead:

Chop the chocolate and melt it slowly in a bain-marie or in the microwave oven (on “defrost” or at 500 W maximum, stirring from time to time).

Add the salt to the cream and heat in the microwave oven so that it is warm enough to be added to the caramel.

In a large saucepan, carmelize the sugar with the honey to make it a nice, light caramel.

Being very careful, slowly pour the hot cream over the caramel so that it does not splash.

Heat the mixture to 239 degrees F (115 degrees C) and pour it over the melted chocolate. Add the diced butter and mix it in quickly.

Pour into a confectionery frame or silicone molds and leave to harden overnight.

Next day:
Cut into small squares.

Brain Food


January 23, 2012

By Vincenza Di Maggio

If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant kitchen you know the stress – pots clanking, plates clattering, beads of sweat dripping down your forehead, and every swing of that kitchen door comes with another order to be cooked to perfection. The pressure is on, and you’re in the zone, but the smallest interruption – like a customer returning a dish because your line cook didn’t know how to properly fillet a fish – is enough to throw you off track.

A well-trained staff is a vital component to any kitchen running smoothly and presenting customers with a dining experience that makes them want to return. However, many of today’s generation of emerging chefs are coming to your kitchen without a degree in the culinary arts. They may have picked up some of their technique from working various kitchen jobs, but unfortunately, few can afford the resources necessary to pursue a classical culinary education and are therefore not equipped with all the cooking skills you need your kitchen staff to have.

That’s where Richard Grausman’s book, French Classics Made Easy, comes to the rescue.

Grausman, the acclaimed Cordon Bleu-trained culinary educator, author, and founder of the non-profit Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP,, has avidly dedicated most of his career to educating disadvantaged youths in the foodservice industry. According to Jonathan Waxman, chef and owner of the NYC restaurant Barbuto (, “Richard Grausman is a true culinary icon. He really has no parallel, and his passion to teach is remarkable. He is the embodiment of our culinary education.”

In 1988 Grausman published his first cookbook At Home with the French Classics “as a way to document what [he] had been teaching,” he says. Grausman has now graced us all with a special gift, the re-release of his cookbook, French Classics Made Easy, which has been re-titled to reflect Continue Reading…

Brain Food

BRAIN FOOD: MILK AND COOKIES: 89 Heirloom Recipes from New York’s Milk & Cookies Bakery

December 2, 2011

By Victoria Ruvolo

As we head from Thanksgiving, our nation’s most food-centric holiday, towards Christmas and Hanukkah, the annual drive to both bake and consume large quantities of pies, cakes, cookies and candies that evoke joyful childhood memories is once again upon us. It’s this time of year, more than any it seems, that industry professionals from chefs to caterers are called upon by their clients and guest to create the warming, holiday inspired baked goods we all remember enjoying as when we were young and carefree.

Need a little help getting your recipe portfolio together this year? Milk & Cookies: 89 Heirloom Recipes from New York’s Milk & Cookies Bakery is it. Written by French Culinary Institute graduate and successful bakery owner, Tina Casaceli. Casaceli is the genius behind the now famous Greenwich Village bakery Milk & Cookies which opened in 2006.

For anyone who has never been, Milk & Cookies is the type of bakery that excels at bringing your childhood favorites spiraling back into your daily life. It’s everything you could ever want in a local cookie bakery, down to the sweet smells of vanilla, sugar, and butter wafting from the door.

Milk & Cookies the book has everything you could ever want in a cookie book. It’s filled to the brim with easy, straightforward recipes paired with beautiful photographs of mouthwatering cookies in every flavor. The recipes are simply organized by base, making it easy for any reader to find their particular favorites.

Putting pretty pictures and delicious recipes aside, most of us in the food industry have baked a plate of cookies before so why should we read Milk & Cookies? Easy; Casaceli gives her reader more than just recipes,she gives them Continue Reading…

Brain Food


September 16, 2011

Lush Life, Portraits from the Bar, Series 2 by Jill Degroff
Story by Sara Gorelick

Lush Life, Portraits from the Bar, has released its second installation of the series, and saloon artist Jill Degroff has done it again; this volume is as captivating as the first.

Lush Life looks at the heart and soul of the industry; the people who make it possible. Degroff’s pages catalog stories from the bar illuminated with sketches bearing a stunning resemblance of the movers, shakers and stirrers the spirits industry has come to know and love. Though you’ve heard their names, communicated with them via email, Skype, or Facebook, and may have been fortunate at one point or another to be seated at their bar its possible you don’t know their backstory and what it took to get them there. Curious? Well, Degroff’s book is the perfect jumping off point.

The book gives you the opportunity to glimpse friends and colleagues through an artist’s eye. The sketches are expertly detailed, catching the expressions that come to mind when we think of the characters we know and love or simply admired from afar. Degroff gives you the ability to throw away any stigmas or preconceived notions about the attentive and often attractive bartender – it is no holds barred from the first story.

The tales on these pages are a reminder of the intricacies of a job which is so much more than mixing booze and slinging shots. Personal stories will cause you to reflect on your own experiences and feel the camaraderie we have all come to know and love. The purpose of the Lush Life collection is strong for Degroff, who knows that it is so important to find time to set it all aside and truly connect with the moment and the person beside you. She says, “The experience of gathering stories for the second edition drove home the lesson that the stories are getting lost now, the art of storytelling is disappearing, with everyone now leading very hectic lives, continuous multitasking and into their gadgets.”

Using no gadget more high tech than a pen or paintbrush, Degroff’s artwork is impeccable; catching features in a most observant way, exaggerating the prominent features while picking up on the slight nuances of a smile or the crease of a forehead. “She works in a three dimensional way, one for the hardest things to work in perspective,” said artist, teacher and art therapist Rosemary Kreder. “You can tell Degroff is a happy person by her drawings and you’d recognize her work. She carries forth a strong gimmick and her pictures make you feel good…this is what art is all about.”

Degroff had limited formal training, and drawing caricatures is a passion she developed after years of doodling in bars and eventually acquired the knack for nailing people. She explains, “I lived in many edgy neighborhoods with bizarre characters. My lower east side tenement featured Continue Reading…