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Brain Food


September 15, 2011

Story by Victoria Ruvolo
Photos courtesy of The Summer Shack Cookbook

As summer officially comes to a close, the longing to resurrect the essence
of the season begins to creep back into our daily lives. For those of us who
try to bring it back year-round, Jasper White’s The Summer Shack: The
Complete Guide to Summer Food
serves as our official guidebook.

We have all, at one point or another, savored the taste of deliciously fresh
shore food and loved it; whether it’s a basket of fried clams, a handful of
steamed crab claws, or a glistening lobster roll, there’s something deeply
satisfying about eating food that was probably caught, cooked, and served
within a few miles of where you’re feasting on it. White’s cookbook about
his restaurant, Summer Shack, just came out in paperback and it is devoted
to the art of seafood. In reality though, this book is much more than a
typical restaurant overview – it’s a love letter to all things fresh, local,
and pure.

White sets the tone by immediately making it clear that the recipes included
are nearly all his own personal recipes; meaning a lot of love and care went
into the book’s production. When asked for his thoughts on the publication
he replies, “I’m delighted to see the Summer Shack Cookbook released in
paperback. The lobster roll says it all – this is my Joy of Cooking for
the beach.” And when he says “Joy of Cooking”, he means it. White leaves no
fish, bivalve, or cephalopod untouched in this comprehensive yet
straightforward shore-style seafood bible. The reader is taken thru the
basics and beyond from how to gather mollusks, to shucking the perfect
oyster, to a large chart depicting various seafood steaming times. There’s
even a 101 on what the reader needs to create the “shore kitchen” atmosphere
at home. Truly nothing is missing.

Even a seasoned poissonier will find great new insider tips among the
fundamentals, as well as a plethora of pure, innovative recipes. Most of us
have grilled swordfish before but have you ever grilled fresh sardines or
fried smelts? Summer Shack makes the process effortless. Tired of the same
old mussel recipes? Try the Chilled Mussels with Curry Mayo; simply prepared
this is a dish that can easily be transformed from a canapé to a main
course. And for the private chef looking for a few versatile recipes that
work for both meat and fish lovers, there’s a lovely roasted garlic and
mustard glaze recipe; perfect for either mackerel, shrimp, OR pork chops.

White has written a glorious homage to his first love: shore-style food. Not
only does The Summer Shack Cookbook give great everyday fish tips; it’s a
wonderful source of inspiration for any chef yearning to bring their fondest
childhood culinary memories to food lovers everywhere.

Brain Food


June 2, 2011

The Sriracha Cookbook by Randy Clemens

By Clare Langan

As barbecue season approaches, ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise may have some competition. The Sriracha Cookbook by Randy Clemens elevates its namesake ingredient to star-level status.

Usually relegated a few drops over Asian fare or the occasional dorm-room cup of ramen, The Sriracha Cookbook lets the spicy-sweet flavor of this Asian chili sauce shine. Earning Bon Appetit’s ‘2010 Ingredient of the Year’ and loved by chefs and home cooks alike, Clemens offers 50 recipes featuring this Southeast-Asian condiment. Along with being a trained chef, Clemens is a clever and witty writer, serving up anecdotes with each recipe, including the origins of La Caridid, a cocktail devised on an inebriated dare.

From the zesty SriRANCHa Dressing (with a notable bacon variation) to Sriracha Kimchee and Peach-Sriracha Sorbet, the recipes are inspired and on-trend. While “In a Pinch Tips” are sprinkled throughout, the Piquant Pulled Pork is no Shoemaker effort. A spice rub, overnight brine and Sriracha-laced sauce coax pork butt into tender perfection. As if that wasn’t enough, Clemens’ “Over the Top Tip” suggests piling the pork on grilled Cheddar-Sriracha Swirl Bread and toping with Sriracha Slaw. Spice lovers, rejoice.

Clemens wrote the book after discovering Sriracha at a Vietnamese friend’s house, whose, “…mom made the most amazing fried rice on earth, and there was this bottle of hot sauce I’d never seen before sitting innocuously on the table. Nobody else was using it… nobody suggested I try it… but something about it called to me. I gave a light drizzle, and was hooked instantly.” What does Clemens think of Sriracha’s relatively recent popularity in mainstream culinaria? “It’s a staple in my kitchen, whether or not it’s a trend in someone else’s. Either way, it’s bringing somebody some combination of joy, comfort, pleasure, spice, and maybe even surprise. To me, that’s timeless.” The sauce is no trend, but here to stay.

The Sriracha Cookbook is an example of how one ingredient can change and inspire countless recipes. A mix of sound culinary advice and bar-stool banter, The Sriracha Cookbook is anything but boring.

Brain Food


April 1, 2011

THE SIMPLE ART OF EATING WELL  by Jessie Price & the Eating Well Test Kitchen

By Clare Langan

Caviar, prosciutto and Gruyère are three ingredients not typically associated with heathy cooking. The Simple Art of EatingWell by Jessie Price & the EatingWell Test Kitchen, adds these little luxuries back to the menu, proving that eating healthfully does not have to mean giving up taste.

The Simple Art of Eating Well sets out to satisfy consumer tastes which have become increasingly more refined while the demand grows for healthy, delicious food.  A compilation of 20 years of best recipes and techniques from EatingWell Magazine, sprinkled throughout are countless insider tips, step-by-step photos and ingredient guides. A resources section is like Culinary School 101 with quick reference charts, pantry lists, and an extensive glossary demystifying everything like harissa or hoisin.

The judges for the 2011 James Beard Foundation Awards were suitably impressed by the glossary and the 400 recipes with a decidedly highbrow approach as they nominated The Simple Art of Eating Well as a finalist in the category of best Healthy Focus book.  Says Price, “We put hours and hours into planning, recipe testing, tasting, editing, designing, photography. We love the way the book turned out. But it’s even better to have the James Beard Foundation recognize all that effort that went into the book.”

Contributors like Rick Bayless, Mark Bittman and Deborah Madison epitomize the EatingWell tagline “Where Good Taste Meets Good Health”. Full-flavor is a primary focus throughout the book – a key component in lighter recipes. Standard comfort food makeovers like meatloaf and brownies are an afterthought when Iberian-Style Sausage & Chicken Ragú and Roasted Pear Trifle tempt and inspire. Other standouts include a 383-calorie Spanish Pork Burger, amplified with green olives, Pimentón de la Vera, Manchego, Piquillo peppers and a pinch of saffron. With cocktail party fare like Country-Style Chicken Liver Mousse and Bourbon-Cherry Seltzer, clearly this is not your anticipated bland healthy cookbook.

One part educational guide and one part everyday resource, The Simple Art of EatingWell provides excellent inspiration for the culinary repertoire.

Brain Food


February 8, 2011

iframe>Living Loaded by Dan Dunn

By Francine Cohen

Who has the audacity, at the tender age of 40, to pen a memoir about his hard drinking days? Dan Dunn, that’s who. And why not? This booze scribe, known to Playboy readers as The Imbiber and the “conductor of my vicarious life” (as Rob McElhenney, creator and star of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, puts it so succinctly), has spent more nights out than anyone can count and surely most were spent drinking in the name of journalistic research. What he can remember is really funny.

And poignant. And a valuable life lesson that rings true (in a non-preachy way, though there is mention of Jesus), despite the fact you may not want to face it. When we asked Dunn what he was thinking when he penned Living Loaded he replied, “What was I thinking? Not much thinking, actually. I’m an action man.” And so, we have his latest book chronicling drinking and carousing and spirited adventures with spirits, strippers, ex-girlfriends, semi-public nakedness, family drama and good drinks, which goes on sale today.

Why do you want to read this book? Well, first and foremost, if you’re reading this column it’s quite possible you also know Dan which means there are probably nights spent with him you’d either like to forget or did forget. If it’s the latter you’ll want to check out the book to see if Dan’s trusty recorder and note pad he carries with him everywhere managed to capture the details of that fateful evening. If it’s the former then you’ll empathize with him the whole way through these hilarious 262 pages.

Maybe you don’t know Dan personally, nor do you know of his wild escapades through his Imbiber column, but you need a few good cocktail recipes. They’re in there too – some of the world’s best bartenders have conjured up new cocktails specifically created to honor the rabelesian life Dunn leads and you wish you did too. So, next time you’re looking for the right cocktail to prove you know how to drink like a man ready for any occasion, look no further than Living Loaded.

And if the book wasn’t enough of a laugh and a head shake as you wonder how someone could go through all that and write about it (potential lawsuits aside) we’ve learned that you can live vicariously for a half an hour at a time thanks to the Fox network. Dunn shares, “It hasn’t been announced yet but Fox just bought a pilot for a half-hour scripted comedy based on the book and my life. I created the show along with Rob McElhenney of ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.’ Not bad for a punk from Philly, I guess.”

Not bad indeed.

Tall Paul was the P in P&J’s – the owner, head bartender, and karmic standard-bearer of the establishment. He was a 6’7”, 250-pound behemoth renowned for his kind, humorous nature and large sledgehammer-like fists. He was a teddy bear most of the time, but woe be to troublemakers who attempted to make their trouble in his joint. Because if tempers flared and reconciliation failed, Tall Paul could kick the living s**t out of anyone this side of Superman. To me, though, he was a gentle and benevolent giant who always made sure my glass was filled with Coke and that I never ran out of change for the pinball machine. He even gave me my very own extra-tall stool so I could see over the tops of the pool and shuffleboard tables. Kept it safely stored behind the giant barrel of pretzel mix, next to the men’s bathroom. I used to live on that pretzel mix – until the day I witnessed a grubby old degenerate exit the bathroom without bothering to wash his hands…P. 172-173

And, if this wasn’t enough to whet your whistle, perhaps a little encouragement from The Most Interesting Man In The World will send you to your local bookstore to pick this up.

Still not convinced? Or want it for free? The first three people to correctly answer the question below and respond to will win an autographed copy of Living Loaded courtesy of INSIDE F&B.

At what bar did Dan spend his childhood years sitting on a tall stool and playing pinball?

***Buy the book:

Brain Food


January 31, 2011

Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica

By Sara Gorelick

Anyone who has ever donned an apron or dropped a check on a table will enjoy Waiter Rant, an honest and comical look into the all guts and no glory universe that is the restaurant.

Author Steve Dublanica, aka The Waiter, takes no prisoners in his ode to this world. He says, “It was a look into a world I knew. Most people don’t know what happens behind the scenes. It’s all nice on the outside but very different on the inside, like the backstage of a play.”

All sorts of scenarios play themselves out every day in the dining room thanks to a variety of guests; from the patronizing parent to the wannabe foodie. In calling out every kind of tipper (all your favorites are in there, – the Verbal Tipper, Sugar Daddy, Former Waiter and the Whore) Dublanica leaves the reader to decide what sort of mark they themselves leave on the staff.

Waiter Rant regales with the everyday stories of working in the biz – generosity and gratuity, formidable bathroom conditions and hygiene, and even the not-so-rare account of what happens when your customer is more naughty than nice.

With tips on how to tip, advice on days to avoid eating out (i.e. New Year’s, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day), and how to be the perfect patron, Dublanica’s Waiter Rant is for more than those who maneuver the restaurant business daily; it is a fitting read for anyone in any industry who works to please a client and get a job done. And everyone should have that waiting experience for a year, says Dublanica, who emphasizes that it teaches so much about people.

“If you ask me, Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest scams going. Guys still paying off the baubles they bought wives and girlfriends at Christmas and Hanukkah are frightened by Madison Avenue into believing their sweethearts will transform into frigid harpies if they don’t shell out for some jewelry and round-trip tickets to an exotic island. Smelling blood in the water, restaurants replace their regular menus with “special menus” that give price gouging a good name. The foods many kitchens prepare on that holiday are often items they make only a couple of times a year. If your chef hasn’t had the practice of making the same dish day in and day out, your entrée’s, probably going to taste like rubber osso buco. If you’ve ever had a crappy meal on Saint Valentine’s Day, you know I’m right.”- Page 70, The Box of Chocolates Saint

“Somehow, as I’ve done on countless nights before, I pull my s**t together, stuff my anger and sadness into a secure mental compartment, and smile. My waiter armor will just have to make it through another night. Within half an hour my entire section is seated, cocktailed, specialed, and busy eating their appetizers. There’s a tender mercy to waiting tables. You can get so engrossed in what you are doing that you almost forget your troubles. I feel like I’m relaxing inside my brain while my body does all the work. For a few small minutes I find solace in going through the motions of a job I know how to do so well. Of course, the peace doesn’t last.” – Page 262, The Demons

Brain Food


December 31, 2010

Give the gift that keeps on giving (even after you’re gone)

Photo by John Kernick

Let’s just say (for argument’s sake) that you didn’t manage to get away during the holidays because hotels, restaurants, and bars don’t shut down even if everyone else does, and so you didn’t make it home to your family. Once again, like many years past (or at least those since you’ve worked in the hospitality industry) family holiday celebrations and gift giving were postponed until after the new year.

And let’s continue to say (just hypothetically) that you arrive home and either a) discover that your family is, much as you love them, supremely annoying and the only way to cope is with a couple of cocktails or b) you realize how much you love and miss them and want to treat them to the best cocktails they’ve ever had so you whip out your favorite recipes and shake and stir up a couple for them.

But then, the sad part comes…you have to leave and go back to your daily routine. And they are without you and without your delicious cocktails. Not to fear, you can leave behind the gifts that keep on giving… cocktail books.


If you’re looking for the perfect book that suits your family member with a well stocked bar and a few cocktail tricks up his sleeve just as well as it suits your family member who simply likes to drink, then Vintage Cocktails by Brian Van Flandern is the edition for you to gift.

Both elegant when sitting on the coffee table and useful when pulled behind the bar, this book offers a well edited collection of some of the best loved cocktails through the ages. Shot at Bemelmans Bar; the destination watering hole in Manhattan’s posh Carlyle Hotel, each drink is exquisitely presented in Baccarat crystal glassware.

Recipes are easy to follow and enjoy and it’s no wonder; they’re vintage cocktails. Van Flandern explains just what that means as he says, “Vintage cocktails are cocktails that at one point in time, for whatever reason, gained global popularity and are either classics or are destined to become classics. Like Dale DeGroff’s Whiskey smash and Audrey Saunders’ Gin Gin Mule.”

Understandably, Van Flandern is proud of this book. And you’ll be proud to give it. He remarks, “There are stunningly beautiful pictures side by side with easily followable cocktail recipes. It’s a staple for any bar, to see what the drink should look like.”


Next up is a new book that takes a look at both old and new cocktails. Speakeasy, by Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric of Employees Only, brings the liquid best of this well-loved NYC industry bar and restaurant into your own home.

We think its one part instruction manual and one part reveling in memories of your late nights at EO. Says Kosmas, “The book is intended to be more than a recipe book of classic and EO cocktails. Its purpose and format is to help the reader understand the mentality behind our process of bringing new cocktails to life. A chef once told me, ‘To break the rules, you first have to know what they are.’ We lay out the classics to show how we reconstruct them. Some cocktails have new ingredients, some are tweaked for the modern palate and some are inspired by the idea or audience of a cocktail. We wanted take our readers on a journey through the evolution of the cocktail.

To keep cocktails alive we need to breathe new life into them constantly. Bastardizing spirits in new way is the essence of cocktail making.

Zaric notes, “This book is an example of how Jay and I evolved our methodology in cocktail creation; by learning from the classic and implementing it for the pallet of the 21st century drinker. A cocktail today is far more exciting then it was ever in the history [of cocktails]. We have at our disposal a huge variety of ingredients, some of which find their way into mixed drinks for the first time. Additionally – and I have to emphasize that point – a cocktail should stay within its gastronomical boundaries and serve as a part of the overall experience.

We encourage the readers and trade in particular to “break conventions” and experiment. Use the classics as a guide line; and when you master the techniques and methods of preparation and service, by all means, play and discover your own “taste.” Remember that the classics became classic when someone “broke conventions” and went down a road “less traveled.” Fortunately, Lady Luck rewards the brave and courageous and today we have a solid foundation from which to build upon. Use the book as a guideline and inspiration and you will for sure have a wonderful time with it.

They conclude, “The Miles Davis quote on Jazz sums up our philosophy of cocktails:
‘I never thought that the music called ‘jazz’ was ever meant to reach just a small group of people, or become a museum thing locked under glass like all other dead things that were once considered artistic.’”

Brain Food


October 21, 2010

The Perfect Finish – Special Desserts for Every Occasion (Bill Yosses and Melissa Clark)
By Alexis Jamieson

There are desserts that are good enough for visiting international dignitaries, and there are desserts you’re feeding to your friends and family. White House pastry chef Bill Yosses is a master at creating desserts that satisfy everyone; and his new book The Perfect Finish – Special Desserts for Every Occasion provides you with recipes to make every guest feel important, even if they can’t wield diplomatic immunity.

Wandering down the cookbook aisle where there are hundreds of cookbooks promising the perfect end to a meal, one might grow immune to pretty covers of delectable desserts, but this is one not to be passed by. For more than just the home baker, Yosses has created a selection of recipes that play well in the restaurant kitchen too, serving as inspiration to your own pastry department. And he’s considerately written his recipes in grams for the restaurant chef who needs to bake in quantity.

Recipes (and tips for successful execution) are broken down by occasion and includes recipes such as simple fruit filled muffin and elaborate celebratory desserts. Yosses’ book is definitely a go-to guide for the chef searching for crowd pleasing ideas.

4 ounces, 113 grams Unsalted Butter (softened)
7 ounces, 198 grams Sugar
3.4 ounces, 96 grams large eggs (at room temperature)
3.7 ounces, 107 grams almond flour OR
3.7 ounces, 107 grams finely ground blanched almonds
1.5 ounces, 42.5 grams orgeat (almond) syrup OR
.35 ounces, 10 grams Orange Flower Water or Rose Water
1 (9-inch) loaf day-old brioche sliced ½ inch thick
2 ounces, 57 grams sliced blanched almonds

Butter a rimmed 11 x 17 baking sheet

Make almond cream by creaming the butter with ½ of sugar, beat in eggs one at a time, then almond lour or ground almonds. Beat for a minute to lighten the texture.

To make almond (or orange flower water or rose water) syrup, combine the remaning sugar with equal amount of water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil stirring until dissolved. Take the pan off the heat and add the orgeat or orange flower water or rose water.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the brioche slices on the baking sheet and brush them generously with the almond syrup. Use and offset spatula to spread about 3 tbs. of amond cream onto each slice of brioche, mounding it slightly in the center. Springkle 2 tsp. of sliced almonds over each slice.

Bake on the center rack until a golden brown crust forms on top, about 30 minutes.

Brain Food


July 14, 2010

Feasting Down Mexico Way

Viva Mexico! Don’t let those border town drug wars get you down. Mexico is plenty safe for travel right now if you know where to go. Still unsure? Or just don’t have the time to get away? Well, just because you can’t actually leave home to take a summer vacation doesn’t mean your summer fiesta can’t transport you to Mexico. And it will when you crack open one of these two new Mexican cookbooks that bring traditional small plates and more to your next bash (piñata optional).

Photo by Lucy Schaeffer

ANTOJITOS – Festive and Flavorful Mexican Small Plates By Barbara Sibley and Maragaritte Malfy with Mary Goodbody
New York City Restaurateurs Barbara Sibley and Margaritte Malfy introduced La Palapa to New Yorkers over a decade ago. Since then, their locations in the East and West Village have been a destination for traditional Mexican cuisine which harkens back to the foods Sibley enjoyed growing up in Mexico City. The women’s mission for the restaurant was to, as Sibley says, “Bring Mexico to New York and offer things you would eat in someone’s home.” Sibley comments on the restaurant’s décor noting, “we wanted people to have a mini vacation, under the tranquil shade of a palapa. We wanted people to feel like they were in Mexico.” Now, with the recent release of Antojitos booking a trip to Mexico isn’t necessary; these small bites enjoyed under thatched roofs can be served at home – even if you don’t actually have a palapa.

Palapa and a beach available or not, there’s no reason not to explore these foods for your next party or evening in. According to Malfy and Sibley, “The word antojo means ‘craving,’ which explains the name of these tasty, fresh bites. In some parts of Mexico, an antojito is called a tentempie, roughly, ‘a snack that keeps you standing’ – in other words, a bite to tide you over until your next meal. These snacks are typically eaten out of hand or from a small paper cone or cup while standing or walking around [marketplace stalls and town plazas]. Although antojitos are not usually considered a full meal by Mexicans, they can be so bountiful and delectable that there is no reason not to add a margarita or a beer and declare an assortment of them a suitable supper. Continue Reading…