Category Archives: Book review

Interview with Bartholomew Barker, author of Milkshakes & Chilidogs

Today, we’re talking with Bartholomew Barker, poet & author of Milkshakes & Chilidogs.

What is your background in poetry?

Poetry has always been my avocation but it waxed and waned depending upon my marital status. The last time I got divorced I began writing again and found Living Poetry, the largest poetry group here in the Triangle. It didn’t take much encouragement for me to begin taking my poetry seriously and now, ten years later, I’ve been published dozens of times, I’m leading a monthly workshop, hosting open mics and various other special events. Poetry now consumes most of the hours I’m not working my day job or sleeping.

Milkshakes, chilidogs, chocolate, wine, these are some of the foods you write about–but I was also surprised to see an Ode to Haggis–and it was delicious! How did writing a book of food poems come about?

I’d written a few food poems, including both haggis poems, before I realized I was writing a book of poetry. One evening I was having dinner with my parents and I was wondering what my next book should be about when my mother said, “I always enjoy your food poems.” I laughed but later that night I had a look through my files and found that when I included the wine poems, of which I’d already written plenty, for some reason, and the chocolate poems that I’d written for the annual holiday chocolate open mic that I host at a little chocolatier’s in Hillsborough, that I had almost enough for a chapbook.

Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

This collection has humor, nostalgia, romance–and even touches on topical issues like climate change. How do you see the role food plays in our lives?

Everybody eats. Food is central to our lives. It’s one of our basic urges. From being fed at our mother’s breast to lunch at the school cafeteria with our friends to first dates at restaurants to wedding cakes to donuts at the office to happy hours to pot lucks to casseroles at a wake, there isn’t much in our lives that doesn’t revolve around food and drink. And I am so extremely fortunate to live in a time and place where food is both plentiful and varied and to have sufficient wealth to enjoy it all, even to excess.

Are you working on a new book?

I’m not sure. I’m still writing but a theme has not yet emerged. I should probably ask my mother.

Where can readers purchase a copy of Milkshakes & Chilidogs?

My book, like most things in life, can be purchased at Amazon.

My Book, Authentic Italian, Is Now Available

Authentic Italian

Authentic Italian: The Real Story of Italy’s Food and Its People

by Dina M. Di Maio

Available from Amazon.com

Pizza. Spaghetti and meatballs. Are these beloved foods Italian or American?

Italy declares pizza from Naples the only true pizza, but what about New York, New Haven, and Chicago pizza? The media says spaghetti and meatballs isn’t found in Italy, but it exists around the globe. Worldwide, people regard pizza and spaghetti and meatballs as Italian. Why? Because the Italian immigrants to the United States brought their foodways with them 100 years ago and created successful food-related businesses. But a new message is emerging–that the only real Italian food comes from the contemporary Italian mainland. However, this ideology negatively affects Italian Americans, who still face discrimination that pervades the culture–from movies and TV to religion, academia, the workplace, and every aspect of their existence.

In Authentic Italian, Italian-American food writer Dina M. Di Maio explores the history and food contributions of Italian immigrants in the United States and beyond. With thorough research and evidence, Di Maio proves the classic dishes like pizza and spaghetti and meatballs so beloved by the world are, indeed, Italian. Much more than a food history, Authentic Italian packs a sociopolitical punch and shows that the Italian-American people made Italian food what it is today. They and their food are real, true, and authentic Italian.

Two for Tuesday: Israeli Cookbooks

IMG_1563

I love Mediterranean food.  It’s so healthy and delicious.  So I was intrigued by two cookbooks that came out this past year on Mediterranean/Middle Eastern cuisine, primarily Israeli, Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi and Balaboosta by Einat Admony.

Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Jerusalem is a great cookbook with traditional as well as contemporary dishes from the varied cultures that make up the title city.  The authors, who are Israeli and Palestinian, respectively, while sensitive to the tensions in the area, choose to focus on the food–the richness that all those cultures bring to the cuisine.  As many writers and chefs would agree, food is a binding agent; however, it can also separate people when cultures disagree on who created a popular dish.  Rather than debate issues, Jerusalem celebrates the cuisine.  The authors note that there are some food elements that are crosscultural in the area, such as chopped salad, stuffed vegetables with rice, rice and meat, meat and pickled vegetables, olive oil, lemon juice, olives and baked cheese pastries.  But they mention that the cuisines of the area are very diverse and different, and their focus in the book is on foods that they grew up with and what they like to cook themselves.

The book has some history on the area and explains in more detail some aspects of cooking like what za’atar is and how it is used.  There are recipes for more familiar dishes like fattoush, hummus, tabbouleh and falafel.  Some recipes that sound amazing to me are sabih, an eggplant dish brought by Iraqi Jews.  The minty kohlrabi salad with Greek yogurt and sumac sounds wonderful.  Pureed beets with yogurt and za’atar would be a great dip for some pita bread!  There’s a recipe for shakshuka, the poached eggs in tomato sauce dish that reminds me of a similar dish my Italian grandma made.  I’m intrigued by the pasta cooked in hot yogurt sauce, as in the conchiglie with yogurt, peas and chile.  This book is great for vegetarians as well, as there are so many meat-free dishes.

Balaboosta by Einat Admony

Balaboosta by Einat Admony, on the other hand, isn’t just about food but more about a way of life.  A balaboosta is a Yiddish word for a housewife, but not just any housewife.  According to Admony, a balaboosta “made sure her table was crowded not just with food but also with laughter.”  She was the nurturing woman who cooked, cleaned and cared for her family.  Admony is a wife, mother and professional chef with successful restaurants Balaboosta, Taim and Bar Bolonat.  Not only is she all of these things, she is one cool lady and as Wendy Williams would say, a friend in my head!  Her favorite comfort food is a jelly doughnut.  Hello!  We would so be BFF. 

Her book is divided into chapters that cover all the things a balaboosta needs to know.  There are dinner party dishes, recipes for kids, quick meals, romantic foods, comforting dishes, outdoor party recipes and healthier options.  She is too funny when she talks about trying to lose weight.  She says she took pills, did the cabbage soup diet, the master cleanse, boxing  and something called Zerona that she said was like “being fondled by an octopus that shoots fat-melting lasers into your flab.”  Ultimately, she says that she doesn’t want to give up her love of cooking and eating.  Yay!  Enjoying life is part of being a balaboosta.  Sign me up!

There are so many wonderful recipes in this book.  While Admony’s parents are from Yemen and Iran, she focuses on all Middle Eastern/Mediterranean cuisine.  She has her version of shakshuka, which I’ve had at her restaurant Balaboosta.  There’s a cauliflower dish called “cauliflower everyone loves” that looks like a delectable crispy fried cauliflower.  I have a sweet tooth, so I love her homemade kit kat made with Nutella and corn flakes. OMG.  The coconutty milk chocolate popcorn may be in the kids’ section but it’s for kids of all ages!  I like the ricotta, pine nut and honey bread pudding with some Italian elements in there.  She includes one of her mom’s recipes, rice stew.  She says that it represents the changing relationship she and her mother have had.  She substitutes chicken neck in her mom’s version with chicken wings.  Funny–my mom loves chicken neck too.  The Palestinian Arab dish, sinaya, with layered tahini and ground meat, looks and sounds amazing.  I love, love, love labne and the fried olives with labne look delish.

Two for Tuesday: Food Americana Books

A Century of Restaurants by Rick Browne

and

The Taste of America by Colman Andrews

A Century of Restaurants by Rick Browne was released this past October 2013.  Browne is known for his Barbecue America series, and what a fun endeavor he created for himself with this latest book.  He traveled around the United States, dining at historic restaurants.  What could be better than that?  Included is a write-up on each restaurant as well as photos of the decor and food and a recipe from the restaurant.

To judge the authenticity of this book, I looked at the New York section to see what he chose.  A lot of my favorites were in the bunch.  His choices include restaurants I’ve been to:  Barbetta, Delmonico’s, Ferrara, Fraunces Tavern, Katz’s Deli, Keens Steakhouse, Old Homestead Steakhouse and  Peter Luger Steakhouse.  It is no mistake that so many steakhouses make the list.  These classic restaurants are some of the best in the city.  In fact, four of my favorite meals are on the list–Barbetta, Delmonico’s, Keens and Peter Luger.  He even included recipes for standout items like Delmonico’s lobster Newburg, Ferrara’s cannoli, Keens’s mutton chop, the Old Homestead’s toast tower, and Peter Luger’s fried potatoes.

While I’ve traveled to many states and have eaten at many local favorites, I have been to only a handful of restaurants in the rest of the book:    Columbia in Ybor City, FL; The Berghoff in Chicago; La Fonda in Santa Fe, NM; Union Oyster House in Boston, MA and Old Salem Tavern in Winston-Salem, NC.

I’ve learned about many new ones I want to try:  The Griswold Inn in Essex, CT, looks like an adorable old-time seaside tavern.  The lobster potpie looks amazing too.  The huge circle of ham at the Log Inn in Haubstadt, IN, looks great.  the huge circle of ham at Breitbach’s Country Dining looks great, but I’d have to eat half to save room for the crazy-good-looking raspberry pie.  I’d love to have an old hot brown at The Old Talbott Tavern in Bardstown, KY.  The creamy Mornay sauce looks divine.  OK, my favorite recipe is the blueberry cream pie from The Publick House in Sturbridge, MA.    The maraschino cherry-studded banana fritters at Stagecoach Inn in Salado, TX, look delish too.  The brandy ice at the Wilmot Stage Stop in Wilmot, WI, is ice cream, brandy and creme de cacao.  I’m all about that!

Seriously, Rick, if you need a dining companion for a second book, I’m in!

The Taste of America by Colman Andrews was also released this past October 2013.  Colman Andrews is a food writer known for founding Saveur magazine.  His book is divided into chapters based on food categories like dairy products or condiments.  Within each category is an alphabetical listing of foods that come from or are produced within the United States like cheese straws or kolaches.  There’s a short blurb about the food’s origin and who makes the food.  Some of the foods are depicted in colored drawings.  The book showcases 250 foods.

I was disappointed with this book for a few reasons.  First, I would have preferred a photograph of the food/shop/market rather than the drawing.  Many of the foods do not have a drawing, so there winds up being a lot of white space that isn’t aesthetically pleasing.  I do like the drawings; they are great and add to the feeling of nostalgia to the book.  But for a book like this that also serves as a guide book with contemporary information on each food, I’d prefer photos.  However, the main reason I don’t like the book is that it doesn’t list where you can get the products.  (There is an index at the back of the book, but I’m talking about listing it on the page that discusses the food.)  I would have preferred if it gave information on the origins of the food but then listed purveyors of each one in an organized and easy-to-use format.  Also, it would have been nicer to have a more comprehensive listing of American foods because many regional favorites are not included in the book (for example, Carolina BBQ or New Jersey taylor ham/pork roll).  In general, I think books of this type lend themselves to a lot of subjectivity on the part of the author because the author chooses what types of foods/states/regions/ethnic foods to include.

Book Review: The Whole Fromage by Kathe Lison

One may be confused by the title of Kathe Lison’s book, The Whole Fromage:  Adventures in the Delectable World of French Cheese.  It is not a comprehensive listing or description of French cheese.  It is not a thorough history of French cheese.  It is a feature story on the state of French cheesemaking.  The author is a lover of cheese and departs on a journey to understand how French cheese is made, touring different regions and methods.  What she discovers is that some French cheesemakers are incorporating modern methods of cheesemaking.  She doesn’t directly impart a bias against doing so, although I would say she probably doesn’t like it.  I enjoyed the short read, as I know little about French cheese; however, I am a lover of all things made the handmade way.  Indeed, she writes, “We all like to hear about the guy who wakes up at 4:00 a.m. every day to milk his cows by hand and then make cheese in a big wooden bucket.  There is something about the thought of all that labor–of a human bringing something into the world by sheer dint of muscle–that we value.”  It’s true…and leads to a question, does it really taste better when it’s made that way or is that a delusion?  I think it tastes better (if the person making it knows what they are doing!).

If you are a cheese lover, a French cheese lover, or someone who enjoys artisanal or indigenous foods, you will enjoy this book.  In addition to the above thoughts, I also found it surprising that people will pay over $400 for cheese made from moose milk.  And I could’ve lived without the image of the cannulated cow, although once I googled it, the image wasn’t quite as bad as what I pictured but still appalling enough to make me rethink cheese and dairy.

Review & Giveaway of New York Sweets: A Sugarhound’s Guide to the Best Bakeries, Ice Cream Parlors, Candy Shops, and Other Emporia of Delicious Delights

NewYorkSweets_cover

New York Sweets: A Sugarhound’s Guide to the Best Bakeries, Ice Cream Parlors, Candy Shops, and Other Emporia of Delicious Delights by Susan Meisel, published by Rizzoli on April 2, 2013, is a comprehensive listing of all the places to get your sugar fix in NYC.  Whether you are an ice cream person, a bakery person or a candy person, there is something in this book for you.  Personally, I tend to lean toward ice cream and bakeries.  The book includes some of my faves:  Doughnut Plant, Jacques Torres, Payard, Villabate, L’arte Del Gelato, Sockerbit, Tea & Sympathy, Vosges, Ferrara and Van Leeuwen. This is one of those books I wish I had written!  The book is divided into neighborhoods, so you can do a sweets tour in each NYC ‘hood!  I want to try Puddin’ on St. Mark’s Place–a shop with puddings and toppings.  There’s plenty of eye candy in the hardcover book with color photos of goodies from all the shops listed and recipes for you to try at home.

If you are in New York and have never been, the Rizzoli Bookstore on 57th Street is worth a trip.  I love this store.  Rizzoli has wonderful art and photography books and a great international magazine section.

You can win a copy of this fun book by entering the giveaway.  If you win, Rizzoli will ship you a free copy of New York Sweets: A Sugarhound’s Guide to the Best Bakeries, Ice Cream Parlors, Candy Shops, and Other Emporia of Delicious Delights by Susan Meisel.

To enter the giveaway:

Leave a comment below, answering this question:

What is your favorite sweet shop or bakery?  (It doesn’t have to be in New York).

For additional entries, become a fan on Facebook or sign up for my Tweets on Twitter and let me know you signed up in a separate comment.  One winner will be chosen at random and announced on Friday, April 12.  Contest closes on Thursday, April 11 at 12 PM EST.  (Rizzoli will ship the book to the winner.  U.S. residents only.)  Winner will be contacted via email, so please be sure to include your email address in the field when you leave your comment (it will not be visible to the public).  Good luck!

Contest is closed.

Two for Tuesday: Ingrid Hoffman’s Latin D’Lite

Ingrid Book Cover

Ingrid Hoffman stars in Food Network’s Simply Delicioso, also the title of her first cookbook.  Her latest cookbook, Latin D’Lite, Delicious Latin Recipes with a Healthy Twist, is available today, April 2, 2013 from Celebra, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

When it comes to Latin cuisine, I don’t know very much.  Luckily, I live in Manhattan where I have access to many different types of ethnic cuisine, and right in my neighborhood, there are Mexican, Cuban, Brazilian, Peruvian and Argentine restaurants.  Last year, I tried empanadas for the first time and found out what I had been missing! 

Like any unfamiliar cuisine, Latin American cooking is a little intimidating to me with ingredients I’m not used to using, like adobo seasoning or chiles.  What I like about Ingrid’s book is that she uses these ingredients to create recipes that are easy for the home chef.  I also like that she represents many of the diverse Latin cultures, lightening up traditional dishes like huevos ahogados, or drowned spicy Mexican eggs, and aguadito de mariscos, or Peruvian seafood soup. 

In addition to her healthy recipes, she has a feature she calls “Indulge!” where the recipes are fuller fat versions for the days you want to indulge.  Mexican corn soup with heavy cream sounds delicious.  I’d love to try the creamy chipotle mashed potatoes made with cream cheese and the plantain fritters with avocadolicious dip. 

This Two for Tuesday includes two recipes I made from Ingrid’s Latin D’Lite this Sunday for Easter.  Torrijas, or French toast, is a traditional Easter dish in Spain.  Last year, I had torrijas for dessert at the Spanish restaurant, Gastroarte, which was my first introduction to torrijas.  Ingrid says the classic version is fried in olive oil.  Her lightened version uses just cooking spray to fry.  The accompanying banana-yogurt mixture is a pleasant addition to the torrijas.  This healthy breakfast is quick and easy enough to make on a weekday.

torrijas

I also made her mom’s creamy fruit salad for Easter.  This was very fun to make!  I have never toasted coconut flakes before and didn’t realize it was so easy to do.  The salad is like a healthy ambrosia salad with a bit of dark rum.  I used my favorite Kraken spiced rum.  It adds a sweet, spicy flavor that complements the fruit.  The mint adds a refreshing kick to this creamy and sweet salad.  (I didn’t use cantaloupe or honeydew because I’m not a big fan, but they weren’t missed.)  This salad is going to be my go-to summer salad for cookouts and potlucks.

mom's creamy fruit salad

I’d like to try salt and vinegar kale chips and baked plantain chips.  I think both of these would be great snacks to bring to work.  The hibiscus flower and ginger agua fresca sounds like the perfect refresher for summer parties.  I’ve been looking for recipes to cook calamari without frying them, and the Catalan noodle paella (fideua) cooks them unbreaded in a saffron-based broth.  Her shrimp and mango adobado salad has a grapefruit-lime-sweet paprika marinade, yum!  It’s served with her creative salsa, roasted corn-red onion-avocado-pepper.  Roasted corn salsa is definitely getting me in the mood for summer!  I look forward to making these recipes from Latin D’Lite.