Category Archives: Book review

Dina’s 10 Favorite Book Stores in New York City

I love book stores–almost as much as I love bakeries. And I have some favorite ones in New York City. Here they are in no particular order:

  1. Amazon Books–Of course, I like Amazon books because I published my book through Amazon.
  2. Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks–This is one of the coolest book stores in NYC. Bonnie sells only cookbooks and she has many classic cookbooks as well as antique cookbooks. She’s very friendly too and will help you find what you are looking for.
  3. Bluestockings–This is also a very cool book store for the radical. I liked and attended the feminist book club here.
  4. Rizzoli–The classic New York book store known for its art and fashion books. It also has a good newsstand of European magazines as well as foreign language books. 
  5. Barnes and Noble–My original favorite NYC book store. I particularly like the Union Square location but also used to like the old Astor Place one too.
  6. The Strand–A NYC institution. Tons of books, especially hard-to-find ones and ones about NYC. I remember the days when you used to have to check your bags before you went through the turnstile here. Glad you don’t have to do that anymore.
  7. Idlewild–This is a book store for the global traveler and language lover. They have travel and language books, as well as language classes.
  8. Kinokuniya–This is a Japanese book store. I love the stationery department downstairs and also the Japanese craft books and cookbooks.
  9. Pauline Books and Media–This Catholic book store has a chapel for a calm escape from the city.
  10. NYU Book Store–I like to check out the book store at my alma mater. Great selection of scholarly books.
  11. Casa Magazines–OK, they have only magazines here, but it’s a great collection of foreign language magazines.

–Dina Di Maio

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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.

Start a Foodie Book Club

Enter the GIVEAWAY in honor of my 1000th post!  The deadline has been extended until Dec. 15.

I’m not in a book club, but I want to be.  I love all kinds of books, but I think it would be fun to start a foodie book club and make a treat that accompanies the book.  I’d like to do this with fiction and nonfiction foodie books.  Here are some of my ideas for fiction books and recipes:

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel–This is one of my favorite books.  Quail in rose petal sauce is not something I would normally eat, but in this book, it sounds divine!

Chocolat by Joanne Harris–This is a close second.  Of course, I’d have to serve some kind of chocolate with chili pepper.

Brownies and Broomsticks series by Bailey Cates–A fun mystery series with a lot of recipes of bakery items to choose from.  You could win one of these to start your own book club this month!

Some Enchanted Eclair

Delicious! by Ruth Reichl–I’ve wanted to read this book by Ruth for some time.  I’d have to make something that Ruth reviewed.

The Dinner by Herman Koch–I’ve read differing reviews of this book, so I’d like to read it and see what I think.  How about a book discussion over dinner?

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender–I love the idea of food evoking emotion, so I’m sure I’d love this book.  I’d have to serve lemon cake.

Aftertaste: A Novel in Five Courses by Meredith Mileti–Always interested in a NYC story.  I’d serve something you’d find at a NYC trattoria.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg–I remember the movie, but I’ve never read the book.  Of course, fried green tomatoes would be on the menu.

Mangoes and Quince by Carol Field–A novel of a woman finding herself through cooking.

What foodie books would you want to read for your book club?

Foodie Mysteries + A GIVEAWAY

Contest closed. Congratulations Natasha!

Some Enchanted Eclair

To celebrate my 1000th post, mystery author Bailey Cates has graciously offered to send one copy of her latest mystery novel, Some Enchanted Eclair, to one lucky reader of Hunting for the Very Best!

I love anything that has to do with a bakery, so when I saw the cover art for the first novel in this series, Brownies and Broomsticks, with its shades of pink, its magical swirls, and its pastry case filled with cakes, cupcakes and pies, I had to buy the book.  I’m glad I did because I fell in love with the characters and stories.  The novels follow Katie Lightfoot who moves to Savannah, Georgia, to open a bakery with her aunt and uncle.  Here, she learns that she is a hedge witch.  Before reading this book, I had no idea what a hedge witch was.  I’ve since found out that a hedge witch is a witch who uses herbs to create spells or for medicinal purposes.  Turns out, Katie’s aunt is a witch and Katie becomes part of the coven, a group of very colorful and interesting ladies.  Murder follows Katie wherever she goes.  With her special powers, she winds up being better than the local police at solving crimes.  Katie also has some romantic love interests who vie for her attention.

There are four books in the series so far , each as delightful a read as the first.  They are perfect for foodies like us!  Each book contains recipes of some of the goodies Katie bakes up in between sleuthing.  I love these books and am so happy to share them with you.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment answering What is your favorite Hunting for the Very Best post? 

Don’t forget to like like Hunting for the Very Best on Facebook here and follow me on Twitter here though doing so will not count as another entry.  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).

Contest closes on December 15, 2014 November 30, 2014, at 12 Noon EST.  One winner will be chosen randomly.  Winner will be announced on December 16, 2014.  Open to residents of continental US only.  Winner will be mailed a copy of Some Enchanted Eclair by Bailey Cates.  Not responsible for lost mail.

Good luck and thank you for following me as I go hunting for the very best!

Key West Key Lime Pie Cookbook Winner

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I recently won a giveaway of The Key West Key Lime Pie Cookbook by David L. Sloan from Curly Girl Kitchen.  The cookbook features Curly Girl Kitchen blogger Heather’s photo of key lime tartlets.  How cool is that?  If you haven’t checked out her blog, you must.  Her photos are gorgeous and her recipes are beyond tempting.  I mean, don’t you just drool over this blueberries and cream cake?  Congratulations, Heather, for having your photographic talent recognized in this lovely cookbook!

Having lived in Florida, I’m a big fan of all things key lime.  So I’m very excited about this cookbook.  The cookbook has a lot of history on key lime pie, including news clippings of different recipes.  The book focuses on four components of a pie:  crust, filling, sauce and topping.  For each category, it gives you many variations, including traditional graham cracker crust or Papa’s pretzel crust (named so for Key West resident Ernest Hemingway), mango tango filling to makin’ bacon filling, Caribbean coconut sauce to Cuban coffee sauce and agave cream topping to saffron meringue topping.  You can mix and match the components to come up with your favorite version of key lime pie.  How fun!

Southern Living’s The Southern Cake Book

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Yay!  I won Southern Living‘s The Southern Cake Book in a giveaway on Cookbooks365Cookbooks365 is a very cool blog by Fran and Shelly who feature recipes from new cookbooks on many different subjects.  This one is all about Southern cakes.

I want to make one of the cakes in the book for an upcoming birthday.  The cover cake is ambrosia cake and it looks pretty fabulous.  The strawberries-and-cream  cake is also a contender, as is the most requested Southern Living recipe, the hummingbird cake.  Having spent much time in the South, I love red velvet cake, caramel cake and pound cake.  The book has traditional recipes for each of these.  There’s a recipe from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Mama Dip’s carrot cake.  So I look forward to trying a recipe!

Two for Tuesday: Israeli Cookbooks

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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.