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Gift Ingredients for Your Food Lover

A mix of playing, eating, reading, and cooking

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Some people like to cook, some eat. Then there are those who simply love food. They talk, shop, read, study, cook and play with food.

For the players there is a new game out this season, but this is for the authentic gastronome -- the person who knows that the real name for the hen of the woods mushroom is maitake and nervous pudding is diner slang for Jello. Foodie Fight: A Trivia Game with game boards and cards ($18.95) is a sure bet. Some questions may seem unanswerable, such as the ones about BBC food shows that are not broadcast here in the United States; others are the simplistic true or false, red or white wine type questions. But most are aimed at anyone with a fairly comprehensive knowledge of the food and restaurant industry. Like most trivia games, though, guessing is often more entertaining that getting it right.

For the localvore on your list -- that person who cares that California tomatoes travel over 2000 miles to get on our area grocers shelves -- consider giving the gift of local produce. Many of our area local farmers have Community Supported Agriculture shares where members receive weekly allotments of the produce harvested that week. Prices are responsible and the boxes give a better appreciation to what is in season in the Piedmont. (Get those okra recipes ready for August.) If one CSA share is too much food, an individual can always split it with another friend -- a gift that keeps on giving. Many of the CSA farmers have waiting lists; others are accepting new members. New area farms are being created as well. But now is the time to apply. For more information go to: www.localharvest.org.

Food books, too, have different readers. Some cookbooks are for professional chefs while others are written for the home cook. What follows is a group of books aimed at various food lovers: cooks and eaters alike:

• New Charlottean, chef and author "bread-head" Peter Reinhart responds to the question of "if whole grains breads are better for us, why don't we eat them" with his newest book Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavors. Reinhart reasons that if whole grain breads tasted better, people would come into the fold -- so to speak. Reinhart has expanded his innovative delayed fermentation method in this cookbook, which is appropriate for any baker from the novice to the expert. His 55 test-tasted formulas, in small batch recipes for the home baker, include enriched and heart breads, as well as flatbreads, such as whole wheat and multigrain pizza dough, pita, naan, parathas, and injera. His book is filled with helpful facts and discussions about bread, its preparation, and his personal journey to this "new frontier."

Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavors by Peter Reinhart (Ten Speed Press, 320 pages, $35).

• For 84 years, The New Yorker was home to such legendary food writers as M.F.K. Fisher and A.J. Liebling. Secret Ingredients is an anthology of this crisp writing. Included in this collection are the works of Fisher, Calvin Trillin, Anthony Bourdain, Roald Dahl's renowned "Taste," as well as humorous interludes provided by classic New Yorker cartoons (two guys on a deserted island with fish bones strew around them and one asks: "If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?"), a comparison of two menus by Steve Martin and Woody Allen on dieting the Dostoevsky way. Esoteric? Yes, at times. But anyone, gastronome or merely curious, would enjoy Peter Hessler's culinary adventures in Quangdong province in China in his "A Rat in my Soup." He tried both the small and large rat, by the way.

Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink edited by David Remnick (Random House, 582 pages, $30).

• While The United States of Arugula: The Sun-Dried, Cold-Pressed, Dark-Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution is David Kamp's fascinating, yet gossipy, look at how the United States has come to this point in its culinary history, his new quick read, Food Snob's Dictionary is filled with arcane knowledge from Affiniage to Zest. Included are such lists as "Faux Food Snobbery: Six Foods that Non-Snobs Mistakenly Believe are Snobworthy" and "Six Things Food Snobs Like Even Though They're Not Supposed to."

The Food Snob's Dictionary: An Essential Lexicon of Gastronomical Knowledge by David Kamp and Marion Rosenfeld (Broadway Books, $12.95).

• "Good food can only come from good ingredients. Its proper price includes the cost of preserving the environment and paying fairly for the labor of the people who produce it. Food should never be taken for granted," writes Alice Waters, now at the head of a revolution that she had assumed was the way any relationship with food and eating would be: simple. Her newest cookbook The Art of Simple Food is aimed at the beginning cook and includes tips on stocking a pantry and mastering the fundamentals. Her philosophy that a great cook does not need a culinary degree, but an accomplished sense of taste and the ability to choose the freshest ingredients resonates throughout these 250 everyday recipes. Many new cooks want to have pictures of the dishes created -- this cookbook has none -- but it's not how it looks, it's how it tastes.

The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution by Alice Waters (Clarkson Potters, 406 pages, $35).

Have a restaurant tip, compliment, complaint? Do you know of a restaurant that has opened, closed, or should be reviewed? Does your restaurant or shop have news, menu changes, new additions to staff or building, upcoming cuisine or wine events? Note: We need events at least 12 days in advance. Fax information to Eaters' Digest: 704-944-3605, or leave voice mail: 704-522-8334, ext. 136.

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