Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Monday Mix: Fun for Foodies (Part 2)

--by Hanje Richards

Babette's Feast - Some films can only be described as delicious. Written and directed by Gabriel Axel, from a short story by Isak Dinesen, this Oscar-winning film offers "an irresistible mixture of dry wit and robust humanity" (Newsweek). On the desolate coast of Denmark live Martina and Philippa, the beautiful daughters of a devout clergyman who preaches salvation through self-denial. Both girls sacrifice youthful passion to faith and duty, and even many years after their father's death, they keep his austere teachings alive among the townspeople. But with the arrival of Babette, a mysterious refugee from France's civil war, life for the sisters and their tiny hamlet begins to change. Soon, Babette has convinced them to try something truly outrageous — a gourmet French meal! Her feast, of course, scandalizes the local elders. Just who is this strangely talented Babette, who has terrified this pious town with the prospect of losing their souls for enjoying too much earthly pleasure? (DVD)

Kitchen Confidential (Anthony Bourdain) - Chef at New York's Les Halles Bourdain pulls no punches in this memoir of his years in the restaurant business. His fast-lane personality and glee in recounting sophomoric kitchen pranks might be unbearable were it not for two things: Bourdain is as unsparingly acerbic with himself as he is with others, and he exhibits a sincere and profound love of good food. The latter was born on a family trip to France when young Bourdain tasted his first oyster, and his love has only grown since. He has attended culinary school, fallen prey to a drug habit, and even established a restaurant in Tokyo, discovering along the way that the crazy, dirty, sometimes frightening world of the restaurant kitchen sustains him. Bourdain is no presentable TV version of a chef; he talks tough and dirty.

Live, Love, Eat: The Best of Wolfgang Puck (Wolfgang Puck) - The legendary Wolfgang Puck has created his most comprehensive, delectable, and easy-to-use cookbook yet. This book takes its title from his signature catchphrase, which sums up his exuberant approach to cooking and entertaining. Featuring more than 125 of his favorite dishes, this book is an indispensable compilation of the simple, sumptuous recipes from Puck’s world-renowned repertoire. Illustrated throughout with more than 150 color images of finished dishes and close-up how-to shots demonstrating key techniques and tips, this stunning book is a must-have for cooks who share Puck’s passion for fresh, interesting ingredients and creative recipes.

Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook (Anthony Bourdain) - In the ten years since Kitchen Confidential first alerted us to the idiosyncrasies and lurking perils of eating out, much has changed for the subculture of chefs and cooks, for the restaurant business — and for Anthony Bourdain. Tracking his own strange and unexpected voyage from journeyman cook to globe-traveling professional eater and drinker, and even to fatherhood, Bourdain takes no prisoners as he dissects what he's seen, pausing along the way for a series of confessions, rants, investigations, and interrogations of some of the most controversial figures in food. Beginning with a secret and highly illegal after-hours gathering of powerful chefs that he compares to a mafia summit, Bourdain pulls back the curtain — on the modern gastronomical revolution. Bourdain sets his sights on some of the biggest names in the foodie world, including David Chang, the young superstar chef who has radicalized the fine-dining landscape; the revered Alice Waters, whom he treats with unapologetic frankness; the Top Chef winners and losers; and many more.
Mostly Martha - Martha (Martina Gedeck), the domineering chef at a fancy restaurant, has her rigid routine broken when her sister dies in a car wreck, leaving behind her 9-year-old daughter Lina (Maxime Foerste). Martha takes the girl in, but has no gift for maternal expression; she offers Lina food, but Lina refuses to eat. Meanwhile, her control over her kitchen is threatened when her boss hires a buoyant Italian named Mario (Sergio Castellitto) to assist, and Martha finds herself flailing in an effort to reestablish control of her life. (DVD)
Murder Most Delectable: Savory Tales of Culinary Crimes (edited by Martin Harry Greenberg) - An 18-course feast for crime fans, this book brings together the tastiest tales of epicures most evil. Renowned writers like Joyce Carol Oates (exploring a relationship that "leaves a sour taste in one's mouth"), Rex Stout (and the redoubtable Nero Wolfe, in "Poison à la Carte"), and Ruth Rendell ("The Case of Shaggy Caps") offer up stories that memorably combine a love of food with a talent for wickedness.

My Kitchen Wars (Betty Fussell) - A war story, but the warrior is a woman, and the battleground is the kitchen. Her weapons — the batterie de cuisine of grills and squeezers and knives — evoke a lifelong need to make dinner, love, and war. With these implements, Betty Fussell pries open the past, giving voice to a generation of women whose stories were shaped but also silenced by an era of global conflict, from World War II to Vietnam. This is also a love story, as Fussell is liberated from the tyrannical Puritanism of her family by a veteran of the "Good War," a young writer named Paul Fussell. But in the role of bride, Fussell finds herself captive as faculty wife and mother. She hungers for both a life of the mind and carnal pleasures. Her inner war to unite body and intellect brings down the marriage, in a denouement as brutal as the whack of a cleaver. Yet Fussell, however bloodied, emerges to cook another dinner and to tell this blackly comic tale.

My Life in France (Julia Child) - Julia Child singlehandedly awakened America to the pleasures of good cooking with her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and her television show The French Chef, but as she reveals in this bestselling memoir, she didn't know the first thing about cooking when she landed in France. Indeed, when she first arrived in 1948 with her husband, Paul, she spoke no French and knew nothing about the country itself. But as she dove into French culture, buying food at local markets and taking classes at the Cordon Bleu, her life changed forever. Julia's unforgettable story unfolds with the spirit so key to her success as as a cook and teacher and writer, brilliantly capturing one of the most endearing American personalities of the last fifty years.

A Pig in Provence: Good Food and Simple Pleasures in the South of France (Georgeanne Brennan) - Brennan moved to Provence in 1970, seeking a simpler life. She set off on her many adventures in Provençale cuisine by tracking down a herd of goats, a cool workshop, some rennet, and the lost art of making fresh goat cheese. From this first effort throughout her time in Provence, Brennan transformed from novice fromagère to renowned, James Beard Foundation Award-winning cookbook author and food writer. This is the story of how Brennan fell in love with Provence. But it’s also the story of making a life beyond the well-trodden path and the story of how food can unite a community. In loving detail, Brennan tells of the herders who maintain a centuries-old grazing route, of the community feast that brings a town to one table, and of the daily rhythms and joys of living by the cycles of food and nature.

Ratatouille - Our hero is Remy, a French rat (voiced by Patton Oswalt) with a cultivated palate, who rises from his humble beginnings to become head chef at a Paris restaurant. How this happens is the stuff of Pixar magic, that ineffable blend of headlong comedy, seamless technology, and wonder. (DVD)

Rosa Mexicano (Josefina Howard) - No one knows Mexican food — or Mexico — like Josefina Howard. Her Rosa Mexicano is not only rated by Zagat's as the top Mexican restaurant in New York, its fare is honored by Mexicans themselves. Cooks who have seen her on PBS, CNN, the Television Food Network, and Martha Stewart Living have longed to re-create her mouth-watering dishes at home. Now they can. Overflowing with Josefina's passion for Mexican culture and cuisine, her vibrant snatches of personal memoir and social history, and her own award-winning color photographs, Rosa Mexicano is the fruit of a lifetime love affair with a country and far outshines mere cookbooks.

Seasons of My Heart: A Culinary Journey Through Oaxaca, Mexico (Susana Trilling) - Nestled in the heart of the Mexican state of Oaxaca is Rancho Aurora, home of the Seasons of My Heart cooking school and inn. Ten years ago, chef and owner Susana Trilling left New York City and a very successful catering business to follow what turned out to be her calling — to immerse herself in the foods, culture, and traditions of this remote and exotic region of Mexico and share her knowledge with the rest of the world. From Dona Josefa Sanchez's empanadas de betabel (beet empanadas), served to hungry shoppers at the Etla market in the Central Valleys, to the darkly luscious and mysterious Mole Negro Oaxaqueno (Oaxacan black mole) from the bustling heart of Oaxaca City, cooked up in quantity for the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), to a tamale-making session given by the locally infamous Candida Blas Aguilar in the sleepy Isthmus region — this is truly a culinary journey through the heart and soul of Oaxaca.
Serve It Forth (M.F.K. Fisher) - In this, her her first book, M. F. K. Fisher takes readers on an animated journey through culinary history, beginning with the honey-loving Greeks and the immoderate Romans. Fisher recalls a hunt for snails and truffles with one of the last adepts in that art and recounts how Catherine de Medici, lonely for home cooking, touched off a culinary revolution by bringing Italian chefs to France. Each essay makes clear the absolute firmness of Fisher's taste — contrarian and unique — and her skill at stirring memory and imagination into a potent brew.
Taming the Wild Mushroom: A Culinary Guide to Market Foraging (Arleen Rainis Bessette) - This is one of the first cooking guides devoted exclusively to choosing and preparing the mushroom species now available in many grocery stores, supermarkets, and natural and whole foods markets. A dozen wild and cultivated species are covered in the book, including White Button, King Bolete, Oyster, Chanterelle, Morel, Paddy Straw, Wood Ear, Shiitake, Enokitake, White Matsutake, Black Truffle, and Wine-cap Stropharia. Easy-to-understand descriptions and excellent color photographs of each species help market foragers choose mushrooms in peak condition. Fifty-seven original, species-specific recipes, from appetizers, soups, and salads to meat and vegetarian entrees to sauces and accompaniments, offer dozens of ways to savor the familiar and exotic flavors of these mushrooms. A mouth-watering photograph accompanies each recipe.
Woman on Top - When Isabella decides to break free from her rocky marriage and move to San Francisco, she discovers the perfect recipe for coming out on top — her own hit TV cooking show. But when her producer (Mark Feuerstein, What Women Want) falls in love and her ex-husband (Murilo Benicio) comes to town to win her affection back, who knows which man will end up on the bottom? (DVD)