Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What Happened at the Wisconsin Restaurant Show Yesterday, Plus What Happens Today, Plus a Foodie Narrative Roundup.

Set up is from 7 to 10:45 AM. I got there at about 8. First of all, I brought too many books! Second of all, it's hard to sort them all out. Third of all, we had that panicky moment when we think we're going to run out of the author's books at the event. Eh, I have that moment a lot, even though we usually have enough.

Featured author Andrew Zimmern headlined Monday's show. His book The Bizarre Truth: Culinary Misadventures Around the Globe* is now in paperback. Remember, Zimmern's show "Bizarre Foods" airs on the Travel Channel, so it's more of a narrative than a cookbook. And I'm not sure that you'd want these recipes of the exotica tackled in the show--cow vein stew from Bolivia, giant flying ants in Uganda, raw camel kidneys of Ethiopia, and putrefied shark in blood pudding from Iceland.

That said, his demo was for mouth-watering Chinese Street Food. He offered recipes for wok tossed, twice cooked, crispy salt and pepper shrimp, as well as back ribs with black beans and green onions, a popular dish of central and northern China.

Today's demo is for Wine Bar Food, from Kenosha's Mangia Trattoria and Chicago's acclaimed Italian restaurant Spiaggia. The book travels the world to ten iconic cities, offering about ten dishes per market, along with wine pairings and sections on cured meats, cheeses, and pantry items for each (I'm paraphrasing here). The focus is on Italy, home of half the cities covered, with the rest being Mediterranean-esue (Athens, Barcelona). An interesting aside--Spiaggia is at least part-owned by Levy Restaurants, who also does the food service for the Frontier Center, home of this convention.

Our non-event bestseller so far is no surprise; signed copies of Life, on the Line, from Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas. I talked to one culinary student (the convention was heavy with students, as there was a competition going on) who dreamed of moving to Chicago to work at Alinea. I'm sure that's not an uncommon dream!

Some other foodie* books that we took to the event:

Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, by Gabrielle Burton. The making of a chef/owner, in this case, of Prune in the East Village of New York. I guess Burton's trajectory was a bit unorthodox; instead of culinary school, she started out by waiting tables. This book came out of nowhere for me--now that I'm not buying, I don't always know what kind of marketing money is thrown at which books, but an attendee came up to me at the show and said, "That book is a pick on Amazon." Thanks!

Scars of a Chef: The Searing Story of a Top Chef Marked Forever by the Grit and Grace of Life in the Kitchen, by Rick Tramonto, with Lisa Jackson (yes, the romance writer). I remember him from Tru, which was his restaurant with Gale Gand, his first wife, but his restaurants now include Traamonto Steak and Seafood, and Osteria di Tramonto. You wouldn't think I would have much in common an acclaimed chef, but we both started our culinary careers at Wendy's. I detoured. SaltRiver, his publisher, is an imprint of Tyndale, so the book is squarely Christian in focus, with Tramonto counting T. D. Jakes as one of his inspirations.

Knives at Dawn: America's Quest for Culinary Glory at the Bocuse D'Or, the World's Most Prestigious Cooking Competition. Now out in paperback, Andrew Friedman's chronicle of one year of the Bocuse D'Or competition, focusing on Timothy Hollingsworth, the American entrant from the French Laundry. It's foodie manna, though like many of these narratives--read more in my blog on the hardcover, back from November 2009.

Plus lots and lots of pretty cookbooks.

*The publisher changed the subtitle for the paperback. I do think it's an improvement over the hardcover, which was "How I Walked Out the Door Mouth First... and Came Back Shaking My Head."

**Appropriate, as the show is co-sponsored by Wisconsin Foodie.

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