Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Highlighting Some of the Fall Cookbooks at Boswell--Amy Thielen, Michael White, Daniel Boulud, Patricia Wells, Alice Waters, and the team of Oretta Zanini De Vita and Maureen B. Fant.

Greg remarked to me yesterday that the laydown for Tuesday, November 12, was smaller than it had been for the last two months. So this gave me a breather to focus on highlighting some fall cookbooks that our buyer Jason featured.

One of the highlights has to be Amy Thielen’s The New Midwest Table. Amy Thielen’s been trained in some of the best professional kitchens in America, including Daniel Boulud’s (featured below). She takes her skills and applies them to the Midwestern dishes she grew up with. The result is a cookbook that’s getting raves from all fronts. I don’t normally list all the quotes I received, but I really can’t resist.

From Lidia Bastianich: "The New Midwestern Table is a book to get excited about. Being more accustomed to regional Italian myself, it is simply wonderful to discover and become engaged in regional American cuisine. Amy's Midwestern table is a richly woven tapestry of nature's bounty, and a tale of the passionate love and gentle care that goes into its preparation. Finding yourself lost in the folds of this culinary story--filled with delicious recipes--is an exciting journey, and one I most certainly recommend."

From Matt Lee and Ted Lee: “We read Amy Thielen's work with the same excitement that readers from outside the South must have felt upon first encountering Edna Lewis and Bill Neal in the 1970s and 1980s, when they learned that Southern cooking was diverse, deeply rooted in the landscape, and compelling. The New Midwestern Table marks the debut of a major new voice in American cooking."

From Jane and Michael Stern: Amy Thielen's beautiful book honors a cuisine that is all too often ignored or disrespected by bicoastal trend seekers: heartland fare that is nourishing in all sorts of ways. To cook from this book is to partake of precious national tradition. To eat from it is to savor food unique to America, with roots all around the world. For the Lace Potato Pancakes recipe alone, The New Midwestern Table earns a prominent place on our shelf of favorites.

For more, here’s an interview with Tom Crann on Minnesota Public Radio.

What a nice-looking book Michael White’s grand Classico E Moderno: Essential Italian Cooking is! Seeing the Ballantine colophon, I recall their cookbook program of about 20 years ago. The books really didn't look that great, and my instinct is to wince, even though that Ballantine (publishing division) really has nothing to do with this one (imprint). That’s ok—I also winced because the Village Voice made the book cookbook of the week, with said the book linked to the A word, partly because they have signed up as an affiliate. It’s an interview with the author, and offers praise for White having a string of restaurants in Manhattan, but it’s not really a review. For that, I turn to the starred write-up in Publishers Weekly, which notes “With 100 exquisite color photos illuminating the natural beauty of the dishes(, this book is a testament to both the importance/influence of Italian cuisine and to the rich and varied experiences its ingredients and tradition still have to offer.”

Keeping with the Italian vibe, Oretta Zanini De Vita and Maureen B. Fant offer Sauces and Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way from W. W. Norton. Norton’s cookbook program director, Maria Guarnaschelli, is said to have never befriended a cookbook that wasn’t bound for bigger things, most notably the James Beard and NAACP awards. Here’s an older article about her and her daughter Alex, a chef in her own right. The new book has also earned a starred Publishers Weekly review: “this manifesto on Italian noodles is meant to provide recipes for home cooks preparing dishes in modern kitchens.” It also got great review from Russ Parsons in the Los Angeles Times: “Spend a little time with Sauces and Shapes and instead of asking why anyone might need yet another pasta cookbook, you might find yourself wondering why you would keep all those others.”

Moving across the continent, we turn to France. We've already mentioned The French Kitchen Cookbook (Morrow), from Patricia Wells, but because her new cookbook is more general than salad or truffles, we’re hoping that we have a longer tale for sales beyond our very successful luncheon partnership with Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro. Though folks dress up in fine dining attire for the Bartolotta lunches and dinners, in other markets, I’m told that alumni from her beloved “At Home with Patricia Wells” cooking school often come decked out in their aprons. If you missed this Journal Sentinel article, Anne Schamberg talks a little food, a little wine, with Wells.

I hope cookbook fans pay attention to more than my blog, as Daniel Boulud was already in Milwaukee, also for an event with Bartolotta Restaurants. I’m sure it was quite the extravaganza, as Boulud is that breed of top-tier celebrity chef who has not lost his cred with the serious foodies. Jay Weston in The Huffington Post writes “This book is his his fourth, but it is the work of a lifetime. Daniel: My French Cuisine (Grand Central), was written in collaboration with Sylvie Bigar, with the Bill Buford essays, and photographs by Thomas Schauer. (There are 125, and they are spectacular!) It costs $60 but it is worth every penny -- and then some. It is part memoir, along with interesting chapters by the chef on wine, bread, cheese, truffles and such, part instruction manual, and is too good to languish on any coffee table.” And just to whet your appetite further, here’s an excerpt from the book in The (Toronto) Globe and Mail.

I should probably note that back when I was at Warner, the predecessor of Grand Central, our cookbooks didn't look that great either. I've really got to get beyond this long publishing memory.

Crossing the pond, we find another master, with Alice Waters presenting The Art of Simple Food II (Potter). I’m not crazy about books presented as sequels; even Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume II, lags volume one, but one day, perhaps next year, Potter can release a very nice boxed set of the two. You don’t want to do that the first year, as that would take away from the bestseller numbers of the book as a stand-alone. The new book offers 200 new recipes that showcase the flavors of her ingredients, particularly vegetables. While Waters has resisted chaining Chez Panisse like so many of her peers, she’s instead become a major voice in food culture, particularly with her Edible Schoolyard project. In the Wall Street Journal, Howie Kahn visits with her and they discuss it all over a little pasta.

You’ll notice that this year we decided not to move the cookbooks to make room for the boxed holiday cards. Instead, we cleared two other displays. It just seemed like too much work, and we couldn’t figure out where to put our fabulous collection of gently-used second hand cookbooks.

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