Kate picks gifts for Father's Day and Graduation, offers comments on idiots of the future, recommends some good culinary reads and presents recipes for June, including Emily Luchetti's berry desserts.
by Kate Heyhoe
An Electric Wine Opener, Stubb's Bar-B-Q Cookbook, or a Panini Grill...give them something they can actually use and enjoy! We give these products our seal of approval. Find out more about these great gifts below.
I finally found a wine opener that works the way I want it to: effortlessly and stylishly. The Oster Inspire Electric Wine Opener is cordless and rechargeable, and each charge lasts for nearly three dozen openings. Simply hold the opener over the neck, press the down button, hold the bottle to keep it from spinning, and the corkscrew drills down into the cork; keep holding the button and it will spin the cork all the way up and out of the bottle. To remove the cork from the screw, press another button and it twirls right off. It took me one or two tries to get the method down pat, but now it's completely brainless. The unit comes with a foil cutter, which tucks neatly into the charging unit, and a snazzy stainless thermal chiller, to keep your whites cool.
This book instantly sold tens of thousands of copies in it's first month. Stubb was famous for his sauces and his recipes, and the story of his life will leave a smile on your face. Give it as a gift, and make sure you're invited to enjoy the lip-smackin' ribs, potato salad, and deep-smoked brisket that come out of it. Sample the recipes and read more about The Stubb's Bar-B-Q Cookbook (by yours truly).
The Perfect Panini: Hot, slightly crisp, grilled sandwiches are all the rage. The VillaWare UNO Panini Grill whips them up in minutes, and grills chicken, steaks, and other foods as well. The hinge opens up to a hefty 3-inch height, and gooey cheese slips cleanly off the nonstick surface. It also stands upright for storage.
Headlines about global warming, e.coli in spinach, and tainted pet food are enough to make anyone gag. But here's a tongue-in-cheek remedy: In Mike Judge's 2006 cult film Idiocracy, the smartest humans are so busy being brilliant, they're not procreating, thus leaving their dimwitted brethren to breed like rabbits. By the year 2505, the smartest people on the planet have an IQ no higher than 80, and when something breaks, they're not smart enough to fix it. Furthermore, every ad slogan becomes the gospel truth. So when a Gatorade-like sports drink claims to be "better than water," they pump it into drinking fountains, faucets and, yes, even irrigation systems. Crops die, a dust bowl forms, and it takes an average guy (Luke Wilson) to time-travel in from the year 2005 to restore water and fundamental intelligence to this global village of idiots. Director Judge is making less of a statement about the future than he is about the present, and though the film (now on DVD) may be a tad uneven, it's worth viewing just to see the concept captured so deftly. You'll feel like an uber-genius, and understand why the term "idiocracy" has become a trendy buzzword of the brilliant.
Among other things, A Movable Feast reminds us that empires may come and go, but foods embody the artifacts of history, the conduits of culture, and the controlling currency of the powerful. For instance, jump back about 100 years to discover historical tidbits echoing Idiocracy. By the early 1900s, Upton Sinclair's book The Jungle and U.S. Pure Food Law advocates had put the nation on notice about the safety of meat. As their sales dwindled, meat sellers took the offensive. "Their counterattack often exhibited moments of sheer brilliance," according to A Movable Feast. The Nathan's Famous Hotdogs founder "hired young men in surgeons' smocks with stethoscopes dangling from their necks to gather round his cart and eat his sandwiches throughout the day." White Castle's hamburgers were made from "Government-Inspected Beef" and served in gleaming white restaurants with porcelain white interiors, suggesting safe eating and cleanliness, inside and out.
Another chapter points out that Muslim and Buddhist spiritual leaders initially embraced coffee and tea as aids to all-night spiritual chants, quickly spreading these habits throughout the Middle and Far East, and ultimately the rest of the world (and, I might add, to the icon of modern life, the almighty Starbucks).
This very readable book traces the path of the global food basket, from hunters and gatherers to genetically altered tomatoes, with a final peek into the future. In today's world, where unbelievable food crises continue to loom large, A Movable Feast will give you plenty of food for thought and issues to chew on throughout the summer and beyond.
More tasteful memoir than scandalous tell-all (oh, heck!), White House Chef: Eleven Years, Two Presidents, One Kitchen charts chef Walter Scheib's journey, from the initial job interview with Hillary Clinton to his final dismissal by Laura Bush (1994-2005).
But it's not completely white-washed. Juicy tidbits reveal prickly personalities and peculiar passions. Every First Family puts its own stamp on the White House image, from fashion to food. Mrs. Clinton wanted to highlight the best and most unique aspects of American food, wine and entertaining, with an emphasis on fresh, healthful menus. Scheib (with co-author Andrew Friedman) says Mrs. Bush wanted food "that was 'generous, flavorful, and identifiable.' She didn't want ingredients cut so finely that you couldn't discern one from another, or to see foods piled one on top of the other in architectural fashion." From this passage, one can almost see the writing on the wall.
In the end, Scheib leaves his job with grace (and relief, it seems), passing the toque to his brightest assistant, Cristeta Comerford, the first woman to hold the job. The recipes reflect the diverse tastes of these two administrations, ranging from the Clinton dinner for Boris Yeltsin, Vodka-Marinated Salmon with Cucumber Salad and Kasha Pilaf, to the Bushes' down home daily fare of Texas Green Chile and Hominy Casserole.
Does anyone need convincing that berries are good to eat? Drop-dead delicious, sublimely nutritious, and beautiful on the plate, berries seem to embody pure joy. Emily Luchetti, Executive Pastry Chef at Farallon in San Francisco, puts summer berries on the pedestal they deserve. Besides blending perfectly with Farallon's menu, her recipes are fast and easy to make for any summer evening at home: Bountiful Berry Compote with Buttermilk Ice Cream, Red Berry-White Chocolate Trifle, and Very Berry Sodas.
From cool and fresh, to hot and spicy...
Copyright © 2007, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created June 2007
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Oxford Companion to Wine
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