Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City Series were some of my favorite books in my late teen years. My mother introduced me to the books, which in turn introduced me to a world much more interesting than my own. For those of you who are unfamiliar with them, the books are a series based on a column written by Maupin for the San Francisco Chronicle in the seventies. Honey, these books and columns are the original Sex and the City - a fun and risque portrait of a city and those that inhabit it without any superficial obsessions with Choos and Blahniks (don't get me wrong, I will always watch Sex and the City reruns). The original series has six books and chronicles the lives of a varied group of individuals living a funky apartment in San Francisco in the 70's and 80's. The three main characters are: Mary Ann Singleton, a conventional young twenty something who just moved to San Francisco from Ohio, Michael "Mouse" Tolliver, a somewhat flamboyant gay man and Anna Madrigal, the mysterious and kooky older woman that is the landlady at 28 Barbary Lane, where everyone lives (her welcome gift to new tenants is a joint). There are more characters in the original series, but this 2010 novel, Mary Ann in Autumn focused on those three. I guess by reviewing this new novel I am telling all of who that have not yet please go out and read the original six novels - they are fun and quirky and addictive! For this quintessential San Francisco author I made two quintessential San Francisco dishes (at least they are so to a girl from Boston!) - fresh Sourdough bread and Cioppino. The Sourdough bread is a bit time intensive and requires planning, and the Cioppino is the opposite - you will only need 30 minutes a bunch of the best fresh seafood local to you.
Looking for something a little more interesting than beer to drink with your football? Looking for an alternative to a bloody mary that isn't so strong with vodka? Let me introduce you to the Micheleda. This is a spicy beer cocktail that is popular in Northern Mexico according to the internet. I had this the other night after coming in from watching a hockey game outside at Fenway Park. Needless to say I was a bit chilly, and this spicy concoction of beer and spicy seasonings really warmed me up quick but didn't knock me out, as cocktails tend to do these days. The recipe after the jump.
Hey Y'all. Are any of you fans of Friday Night Lights? I know I am waay late to the party here, but during the holidays, after a facebook friend posted that she had become addicted to Friday Nights Lights, I decided I would watch one episode on Amazon Instant Video, since many people have told me before how good it was. Well, that one episode turned into me obsessively watching episode after episode on my computer over the next few weeks, like an addict, finally stopping when I had finished all 5 seasons. Nothing like this has really happened to me before with TV (except for when I was catching up with Lost 3 seasons in), but it was very much like that feeling when you open a bag of potato chips, have a few, then find yourself unable to put the bag away until all the chips are gone. For those of you that don't know, the show is about a small Texas town that is football obsessed (based upon the movie of the same name). The focus of the series is Coach Eric Taylor and his amazing awesome wife Tami Taylor, commonly referred to as Mrs. Coach. (Who, by the way, uses the phrase "Hey Y'all" a hell of a lot, as hilariously documented here on youtube). If you are not a football fan, don't worry - football is just a small
part of the show. I really fell in love with the show because
the characters - both the Taylors and all the football players and their families - and the acting is so great. Since we are in the heat of NFL playoffs I thought making a Friday Night Lights inspired dish made sense. One thing they eat a lot of on the show is BBQ, throughout the five seasons it was a real constant. A Texas specialty in the BBQ category is brisket, so I decided to make an oven BBQ brisket. I am very familiar with cooking brisket in the Jewish Grandmother way (onion soup mix, Heinz Chili Sauce) and have never made it any other way. This spicy and smoky version from The Homesick Texan was a nice change and a great dish for your playoff or Super Bowl party (Go Pats!)
What would it be like if Narnia actually existed? And what would you do if you were able to get there? That is what Lev Grossman imagines in his novel The Magicians. Grossman takes his inspiration from both Harry Potter and the Narnia series and then makes those worlds more real, gritty and adult - this isn't a kids book. The focus of the story is Quentin, a very smart but miserable teenager from Brooklyn who is about to embark on the college admissions process. After the man that was supposed to interview him from Princeton drops dead, he is suddenly thrust into another world - a magical school called Brakekbills. The obvious inspiration is Hogwarts, but Brakebills has much more in common I would say with the prestigious small liberal arts college that dot the Northeast than with Harry Potter's alma matter. The kids at Brakebills must go through a grueling entrance exam to be admitted, and once they are in the curriculum is equally as rigorous. What Grossman really shows in The Magicians is that magic is difficult - it is not just a flick of a wand and a few choice phrases - it requires extensive and painstaking education and training in order to be used properly. Grossman's depiction of the difficulty of learning magic is to some extent the inspiration for this dish - a red wine and mushroom risotto. If you have made it before, you know that risotto is a dish that also demands a lot of the cook - it must be made slowly and carefully so that the rice that you start with magically turns creamy and rich, still with a little bite, rather than a paste like blob. I was also inspired by the fancy tastes of the Brakebills kids - they often made big complicated dinners, accompanied by lots of very good red wine, and this is the kind of dish they would make. Finally, rather than the traditional risotto which is fortified with white wine, I thought a red wine risotto would reflect the mysterious and dark features of the book. More about the book and the risotto after the jump.
Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce you to the Hemingway Daiquiri. When I think daiquiri, I think something made with crushed ice and it is usually bright pink and it is something I order when I am in a tropical place. It probably has a little umbrella sticking out of it, right? Well a classic daiquiri is just lime juice, sugar, and white rum. This daiquiri got its name, allegedly, because this was Ernest Hemingway's drink of choice at La Floridita, a famous Havana bar. What makes it different than the original daiquiri is the addition of grapefruit juice and maraschino liquor. The maraschino liquor is used instead of sugar, it adds sweetness because it is liquor made of cherries, but it has a very sharp edge as well. I like this drink because although it is labelled a "daiquiri" I don't think of it as a tropical drink - it is a little sweet, but equally tart and you don't lose the alcohol in here. I don't know about where you are, but where I am the weather is pretty dark and dreary. This is a great little cocktail to give you a little pick up and even better it makes use of the beautiful pink grapefruits that are in season now. Enjoy.
If you add a whole bunch of Kale to a baked pasta dish with cheese, does that make it healthy and resolution appropriate? How about if you use lower fat cheese? And whole wheat pasta? Ok. Here is a "healthy" baked pasta dish that is both delicious and not too bad for you. Would it be on a cleanse diet menu? Nope. Does it have carbs? Obviously. But, it allows you to be good to yourself by eating some healthy greens and whole grains and also good to yourself by eating pasta and cheese. This recipe is from the faultless (in my humble opinion) Martha Stewart. It is a great dish to make on a Sunday because it makes a lot of pasta and can serve as leftovers for the next week. The recipe is after the jump.
For Brunonia Barry's The Map of True Places I decided to do something different. As you may have noticed, this is not a picture of some yummy dish, but instead a colonial looking house. It is the House of Seven Gables of Nathanial Hawthorne fame and it is in Salem, Massachusetts. Although every once in a while I do read a book about the Boston area (where I live) until this week's book, which is set in Salem, Massachusetts, I have not really been inspired to get in the car and walk in the footsteps of the characters of the book. But Salem is a such central character in The Map of True Places I felt compelled to grab a friend and head to Salem last weekend. The Map of True Places is about a 30 something woman who is a psychiatrist in Boston that is forced to move back home to Salem to take care of her ill father and confront the issues of her past. Her name is Zee, short for Hepzibah, who was a central character in Hawthorne's The House of Seven Gables. Zee's father Finch is a Hawthorne scholar and she grew up across the street from The House of Seven Gables (pictured above) which is where Hawthorne grew up and set one of his novels. So this week's post will feature some photos of Salem as well as review of a well known Salem restaurant, Finz, which also was featured in the book.