The United States is now the world’s largest consumer of wine, albeit we drink but a piddling amount per capita.
Still, wine has been made in every state of the union for the last decade. President Barack Obama has a thousand bottles in his cellar back in Chicago. The nation’s official dietary guidelines recommend a glass of wine a day for good health. And, yet, only a quarter of Americans drink wine at all, let alone with dinner.
Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg want to change that, with their ninth book, “The Food Lover’s Guide to Wine.”
They’ve added a few new tricks to their repertoire. There’s a list of 250 wines (varieties, origins) complete with flavor profile, recommended pairings and best producers, so you’ll never be intimidated by a wine list or wine shop again.
Page and Dornenburg have their own heroes: the sommeliers who recommend specific bottles to restaurant-goers — not the ones who look down their noses because you can’t pronounce “Montepulciano,” not the ones who look at the brand of wristwatch you’re wearing to gauge how much you’re going to spend, but the ones who truly care, who see themselves not just as salespeople but as guides on an exciting tour of the world’s vineyards.
No less than the chefs, it’s the sommeliers who will guide us to a better future.
New York City’s a tough place to live. It’s crowded; it’s hectic; it’s expensive. When you’re on deadline, you order in. Fortunately, there’s a wide array of cuisines, everything from Mexican to Indian, from Italian to Thai. And, of course, the busy writers have a glass or two with dinner.
And what’s in the bottle? “Well, we’re always running out of Riesling,” Page confides.
“Food Lover’s Guide to Wine,” Little Brown, $35.
Spreading the gospel
In the beginning, there was the deity, Julia Child herself, who cooked upon the earth and saw that it was good. Now come the apostles: Michael (Pollan), Mark (Bittman), Bill (Buford) and another Michael (Ruhlman), even Uncle Harold (McGee) — all journalists who spread the gospel of good food.
¦ Michael Ruhlman
Ruhlman, the boyish author of ruhlman.com, is one of the country’s leading food philosophers, with a single, simple message: The world would be a better place if you were to cook your own food.
Bittman, at NYTimes.com, may
have a bigger platform, Pollan has a catchier business card (“Eat Real Food”) and McGee’s been around longer, but Ruhlman’s got the science of food (as well as its basic message) down to a science.
Ruhlman became a cook by attending the Culinary Institute of America in order to write “The Making of a Chef.” Since then, starting with “The French Laundry Cookbook,” he’s written a string of culinary standards that mix theory and practice (“The Soul of a Chef,” “The Elements of Cooking,” “Ratio”). And he keeps writing, turning out books about esoteric, non-culinary subjects like wooden boats and pediatric surgery.
The latest volume is called “Ruhlman’s 20.” It breaks cooking down into a series of techniques, starting with the most fundamental of fundamentals: Think.
Why? Well, Ruhlman says, if you don’t think for yourself, you’ll be a slave forever to incomprehensible recipes on index cards.
“Recipes are not instruction manuals,” Ruhlman writes. “They’re like sheet music, written descriptions of acts that are infinitely nuanced.”
The second item is salt, which has become a bugaboo in much of today’s nit-picking, self-absorbed, too-delicate-to-eat-real-food society. Then the rest of the culinary basics: water, onions, eggs, butter, doughs and batters, vinaigrettes, sauces, soups and so on.
Ruhlman was in Seattle recently to promote his new book, and I had lunch with him at Sazerac. “I left out one important tool,” he said over tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. “Microorganisms. Yeasts. The bacteria that cause fermentation in charcuterie and cheese.”
He’ll catch up on the leftovers with a series of shorter volumes for Chronicle Books, perhaps publishing direct-to-Kindle.
The most important thing: making the world a better place by eating less industrial food and more food cooked at home. “Cooking brings people together. It’s less expensive. It’s better for our bodies, our families, our animals and our land,” he said.
“Ruhlman’s 20,” Chronicle Books, $40.
No attitude here
John Howie’s elegant “Passion & Palate” handsomely showcases favorite recipes from Howie’s two Seastar restaurants and
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