World Cuisine

where chefs eatWhen my lovely daughter, Hillary was a Malibu pre-teen, I gave her what I thought was a total slam-dunk-she-is-going-to adore-it-Christmas present: A beanbag sofa in the shape of a large sneaker bought from the Neiman Marcus catalog. Fortunately, Neiman’s has always been gracious about returns, but my daughter still hesitates before she opens a gift from me. Bill and I on the other hand bask in the unexpected delights of her choices… though, how does one carry a 1000 page book (in small print yet) in a back pocket?

Please understand, this is not just your ordinary gift book; this is a bible - a primer from the Real Experts, and it is Where Chefs Eat: A Guide to Chefs' Favorite Restaurants (2015).

The cover is a visually busy almanac-styled side show tent chock full of promises: “Where to Eat, When to Go, What to Order, From more than 600 of the best chefs, From Fast Food to Haute Cuisine, A Truly Global Guide, Expert Local Knowledge. Forget the restaurant guides compiled by a panel of mysterious experts, this international guide is by the real insiders, over 600 of the world’s leading chefs. From Late-Night Hangouts to … (but we will never know as there is a big faux sticker saying … Brand New) If that is not enough to stuff this tome of tomes in one’s back pocket, try cruising the contents. Oh Boy, this beats the original Preppy Handbook for feeling in the know!

I mean, really, I know all the cool spots in Auckland, Shanghai, London, Berlin, Estonia, Latvia and The Russian Federation, Cyprus, Istanbul, West Hollywood and Tanzania – just to name a few. So, if you want to name drop where Daniel Boulud, David Chang or René Redzepi or Yotam Ottolenghi hang, then this book is for you… and you… and you. (OMG It even has maps!)

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texmexcookbookPlease join us for a mucho dog-gone fantastico Tex-Mex BBQ Fiesta! Bill and I are having a party. So far, so good. But, how can I guarantee a dog-gone fantastico meal in Palm Beach when I need a genuine dog-gone Texan to prepare it. Count me out; I grew up in California where Mexican cuisine actually looks pretty and healthy. Not so, Texas. I need someone who understands brown – not green.

The Homesick Texan Cookbook - by the real purdy Lisa Fain - to the rescue. Firstly, I appreciate anyone who “after a fruitless search for tastes of Texas in New York City, takes matters into her own hands.” Secondly the dishes in her ‘own hands’ are wonderful!

Let’s cut to the chase; if you want to cook The Homesick Texan way, you can probably avoid buying cactus but you cannot avoid finding a source for Ro-Tel, a “spiced up can of tomatoes and chiles that is a standard ingredient in any Texan’s larder.” With the above-mentioned Ro-Tel tomatoes you can produce the perfect Chile con Queso. ‘Nuf said. That and a kitchen filled with iron skillets and a thorough knowledge of chiles, starts the delicious trek back to Texas and Tex-Mex heaven.

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lastchef2.jpgLong before I was a cooker, I was a reader and a writer. I was one of those kids who had to be told not to read at the dinner table, and I was writing “novels” on my red Olivetti Valentine typewriter in fourth grade. The reading and eating experiences are paralell for me insofar as I reject “junk” in both areas of my life (most of the time).  This doesn’t mean that I am re-reading all of Shakespeare on a monthly basis, any more than I eat nothing but seared Ahi tuna and flageolets with shaved truffles. I read all of the Twilight books, I read mysteries as an escape when I am stressed, and I used to enjoy the odd Cheeto and french fry before they were banned from consumption in this life. Mostly, though, as I prefer a well-prepared meal with beautiful, whole ingredients, I prefer a well-written book with beautiful, thoughtful ideas.  After consuming either of these, I am well nourished.

I first heard about The Last Chinese Chef on “The Splendid Table,” when author Nicole Mones was interviewed by host Lynne Rosetto Kasper. I was intrigued by the discussion about “real” Chinese food, the Chinese food that we rarely see in this country, and about the emphasis on characteristics like texture for the sake of texture.

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srirachacookbook2.jpgI would love to take a moment to review The Sriracha Cookbook that arrived last January. I would also like to take a moment to tell you how much I love the book. But I can’t. I won’t. Why? Because I’m too busy stuffing my face with this recipe.

Let’s say this will be the shortest book review in Mattbites’ history. I’m going to be lazy and point you to what others have said about Randy Clemons’ book appropriately titled The Sriracha Cookbook from Ten Speed Press.

(It’s a fantastic cookbook, and if you’re crazy for the flavors of that certain chili sauce then you really need the book. Really. It’s wonderful.)

But about this pork. Oh damn, this pork. Forget calling this  “slow-cooked”: you’ll need an overnight brine plus an additional 12 hours of cooking time. Let’s try “half-a-day-cooked-but-well-worth-the-time-invested”, ok?  But Randy lets us know there are no shortcuts to these types of flavors and he’s right–it’s worth it. 

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noodleseveryday.jpgNoodles Every Day features quick and easy recipes. For these recipes you will need the basics of an Asian pantry which are explained in detail in an early chapter. All are available at an Asian grocery store or online. However a few recipes have some more exotic ingredients like garland chrysanthemum leaves or silver pin noodles. All the recipes are titled descriptively so Pad Thai becomes Stir-Fried Rice Sticks with Tamarind Sauce, Dried Shrimp, Tofu, Sprouts, and Eggs.

Over the years I've had very good luck with author Corinne Trang's recipes and this book is no exception. Her Somen Noodles with Shrimp Curry and Peas uses less than 10 ingredients and is the perfect kind of one pot meal you'll likely be able to make with peas and shrimp in your freezer and without a trip to the store. The book is divided into sections based on the type of noodle you are using--egg, rice, buckwheat, etc. and it also has a section on buns, dumplings and spring rolls.

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