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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lattbook.jpgToday I spent an hour at Barnes and Noble browsing through the cookbooks. The ones that seemed most interesting to me featured cooking from Asia. Nobu and Masahara Morimoto have incredibly beautiful books about Japanese cooking. But it was James Oseland's Cradle of Flavor, with his account of cooking in Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia, that was most appealing. What I liked was his description of street-vendor food, full of flavor and easy to eat.

Years ago when I was experimenting with Vietnamese food, I planted lemongrass in the garden. I didn't use it very much, so the plant grew undisturbed until it had taken over most of the garden. Looking through the Asian cookbooks reminded me about all that lemongrass in the back yard. When I got home I cut off a stalk and came up with an incredibly easy to make shrimp dish.

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hakkacookbookIf you want to try Hakka cuisine, head to Hakka Restaurant in San Francisco, or read Linda Lau Anusasananan's book, The Hakka Cookbook: Chinese Soul Food from around the World. I received a review copy of the book in the Fall, and was lucky enough to dine with the author at Hakka Restaurant recently and fell in love with the hearty robust flavors and comforting rich dishes.

Even if you have other Chinese cookbooks, it's worth getting to know Hakka cuisine, because it's mostly home style cooking, ideal to try in your own kitchen. In the bookk Anusasananan traces her roots and shares stories from the people she meets on her journey into her past.

Since Hakka people moved all over the world, there are stories about the cuisine from places like Peru, Hawaii and certain cities in the US and Canada.

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Street food of MexicoHugo Ortega's Street Food of Mexico rocks! And if you are planning a holiday cocktail party and want a break from pigs in blankets and crab cakes, this book is all you need!

One cannot be in Houston without swooning over a Hugo Ortega restaurant. Delicious evenings can be spent at the foodie delight, Backstreet Café, or his original - Hugo’s, but my favorite is Caracol – the best Coastal Mexican restaurant in the world. (See One for the Table review in archives)

Mexican street food, in this book, is not just the simple taco that comes to mind. Ortega traveled the breadth of Mexico re-discovering the local foods of his homeland, giving us delicious and unexpected recipes. Just scanning the pages of Street Food of MEXICO is a sensual treat.

I have never seen a book with more surprises: Mitchelada con camarones (Spicy Beer Cocktail with Shrimp), Salbutes con pato en recado negro (Thick Tortillas Topped with Duck in a Black Seasoning Paste), Guajolotas (Tamal Stuffed Sandwiches from Mexico City}, Ensalada de jumiles con nopales (fresh Crawfish and Cactus Salad), Camotes Poblanos (Sweet Potato Candied Rolls)… it goes on of course!

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SalsasMolesCookbbokLast spring I had the pleasure of interviewing chef and restaurateur Deborah Schneider about salsas for a San Diego Union-Tribune article “Simply Salsa.”At the time, her award-winning 2006 cookbook, Baja! Cooking on the Edge!, named one of the “Best Cookbooks of the Year” by Food and Wine magazine, had just been re-released.

I was tickled. Schneider’s cookbook was the first one I bought after moving to San Diego eight years ago. I thought, I’m gonna talk salsas with Deborah Schneider! Followed seconds later with, It’s salsa. How much can we possibly say about about it?

The interview lasted an hour, though Schneider readily admitted that she could have talked for several more. (Her passion about salsas and their place in Mexican cuisine is deliciously genuine and contagious.)

Now, you too can talk salsas (and moles) with Schneider with her latest cookbook, “Salsas and Moles: Fresh and Authentic Recipes for Pico de Gallo, Mole Poblano, Chimichurri, Guacamole, and More.”

In her introduction, Schneider says this book “is designed to teach you essential Mexican cooking techniques and one very important skill: how to introduce and balance big flavors to create sensational effects.” As someone who has made several of the book’s recipes, I can say that the design works.

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