So as many of you know, I spent a year hosting a web show for the Food Network that brought me face-to-face with some of its biggest stars: Rachael Ray, Bobby Flay, Alton Brown. I haven’t really talked about what I saw behind the scenes but in this week’s podcast, I open up with journalist Allen Salkin who just released a fascinating book called From Scratch: Inside The Food Network. Listen in and learn what Food Network culture’s really like, why their ratings are going down, how they handled the Paula Deen crisis and what they could do to save themselves. You can also listen in iTunes by clicking here.
The concept of COOKFIGHT is incredibly fresh. New York Times journalists Kim Severson and Julia Moskin, who also happen to be best friends, choose a theme (dinner on a budget, for example) and then compete to see who can make the best meal. The results of their efforts fill the pages of this book; a book so chock-full of winning recipes, I’m not sure which one I want to make first. Ok, that’s a lie, I know which one I want to make first but it means I’m choosing sides in the Cookfight. (Don’t tell Kim, but it’s Julia’s pasta with roast chicken, currants and pine nuts.)
Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be invited to the New York Times building (my first time!) to interview Kim and Julia about their book. Instead of a lengthy 20 minute interview that meanders in all directions, I decided to pose various Cookfights to them to watch them duke it out. Coke vs. Pepsi, Mounds vs. Almond Joy, etc. The results are in the video below; but if you have a job where you can’t watch videos at work, I’ve broken it all down for you underneath it with comic book speech balloons that recreate the conversation.
Long time readers of the blog probably know my friend Lucy Alibar best as the creator of these incredibly easy, incredibly delicious chocolate peanut butter cookies. Now she’s gone and created something slightly more ambitious: a little movie she wrote called “Beasts of the Southern Wild” that’s taking the world by storm. It won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, the Camera d’or at the Cannes Film Festival and earned rave reviews all over the place. I saw the movie two weeks ago and was blown away by its vision of life in a place called “The Bathtub” where a little girl named Hushpuppy and her dad struggle to survive against all odds, still finding room to celebrate life with feasts of crab and other seafood dumped ceremoniously on long tables. Because food plays such a big part in the story, I asked Lucy if she would answer some food-related questions about the movie. She kindly obliged (and even sent along the pictures you see in this post).
I hate repeating myself on my blog, so if you’ve been reading for me a while, you know that Joe is my favorite coffee shop in New York. The location on Waverly is where I wrote my first book and most of my second; it’s where I’d meet friends to chat about projects or lives, it’s where I first laid eyes on Craig before we started dating. The place positively glows with good energy and the coffee is always top-notch, some might say (and I’d agree with them) the best in town.
Now Jonathan Rubinstein and his sister Gabrielle have collaborated with food writer Judith Choate on “Joe: The Coffee Book,” a charming collection of essays and pictures and how-tos that demystifies the process of making excellent coffee at home. What follows is a Q&A with Jonathan about the book, the process of writing it, and how he stays relevant in a city swarming with new coffee shops.
Someone’s In The Kitchen With…Ed Levine (PLUS: Win Free Tix To The Serious Eats All-Star Sandwich Festival)
The man, the myth, the legend, Ed Levine–creator of Serious Eats–stopped by my kitchen on Monday to chat with me all about his career; from his book “New York Eats,” to the TV show he hosted with Jeffery Steingarten (and a surprising moderator) to the creation of Serious Eats itself. We also talked about the big Serious Eats sandwich festival coming up on Governor’s Island on July 23rd. There’ll be sandwiches from Torrisi, Locanda Verde, Gramercy Tavern, Salumeria Biellese, Taim Mobile; plus our friends from the Big Gay Ice Cream truck will be there too. Oh and lots of booze. Tickets are $65 each (buy them here) but Ed generously agreed to give away TWO pairs of tickets to Amateur Gourmet readers. So: to win, write a recipe for your favorite sandwich in the comments (make sure to use a valid e-mail address). I’ll pick the two best sandwiches and those folks will each win a pair of tickets to the event. And I’ll be there too, so see you there!
You ever play that game where you try to figure out who would play you in the movie version of your life? (I still haven’t figured out who would play me: any ideas?) Well Julie Powell, author of “The Julie/Julia Project,” has a real-life answer to the question in the form of Amy Adams who plays Julie in the upcoming “Julie/Julia” movie which opens August 7th. We’re very lucky to have the real Julie live with us today from 12 to 12:30 PM. So call 347-326-9874 with your questions, or submit them in the comments, and listen to her answers below. No actors will be playing us during this interview.
UPDATE: The interview’s over but you can listen to the archive below. We talk about blogging, meat and my prediction that Julie will be on Oprah faster than you can say “bon appetit.”
Of all the things that’ve happened to me since starting my blog, perhaps the most surprising and flattering and ennobling (if that’s the right word) has been the very vocal support I’ve received from one of my food writing heroes, Michael Ruhlman. Before he and I ever made contact, I was a huge fan of his book “The Soul of a Chef” which is a thrilling, page-turning account of his time at the master chef program at the C.I.A., as well as a probing portrait of Chef Michael Symon (who he’d eventually judge on “Next Iron Chef”) and the incomparable Thomas Keller. What makes the book great is Ruhlman’s lack of pretense: he does what a good storyteller must, dissolves himself into the background and allows the story to develop naturally. His clarity, his precision, his deftness have caused critics to label him an “elegant” writer and I think that word is incredibly fitting. He’s got real class–the effortless sort, not the forced kind you see with someone like that sommelier Stephen on Season One of “Top Chef.” He’s also incredibly generous (my grandmother would call him a “mensch”): he’s given me great advice over the past year, treating me more like a colleague than a protege and even turning to me for advice with his own career. All of this has meant a great deal to me in my journey from food writing hobbyist to food writing professional–I couldn’t ask for a better mentor.
Now I’m in the excellent position of getting to share with you my enthusiasm for Michael’s newest book, “The Elements of Cooking.” This book is almost written precisely for me (and probably you): after all the home cooking I’ve done, the cookbook reading and Food TV watching, this is the proverbial “next step.” It’s a cooking school you can put in your pocket and at 242 pages (49 pages of which are essays/instruction, the rest being a glossary) it’s a wildly efficient breakdown of what “real chefs” do and how you can put these classic techniques to use at home. The essentials boil down to six basic categories: stock, sauce, salt, the egg, heat and tools. Master these categories and you’re well on your way to producing restaurant-quality food at home; they’re building blocks that, once put to use, can be (and should be) used over and over again forever.
Michael Ruhlman was kind enough to let me e-mail interview him for the book and what follows is our exchange. I hope it inspires you to buy his book which will, I believe, become a mandatory staple for any passionate home cook.
I had a blast talking to John T. Edge about his new “Southern Belly” book for Salon.com. To read the article, click his picture above!