24 June 2017

Weekend Cooking: Wine All the Time by Marissa A. Ross

Review: Wine. All the Time by Marissa A. RossI know what you're thinking: Ms. BFR, do you really need another wine book? Well, yes, I do, and I'll tell you why. I'm interested in wine, I like wine, and I want to know more about wine. But the truth is this: I have only so many hours a day to devote to my nonwork interests. Reading about and studying wine--despite my curiosity--tends to slip to the back burner. Hell, I'm not sure it's even on the stovetop.

Thus my search for approachable wine books. If I read enough and take just a tip or two from each source, I hope someday to be able to sound like I know what I'm doing. Marissa A. Ross's book Wine. All the Time. (Plume, June 27) speaks to me. (Thanks to Plume for the review copy.)

Ross, a contributing editor for Bon Appetit magazine, blogger at Wine, All the Time, and all-round fun person, is a wine lover just like me. Well, not just like me, because she gets paid to write about wine. On the other hand, just like me, she isn't a certified expert; she's someone who has worked her way up from 2-Buck Chuck to the good stuff (wines that cost more than $20).

When I started reading Wine. All the Time, two things immediately jumped out at me: First, I love Ross's style--funny, personal, and very earthy (if you have "language issues," you might want to look elsewhere). Second, I love her general approach to learning about wine. I would call it drinking mindfully, as in take a moment to think about the aromas, the flavors, and the colors of the wine in your glass. Then make the effort to read about the grape and the growing region and take some notes. When I've made the effort to actually do these things, I've been surprised at what I've discover about my own tastes.

The book has all the sections you would expect: a glossary, a chapter on how wine is made, lists of wines by grape and region (including tasting notes), and all kinds of advice (how to read a label, what wines to serve at a party, what wines to drink with your dad, and so on).

Although you might think there is nothing new here, I would disagree. I love how approachable Ross is and especially enjoyed reading the story of how she went from chugging the low-end bottles to knowing enough to write about respectable wines. Throughout Wine. All the Time, you'll find tips and charts for all kinds of useful information: not just food pairings but also the differences between commercial wines and low-intervention wines, how to buy wine, how to order wine, and how to serve wine.

For me, the more avenues I have to approach the mysteries of the wine world, the better; and Marissa A. Ross is someone I want to have at my side while I make my own journey from the under $15 bottles to the next level. Take a chance on Ross--if nothing else, you'll have many good laughs while you drink your $5 Pinot Noir and may even get the courage to try wines in a higher price bracket.

My only issue with the book has nothing at all to do with Ross. It has to do with the state of Pennsylvania (where I live) and how difficult it is for me to buy some of the suggested wines. If you live in any other state in the union, you will have a much better chance than I do to try the wines, find a good wine store, and follow the advice in Wine. All the Time.

To learn more about Ross, check out her article "5 Questions to Ask When You're Buying Wine (and Know Nothing about Wine)" at Bon Appetit and this great interview at VinePair. Oh, and don't forget to explore her blog, Wine, all the time. Finally, here is the book trailer:

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Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.
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22 June 2017

5 Books to Read Right Now

No matter how many hours I devote to reading each week, I just can't seem to keep up with my book list. I really must get working on that idea of reading in my sleep. In the meantime, here are five novels, all published in June, that I'm determined to finish by month's end (or maybe in July).

  • 5 Novels to Read in JuneThe Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon (Putnam): I loved Fallon's short stories and thus have high expectations for her debut novel, set in Jordon. The lives of two American military families crisscross and intertwine through love, fear, secrets, and politics.
  • The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry (Custom House): Okay, I admit it: I'd read this book for the cover alone, but I'm happy to report that the novel has earned much buzz and glowing reviews. A widow and a vicar are determined to discover the truth behind the fabled creature that locals believe has killed one of their own.
  • The Lake and the Lost Girl by Jacquelyn Vincenta (Sourcebooks Landmark): It's the Michigan setting that initially called me to this debut contemporary novel. In an ill-advised effort to strengthen her marriage, a woman joins her English professor husband in the search for a late-poet's lost work.
  • The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor (Riverhead): Cantor is one of my must-read authors for historical fiction with strong Jewish elements. Her latest novel is set in German-occupied Austria and 1980s California. The themes of Nazi resistance, survival, love, and heartbreak center around the life of an Austrian stamp engraver.
  • Necessary Monsters by Richard A. Kirk (Arche): Who can resist a book about a book lover? A stolen rare book, honor among thieves, sociopolitical issues, revenge, and at least one monster round out this techno-fantasy debut from a well-known visual artist and illustrator.

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21 June 2017

Wordless Wednesday 451

Fountain (Longwood Gardens)


Click image to enlarge. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

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19 June 2017

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: 3 Quick Reviews

3 quick book reviewsA combination of major thunderstorms, a quick trip out of town to celebrate friends' wedding anniversary and visit with family, and general busyness have cut into my reading and blogging time. I'd complain, but socializing with people we love is well worth the sacrifice.

The thunderstorm part, I could live without. I hate missing out on my warm-weather deck time. Grrr.

Although I didn't read anything this weekend, I was able to visit a very cool bookstore, Baldwin's Book Barn in West Chester, PA (photos on Litsy and Instagram). The store is located in an old five-level barn and is stuffed full of used books, from contemporary fiction to rare books and first editions. We didn't have a lot of time to do the store justice, but I still managed to find an out-of-print cookbook I've been looking for.

Reading Time

Marsh King's Daughter by Karen DionneThe Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne (Penguin Audio; 9 hr, 54 min, 2017): I really liked this psychological thriller / character study set in Michigan's upper peninsula. Helena grows up on an isolated homestead with just her young mother and older father and knows almost nothing about the outside world, until the day a stranger visits and she learns her sometimes ill-tempered, strict father is a bad, bad man. The story is told by an older Helena, who is determined to keep her husband and daughters safe after her father escapes from prison. It didn't matter that I was pretty sure how the story would ultimately play out--a few surprises, tense moments, and good character building held my attention. Narrator Emily Rankin set the pace and tapped into the characters' personalities, making this a recommended audiobook. (Review copy form Penguin Audio.)

The Evolution of Beauty by Richard O. PrumThe Evolution of Beauty by Richard O. Prum (Random House Audio; 13 hr, 39 min, 2017): Bird scientist and author Prum examines bird behavior and evolution in light of Darwin's dual theories of natural selection and sexual selection to explain the development of an aesthetic sense in birds, humans, and other animals. For more than a century, the evolutionary sciences have concentrated on natural selection (and three other forces of evolution) plus male competition as the principal means for adaptation and biological change, pushing the idea of beauty, sexual attraction, and especially the notion of female choice into the background. Prum makes a strong argument for reexamining some of Darwin's original theories in light of modern scientific knowledge. Narrator Dan Woren was expressive and easy to understand. If you have an interest in birds, evolution, science, and/or feminism, you'll find something to like here. (Full audiobook review in AudioFile magazine.)

The Three Faces of Nellie by Robynne Elizabeth MillerThe Three Faces of Nellie by Robynne Elizabeth Miller (Practical Pioneer Press, 2016). After learning about the new Little House-related books coming out this year, I decided to see what previously published books I may have missed. Miller's book popped up on Amazon, claiming to explore the idea that Laura Ingalls Wilder based her character Nellie Oleson on three real people. This book was poorly edited and poorly designed and only vaguely interesting. Yes, I learned the names of three women/girls who had run-ins with Laura; yes, I learned about their families and their fates; and, yes, I learned (in a handful of paragraphs) their possible links to specific episodes in the Little House books, but I cannot recommend this book and kind of wish I could have my money back. There wasn't enough material here to be a book. Miller would have been better off to have written a magazine article (and to have found a decent editor). Borrow this from the library or look for a eBook deal if you're a fan, but don't pay full price.

Currently listening to Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani (read by Edoardo Ballerini). I think this is going to be fun.

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17 June 2017

Weekend Cooking: Noma: My Perfect Storm (Documentary)

Review of Noma: My Perfect Storm (film)Although I've eaten in some great places in Copenhagen, Chef Rene Redzepi's Noma hasn't been one of them. If you haven't heard of Noma, maybe all you need to know is that it was given the title World's Best Restaurant four times (2010-2012, 2014).

Redzepi is credited with giving Nordic cuisine global attention. He built his menu around the concept of seasonality: diners should know both the time and the place in which they are eating. So each ingredient had to be available in Scandinavia on the day it was served in the restaurant. What's more, the food had to be regionally produced or harvested.

To say that Redzepi is an innovator is an understatement. He found ways to allow local foods to shine like they never had before.

The documentary Noma: My Perfect Storm introduces us to the chef, his staff and restaurant, and even his suppliers. We learn that Redzepi is both moody and realistic, both a taskmaster and a father figure to his staff. The filming is nicely done (except for one jittery scene at the end), and the scenery is gorgeous.

Review of Noma: My Perfect Storm (film)Director Pierre Deschamps highlights Redzepi's great successes and creativity but also shows us the setbacks the chef had to overcome  (for example, an outbreak of norovirus affected about sixty of Noma's patrons in 2013).

The documentary itself didn't make me want to make a reservation at Noma (good thing too because the Noma shown in the film no longer exists), nor did it make me want to cook like Redzepi. On the other hand, I liked learning about the chef's rocky journey, and I'm curious about his still-being-built new venture, only hinted at in the documentary. Keeping with the chef's locavore philosophy, the resurrected Noma will feature on-premises greenhouse growing and lakeside dining.

Take a look at the trailer and put Noma: My Perfect Storm on your list. It may not be the best restaurant documentary you'll ever see, but Chef Rene Redzepi is unique and worth meeting.

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Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.
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