I just finished reading Joe Bastianich’s autobiography Restaurant Man
For those of you that don’t know Joe, he is Lidia Bastianich’s son, an Italian winemaker, importer and enthusiast as well as Mario Batali’s longtime partner on some of New York’s most successful restaurants. Overall is was an enjoyable, although uneven read. Joe was brutally honest, about himself and others. In fact I think it was pretty clear that he settled a few scores in this book, which would have come off as mean and petty if he had not been so honest about himself. I found the parts about running and opening restaurants fascinating. His relationship with his mom and Mario was really endearing. He writes with a direct, f-bomb laden style that had me laughing out loud at times. He once spilled wine on the Pope! He is definitely a person I would love to hang out with on a New York stoop with a bottle or two of wine. If nothing else we could talk about our former lives as Deadheads!
VERDICT: A fun, fun read. If you like restaurants, Italian food or wine or enjoyed Kitchen Confidential then this book is for you. Makes me want to go to Babbo in the worst way.
Continuing my posts on books I’ve been reading: I just finished up The Billionaire’s Vinegar: The Mystery of the World’s Most Expensive Wine by Benjamin Wallace (also available from FCPL). It was an interesting, if a little dry at the beginning, read. Briefly it tells the story of the wine market for rare old (18th and 19th Century) wines. It focuses on a number of bottles sold by a German dealer to various individuals, including a billionaire, that were purported to be from Thomas Jefferson’s cellar in Paris. I enjoyed the book especially the last part where it becomes a detective story in trying to figure out the authenticity of the bottles. The story sweeps up so many eminences in the field of wine: Robert Parker, Michael Broadbent, and Jancis Robinson to name just a few. It was fascinating to see how they became vested in the authenticity or inauthenticity in the bottles and how some people turned a willful blind eye, or at least indifference, to the doubts about the bottles just so they could have bragging rights about tasting or owning such a bottle. Like all good tales it ultimately is about much more than just wine: ego, pride, greed and other facets of human nature. For someone who has a wine cellar for the sole purpose of keeping wine for drinking, it struck me how these rarefied collectors bore about as much relationship to the average wine drinker as big game hunting does to cooking. Without spoiling the ending by posting here I’d love to know what you think.
Filed under Reading, Wine
I am in the middle of reading three food related books, which I will probably post about as I finish them. What do they have to do with Frederick? Honestly, nothing except that I got them all from the Frederick County Public Library.
The first one I have finished is Mediterranean Summer: A Season on France’s Cote d’Azur and Italy’s Costa Bella by David Shalleck. I just picked up this book on a lark, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. A light read it details the authors summer sailing as a chef for a wealthy Italian couple on their yacht as it travels the French and Italian Riveras and beyond. This memoir-travelogue-cooking book hit on three of my favorite things: the ocean/beach, food and Italy! The most impressive thing was how he cooked. Each morning he would put ashore and search the local markets, find what was local, fresh and in season and plan the days meals around that. It was great to read his thinking behind the creative process. As a top down cook (ie find a recipe, then search out the ingredients) who is striving to be more the other way, I was in awe of his ability to whip up a menu on the spot. There were some interesting recipes at the end of the book as well.
Filed under Food, Reading
Just wanted to throw in my two cents on the passing of Robert Gerald Mondavi one of the giants of American wine who died at age 94 on May 16th. According to Robert Parker “he had the single greatest influence in this country with respect to high quality wine and its place at the table.” Not that the man was a complete saint though. For details check out the 2007 book “The House of Mondavi” (An altogether worthwhile read- Frederick County Public Library has copies). He did however have a bit of an effect on my life.
Every person I’ve ever talked to who is really into wine has had that “aha” moment, where a wine just grabs you, and the penny drops and you no longer see wine the same way. For me that came with two wines in the early nineties, the first of which was a bottle of Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon. Unfortunately I didn’t pay attention to the vintage, vineyard or anything else, but I remember myself and the future Mrs. Fred being handed the bottle by an Uncle at my Grandmother’s 80th birthday party, who said “try this” and I vividly recall how amazing it was (and that we hogged the remainder of the bottle). At that point I had no idea where it was from, how much it cost, or even what the heck Cabernet Sauvignon was, but it got me interested to try and learn more. And I am still trying to this day!
“Wine to me is passion. It’s family and friends. It’s warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It’s culture. It’s the essence of civilization and the Art of Living … When I pour a glass of truly fine wine, when I hold it up to the light and admire its color, when I raise it to my nose and savor its bouquet and essence, I know that wine is, above all else, a blessing, a gift of nature, a joy as pure and elemental as the soil and vines and sunshine from which it springs.”
- Robert G. Mondavi
“Harvests of Joy
I just finished a great book. It’s called In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. He is the author of the bestseller Omnivore’s Dilemma. Both are phenomenal books and really force you to think about what you eat, and where your food comes from. Highly recommend that you read both. I’m still digesting (no pun intended) In Defense of Food, but The Omnivore’s Dilemma was hugely influential on me. Caused me to reexamine my 17+ year strict vegetarianism to become more of an omnivore (flexitarian anyone?) The Frederick County Library system has copies of both books. Read OD first. Let me know.
Filed under Food, Reading