Books


51ni87rw3l_sl500_aa300_1I get asked all the time where to eat in Seattle. Now I can just point visitors (and natives, for that matter) to Keren Brown’s new book, the “Food Lovers’ Guide To Seattle“. Read through it and you’ll absorb the city’s food scene in a way you could normally only achieve by crunching thousands of the most on-target and up-to-date food tweets and reviews.

Keren guides you through under-the-radar favorites like Nettletown and Tillikum Place Cafe, super cheap eats like El Quetzal and Hallava Felafel, and the best of the rest from newcomers to landmarks. She did a colossal amount of eating out to refine her choices, but she already knew the city’s food scene well. Heck, she’s become an integral part of it herself, as the force behind the Foodportunity” networking parties and a host of other events mixing good people and good food.

Thanks to the publisher, I am happy to say that I’m giving away one copy of the book. And I’m also giving away five tickets to the book release party, at 7 p.m. July 25 at the Shilshole Bay Beach Club. The party’s sponsored by Fonte Coffee, and will feature nibbles from some fine restaurants. (Tickets to the party otherwise run $5, with proceeds going to Fare Start.)

Want to play? Leave a comment here on one of your favorite places to eat in Seattle. (And if you’re from out of town, and just jonesing for a copy of the book, tell us where you’d like to eat.) Comments will close at 9 p.m. PST on July 16, with winners chosen through random numbers.

Updated 7/18 with winners: Anna (#11), you are the lucky winner of the book! Email me at rebekahdenn at gmail.com with your address and we’ll have it sent out. clow (#18), Keridwyn (#13), Camille St. Onge (#29), Aubrey (#12) and Tina (#25), you have won tickets to Keren’s party! Send me your full names and emails, and I’ll get the tickets. Thanks for playing and for the great recommendations!

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jam-today-front-cover

A new take on the cookbook, Jam Today: A Diary of Cooking With What You’ve Got, is one of the first offerings from a new Oregon-based small press.

I wrote a bit about it in today’s Christian Science Monitor. If you’re intrigued, you can meet author Tod Davies at a celebration of Exterminating Angel Press at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16, at the University Bookstore, or at a book signing at 5 p.m. Thursday at Pilot Books. (Bring a list of what ingredients are in your fridge for inspiration, a la Thierry).

One of the things that caught my eye was the take Davies, a screenwriter, had on photographing food for the book. She didn’t approve. (More here.) It’s as far as you can get from the world of food blogs, which I’ve come to view as modern-day cookbooks. Cornichon thought the book itself “reads rather like a series of posts by a wordy blogger; it’s like listening to a particularly chatty guest at a boring dinner party.” It struck me as a transcribed cooking show, or a podcast, meant for a relaxed perusal over the weeks. It’s making me think about what the word “cookbook” means — and making me think I’ll make her “eggplant caviar” with the contents of my crisper.

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Anyone who eats dessert in my home often knows what a fan I am of David Lebovitz. He’s the guy who (on paper) showed me it was easy to make marshmallows and meringues and macaroons; his wonderful recipes in The Perfect Scoop are the main reason I invested in a serious ice cream machine.

I feel like I know the guy, between his books and his blog. But, of course, I don’t. I wrote about that in my post in The Christian Science Monitor this week on Lebovitz’s new book, The Sweet Life in Paris. It’s online here.

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<em/>Tall Skinny Bitter/images by Chris Munson

Tall Skinny Bitter/images by Chris Munson

Here’s a different kind of coffee talk: Dani Cone, owner of Fuel Coffee, has teamed up with graphic designer Chris Munson for a book that takes “a visual tour” of the Northwest’s independent coffeehouses. The publication party for “Tall Skinny Bitter: Notes from the Center of Coffee Culture” will begin at 3 p.m. Saturday (June 20) at Bailey Coy Books, 414 E. Broadway. (Yes, liquid caffeine will be served, along with Cone’s High 5 Pies.)

In the book,  Cone interviews baristas and coffee shop owners from throughout Seattle and Portland, providing 112 pages of browsable — or maybe, given the context, I should call them sippable — stories. There are brief profiles, bites of information, guest essays, quotes, and lists.

(Sample: Top 5 Things Customers Say That Make Baristas Want to Punch Them In The Face. Surprise: “Can I have a caramel macchiato?” only comes in at #4.)

Some of the features are formal, e.g. a look at the geographic differences between Caffe Vita’s different blends, some are casual, as with the comic strip look at Kapow Coffee in South Lake Union. The whole look and feel of the book, actually, reminded me of a graphic novel; the layout and artwork are as integral as the words.

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Of course having children changes our lives in fundamental ways. But what writers so often fail to remember are all the ways children don’t change us.

So if you knew Matthew Amster-Burton’s writing before his daughter, Iris, was born, I can tell you he’s still one of the sharpest, funniest food writers around. He operates with a scientist’s sense of kitchen adventure, a well-rounded palate (know anyone else who enrolled in a Thai language class because he liked Thai food?), and a well-calibrated bullshit meter for his own foibles as well as those of others. All these things — smarts, humor, perspective — seem to vanish when otherwise sane people start writing about children and food. That’s what makes Amster-Burton’s first book, Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater, a find that should be required packaging with every high chair. 

The subtitle talks about raising an adventurous eater, but the book is mainly common sense perspective for anyone who plans to raise any kind of eater. At childbirth classes, I would hand out the chapter where he talks about the “terrible lie” that most new parents hear about breastfeeding (i.e., that it’s automatic and instantly fulfilling.) For any new parent investing in a blender and baby food purees, I would share Amster-Burton’s recipes for pad thai and bibimbap. And for anyone who doubts whether 5-year-old Iris can be for real, or whether a kid who eats what adults eat  is as charming a literary creation as Sal or Frances, I would refer them to Boom Noodle. That was Iris’s restaurant of choice when I asked Amster-Burton if I could meet them both for lunch, and it’s where Iris politely requested a bento box of “crunchy shrimp,” while my own 2-year-old scarfed down his first plate of okonomiyaki. (Next I want to see if she’ll take my boy to Jerry Traunfeld’s Poppy, her next favorite.)

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Even before we got to the speakers part of the evening, the Palace Ballroom was a microcosm of Seattle’s food world last night. In line for “What We Talk About When We Talk About Food,” I was right behind Kim of A Mighty Appetite, followed a minute later by Bon Vivant and Lorna Yee and Jon Rowley. Then I turned around to say hi to Sheri and Barnaby from Foodista, and met Tea in person for the first time, and it went on from there.

We were all gathered for a book reading and panel discussion led by Maggie Dutton, featuring authors Matthew Amster-BurtonShauna James AhernErica BauermeisterKathleen Flinn, and Molly Wizenberg. The actual readings were fun — Kathleen Flinn turns out to do a mean Julia Child impression, and it was lovely to hear baby Lucy chirp from her father’s arms whenever Shauna spoke. What I enjoy most about these events, though, is learning a little more about the people behind the words. Here are some of the highlights:

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Seattle has an uncanny concentration of fine food writers — it’s as particular a specialty here as our teenage jazz musicians — and six of them will participate in a Kim Ricketts event tomorrow titled “What We Talk About When We Talk About Food.” The marvelous Maggie Dutton will lead a talk with authors Matthew Amster-Burton, Shauna James Ahern, Erica Bauermeister, Kathleen Flinn, and Molly Wizenberg. The event is sold out (though you can try for the waiting list here), but I’ll be Twittering conversation highlights live from the Palace Ballroom. If you have questions for the authors, send them my way through the comments here, or by dropping me a line at rebekahdenn@gmail.com, and I’ll try to get answers. And, watch this space, because there’s talk of scheduling a summer cocktail event for Seattle authors with new drink-related books: Kathy Casey and Kate Hopkins. For a look at “What We Talk About…”, tune in here tomorrow night.

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Forgive me for mashing together an author appearance that’s already happened with an upcoming event. I think I’ve got to do it, though, because seeing Steven Rinella discuss his “American Buffalo” book at a recent Kim Ricketts event is part of why I’m so excited to hear that Nina Planck is coming to town. 

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