Review: The Sweet Life

The Sweet LifeI am often concerned when high-end restaurant chefs release cookbooks. In theory, I want to own them and recreate amazing dishes in my own home. In reality, I don't end up using many because they're too complicated for anyone less than a very ambitious home cook. So I was delighted as I read The Sweet Life, a lovely new cookbook from Kate Zuckerman, the pastry chef at New York City's Chanterelle. Here was a restaurant cookbook I could imagine using!

Some recipes are complex, but these are the kind of desserts you want to make when you have company, or to bring to a dinner party. Others are simply cookies and cakes you can bang out for fun on a Saturday afternoon. Interspersed with the recipes, Ms. Zuckerman provides a lot of educational information. Sections such as "Hint" help you understand how moisture effects items, "Beyond the Basics" explains more advanced topics such as citrus curds. There are many "Technique Tips" peppered and referenced through the book, so when a recipe calls for you to roll out the pie crust, or brown butter, you have a thorough understanding of the process. Did I also mention the in-depth focus on "Ingredients" such as vanilla beans and chocolate?

This is far more than a cookbook, it's a very instructional dessert manual. And oh, the desserts! For fall-themed cooking, I'm tempted by: "Spiced Apple and Sour Cream Cake," "Maple-Pecan Meringue Cookies," "Chestnut and Amaretti Cookie Pudding," "Pumpkin Soufflé," "Apple Cider and Caramel Ice Cream," and "Cider Caramel Sauce." Baking was always my first kitchen love, and the diversity of choices makes me want to fire up my KitchenAid right now.

One section in particular that caught my attention was the chapter devoted to soufflés. I've never made a soufflé because they always struck me as precariously complicated. Plus when I have dinner guests, I like to get everything done in advance so I can enjoy the meal with my company. Ms. Zuckerman's soufflés were developed for restaurant kitchens, which means they can be prepared before your guests arrive. Simply refrigerate for up to four hours, or even freeze them. Then when it's dessert time, pop them in the oven and you'll all enjoy soufflés in no time. I can't wait to try them out.

Few cookbooks actually get regular use in my kitchen, but "The Sweet Life" will no doubt become the go-to dessert guide whenever I want to cook up something sweet.

Looking for sommeliers

A reporter is looking for New York City sommeliers to be profile subjects and part of a piece on the profession. He writes: "I'd love to hear from somms with any level of experience or education, or from anyone who knows any interesting somms."

If you fit the bill, please email Lawrence Marcus at

Stomach AcheNext time you're sick in bed with a stomach ache, maybe you should snuggle up with this guy. It's a stuffed microbe, about a million times the size of the actual microbe. Don't let Shigella (that's your stomach ache microbe) get you down! [via AT]

These days, the way we farm and the way we process our food, both of which have been industrialized and centralized over the last few decades, are endangering our health. Michael Pollan on spinach, E. coli, and America's centralized food systems.

We know where the E. coli comes from. The culprit in the recent spinach outbreak is cow manure from a farm half a mile from the spinach fields. I wonder if we'll see an increase in calls for getting beef off a corn diet. (E. coli O157:H7 thrives in the more acidic guts of corn-eating cows, not grass-eating ones.)

Update: I clarified that last sentence. It's the acidity levels in a corn-fed cow's stomach that E. coli O157:H7 love. A grass-fed cow's stomach is not conducive to E. coli O157:H7 growth. As such, it doesn't make its way into their manure and onto our food.

Hear three real-life farmers from three very different farms talk about their struggles to stay on the land. The last week in October, in various locations around New England.

cream puff gown

An edible cream puff wedding dress. Incredible!

Another great idea for all those apples? Erin's Apple Butter. This sounds delicious, I think I'll make it this weekend.

True, he is a scientist, but eating is about pleasure. He worries about food made without love. Hervé This presents his culinary innovations to Montreal foodies.

He was a gourmand, but he was not a snob, at least when it came to matters of food and wine. Another reflection in the Times about "Johnny" Apple, this one focuses wonderfully on meals with him. Also a great tip: to find Apple recommendations, "search Nexis using three elements: his byline, the name of a city and the phrase 'my wife, Betsey.'"

A few miles makes a big difference in a sampling of Bay State bivalves. I am partial to East Coast oysters and the bigger and brinier, the better. I love Wellfleets. I have no interest in those oysters servers are always describing as "small and sweet with no taste of the sea." No sea? No thanks! [via Leather District Gourmet]

Seven Delicious Ways to Eat Apples. I've been dealing with a half a peck of CSA apples each week for the past month, and was beginning to run out of ideas.

Retail Cuts of Beef. Let the cow tell you where they come from and how to cook them.

Short but thoughtful interview with Anthony Bourdain at the 92nd Street Y blog.

Fruitree is a fruit display and storage system that gets fruit out of the fridge (where you'll forget it and it'll rot) and, hopefully, into your tummy. A "breathing mesh" provides air circulation for prolonged fruit storage.

France in the grip of la folie des champignons. An 80-year-old man has his nose broken during an attack as mushroom rustlers resort to violence during the "best harvest in living memory." [Thanks Garret!]

Do the Daisy May Pig Gig

Meg and the Pig
Meg and the delicious pig, photo by Jake Dobkin

Do you love pig? Do you live in New York City, or are you willing to travel here? If yes, then you must head to Daisy May's for the Big Pig Gig. You simply need to get a group of pig-eating friends together, make an advanced reservation, and arrive at 8 PM at Daisy May's. There you will be greeted with a succulent suckling pig that's spent the last eight hours in the restaurant's pit undergoing a magical transformation.

Sure, you get mounds of tasty sides, like creamed spinach, sweet potatoes, and baked beans. And you can get a rack of lamb (we didn't) and a pork butt (we did) to accompany your pig. But the pig is so flavorful, so juicy and rich, that you may just find yourself shoving handfuls of it into your mouth, with utter disregard for your burning fingers or bursting belly. I have never tasted anything like the pig I had at Daisy May's. I'll admit to limited barbecue experience (heck, I've never even been to the South!) but I'm pretty damn sure this pig is something special. If I'm ever on death row, this would likely be my final meal. I am already planning a return trip.

Other reviews:
The New York Times: Barbecue Overdose: Half a Pig for Seven
Strongbuzz: My Dinner at Daisy May's

The true glory of barbecue: No matter what barbecue you've eaten, someone will always tell you there's better. Bourdain (over at an ad-encrusted MSN page) explains barbecue.

How Does an Induction Cooktop Work? "Each hob contains one or more coils made of ferromagnetic material. When an alternating current is passed through these coils, a magnetic field of the same frequency is produced."

Mmmm, shrunken fat particles. Engineering Food at Level of Molecules over at the New York Times.

Older Entries Newer Entries