Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Books

Surfeit of Sweets: David Lebovitz's 'Paris Pastry Guide' an eBook

Ea3568045342d354fc428ed3b8b335e1-1Francophiles, fire up those eBook readers: Pastry chef and Paris resident David Lebovitz has just published his "Paris Pastry Guide" in eBook form.

Over many pages, the author of "Ready for Dessert" and "The Sweet Life in Paris" will lead you to more than 300 addresses for the city's best pastries, chocolates and sweets. He's done the research (that's the sweet life) and includes his reviews and tips on each shop’s specialties. Each entry also includes the full address, closest metro station (essential), phone, hours, Web address—and Google map link.

Lebovitz explains, "Having lived in Paris for close to a decade, I've had time to whittle down my favorites and the places included in this application are selected from over 1,200 bakeries and chocolate shops in Paris. Some are outstanding and I would cross the city to visit them, others I reserve for certain specialties, like shops that might carry a favorite chocolate-dipped marshmallow or bake an exceptional chausson aux pommes (apple turnover)." Lest the visitor be overwhelmed, he designated his top 25 shops with an asterisk.

Available in both ePub and mobi format (whatever that is), which covers just about 29523412.png every device out there.

And until Valentine’s Day, he’s putting it on sale for $2.99. After that, it goes for $4.99—even so, quite the bargain when you consider you can barely buy a madeleine or two in Paris for that price.

I’m holding off reading it, not wanting to pore over the photos just yet, as I’m attempting to stave off a possible trip to Paris and let my good friends go without me.

"Paris Pastry Guide" is also available as an iPhone app at the iTunes store in both free (LITE) and paid ($4.99) versions. Same information, just a different format. The advantage with the app is that you can search by category and neighborhood and make use of zoomable offline maps.

"Paris Pastry" eBook, $4.99 ($2.99 until Feb. 14); Paris Pastry app, LITE (free) or $4.99; http://www.paris-pastry.com/

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-- S. Irene Virbila

Twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Photos: EBook cover, David Lebovitz taking notes from the owner of Le Bonbon au Palais. Credit: David Lebovitz and Paris Pastry.

'The Dead Celebrity Cookbook' and the history of fatty cooking

GreerGarson
I had the pleasure of spending a weird afternoon with former "Daily Show" film critic and Sirius Radio talk show host Frank DeCaro recently while he cooked up a couple of dishes from his new book, "The Dead Celebrity Cookbook."

The first dish was Oscar-winner Greer Garson's capirotada (don't ask!) and the second was a delicious tray of Katharine Hepburn's brownies (they are kind of like flourless chocolate cake). Watching DeCaro fumble with the melted sugar water required of the former dish, in order to dump it over baked white bread and grated American cheese and raisins, I began to appreciate how far we've traveled when it comes to the kind of ingredients we cook with since Hollywood's Golden Age.

Imagine the calorie count in Humphrey Bogart's coconut Spanish cream; Rock Hudson's cannoli; Charlton Heston's cheese tuna puff; Johnny Cash's pan-fried okra; Elizabeth Taylor's chicken with avocado and mushrooms; Anthony Perkins' tuna salad; Buddy Hackett's Chinese chili; Billy De Wolfe's codfish balls; and Eartha Kitt's chicken wings.

Read all about your favorite stars and the foods they loved, which should come with defibrillators, here.

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--Jessica Gelt

Photo: Frank DeCaro takes Greer Garson's capirotada out of the oven. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

'The Last Chinese Chef' author at the Autry on Feb. 12

Lcc_coverOn Feb. 12 from 2 to 4 p.m., author Nicole Mones will join the Autry Book Club at the Autry in Griffith Park for a discussion on her third novel, "The Last Chinese Chef," which won a World Gourmand Award as a Chinese cookbook, even without recipes.

The novel thoroughly explores Chinese food through a romantic plot while also revealing the cuisine's ancient culture and philosophies.

Mones' other bestselling novels are "Lost in Translation" and "A Cup of Light."

Admission for the museum is $10 for adults, $6 for students and $4 for children ages 3 to 12. For more information, visit theautry.org.

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-- Caitlin Keller

'Eating Las Vegas,' again

IMGThe boys are back at it again. "Eating Las Vegas 2012" flings three critics — Max Jacobson, John Curtas and Al Mancini — at what they’ve agreed are the 50 essential restaurants there. Much of the time the critics wildly disagree on the merits of any particular restaurant, which makes for interesting reading. Like the first edition, this second iteration of "Eating Las Vegas" begins with the top 10 and moves on to “the Rest of the Best.”

But the authors also list the best beer and cocktail programs, cheap eats, Chinatown restaurants, desserts, food trucks and late-night eating and more. If you’ve ever wondered what’s out there beyond the Strip, this guide ferrets out the essential restaurants and dives to visit. If you spend much time in Las Vegas, you need this book. 

The foreword is by "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous' " Robin Leach, who is something of a fixture in Vegas. He writes, “to be in a room with John Curtas, Max Jacobson and Al Mancini is to experience the tumultuous discourse of the most combative critics in the food world.” You’ll certainly get a dose of feisty comment in this book. 

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-- S. Irene Virbila
Twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Photo: Eating Las Vegas cover. Credit: Huntington Press

Normandy's unique spirit: Calvados

Calvados coverSometimes I opt to give New Year’s presents instead of Christmas presents. That’s when “Calvados: The Spirit of Normandy” by wine importer Charles Neal comes to mind. Picture yourself (or your giftee) in a big armchair, sipping your way through some of the amber apple brandies described herein as you bone up on Calvados. 

Neal explains the varieties of apples (or pears) used, how the fruit is picked, made into cider, and then distilled and aged. But more importantly, how to taste and appreciate this unique spirit.

He has been working on this book for more than 10 years and contributes an insider’s view, tasting notes and short profiles of more than 200 producers. Though he’s no Avedon, he’s captured some wonderful faces in his snapshots. The 766-page tome is clearly a labor of love put together over a couple of dozen trips and thousands of kilometers through the Normandy countryside. 

   I wouldn't mind following in his footsteps.

 “Calvados, the Spirit of Normandy,” by Charles Neal (Flame Grape Press, 2011), 766 pp, $60. If you can’t find it at your local bookstore, you can buy it online.

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-- S. Irene Virbila
Twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Photo: cover of "Calvados: The Spirit of Normandy." Credit: Charles Neal

 

Stocking stuffer: Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book 2012

Hugh johnsonGot a little space left in that stocking you want to stuff? How about the 2012 edition of "Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book"? The British wine writer’s little book has staying power: this is the 35th edition, if you can believe it. A compact handy reference, it covers wines region by region, including sections on the usual suspects, but also Portugal, Slovenia/Croatia, Romania, Greece, Hungary, Israel, North Africa and Lebanon. He’s even got one page listing 17 producers from England and Wales.

The entire world of wine at your fingertips. 

“Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book 2012” (Mitchell Beazley, London), 320 pp, $14.99.

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-- S. Irene Virbila

Twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Photo credit: Mitchell Beazley

 

 

A weekend with the Hot Knives boys

HotKnivesHot Knives, the vegan/vegetarian blogging duo of Evan George and Alex Brown, have a busy weekend coming up in support of their recently released cookbook, "Salad Daze," which features oodles of creative recipes for satisfying vegetarian fare including pumpkin ale muffins, sweet potato salad, portobello poutine, hot squash ice cream and more.

Saturday will find the two at Stories Books & Cafe in Echo Park, where they'll be signing copies of their book and teaching people how to make a whiskey-based, all-natural cold and flu remedy they call KniQuil. George created it in a video they posted on their blog a few years back after he caught the flu but couldn't deal with the scary ingredient list on the back of a Nyquil bottle.

"What I need is something that will wrap me in a cocoon of warmth, but won't put me in a coma," he says in the video.

Isn't that what we all need this time of year?

On Sunday George and Brown will be at Space 15 Twenty in Hollywood where they'll be hosting a "foodie flea market" with 10 hand-picked vendors including Elf Cafe, which will sell jars of its signature harissa; Robin's Nest homecrafted jams; and Plant Food for People's vegan tamales and jackfruit tacos. In addition, Hot Knives will be teaching people to make "Thanksgiving Pop Tarts," and signing copies of their books.

DJs will be at both events so bring your party pants. And your bib!

Hot Knives at Stories Books & Cafe, 7 to 9 p.m. 1716 Sunset Blvd., L.A. (213) 413-3733; www.storiesla.com.

Hot Knives at Space 15 Twenty, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 1520 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A. www.space15twenty.com.

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--Jessica Gelt

Photo: "Salad Daze" cookbook. Credit: Jessica Gelt

'The Drops of God' drops on the U.S.

The-drop-of-godsCross two of the most virulently geeky topics on Earth -- wine and Japanese manga comic books -- and you wind up with "The Drops of God," an almost psychedelically beautiful work by Tadashi Agi (the pseudonym for brother-and-sister team Yuko and Shin Kibayashi) and illustrator Shu Okimoto.

Released in English just this week, it has apparently already had an effect on wine drinking habits in Asia. Since it was first published in 2004, it has regularly increased the sales of the wines mentioned in it, sometimes quite dramatically.

The story is a fairly simple hero quest: Kanzaki Shizuku receives a deathbed challenge from his father, a legendary wine critic whose power would dwarf Robert Parker's. He has to identify 12 wines, plus a 13th, dubbed "The Drops of God," within a year in order to win his inheritance -- a wine collection worth millions.

But wait! There's more! Right before his death, Shizuku's father officially adopted a leading wine critic to stand as competition. Whoever guesses best gets the estate.

And there's still one more twist: Shizuku doesn't drink wine -- in fact, he's a beer salesman. It's all the result of his father's samurai-like training during his childhood. "It's ... it's true that I've never drunk wine, but since I was a kid I've had to do all sorts of bizarre things 'for the sake of wine,' " he moans. "He'd make me drink grape juice with slightly different flavors and barrage me with questions after having me taste and smell all kinds of things."

If you think normal wine writing is overblown and hyperbolic, that's nothing compared to when it's presented in manga form. The drama! The romance! The wines! It's like Speed Racer crossed with Wine Spectator.

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Reading the tea story: "For All the Tea in China"

Tea in china1 (1 of 1) I don’t think a cup of tea has ever passed my mother’s lips. She just didn’t grow up drinking it and knows virtually nothing about it. And I don’t think she’s alone. 

For her, or for anyone with the slightest curiosity about tea, I can recommend “For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History” by Sarah Rose. 

Now out in paperback, “For All the Tea in China” is a delightful read — intrigue, suspense, eccentric characters, dastardly deeds, treachery, exotic locales. The story of how Robert Fortune under the aegis of the East India Company outright stole the highly secretive tea trade from China. Disguised as a mandarin, he visited remote, hauntingly beautiful tea regions to spy out how tea was made and processed. He was the first Westerner to discover that black and green tea come from the same plant: they're just processed differently.

In the course of his Victorian-era travels, he secretly collected seeds and shipped thousands of seedlings to India where they languished in port—and died. Heartbreak and drama. But the guy never let up. Eventually, he pulled off the 19th century’s biggest feat of industrial espionage, Photo breaking the Chinese monopoly on tea production for the British market. And that’s why we have Darjeeling and other teas from India today. 

The fact that the long-nosed Brit passed as a Chinese high official seems improbable, but then again, China is vast and the locals probably assumed long-nosed was the norm in some faraway region. Much of the story is indebted to Fortune’s own account, written in 1852. I was surprised to find his book "A Journey to the Tea Countries of China"  available on my iPad via the British Library app and its Historical Collection (45,000 19th century works), scanned from the original. The 452-page book is also available for free from the Open Library as a PDF or Kindle text and many other formats. 

"For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History” by Sarah Rose (Penguin, 272 pages, paperback, 2011, $15). Also available in hardcover, sometimes at bargain prices. British Library app, free in iTunes store. An additional $2.99 per month gives you access to the full collection of 60,000 titles and helps support the library.

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-- S. Irene Virbila

twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Images: Cover of "For All the Tea in China," and  "A Journey to the Tea Countries of China." 

The Marling Menu-Master

Marling menu-master My friend Luis just brought me a present from Paris: "The Marling Menu-Master for France: A comprehensive manual for translating the French menu into American English." A longtime interpreter for UNESCO who has lived in Paris for 37 years, he loves these little books and has them in every language they publish (French, German, Spanish and Italian).

Over a glass of rouge, he sat me down and explained how the French guide works. It's divided into sections -- hors d’oeuvres, potages, oeufs, poissons, entrées, légumes and desserts. At the back of the book is a fold-out “practice menu.”

It’s not that Luis doesn’t know the terms: He sometimes has trouble explaining what the word means in English. He looks up rillettes and reads “a cold paste made of diced pork meat and fat cooked gently in lard, and then pounded into a paste, cooled, and served in a small stone jar. The most famous rillettes come from Tours and Le Mans.” “Have you ever read such a clear definition?," he asks me.

This tiny book packs a lot into its 112 pages, but it doesn’t have everything. When I tried to look up religieuse (nun), Luis’ favorite pastry, I couldn’t find an entry. But then I got lost reading about nèfle, a wild European tart plum-like fruit, i.e. medlar, and pastèque (watermelon). Never knew the word for that. But I do know topinambour, Jerusalem artichoke.

Look up ris de veau (sweetbreads) and you’ll find 23 preparations listed by name and a good dozen for rognons (kidneys, normally veal).

Useful, and fun to rifle through the roster of classic French dishes, many of which aren’t much seen any more. The book by William E. and Clare F. Marling was first published in 1971 and has since been republished eight more times. My edition, which I’m assuming is the most recent, is dated 1996. 

A reminder: “Prices listed in the text and on the practice menu are not actual ones.” For one thing, they’re in francs, not euros.

The Marling Menu-Master (published by Altarinda Books, La Jolla), $11.95.

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-- S. Irene Virbila

Twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Photos: The Marling Menu-Master for France. Credit: S. Irene Virbila/Los Angeles Times.

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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.