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Ina Yalof has authored a new book, called "Food and the City"

Ina Yalof has authored a new book, called “Food and the City”

“Food and The City”

My favorite read of the year has to be Food and The City (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). Think of the legendary, mesmerizing oral histories done by Studs Terkel, only concentrated on the food industry.

That’s just what journalist Ina Yalof has created in this book by shining a spotlight on people in the New York culinary world who aren’t often in the limelight. The profiles are not the usual celeb chefs, though there are chefs included. But rather, they are people like Mohamed Abouelenein, founder of the wildly popular Halal Guys food truck who also happens to hold a doctorate in veterinarian medicine; Alessandro Borgognone, an Italian restaurateur, who was spurred by an argument with his wife and watching “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” to open what would become a four-star omakase in Manhattan with one of Jiro’s apprentices; and Tunisian-born Ghaya Oliveira, who was on her way to becoming a stock trader when family tragedy struck and she was forced to pivot, only to eventually find herself rising through the ranks to executive pastry chef of Restaurant Daniel.

It just goes to show that real-life can so often outshine the best fiction.

Yalof is not a food writer per se, but a reporter who most often delves into topics such as science, medicine and religion. But her keen investigative sense serves her well here as she delves deeply into these people’s lives to find out how they got where they are today. Because they are recounted in oral histories, and this is a New York-based book, one of the pleasures is the vernacular on display. If you’ve ever visited New York, especially the old-school delis and mom-and-pop stores there, you know how colorful and distinctive native New York-speak is. It leaps off the pages here, making you feel as if you’re ease-dropping on a conversation by old-timers at Katz’s.

If you’re looking for a book to get lost in, that’s full of fun yet also remarkable insight, this is the one.

Celebrate the New Williams-Sonoma in San Mateo

San Mateo’s Hillsdale Shopping Center will welcome a new Williams-Sonoma store that also includes Williams-Sonoma home furnishings.

Chef Ryan Pollnow will be showing off his Basque-style tapas at the opening of the new store. (Photo courtesy of Williams-Sonoma)

Chef Ryan Pollnow will be showing off his Basque-style tapas at the opening of the new store. (Photo courtesy of Williams-Sonoma)

To kick-off the opening, the store will host a series of events, starting at 7 p.m. Oct. 6 when Chef Ryan Pollnow of Aaxte restaurant in San Francisco serves up an array of pinxtos or Basque-style tapas with a gin & tonics. Register for this free opening party by clicking here.

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Pedigreed Pasta

A simple pasta dish becomes extra special with Community Grains organic whole grain pastas.

A simple pasta dish becomes extra special with Community Grains organic whole grain pastas.

 

There are a lot of things to like about the new varieties of Community Grains pastas.

First, they’re all made from organic whole grain that’s grown and milled in Northern California.

Second, they boast transparency in the process — labeling each box with a code that you can plug into its Web site to find information about the farm that grew the particular wheat, the seed source, type of wheat, soil it was grown in, and not only when it was milled but by what type of mill.

Third, at a time when commodity wheat is grown for high yield and uniformity, the varieties of wheat that make up these pastas are grown for their distinctiveness and flavor. The pastas are made in small batches using Italian bronze dies, then slowly air-dried to enhance the wheat flavor.

And fourth, what flavor it is. While so many supermarket pastas just offer something to put sauce on, these artisan pastas can handle the simplest of toppings because they have enough flavor and character to stand out all on their own.

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Trumpeting the Virtues of Siren Fish Company

California King salmon delivered right to my door from Siren Fish Company that I cooked with mustard and brown sugar.

California King salmon delivered right to my door from Siren Fish Company that I cooked with mustard and brown sugar.

 

So many of us want to eat more fresh seafood.

But finding the freshest, local, sustainable seafood is can be a cumbersome task.

Siren Fish Company makes it easy to do so, though.

The community supported fishery works directly with California and Oregon fishermen so that their fresh catch arrives to you 24 to 48 hours out of the water each week.

Siren has pick-up locations throughout the Bay Area, often at retailers, where you just show up to take possession of your order on the day it is delivered. It also offers home delivery on pre-selected days of the week for an additional modest $3 charge.

You can choose to order a share for two or four (corresponding to how many people it will serve); as well as choose between ordering fillets, whole fish, or “variety” (which can include fillets or shellfish, whole little fish, crustaceans or even sea urchins).

Siren invited me to try a couple deliveries for free to test out their seafood by receiving a share for two (averaging about $23 each week).

Because there is no pick-up site in my area, I had to go with home delivery, which in my case, was scheduled for Wednesdays by 7 a.m.

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Picks For Your (Late) Summer Reading

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“32 Yolks” by Eric Ripert

With his ever calm, cool and collected demeanor, celebrated Chef Eric Ripert is the epitome of poise under pressure.

But it wasn’t always that way.

Ripert, chef and co-owner of Le Bernardin, the Michelin three-starred and New York Times four-starred gastronomic landmark in New York, has already written five cookbooks. But in his memoir, In “32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line” (Random House), of which I received a review copy, he bravely reveals his often painful path to becoming one of the greatest chefs in the world.

Born in Andorra, a small country in France just over the Spanish border, he grew up a sullen, angry child, following his parents’ divorce. While his stylish mother expressed her love for him through cooking, his step-father routinely expressed his disdain for him by berating him and slapping him around.

His first mentor was Chef Jacques, who let the unhappy young boy find solace in the kitchen by helping with tasks and by feeding him endless bowls of chocolate mousse. It wasn’t long before Ripert realized it was in the kitchen that he felt most at home.

At 17, he was working at La Tour d’Argent, where he quickly realized his culinary school degree made him no match for the skills needed at one of Paris’ most vaunted establishments. It grew even worse when he landed a job working under the great Joel Robuchon, where the entire kitchen crew quaked in fear of the legendary chef.

Thirty-two yolks refers to the number of yolks needed to make a perfect batch of hollandaise at La Tour d’Argent, a task Ripert failed epically on his first day there. But through the pages, you witness the fortitude and passion that made him what he is today.

The book ends before he gets to Le Bernardin. But for those interested in that part of his life, just pick up his other book, “On The Line” (Artisan), a masteful, detailed behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to run a restaurant of that caliber.

“Waste Free Kitchen Handbook”

With food waste such a hot topic these days, Berkeley’s Dana Gunders, a staff scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, has written a handy-dandy book to teach easy ways to use up more of your provisions so less ends up in the trash.

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