Monday, October 1, 2007

SIDEBAR REVIEWS

Here are short reviews of blogs, or occasionally other writings, I find particularly noteworthy for their fabulous food, gorgeous pictures or wonderful storytelling. Check them out.

Sugar Plum
Smitten Kitchen
Cupcakeblog.com
Cooking With Amy
Tastes Like Home
A Year From Oak Cottage
Chubby Hubby
Occio Grosso
101 Cookbooks
Fruit Species
Food Network Behind the scenes - in the kitchen and on the road
The Food Section
Living The Sweet Life in Paris
Chez Pim
Everybody Likes Sandwiches
The Perfect Pantry
Robert Sietsema in The Village Voice
Winos and Foodies
Alice Q Foodie
The Paris Blog
FRENCH LAUNDRY AT HOME

I like Carol Blymire’s blog, FRENCH LAUNDRY AT HOME, because she started blogging for the same reason as I did: she found herself yelling at food shows on television. We took 2 different tacks - she turned her tv off, and went into the kitchen and started cooking the recipes from the French Laundry Cookbook; I kept mine on, kept screaming and write about THAT.Carol’s blog is reminiscent of the Julie/Julia project, but she has a much harder challenge. Julia’s books were written for home cooks. Thomas Keller’s recipes are not the easiest for anyone, and certainly not for a casual cook at home. There is nothing casual about soaking caul fat overnight and wrapping it around guinea fowl and byaldi. Or deep frying beet slices as a garnish for beet ice cream and having to answer the question “Why is there potting soil on the plate?"Read this blog, it will either inspire you to grander things in the kitchen or have you running to the pantry for a box of something or other.The Paris Blog, edited by Laurie Pike, is a useful site if you’re visiting Paris and a delightful read even if you’re not. Pike gathers entries from mostly expat bloggers, who talk about life in Paris and the sometimes unique situations that come up when living abroad. There are also listings for apartment rentals and information about different cultural events in the French capital...I loved this post about Parisian coffee, because, even though I love French caf├ęs, I have noticed that the coffee can be uneven. And did you know that the wedding planning industry is brand new to France? I didn’t. Read this hilarious entry about the proper imbibing of a kir: “talk. talk. talk. teeny-tiny sip. talk. talk. talk. teeny-tiny sip”...The Paris Blog gives you a leetle taste of Paree, whether you’re on the Left or Right Bank or the East or West Coast (or anywhere in between.)

I should be jealous of Alice Q . She eats wonderfully, goes to Moroccan themed baby showers and gets to visit places like Copia. She lives in a gorgeous part of the world and has access to many fine wineries and eateries. But I’m not holding a grudge, because she writes about things on her blog, Alice Q Foodie – food, restaurants, travel - with a light-heartedness that I find refreshing…and funny. One of her favorite entries is The Devil's Food Duel. Mine too. She goes into immense detail about choosing one cocoa over another, which any foodie, baker or enjoyer of baked goods will find enormously interesting. Alice Q is never smarmy, snotty or overbearing. How can she still be entertaining? She is. I like her and I think you will too.

Winos and Foodies is wonderful blog for recipe seekers, photography lovers and adventurous travelers. Barbara, a native of Australia, is a long time New Zealand resident and is currently back on the Gold Coast of Australia, eating the local mangoes with gusto and sharing stories, recipes and her beautiful pictures. She is also a tireless promoter of Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation which has helped her in her own fight with cancer. Her annual A Taste Of Yellow event is a wonderful way to celebrate LiveSTRONG Day. Participate if you can, and certainly visit her blog for links to all that do.

You can read food writer Robert Sietsema in Gourmet. You can read him in the The Village Voice. You can read his collections of restaurant reviews, but JUST READ HIM. Why should you care about a review of a Sri Lankan restaurant in NYC that you have small chance of visiting? Because you’ll learn about Sri Lankan “hoppers’ or bowl shaped flatbreads filled with all manner of tasty fillings. It’s a window into not just a cuisine, but a culture. His review of the green-busting, over-surcharged Fresh Direct grocery delivery service is interesting. And I particularly loved his behind-the-scenes journey of being an audience member at an Iron Chef battle. (Frankly, it didn’t sound that much different that the tales I’ve recently heard from Montel and Tyra audiences.) Sietsema’s articles and reviews demonstrate his wide knowledge of food and different cuisines, while not being oblivious to the wider issues of sustainability and eco-friendly living.

Lydia, a food writer and cooking teacher, has a busy blog, The Perfect Pantry, full of recipes, memories and good works too. At this writing, she has 222 items in her pantry. How do I know this? Because she gives us a daily tally. Her philosophy is that “there is no such thing as a perfect pantry. (It) can be well-stocked, well-stacked, and well-rounded. But it's always a work in progress.” (The philosophy of MY pantry is anarchy.). I want to try her Squash And Peanut Soup and Mixed Grain Salad. And her Drop In & Decorate idea of throwing a cookie decorating party for a good cause is a great idea.

A friend turned me on to Everybody Likes Sandwiches. (Thanks D.) Kickpleat writes about the things that taste good to her and they sound pretty good to me too. She loves miso for its patience, is lobbying for more love not hate, and, of course, she includes plenty of sandwich recipes, like this Tomato Sandwich With Lemony-Feta Spread. What’s not to love?

Chez Pim is loads of fun to read. Pim cooks and eats her way around her home turf in San Francisco and other places around the world. She makes stops at unusual places, (How I went to dinner and came home with a cow) and acquaints us with new restaurants and current food trends. Check out this recipe for Pad Thai. It’s written in paragraph style and she includes the smallest details. Here are some great posts from Spain. Her writing and photos are fresh and lively, just like Pim.

David Lebovitz’s blog, Living The Sweet Life in Paris is a wonderful celebration of cooking in general and Paris in particular. Former pastry chef at Chez Panisse, this chocolate-centric chef has written cookbooks, teaches cooking classes all over the world and leads chocolate tours. Check out his favorite Parisian food places. Plus here are 10 Insanely Delicious Things You Shouldn't Miss in Paris. And read how to, once and for all, make a beautiful caramel.

You do not have to be a New Yorker to enjoy The Food Section, a wonderful compilation of food news, features, recipes and whatever else in the food world that appeals to New York based blogger Josh Friedland. It looks like a newspaper, but reads like a blog AND magazine. It is so chock full of interesting items that it's easy to see why it's a must-read for many. Click here to read the latest about sushi and the presidential candidates(!) Learn about a handheld espresso maker or how to get Juno’s hamburger phone.


Food Network Behind the scenes - in the kitchen and on the road is an interesting look at some of the trials of recipe developer, Sarah Copeland, as she goes about her days of testing FN recipes. There are other contributors as well, but BTS is definitely her baby. Unfortunately for us gossipmongers, it isn’t about the hissy fits of celebrity chefs and hosts when the cameras aren’t on. But I did like reading about Nigella in the kitchen and the tales about food photography. Sarah is obviously very busy at her day job, but this blog is great idea. I hope they keep it up.

Have you ever wondered what a rambutan looked like or maybe a snakeskin fruit ? The Fruit Species blog introduces us to all manner of exotic fruits. Blogger Fruity is charming and his pictures are wonderful, as he discusses each fruit with a seriousness that only a foodie could love. Will he ever run out of fruits to write about? I guess we’ll just have to keep reading to find out.


If you’re browsing for recipes, 101 Cookbooks is the site for you. In a beautifully organized and easy-to-navigate site, Heidi Swanson talks about recipes that she has put to the test. She offers improvements, variations and alternatives. She also posts basic cooking info - the perfect pizza dough - for example, and offers food photography tips AND hosts forums on cooking and eating topics on her site.

Occio Grosso brings us into the life of a blogger in a most entertaining way. It’s about Amy, a lawyer and the life she leads with her husband in a stormy Alaskan town. I think I've figured out that her husband knows ABOUT her blog, but has promised never to read it, so there is always the promise of some really juicy stuff. She's very irreverent and amusingly charming in her approach to her young married life. Funniest post: dog is bleeding in car, wife tries to stop bleeding, craziness ensues, husband yells at wife for using up all the Wet Ones. I guess it’s a story as old as time. Oh, and Amy has a food blog too, which you should check out.

Chubby Hubby is a delightful blog written by Aun Koh and occasionally S, his wife, as they discover every foodie nook and cranny of Singapore - their home base - as well as other locales, far and near. What started off as an experiment to get familiar with the blogosphere has become a hugely popular enterprise. I like his self-deprecating writing style and his easy way with the friends and family around him. Plus his photography is first rate. Check out Waiter, waiter, there’s a fly in my soup and The coolest egg. And you have to love someone whose travel essentials include rillettes, or canned goose meat as Aun calls it.

A Year From Oak Cottage is a wonderfully written journal by Marie about cooking for a household in the beautiful English countryside. Her cooking skills are prodigious, as she handles the demands of her employers and still finds time to cook for husband in their little cottage on the estate. She also shares her appreciation of the nature that surrounds her in beautiful photographs. I loved this post about a dinner in the big house. AND she finds time to write about many of her recipes in Marie Cooks Britain. Tastes Like Home is a window into a global cuisine about which I'm woefully unfamiliar. Cynthia, born in Guyana and living in Barbados, shares recipes and stories about foods and drinks in her multi-cultural past and present. You'll read about mauby or pepperpot in excellent posts and articles that Cynthia writes for the Stabroek News. This is also the most commented upon food blog that I've come across. It's clear that her readers love her winning personality and share her interest in fascinating foods.

I first found Amy from her enjoyable posts on the Epi-Log and then I added her personal blog, Cooking With Amy, to my reading list. Recent posts have been from Hawaii (I LOVE Hawaii) and before Christmas she had wonderful ideas for cooking-related gifts in many different categories. She has a cool sidebar feature “what do with…?” that gives ideas for using various ingredients.

If you’re a cupcake lover, THIS is the blog for you. Cupcakeblog.com is written by Cheryl, a software quality engineer with a degree in chemical engineering. She includes not only original recipes for every kind of cupcake imaginable, she also covers the finer points of making and baking them. This chocolate cupcake stuffed with ginger caramel, frosted with mango ganache, and topped with a mango-ginger won ton sounds amazing, as does the fact that the recipe was posted days after her daughter was born. That’s devotion... Also check out Cupcakes Take The Cake blog for beautiful cupcake pictures and where to buy the best cupcakes from Boston to Bangkok.


Smitten Kitchen is a food blog that has it all: a friendly host, Deb, whom you'd love to invite into your own kitchen; interesting commentary; artful photography; and, mostly, wonderful recipes that you can't wait to try. I loved her photo wrap-up of the year and her photography tips may well change the way my pictures look...after I save my pennies for a bit.


What will you find when you go to Sugar Plum? Excellent recipes, many of them original, by a dedicated baker, who lets her quirky personality shine through her posts. Here’s a favorite post which includes a funny story AND a great recipe: Cinnamon-Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Thins.

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