We have been reading… lots and tons of delicious material about food, drink, culture, depravity, and well, whiskey! We thought those of you who are interested enough to be reading these words (both of you), might like to take a look at this last year’s library selections. In the interest of time, we will hit some particularly high notes and leave the rest for y’all’s curiosity.
Holy Smoke! It’s Mezcal! by John McEvoy (2014)
Oh, Mezcal! You are the most raw, delicious, and sexy of all of our passions! To us, with our backgrounds firmly rooted in wine, we feel there exists no other spirit which communicates terroir in such a clear and cravable way! In every drop of Mezcal exists the tempestuous seasons of the agave’s life. The soil, the water, the wind, the heat of the day, the chill of the night ALL are reflected in the finished product. Along with, of course, the blood, the sweat, and the tears of the Mezcalero. The ancient tradition of his technique, the patina of his stills, the smoke of his fire, even the dirt under his fingernails, are there in the bottle. This interesting, concise, funny, and passionate book is truly quite something!
We took away: Maybe the reason terroir is so communicated in Mezcal is that almost every plant we consume as alcohol is one season old—grapes in wine, grains in whiskey. Agave piñas are a minimum of two years old before harvest; many are much, much older…
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain (2000)
So yeah, this is the fourth time we have read this book, and many people are familiar with it, but it will get its full dues here regardless. Kitchen Confidential has been amazingly influential to us. Not only us, but to the countless restaurant workers for whom it has offered solace, inspiration, confidence, and the drive to go back to work day after day. This book is a love letter to all of the things we find great in the world, and to the one thing we happen to be at least a little good at, written from the perspective of an inherently flawed and depraved individual. It is also the perfect “fuck you” from all of us, in the trenches sweating it out in front of stoves and over hot coals, to all of them. A "fuck you" to all of the self-appointed critics, the people who see no human element in the cost of their food, and the clueless stockbrokers-turned-restauranteurs. It gives us a reason to live and continue. It should be read again, and again.
We took away: Details and People! This is a complicated thing, this restaurant business, but it all comes down to these two things. Attention to the details—music, lighting, bathrooms—all of these seemingly benign elements add up to the whole: good, bad, or indifferent. And treating people like family, family in whom you put complete and total faith and trust. UNTIL they screw up; then you use your sharpest knife to cut them adrift, promptly and without mercy.
Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2016 by Jim Murray (2015)
Much of what happens at Hand + Foot from a beverage perspective is based on research. In larger cities beverage sales are generally conducted by sales reps, in person and regularly. When in NYC for example, we would sometimes be tasted on products by 10 or 15 reps. PER WEEK. In Corning? Not so much. So when it comes to tomes like The Whisky Bible, we would be lost without them. The Bible contains lucid, critical, comprehensive, and funny reviews for thousands of whiskeys across the entire spectrum. If you love your dram at Hand + Foot, it was likely purchased on the recommendation of Mr. Murray…
We took away: There is more whiskey goodness in the world than we could possibly ever taste or carry. But if we strive to make educated choices, and continue to curate our selections, we are sure to have some spectacular juice on offer.
La Bonne Table by Ludwig Bemelmans (1989)
This book is an extraordinary thing. Many will know Herr Bemelmans from his 1939 children’s classic, Madeline. Many will not know he was actually destined as a boy for a career as a restaurateur. As an apprentice he spent his youth in some of the most amazing kitchens in Europe and the United States. This book chronicles, in short stories, missives, and amazing illustrations, his adventures in the biz, his well-honed passion for hospitality, and finally his later years as a famed dining connoisseur. We purchased this book used and proceeded to enjoy and thusly abuse it, underlining, dog-earing, and the like, only to find out that the used paperback we had paid $40 for is actually worth… nearly triple that. At this moment Amazon has new copies listed for almost $300.
One of the few things we wish we would have done when we lived in New York is go to Bemelmans’ Bar at the Carlyle Hotel. The entire place is decorated with the great man’s illustrations, and must be a sight to see… Sadly the Carlyle has a rigid dress code, and ridiculous principles when it comes to pricing (a plate of Mediterranean spreads, only $22, after the $25 per person cover charge, of course).
We took away: We still cannot afford the Carlyle.
Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin by Kenny Shopsin with Carolynn Carreno (2008)
Our love for this book stems from our love of the documentary film “I like Killing Flies,” which features Kenny in his home environment of Shopsin’s on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. In the movie and the book Kenny shares, without pomp or polish, his unique, brilliant, and sometimes vulgar worldview. A worldview, which MUST be experienced by anyone who considers him or herself a human being on this inherently fucked planet of ours. As the title suggests, this book also contains more than 100 recipes which, like Kenny, are unimaginably creative, witty, and wonderful. Kenny compares fusion food to anal sex, which might give you an idea of what you are in for. Not enough of a preview for you? Well click on over to our website’s “Etc.” page and check out “Not So Terrific” where Kenny tells us why he teaches his kids that they are not so fucking terrific, and that that’s okay…
We took away: Food, life, love, family, restaurants, and community are all interconnected and well-stocked with colorful personalities and decidedly good people.
Kitchen Arts and Letters
Should any of this enrichment interest you, surely it is available at amazon. But if you want a truly amazing experience either online or in person there is no better place to look than Kitchen Arts and Letters. This food and beverage bookstore in Manhattan is a lovingly curated wonder of the world. Many, if not most, of their featured selections are signed copies and if you go, there is every likelihood you will be rubbing elbows with one or more of the world’s great chefs, or the kid who will soon be one.
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