Today’s cocktail is in honor of my best friend’s latest biography out this week, Farther & Wilder: The Lost Weekends and Literary Dreams of Charles Jackson. Jackson is all but forgotten but was the toast of Hollywood for a time and a highly regarded novelist, best known for The Lost Weekend. The Wall Street Journal calls Blake Bailey’s book “brilliant and gripping,” which is all the more amazing in that the story is largely about literary failure. The Lost Weekend was until now Jackson’s only enduring legacy, and remembered only because a great movie was made of it. Blake, whom the Daily Beast and his next subject, Philip Roth, both called the best biographer working today, also wrote the award-winning Cheever biography, and his non-award-winning bio of Richard Yates, which was even better than Cheever in my opinion (shows Read On »

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I had a question for my friend and neighbor Lois Baron and her email ended thus: “By the way, Passover is almost here and I am making more schmaltz plus some highpowered horseradish. Hope you have a fabulous Easter. Love the schmaltz lady.” I do love the Schmaltz Lady! She helped educate me in the ways of schmaltz, the glorious rendered chicken fat that makes everything taste better, especially things like these matzo balls, one of the greatest chicken soup garnishes ever! The photos above and below are from our app for iPads (minis too): The Book of Schmaltz: A Love Song to a Forgotten Fat, a short cookbook with twenty recipes for traditional Jewish dishes (kishke, cholent), as well as contemporary recipes putting this great fat to use (savory brioche, vichyssoise) and great photography Read On »

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Having recently delighted in Skyfall with son James, and with a fresh bottle of Lillet on hand, and having never tried this preposterous sounding cocktail with the beguiling name, well, I had to give the Vesper a go. Checking my resources I noticed that one, the very elegant and excellent ratio-oriented book, See Mix Drink, includes a twist of orange rather than the customary lemon twist. I contacted the author, Brian D. Murphy, who explained his rationale via email: “Alessandro, the bartender at the Dukes Hotel in London (where the cocktail originated), replaces the lemon with an orange peel. When I visited there and asked why, he said it pairs much better with the hint of orange in the Lillet Blanc—so well, in fact, that he believes the lemon peel in the original was a mistake. After tasting Read On »

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I’ve written before in the depths of winter that now is grapefruit season and grapefruits were my first realization that food was in fact seasonal. It was 1989 and I’d grown up in a country where I could buy pretty much anything I knew about all year long and this was the natural way of the world. I’d fallen in love with Donna, who was a photographer for the Palm Beach Daily News, but I kept long-held plans and left her to travel Africa and Asia, only to find myself 10 weeks later on the porch of an American expatriate living in Ouagadougou. A monkey jumped onto my lap, and I thought What the hell am I doing in Ouagadougou when I’m in love with this beautiful photographer in southern Florida? I couldn’t answer the question. I caught Read On »

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  Donna wanted to change the banner photo on my Facebook page and it got so many likes and comments that I knew it clearly struck a wintery warmth chord in dreary March. I’ve posted this before and here it is again from, Ruhlman’s Twenty, which looks at 20 key concepts that underlie all of cooking. This key concept is water. This onion soup requires nothing but onions and water for the soup part. Plan ahead when making the soup because the onions take a long time to cook down, from a few hours to as many as five if you keep the heat very low, though you need to pay attention only at the beginning and the end. Before the onions caramelize, they’ll release copious amounts of water (be sure to taste this liquid!), which Read On »

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