Would I were in an alehouse in London! I would give
all my fame for a pot of ale and safety.— Henry V
Over the years, we’ve reviewed a lot of food and drink related material here, from novels that had food as an allegory for sex (and the subsequent movie was damn hot) to SF authors that wrote amazing space operas, who sort of conned their publisher into financing them in exploring the great whisky distilleries of Scotland. So we’ve decided without further ado to select many of those reviews to be showcased here.
Denise revisits her review of Anthony Bourdain’s The Nasty Bits for this special edition. ‘To keep things on the up-n-up, I must confess this is a re-print of the piece I wrote back in ’06. I could change tenses, and/or mention Bourdain’s passing, but I’m still in denial. So here ’tis, unsullied by the march of time. Rest ye well, Tony.’ Read her review for her look at this collection of essays by a master chef and traveler.
OK, I must offer up one of our favourite food reviews ever which is the Two Fat Ladies DVD set. If ever there was a series that felt like it was Autumn all the time, it is that one Kathleen and her sister Kage wrote up. The series documented that they were brilliant English cooks who rode a motorcycle with a sidecar, drank excessively, smoked whenever they pleased and cooked using bloody great hunks of meat, butter and anything else that isn’t ‘tall good for you. And funny as all Hell as well which indeed the review is too.
Richard has this book for us: ‘Admittedly, most consumers of ice cream wouldn’t care if the first ice cream cone sprang, fully formed, from the forehead of Zeus, but for those who are actually curious about where their double-dip hot fudge sundaes originated – and who don’t want to read a tome the size of a cinderblock – there’s Ivan Day’s slender Ice Cream.’
Kelly takes a look this week at Sara Perry’s The Tea Deck. She says, ‘As the now almost mythical door-to-door encyclopedia salesman knew, the opportunity to sell your product goes up exponentially once you’ve gotten it into the hands of a customer.’ How does this relate to a Tea Deck… and just what the hell is one?
Meanwhile Stephen has something more boozy he looks at: ‘And so I address myself to the matter in hand, the very pleasant task of reviewing Raw Spirit — In Search of The Perfect Dram by Iain Banks, “Uber-MAB” and (according to The Times) “the most imaginative British novelist of his generation.” The central premise of the book is that the author undertakes a mammoth road-trip around Scotland, tours its numerous distilleries, and recounts his adventures and experiences along the way. Given that Banks’ four principal passions appear to be writing, the driving of exotic four and two-wheeled machinery, whisky and his native land, this, as he cheerfully admits, is a “cushy” gig.’
Cat R. looks at some candy that is a favourite of hers: ‘Having recently discovered that my favorite gummi bears were possibly made with child labor, I went looking for a substitute recently and picked up a bag of Albanese Mini Gummi Butterflies.’ Now go read her insightful look at what makes for a great candy treat.
Sanchis Mira Turron de Alicante also gets reviewed by Cat R: ‘This candy is a Christmas delicacy in Spain, a dense honey and almond brittle with a generous helping of the latter (the label says at least 60% almond.) The company, based in Alicante, Spain, is well-established, having been turning out the product along with other sweet treats since 1863 and this candy will definitely have a nostalgic appeal for some folks with a Hispanic heritage.’
Chris has something to warm up with, and an extra treat as well, when he brings us a look at Trader Joe’s Sipping Chocolate and Ghirardelli’s Dark Twilight Delight and Peppermint Bark. Both, he thinks, are a bit decadent and maybe the least little bit self-indulgent, but you’re worth it.
Ahhh beer infused beef jerky. Denise dives into a bag of Righteous Felon Jerky Cartel’s Victorious B.I.G. Beef Jerky, and in-between licking the bag for stray crumbs, managed to write a review. ‘…this collaboration is all PA, and it feels like a match made in beer and beef heaven.’ Want to know more? Read her review!
Gary reports back from the wilds of New Zealand on an exotic candy treat: RJ’s Licorice Choc Twists. ‘As soon as I bit into one, I was hooked. They’re fat little chunks of licorice twist, about 1.5 inches long, with milk chocolate filling the hole in the middle of the tube. Though soft, the licorice gives a very satisfying little “pop” when you bite into it. It’s very good licorice, though you wouldn’t call it “gourmet.” And the chocolate likewise is just good enough.’
Jen is without doubt a quite amazing baker as her offering this week demonstrates: ‘This cake is a real punch in the mouth—extreme chocolate and extreme lemon. Because I’m extremely lazy and because Ghirardelli makes that lovely brownie mix in a box, I use their mix, adding only an extra egg and using butter, but you can go nuts and use your own recipe. Remember that butter is your friend, beating the batter is a no-no, and flouring the pan with cocoa helps make it OMG. I serve it in very small slices with hot tea.’
Back at the dawnatime when dinosaurs roamed the earth and the Klingons were the enemy, Asian-style cooking became fashionable. Jen shares a recipe for Hot Pepper Chicken and Smoked Oysters that she came up with, using those fun ingredients we could barely pronounce back then.
Robert looks back to days of yore, and the ultimate Chicago-style pizza, now at your grocer’s frozen food section: Gino’s East Classic Sausage Patty Frozen Pizza: ‘Once upon a time, late in my college career and for some time therafter, one of the places we used to go for a good, relatively inexpensive meal was a restaurant called Gino’s, on Rush Street on Chicago’s Near North Side. It was down a short flight of stairs from the street, dimly lit, usually crowded, and sort of rough around the edges — a perfect student place. It also served what was arguably the best Chicago-style pizza ever: deep dish, loaded with toppings, and one pizza would feed a party of four, even in the hungry days of our youth.’
And from the other side of the world, but available nearby, is Trader Joe’s Chicken Tikka Masala Frozen Entree, for those who don’t always have time to cook: ‘I decided I had to check out Trader Joe’s, not without some misgivings — I had checked out Whole Foods a while back and left reeling at the prices. But an acquaintance works there, and he said I should give it a try. I got stopped at the frozen foods section when I ran across the Indian dinners, which were quite reasonably priced — about $3.50 each. They had three varieties in stock, so I grabbed a couple of the Chicken Tikka Masala entrees.’
And of course, there’s chocolate the top it all off. (Gotta have our chocolate.) Robert has some tasty treats: Green & Black’s Organic Milk Chocolate, Organic Maya Gold and Organic Bittersweet Dark Chocolate: ‘The provenance of the name, “Green & Black’s,” should be obvious: organic chocolate with a dark, rich color and flavor.’
Our single music review this outing is Randy Armstrong’s Dining On The Diner which has the dubious honour of being the first recording that got legal action threatened by the artist against us for defamation. Big Earl, a Canadian baker, just wasn’t pleased with either the music or the recipes in the booklet. And no, we didn’t get sued and so here’s the review for you to read!
Our What Not this time is our oft asked question about what a favored libation is. Kathleen Bartholomew, sister of the late sf writer Kage Baker and a fine writer as well, waxes nostalgic: ‘Nova Albion of blessed memory – a bright copper, richly hopped ale with an aftertaste of roses. But in the world of beers I can actually get my hands on … maybe Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale, full of fresh new Zealand hops. Or Lagunitas Censored Ale. Or even the venerable Bass Ale — served room temperature, of course. With straw floating on the top. I like hops…’
And for a Coda to this edition, what could be more fitting than a paean to “Food, Glorious Food!” From the film Oliver!: