The subtitle of Lynn Alley's "Lost Arts" (Ten Speed Press; $7.95) is "A Cook's Guide to Making Vinegar, Curing Olives, Crafting Fresh Goat Cheese and Simple Mustards, Baking Bread and Growing Herbs." It could have added that it's also a something of a guide to making flavored butters and oils and milling your own grain, for that matter. "Lost Arts" is sort of like several of those one-ingredient cookbooks in one.
The author attended Berkeley and lived around the corner from pioneer California Cuisine restaurant Chez Panisse in its early days, so the book inevitably has some of the self-congratulatory Bay Area tone. But if you don't mind a tendency to chatty personal anecdotes and dishes with names like Patti's Industrial-Strength Garlic Spread, there's a lot of first-hand lore about the stated subjects, and very good recipes in the early California Cuisine mode, when there was more Provencal than Italian influence.
Alley provides about half a dozen recipes for each of her various subjects, and also works a number of them into four credible single-ingredient menus. For olives, it's a mostly Greek menu: \o7 tapenade \f7 spread, yogurt cheese balls marinated in olive oil, green olive bread, a cooked salad with lemon and olive oil dressing, chicken stewed with olives, and Greek cookies traditionally shortened with olive oil. (It must be said that the all-goat-cheese menu does push the limits of credibility a little far.)
Who Dat Say Dat Cajun Food Is Dead?
So they're christening a new paddlewheel steamboat, the American Queen, in New Orleans tomorrow. Are they going to break a bottle of Champagne over its bow?
No, not New Orleans. They're going to use a bottle of Tabasco sauce--a hand-blown 30-gallon bottle four feet tall. It'll take a crane to lift it and whomp it against the hull.
Message to Vegetarians?
The royal house of Bagration, which oversaw one of the golden ages of Armenia, ruled Georgia intermittently for six centuries and eventually became part of the Russian nobility, began in 806 with the ascent to the Armenian throne of a certain Ashot the Carnivorous.
Take the Cake
We eat hot food as is, without being too demanding about what it looks like. Cold foods sit still better, so cooks can doll them up more; hence sushi, fancy cold buffets and pastry-making, which the 18th Century French chef Antonin Care^me described as the highest branch of architecture.
A case in point: For the recent third annual Domaine Carneros Wedding Cake Competition, Laurie Clarke of Top Tier Cakes in Brooklyn, N.Y., made a cake featuring the wardrobe of a bridal party--bride, bridesmaids and flower girls on the bottom and groom, groomsmen and ring-bearers above, with top hats on the rim of the tier--and a church, which sat on top of the whole thing, executed in pastillage, gum paste, royal icing, white chocolate and marzipan. She only got second place, though, beat out by somebody who frosted a three-tier cake with fondant lace.