The Heat is On – Hot Summer Reads

Beach Reads

Summer’s here! Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, so celebrate the extra daylight with a novel read!

Food writing continues not to disappoint. Literally feed your brain while you catch some rays this summer with this assortment of great books I have on my palette:


  • Jello-O Girls: A Family History
  • Killing It: An Education
  • Pie & Whiskey: Writers Under the Influence of Butter & Booze
  • Tasting the Past: the Science of Flavor and the Search for the Origins of Wine
  • A Short History of Drunkenness

So bring a beach towel and join me!

[In celebration of My Birthday on the 4th of July, you’ll notice an array of reads on Drinking – of which I have them all for review!] 



Brunch Is Hell: How to Save the World by Throwing a Dinner Party

BrunchThe authors define brunch as a minotaur: half breakfast, half lunch. That and informal gatherings occurring outside the home.

It then occurred to them the problem with the state of the dinner party was due to people not having enough of them! Therefore, they created the “Dinner Party Manifesto”.

A perfect dinner party is the purest expression and embodiment of the principles of the manifesto.

I was intrigued by the title. It got me thinking about dinner parties. When I was young, I felt thrown into family events where we had dinner parties, whether I wanted to go or not. However, in this book those would not be considered dinner parties.

People! The dinner party is the sanctuary of friendship.

There is so much in this compact book that it’s worth a read and a laugh! It will lead you to reminisce or surprise you on the ideas shared. Most importantly, you may be inspired to take the plunge and host a dinner party!

Here are a few takeaways I just had to share – you’ll need to read the book to find out more:

The food is the least important part of a dinner party. A dinner party is more than the food; it is a gathering where conversation ensues.

A gathering doesn’t become a dinner party until at least four people are present. That is but one definition of What Is a Dinner Party? 

A proportion of the food at a dinner party must be homemade.

Not cooking for your own dinner party is like DJ-ing a dance party with the radio.

This rule doubles for another: dinner parties are a respite from advertising.

Make them a Cocktail. Great tips on Assembling a Liquor Cabinet that lists a mere nine bottles of alcohol…plus cheap mixers, garnishes, and equipment – to name a few.

Rules of Engagement. Their first rule: Shut Up.

Dinner Parties That Actually Did Change The World. For example, The Last Supper is the infamous dinner party.

Showing Up: Guidelines for Guests. Behold, should we become guests for a dinner party!

Dining Rules for Guests. See a pattern here? Yes, this book not only is about hosting a dinner party, but being an invited guest of a dinner party (note “invited”).

mad men dinner party pic

Again, I have a penchant for, what I consider food writing, a book that includes recipes. Recipes not only include dishes but also cocktails. Rico’s Peperonata recipe appears simple and delish!

The doorbell rings. People have actually shown up. There is no escape. Showtime.

For fans of David Sedaris, a quick and easy read, and nothing short of amusing and entertaining.

An enjoyably funny read. This was one book that shared my road trip to and from Indy!

Click on the author’s podcast The Dinner Party Download upon which the manifesto was inspired!


~ date read 05.14.2018 ~ 5 stars ~
Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for a fair review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.

Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey

bourbonempirebookAll bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon.

Entertaining historical account on the spirit of bourbon that spans from Washington & the Revolutionary War, to Repeal of Prohibition & the Twenty-First Amendment, to Bourbon branding and resurgence today.

Each chapter has an interesting historical trait of the bourbon industry. The author discusses key family-owned and operated distilleries across the U.S., and those who supported and promoted the bourbon brand. He also shares such great pivotal moments – Old Bourbon being served at the first Kentucky Derby; its contribution to the creation of NASCAR; its influence on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, to name a few.

I was especially surprised by Chicago’s connection and influence towards the spirit of bourbon – not to mention lead to the birth of the nation’s largest drugstore chain, Walgreens.

I recently attended a Producer’s fair and visited KOVAL Distillery. Established in 2008, it is Chicago’s first distillery since the Mid-1800s. [KOVAL’s Single Barrel Bourbon whiskey was awesome, btw]


A great micro-history of the birth of bourbon, its evolution, and revival.

Bourbon – America’s whiskey!

~ date read 04.30.2015 ~ 4 stars ~
Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for a fair review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.

Feast: True Love in and out of the Kitchen


The compulsively readable memoir of a woman at war—with herself, with her body, and with food—while working her way through the underbelly of New York City’s glamorous culinary scene.

The brief review below from a Goodreads reader pretty much sums it up for me:

“Yikes. This was excruciating. Short little (maybe?) sentences, and weird run on sentences filled this kindle first read. This is unfortunately a memoir about a sad little rich girl with an eating disorder. She continuously explains the obvious, but on the flipside, throws a million new people into or out of the story with no explanation. It reads like talking to a condescending teenager. Maybe that’s acceptable because it is a memoir?”

My first impressions: This is like a “Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret”. On steroids! She whines; she cries. It’s a rumbling of thoughts as if this came from her diary. It’s a glass half-empty mentality; witnessing self-destruction, doubting to keep reading if she keeps up with the skinny factor. She is all all over the place in this book. A painful, painful read thus far.

As I got over the past 2/3 of the book, here I began to appreciate this memoir dealing with her eating disorder, running a restaurant, and letting go. Unfortunately her last section Cake read like a diatrab.

I like reading about restaurants and food and the industry, but that is not this. And all I can say is I’m glad I read Kitchen Confidential!

~ date read 03.24.2018 ~ 2 stars ~  

Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting-Pot Cuisine


Chef Edward Lee Is Writing a Book on the Melting Pot of American Cuisine
Southern chef and Mind of a Chef star Edward Lee has a second book in the works, and it’s not a cookbook: Titled Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting Pot Cuisine, it will feature 16 chapters on “the rapidly evolving story of American cuisine,” plus original recipes to accompany them. It hits shelves on April 17. [Eater 11.27.17]


Quite an interesting gourmand travelogue! What a journey Chef Edward Lee took me on. It’s gritty, candid, visceral in its dialogue. He shares his two-year experiences traveling across the country to places that are off-the-beaten-path locales; places where you wouldn’t expect to come across certain nationalities of foods.

In this eclectic mix of culinary travel essays, Chef Lee raises thought-provoking questions about authenticity and tradition as he explores how immigrant food cultures impact American cuisine. As he speaks to the local cooks and chefs, he shares their perspectives of and the barriers that exist among themselves in their locale.

“Food is trust, and trust is intimacy. The hardest part of trying something unfamiliar is not the fear of the unknown but, rather, the mistrust of the person cooking the food. When we read about a celebrity chef in a glossy magazine, we feel we’re getting to know that chef as a person. It makes us comfortable enough to eat whatever the chef puts in front of us.”

Now I’m not sure why I was taken aback to learn there are numerous Korean restaurants and grocery stores in Montgomery, Alabama. Learning that Korean auto manufacturer Hyundai opened their first plant in the U.S., I appreciated this immigrant migration to Montgomery. However, he sheds a perspective which could be any place immigrants migrate to a town/city:

“In a town like Montgomery, with such deep-rooted traditions, the recent wave of Korean immigrants naturally brings with it skepticism and mistrust, from both sides.”

Growing up, Filipino cuisine was enclosed among family, among the nearby Filipino community. You would only find traditional Filipino food cooked at home; it was ethnic home cooking. The traditional meals I grew up on reflected generations sustaining those personal ties and creating a “home away from home” connection. As an Asian American (born in Chicago, Filipino nationality), I can appreciate this.

“Our food traditions are the last things we hold onto. They are not just recipes; they are a connection to the nameless ancestors who gave us our DNA. That’s why our traditional foods are so important. The stories, the memories, the movements that have been performed for generations -without them, we lose our direction.”

Chef Lee’s journey is a testament on how cuisine from other lands have been adopted, providing a voice on how culinary history has influenced and shaped today’s American cuisine. His is a unique food lit book including original recipes, inspired by his travels! And for that, I am appreciative!

~ date read 03.17.2018 ~ 4 stars ~

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for a fair review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.

Note: I would strongly recommend re-reading the Introduction. It brings about a different perspective on his dialogue you would not have felt on the first attempt.

And Then it’s Spring ~ A whole new season of fresh reads!


Spring is a time of new beginnings and clean slates, when the final traces of winter snow melt away and the trees burst out with fresh green buds. Even when melancholy descends and a chilly breeze blows, spring never truly loses its sense of possibility, and neither do books.

And what better to read, during this season of renewal, than a book, or two? Especially in the park on a sunny spring day!

Here are a few of my food writing upcoming notable reads:

  • Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting Pot Cuisine
  • Feast: True Love in and out of the Kitchen
  • The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats
  • How to Taste: The Curious Cook’s Handbook to Seasoning and Balance, from Umami to Acid and Beyond – with Recipes

So grab your favorite quilt and join me!

Give a Girl a Knife: a Memoir

GiveAGirlAKnifeBefore setting to write the review, I perused some of the book review posts online. Many made mention they had not known author Amy Thielen had her own HGTV show Heartland Table.  I had watched some episodes back in 2013 & 2014 which centered on living in rural northern Minnesota, shot at her home (akin to a cabin in the woods).

Give a Girl a Knife begins with her time working in the kitchens of New York chefs David Boulay, Daniel Bouland, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten (this I was not aware). Her perspective working in their kitchens as a line cook was one of comaraderie, yet at times offensive bordering on harassment, in a challenging, hectic-driven industry.

She shares stories of how her Midwestern upbringing brought out her appreciation for cooking. She shares culinary stories about her grandmother Dion and her mother, and her family’s foodstuffs summed up in three ingredients: butter, fermented pickles, and bacon.

“It was hard for me to admit, but moving away from my hometown two years short of my high school graduation had somehow messed with the flow of my natural exodus. The city, where I’d found the culture, the books, and the people I’d been looking for, wasn’t enough. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d left something behind there that I needed to retrieve.”

Her memoir is a coming-of-age as she deals with her parent’s divorce, uprooting her in the midst of high school leaving behind her hometown, her place called home. Following her journey she’s so far led – her relationship with her childhood friend’s older brother, his path as an artist with her path as a chef, and the one-room shack they have which they have since expanded upon (not only in structure, but the addition of running water and electricity) along which includes their family with the birth of their son – she finds her way back to what she now calls home.

A recommended read that encompasses her rural Minnesota milieu, her stint learning to hone her chef skills in New York City, and her fueled passion for Midwestern cooking, her roots feeding off her homestead. Here she does not include recipes; however, she previously published a cookbook.

To learn more about the author and her James Beard winning cookbook, The New Midwestern Table: 200 Heartland Recipes, visit her blog at Amy Thielen: Home.

~ date read 03.11.2018 ~ 4 stars ~

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for a fair review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.