SPRING HAS SPRUNG!

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I often refer to Spring and Fall as the adolescence and menopause of seasons - the mood is bright and sunny one day, dark and stormy the next, and crazy-making to anyone experiencing either. I've just returned from a dark, stormy, bright and sunny experience, in Knoxville, Tennessee, of all places. I accompanied my events manager, Jourdan Abel, to the Big Ears Festival (where she was scouting talent for the JCC SF, for whom she also manages programs). I thought it would be fun to hear some music and scout for rare books, and what I found there didn't disappoint, even in rainy, cold weather. An intimate yet world class music festival, we got up close at concerts by some of my favorite musicians: Béla Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Anoushka Shankar, Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, and Abigail Washburn. Giddens also gave the keynote speech, about the evolution of Appalachian musical instruments from Africa to America, with musical interludes by her, and I was completely enthralled. I also heard musicians I'd never heard of, like Lucius, and enjoyed so much of it (I did skip the concert by a woman whom the catalog described as being "inspired by noise").

I found a fabulous used and rare bookstore there called The Book Eddy, and am awaiting a large shipment from them, including a rare oversize butcher's encyclopedia from 1900, and an equally rare 1907 cookbook from the Everglades called Tropical Florida Cooking. Books from that era are not scarce, but ones that survive a hundred years in tropical climes are.

Feeling peckish after our hours spent in the bookshop, Jourdan and I wandered next door to the newly opened Wild Love Bakehouse. We dipped into their sublime lemon curd and chia seed pudding, then sampled two flatbreads and some pastries, and we agreed it was as good as our other favorite breakfast joint in town, Olibea. There, I had the Tennessee Benedict with local ham and served on a biscuit. I'm generally a purist when it comes to eggs Benedict, but these substitutions were more than acceptable. In fact, everywhere we ate, we were hugely impressed with the quality, care and attention to detail the restaurants paid to local ingredients and modern takes on Southern food. Most restaurants gave shout-outs to the farms from whence their products came, and particularly prevalent there is Cruze Farm Dairy. We really loved an Italian restaurant called Emilia, but the place I would return to over and over is J.C. Holdway. The scallion hushpuppies. The Springer Mountain Chicken wings with Alabama white sauce (don't ask - we didn't). The grilled snap pea salad with mint and ricotta. And the slow cooked farm egg with gnocchi, chicken confit & hen of the woods mushrooms, which was so delectable, we ordered a second one. We also hit the winter Farmers Market, and returned with a variety of chili pepper powders from a local pepper grower and breeder, which I can't wait to sneak into my next pozole.

Lastly, who can forget Dollywood? Empire of Dolly Parton, this theme park is a love letter to the Goddess of Country Music, and just 45 minutes from Knoxville. While there are cheesy amusement park rides and fried everything, there are also some gems - not only the Dolly Parton Museum (and retired tour bus, natch), but an entire "village" of artisan crafts that really are made by local Appalachian craftspeople. We spoke to a number of them, who were honored to have been invited to make and sell their wares there (I bought a gorgeous batter bowl from a third-generation potter from the Smoky Mountains). If you go, DO NOT MISS the Grist Mill's famous cinnamon bread - but if Dollywood isn't in your plans, here's the recipe.

On to local matters, the upcoming month at Omnivore is jam-packed with terrific events, including visits from Jacques Pepin and Nigella Lawson. Everything is listed below, and there isn't a single one I'm not excited about. Join us!

Sincerely,

Celia Sack, Owner
Omnivore Books on Food
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Upcoming Events at Omnivore Books

 

 

 

Mon. April 2 • Ali Rosen • Bring It! Tried & True Recipes for Potluck and Casual Entertaining • 6:30-7:30 p.m. FREE

The word "potluck" may inspire memories of church dinners and mystery covered dishes. But today's potlucks are essentially outsourced dinner parties, which make gathering around a shared table a cinch. Inside Bring It!, you will find dozens of impressive-looking recipes that come together easily, and are perfect for carrying to any occasion.

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Tues. April 3 • Jessica Battilana • Repertoire: All the Recipes You Need • 6:30-8:00 p.m. FREE

Join us for a party to celebrate the release of local cookbook author Jessica Battilana's first solo cookbook! After nearly two decades in the kitchen and writing about food, this is the way Battilana really cooks at home. These are her best recipes, the ones she relies on the most--for a quick weeknight supper, a special dinner party, when a friend drops by for a drink and a snack, for the chocolate cake that never fails. The knowledge, freedom, and flexibility that comes from cooking these recipes is all you really need in the kitchen.

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Wed. April 4 • Jamie DeMent • The Farmhouse Chef: Recipes and Stories from My Carolina Farm • 6:30-7:30 p.m. FREE

Jamie DeMent opens a bright kitchen window onto the newest kind of North Carolina farming life. On fifty-five acres of beautiful Piedmont farmland in Hillsborough, North Carolina, DeMent and her family raise sustainably nurtured and sought-after heirloom varieties of produce and livestock. Every day on Coon Rock Farm, DeMent cooks robust, flavorful, satisfying meals for family, crew, and farm interns—and now you are invited to share the bounty. The Farmhouse Chef offers 150 recipes for every occasion, from down home to downright elegant, inspired by the farm's yield through the four seasons.

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Thurs. April 5 • Von Diaz • Coconuts and Collards: Recipes and Stories from Puerto Rico to the Deep South • 6:30-7:30 p.m. FREE

When her family moved from Puerto Rico to Atlanta, Von Diaz traded plantains, roast pork, and malta for grits, fried chicken, and sweet tea. Brimming with humor and nostalgia, Coconuts and Collards is a recipe-packed memoir of growing up Latina in the Deep South. Inspired by her grandmother’s 1962 copy of Cocina Criolla--the Puerto Rican equivalent of the Joy of Cooking--Coconuts and Collards celebrates traditional recipes while fusing them with Diaz’s own family history and a contemporary Southern flair. Diaz discovers the connections between the food she grew up eating in Atlanta and the African and indigenous influences in so many Puerto Rican dishes.

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Mon. April 16 • Andrew Friedman • Chefs, Drugs and Rock & Roll: How Food Lovers, Free Spirits, Misfits and Wanderers Created a New American Profession • 6:30-7:30 p.m. FREE.

Chefs, Drugs and Rock & Roll transports readers back in time to witness the remarkable evolution of the American restaurant chef in the 1970s and '80s. Taking a rare, coast-to-coast perspective, Andrew Friedman goes inside Chez Panisse and other Bay Area restaurants to show how the politically charged backdrop of Berkeley helped draw new talent to the profession; into the historically underrated community of Los Angeles chefs, including a young Wolfgang Puck and future stars such as Susan Feniger, Mary Sue Milliken, and Nancy Silverton; and into the clash of cultures between established French chefs in New York City and the American game changers behind The Quilted Giraffe, The River Cafe, and other East Coast establishments.

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Wed. April 18 • Jacques Pepin and his granddaughter, Shorey. A Grandfather's Lessons: In the Kitchen with Shorey • 6:30-7:30 p.m. FREE.

Ever since she was very young, his granddaughter, Shorey, has loved “helping” him in the kitchen. Now that she is twelve, Jacques gives his charismatic pupil a short course on preparing “food that is plain, but elegant, and more than anything, fun.” In the process, he proves himself as inspiring to her as he is to the country’s greatest chefs.

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Thurs. April 19 • Edward Lee • Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting-Pot Cuisine • 6:30-7:30 p.m. FREE

American food is the story of mash-ups. Immigrants arrive, cultures collide, and out of the push-pull come exciting new dishes and flavors. A natural-born storyteller, Lee decided to hit the road and spent two years uncovering fascinating narratives from every corner of the country. There’s a Cambodian couple in Massachusetts, and their efforts to re-create the flavors of their lost country. A Uyghur café in Brighton Beach serves a noodle soup that seems so familiar and yet so exotic - one unexpected ingredient opens a window onto a unique culture. A beignet from Café du Monde in New Orleans inspires a narrative that tunnels through time, back to the first Creole cooks, then forward to a Korean rice-flour hoedduck and a beignet dusted with matcha.

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Sat. April 21 • Nigella Lawson • At My Table: A Celebration of Home Cooking • 3:00-4:00 p.m. FREE

Nigella Lawson is every home cook's goddess, and in this new book she returns to celebrating the food she loves to cook for friends and family every day. As Nigella writes, "The food in this book, that comes from my kitchen, is eaten at my table, and will be eaten at yours, is the food I have always loved cooking. It doesn't require technique, dexterity or expertise, none of which I lay claim to. Life is complicated; cooking doesn't have to be." And yes, Anglophiles, there's a recipe for sticky toffee pudding in here.

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Sun. April 22 • Sonja & Alex Overhiser • A Couple Cooks - Pretty Simple Cooking: 100 Delicious Vegetarian Recipes to Make You Fall in Love with Real Food • 3:00-4:00 p.m. FREE

A Couple Cooks - Pretty Simple Cooking is an irresistible combination of spirited writing, nourishing recipes with a Mediterranean flair, and vibrant photography. Dubbed a "vegetarian cookbook for non-vegetarians", it's a beautiful book that's food for thought, at the same time providing real food recipes for eating around the table.

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Wed. April 25 • Adam Federman • Fasting and Feasting: The Life of Visionary Food Writer Patience Gray • 6:30-7:30 p.m. FREE

For more than thirty years, Patience Gray―author of the celebrated cookbook Honey from a Weed―lived in a remote area of Puglia in southernmost Italy. She lived without electricity, modern plumbing, or a telephone, grew much of her own food, and gathered and ate wild plants alongside her neighbors in this economically impoverished region. She was fond of saying that she wrote only for herself and her friends, yet her growing reputation brought a steady stream of international visitors to her door. In Fasting and Feasting, biographer Adam Federman tells the remarkable life story of Ms. Gray, from her privileged and intellectual upbringing in England, to her trials as a single mother during World War II, to her career working as a designer, editor, translator, and author, and describing her travels and culinary adventures in later years.

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Thurs. April 26 • Somer Sivrioglu • Anatolia: Adventures in Turkish Cooking • 6:30-7:30 p.m. FREE

Anatolia is a beautifully illustrated exploration of classic Turkish cuisine and culture, adapted for modern life. Turkish-born chef Somer Sivrioglu re-imagines the traditions of Turkish cooking, presenting recipes ranging from the grand banquets of the Ottoman empire to the spicy snacks of Istanbul's street stalls. In doing so they explain their take on the classics and reveal the surrounding rituals, myths, jokes and folk wisdom of both the old and new Turkey.

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Sat. April 28 • Nancy Hachisu Singleton • Japan: The Cookbook • 3:00-4:00 p.m. FREE

Japan: The Cookbook has more than 400 sumptuous recipes by acclaimed food writer Nancy Singleton Hachisu (author of Japanese Farm Food and Preserving the Japanese Way). The iconic and regional traditions of Japan are organized by course and contain insightful notes alongside the recipes. The dishes - soups, noodles, rices, pickles, one-pots, sweets, and vegetables - are simple and elegant.

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Sun. April 29 • Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff • Cooking Together: A Vegetarian Co-op Cookbook • 3:00-4:00 p.m. FREE

In addition to recipes from her native India, Sacharoff discusses the basics of cooking, planning well-balanced vegetarian meals and the importance of cooking and eating together with friends and family. Shanta is an original member of Other Avenues Food Co-op, a worker-owned food co-op started in 1974 in the Outer Sunset.

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Omnivore Books on Food • 3885a Cesar Chavez Street • San Francisco, CA 94131
415.282.4712 • Hours: Mon-Sat 11am-6pm, Sun 12pm-5pm