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FORKPLAY October 22, 2013

Books Pour In. Sylvia's Table. The Way We Ate. Katie and Norman. American Cut. Toro. Small Treasures   


Dear Friends and Family,


       As you must know if you've been reading me for even just one decade or two, I am not focused on cruelty-free food or saving the planet. But I have two nieces who are vegetarians. When books arrive with a vegan slant or a New Age philosophical tag line, I offer them to Dana and Pamela.


       This week I'll be mailing "Plum: Gratifying Vegan Dishes from Seattle's Plum Bistro" (Sasquatch Books $29.95), to Dana in Bigfork, Montana. "Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz (LittleBrown $30) will go off to Pamela in Ramona, California. Given my prejudice against authors who use words like "chicky" and "cheddary", I'm not going to examine it closely. After all, with the strict limitations of veganism, any new ideas must be welcome. And we must all be pleased that print is still alive.


       I wonder, do vegans who are not kin read me? If so, they must also be masochists.



In praise of veggies, our colors today are carrot and beet.




Sylvia's Table


       A coven of practiced critics from Citymeals-on-Wheels was tasting dishes with Liz Neumark from Great Performances at The Plaza last Wednesday for our annual by-invitation-only Power Lunch for Women. (Our goal is $1.2 million. Do you know any adventurous men or women who might pay $10,000 to join us? Call Emily at 212 687 1290.)


       Liz mentioned her upstate farm and her new book, "Sylvia's Table: Fresh Seasonal Recipes from Our Farm to Your Family"(Knopf $35). I asked for a copy and that is how I learned that both farm and book grew out of the devastating loss of daughter Sylvia just before the age of seven. The Sylvia Center and the Kinderhook Farm, where children come to learn about food, is a legacy to the daughter who wanted to be a "helpful human," a brave, inspiring project to emerge from a parent's unbearable loss.


       It's a book clearly aimed at offering comfort, and getting kids involved in farm-to-table growing, cooking together, eating what they've harvested. Liz includes her own recipes, some catering dishes, and ideas from famous chef friends. Sara Moulton's Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Chorizo and Greens sounds luscious. I'll skip the kale propaganda and jump right to roasted vegetables, one of my enthusiasms. Eric Ripert's mother Monica's salad suggests anything goes that's in season. You'll wipe a tear from your eye and share this book with your family.




The Way We Ate


       To be frank, I'd never heard of "The Way We Ate" blog till one of my InsatiableCritic writers suggested I check it out. I loved the photos and giggled at the concept of capturing favorites from other eras in the style of their time. It seems authors Noah Fecks and Paul Wagtouicz were putting together a book, and wanted a recipe from me in a lineup with Daniel Boulud, Jacques Pépin, Michael Lomonaco and Ruth Reichl.


       They assigned me 1971 as my year. I don't know why, but that reminded me of my mom's macaroni and cheese. I'm a little annoyed that Gloria Steinem gets most of the credit on my page rather than me or my mom, Saralee, the classic 50's housewife who probably wasn't even cooking much anymore in the 70s, but rather going out at 5 pm for the early bird special.


       That's okay. Just when you thought there couldn't possibly be an original idea for a cookbook left to invent, here is "The Way We Ate: 100 Chefs Celebrate a Century at the American Table" (Touchstone $35). It has the charm of old menus and vintage recipe collections. You can cook by it, stir your cocktail or just be amused by what great chef or cookbook writer was assigned what year to memorialize and what they wrote.




What James Villas, Katie and Norman Van Aken Ate


       Jim Villas has always found a way to my heart, exploiting his Southern heritage and the wicked foods that make life more daring. I had to have his James Beard Award-winning "Pig: King of the Southern Table" and I gave "The Bacon Cookbook" to half a dozen friends who I hoped would invite me to dinner. Now Villas takes aim at our arteries again (while suggesting that careful frying can be refined and healthy). Just out, "Southern Fried: More Than 150 Recipes for crab cakes, fried chicken, hush puppies and more" (HMH $29.95).


       I'm feeling guilty because I failed to tell you promptly how much I love Katie Quinn Davies' "What Katie Ate: Recipes and Other Bits & Pieces" (Viking Studio $40), yet another internet-to-bookshelf triumph. The photographs are smackingly gorgeous, the graphics are endearing. It's a diary and a how-to. There are recipes also and you may be moved to rush to the kitchen. I'm happy just turning the pages. I find looking at food porn is immensely fulfilling. It helps me eat less. Overlook her Vegemite endorsement. She can't help it. She's Australian. The book came out last year, so my belated rave can't do much to move it, I suppose. But Christmas is coming. Treat yourself.


       Who was that in bed next to Emeril? For a joyous, irreverent, "under the tablecloth" memoir, you'll want to be watching for "No Experience Necessary: The Culinary Odyssey of Chef Norman Van Aken" (Taylor Trade Publishing $24.95), due in December. Norman wandered twenty years, almost as many jobs. As Anthony Bourdain notes, Van Aken is "the Jimmy Page of his profession - a man who was THERE at almost every important moment in its history." Did he really invent the term "fusion?" I'm still reading. This guy can tell a story.




Marc's Pastrami Cut


       Marc Forgione has a passion for everything bagels. He's got a yen for pastrami, too, and a homeboy feel for Tribeca, where he's just added American Cut to his restaurant real estate below Canal. (Only weeks after scoring a hit at Khe-Yo, the Laotian kitchen of his long-time chef de cuisine on Reade Street.)


       I'd be content here making a dinner of the original 1924 Tijuana Caesar salad chopped at the table and those crunchy potato pancakes with ribbons of chicken fat and a dribble of sour cream -"latkes," it says on the menu, assuming you talk New Yorkese too.


       After slowly and methodically devouring the warm, oversize "everything" seeded biscuit with dabs of cream-cheese laced butter, it's no wonder I barely make a dent in the first-rate "New York City 20 oz. bone-in ribeye" with pastrami spicing that my friend and I are sharing. It's just what I want in my steak: seriously rare, smartly caramelized, chewy, but not too, with a smack of smoke and bravura deli spicing. Click here to read more.




The Running of the Toro


       The neighborhood instantly discovered Toro, a Boston transplant to the Meat Market. The vast industrial space hidden away on 15th Street seems a natural draw for its raucous bar and seemingly endless pinchos and tapas, more than 60 offerings on the menu: cold, hot and á la plancha -- authentic and fantastical. And why not? Chelsea Market, Food Network and Google's local playpen are just steps away from the hidden door.


       I had arrived early, not sure where I would find 85 Tenth Avenue, although my Post-it said "entrance on 15th Street." Another few steps and I'd be in New Jersey. Then I spied an opening in the wall, and inside, narrow steel stairs. At the top, beyond the swinging doors, Toro's industrial warehouse looked like a giant cowboy saloon. I expected a bucking bull. The crowd was sparse. But by the time we'd run up a ridiculous bill, liked or loved more than half of what we'd tasted, and slithered sideways out the door, the place was jumping. Click here to read more and decide if Toro is for you.




Small Treasures


       I vowed I would take one positive step last week to make a dent in my clutter. I was inspired by an email from my friend, intuitive Laura Day: "You can change the world by changing yourself," she wrote in announcing a new boot camp and her free Circle events at


       I climbed to my loft, determined to weed out a few ancient frocks from the vintage rags hanging on racks there. I snatched two dusty black tees and tossed them to the bed below. "Color Me Beautiful" told me a hundred years ago not to wear black. That was easy.


       Then I noticed a huge shoebox taped tight. I opened it and found a collection I'd forgotten I owned. Exquisite objets de virtu - little snuff boxes, vintage ivory dance cards, small mother-of-pearl purses, a silver notebook with pressed flowers, a precious royal blue enamel minaudiere. In the 60s and 70s I used to line them up on tabletops in the living room, but in the 70s and 80s I wrapped them in tissue and put them away to make room for treasures from our travels to Hong Kong, Chinaand Vietnam.


       If only I were the Frick or the Copper Hewitt. I'd have shelves and tables to display everything and multiple cleaning ladies to dust. But I'm not and I don't.


       Since I'm doing so well on Etsy finding new homes for my vintage evening bags, I decided to post just a few miniatures. Divesting only hurts a little. "Every time I buy something new, I toss something old out," a friend told me. She is thin, young and beautiful. I am trying to follow her example. Click here to shop now.



Photographs of Glacier National Park, American Cut's marrow and the Tomahawk steak, and the mackerel and tripe-bean-blood sausage casserole at Toro may not be used without permission from Gael Greene. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.