Saturday, December 27, 2008

Some Great Food Writing of 2008

This year, with the exception of the Food Writing series (discussed below) and a few other choice cookbooks, the majority of my cooking has leaned heavily on recipes drawn from the web. And although I have featured my favorite blogs on a sidebar below, I thought I would try to briefly sing their praises as I have come to rely on them so heavily for wonderful recipes, thoughtful writing and overall inspiration. With the exception of the Splendid Table, the websites are also distinguished by their gorgeous photography.

I am definitely late to the wonderful world of podcasts (I have yet to get an I-Pod!) but the discovery of the Splendid Table (available free on I-Tunes) has helped me to understand what all the fuss is about. At any moment of my choosing (e.g. when organizing clothes in the basement), I can listen to this thoughtful, humorous and wonderful weekly radio show about all things food. The commentator, Lynne Rosetto Kasper hosts different chefs each week, as well as other food writers and travelers. I can always count on walking away with a recipe or too, some great new ideas while having passed a very enjoyable 45 minutes. (Now if only it would inspire me to go jogging!)

The Splendid Table website compiles many of the recipes that Lynne features on her show. They are easy, healthy and consistently delicious. The recipes are also flexible in that she identifies substitutions, ways to prepare recipes in advance and how to freeze them.

Orangette was my first food blog discovery, and it remains my favorite. Molly is a storyteller who intertwines her personal stories with great food and recipes. Many of my favorite recipes from the year come from her site (roasted cauliflower, Touch of Grace biscuits). In fact, she is such a fun writer (she always makes me smile as I read), that she was picked up by Bon Appetit!

I have recently come across 101cookbooks, but I can also count on this site for excellent vegetarian recipes that are particularly kid-friendly. While the site takes a while to load due to many ads (though I commend her for supporting herself) it is worth it. I have loved her recipe for split pea soup (made special with smoked paprika) and chickpea and noodle soup.

Smitten Kitchen is a new discovery, but after making really fantastic bagels, I think I am hooked. Just like 101Cookbooks, the photography is almost as good as the recipes. I also like the commentary, as well as the helpful comments of other bloggers.

The Wednesday Chef, like Smitten Kitchen, is also based out of New York, but it offers a more eclectic mix of simple and complex recipes. Again, Luisa Weiss is the type of talented food writer who mesmerizes me with her ability to both transmit the taste of a food and the experience of cooking through words...before I can even cook the recipe.

I became addicted to Chowhound when it first appeared years ago. When I rediscovered it this past winter, I realized how useful it can be: at its best it is like getting a group of friends together who all ate at the same restaurant and can tell you what (and what not) to order. I now try to use it when I am deciding where to eat (reading posts and posting my own inquiries) and for suggestions on what to eat. I actually am most fond of CH for introducing me (and others) to those little, local finds that aren't reviewed in the mainstream papers. Recently it has become even more ad-heavy (and a bit laborious to use) than it was, but for now that is the price to pay for some great recommendations.

I couldn't keep up with all the blogs I now read without the help of Google Reader. It makes skimming a few dozen blogs a snap, allowing me to star those I want to go back to. I recommend it to anyone.

Finally, I have always been a cookbook reader, often snuggling into bed with a few choice options next to me. But my other food writing discovery this year is the "Best Food Writing" series edited by Holly Hughes. These books are compilations of restaurant reviews, recipes and anecdotes written by people whose pleasure is food. I am working my way backwards (from 2007 to 2000) and have enjoyed each one.

I know there are so many other great food blogs and books out there and am always looking for more recommendations, so feel free to share!

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