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A16: Food + Wine Hardcover – September 1, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. One of San Francisco's most popular new restaurants, A16 is devoted to southern Italy's rustic cuisine and robust wines. This book, by its executive chef and wine director, begins by exploring eight grape-growing areas in the south, from the region's heart in Campania to mountainous Abruzzo and the isolated island of Sardinia in the Mediterranean. With a dizzying number of wines produced in each area, the focus is wisely kept on the grapes themselves, with eloquent essays on the history and qualities of both classic and less familiar red and white varietals, and food pairing tips as well as recommendations of wine producers. The second half presents some of those foods—peasant cooking like pasta with chunky, chili-spiked sauce, a rabbit mixed grill and, of course, Neapolitan pizza, with A16's Bay Area location showing in occasional ingredient twists like the tangerines in an arugula salad and the zesty punch of preserved Meyer lemon in a grilled shrimp dish. Executive chef Appleman's expertise is reflected in a chapter on the pig, including recipes for making pancetta and sausages, which are rather advanced for casual home cooks but, like the rest of the book, make fascinating reading for lovers of Italian food and wine. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
IACP International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook Awards, First Book/Julia Child Award Category Finalist
"Savvy diners focus on the kitchen's soulful renditions of dishes from Campania, the region surrounding Naples, and a wine list that brims with discoveries from southern Italy. Sure, have a bit of pizza, but save room for dishes such as roasted porcini with green garlic, ricotta gnocchi with squash blossoms, or sweet pea ravioli with braised pork, pecorino, and black pepper."
"This is a cook's cookbook; it deserves a quiet season filled with long chilly nights, the ideal time to enjoy its gutsy dishes."
"A book you really can cook and learn from."
"A testament to the rustic fare and a convivial atmosphere of the restaurant."
–San Francisco Chronicle
"Fascinating reading for lovers of Italian food and wine." *Starred Review*
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The book begins with one of the largest and most comprehensive discussions on southern Italian wines, written by wine director Shelley Lindgren. Covering wine from Campania to Sardinia, it's a full 58 pages! Anyone interested in Italian wines should pick the book up for this section alone. One of the white wines she writes about, Falanghina, intrigued me so much I ran right out and bought a bottle. It was such a nice surprise, a really delicious wine and such a change from the mediocre Chardonnays we have too much of around here.
One of the things I loved about this book is the attention to ingredients - it is not just a book of recipes. Chef Nate Appleman devotes a dozen pages to explaining key ingredients and their uses such as San Marzano tomatoes, salt, bottarga, anchovies, capers, herbs, olive oil, cheeses and vinegars. There is also an interesting section explaining the differences in the flours used in pizza making and the difference it can make in your pizza dough. There is a whole section devoted to pizza making which I found helpful. Chef Appleman talks about visiting the famous pizzeria in Naples, "Da Michele" and discovering the secret to its outstanding pizza dough - addding older, fermented dough to fresh dough to build a more complex flavor. A16 uses a method which replicates this taste - letting the dough proof for 2-3 days (which I'm going to try for our weekly pizza nights at home!)
The recipes in this book range from Antipasti to Desserts, with dishes such as Bruschetta Four Ways, Ricotta Gnocchi, Bucatini with Fava Beans and Pancetta, Chicken Meatballs with Peperonata, Short Ribs alla Genovese, Chard Gratinata with Bread Crumbs and Pistachio and Almond Cake. Each recipe is thoughtfully paired with a wine selection. Nice touch. There are also thoughtful discussions on the techniques of making soffritto, meatballs and fresh pasta.
There is also a comprehensive "Resources" list at the back of the book for hard to find ingredients.
Anyone interested in good food and wine will love this book. The photography is gorgeous.
I not only collect cookbooks, but I actively use them. This is a fantastic cookbook that focuses on the Campania region in Southern Italy, and for me, it's in the same vein of excellence as Anne Willan: From My Chateau Kitchen. Probably because of several factors present in each book; the love of culinary arts is obvious and there are narratives that explain, teach or entertain. They both highlight the cooking style of a region and success with the recipes is achievable.
I like the organization of the A16 better, with the chapters on Antipasti, Pizza, Zuppa, Seafood all the way to Gelato. The book is the size and weight of a college textbook, with nice paper stock and photography as good as it gets. Other reviews have mentioned the wine section, which is substantial and gave me new wines to try that I hadn't heard of or tried before. I am fortunate to have a wine store (The Wine House) that carries many of the suggestions. I guess that it's no accident they are listed in the resources section at the end of the book. But I digress.
What carries a cookbook for me is more than being an instructional manual, but the how's and why's and history of a cuisine. In most any country, cooking is part of the cultural foundation, and while that may not be necessary to know, for me, it adds something. In that, A16 delivers. The section on Naples and pizza was just perfect for me. From what I read, I'll never look at a mass market pizza the same way again. Nor will I buy crushed canned tomatoes again either, instead, I'll opt for the canned whole tomatoes and crush them myself. Little gems like these are throughout the book.
Make no mistake, ingredients are at the forefront of A16's cooking and depending upon where you live, some might be a challenge to find. If that is the case, the resources section at the end of the book I mentioned will be helpful in finding some of the more esoteric items. However, even the simple items like salt and flour are given their due, and types and proper uses are given. The attention to detail and the obvious love of cooking are what make this book excellent and why it will find its way into homes and bookshelves of cooks everywhere.
If you love cooking and cookbooks, you'll love this book, more so if you love Italian cuisine and wine. For yourself or for others, this is a nice gift for all but the novice cook.