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Libation, A Bitter Alchemy Hardcover – June 2, 2009
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"There will be obvious comparisons between Deirdre Heekin's thoughtful observations, musings, and distillations of Italian culture and those of other writers of expatriate life under the Tuscan sun, clouds and beyond, but Heekin incorporates an entirely other essence largely overlooked in that genre: the alchemy that fuels all of those glorious meals and recipes she recounts, not only in Italy, but Vermont, Paris, New Orleans, and Belfast. From jug wines to Brunello, rosolio to Campari, Sazeracs to Murphy's Irish Whisky (neat, please!), Heekin rightly discovers along the way that the true recipe for great alchemy demands the magic of memory, and all the wonderment and discovery that come with it."--Anthony Giglio, author of FOOD & WINE's Wine Guide 2009 and 2010, Cocktails in New York, and several Mr. Boston Official Bartender's Guides
"Deirdre Heekin sets a bountiful table for her readers. Libation is like the best of meals, in this case one with plates full of delicious memories and ruminations on passion and curiosity. And, finally and most importantly, there is a most satisfying dollop of love, a fine dessert which leaves us with an almost unimaginably sweet regard for life."--Neal I. Rosenthal, author of Reflections of a Wine Merchant
"The combination of travel, the alchemy of liqueurs, and her sheer joie de vivre make Heekin's book as delicious, intriguing, and warming as any of the recipes she pursues."--Joseph Olshan, author of The Conversion
"The alchemy of Deirdre Heekin's beautifully evocative memoir, her libation in tribute to the art of making wine, spirits, and other 'waters of life,' is not only the alchemy of grapes as they ferment, or that of an American couple falling in love with French and Italian cordials and spirits, or that of the pungent taste of liqueurs, whiskeys, and eaux de vie remembered on snowy Vermont evenings with such intensity that fervent, joyful, sun-filled memories of love, friendship, pleasure, and bliss come alive. It is also the alchemy of a prose transformed into a spirited and intoxicating poetry."--Richard Stamelman, author of Perfume: Joy, Obsession, Scandal, Sin; A Cultural History of Fragrance
About the Author
Deirdre Heekin and Caleb Barber are the proprietors and, respectively, wine director and head chef of Osteria Pane e Salute, a boutique restaurant and wine bar in Woodstock, Vermont, recently acclaimed in Bon Appétit, The Boston Globe, Travel and Leisure, and Attaché. Heekin and Barber grow most of their own produce in addition to working with local farm partners. In preparation for his role as head chef of Osteria Pane e Salute, Barber apprenticed with an artisanal baker and in a small trattoria in Tuscany.
Heekin and Barber live in Barnard, Vermont, where Heekin produces artisanal after-dinner brandies and micro-vintage garage wine for the osteria. Visit Deirdre and Caleb's blog, Fuoricitta (Out of The City), at http://fuoricitta.blogspot.com/
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Top customer reviews
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If you are interested in viniculture, this book is definitely for you. If Vermont conjures up more than tourist imagery and gets into bone and soil, this book is calling you. Her preface alone is one of the strongest passages of prose of this kind I have seen in a long time. Her terroir is deeply Southern. She might could have been in the same furrow as O'Connor or Welty, but she turned to the land of Edith Wharton and Emily Dickinson by way of Benvenuto Cellini and Pellegrino Artusi.
But Ms. Heekin has a different profession, with a need to write forcefully and cleanly about it. She is writing for everybody whose life she has touched in her bakery years or in her current osteria, for all of us with similar interests. But I think she is writing for those to be born in a century or three because of her love of voices past.
She has discussions of process, of working, of soil. Some will complain she is too technical about topography and soil composition. But if you are serious about growing, you need to be seriously learning such things; she is merely retracing her steps for us to see. It is not her plot (*groan*) I care about; it is her process.
Ms. Heekin has a nice section on making rosolio from rose petals and grain alcohol. Quite useful, this. I did not know the medicinal properties of herbs are preserved in wine or other alcohol. Now my appreciation of aqua vitae has ripened.
She imparts her information as a travelogue of her studies and trials. She takes us unhurried to see all the sights along the way, unafraid of stopping a while, lingering on thoughts, or a memory, a landscape. Do not come here if you are on the march. But she is no dilettante. It is the little things that tell. She knows the true Manhattan is made with rye and not bourbon. She teaches Campari, not just tossing off some third hand recipes. And Sazerac!
This is a book I will return to many times. It will outlive us all. I already have her other book on order. Salute
I had the odd experience, however, of loving Heekin's writing, but not quite liking her. While she and her husband seem to have so much going for them, she insists on repeatedly doubling back to make backhand swipes at her parents' relationship with alcohol. She reminds me of Ruth Reichl, whose writing is absolutely brilliant but always annoyingly undercut by constant exegeses of her mother's imperfections. Heekin's familial complaints detract from the flow of the book and leave me wondering why she chose to make, and drink, alcoholic beverages for her life's work when all I really want to know is how they make that rose petal liqueur.
That said, Heekin's passion for history and impeccable research shine through and she has written an interesting book about a fascinating subject in a poetic and highly readable style. Her passion for her subject is infectious and might just send you into the kitchen to try your hand at some of the recipes included in the book.
Most recent customer reviews
I was really looking forward to reading this book -- how could you not like an interesting travelogue about Italy, Italian food, wine, spirits and the...Read more