Ring in the New Year with Us December 30th – January 2nd at The Lodge at Woodloch

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The #3 Destination Spa in the World.”
Travel & Leisure “World’s Best” Awards – 2014

We haven’t been to The Lodge at Woodloch in an entire year — the longest amount of time that has passed without our visiting since we first discovered this destination spa in the spring of 2010.  Located just 90 miles outside of New York City in Hawley, Pennsylvania, it’s become one of our favorite places anywhere, and we just can’t stay away.  Some years we’ve even visited once a quarter, so we’ve experienced its beauty in winter, spring, summer, and autumn — and know from experience that each season offers its own unique pleasures.

But ringing in the New Year at the Lodge is especially wonderful.  It’s lively enough for a really fun New Year’s Eve celebration, as you can enjoy a Champagne-accompanied dinner with live music, followed by fireworks over the lake.  But it’s also serene enough to give you space for contemplation as you review the joys and challenges of the year just passed — yet stimulating enough, with lots of talks and classes, to inspire your plans and enthusiasm for the year ahead.

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We hope you’ll consider joining us there at the end of this month.  After a “Meet & Greet” at 5 pm on Tuesday, December 30th, we’ll be giving a talk after dinner at 8:30 pm on “Understanding Yourself through Wine / Understanding Wine through the Enneagram.”  On Wednesday, December 31st, you can join us at 4 pm for a tasting of “Sparkling Wines from Around the World.”  And at 8:30 pm the night of Thursday, January 1st, we’ll share what we’ve learned while researching, writing, and photographing THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE in our talk “Eating Plant-Strong in 2015 — For Your Health & For Great Flavor.”

In between, there’s a good chance you might run into us in the dining room at breakfast, lunch, or dinner; at a qigong or yoga class; in the year-round outdoor jacuzzi or on the hiking trails; or even catching a snooze in one of several hammocks on the property (all of which we enjoyed last year, despite the snow)!

Explore the Lodge’s website.  Yes, the Lodge is indeed as magical as it looks.  We think of it as heaven on earth.

The Lodge at Woodloch is in Hawley, Pennsylvania, and on the web at thelodgeatwoodloch.com.  You can come for just one or two nights, or stay for a week — although you just might wish to stay forever.

Little, Brown Celebrates THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE’s Latest Media Accolades with a Great New Graphic

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Manhattan Standard Cheese Board Makes a Great Holiday Gift — Better Still When Paired with Artisanal Vegan Cheeses

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The cheese block we ordered and that just arrived from Manhattan Standard is the most beautiful cheese board we have ever seen.

Granted, we might be somewhat biased:  We’ve known Manhattan Standard’s 20-something artist/creator Samson Day (above) since 2001, when he didn’t stand all that much taller than the cheese board itself.

But Samson has already proven to be a young man of extraordinary talent — one who’s already had his photography exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in Manhattan.

Today, he’s based in Los Angeles, and focusing on his art full-time.  You can invest in a piece of it — an heirloom-worthy cheese board hand-shaped from lengths of solid American boac walnut, “saturated with a warm mixture of food-grade mineral oil and beeswax before being hand-rubbed to low-gloss finish with a blend of food-grade Brazilian carnauba wax and walnut oil”  — for a mere $90.

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We are pairing ours this holiday season with artisanal vegan cheeses.  We adore the peppercorn Brie-style vegan cheeze (made with a combination of hemp seed milk and macadamia nut milk) created by Lori Robin (above right) for her Fleischmanns, New York-based company Cheezehound, which has the distinction of being the first vegan cheeze we’ve ever tasted that we truly loved, and which will be available on the afternoon of Saturday, December 20th, at the Vegan Shop-Up at the Pine Box Rock Shop, located steps from the Morgan Ave. L at 12 Grattan St. in Brooklyn.

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And we’ve heard raves from a number of people whose palates we respect for the artisan vegan cheeses of Miyoko Schinner (above center; she literally wrote the book on the subject, as mentioned in THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE), which we just placed our order for today in time for Christmas.  Happily, there’s still time for you to do the same!

Samson Day‘s Manhattan Standard can be found at mnhtnstandard.com.

Egg and Dart also carries Samson Day‘s Manhattan Standard cheese boards at egganddart.bigcartel.com.

Lori Robin‘s Cheezehound is based in Fleischmanns, New York, and at facebook.com/veritablevegan.

Miyoko Schinner‘s Miyoko’s Kitchen is based in Fairfax, California, and at miyokoskitchen.com.

Loire Valley Wines’ “Fine Bubbles” Sparkle at Bouley Wine Tasting Luncheon, and Provide Exceptional Value

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Bouley has one of the best-smelling foyers of any restaurant, filled with the fragrance of fresh apples

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Left: The Chef’s Pass adjacent to the kitchen at Bouley is one of the most beautiful private rooms at any restaurant in New York City; Right: Loire Valley Sparkling Wines being poured at Bouley

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Top Right: Master of Wine Christy Canterbury leads us through a tasting of sparkling wines from the Loire Valley; Bottom Left: Our host Marie-Christina Batich of Sopexa (at right, glass in hand)

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The exquisite array of Loire Valley sparkling wines held their own against dishes featuring ingredients ranging from artichokes to shaved white truffles

“You can’t even buy a half-bottle of Champagne for the price of a full bottle of these [Loire Valley sparkling] wines.”
Christy Canterbury, MW

As the holidays draw closer, wine lovers increasingly have one thing on our minds:  bubbly. But as we were deliciously reminded over an extraordinary lunch last week, “bubbly” does not always have to mean “Champagne.”

Yet most of us are much more familiar with the term “Champagne” (which describes sparkling wines made via the traditional method in the region of Champagne from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and/or Pinot Meunier grapes) than we are with the terms that describe the sparkling wines made via the same traditional method in the Loire region — which include terms like “Cremant de Loire” (reflecting a gently sparkling wine, versus Champagne’s fully sparkling wine), “Saumur Brut,” “Saumur Mousseux,” “Touraine Brut,” “Vouvray Brut” and “Vouvray Petillant” (gently sparkling).

It’s a good idea to get to know these terms, as the region is focused on producing increasingly excellent sparkling wines, and – after Champagne itself — the Loire Valley is France’s largest producer of sparkling wines.  The featured grape is most frequently the Loire’s prized Chenin Blanc, which often contributes notes of apple, honey, oil, wax, and wet wool in addition to the sparkling wines’ common notes of biscuit or bread.  (Some may also feature small amounts  of Cabernet Franc and/or Chardonnay.)

A week ago today, we gathered with fellow wine writers in the Chef’s Pass at Bouley to taste through a number of Sopexa‘s “Fines Bulles” [feen BOOL] elegant sparkling Loire Valley Wines.  The highest priced among them was a mere $40 — a price point that would be suspect for a bottle of Champagne.  All of the sparkling wines we tasted were made through the same traditional method used to make Champagne (with aging and secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle itself).  Most of these Loire wines were very gently priced in the high teens to mid-twenties — offering  exceptional value.

Among our favorites we’d tasted during our vegetarian menu — whose ingredients spanned artichokes braised in almond milk, 24-hour roasted Japanese eggplant with a red pepper puree, and a medley of mushrooms including maitakes, matsutakes, and shiitakes in a dashi broth — included:

NV Cuvee Excellence, Vouvray Brut, Cave des Producteurs de Vouvray C. Greffe  (100% Chenin Blanc; dry, with notes of citrus, peach, and pear; $17-$21)

NV Saumur Brut, Domaine du Vieux Pressoir  (80% Chenin Blanc, 20% Chardonnay; dry, with notes of apple, brioche, and lemon; $16-$20)

NV Intense Brut, Touraine Brut, Chateau de L’Aulee  (80% Chenin Blanc, 20% Chardonnay; hint of residual sugar, with notes of dried apricots, flowers, minerals, and nuts; $14-$18)

2011 Vouvray Methode Traditionelle Brut, Domaine Sylvain Gaudron  (its lusciously creamy texture wowed a lot of us in the room, even before its $16-$20 price tag did!)

NV Bulles de Roches, Saumur Mousseux, Thierry Germain & Michel Chevre   (90% Chenin Blanc, plus Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay; a standout of our tasting, this aromatic, “funky” — in a good way! — wine is currently on sale at Sherry-Lehmann in Manhattan for a mere $17.95 a bottle!)

We’ve long championed the food-pairing maxim “When in doubt, serve bubbly!”  The Loire’s food-friendly sparkling wines offer enough finesse to pair beautifully with the haute cuisine of a special-occasion restaurant like Bouley, but are so gently priced that you don’t need to wait for a special occasion to enjoy them.  Consider picking up a mixed case of Loire Valley sparkling wines to enjoy all year long.

Bouley is at 163 Duane Street in Manhattan.  212.964.2525.  Website:  davidbouley.com

Christy Canterbury, Master of Wine, is at christycanterbury.com.

Interloire is at vinsvaldeloire.fr.

Loire Valley Wines and their “Fines Bulles” (fine bubbles!) are at loirevalleywine.com.

Kajitsu Celebrates the Colors and Flavors of Autumn Heading Into Winter

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Scenes from our November 18th lunch at Kajitsu

Kajitsu means ‘fine day,’ or ‘day of celebration’ in Japanese.  We have chosen the name Kajitsu hoping that a visit here will always be a special occasion for our guests.”
–from Kajitsu’s website

Having just returned from spending the better part of three weeks on the road (on book tour with THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE) in cities alternately windier, sunnier, and rainier than New York, we were still settling back into our bed and life in Manhattan in mid-November — let alone the dry, cold weather as autumn heads toward winter.  A chance lunch at Kajitsu, which last month was celebrating the colors and flavors of November in true Japanese fashion, was an unexpected healing, providing us with both grounding and exhilaration.

Because the casual downstairs sister restaurant Kokage (which serves seafood in addition to vegan options, and where we love to enjoy a $20 bowl of the city’s best ramen) was completely packed with a wait at 12:30 pm on a mid-November weekday, we inquired about availability upstairs, and decided to have a celebratory lunch at the pricier-yet-still-a-bargain-for-the-quality Kajitsu, which had tables open at lunch and runs $45 for three courses and $50 for four courses.

Kajitsu Lunch Menu
November 18, 2014

Mukouzuke, White Rice, and Miso Soup
Mixed nuts tofu and seasonal vegetables

Autumn Hot Pot and Vegetable Tempura
Carrot, daikon, komatsuna green, mushrooms, ginger, scallion

Wakame Chazuke
or
Udon Noodles ($6 supplement)

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Mixed nuts tofu and seasonal vegetables with white rice and miso soup

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Quite possibly the best udon noodles we’d ever tasted

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Atsushi Nakakigashi (at left) with Kajitsu Executive Chef Hiroki Odo (at right)

This was one of the best lunches we’ve ever had at the restaurant — which is saying something, considering how many wonderful lunches and dinners we’d enjoyed there when Chef Ryota Ueshima (whom we had the pleasure of interviewing for THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE, but who’s since returned to Japan) was at the kitchen’s helm.  Now in charge is Kajitsu’s Executive Chef Hiroki Odo, and he wowed us with that lunch.

When we had vegan guests visiting from out of town — Makini Howell, chef-owner of Seattle’s most acclaimed vegan restaurant Plum Bistro, and her mother Niombi Howell, proprietor of Tacoma’s pioneering vegan restaurant Quickie Too — we settled on Kajitsu for our dinner together.  Pushing the envelope even further during this multi-course feast, the kitchen did not disappoint in creating a memorable experience for us all.

Kajitsu HANA Dinner Menu
December 7, 2014

Winter Vegetable Pate
“Holiday Season in New York”
Celery roots, cauliflower, red beets, radish

Sake Kasu Soup with Porcini
Japanese taro, Konnyaku, nameko, sake lees, scallion

Grilled Sesame-Tofu with Seasonal Assortment
Lotus roots, broccoli, mustard, deep-fried tofu, scallion, jicama, shiitake, turnip,carrot, soybean, fennel, spaghetti squash, mountain yam, umeboshi

Stuffed Yuba Roll and Crunchy Brussel Sprout
Mushrooms, bean sprouts, scallion, ginger, sansho sauce

Yuzu-Miso Daikon
Watercress, burdock roots

Sweet Potato Rice

Strawberry Mochi
Azuki bean

Matcha with Candy
by Kyoto Kagizen-Yoshifusa

Shojin cuisine refers to a type of vegetarian cooking that originates in Zen Buddhism.Even though it does not use meat or fish, shojin is regarded as the foundation of all Japanese cuisine,especially kaiseki, the Japanese version of haute cuisine. In its present form, kaiseki is a multi-course meal in which fresh, seasonal ingredients are prepared in ways that enhance the flavor of each component, with the finished dishes beautifully arranged on plates.  All of these characteristics come from shojin cuisine, which is still prepared in Buddhist temples throughout Japan.”
–from Kajitsu’s website

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Seasonal dish served wrapped to symbolize a “present,” in celebration of the season

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Our server displays a large basket of seasonal produce, accented by fresh cotton (representing snow)

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Scenes from our December 7th dinner at Kajitsu

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Kajitsu’s scene-stealing Yuzu-Miso Daikon served with watercress and burdock roots may have looked like a caramel-sauced cannelle, but was deeply satisfyingly savory

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Left: Strawberry Mochi with azuki bean; Right: Matcha with Candy

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Top: Signage upon entering Kajitsu; Bottom: Ippodo Tea Company’s Kato Riichiro

Kajitsu, the second vegan restaurant to have earned two stars from The New York Times (after Bart Potenza and Joy Pierson‘s Candle 79), has been both a welcome newcomer since its opening, and an especially welcome addition to our neighborhood since March 2013 when the restaurant moved to Murray Hill.

We look forward to our return visits to Kajitsu every month to celebrate the changing of the seasons, let alone the holiday season.  Every visit indeed becomes a “day of celebration.”

Ippodo Tea is downstairs at 125 East 39th Street (bet. Park & Lexington Avenues), Manhattan.  Phone:  212.228.4873.  Website:  kajitsunyc.com

Kajitsu is upstairs at 125 East 39th Street (bet. Park & Lexington Avenues), Manhattan.  Phone:  212.228.4873.  Website:  kajitsunyc.com

Kokage is downstairs in the same location.  Phone:  212.228.4873.  Website:  kajitsunyc.com

THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE Cited As One of WBEZ Food Show “Chewing the Fat”‘s “All-Time Favorite Food Books”

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“A smart but irreverent look at food culture today by two sassy ladies who love to cook and eat as much as they love to report and argue with each other. Food journalist Monica Eng (above left) and chef/food blogger Louisa Chu (above right) get together to explore cooking, dining, culture and food policy while introducing you to a smorgasbord of culinary characters.”
–from WBEZ Radio’s website

WBEZ, Chicago’s flagship public radio station, first signed on the air in 1943 as an extension of Chicago’s Board of Education and went on to become one of National Public Radio‘s first charter member stations in the early 1970s.  We’ve had the pleasure and privilege of being interviewed on many of its programs over the past two decades, but it’s been a special delight to see one of its newest programs blossom and come into its own right before our eyes and ears.

“Chewing the Fat” — co-hosted by smart, passionate, and fun co-hosts Louisa Chu and Monica Eng (who literally put the “Chu” “Eng” in “Chewing”!) — is one of public radio’s newest food shows, and already a rising star among them.

So we were thrilled to learn that THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE made its way onto the “Chewing the Fat” co-hosts’ list of their “All-Time Favorite Food Books.”

Thank you, Monica and Louisa!

WBEZ Radio’s “Chewing the Fat” co-hosted by Louisa Chu and Monica Eng can be found at chewingthefatshow.tumblr.com.

Second-Hand Holiday Greetings from Our Readers Around the Globe

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It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

Do our readers even know what precious gifts they are giving us when they share such beautiful words about our books with others?  Best of all, these gifts keep coming to us from out of the blue, and from all around the globe, making it feel like a small world indeed.

The other day, we were delighted to happen upon a December 4th Twitter exchange between Australian chef Trumble Dewé and Australia’s leading cookbook store Books for Cooks.  Trumble had asked the store for its “Top Ten” (Cookbooks of 2014) and Books for Cooks replied with a list that included THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE.  Up until that point, we’d had no idea that our less-than-two-months-old book had even made it to Australia, let alone considered in such elite company.  Thank you, Books for Cooks!

(By the way, Books for Cooks’ full “Top Ten” list includes Edward Abbott’s Australian cookbook, Relae by Christian F. Puglisi, Heritage by Sean Brock, Sepia by Martin Benn, Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi, Dabbous by Ollie Dabbous, Home Baking, Food Lover’s Pilgrimage, THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE by Karen Page, and Mexico by Margarita Carrillo Arronte.)

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Just today, we read an interview with The Leela Goa‘s executive chef Kayomarz Bharucha in The Hindu, India’s national newspaper, on “Books That Inspire Culinary Artists.”  The book he cited was none other than THE FLAVOR BIBLE, which he credited with giving chefs “a list of choices that can be used to combine different food items and flavours, which helps experimentation and opens up various possibilities for innovation.”

The fact that an Indian chef cooking in Goa is saying such a thing attests to accuracy of the statement on the front flap of THE FLAVOR BIBLE‘s book jacket that “Cuisine is undergoing a startling historic transformation: With the advent of the global availability of ingredients, dishes are no longer based on geography but on flavor.”  We’re delighted and honored by the confirmation that our work is inspiring chefs not only across the United States but also around the world — thank you, Chef Bharucha!

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And then we read an interview with Canadian chef Lora Kirk of Ruby Watchco on the website Dine Toronto, asking her the name of the cookbook she “can’t live without.”  She named CULINARY ARTISTRY, and added, “It’s what I go to when I want to be inspired; it’s like having a conversation in my head with the book.”  We love knowing that chefs in Canada are still finding CULINARY ARTISTRY just as inspiring as chefs across America, and indeed around the world, are.   Thank you Chef Kirk!

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We read a review of the German edition of THE FLAVOR BIBLE (DAS LEXIKON DER AROMEN- UND GESCHMACKSKOMBINATIONEN) on a German website which — thanks to the magic of Google Translate — we understood to be that of a Cordon Bleu-trained German chef who credits it as her “most-used cookbook”!  Thank you Chef Bouchy!

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And finally, Allison Zinder’s website Paris On The Edge covers “jaunts, joie de vivre and culinary inspiration from the city’s artists,” and includes a list of her favorite things — which includes THE FLAVOR BIBLE.  She writes, “One book that has become indispensable on my shelf is THE FLAVOR BIBLE by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. It is truly as its subtitle suggests: ‘The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity.’ The book contains hundreds of ingredients arranged alphabetically and lists their flavor partners and affinities with other foods and spices. So useful!”  We’re grateful to know that THE FLAVOR BIBLE is being put to good use in Paris — thank you, Chef Zinder!

Based on nearly two decades of experience, we know that the kind of thoughtful reader who connects deeply with our books tends to share our passion for excellence, making a stop at any of the following a good bet during your own world travels.  Please tell them all that Karen and Andrew sent you, and wish them Happy Holidays from us!

Books for Cooks is at 233 Gertrude Street in Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia, and online at booksforcooks.com.au.

Chef Kayomarz Bharucha is at The Leela Goa in India:  theleela.com 

Chef Lora Kirk is at Ruby Watchco at 730 Queen Street East, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, which can be found at rubywatchco.ca.

Chef Allison Zinder is at Paris On The Edge, which can be found at parisontheedge.com.