Black Manhattan Cocktail

When I picked up Bitters, a book celebrating the history and culture of using bitters in cocktails, I was immediately hooked on the subject. I am always drawn to books that not only tackle a single subject, but do it so well. The book sparked additional interest when I made the Pith Helmet from the book, an enticing mixture of gin, cucumbers, Pimm’s, lemon, basil, black pepper, and a few dashes of bitters. I wasn’t all that familiar with bitters (the renewed interest in cocktails was just taking off in Paris), but loved what a dash of this, and a few drops of that, could add to a drink.

Black Manhattan Cocktail

I eventually connected with Brad Parsons, the author of the book, and have been fortunate to pull up a stool at several cocktail bars with him. (A friend called him “The Holy Grail of Drinking Buddies.”) If you can’t be at the next bar stool from him, Amaro (and Bitters) are the next best thing.

In fact, they may be even better because the photos of his voyage to Italy by Ed Anderson (who shot the photos in My Paris Kitchen, who is also no slouch in the drinking-buddy department…) capture the beauty and spirit of the amaro culture in various places around the world. And you don’t even have to worry about taking a tumble off a bar stool to enjoy them.

Black Manhattan Cocktail

Amaro is an Italian liqueur that defies an exact description. They could best be described as herbal digestives, each flavored with a unique mixture of spices, citrus, barks, flowers, roots, and fruits. (And sometimes vegetables, such as rhubarb and artichokes.) Amari are not subtle and if you’ve even had a sip of one after a rich meal, it provides a jolt powerful enough to calm your stomach – and spirits, not matter what came before it.

As Brad notes in his book, humans have a natural aversion to bitter, a flavor that’s naturally associated with something dangerous. But many things that are bitter, such as broccoli and other greens, are actually good for you. I’ll let you be the judge on any health-giving properties of any kind of libation, but I know several people with young children who say that without wine, they could not function.

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Like many others, I’m a fan of Ina Garten. Growing up, her mother didn’t want her in the kitchen and she never considered cooking as a profession. After marrying her husband Jeffrey, though, he suggested she quit her government job and follow her passion, which turned out to be cooking and baking, something she discovered after buying a specialty foods store, even though she had no experience…

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One dessert I don’t make often enough are baked apples, known in France as Pommes rôti au four, or Pommes au four – oven-roasted apples. We have great apples in France, which I like to buy from the local grower at my market. But Americans also have a long history with lovely apples and when I was growing up, we lived near a cider mill and…

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It’s been a turbulent week and I went into my usual default mode: I baked something. I’d been planning on sharing an apple cake recipe with you, having cooked up some apples and bought some dates in preparation. But one morning I awoke very early after a fitful night of sleep and started pitting dates, in the early hours of the day, before the sun came…

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I love cookies. If there is a selection of cookies on a dessert menu, I always will order it. I’ve been to cookie shops from Beirut to Bushwick, nibbling my way through chewy chocolate chip cookies, macarons, buttery sablés, and snappy ginger cookies, whenever I can. Even Parisians get in on the act by dubbing chocolate chip cookies, les cookies, perhaps because they are the classic…

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This was a bang-up year for cookbooks. Although my editor isn’t thrilled, I am glad that I didn’t have a book come out this fall with all the other great books that have crossed my path. Because it’s nice to be able to spend some time cooking and baking through them. (While I work on edits for mine, coming out next year. If I finish it…) One…

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Pumpkin Jam

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German baking, I don’t think, gets its due. It’s partially because the names of the pastries and baked goods don’t exactly roll right off most of our tongues. Kartoffel-Käse Dinnede, Zitronenbiskuitrolle, Aachener Poschweck, Schwäbischer Prasselkuchen, and, well…I’ll quit now, because it’s taking me too long to hunt down all those keys on my keyboard. And I’d rather be wrapping my tongue around German cakes and cookies, rather than trying to…

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