By Brooke McDonough.
Reading Adam Centamore’s Tasting Wine and Cheese is akin to taking a course in the art of pairing. It’s no wonder; Centamore teaches an interactive pairing workshop at the Boston Wine School, which is one of their most popular courses. He knows his wine and cheese.
A self-described “wine nerd,” Centamore is certified by the Elizabeth Bishop Wine Program, is a member of the French Wine Society and Society of Wine Educators, and he teaches at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge. However, it’s not just his credentials that make this book work so well, it’s his passion for the subject, and his joy. We all know that some wine nerds can be fussy, but Centamore is different; he seems to have fun with it!
For each wine he introduces, he suggests “The Cheese that Loves it,” and adds, “A Match Made in Heaven.” For example, Viognier, known for its “aromas of lavender, ginger, and white stone fruits,” is a match with Port Salut (cow’s milk, France). The cheese is soft and yielding and has low acidity, like the wine. Add some acacia honey to compliment the full body character of the pair suggests Centamore. Is your palate perking up yet?
The wines he writes about are from all over the world, Torrontes from Argentina, Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux, and so are the cheeses that match them, Monte Eneboro from Spain, and Gratte Paille from France. The choices are endless. Centamore encourages readers to try new things, to think differently about wine, and to experiment. He gives general guidelines about flavor, temperature, and texture, but he stresses above all else—and this is the fun part—the most important thing about pairing is that you eat and drink what makes you happy. All ‘rules’ aside, if you like it, it works! As an example, Centamore offers his father’s continuous choice of basic merlot (with ice) after being introduced to world-class wines by his son; and Centamore celebrates the choice.
The side stories add personality to Tasting Wine and Cheese, but it’s the thoughtful notes on the pairs that will make you come back to it again and again. Like any good teacher, Adam starts at the beginning. His first lesson is about taste, and then he moves on to the basics of pairings. He wants the reader to slow down, to notice flavors, textures, and smells. Centamore says with practice, this becomes natural. He embeds other lessons throughout the book whenever he can. Fun fact: did you know that Dom Perignon first struggled to find a way to take bubbles out of wine? There are also more serious explanations on tannins and terrior that can help the reader truly understand the complexities of the pairings.
Along with being informative, Tasting Wine and Cheese is truly gorgeous and well organized. Beautiful photographs complement the text on every page. Whether you’re thinking of hosting a wine and cheese tasting, or you just want a more complex understanding for gourmet combinations, this book works. Open to any page in the book and start with a particular wine, or read the book cover to cover for an immersion into the nuances of pairings. And for sure, it is a book that’s best enjoyed with a glass of wine, and perhaps, a bit of cheese!
Northeast Foraging, 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries, is clearly the only book a wild food gatherer would ever need. Even if you’re not a wild food gatherer (yet), but you’re curious about food, you will want a copy for your reference shelf. The book does exactly what it sets out to do; describe, in detail, 120 edible plants and how to identify, gather, and eat them. The close-up, glossy pictures help readers know exactly the right plant to forage.
Food enthusiast author, Leda Meredith, dedicated Northeast Foraging to her great grandmother, who first taught her how to forage for dandelion leaves in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. She cooked them with a little garlic and olive oil, and added some lemon juice. Meredith’s passion was sparked there and continues to grow. She holds a certificate in Ethnobotany and is an instructor at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens and Adelphi University. It’s the joy of finding the right plant that keeps Meredith inspired. She shares not only the correct way to forage, but also the excitement she feels when she makes a tasty discovery.
There is a reason professional chefs love wild edible plants; they add a creative culinary component to even the simplest dish. Since many are trying to eat what is local, fresh, and in season, what better than to understand the edible delights that are growing in our backyard. Delicious black raspberry bushes grow wild, and the stems have a blue-white coating to help you identify them. Oxeye daisies can be added to salad for interesting flavor. Red clover grows abundantly and can make a tea, or perk up a salad, or be ground into flour.
Even better, red clover can be used medicinally for skin ailments, respiratory complaints, and more. Another bonus, wild edible plants often contain more vitamins and minerals than their cultivated counterparts.
With 120 plants, the book is comprehensive, but doesn’t seem overwhelming. Meredith arranged the plants alphabetically, so it’s easy to use as a guide, and its compact size travels well. Take Northeast Foraging into your backyard or on your next trip to Maine or New Hampshire and see how much is out there for the gathering!
Brooke McDonough is the manager of Westwinds Bookshop in Duxbury and an avid reader of all things fiction. She has a soft spot for big, beautiful cookbooks and keeps the shop well stocked with them. She lives in Duxbury with her family.