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A Seat at the Dinner Party

Cindy Burnett
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Food related books

This week, Cindy Burnett covers three unique new books about pie, cocktails across the United States and food journaling. 

When I started reviewing books at the suggestion of a friend nearly five years ago, I had no idea that a whole new world would open up for me, not all at once but over time. As with any new endeavor, I learned bit by bit about the various opportunities and ways to contribute as a reviewer and make connections in the book world. 

One of my favorite things about sharing what I do is that the conversation immediately shifts to books – what someone has read and loved (or didn’t love), questions about what I have read and loved recently or some other discourse about books. Nothing makes me happier. Another fun benefit is the plethora of programs that are available to participate in as a book reviewer. There are virtual book tours where reviewers highlight books on blogs and social media, publisher programs that send out emails about new books to review, Facebook book groups and more. 

Last summer, I stumbled across an application for a program called the ABRAMS Dinner Party, and I applied and was accepted for the 2019-2020 year. ABRAMS publishes numerous cookbooks and other food-related books. Each year, they launch a new “Dinner Party” where they select a group of reviewers who operate blogs or review books on various social media platforms. In the fall and in the spring, they mail out a number of books to each participant. Several books included in last year’s program were unique and entertaining and most likely would not have appeared on my radar otherwise. The titles that particularly resonated with me were Questlove’s Mixtape Potluck, 99 Bottles: A Black Sheep’s Guide to Life-Changing Wines by Andre Hueston Mack, and American Food: A Not-So-Serious History by Rachel Wharton. 

I am thrilled to be participating again with the ABRAMS Dinner Party for 2020-2021, and my first three books arrived this week. While I look forward to delving into each of them and will provide a summary below, the standout to me is The United States of Cocktails: Recipes, Tales, and Tradition from All 50 States (and the District of Columbia) by Brian Bartels. Houston’s own Anvil Bar & Refuge is highlighted as the best cocktail bar in the state, and in the book, Anvil owner Bobby Huegel says: “I would say Houston is the most genuine mixology scene in the entire country, without a doubt. We have drinks, we have fresh ingredients, we love classic cocktails, but we’re not going to forget where we’re from.” The United States of Cocktails also includes drink recipes from Anvil and Coltivare Pizza & Garden and would make the perfect holiday gift for the traveler or drink connoisseur in your life. (See more cookbooks and other holiday gift ideas from last year here.) 

Here’s more about the first three “Dinner Party” books for this year:

  • 99 Things I Love to Eat: A Journal of Meals & Memories illustrated by AnneliesDraws: The third book in Noterie’s 99 Things guided journal series, 99 Things I Love to Eat is a food-lover’s adventure catalog. Inside, find food-related prompts and lists to complete, ranging from experiences (restaurants on your must-try list) to food memories (recall your most memorable meals) to fun activities (jot down your favorite flavor combinations). Interspersed are charming illustrated lists of foods that you’ll want to check off as you try them, such as pastries from around the world, the many cultural variations of dumplings, and every shape of pasta. Get inspired to cook, eat, travel, and celebrate all things delicious in life!
  • Pie for Everyone: Recipes and Stories from Petee’s Pie, New York’s Best Pie Shop by Petra “Petee” Paradez: Petra (Petee) Paredez shares her personal repertoire of impeccable baking techniques that have made her pie shops, Petee’s Pie Company and Petee’s Café, New York darlings. At the heart of it all, the goal is simple - a tender, flaky crust and perfectly balanced filling - and this cookbook leads the way with easy-to-follow, step-by-step guidance. A champion of locally sourced ingredients, Paredez features some of the best farms and producers in profiles throughout the book, inspiring us to seek out the very best ingredients for our pies wherever we may live. Filled with vibrant photography and recipes for just about every pie imaginable, from fruit and custard to cream and even savory, Pie for Everyone invites us to share in the magic and endless appeal of pie.
  • The United States of Cocktails: Recipes, Tales, and Tradition from All 50 States (and the District of Columbia) by Brian Bartels: The United States of Cocktails is a celebration of the cocktail history of every state in America. After traveling around this great nation and sampling many of the drinks on offer, cocktail authority Brian Bartels serves up a book that is equal parts recipe collection, travelogue, historical miscellany, bartender’s manual, and guide to bar culture today - with bar and drink recommendations that are sure to come in handy whether or not you are crossing state lines. Delving into the colorful stories behind the creation of drinks we love, this book includes more than 100 recipes alongside spirited analysis of each state’s unique contributions to cocktail culture. Filled with colorful illustrations, The United States of Cocktails is an opinionated and distinctively designed love letter to the spirits, bars, and people who have created and consumed the iconic drinks that inspire us and satisfy our thirst.

I received these books through my participation in the ABRAMS Dinner Party, a genius promotion strategy created by the publisher where they send out cookbooks to influencers and ask for their honest thoughts on these books.

For more book recommendations and bookish thoughts, see Cindy’s monthly Buzz Reads column, her Thoughts from a Page Podcast or follow @ThoughtsFromaPage on Instagram. Find upcoming Conversations from a Page events here.

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