Food & Drink
The Storm Gourmet, A Guide to Creating Extraordinary Meals Without Electricity by Daphne Nikolopoulos
(Pineapple Press, Paperback, 127 pp., $14.95)
Reviewed by Lynne Barrett
FBR Note: For the 2016 hurricane season, we have brought back this review by Lynne Barrett of The Storm Gourmet.
The Storm Gourmet, A Guide to Creating Extraordinary Meals Without Electricity
Reviewed by Lynne Barrett
The second week after Wilma, when we, like much of South Florida, still had no power and faced long queues for gasoline, I realized I needed to get savvier. Maybe you did earlier, after Andrew (when in some places power was out for as much as three weeks), or maybe it was after Charley and Frances and Ivan and Jeanne, when it turned out that a hotel room in Orlando wasn’t refuge or when the gas ran out as your five hour drive to Gainesville stretched to 17 or you learned how thoroughly a bridge knocked out can reroute your life. Maybe it was Katrina, or Rita, or the tail-end of the 05 season when we were using Greek letters as hurricane names, but for those who aren’t responding to real estate deals in Tennessee, the point is: We’re going to have to get serious about this. We Floridians need to become survival artists.
And The Storm Gourmet, as the name implies, is a guide to the art of more than minimal survival. In addition to recipes, it offers the “Ultimate Storm Pantry” with menu plans for fourteen days without electricity, clear, comprehensive shopping lists with what you should get now, not the afternoon before the storm hits, and tips like a list of manual gadgets to have and places to store food safely. It settles the argument we have as a storm nears about how much water to have on hand: one and a half gallons per person per day, times two weeks, means a lot. It goes through what must be discarded after the fridge is off for hours (not days) and what can be saved.
Daphne Nikolopoulos chooses, as her premise, the most extreme situation: no power and no source of heat at all. You may have a grill and charcoal or you may have some means of heating water. (I am proud of my drip espresso with boiled water a la Sterno.) You may have a generator, but in my experience those run the fridge but not the stove. And in any case, it is likely to be hot, wet weather, and Nikolopoulos’s cool, varied menus are simple and soothing.
Think ahead, and buy ahead (the author suggests shopping over time, to spread out the investment), and keep your wits about you. Perhaps you will cook that half-thawed frozen chicken on your grill, and pull it apart and share it with your neighbors, as we did, but that felt pretty primitive and only got us through one evening, while Nikolopoulos’s Tapenade Toasts, and Salmon-Tabouli Salad with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Pine Nuts, and Peach-Raspberry Torte speak of civilization, and civilization is what we crave when the wind has knocked us back a hundred years or so.
As the author suggests, these recipes are good for camping or boating, too, so if we reach December and your supply cabinet is still stocked, try out the recipes through the winter and restock for the ones you like most.
The shopping list, of course, relies on canned foods, but Nikolopoulos reminds us how to balance these out with fresh fruit, fresh herbs in pots, and other staples and supplies. I hesitated at the “instant” pasta, which reconstitutes itself in room temperature water. It is “typically sold only to the food industry” (which makes you wonder about the food industry, as ever) but is available to readers of this book through a website. Perhaps it is wonderful, but it’s trouble to obtain, so I thought, on the same principle as bulgur, which Nikopoulos includes, why not couscous? This morning in my “test kitchen” I combined 1/3 cup medium couscous, equal volume room temperature water (although room temperature may be a bit warmer, post-hurricane), added a dash of sea salt, and left it for fifteen minutes, twice the time needed when the water is boiling. And when I went back, fluffed it up, and tasted: perfect couscous. I am now thinking of an experiment with grits. But that’s the point: The Storm Gourmet got my imagination going about what I couldn’t and couldn’t do. Cuisine is the daughter of invention.
The book is handsomely designed and tucks in bits of hurricane lore here and there. In the color pictures Grapefruit Relish or Key Lime Pie beckon, but I was so deep in the post-hurricane mood that I noticed the many attractive dishes and tablecloths. During Wilma an upended tree ruptured our waterline, and I can attest that washing dishes with your bottled water both feels wasteful and doesn’t quite work, and even with water, hand-washing laundry can be an ordeal, so this display (presumably the photographer’s idea) seemed wrong. But it made me think. I suggest that you go out now looking for a cheerful durable oilcloth tablecloth you can sponge down, and add some fun high quality paper plates and napkins to your list. What the heck, splurge. You’re an elegant survivor.
Lynne Barrett is the author of the story collection Magpies (Carnegie Mellon) and the publishing guidebook What Editors Want (Rain Chain Press). She lives in Miami.
Mango by Jen Karetnick
(University Press of Florida, 208 pp., $24.95)
Reviewed by James Barrett-Morison
Reviewed by James Barrett-Morison
Jen Karetnick is known in Miami culinary circles as the "Mango Mama," a title she received after purchasing Mango House, on a plot that was the last remnant of a '30s mango plantation. She soon found herself producing far more mangos than she could eat and began delivering them to chefs around the Miami area. Her mangos quickly became a part of Miami's late 80s developing culinary scene under the "Mango Gang" of chefs, who combine Miami's diverse culinary ancestries with local ingredients. The recipes in Karetnick's cookbook, Mango, do the same, often taking traditional European, Jewish and Caribbean recipes and mixing them up with the juicy ingredient. Items like Bedeviled Eggs, which take the traditional hors d'oeuvre and add mango powder and Mango-Dijonnaise dressing, give a local flavor to traditional American meals. As a Floridian living in New England, I was excited to see the recipe for Maine Lobster and Mango Summer Rolls, which add a Miami flair and a Thai twist (chilis, basil and fish sauce!) to a Northeastern classic.
Her stories of running a mango farm are delightful, even when discussing its dangers:
Not a summer has gone by that I haven't borne bruises from mangos that I'd loosened accidentally—and then couldn't duck fast enough—while the ones I was actually reaching for still dangled temptingly above my head. I've had to advise parents to move newborns out from under heavily endowed boughs.
I'm less sympathetic with her other complaint that she sometimes doesn't know what to do with the thousands of mangos her trees produce every year. That sounds like heaven to me!
The information on how to purchase, handle and slice a mango is fit for beginners, and there was little that a native mango-eater like myself didn't already know. But I was delighted to learn about preserving mangos through dehydration or freezing, something I had not tried before. The mangos I get my hands on are normally so tempting, the idea of keeping them long enough to dry vanishes as rapidly as the fruit does.
The recipes start off with drinks, as would be obvious for a food as juicy and dripping as a mango. Most of the drinks are alcoholic, rather than the variety of smoothies I was expecting. The book then moves through the day, from breakfast to dessert. I was glad to see that many of the recipes don't involve any added sugar, beyond maybe honey—the mango is sweet enough that additional sweeteners are almost always unnecessary. Many of the recipies are also incredibly easy, like the spicy, refreshing "Mangospacho" soup and the huge number of salsas, sauces and dressings, with which you could eat different mango-flavored meals for weeks. I was surprised to learn a ton about complementary non-mango ingredients, as well, from Japanese condiments like yuzu koshu to Basque Espelette peppers.
The real gems of Mango are the stunning images of mangos both on and off the vine. Many of them are of Karetnick's own mango trees and her friends and family holding juicy mangos. As I was moving through the book, I found my mouth watering over and over, tempted by the photos and recipes alike. The book is replete with profiles of notable Miami chefs who have contributed recipes to the book, including famous "Mango Gang" members like Allen Susser and others from Michelle Bernstein to Kareem Anguin. And Mango is peppered with mango-themed quotes:
A king asked a sage to explain the Truth. In response the sage asked the king how he would convey the taste of a mango to someone who had never eaten anything sweet. No matter how hard the king tried, he could not adequately describe the flavor of the fruit, and, in frustration, he demanded of the sage, "Tell me then, how would you describe it?" The sage picked up a mango and handed it to the king saying, "This is very sweet. Try eating it!"
And that's what Karetnick does with Mango — holds out delectable mango recipes and invites us to try.
James Barrett-Morison, a Florida Book Review Contributing Editor, is a native Miamian now living in Boston, MA, where he misses his ready access to tropical fruits.
The Great Florida Craft Beer Guide by Mark DeNote
(Seaside Publishing, Paper, 249 pp., $19.99)
Reviewed by Bob Morison
The Great Florida Craft Beer Guide
Reviewed by Bob Morison
Some people get to have too much fun on the job. Tour a bunch of breweries and brewpubs, talk with the brewmasters and proprietors, sample their products, write The Great Florida Craft Beer Guide. Mark DeNote must have had fun compiling this history of Florida brewing and guide to some 100 purveyors of craft beer. If you travel the state and enjoy a beer, this book belongs in your glove compartment.
What is craft beer? It’s the product of microbreweries that follow time-honored brewing methods and experiment at will with flavors and styles. Making it is an act of defiance against the humongous national and global brands whose mass-produced beers are too often consistently bland.
Beer’s basic ingredients are standard—water, malted grain, hops, and yeast. Thereafter, variety is the name of the craft-brewing game, starting with the basic styles of German, Belgian, and British. Most of the craft breweries profiled offer a lager or pilsner, an India Pale or darker ale, perhaps wheat beers or a stout. Plus seasonal beers like the obligatory Oktoberfest and signature local concoctions that throw the German Purity Law to the wind.
Never a fan of fruit in my beer, I’m feeling outnumbered by the likes of Blueberry Ale, Orange Ale, Apricot Peach Wheat, Sugar Plum Brown Ale, and Guava Grove Farmhouse Ale.
Some brews I’m eager to try just for the names: El Dude Porter, One Night Stand Pale Ale, Brushfire Rye Ale, Trapeze Monk Belgian Wit, and especially Zeus Will Smite Thee IPA. I most definitely draw the line, however, at Rainbow Jelly Donut Berliner, Coconut Banana Cream Pie Ale, and Elvis’s Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich Brown Ale.
The names of establishments are fun as well, from the expected—A1A, Big Top, Cigar City—to those conceived after a few beers—Angry Chair, Bury Me, Concrete Beach. And that’s just through the letter C.
The book is organized by territory, with Tampa, as the state’s first and still largest brewing center, getting a chapter to itself. We start there with the 1896 founding of what became the Florida Brewing Company, an essential part of the extensive economic ecosystem serving workers at the V.M. Ybor Cigar Company. And we learn how Tampa and Florida Brewing weathered Prohibition through a strategy of partial compliance (selling near-beer and ice) and partial disregard (the authorities in Tampa remained thirsty customers). Tampa was also the scene of the first saturation advertising of suds, for Silver Bar Beer in the 1930s.
Central Florida's early brewing center was Orlando, where L.N. Duncan innovated at the low end by introducing discount, store label, and light beer. Northeast Florida hosted one of the state’s longest-lived breweries, purveyors of the iconic Jax (for Jacksonville) Pilsner. The Panhandle boasted Florida’s only hurricane-proof brewery, ensuring uninterrupted supply of Spearman Ale.
South Florida got off to a slow start—Dade County went dry in 1913. But it’s catching up of late, with the largest concentration of brewing establishments outside Tampa and a dozen more in the works. The South Florida story features ultra-cheap Regal Beer (“As a brand, Regal would have staying power, but few who drank it wanted to remember the taste.”) and the best brewery slogan in Havens’ “Not a Burp in a Barrel.”
The historical pattern is consistent: pioneer brewers figuring out how to cool-ferment in warm climes, bad times during Prohibition when the survivors diversified into ice making and other sidelines, recovery and prosperity through the 1940s with the help of thirsty military personnel, then slow decline until the behemoth brands like Anheuser Busch and Miller drove the local brewers out of business.
Along the way, lots of entrepreneurial effort was expended and lots of breweries and recipes changed hands or evaporated altogether. The lively craft brew scene we have today took root in the 1990s and has been gaining steam in the new millennium. The book doubles as a who’s who (and who’s worked for whom) across the Florida brewing landscape, as DeNote sings the praises of today’s intrepid and inventive brewers.
Each section of the book contains an essay on regional brewing history, then profiles of breweries (almost all have tours and tasting rooms) and brewpubs, including detail on the varieties of beer offered. Especially useful are the “Insider Tips” on everything from regular events and cask openings to pragmatics like where to find elusive parking, who’s open extra late, and who takes only cash.
Each section ends with brief coverage of new establishments “in fermentation” and due to open soon. But check your local listings; a new brewpub in my area is well past the published opening date.
The Great Florida Craft Beer Guide contains photographs of yesterday’s advertisements and today’s breweries and brewpubs. For aspiring brewers who have recipes but not facilities, it lists contract breweries operating in the state. End matter includes chapter notes, an index of establishments and individuals, a rather selective timeline of national and Floridian beer-related events, and a truncated glossary with nine random entries.
Establishments are profiled in no particular order, so you have to browse to find the nearest by. Maps would come in handy. Then again, browsing helps you appreciate all the imbibing opportunities out there.
If I were stranded on a deserted island with only one book in hand, I wouldn't choose this one. It would make me too thirsty.
NOTE: Mark DeNote and The Great Florida Craft Beer Guide appeared at Miami Book Fair International 2014.
Bob Morison is co-author of Workforce Crisis and Analytics at Work. He lives in Miami. More info at his website.
Waiting at Joe's by Deeny Kaplan Lorber
(Seaside Publishing, Hardcover, 177 pp., $19.95)
Reviewed by Betty Jo Buro
Waiting at Joe's
Reviewed by Betty Jo Buro
When I was pregnant with my second child, the first food I craved once the nausea finally subsided was stone crabs. I could not stop thinking about the ritual of pulling off sharp pieces of shell, dipping the cold flesh into tangy mustard sauce and sliding the whole mess through my teeth. Alas, I was living in Pennsylvania, enduring a frigid, slushy winter and could only dream. Had Deeny Kaplan Lorber’s Waiting at Joe’s been at my disposal then, I might have had to get on a plane and fly to Miami.
Waiting At Joe’s gives the reader an inside look at the over one hundred year-old Miami Beach institution, Joe’s Stone Crab. Joe’s began as a small fish shack, run by Joe Weiss, in 1913 when the only way to get to Miami Beach was by ferry. The book opens with a forward by long-time patron Larry King, who first discovered the restaurant in 1957 when he was an announcer at the Miami Beach Dog track and just breaking into radio. Lorber then gives us an introduction, followed by three sections of employee profiles: the maitre d’; members of the wait staff; and those behind the scenes including the executive chef and those decendants of Weiss who now run the establishment.
Peppered with name dropping, (Tom Cruise was a big tipper, President Bush didn’t want to wear a bib, Mohamed Ali got a standing ovation) Waiting at Joe’s is largely anecdotal. Lorber uses a loose formula for her interviews. Each short section includes a picture of the staff member, a brief description of where the person is from and how they ended up working at Joe’s, a favorite Joe’s story or guest that often involves a celebrity or political figure, how long they’ve worked at Joe’s, how happy they are to work at Joe’s, what a close family the Joe’s staff is and some of the wonderful and generous attributes of owner Jo Ann Bass, granddaughter of Joe Weiss.
The most compelling interview comes at the end of the book, when Lorber delves into Jo Ann Bass’s difficult early life. Here she most convincingly illustrates the concept of Joe’s Stone Crab as a family. We see that Jo Ann, motherless, living with her unstable father in an apartment above the dining room, was not only raised in the restaurant but also by the restaurant staff.
Lorber only touches upon some of the more interesting historical moments and any possible negative aspects of working at Joe’s are glossed over. Joe’s son Jesse, Jo Ann’s father, had a gambling addiction. Years ago Miami Beach had sundown laws, a curfew prohibiting blacks on the streets after sundown. The overwhelming majority of servers at Joe’s have been men, and even today there are only fifteen female servers.It took James Jones, an African American who started working at Joe’s as a dishwasher in 1972, nineteen years as a busboy and two refusals before he was allowed to serve in the dining room.
Referring to Joe’s in the 1960’s, Lorber writes, “The kitchen staff was all black. The servers were all white. The front of the house used the toilet closer to the dining room. The kitchen staff used the toilet closer to where they were. Was it segregation? No one I spoke with thought so. It’s just how things were.”
Of course no one she spoke to complained. Jobs at Joe’s are coveted, and Roll Call, Joe’s annual hiring event, is by word of mouth only. But the purpose of this book is not to rehash the history of Miami Beach. It’s not about racism or sexism. Waiting at Joe’s is a love letter to Joe’s Stone Crab from its employees. Employees who get their tips paid to them on the spot, complimentary community meals each shift, health insurance and a 401K plan, $5 parking, half off at Joe’s Take Away, who only leave when they retire or die, who know how lucky they are to have landed quite possibly the best wait staff position in the country. So remember that, the next time you go to Joe’s, when maybe you’ve had to wait for two hours to be seated. The person who delivers your $79.95 order of jumbo stone crabs is truly and genuinely happy to serve you.
Lorber gives us a pleasant peek behind the scenes of one of Miami’s oldest and established restaurants. She wants to make sure the reader knows this is a family business that treats its four hundred employees like family, and after reading Waiting at Joe’s I believe her. But I suspect much of the job satisfaction we read about has to do with the size of tips these waiters slide into their pockets at the end of their shift.
Betty Jo Buro is graduate student in the MFA program in Creative Writing at Florida International University. She lives and writes in Stuart, FL.