Read to Eat
Start the summer with great food stories and recipes worth a little perspiration
Wine Bar Food: Mediterranean Flavors to Crave with Wines to Matchby Cathy and Tony Mantuano
Clarkson Potter, 208 pp., $27.50
The Mantuanos have successful careers as Chicago restaurateurs. What they love most is pairing interesting wines with creative foods. Wine Bar Food offers their inventive recipes based on the cuisines of 10 cities (Venice, Milan, Florence, Rome, Naples, Seville, Barcelona, Nice, Lisbon, and Athens). There are also three chapters aimed at educating the reader about artisanal cured meats, cheese, and an ideal pantry. The recipes run from simple items like saffron-pickled cauliflower, which takes about 10 minutes and could be cooked by a child, to pane fratau, which would take a few hours for even an experienced cook, with plenty of potential for catastrophe and a difficult set of ingredients.
Wine Bar Food has one serious shortcoming, and it screams so loud that either the authors or the editors must have made a policy decision: The Mantuanos don't offer specific recommendations. Instead of having two or three specific wines for each recipe, they provide a page or two in each chapter generically talking about the wines of the region. They sprinkle a few brands in these pages but never get specific about which wines from the brands would pair well with each recipe. In the "Venice" section, they mention a wonderful winery – Masi – but they make at least a dozen wines. Which one are they recommending? And for which dish? In the "Pantry" chapter, they recommend things like lampascioni and canned white asparagus, but no brands. I just have no idea how something so simple could have slipped through the editing phase.
Judged as a cookbook, Wine Bar Food has a lot to recommend it. Most of the dishes have well-thought-out, flavorful recipes. But that's as far as it goes.