Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cool Yule #8! Beer Books for 2011: The Best of American Beer & Food

Cool Yule! #8
Cool Yule! 12 Beer Books for 2011

Not a list of the dozen best-of-the-best books about beer of 2011, but, rather, my list of 12, some personal delights, others of unique or deserved merit. Some of the books have been published this year, while others are worthy chestnuts.

Between 20 November and the Winter Solstice, I'll reveal my selections. Then, on Christmas Day: put your feet up, pour yourself a good beer, and read a good book. Or, better yet: give a friend the gift of a beer and a book. December 22nd may be too late to arrange shipping by Christmas (unless available as an e-book), but it's time sufficient to pay a visit to your local brick and mortar —and book— store.


So ... cue eight maids a-milking

Cool Yule Beer Book for 2011: #8

the Best of American Beer & Food

The Best of American Beer & Food
Pairing and Cooking with Craft Beer
Lucy Saunders
paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Brewers Publications (US, 2007)
ISBN: 0937381918

Lucy Saunders —the BeerCook— released The Best of American Beer & Food in 2007. It's just as fresh today.

The book is divided into roughly two sections. The first reminds me of Real Beer And Good Eats by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly. Ms. Saunders interviews chefs, restaurant owners, and other beer celebrities. As well, Ms. Saunders writes several extended essays on beer styles, matching beer with food, on beer and cheese, and beer and chocolate).
Please don't dismiss Pilseners as being unworthy of being served at the table with lighter or simpler fare, as many craft-brewers are restoring the brightness and luster to a style that suffered commercial debasement in the last century. A bready yet crisp Pilsener tastes outstanding with a freshly grilled burger - it's simple and very good.

That said, some of the recipes included in this book are far from simple and could only be termed ambitious. These time-consuming recipes show that craft beer can pair with complex foods just as well as with burgers, sausages, and pizza.

Lucy Saunders indeed knows food ... and beer.

The second section features recipes from those chefs and celebrities, reminding me of a similar format in Cooking & Eating with Beer by Peter LaFrance. Some of the recipes include beer as an ingredient; others suggest appropriate pairings. Considering that many of these recipes come from brewpubs, those pairings make great sense: they have worked well and repeatedly. A partial listing of the folk featured includes Carol Stoudt, Diane Alexander, Lisa Morrison, Tom Peters, Garrett Oliver, Chuck Skypeck, Brewchef Tim Schafer, Larry Bell, Rob Tod, Natalie and Vinnie Cirluzo, Dan Gordon and Dean Biersch, Charles and Rose Ann Finkel, Jim Koch, Tomme Arthur, and Barton Seaver.

Lucy gives props to some Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland, area restaurants (home to this blog): The Brewers Art, Brasserie Beck, Restaurant Nora, Birreria Paradiso, Rustico, R.F.D./Brickskeller, Tuscarora Mill, and Royal Mile Pub.

There are two recipes from Diane Alexander of R.F.D., including Chicken and Artichoke Hearts in Anchor Steam Beer. Chef Patrick Dinh of Tuscarora Mill contributed his Asiago Soup with Smoked Ham. Royal Mile Pub's past owner/chef Ian Morrison provided his recipe for Lemon Thai Basil Sorbet.

Saunders offers a recipe from Chef Barton Seaver, well known for his work for sustainable seafood. It's not seafood, but Grilled Lamb Top Round Steaks with Caramelized Tomato Risotto, which he prepared for a Clipper City Beer Dinner several years ago when he was chef at Washington, D.C.'s Cafe Saint-Ex.

When the book was first released, some reviewers complained about the complexity of the recipes. These aren't as simple as bratwurst boiled in beer, one seemed to grouse. Yes, that's true. The Best of American Food & Beer is not a cookbook about technique. It's about, what else, beer with food, and about beer in food. But too complicated? If one is even a fair at-home-kitchen cook, most of the recipes are well within that skill set. Take this one, for example, which Ms. Saunders prepared for a Washington, D.C. morning news broadcast.
Creamy Cavatappi with Fresh Corn, Fennel and Wild Mushrooms p.106

Chef Bruce Paton of the Cathedral Hill Hotel, San Francisco, CA, pairs this warm creamy pasta salad with the Twist of Fate Bitter from Moonlight Brewing of Santa Rosa, CA. You could pair it with your favorite ESB.
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 bulbs fennel, trimmed and sliced very thin
  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 6 ears)
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, trimmed and diced
  • 1 cup cremini or chanterelle mushrooms, trimmed and diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups light cream
  • 1 pound cavatappi pasta, cooked al dente
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and minced
Lucy Saunders on TV
  • 1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add crushed pepper and garlic and cook, stirring often, two minutes. Add corn and diced fennel, stir well and cook 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, ground fennel, salt and pepper and cook until tender, about 5 minutes
  • 2. Add cream and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Drain pasta and toss with vegetables and cream. Garnish with red bell pepper and freshly ground black pepper
  • Makes 4 to 6 servings.
The Best of American Beer & Food is a special and usable cookbook, very usable: I've prepared several of the recipes. But therein lies its only demerit. The binding for this 'hard' paperback is not good: it falls apart after only a few uses. I hope that Brewers Publications releases a second edition in better condition.

Ms. Saunders maintains a website at (with links to her other cookbooks: Cooking With Beer and Grilling with Beer. Follow her on Twitter @LucyBeerCook. And, cook with this book!

Cool Yule for 2011, so far:
  • #9: Beer & Philosophy
  • #10: Evaluating Beer
  • #11: Windows on The World
  • #12: The Story of Brewing in Burton on Trent

  • This review has been plagiarized. I admit it. I've cribbed it from ... MY earlier review, written in 2007, when the book was first released.
  • For on-line purchasing, I link to the Brewers Association book store, or to the marvelous resource, When not available there, or if published as an ebook, I link to
  • The 12 Books for Christmas 2009: here.

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