Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Allagash: The Cookbook" visits D.C.

Mix in equal parts love of cooking, dissatisfaction with a PhD program, a chance encounter with Roxanne Quimby of Burt's Bees, curricula at the Culinary Institute of America, wanderlust, love of beer, chutzpah, preparing a private dinner for Allagash Brewery owner Rob Todd and brewer Jason Perkins, and the attention of an independent publisher/photographer.

Allagash: The Cookbook (02)

That's the recipe for the genesis of chef James Simpkins' new cookbook, Allagash: The Cookbook, published by "boutique" publishing house Blue Tree.

Simpkins —and Brian Smestad, photographer and publisher— were in Washington, D.C. tonight, signing copies of the The Cookbook for the public and media at beer bistro Churchkey.

Author, publisher, & brewery ( Allagash: The Cookbook)
l-r: Brian Smestad (publisher/photographer;
Suzanne Woods (mid-Atlantic representative for Allagash);
James Simpkins (author/chef).

Over a two year period, Simpkins has created a book of recipes inspired by the Belgian-styled beers of Allagash Brewing, of Portland, Maine. Not so much cooking with beer as an ingredient, but cooking a meal to be served with beer. As brewery owner Rob Todd says in a foreward:
Great food had been a part of our lives at Allagash for well over a decade, and this book seemed like a perfect natural progression.

Chef Simpkins divides the cookbook into ten principal chapters, in which several different recipes are paired with each of ten different beers from Allagash: White, Dubbel, Tripel, Four, Curieux (pictured below), Interlude, Black, Victoria, Hugh Malone, Coolship (spontaneously fermented beers).

Curieux by candlelight

In well-written comments, Simpkins explains and describes the flavor hooks for each association. He offers not only an index of the recipes, but a pre-index, if you will, by culinary region: New England (e.g., Maine Scallops with Caramelized Onions and Bourbon Butter), Mid-Atlantic (Sweet Potato Bisque with Sourdough Croutons), South (Chicken Plantain Roulades), Heartland (Double Cheddar Grilled Cheese Sandwich), West (Stuffed Poblano Peppers).

The book itself is a gorgeous creation: glossy card-stock, well-bound pages, and beautiful photographs, all done under the care of publisher Smestad. There's one final, nice touch: a built-in old-fashioned, ribbon bookmark. Mine opens to page 37: the poblanos stuffed with quinoa.

If you weren't at Churchkey tonight, look for Allagash: The Cookbook at independent bookshops, wine/beer shops and restaurants, and on-line: here. Amazon? Nope! You can't buy it there.

  • More photos from the book signing: here.
  • Caveat lector: As a representative for Select Wines, Inc. —a wine and beer wholesaler in northern Virginia— I sell the beers of Allagash.

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