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A Venerable Vineyard With an Extraordinary History

A Venerable Vineyard With an Extraordinary History

Sometimes a winery’s story is so compelling it just begs to be told. Case in point: Buena Vista Winery, one of the oldest in California, with a history so colorful it could have been the stuff of silent film: Hungarian founder Agoston Haraszthy, the self-described “Count of Buena Vista,” immigrates to America cloaked in rumors, serves a couple of years as San Diego County Sheriff, then heads north to buy up some prime land in Sonoma and stake his claim to “purple gold.” The Count proves to be a talented vintner and the winery enjoys early success. Alas, the restless Hungarian abandons his winery for adventure in Nicaragua,where he (oh, no!) allegedly perishes crossing a crocodile-infested river.

Like the distressed maiden tied to the railroad tracks in the aforementioned silent films, Buena Vista survives the Depression, Prohibition, and a phylloxera infestation before finally being rescued in 1949 by Frank and Antonia Bartholomew and their legendary winemaker, André Tchelistcheff. Together, the trio work to restore the vineyard to its former glory. In 2011, Buena Vista is acquired by the renowned Boisset family from Burgundy, under whom it continues to produce world-class wines.

Whew. Heady stuff.

Buena Vista today offers a wide variety of wines at every price point; the following are some of its entry-level offerings.

2014 Buena Vista Carneros Chardonnay ($20)

This is a classic modestly priced chardonnay — neither especially oaky nor buttery, it hits that everyman sweet spot for folks who just want a good, food-friendly wine to share with friends. Pale gold with a slight glint of green in the glass, it has aromas of white flower and a bit of honeydew melon in the nose, giving way to pineapple, ripe apple, a hint of oak and vanilla and some soft citrus mid-palate with a pleasant, medium-long acidic finish. Grapes for this wine were sourced from four vineyards, pressed while cool, barrel-fermented with secondary malolactic fermentation, and aged in French and Hungarian oak for 10 months. I’d drink this wine with any seafood in a creamy or buttery sauce, a rich quiche, nutty Gruyère, or full-fat cheeses. It’s also quite nice on its own.

2013 Buena Vista The Count Founder’s Red Wine ($20)

This is a very nicely structured, easy-drinking blend of mostly merlot with some syrah amping up the body and and bit of zinfandel contributing brightness and juiciness. A very pretty deep cherry red in the glass with more of that cherry and black currant on the palate, the wine offers a soft, round mouthfeel and a gentle tannin finish. Decidedly food-friendly, it is a very likeable wine. I’d pair it with roast chicken, pastas, charcuterie, cassoulet, and sandwiches stuffed with cured meats. I’d also take it on a picnic or drink it on its own.

Buena Vista Carneros Pinot Noir 2013 ($25)

A very pretty bright garnet in the glass, this lively pinot has a seductive nose, full dark berry flavor, with a bit of clove, a whiff of tobacco, and a bright, medium-long acidic finish. Interesting structure with notable tannins and a dusting of welcome dirt in the finish. As with the Buena Vista chardonnay, grapes for this wine have enjoyed the cooler climate of Carneros. I’d match this wine with rich bean soups, smoked ham, rosemary-crusted lamb, and gutsy, rather than delicate, fish, such as seared balsamic- and mustard-basted salmon.

2012 The Sheriff of Buena Vista ($40)

Named for Buena Vista founder Agoston Haraszthy, in honor of his brief service as sheriff of San Diego County, the 2012 Sheriff of Buena Vista is a big, arresting blend of 32 percent petite sirah, 26 percent syrah, 20 percent petit verdot, 17 percent cabernet sauvignon, and 5 percent grenache. A dark-red-fruit-forward nose heralds blackberry, black cherry and cocoa nib on the palate. The addition of petit verdot and petite sirah contribute to the long, integrated tannin finish. This wine really opens up with a bit of time or decanting, giving your guests ample time to admire the three-dimensional sheriff’s badge firmly affixed to the label—like the wine, not subtle, but great fun. Given the number of varietals that go into the mix, it’s not surprising to learn that the fruit was sourced from all over Sonoma: Rockpile, Dry Creek, and the Sonoma and Alexander valleys all contributed. This wine demands bold and flavorful food; don’t be afraid to drink it with big chunks of grilled meat, hearty stews, or stinky cheeses, such as Stilton or Époisses.


The Epicurious Blog

There are books, cookbooks, and culinary books. But lately there is a growing genre, a kind of hybrid, the novel that turns into a cookbook, or at least folds some recipes into its plot.

The current fashion is for culinary mysteries and the one getting a lot of attention on The New York Times best-seller list is Joanne Fluke&aposs "Cream Puff Murder" (Kensington, $24). This is Fluke&aposs eleventh mystery, centered on a Minnesota baker. Previous works in the series include the "Carrot Cake Murder" (Kensington, $22), which rings true (we&aposve all known carrot cakes that could kill you), and the forthcoming "Plum Pudding Murder," which conjures up visions of one mean drunk of a plum pudding spraying the room with bullets.

While you&aposd think the running theme (food will eventually turn on you) would put readers off, apparently a lot of food-lovers adore these books and the genre isn&apost radically new. Before culinary mysteries there were plenty of culinary novels and if they didn&apost always include literal recipes they did celebrate food and usually featured at least one good dish as a minor character. And that makes sense. Reading about food is sometimes as good as eating it. When I was in college, going for stretches without cash, I would love to walk the streets and read posted menus there was something exquisitely pleasurable (in that painful way) about scanning the descriptions of oven-roasted chickens and sticky toffee puddings I wasn&apost going to eat.

So for people who like the genre, please share your favorite titles, those novels you think offer the best recipes, or the best vicarious meals, or at least work up the meanest appetite. My choice is over the jump.

My selection may seem like an odd one. Virginia Woolf (pictured above in her pre-Raphaelite prime) too often gets dismissed, these days, as a snob. But she was a radical in her own way and in classic novels like "Mrs. Dalloway" (Harcourt, $18) and "To the Lighthouse" (Harvest Books, $15), she sees the beauty of things. There are passages in both novels when the thoughtful characters, their big busy brains always racing, suddenly stop thinking and seize on the sensory moment, in an almost hallucinatory way. The smell of the English garden and the morning rain, the bunch of flowers Mrs. Dalloway buys for her party, the seductive beauty of hats and the ethereal glow of the lighthouse (both a symbol but also simply itself) are the novels&apos ripe running poetry.

And food, a big part of any sensual world, is a refrain. There are some wonderful descriptions of busy kitchens and boiling pots in both books, the Dutch still-life tumble, in "Mrs. Dalloway," of "plates, saucepans, cullenders, frying-pans, chicken in aspic, ice-cream freezers, pared crusts of bread, lemons, tureens and pudding basins, the soup, the salmon". But what makes both books really culinary novels is the way they present the central meal, the feast, as the thing that brings everyone together, and that holds off, at least for a second, all the ugly chaos. The plum pudding, in the end, becomes the peace-maker.


The Epicurious Blog

There are books, cookbooks, and culinary books. But lately there is a growing genre, a kind of hybrid, the novel that turns into a cookbook, or at least folds some recipes into its plot.

The current fashion is for culinary mysteries and the one getting a lot of attention on The New York Times best-seller list is Joanne Fluke&aposs "Cream Puff Murder" (Kensington, $24). This is Fluke&aposs eleventh mystery, centered on a Minnesota baker. Previous works in the series include the "Carrot Cake Murder" (Kensington, $22), which rings true (we&aposve all known carrot cakes that could kill you), and the forthcoming "Plum Pudding Murder," which conjures up visions of one mean drunk of a plum pudding spraying the room with bullets.

While you&aposd think the running theme (food will eventually turn on you) would put readers off, apparently a lot of food-lovers adore these books and the genre isn&apost radically new. Before culinary mysteries there were plenty of culinary novels and if they didn&apost always include literal recipes they did celebrate food and usually featured at least one good dish as a minor character. And that makes sense. Reading about food is sometimes as good as eating it. When I was in college, going for stretches without cash, I would love to walk the streets and read posted menus there was something exquisitely pleasurable (in that painful way) about scanning the descriptions of oven-roasted chickens and sticky toffee puddings I wasn&apost going to eat.

So for people who like the genre, please share your favorite titles, those novels you think offer the best recipes, or the best vicarious meals, or at least work up the meanest appetite. My choice is over the jump.

My selection may seem like an odd one. Virginia Woolf (pictured above in her pre-Raphaelite prime) too often gets dismissed, these days, as a snob. But she was a radical in her own way and in classic novels like "Mrs. Dalloway" (Harcourt, $18) and "To the Lighthouse" (Harvest Books, $15), she sees the beauty of things. There are passages in both novels when the thoughtful characters, their big busy brains always racing, suddenly stop thinking and seize on the sensory moment, in an almost hallucinatory way. The smell of the English garden and the morning rain, the bunch of flowers Mrs. Dalloway buys for her party, the seductive beauty of hats and the ethereal glow of the lighthouse (both a symbol but also simply itself) are the novels&apos ripe running poetry.

And food, a big part of any sensual world, is a refrain. There are some wonderful descriptions of busy kitchens and boiling pots in both books, the Dutch still-life tumble, in "Mrs. Dalloway," of "plates, saucepans, cullenders, frying-pans, chicken in aspic, ice-cream freezers, pared crusts of bread, lemons, tureens and pudding basins, the soup, the salmon". But what makes both books really culinary novels is the way they present the central meal, the feast, as the thing that brings everyone together, and that holds off, at least for a second, all the ugly chaos. The plum pudding, in the end, becomes the peace-maker.


The Epicurious Blog

There are books, cookbooks, and culinary books. But lately there is a growing genre, a kind of hybrid, the novel that turns into a cookbook, or at least folds some recipes into its plot.

The current fashion is for culinary mysteries and the one getting a lot of attention on The New York Times best-seller list is Joanne Fluke&aposs "Cream Puff Murder" (Kensington, $24). This is Fluke&aposs eleventh mystery, centered on a Minnesota baker. Previous works in the series include the "Carrot Cake Murder" (Kensington, $22), which rings true (we&aposve all known carrot cakes that could kill you), and the forthcoming "Plum Pudding Murder," which conjures up visions of one mean drunk of a plum pudding spraying the room with bullets.

While you&aposd think the running theme (food will eventually turn on you) would put readers off, apparently a lot of food-lovers adore these books and the genre isn&apost radically new. Before culinary mysteries there were plenty of culinary novels and if they didn&apost always include literal recipes they did celebrate food and usually featured at least one good dish as a minor character. And that makes sense. Reading about food is sometimes as good as eating it. When I was in college, going for stretches without cash, I would love to walk the streets and read posted menus there was something exquisitely pleasurable (in that painful way) about scanning the descriptions of oven-roasted chickens and sticky toffee puddings I wasn&apost going to eat.

So for people who like the genre, please share your favorite titles, those novels you think offer the best recipes, or the best vicarious meals, or at least work up the meanest appetite. My choice is over the jump.

My selection may seem like an odd one. Virginia Woolf (pictured above in her pre-Raphaelite prime) too often gets dismissed, these days, as a snob. But she was a radical in her own way and in classic novels like "Mrs. Dalloway" (Harcourt, $18) and "To the Lighthouse" (Harvest Books, $15), she sees the beauty of things. There are passages in both novels when the thoughtful characters, their big busy brains always racing, suddenly stop thinking and seize on the sensory moment, in an almost hallucinatory way. The smell of the English garden and the morning rain, the bunch of flowers Mrs. Dalloway buys for her party, the seductive beauty of hats and the ethereal glow of the lighthouse (both a symbol but also simply itself) are the novels&apos ripe running poetry.

And food, a big part of any sensual world, is a refrain. There are some wonderful descriptions of busy kitchens and boiling pots in both books, the Dutch still-life tumble, in "Mrs. Dalloway," of "plates, saucepans, cullenders, frying-pans, chicken in aspic, ice-cream freezers, pared crusts of bread, lemons, tureens and pudding basins, the soup, the salmon". But what makes both books really culinary novels is the way they present the central meal, the feast, as the thing that brings everyone together, and that holds off, at least for a second, all the ugly chaos. The plum pudding, in the end, becomes the peace-maker.


The Epicurious Blog

There are books, cookbooks, and culinary books. But lately there is a growing genre, a kind of hybrid, the novel that turns into a cookbook, or at least folds some recipes into its plot.

The current fashion is for culinary mysteries and the one getting a lot of attention on The New York Times best-seller list is Joanne Fluke&aposs "Cream Puff Murder" (Kensington, $24). This is Fluke&aposs eleventh mystery, centered on a Minnesota baker. Previous works in the series include the "Carrot Cake Murder" (Kensington, $22), which rings true (we&aposve all known carrot cakes that could kill you), and the forthcoming "Plum Pudding Murder," which conjures up visions of one mean drunk of a plum pudding spraying the room with bullets.

While you&aposd think the running theme (food will eventually turn on you) would put readers off, apparently a lot of food-lovers adore these books and the genre isn&apost radically new. Before culinary mysteries there were plenty of culinary novels and if they didn&apost always include literal recipes they did celebrate food and usually featured at least one good dish as a minor character. And that makes sense. Reading about food is sometimes as good as eating it. When I was in college, going for stretches without cash, I would love to walk the streets and read posted menus there was something exquisitely pleasurable (in that painful way) about scanning the descriptions of oven-roasted chickens and sticky toffee puddings I wasn&apost going to eat.

So for people who like the genre, please share your favorite titles, those novels you think offer the best recipes, or the best vicarious meals, or at least work up the meanest appetite. My choice is over the jump.

My selection may seem like an odd one. Virginia Woolf (pictured above in her pre-Raphaelite prime) too often gets dismissed, these days, as a snob. But she was a radical in her own way and in classic novels like "Mrs. Dalloway" (Harcourt, $18) and "To the Lighthouse" (Harvest Books, $15), she sees the beauty of things. There are passages in both novels when the thoughtful characters, their big busy brains always racing, suddenly stop thinking and seize on the sensory moment, in an almost hallucinatory way. The smell of the English garden and the morning rain, the bunch of flowers Mrs. Dalloway buys for her party, the seductive beauty of hats and the ethereal glow of the lighthouse (both a symbol but also simply itself) are the novels&apos ripe running poetry.

And food, a big part of any sensual world, is a refrain. There are some wonderful descriptions of busy kitchens and boiling pots in both books, the Dutch still-life tumble, in "Mrs. Dalloway," of "plates, saucepans, cullenders, frying-pans, chicken in aspic, ice-cream freezers, pared crusts of bread, lemons, tureens and pudding basins, the soup, the salmon". But what makes both books really culinary novels is the way they present the central meal, the feast, as the thing that brings everyone together, and that holds off, at least for a second, all the ugly chaos. The plum pudding, in the end, becomes the peace-maker.


The Epicurious Blog

There are books, cookbooks, and culinary books. But lately there is a growing genre, a kind of hybrid, the novel that turns into a cookbook, or at least folds some recipes into its plot.

The current fashion is for culinary mysteries and the one getting a lot of attention on The New York Times best-seller list is Joanne Fluke&aposs "Cream Puff Murder" (Kensington, $24). This is Fluke&aposs eleventh mystery, centered on a Minnesota baker. Previous works in the series include the "Carrot Cake Murder" (Kensington, $22), which rings true (we&aposve all known carrot cakes that could kill you), and the forthcoming "Plum Pudding Murder," which conjures up visions of one mean drunk of a plum pudding spraying the room with bullets.

While you&aposd think the running theme (food will eventually turn on you) would put readers off, apparently a lot of food-lovers adore these books and the genre isn&apost radically new. Before culinary mysteries there were plenty of culinary novels and if they didn&apost always include literal recipes they did celebrate food and usually featured at least one good dish as a minor character. And that makes sense. Reading about food is sometimes as good as eating it. When I was in college, going for stretches without cash, I would love to walk the streets and read posted menus there was something exquisitely pleasurable (in that painful way) about scanning the descriptions of oven-roasted chickens and sticky toffee puddings I wasn&apost going to eat.

So for people who like the genre, please share your favorite titles, those novels you think offer the best recipes, or the best vicarious meals, or at least work up the meanest appetite. My choice is over the jump.

My selection may seem like an odd one. Virginia Woolf (pictured above in her pre-Raphaelite prime) too often gets dismissed, these days, as a snob. But she was a radical in her own way and in classic novels like "Mrs. Dalloway" (Harcourt, $18) and "To the Lighthouse" (Harvest Books, $15), she sees the beauty of things. There are passages in both novels when the thoughtful characters, their big busy brains always racing, suddenly stop thinking and seize on the sensory moment, in an almost hallucinatory way. The smell of the English garden and the morning rain, the bunch of flowers Mrs. Dalloway buys for her party, the seductive beauty of hats and the ethereal glow of the lighthouse (both a symbol but also simply itself) are the novels&apos ripe running poetry.

And food, a big part of any sensual world, is a refrain. There are some wonderful descriptions of busy kitchens and boiling pots in both books, the Dutch still-life tumble, in "Mrs. Dalloway," of "plates, saucepans, cullenders, frying-pans, chicken in aspic, ice-cream freezers, pared crusts of bread, lemons, tureens and pudding basins, the soup, the salmon". But what makes both books really culinary novels is the way they present the central meal, the feast, as the thing that brings everyone together, and that holds off, at least for a second, all the ugly chaos. The plum pudding, in the end, becomes the peace-maker.


The Epicurious Blog

There are books, cookbooks, and culinary books. But lately there is a growing genre, a kind of hybrid, the novel that turns into a cookbook, or at least folds some recipes into its plot.

The current fashion is for culinary mysteries and the one getting a lot of attention on The New York Times best-seller list is Joanne Fluke&aposs "Cream Puff Murder" (Kensington, $24). This is Fluke&aposs eleventh mystery, centered on a Minnesota baker. Previous works in the series include the "Carrot Cake Murder" (Kensington, $22), which rings true (we&aposve all known carrot cakes that could kill you), and the forthcoming "Plum Pudding Murder," which conjures up visions of one mean drunk of a plum pudding spraying the room with bullets.

While you&aposd think the running theme (food will eventually turn on you) would put readers off, apparently a lot of food-lovers adore these books and the genre isn&apost radically new. Before culinary mysteries there were plenty of culinary novels and if they didn&apost always include literal recipes they did celebrate food and usually featured at least one good dish as a minor character. And that makes sense. Reading about food is sometimes as good as eating it. When I was in college, going for stretches without cash, I would love to walk the streets and read posted menus there was something exquisitely pleasurable (in that painful way) about scanning the descriptions of oven-roasted chickens and sticky toffee puddings I wasn&apost going to eat.

So for people who like the genre, please share your favorite titles, those novels you think offer the best recipes, or the best vicarious meals, or at least work up the meanest appetite. My choice is over the jump.

My selection may seem like an odd one. Virginia Woolf (pictured above in her pre-Raphaelite prime) too often gets dismissed, these days, as a snob. But she was a radical in her own way and in classic novels like "Mrs. Dalloway" (Harcourt, $18) and "To the Lighthouse" (Harvest Books, $15), she sees the beauty of things. There are passages in both novels when the thoughtful characters, their big busy brains always racing, suddenly stop thinking and seize on the sensory moment, in an almost hallucinatory way. The smell of the English garden and the morning rain, the bunch of flowers Mrs. Dalloway buys for her party, the seductive beauty of hats and the ethereal glow of the lighthouse (both a symbol but also simply itself) are the novels&apos ripe running poetry.

And food, a big part of any sensual world, is a refrain. There are some wonderful descriptions of busy kitchens and boiling pots in both books, the Dutch still-life tumble, in "Mrs. Dalloway," of "plates, saucepans, cullenders, frying-pans, chicken in aspic, ice-cream freezers, pared crusts of bread, lemons, tureens and pudding basins, the soup, the salmon". But what makes both books really culinary novels is the way they present the central meal, the feast, as the thing that brings everyone together, and that holds off, at least for a second, all the ugly chaos. The plum pudding, in the end, becomes the peace-maker.


The Epicurious Blog

There are books, cookbooks, and culinary books. But lately there is a growing genre, a kind of hybrid, the novel that turns into a cookbook, or at least folds some recipes into its plot.

The current fashion is for culinary mysteries and the one getting a lot of attention on The New York Times best-seller list is Joanne Fluke&aposs "Cream Puff Murder" (Kensington, $24). This is Fluke&aposs eleventh mystery, centered on a Minnesota baker. Previous works in the series include the "Carrot Cake Murder" (Kensington, $22), which rings true (we&aposve all known carrot cakes that could kill you), and the forthcoming "Plum Pudding Murder," which conjures up visions of one mean drunk of a plum pudding spraying the room with bullets.

While you&aposd think the running theme (food will eventually turn on you) would put readers off, apparently a lot of food-lovers adore these books and the genre isn&apost radically new. Before culinary mysteries there were plenty of culinary novels and if they didn&apost always include literal recipes they did celebrate food and usually featured at least one good dish as a minor character. And that makes sense. Reading about food is sometimes as good as eating it. When I was in college, going for stretches without cash, I would love to walk the streets and read posted menus there was something exquisitely pleasurable (in that painful way) about scanning the descriptions of oven-roasted chickens and sticky toffee puddings I wasn&apost going to eat.

So for people who like the genre, please share your favorite titles, those novels you think offer the best recipes, or the best vicarious meals, or at least work up the meanest appetite. My choice is over the jump.

My selection may seem like an odd one. Virginia Woolf (pictured above in her pre-Raphaelite prime) too often gets dismissed, these days, as a snob. But she was a radical in her own way and in classic novels like "Mrs. Dalloway" (Harcourt, $18) and "To the Lighthouse" (Harvest Books, $15), she sees the beauty of things. There are passages in both novels when the thoughtful characters, their big busy brains always racing, suddenly stop thinking and seize on the sensory moment, in an almost hallucinatory way. The smell of the English garden and the morning rain, the bunch of flowers Mrs. Dalloway buys for her party, the seductive beauty of hats and the ethereal glow of the lighthouse (both a symbol but also simply itself) are the novels&apos ripe running poetry.

And food, a big part of any sensual world, is a refrain. There are some wonderful descriptions of busy kitchens and boiling pots in both books, the Dutch still-life tumble, in "Mrs. Dalloway," of "plates, saucepans, cullenders, frying-pans, chicken in aspic, ice-cream freezers, pared crusts of bread, lemons, tureens and pudding basins, the soup, the salmon". But what makes both books really culinary novels is the way they present the central meal, the feast, as the thing that brings everyone together, and that holds off, at least for a second, all the ugly chaos. The plum pudding, in the end, becomes the peace-maker.


The Epicurious Blog

There are books, cookbooks, and culinary books. But lately there is a growing genre, a kind of hybrid, the novel that turns into a cookbook, or at least folds some recipes into its plot.

The current fashion is for culinary mysteries and the one getting a lot of attention on The New York Times best-seller list is Joanne Fluke&aposs "Cream Puff Murder" (Kensington, $24). This is Fluke&aposs eleventh mystery, centered on a Minnesota baker. Previous works in the series include the "Carrot Cake Murder" (Kensington, $22), which rings true (we&aposve all known carrot cakes that could kill you), and the forthcoming "Plum Pudding Murder," which conjures up visions of one mean drunk of a plum pudding spraying the room with bullets.

While you&aposd think the running theme (food will eventually turn on you) would put readers off, apparently a lot of food-lovers adore these books and the genre isn&apost radically new. Before culinary mysteries there were plenty of culinary novels and if they didn&apost always include literal recipes they did celebrate food and usually featured at least one good dish as a minor character. And that makes sense. Reading about food is sometimes as good as eating it. When I was in college, going for stretches without cash, I would love to walk the streets and read posted menus there was something exquisitely pleasurable (in that painful way) about scanning the descriptions of oven-roasted chickens and sticky toffee puddings I wasn&apost going to eat.

So for people who like the genre, please share your favorite titles, those novels you think offer the best recipes, or the best vicarious meals, or at least work up the meanest appetite. My choice is over the jump.

My selection may seem like an odd one. Virginia Woolf (pictured above in her pre-Raphaelite prime) too often gets dismissed, these days, as a snob. But she was a radical in her own way and in classic novels like "Mrs. Dalloway" (Harcourt, $18) and "To the Lighthouse" (Harvest Books, $15), she sees the beauty of things. There are passages in both novels when the thoughtful characters, their big busy brains always racing, suddenly stop thinking and seize on the sensory moment, in an almost hallucinatory way. The smell of the English garden and the morning rain, the bunch of flowers Mrs. Dalloway buys for her party, the seductive beauty of hats and the ethereal glow of the lighthouse (both a symbol but also simply itself) are the novels&apos ripe running poetry.

And food, a big part of any sensual world, is a refrain. There are some wonderful descriptions of busy kitchens and boiling pots in both books, the Dutch still-life tumble, in "Mrs. Dalloway," of "plates, saucepans, cullenders, frying-pans, chicken in aspic, ice-cream freezers, pared crusts of bread, lemons, tureens and pudding basins, the soup, the salmon". But what makes both books really culinary novels is the way they present the central meal, the feast, as the thing that brings everyone together, and that holds off, at least for a second, all the ugly chaos. The plum pudding, in the end, becomes the peace-maker.


The Epicurious Blog

There are books, cookbooks, and culinary books. But lately there is a growing genre, a kind of hybrid, the novel that turns into a cookbook, or at least folds some recipes into its plot.

The current fashion is for culinary mysteries and the one getting a lot of attention on The New York Times best-seller list is Joanne Fluke&aposs "Cream Puff Murder" (Kensington, $24). This is Fluke&aposs eleventh mystery, centered on a Minnesota baker. Previous works in the series include the "Carrot Cake Murder" (Kensington, $22), which rings true (we&aposve all known carrot cakes that could kill you), and the forthcoming "Plum Pudding Murder," which conjures up visions of one mean drunk of a plum pudding spraying the room with bullets.

While you&aposd think the running theme (food will eventually turn on you) would put readers off, apparently a lot of food-lovers adore these books and the genre isn&apost radically new. Before culinary mysteries there were plenty of culinary novels and if they didn&apost always include literal recipes they did celebrate food and usually featured at least one good dish as a minor character. And that makes sense. Reading about food is sometimes as good as eating it. When I was in college, going for stretches without cash, I would love to walk the streets and read posted menus there was something exquisitely pleasurable (in that painful way) about scanning the descriptions of oven-roasted chickens and sticky toffee puddings I wasn&apost going to eat.

So for people who like the genre, please share your favorite titles, those novels you think offer the best recipes, or the best vicarious meals, or at least work up the meanest appetite. My choice is over the jump.

My selection may seem like an odd one. Virginia Woolf (pictured above in her pre-Raphaelite prime) too often gets dismissed, these days, as a snob. But she was a radical in her own way and in classic novels like "Mrs. Dalloway" (Harcourt, $18) and "To the Lighthouse" (Harvest Books, $15), she sees the beauty of things. There are passages in both novels when the thoughtful characters, their big busy brains always racing, suddenly stop thinking and seize on the sensory moment, in an almost hallucinatory way. The smell of the English garden and the morning rain, the bunch of flowers Mrs. Dalloway buys for her party, the seductive beauty of hats and the ethereal glow of the lighthouse (both a symbol but also simply itself) are the novels&apos ripe running poetry.

And food, a big part of any sensual world, is a refrain. There are some wonderful descriptions of busy kitchens and boiling pots in both books, the Dutch still-life tumble, in "Mrs. Dalloway," of "plates, saucepans, cullenders, frying-pans, chicken in aspic, ice-cream freezers, pared crusts of bread, lemons, tureens and pudding basins, the soup, the salmon". But what makes both books really culinary novels is the way they present the central meal, the feast, as the thing that brings everyone together, and that holds off, at least for a second, all the ugly chaos. The plum pudding, in the end, becomes the peace-maker.


The Epicurious Blog

There are books, cookbooks, and culinary books. But lately there is a growing genre, a kind of hybrid, the novel that turns into a cookbook, or at least folds some recipes into its plot.

The current fashion is for culinary mysteries and the one getting a lot of attention on The New York Times best-seller list is Joanne Fluke&aposs "Cream Puff Murder" (Kensington, $24). This is Fluke&aposs eleventh mystery, centered on a Minnesota baker. Previous works in the series include the "Carrot Cake Murder" (Kensington, $22), which rings true (we&aposve all known carrot cakes that could kill you), and the forthcoming "Plum Pudding Murder," which conjures up visions of one mean drunk of a plum pudding spraying the room with bullets.

While you&aposd think the running theme (food will eventually turn on you) would put readers off, apparently a lot of food-lovers adore these books and the genre isn&apost radically new. Before culinary mysteries there were plenty of culinary novels and if they didn&apost always include literal recipes they did celebrate food and usually featured at least one good dish as a minor character. And that makes sense. Reading about food is sometimes as good as eating it. When I was in college, going for stretches without cash, I would love to walk the streets and read posted menus there was something exquisitely pleasurable (in that painful way) about scanning the descriptions of oven-roasted chickens and sticky toffee puddings I wasn&apost going to eat.

So for people who like the genre, please share your favorite titles, those novels you think offer the best recipes, or the best vicarious meals, or at least work up the meanest appetite. My choice is over the jump.

My selection may seem like an odd one. Virginia Woolf (pictured above in her pre-Raphaelite prime) too often gets dismissed, these days, as a snob. But she was a radical in her own way and in classic novels like "Mrs. Dalloway" (Harcourt, $18) and "To the Lighthouse" (Harvest Books, $15), she sees the beauty of things. There are passages in both novels when the thoughtful characters, their big busy brains always racing, suddenly stop thinking and seize on the sensory moment, in an almost hallucinatory way. The smell of the English garden and the morning rain, the bunch of flowers Mrs. Dalloway buys for her party, the seductive beauty of hats and the ethereal glow of the lighthouse (both a symbol but also simply itself) are the novels&apos ripe running poetry.

And food, a big part of any sensual world, is a refrain. There are some wonderful descriptions of busy kitchens and boiling pots in both books, the Dutch still-life tumble, in "Mrs. Dalloway," of "plates, saucepans, cullenders, frying-pans, chicken in aspic, ice-cream freezers, pared crusts of bread, lemons, tureens and pudding basins, the soup, the salmon". But what makes both books really culinary novels is the way they present the central meal, the feast, as the thing that brings everyone together, and that holds off, at least for a second, all the ugly chaos. The plum pudding, in the end, becomes the peace-maker.


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