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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, April 21, 2014

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In Holiday Guide Commentary

2013 is kind of a blur. But some things are worth a mention.

2013 picks: Lori Fredrich


Time flies like crazy. And that's how it went with 2013. Most of the year is a blur. But, some things stand out as worth mentioning. As usual, mine are all food related.

Best cookbooks: It's confession time. I'm a collector of tomes. Food tomes in particular. So, when you ask me about favorite books, I immediately think of cookbooks.

It's also funny that my first thought wanders to "The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks" by Amy Stewart. It's not quite a cookbook. But, it's food related. So, that counts. Right? Plus, it's brilliant. And funny. And awesome. It deftly uncovers the enlightening botanical history and the fascinating science and chemistry of over 150 plants, flowers, trees and fruits. Great for anyone who geeks out about the origins of ingredients or the history of cocktails. The book feels great in hand, and will equip you with cocktail trivia until you can't see straight.

It's true that I bought "Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey: Recipes From My Three Favorite Food Groups," by John Currence because of the title. But, the cookbook turned out to be worthy of my affection. Currence writes with a definitive voice (that makes me want to read each page aloud). He extols the best of the best in Southern cooking, including cocktails, chicken skin corn bread and pork fat beignets. And he recommends music to listen to while cooking each recipe. How can you argue with that?

My final pick is fancy and fussy, but also gorgeous and food-geek approved. I was lucky enough to meet Daniel Boulud at an event this fall, where I got a signed copy of his new book, "Daniel: My French Cuisine" by Daniel Boulud, Sylvie Bigar, Bill Buford. Crazy-difficult esoteric French recipes appear right alongside delicious home cooking. And it's a great read, especially when you delve into the details of the beautifully iconic kitchen sessions with Buford. The awesome photography alone makes this book gorgeous enough for the coffee table.

Best music to cook to: If you spied on me in the kitchen this year, it's quite possible you saw me singing along (badly) to the likes of Daft Punk's uber catchy tune, "Get Lucky" while sauteeing onions or searing a roast. And while others were singing along to Lorde's "Royal," I tended to opt for her angstier tunes like "Tennis Court," which seemed to pass the time easily while I was waiting for water to boil. I may also have been caught trying to pick up the words to The National's mumbly, but upbeat, "Don't Swallow the Cap" or just about anything by Vampire Weekend.

Oh! And I'm in big-time debt to the recommendations of Kasey and Matthew over at Turntable Kitchen, whose perfectly styled "mix tapes" have guided me through many a cooking project without fail. Their taste is eclectic, their collections well curated, and their ability to connect music to the kitchen simply uncanny. Check out their "Top 25 New Artists of 2013" and you'll see what I mean.

Food movies: Call me busy. I didn't make it out to the movies as often as I would have liked this year. But, I did manage to make it to "Spinning Plates" during the Milwaukee Film Festival – and that was well worth the trip. The film did a great job of profiling three very different restaurants – a family restaurant in Iowa, a mom-and-pop Mexican joint in Tucson and the Michelin-rated Alinea in Chicago – in an unexpectedly touching way. Ultimately, the movie captured passion, pain and challenges of working in the restaurant industry. More importantly, it successfully portrayed how meaningful food can be, and the power it has to connect us to one another.

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