Review: Big Gay Ice Cream by Bryan Petroff and Douglas Quint

Big Gay Ice Cream by Bryan Petroff and Douglas Quint. Clarkson Potter. 192 pp.

Big Gay Ice Cream by Bryan Petroff and Douglas Quint. Clarkson Potter. 192 pp.

Been a fan of these guys, their approach to business, and their incomparable product for years, so I had high hopes for this book. And it didn’t disappoint. Not even a little bit.

The kitschiness of formatting the book as a yearbook works brilliantly. The photographs (they’re so good I really want to call them artwork) are mouth-watering. I enjoyed reading the history of the company, and the guest authors were a welcome surprise (especially my personal favorite, one Mr. Neil Gaiman).

And the recipes. Oh, the recipes! From store-bought toppings to make-your-own sauces to shakes/ice cream/sorbet, this book is chock-full of things I’m excited to try. I’ve been wanting to make their bourbon butterscotch sauce since I tried it a couple of years ago (in February, no less…Big Gay is so good we visited in the dead of the New York winter) and cannot wait to give it a go. I have a feeling my ice cream maker will be getting a run for its money this summer.

It’s rare that a cookbook can make you laugh, but this one will (unless you’re of a more stodgy persuasion; then I make no promises). It serves its purpose by providing lots of complimentary flavors and new recipes, but that’s almost an aside to a book that’s full of feistiness and color. There are even mix tape playlists and yearbook photos (I remember when they held the photoshoot at one of their shops and how sad I was that I couldn’t make it into the city that day).

All in all: This works brilliantly as a cookbook, gift, or even coffee table book (though your visitors may begin demanding that you serve them ice cream…). Absolutely worth buying. And you should probably grab one for a friend!

Also, as a side note: if you ever get the chance to visit one of their shops, I hope you seize the opportunity. Their employees are among the friendliest I’ve met, their flavor combinations are surprising in the best possible way, and their overall quirkiness and lust for life are blazingly apparent. This is one of my favorite companies, and I’m thrilled to see them doing so well.

Review: Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails With a Literary Twist by Tim Federle

Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails With a Literary Twist by Tim Federle, illustrated by Lauren Mortimer. Running Press. 138 pp.

Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails With a Literary Twist by Tim Federle, illustrated by Lauren Mortimer. Running Press. 138 pp.

Literary lush alert! I love a good cocktail allllmost as much as I love a good book, so this selection seemed perfect for me. English major? Check. Cocktail enthusiast? Check. Chortler at a terrible pun? Check!!!

The former barista in me still gets a thrill whenever I create a concoction (alcoholic or non) that makes my guests stop and say, “Wow, this is good. What’s in this?” Now I’ve got a bevy of beverages to attempt, and I cannot wait until my living room is finished so I can stock my liquor cabinet. (Our liquor cabinet is actually an antique medical cabinet. Get it? It’s like…modern medicine! Silly, I know, but it amuses us.)

Okay, back to the book. Tequlia Mockingbird deals with classics, but not in an overly highbrow way, which I appreciated. I mean, I’ve read many-to-most of the books featured here, and they’re serious works. (Well, most. There are entries for children’s books and chick lit, after all.) But Tim Federle manages to make the summaries move breezily with some remarkably clever plays on words and literary quips.

The cocktails are mainly variations on the staples, which I’m sure you can guess from names like “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margarita” and “The Joy of Sex on the Beach.” There are a few that I’ve never heard of or tried as well, though, and they sound delicious. I’m especially jazzed to try “Frangelico and Zooey,” and not just because the Glass family is one of my top five literary families. The drink sounds excellent.

Not only is this book clever and quirky and mouth-watering, it’s easy on the eyes as well. Printed in chocolate- and rust-colored ink, it features artwork by Lauren Mortimer that is simultaneously witty and gorgeous. I especially enjoyed the illustration for “Paradise Sauced” (an apple martini), which substitutes a martini glass for the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, with a snake wrapped around the stem.

All in all: I had high hopes for this book, and it delivered. Entertaining, attractive, and useful, it’s the whole package. It would make a great gift for an English major. (I would have loved to receive this as a gift, but nobody picked up on the hints I was dropping, so I went out and bought it for myself…and I’m so glad I did!)

Review: A Year in Food and Beer by Emily Baime and Darin Michaels


A Year In Food and Beer by Emily Baime and Darin Michaels. 159 pp. AltaMira Press.

I had a feeling this book would be a great fit for me. I mean, I love beer. And I love food. And I, who for the first twenty-four years of my life cooked nothing other than Pop-Tarts, have recently discovered that I also quite like to cook. So what’s not to love about a book of recipes and beer pairings, right?

Oh, so very right.

Here are just a few of the things I loved about this book. It’s written by authors who clearly value good food and good beer. The information is presented logically and clearly without being either too simplistic or too condescending. It provides an exploration of the preparation and care of both food and beer, explaining where in the process certain flavors come from and how they can best be utilized in pairings. There’s a ton of information provided, but it doesn’t read like a dry textbook; the authors make everything interesting, from flavor wheels to food sustainability. I wanted to read paragraph after paragraph aloud to my husband but didn’t want to take away from my own private reading time. Speaking of my husband: We keep a notebook of beers we’ve sampled and our thoughts after tasting them. It’s something we’ve been doing for a few years, but it’ll be nice to have an expanded tasting vocabulary; we were sort of making things up as we went along, to be honest.

As odd as this might seem, the poetic prose style made me think that this would make a great audiobook — the introductory chapters, at least. I find that recipes work best when they can be read and re-read easily, without having to rewind and pause for time to cook.

I almost hate to call this a cookbook, even though I love cookbooks, because it’s so much more than that. It’s more of a guidebook, really. The authors gently coach the reader through the recipes while pointing out key flavors and explaining how to best highlight them. While reading a recipe, I found myself envisioning other possible pairings, which is evidence that the authors piqued my interest in better combining the elements of my meals and drinks.

The only difficulty that I had with some of the recipes is that I know my husband wouldn’t even be willing to try them; he’s an excellent cook but a surprisingly picky eater. All that means, though, is that I will have to get a little creative and put my new pairing knowledge to work when I substitute ingredients!