BOOK REVIEW: Pinot, Pasta and Parties. Dee Dee & Paul Sorvino

Book Review: Pinot, Pasta & Parties. Dee Dee & Paul Sorvino

Renaissance man Paul Sorvino has many talents.  He’s a musician, an opera singer, a sculptor, and a great cook.  But he’s best known as an actor – of his 200+ roles on stage, film and TV, it was his roles in Goodfellas and Law & Order that raised his level of familiarity above the casual “man that actor looks familiar… what’s his name and where have we see him before?

As one would expect of a modern renaissance man, the woman he chose for his life partner is also a force of nature.  His partner in life as well as in this cook book project is Dee Dee Sorvinao – a tall woman with a cherubic face and an electric personality, she makes a living as a political advisor and spokesperson.  They met a few short years ago on the studio of Fox News, went out to drinks afterwards, and were married within the year.  As Paul and Dee Dee contributed to this book it became as much an ode to each other as to the recipes and lifestyle it promotes.

And you’ll get hungry as you read it.  The recipes, and the Sorvino’s commentary that accompanies each one, celebrate Italy’s love of fresh ingredients, simple procedures and meals shared with friends and family around a table full of conversation and devoid of electronic devices!

The book features over 80 recipes, most of which are accompanied by beautiful color photos.  I prefer a cookbook with photos that provide a clear vision of what the completed process looks and also allow me to recipe shop without reading.  Food photographer Vincent Remini did a commendable job here.

The recipes are organized into chapters featuring meals inspired by the Sorvino’s life and loves.  Each chapter opens with a story from the Sorvino’s lives along with a related, thematic menu that flows (roughly) in the Italian tradition, from aperitivo (small bites during cocktail hour), to antipasto (appetizer), to primi (pasta), to secondi (main), to contorni (sides), to insalata and ending with dolce (dessert). I get the impression the Sorvino’s home is where everyone wants to be, come dinner time – not just for the good food, but to celebrate life on a daily basis.  You’re sure to find quite a number of fun dinner parties between the covers of Pinot, Pasta & Parties.

One of Dee Dee’s cocktail recipes opens each chapter, and though they all look delicious (and yes, I’ve already tested some!), the title of the book seems to have been chosen more for the alliteration than the practice – I could find nary a reference to pinot.  In fact, the whole subject of wine, so essential to the Italian table, is primarily relegated to the two-page reference guide to Italian grape varietals – a handy primer indeed, but I was hoping wine would be given a stronger supporting role since it’s mentioned in the title.

One thing I found rather curious is that most chapters are accompanied by the Sorvino’s take on politics and patriotism, which I found an odd thing to include in a book on Italian cooking.  Stating one’s views in today’s divisive, bifurcated political environment seems to be a no-win proposition as it immediately alienates half the population.  But as I said earlier, this book is as much a paean to each other as it is to the Sorvino’s love of the Italian approach to food, friends and family.

At the time of this review (April 9th, 2017), you could buy the hard-cover book on Amazon for a list price of $30.  Planned release date is April 18, 2017.

Photo - Dave the Wine MerchantCheers!

Dave the Wine Merchant

Book Review : “Provence, Food & Wine, the Art of Living”

Cover Photo: Provence Food & Wine

Authors: François Millo, Viktorija Todorovska

When I visit a new vacation spot, particularly one as captivating as Provence, I come home laden with gifts and souvenirs that remind me of my time away.  My favorite ones are long-lasting and usable on a regular basis.

For example, I once stayed at a hotel where the in-room toothpaste was flavored with grapefruit.  Though odd at first, I soon began looking forward to it.  So on my way to the airport I stopped by a Drug Store and bought two or three tubes of the stuff.  For months I was reminded of France at least twice a day!

If you like this idea, but aren’t sure you want Grapefruit-flavored dentifrice, you’ll find that a good regional cook book is an excellent alternative. It can provide a lifetime of experiences that will pull you back into vacation mode from the time you begin shopping for ingredients until you finish drying the last dish.  

But finding a good one can be a challenge – even if the translation is adequate, old-world cooks often under-communicate techniques that they’re taught shortly after suckling but are unfamiliar to those outside the region.  And books by New World authors often miss the authenticity you fell in love with in situ.

Provence Food & Wine - ImagesEnter Millo and Todorovska, the authors of “Provence Food & Wine, the Art of Living”.  Born and raised in Provence, Millo is a talented photographer (not surprisingly, the photos in this book are captivating) and enthusiastic advocate of his region.  His partner in this project is a Chicago-based cookbook author, food and wine educator, and owner of the food, wine and travel company www.oliviacooking.com.  Together, they’ve put together a book that is part travel brochure, part history book, part photo book and part cookbook.  All-in-all, it’s a nice way to spend an evening or two.

The recipes offer some easy dishes ideal for light mid-week meals as well as some more complex meals that are a better fit for a weekend, if your schedule looks anything like ours.  But over-all, this is the best collection of regional dishes I’ve seen in my two decades of casual searching for such things, and for this I thank the authors. 

Provence Food & Wine - Wine ImagesAs for the wine, the book comes with a helpful map of the Provence AOCs, and covers each one in enough detail to belie Todorovska’s wine educator chops.  But the authors primary passion is clearly Provençal Rosé.  And who can blame them?!  These wines are dry, perfect for a hot summer day and, due to their good acidity and mid-weight body, pair beautifully with a huge range of dishes.  Plus, they’ve been enjoying ~40% YOY sales growth over the past few years.  So yes, they are very worthy of emphasis.  If you were in pursuit of the coarse, spicy reds from this region, you’ll find they’ve gotten rather short shrift, however.

In summary, this book is not for everyone, but if you love Provence, if you love the food and wine of the region, and you want to bring them into your home on a regular basis, I don’t think you’ll ever be disappointed that you separated with the reasonable $20 fee – available at Surrey Books.

Cheers!

Dave the Wine Merchant

P.S. No compensation was received in exchange for this review.  A complimentary copy of the book was provided by the publisher for my consideration, but the choice to review it was entirely mine.