The Heart of an Onion, Mark Kurlansky’s latest single-themed food book, got me thinking about Thanksgiving. He devotes an entire chapter to onion cream, a staple of Thanksgiving dinner when I was growing up. His book has recipes for them dating back to 1665 and a reference to the 1941 film They Died With Their Boots On, in which the onion starred alongside Errol Flynn. Other discussions of cooking with onions – such as soup, stuffed, fried, bread, pickled, with eggs, in sandwiches (made famous by James Beard) and others, with recipe stories – follow the unveiling of the onion from a botanical point of view, historically, medicinally, literally, economically and gastronomically around the world. Despite the pertinent but overlong digressions about Gibson’s and the bagel’s origins, it’s a lively read. On the culinary side, he may have been referring to the Spanish tortilla when discussing eggs and onions; he makes an interesting point about substituting cream for milk when using older recipes.
“The Heart of an Onion: Peeling the Rarest of Common Foods – Featuring More than 100 Historic Recipes” (Bloomsbury, $28).
A wine shop where texture matters
The wines displayed in the store are sorted by color, of course, but can be organized by region, varietal or price. Not at the new Community Wine in Chelsea. In his spacious, sparsely decorated new shop, David Weitzenhofer, a former sommelier and winemaker, ranks them by body, from light to medium to heavy. Other features are mixed in these groups, so a solid $144 Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino from Tuscany is shown near a robust $26 Kanonkop Kadette from South Africa, and an $18 Corbières shares a shelf with $117 Vosne-Romanée. “That way, if someone wants a pinot grigio, they’ll see some other wines with similar characteristics, like verdicchio, at different price points and regions,” he said. “They can compare and maybe discover.” It’s an interesting way to explore the myriad choices on the market. The store also has spirits, often locally produced; canned cocktails; an immersive curved 16-foot screen that can transport you into the vineyards; and classes sometimes on Fridays at 7:00 p.m. On November 30, Mr. Weitzenhoffer will talk about ordering wine in a restaurant, including navigating a wine list, talking with a sommelier, and more ($100).
Community Wine & Spirits, 140 10th Avenue (19th Street), 646-905-8000, communitywineandspirits.com.
Talking about the future of food with Massimo Bottura and Laura Gilmore
Chef Massimo Bottura and his wife Lara Gilmore, who own Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, the three-star Michelin restaurant where reservations are as scarce as ivory woodpeckers, also own Casa Maria Luigia guesthouse, just outside Modena. They’ll be discussing it, the Emilia-Romagna region, and their new book, Slow Food, Fast Cars: Casa Maria Luigia—Stories and Recipes, next month on 92NY with Ruth Reichl. The future of food will be part of the conversation: the couple run many nonprofits to feed the needy around the world, including in Harlem, and support Food for Soul to fight food waste and hunger.
“Slow Food, Fast Cars”: Massimo Bottura and Lara Gilmore in conversation with Ruth Reichl, December 11; tickets are $15 to watch online, $38 to $48 live; 92ny.org/event/massimo-bottura-and-lara-gilmore.
Spicy Guanciale from Berkeley
After decades of making premium sausages, Paul Bertoli of Fra’ Mani in Berkeley, Calif., has finally turned his attention to guanciale, the Italian uncured pork bacon that’s as important to pasta all’Amatriciana as olives are to puttanesca. Unable to find an American-made guanciale to his liking, Mr. Bertoli decided to make his own. What sets it apart is its spicy spice. He says he uses meat from smaller, younger pigs, which makes it a little more delicate, and ages it for 30 days. Use it for pasta sauces; slice it thinly and fry the strips to elevate the sandwich.
Fra’ Mani guanciale, $25 for 1.25 pounds, framani.com.
Red ice wine from Niagara-on-the-Lake
Let late grapes freeze on the vine and you can make ice wine, a sweet nectar from concentrated juices. They are the signature of Inniskillin, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, across the lake from Toronto, a winery established nearly 50 years ago. “But climate change has made ice wine more challenging both to grow the grapes and to freeze,” said Nicolas Gizuk, the winemaker. The grapes are usually white, including Riesling and Vidal, a hybrid he says is more reliable, but he also makes an unusual red ice wine, Cabernet Franc, which is more easily found in the United States. The bright ruby wine, full of candied ripe berries with a veil of bitterness, is a great addition to holiday desserts, including chocolate pecan pie or chocolate-covered bûche de Noël. Alcohol is a modest 9.5 percent.
Inniskillin Niagara Estate Cabernet Franc Ice Wine, 2002, $109.99, inniskillin.com.