There’s nothing I like better than a local author made good—and that is certainly the case with Joseph Epstein, professor emeritus in English at Northwestern University. His new book, Gossip: The Untrivial Pursuit, melds the author’s two great strengths: an incisive, witty essayist’s view of the world and a formidable brain and ability to parse research into easily digestible chunks. The perfect read on a snowy, slushy evening.
And, as the author of a Manners column of my own, I consider it a personal and professional duty to review the work of my fellow advice-givers—which is why I was so thrilled to find Philip Galanes’ new book, Social Q’s: How to Survive the Quirks, Quandaries, and Quagmires of Today. The advice columnist for The New York Times Sunday Style section, Galanes has a way of nailing down difficult dilemmas and presenting clear, witty solutions sure to stop any faux pas maker in their tracks. —KA
I almost don’t want to tell you guys about this site (although you probably already know about it, anyway), because in doing so I’m giving away the source of most of my dinner party recipes (apart from smittenkitchen.com, which is where you’ll most likely find everything else I’ve ever cooked.) But what the heck—we’re all friends here, right? So I should tell you that chezpim.com is one of the best foodie websites out there. She’s currently teaching a multitude of cooking classes at Love Apple Farms in California (and, seriously, I may go out there if she offers another Pad Thai class—join me?), so she hasn’t updated in a while, but the archives alone will send you into torrents of culinary delight and ambition. The photography is beautiful, the step-bystep instructions are perfect, and the food choices themselves are second to none. Macaroons, anyone? —KA
Terrie Walker, co-owner of All Wined Up Wine Shop and Tasting Bar in Clarendon Hills, recommends a bottle of Niner Estates 2007 Twisted Spur wine. This blend of varieties traditionally grown in Bordeaux and the Rhône regions of France offers a “twist” of blending that Americans can appreciate. Twisted Spur is named for both the spurs on boots, reminiscent of the Bootjack Ranch on the east side of the Salinas River in Paso Robles, California, that produces its grapes, and for the spurs on grapevines in the vineyard. The 2007 vintage produced relatively low yields, but that just meant better quality grapes with highly concentrated flavor and color.
The 2007 Twisted Spur is a unique blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and a touch of Petite Sirah. It is fruit-forward, with a bouquet of cherry, blueberry pie, cinnamon, nutmeg, cedar, and tobacco, with jammy flavors of dark fruits, spice, and a little smoke. Velvety smooth, the nicely structured tannins lead to a long, silky finish. Stop by All Wined Up for a bottle and for their Thursday night wine tastings. allwinedup.net
Toni Marie Cox, of Toni Patisserie and Cafe in Hinsdale, has created some Valentine’s treats sure to win the hearts of both young and old on February 14. Caramelized flaky puff pastry layers form the delicate hearts that envelope the strawberries and vanilla bean pastry crème in Toni’s classic French Mille-Feuille (pictured, $5.95 each).
For the tart lover, individual Sweetie Pies mean that no one has to share. Toni uses raspberries, cherries, and strawberries baked in a sweet pastry shell that will literally burst in your mouth with just the right balance of sweet and tart. Heart-shaped tarts are decorated with X’s, O’s, and hearts for added charm ($5.50 each). In the January 2012 issue of Chicago magazine, Joanne Trestrail says Toni’s newly opened Chicago location has a “peaceful vibe, the food…is terrific, and the elegant desserts made my head spin.” Aren’t we lucky she’s been here in Hinsdale since 1994? Toni recommends ordering your Valentine’s Day pastries ahead. Sweetie Pies and other pastries can be individually gift boxed with red and white pastry ribbon for an additional charge. tonipatisserie.com