Welcome to Naomi Kooker's blog.

At age 6 my mother let me into the kitchen, alone. By seventh grade I was feigning sick to stay home from school, "miraculously" feeling good enough to make baked-stuffed pork chops for dinner. My passion for cooking led me to a job as a sous chef in a Manhattan restaurant and, later, to stand quietly in the corner of (and eventually do one thing in) Restaurant Guy Savoy's kitchen in Paris. I overcame the ultimate cooking challenge when I made butter cream icing over a Bunsen burner at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. It was for a friend's wedding cake, the centerpiece at the reception the next day. It was midnight. With just hours to go, I managed to whip up the icing, then carefully place the last few candied violets onto the cake before the reception. Oh, how grateful I was for that Bunsen burner and the corner bodega that was open 24 hours.

It all worked out in the end. It always does.

Food, cooking and eating are inextricably linked to life. Life is better when good food is involved, and even better when good company is part of the eating.

Thank you for stopping in and being part of a growing dinner party of readers.

Friday, December 23, 2011

12-Hours-Left Food Lover Finds for the Holidays

Still not sure what to get your food lover? Don’t panic. PressureKooker has you covered.


“Shucked: Life on a New England Oyster Farm” by Erin Byers Murray (St. Martin’s Press, 2011, $25) is a wonderfully woven memoir about a lifestyle writer turned oyster farmer turned author. Through Byers Murray’s passion we learn about oyster farming at Island Creek Oysters in Duxbury, Mass., follow her through the wicked winters and gracious summers on “the flats”, and taste the “merroir”—the essence of an oyster from where it’s grown—through her salivating descriptions. Fun, moving and delicious read.

“The Apple Lover’s Cookbook” by Amy Traverso (W.W. Norton & Co., 2011, $29.95) is a lovely ode to all the favs we know, from McCoun and McIntosh, to the other 57 varieties of apples we don’t. The handsome hardcover is chock-a-block of apple knowledge, history and 100 great recipes that take you beyond the usual apple pie while offering time-saving techniques—all wonderfully inspiring.

“Wine Lover’s Devotional: 365 Days of Knowledge, Advice and Lore for the Ardent Aficionado” by Jonathon Alsop (Quarry Books, 2010, $19.99) encourages wine lovers to find their own language about something they want to know more about but might be too intimated to ask. The informative, irreverent and entertaining read is also practical with recipes, travel and buying tips.

“Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe” by Joanne Chang with Christie Matheson (Chronicle Books, 2010, $35) is for anyone with a sweet tooth, or anyone who can appreciate the art of baking with real butter, sugar and flour, all guided by the insightful, instructional hands of Joanne Chang, who’s built a sweet empire of her own. Go with her motto: “Eat dessert first.”


Two of Boston’s biggest wine events are upon us in the New Year. Give the gift of attending the Boston Wine Expo, a five-day celebration of wine tasting and seminars January 16-22, 2012 at the Seaport World Trade Center and Seaport Hotel. Save $10 per ticket for the Grand Tasting when you purchase them in December.

The other is the 2012 Boston Wine Festival, a three-month long extravaganza of vintner dinners, a jazz brunch, seminars and tastings bookended by an opening reception January 6, 2012 and a closing reception March 30, 2012 at the dazzling waterfront Boston Harbor Hotel. Buy tickets for a reception, a dinner or indulge in a hotel package for an overnight.

Cupcakes and Cocktails: Make adult cupcakes in this cooking class at the Boston Center for Adult Education, January 20, 2012, 6-9 PM. Cosmo or sangria cupcakes, or other seasonal flavors will be part of the menu. Buy two tickets and make it a party ($55 per person, plus $22 for materials).


Cheese lovers will love the Formaggio Kitchen “Cheese of the Month Club”. With membership, you get a taste of cheeses from around the world and a selection of milk types and information on each one for a total weight of one and a half pounds, monthly ($199 for three months; $186 for six months; $541 for a year, all shipping included, at formaggiokitchen.com).

Trust Central Bottle in Cambridge to find three bottles a month that will woo you, if not (hopefully) blow you away. The “Three Bottles a Month” club includes three wines, handpicked by the owners who go out of their way to find wines off the beaten consumer path. ($50/month)

Feel like an outsider obsessed with food? You’re not alone. Become a member of The Culinary Guild of New England and receive discounts to specialty food stores, discounts to cooking classes, plus special invitations to guild-sponsored events like dinners and tastings, and hobnob with other members who are professional cooks, writers and all around food fanatics. Most of all, you’ll feel right at home. ($75 per person, annually/$35 for ages 30 and younger, and 65 and older; http://www.cgne.org).

Cross the velvet ropes and get a membership to MET Back Bay’s Townhouse, an exclusive, elegant club with a separate entrance from the restaurant, MET Back Bay. The $2,500 membership works like a debit card: You pay the fee and spend down your balance by wining, dining, and holding private parties in a townhouse that feels like yours.

“Sexy apron” might seem like an oxymoron until you check out the frilly, halter-style ones from Kitsch'n Glam (found in Paper Source stores, $37.99-$39.99). There’re so fun and fashionable (love the owls!) they can double as a dress. Sort of.