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The Slanted Door cookbook - modern Vietnamese food

Emma Campion, the cover designer of The Slanted Door: Modern Vietnamese Food is to be congratulated for her outstanding work. The contrast in texture between the gray flannel top and the smooth photographic bottom not only enhances the work visually, but also creates a contrast to the touch. The embossed titles further enhance the tactile experience. There are many cookbooks I like to read – a very few that inspire long study of food photography – but how many do I like to touch? Campion has gone beyond the boundaries of cookbook design to create a new sensory experience of the cookbook. She is a true innovator.

The interior design of the cookbook by Bullet Liongson, with its limited color palate, slightly desaturated color photos, black and whites, and cityscapes exemplifying a pervasive feeling of gray fog, suits the San Francisco bay-front location of The Slanted Door restaurant. The food photography may not pop, but it does blend into a cohesive whole. A food photographer myself, I am always interested in the photographers and techniques of food photography found in cookbooks. Photographer Ed Anderson, known for his work in My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz, has a gritty, masculine, street photojournalist style to his food shots and he is not afraid to show dirty pots and scuffed kitchen floors. His best work seems to be his beautiful landscapes and cityscapes of San Francisco.

As those of us who have written cookbooks for chefs and restaurants know, writing a cookbook is a full-time job and running a restaurant is a full-time job. No chef can do both and the wise ones, like Charles Phan, hire a specialist. Charles Phan made a good decision hiring Janny Hu. The recipes work and Hu successfully created a voice that I, for one, believe is that of Charles Phan. To sublimate one’s own personality and successfully translate that of Chef Phan’s into a voice is a true gift and Janny Hu has done well.

I began eating Vietnamese food in 1980 when the first Vietnamese restaurant opened in New Orleans to serve the some 20,000 Vietnamese located here after the fall of Saigon. I also included a number of Vietnamese restaurants in New Orleans Best Ethnic Restaurants, so I enjoyed exploring Charles Phan’s growth as a restaurateur and comparing it to what my local Vietnamese restaurant friends have done. Charles Phan primarily keeps to traditional Vietnamese dish preparation for his entrees and appetizers. A few of the dishes are more Vietnamese fusion than traditional Vietnamese and I find that they do not work as well as the traditional recipes which have had hundreds of years to develop a flavor profile. For desserts, Phan provides exquisite pastries in the tradition of the French occupation of Vietnam and forgoes the fruit-based desserts so often seen in local restaurants.

His two smartest moves as a restaurateur were to free himself from the tyranny of local soda distributors and his creation of a wine list and a spirits menu totally unrelated to Vietnam. Phan removed the soda guns from his restaurant – an action so without precedent in San Francisco restaurant history that the distributor was not sure what he meant. No well-known commercial sodas at The Slanted Door, rather hand squeezed juices, made to order and combined with small bottles of sparkling soda water in the tradition of Vietnamese soda chanh. Soda chanh, a combination of fresh squeezed lime juice, sugar and club soda, is one of my favorite drinks. Hiring an expert, wine wizard Mark Ellenbogen created the wine list for The Slanted Door. He found that low alcohol wines with some residual sugar and high acidity like a German Riesling worked with spicy Vietnamese dishes and concentrated on whites made from cool-weather grapes and reds with low tannin. For the spirits menu, the fresh squeezed juices of the non-alcoholic beverage menu was a natural springboard for fresh juice and homemade syrup based cocktails with an emphasis on tropical cocktails, extremely well done. The cocktail recipes include cute bits of info. One bit that I did not know is who drank the French 75 in the movie Casablanca. Read the book to find out.

Most impressive, however, is Charles Phan’s story of how he raised capital for his restaurants, avoided double-dealing landlords and used DIY skills to remodel and decorate his restaurants without the all too often amateur look resulting from DIY restaurant design. The Slanted Door provides a fascinating look into the evolution of a restaurant dynasty, some great recipes, some even better cocktail recipes and a romping fun read. If I were to be forced to find a drawback, it is that I would have enjoyed the book much more if I lived in San Francisco and knew Charles Phan personally – but there are always vacations. Traveling to San Francisco soon? Put this book on your to-read list and visit the restaurant while you are there. I know I will. – Ann Benoit

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Storybook Style: America’s whimsical homes of the 1920s

1920s Los Angeles was the heart of Storybook Style architecture.

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Prop money on Amazon

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You could get into all sorts of mischief with a few stacks of prop money. $9 for a stack that looks like $10,000 worth of 100 dollar bills.

Last Man: France's amazing martial arts fantasy comic comes to the Anglosphere

Lastman, the revolutionary, bestselling French comic created by Bastien Vivès, Michaël Sanlaville and Balak, arrives in the Anglosphere today, thanks to Firstsecond's English language edition of volume 1: The Stranger. Read the rest

Flexi Freedom retractable cord dog leash

First off, this leash is incredibly comfortable to hold. You wouldn’t think so by looking at it but I have walked, run, skied and bushwhacked with it in every season and you hardly know it’s there. Part of it is the soft rubber coating on the handle but it’s mostly the moulded shape that snugs right into your palm.

Next, it is very strong. When my 65 lb male Samoyed goes after a squirrel, the half inch wide, spring loaded belt pays out until it reaches the end and whammo: full stop, no problem. I haven’t cracked the case to see how the end of the belt attaches to the reel but it has stood up to this punishment nearly every day for several years now. Of course, this also speaks to how the spring-loaded, stainless steel D clip is fastened to the dog end of the belt: it’s looped through, folded back and crimped with a plastic clamshell.

The leash has an elegant locking-mechanism that works reliably and intuitively by pushing a button with your thumb and then engaging a switch. This locks the belt at whatever length you want, and yep, it holds firm when charging dog meets end of leash. The belt is released just by pushing the switch again. Both setting and releasing the length are easy to do with one gloved hand.

When you run, walk or ski with your dog, the reel constantly pays out and retrieves slack (unless you’ve set the lock) so the belt rarely gets tangled the way other leashes can. This adjusts for both human arm swinging as well as for various dog movements. I sometimes clip the Flexi onto my belt, which frees up both hands for hiking or ski poles, or for carrying stuff.

Finally, it is almost completely silent. Impressive that in all seasons, with the belt getting wet, dirty and freezing, it has not developed the slightest squeak. -- Tam Stewart

Genderswapped Sixth Doctor cosplay outfit


From Frockasaurus (previously), this brilliant Femme Sixth Doctor Who cosplay set, a custom made, genderswapped version of Colin Baker's outfit including a jacket, corset/waistcoat, necktie and skirt. (via Geeky Merch)

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The beauty of Scandinavian design

A stupefying collection of design from the patchwork of Northern European nation states vaguely known as “Scandinavia,” Scandinavian Design is both eye candy and an education.

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Multitool in a hair-clip


The $10 Monkey Business Clippa Mini Tools Clip is a hair-clip with a sawblade, trolley coin, wrench, phillips screwdriver, ruler, and eyeglass screwdriver.

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Let’s Go Letter Hunting

Hello, my name is Gareth Branwyn and I’m a blank journal addict. I love the romantic, aspirational aspects of a blank book, the allure of the possible.

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The Fade Out - Anthology of a great Hollywood noir comic book

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I reviewed the first issue of The Fade Out last year. Now, Image has released the first four issues in one volume.

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The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook

At first glance, I thought The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook might be too gimmicky to take seriously – recipes by top mystery authors, including Mary Higgins Clark, Gillian Flynn, James Patterson, Lisa Unger, and dozens of others.

But its thick textured pages and beautiful photographs drew me in, and before I knew it I was eating a bowl of zucchini pasta-less pasta from a recipe that First Blood author David Morrell offers (my dish is pictured above). The green ribbons of “pasta” were simple to make and absolutely delicious.

I’ve now got Post-it notes stuck on all the recipes I want to try, including Hallie Ephron’s simple potato pancakes, Mary Higgins Clark’s “Game Night Chili,” Adrienne Barbeau’s stuffed grape leaves, and for when I’m feeling extra decadent, James Patterson’s “Killer Chocolate Cake” (which has butter listed as its first ingredient!).

Along with each entry, the author writes a fun backstory on his or her recipe. This original cookbook is perfect for all food and mystery fans.

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Kickstarting a new edition of Lord of the Fries


The classic Cheapass Game is getting a second life, with a brand-new second deck, thanks to you and Kickstarter!

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The photos in Earth is My Witness are like bullets

Earth is My Witness is a classic coffee table book. Huge, weighty, colorful, and visually pleasing to almost everyone.

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Chocolate megalodon teeth for the Easter Dinoshark


Cast from a real fossil dino-shark tooth, available in milk, dark and white chocolate, just in time for Easter. (via Bruce Sterling)

Gamer jewelry


New Zealand jeweler Charlie Meaden's OG gamer pieces include these shiny game-controller earrings and the Space Invaders ring, both available in gold or silver. (via Geeky Merch)

Star Trek sushi set


The beams of blue spacewarp light on Thinkgeek's $35 Star Trek U.S.S. Enterprise Sushi Set detach from the Enterprise's nacelles to form chopsticks, while the saucer section unscrews to form a soy sauce dish. (via Geeky Merch)

Girl-friendly middle-grades science fiction anthology

Corie Weaver, co-editor of the Young Explorer's Adventure Guide a middle grade reader featuring diverse protagonists, sez: "31 percent of children's books have central female characters, and even fewer feature main characters of color."

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