Sunday, November 24, 2013

Kermit Lynch at the Chapel, today at 2pm

And then sometimes you get thrown a fat one right over the plate.  Gotta swing, right?  Gotta swing.

Today at two, Books Inc. presents Kermit Lynch in conversation with Rajat Parr.  Kermit Lynch, purveyor of fine wine, importer, wine maker, author - just so happens to divide his time between Berkeley and France - so those of us in the bay area are fortunate to have him so close, so often.

Have you been to his shop, Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, on San Pablo in Berkeley?  It's just ridiculously wonderful to have someone with such exceptional taste so near.  I will admit that I am not an oenophile - if the definition of the word is a connoisseur.  If, though, you define it as someone who's simply a lover of wine, then I'm your guy.  I used to be a slave to the ratings-cards that wine shops provide - 87 points!  I used to be in.

Now, though, I talk to the people behind the counter.  That's what we do at ye olde bookshoppe, right?  If you have a question, I can answer it.  Same with wine.  Good shops employ knowledgeable people, and Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant is full of good people with great advice.

So there's the fact that Mr. Lynch is a recognized and influential wine expert - as this piece in the New York Times wonderfully demonstrates.  Then there's the book.  When Adventures on the Wine Route came out in 1988, critics as diverse as Roald Dahl, Hugh Johnson and the Financial Times praised it mightily.

It's idiosyncratic, funny, informative.  A wee bit different than the stodgy wine writing you might be used to.

Adventures on the Wine Route is a great pleasure to read.

It’s this idea of pleasure, I think, that separates Mr. Lynch’s book from the others, and that also illumines his taste in wine.  Wine is, he writes, above all, pleasure.  

What’s he a fan of?  Good wine.  He’s not a fan of filtration – which, though it makes more wine safe from spoiling, also makes it impossible to achieve the heights unfiltered wines can achieve.  We would not castrate all men, he writes, because some of them go haywire and commit rape.

Thank god for that.

But today - the event at the Chapel.  Not only is it Kermit Lynch, he's going to be in conversation with Rajat Parr, wine director for the Mina Group

At Parr’s restaurants - like Michael Mina - he says his concern is with showcasing the wine itself – not necessarily its reputation, but what’s in the bottle.  He says to taste with your heart, not your mind – which might give you a clue as to why they get on so well.

He also is the author of Secrets of the Sommeliers – bestseller and winner of a James Beard Cookbook Award.

Plus, he loves PDT, a speakeasy in New York which is one of my favorite bars, ever – in addition to his own Clock Bar here in the city, meaning you don’t have to travel 3,000 miles to get there.

Both men would agree that the great occasions of our life are celebrated with food and wine.  So, today, a celebration of an amazing author, a terrific book – and great wine.

Oh, and that fat one that was thrown over my plate?  It was the request to introduce both men at the Chapel - something I will gladly do.  Here's me, then, swinging away.

Join us if you can.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Introducing the Jenny Bonnet - Jenny to you.

One of the perks you get as a bookseller is being able to peek at books before they're published - we sometimes see these advance copies so that we're good and ready to tell you about them when they do come out.  Such is the case with Emma Donoghue's Frog Music.

You'll know Ms. Donoghue from her previous writing including her last novel, the bestselling Room - that desperate, claustrophobic and brilliant story about the ends one mother goes to in an attempt to shelter her son from their unthinkable crisis of circumstance.  Have you not read Room?  Go, ok?  Just go do that.

As is her wont, she has jumped from the contemporary to the historical in Frog Music.  It's the United States' Centennial and brash and dynamic San Francisco is where Blanche Beunon will be run over - literally - by Jenny Bonnet, a frog hunting, oft-arrested (for appearing in the apparel of the opposite sex), bicycle stealing twenty-seven-year-old who will spirit into your consciousness even quicker than she can snatch frogs.

More's the pity that Jenny is shotgunned on page three.  Leave it to Ms. Donoghue to introduce a woman you'll fall in love with as soon as she sings a lullaby to Blanche - leaving the rest of the novel to show how they met and why they ended up ambushed at Eight Mile House.

But all that's for next year - April of 2014 when Frog Music hits our shelves.  In the meantime, I'd like you to enjoy a drink inspired by Jenny.  I started with genever - gin before there was gin - because, yes, alliteration, but also because it's something Jenny and Blanche might've shared at the Pony Express Saloon.  It'll keep you warm through the winter - until spring when you can meet Jenny for yourself.

Another perk booksellers sometimes receive is breaking bread with authors during pre-publication tours.  I'm lucky enough to meet Ms. Donoghue tonight in San Francisco - and though we may not get to sample a Jenny, we will be able to talk about the real life Jenny Bonnet who inspired Frog Music.

The Jenny Bonnet:

 2 oz. Bols Genever
.75 oz. simple syrup
.75 oz. fresh lemon juice
.5 oz. Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
2 drops Cherry Bark Vanilla Bitters

Combine all - except bitters - and stir with ice.  Strain into chilled glass.  Add bitters & garnish with maraschino cherry.