One of the very great joys of being involved in the food content world is knowing other writers, especially bloggers, who ultimately go on to publish books, and then getting to see the fruits of their labors. It is a tremendous validation of the passion and efforts of all of we bloggers that publishers can see the value in our work, and commit to bringing that to fruition in the printed word.
Most recently, I attended an event for Katy Strahs’ new oeuvre, The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook. Kathy has maintained the blog Panini Happy since 2008, committed to extolling the virtues of using the panini press as a multifunctional cooking tool, and to elevating the art of pressed sandwich making. She and I have some history, having been on panels together at BlogHer Food, and just generally running in like-minded circles in the blogosphere.
The concept of panini press as kitchen powerhouse is not really a new one. I was blown away nearly a decade ago by a story on Kitchen Sisters about how George Foreman grills were creating opportunities for people of severely limited means to cook sensible, nutritious foods in places where they otherwise could not have even a hot plate. It was something they could stow away, like contraband, when they needed it out of site, yet could be called into action to cook complete meals for their families.
This is why I adore Kathy’s blog, and her pursuant book. Sure, there are many ideas for sandwiches; it is, after all, the core competency of the panini press. But she goes beyond that to talk about grilling salmon, meats, fruits … basically anything you might cook on a full-on grill, but with a modicum of the muss and mess, right on the kitchen counter.
But for this event, it was all about the sandwiches. I arrived right at the beginning, because I am OCD about time. Kathy and Adam Salomon, associate publisher of Harvard Common Press, were busy prepping sandwiches to grill up for the crowd.
They held the event at the darling Little Vine on Grant Street in North Beach. This is the sort of place that makes me fall in love with San Francisco all over again: Quaint, eclectic, tucked in a wee corner of one of the most charming stretches of what is otherwise an overly touristed neighborhood. It happens to be just a block from another favorite spot on the same street, JEFF. It’s not a part of town I get to often, but am always smitten when I do get there.
The shop is chockablock with small-batch, artisanal and local products, including many of my favorites: SFQ, McQuade’s Celtic Chutneys, 4505 Meats. The list goes on and on. All packed into a space nary larger than my living room.
Sandwiches prepped, Adam fired up the panini press. On the menu, a few greatest hits from the book, starting with Manchego, Honey and Soppressata Panini. Straight up, not too fancy, totally delicious. Second up: Honey Walnut-crusted Aged Cheddar Panini. That’s right — honey and walnuts form the external crust on the grilled sides of the bread, lending a caramelized crunch to each bite. Adam graciously served forth.
But oh, oh no. None of that can stand up to the showstopper Nutella, Brie and Basil Panini. Nothing about this should make sense, but I am here to tell you that you should make this sandwich, for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. It. Just. Works.
I’m so happy and proud of Kathy for producing such a fun and thoughtful work. And I clearly have much work ahead of me to up my sandwich game.