Don’t Believe the American Heart Association — Butter, Steak and Coconut Oil Aren’t Likely to Kill You

Investigative journalist Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, pens an op-ed in today’s Los Angeles Times:

Last month, the American Heart Assn. once again went after butter, steak and especially coconut oil with this familiar warning: The saturated fats in these foods cause heart disease. The organization’s “presidential advisory” was a fresh look at the science and came in response to a growing number of researchers, including myself, who have poured over this same data in recent years and beg to differ. A rigorous review of the evidence shows that when it comes to heart attacks or mortality, saturated fats are not guilty.

To me, the AHA advisory released in June was mystifying. How could its scientists examine the same studies as I had, yet double down on an anti-saturated fat position? With a cardiologist, I went through the nuts and bolts of the AHA paper, and came to this conclusion: It was likely driven less by sound science than by longstanding bias, commercial interests and the AHA’s need to reaffirm nearly 70 years of its “heart healthy” advice.


Plus this:

The diet-heart hypothesis has been tested more than any other in the history of nutrition, and thus far, the results have been null.

Read the whole thing.


Further Reading:  “Don’t Believe the American Heart Association — Butter, Steak and Coconut Oil Aren’t Likely to Kill You” – The Los Angeles Times


Just Published: Ski Town Soups – Signature Soups from World Class Ski Resorts


Jennie Iverson has just published her first cookbook, Ski Town Soups:  Signature Soups from World Class Ski Resorts.  I’m pleased that Taos Ski Valley is represented in this beautiful book — The Blonde Bear Tavern contributed two recipes, and The Bavarian shared the recipe for its famous Bavarian goulash (featured on the book’s cover).

Jennie Iverson

Jennie is a wife and a mother of two boys; she tells how her family savors days on the mountain.  Not only does she love the snow, but she has a general adoration of winter.  She’s enthusiastic about making soups, stews and chilies in cold weather, and relishes a cup or bowl in front of the fire with her family.

Over the past three years she embarked on a journey to hunt down the best soups as she traveled to Sun Valley, Jackson Hole, Mt. Bachelor, Mt. Hood, Whitefish Mountain., Big Sky, Moonlight Basin, Heavenly, Northstar-at-Tahoe, Park City, Vail, and Beaver Creek.  What grew from these travel experiences was what she describes as a perfectly balanced recipe for life: a ski town, a comfortable restaurant, and a yummy bowl of soup.  As she likes to say: “Although soup is typically meant to simmer, life is meant to boil!”

The Ski Town Soups cookbook is a must-have souvenir for skiers and foodies alike.  The book is a beautiful, colorful rendition of 60 North American ski resorts, restaurant dining rooms, renowned chefs, and over 100 unique soup recipes with ultimate regional flare.

I’ve had a chance to preview this cookbook before it’s available to the public and I’m happy to recommend it to anyone who loves soups, chowders, bisques, and chilies.  The recipes are conveniently categorized in these sections.  Each recipe is rated with a “difficulty level” from “easiest” to “most difficult”.  The recipes were shared by some of the best chefs in North America’s mountain resorts and features beautiful photographs not only of the delicious dishes, but of the continent’s most beautiful mountain getaways.

The book’s foreword is provided by Kelly Liken, who, along with her husband, owns Restaurant Kelly Liken in Vail, Colorado.  She begins by saying, “It has been said that the mark of a great chef can be found in their creation of a great soup.”

You can order the book from Amazon by clicking here.  For a preview, check out Jennie’s blog at





Just Published: Thomas Jefferson’s Crème Brûlée: How a Founding Father and His Slave James Hemings Introduced French Cuisine to America



In 1784, Thomas Jefferson struck a deal with one of his slaves, 19-year-old James Hemings.  The founding Father was traveling to Paris and wanted to bring James along “for a particular purpose” – to master the art of French cooking.  In exchange for James’s cooperation, Jefferson would grant his freedom.

Thus began one of the strangest partnerships in U.S. history.  As James apprenticed under master French chefs, Jefferson studied the cultivation of French crops (especially grapes for winemaking) so they might be replicated in American agriculture.  The two men returned home with such marvels as pasta, French fries, champagne, macaroni and cheese, crème brûlée, and a host of other treats.  This narrative nonfiction book tells the fascinating story behind their remarkable adventure – and includes 12 of their original recipes.

The book, scheduled to be published September 12, is by Thomas J. Craughwell, who provides a synopsis in the latest issue of The American Spectator:

Jefferson’s desire for a French chef was not a sign that he was a food snob.  He enjoyed plantation fare, so much so that while he was in Paris, he developed a Hankering for smoked Virginia ham and Indian corn.  But he also had a taste for the best, and French cuisine was said to be the best in the world.  His passion for good food was a natural extension of his passion for gardening and his fascination with plants.  His gardens were not simply decorative; they produced the fruits, vegetables, and herbs that fed his family. They were also botany laboratories where he experimented to see which varieties of fruits and vegetables would thrive in Virginia.  In 1770, behind Monticello, he had his slaves cut a large terrace from the side of the mountain and clear the ground for a kitchen garden that ultimately would grow to be 1,000 feet long and 80 feet wide.  In time, it would produce more than 300 varieties of vegetables.

Other books by Craughwell include The Greatest Brigade: How the Irish Brigade Cleared the Way to Victory in the Civil War (Fair Winds, 2011) and Stealing Lincoln’s Body (Harvard University Press, 2007).

Order now and enjoy Amazon’s Pre-order Price Guarantee:  If the price decreases between your order time and the end of the day of the release date, you’ll receive the lowest price.





Further Reading:


Coming This Fall: “The Food Lover’s Guide to Wine”

Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg’s latest book, The Food Lover’s Guide to Wine, is scheduled to be published by Little, Brown this fall.  The book picks up where What to Drink with What You Eat left off in exploring wine as the ideal complement to food, promising readers that if they love food, they know flavor — and can master wine.

Karen and Andrew

Andrew and Karen were frequent guests at Bellavitae, and I always loved seeing them.  Their books are renowned in the hospitality industry, but more importantly, revered by professional chefs and sommeliers alike.

But to me, this book’s most important contribution — like that of What to Drink with What You Eat — is sharing the couple’s continuing journey of demystifying wine.  Andrew and Karen strike an intelligent, yet down-to-earth approach to wine drinking, with an emphasis on flavor.

Food is enhanced with wine and vice versa.  And an optimal pairing of food and wine creates an experience that is nothing short of magical.  This book will guide any palate toward heaven on earth.

I have always been fascinated by terroir and its influence on how things taste.  Its greatest expression, in my opinion, is through cheese and wine.  Why?  Because both are aged, thus the flavors have intensified, transporting the taster to that area of the world where the unique elements — soil, weather, altitude, etc. — converge to create flavors like nowhere else on earth.

I’m looking forward to reading The Food Lover’s Guide to Wine and expect it will occupy a prominent place next to other important books of reference by these two influential writers.

If you pre-order, you can receive 34% off the cover price by clicking here.  Oh, and it will also be available for Kindle at a 43% discount.  It’s what I plan to do, and hope to some day get the book autographed — it’s been way too long since I’ve seen Andrew and Karen.




Further Reading:



Investing Lessons From Da Vinci And Edison

I met Michael Gelb when our mutual friends Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg brought him and his wife Deborah Domanski to Bellavitae.  He had just published his latest book, Wine Drinking for Inspired Thinking.  It was a wonderful evening with good food, great wine, and wonderful conversation.

Last week, Forbes magazine published a fascinating interview with Michael by Jason Apollo Voss, retired co-portfolio manager of the Davis Appreciation & Income Fund.  While the interview’s angle is aimed at professional investors, its substance is useful in any walk of life, even cooking!

Michael is a leading authority on the application of genius thinking to personal and organizational development.  He is a pioneer in the fields of creative thinking, accelerated learning, and innovative leadership.  He leads seminars for organizations such as DuPont, Merck, Microsoft, Nike, Raytheon and YPO.  He brings more than 30 years of experience as a professional speaker, seminar leader, and organizational consultant to his diverse, international clientele.

Michael is the author of 12 books on creativity and innovation including Innovate Like Edison and the international best seller How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci, which has been translated into 25 languages and has appeared on the Washington Post,, and the New York Times best seller lists.


Here are a few excerpts from the interview:

Jason Apollo Voss (JAV):  Which of Da Vinci’s principles do you feel are important for investors to know about to improve their understanding of information?   How may someone apply these principles to make better investment decisions?

Michael J. Gelb (MJG):  All of the principles are important.   Each one sets the stage for the one that follows and together they form a system for thinking like Leonardo.

The Da Vinci principles are:

Curiosità – An insatiable quest for knowledge and continuous improvement.
Dimostrazione – Learning from experience/Independent thinking.
Sensazione – Sharpening the senses.
Sfumato – Managing ambiguity and change.
Arte/Scienza – Whole-brain thinking.
Corporalità – Body-mind fitness.
Connessione – Systems thinking.


Edison’s Five Competencies of Innovation™ are:

Solution-Centered Mindset.
Kaleidoscopic Thinking.  Edison’s strategies for generating new ideas.
Full-Spectrum Engagement.  This competency focuses on the ability to manage complexity.
Master Mind Collaboration.  Strategies for leveraging diverse viewpoints.
Super-Value Creation.  The holy grail of investing: how to discern opportunities for value that are outstanding in a competitive marketplace.


MJG:  Da Vinci and Edison both took their inspiration from Nature.   Leonardo writes poetically about the Earth as a living being and Edison wrote that his purpose was to “bring out the secrets of nature for the happiness of humanity.”  They didn’t sit in the Lotus position and repeat mantras but they were both deeply contemplative.   Leonardo stated that “Men of genius sometimes work best when they work least!”  Here he is expressing the importance of receptivity and deep relaxation in the process of creation.   Edison would go fishing in the middle of a workday at a nearby pond, and he would fish with a baitless hook.   Why?  Because he was really “fishing” for breakthrough ideas and he knew that relaxation made him more receptive to intuitive insight.  These modes of consciousness are critically important to investment success (and success of any kind).   The key is to find your own natural rhythm-balancing intense focus and concentrated work with reflection and receptivity.

Read the whole thing.  And while you’re at it, order the book.  I highly recommend it.


Further Reading:




The Mozza Cookbook: Another Winner from Nancy Silverton

Nancy Silverton was a frequent guest at Bellavitae and I always loved to see her.  Her talented daughter Vanessa and gregarious father Lawrence were also wonderful to have in the restaurant.  Better yet was when the three of them came together!

Nancy is co-owner of Osteria Mozza, Pizzeria Mozza, and Mozza2Go in Los Angeles, where she makes her home.  She was the founder of the La Brea Bakery and formerly owned and operated Campanile restaurant (recipient of the 2001 James Beard Award for Best Restaurant).

She is the author of A Twist of the Wrist (which includes Bellavitae’s recipe for Piquillo Peppers with Tuna), Nancy Silverton’s Sandwich Book, Nancy Silverton’s Pastries from the La Brea Bakery (recipient of a 2000 Food & Wine Best Cookbook Award), Nancy Silverton’s Breads from the La Brea Bakery, and Desserts.

Nancy trained at London’s Le Cordon Bleu and Les Ecole Le Nôtre in Plaisir, France.   In 1982, Wolfgang Puck hired her as pastry chef for Spago, the restaurant that helped jump-start Californian cuisine.

Here is Amazon’s description of Nancy’s latest endeavor, The Mozza Cookbook, co-authored by Matt Molina and Carolynn Carreno, to be released on September 27:

Nancy Silverton has one of the most brilliant résumés in the culinary world, and is currently the owner/chef of the two hottest restaurants in Los Angeles, Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza.  With The Mozza Cookbook she brings us the delicious, wildly popular dishes from these eateries—as exciting and satisfying as anything you might be served in the heart of Italy.

Silverton takes us through a full Italian meal:  stuzzichini (appetizers), latticini (mozzarella bar), antipasti, pizza, primi (pasta), secondi (meat and fish), contorni (sides), and dolci (desserts).  The recipes range from familiar, simple tomato sauces, Garlic Crostini, Margherita and Funghi Misti pizzas, and Mussels al Forno with Salsa Calabrese to more intricate dishes like Fried Squash Blossoms with Ricotta, Burrata with Leeks Vinaigrette and Mustard Breadcrumbs, Grilled Whole Orata with Fresh Herbs and Olio Nuovo, and Olive Oil Gelato.

The detailed, easy-to-follow recipes; the author’s lively, encouraging voice; and her intimate, comprehensive knowledge of the traditions behind this delectably decadent cuisine make this the ultimate must-have Italian cookbook.

One commonality of Nancy’s cookbooks is, well, the recipes work.  She is meticulous in most everything she does, which is reflected in her cookbooks.  I’ve pre-ordered mine and saved 35%, which you can do by clicking here.

The Mozza Cookbook: Recipes from Los Angeles’s Favorite Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria, with an introduction by Mario Batali, promises to be another winner from Nancy Silverton.


Further Reading:



Consigli per la Cottura: Egg Yolks

The always-helpful Rose Levy Beranbaum offers three tips when using egg yolks, discussing the following:

  1. More and more often, the proportion of yolk to white is less than it has been over the past decades.
  2. If egg yolks are combined with sugar and allowed to sit they will crust over, dry out on the surface, and result in lumps in the cooked or baked product.
  3. If you have extra yolks, you can freeze them but only if you stir in some sugar which will maintain their texture.


Read the whole thing here.

Rose has an excellent blog for bakers, a great source for information that nicely compliments her highly acclaimed baking books; I highly recommend it!

“Rose Levy Beranbaum is the award-winning author of nine cookbooks, including The Cake Bible, the International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook of the Year for 1988.  It was also listed by the James Beard Foundation as one of the top 13 baking books on “the Essential Book List.”  Rose also won a James Beard Foundation Award in 1998 for Rose’s Christmas Cookies, and her book, The Bread Bible, was an IACP and James Beard Foundation nominee and was listed as one of the Top Ten Books of 2003 by Publishers Weekly and Food & Wine.  Her most recent book, Rose’s Heavenly Cakes, won the International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook of the Year for 2010.

She is a contributing editor to Food Arts magazine and writes regularly for the Washington Post, Fine Cooking, Reader’s Digest, and Bride’s.  Her popular blog,, has created an international community of bakers where you can visit Rose Levy Beranbaum and join in the discussion on all things baking.  While you are there, you can bring the author right into your kitchen as she demonstrates key techniques and shares trade secrets so that you can create perfectly divine cakes.”


What to Drink with What You Eat

James Beard Award winners Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page have released an iPhone appicon that conveniently places all of the food and drink pairing information from their book What to Drink with What You Eat at your fingertips.

This clever app delivers when you need it:  at the restaurant, the wine store, or the food market.  Information for the application is from their acclaimed book — which is currently listed as Amazon’s #1 “Most Wished For” wine book  and was also named the Georges Duboeuf “Wine Book of the Year”.

The app allows you to search by either Food or Drink to find an ideal pairing:

In the Food section, you can either search by typing what you’re looking for in the top bar, or scroll down an alphabetical list of hundreds of categories:

Click a desired category and the app returns a list of optimal beverages that enhance the flavor of the food you’ll be eating.  You can do the same in reverse — search by Drink to retrieve compatible foods that will enhance whatever is in your glass:

It’s a great deal at only $2.99.  Check it out at the iTunes store.

Not an iPhone user?  You can always buy the book!

What to Drink with What You Eat: The Definitive Guide to Pairing Food with Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea - Even Water - Based on Expert Advice from America's Best Sommeliers


Italy’s Influence on the Art of Picasso


Courtesy Musée National Picasso, Paris

“Portrait of Olga in the Armchair”

Pablo Picasso’s journey to Italy in January of 1917 offered one of the most significant but least investigated influences on his art.  It was in Italy where he began his second rose period and absorbed the powerful spirit of Renaissance, Classical, and Mannerist art, as well as Italian culture.

Picasso designed the curtains and sets for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes production of Parade, a one act avant-garde ballet written by Jean Cocteau, scored by Eric Satie, and choreographed by Diaghilev’s lover Léonide Massine.  Parade was to be performed in Paris that May, so in the meantime Picasso and Cocteau joined Diaghilev and Massine in Rome where the Ballets Russes was headquartered during World War I.  Picasso accompanied the Ballets Russes to Venice and Florence where he visited Michelangelo’s Medici Chapel.

And, as writer Jennifer Theriault points out:

It was the Farnese marbles in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples that would have the most profound effect on Picasso’s art.  Over the years the inspiration from these classical Greek and Roman masterpieces burned deep in Picasso’s sculpture.  They also propelled him closer toward Neoclassicism in his painting, eventually serving to “classicize his work far more effectively than the antiquities he had studied in the Louvre,” as John Richardson notes in the epic third installment of his seminal Picasso biography “Picasso: The Triumphant Years.”

Back in Rome, Picasso continued meeting artists while making the requisite tourist stops.  He got to know members of the Italian Futurist movement, including Giacomo Balla and Fortunato Depero, and visited the Vatican Museums with Enrico Prampolini who commented on the “pleasure with which [Picasso] contemplated the Sistine frescoes and, still more, Raphael’s Stanze and the Vatican museums of sculpture.”

It was here where he also found a new sujet d’art:  Olga Khokhlova, a 25-year-old Russian ballerina, who became his first wife.

In the book The Italian Journey 1917-1924, editors Jean Claire and Odile Michel explore the fascinating ties between Picasso’s work and his experiences in Italy:

He also brought back enough memories to affect his imagery for several decades, as readers discover in this 367-page book.  There are 13 essays here, such as Jean Clair’s “Notes on the Iconography of Harlequin,” Anne Baldassari’s “Pompeian Fantasy: a Photographic Source of Picasso’s Neoclassicism,” and Ornella Volta’s “Picasso and Italy: the Last Memories of His Journey.”  The book is filled with large color plates reproducing Picasso’s paintings, drawings, and prints, including many that are only rarely seen, such as a group of caricatures of his companions, including Diaghilev and Léon Bakst.  The book also includes dozens of reproductions of period photographs, mementos Picasso collected on his travels, and art that affected him – Pompeiian wall paintings, ballet dancers, and classical painting.  Readers will find much food for thought, as well as some priceless quotes from the master.  When Picasso went to the Sistine Chapel, for example, he found the Raphaels wanting.  “Good, very good,” he remarked, “but it can be done, don’t you think?”  Then, turning to the Michelangelo’s Last Judgment: “Now this is more difficult.”



Marcella Hazan: Demystifying Italian Cooking

Marcella Hazan, photo courtesy

Cooking at home today, I referenced Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, as I seem to do more often than I realize.  The book, published in 1992, is a fully revised and updated edition of The Classic Italian Cook Book (published in 1973) and More Classic Italian Cooking (published in 1976).  So this classic collection of classic Italian recipes and techniques – nearly 40 years old – is now itself a classic. 

Marcella Hazan has sold more than a million books – and with good reason.  Beautifully written, she takes you step by step through Italian dishes from nearly every region of Italy.  Her techniques are explained in vivid detail and she offers a fascinating glimpse into Italian culinary history. 

In 2008 – at the age of 84 – she wrote an autobiography, Amarcord: Marcella Remembers. The Remarkable Life Story of the Woman Who Started Out Teaching Science in a Small Town in Italy, but Ended Up Teaching America How to Cook Italian.  As The New York Times describes it, the book “offers for the first time a public glimpse into the professional and romantic relationship between a science teacher from a small Italian town in Emilia-Romagna and the Italy-loving son of Jewish New York furriers.  It is a marriage that shaped how Italian cooking came to be defined in the United States.” 


And this from Publisher’s Weekly: 

In 1969 Hazan gave the private cooking class that launched her career as the Italian Julia Child.  In an evocative memoir, she recounts her life from childhood to Florida Gulf Coast retirement.  Hazan spent her earliest years on another coast, in Cesenatico, a village on the Adriatic; during WWII the family moved to a lake in the mountains between Venice and Milan.  Fresh out of the university, she taught college math and science and met a young man who had returned to his Italian homeland after more than a decade in America.  He loved food, and his worldliness and sophistication made a good match for the comparatively earthbound author.  After they married, the couple moved several times between various places in Italy and America.  During a long stay in New York, Hazan began to offer the Italian cooking lessons that later caught the attention of such chefs as New York Times food writer Craig Claiborne.  This led to the writing and publication in 1973 of The Classic Italian Cookbook.  Hazan’s memoir is a terrific history of the expansive, postwar period when Americans were still learning the difference between linguine and Lambrusco, and an engaging chronicle of professional perseverance, chance and culinary destiny. 

Every cook — whether a professional or a home enthusiast who loves Italian cooking — should have at least one cookbook by Marcella.  Her recipes and techniques inspired many of Bellavitae’s dishes, and I still often refer to her timeless advice at home.  

Here are her cookbooks: 


As part of her promotional book tour, she granted an interview and here are a few of my favorite quotes: 

“When I go to a restaurant and they give me a very complicated, very beautifully arranged dish, I don’t think it’s food.  I would like to ask the waiter to give me a camera to take a picture and afterwards tell him, ‘Now give me food, please.’  I don’t want to impress. I want to do something that is good.  Try to make straightforward food and get it to the table.” 

“I remember once I was explaining something about the butcher and I mentioned that when you have a piece of meat you have to cut against the grain because it’s a muscle. And when I said ‘muscle,’ everyone made a strange face.  And I stopped and I said, ‘Well, what do you think that you are eating?’” 

“Sometimes they overdo it.  Before, they were serving the pasta that was gluey because it was overcooked. And so I said, no it has to be al dente.  Now sometimes I go to a restaurant and the pasta is not cooked.  It just got in the water for a moment and came out. That is too much!” 

“Cooking brings out the taste.  If you cook vegetables too little because you want them crunchy, they all have one thing in common: They taste like grass.” 

On produce from the supermarket:  “Those vegetables and fruits come from very far and naturally if they pick them at the moment they’re ripe they cannot [survive] a long time traveling.  When they reach the store, if they look ripe, they are not ripe normally.  What I mean is not ripe in the air, in the sun, attached to the tree.  It is just ripe in the wrong way, so it’s not good.  And that is happening very often with many vegetables and many fruits.  Now we have the season of peaches and they look wonderful.  After you come home, yes, they are soft, they are ripe, but they are not sweet because they did not have the time outside, attached to the plant to convert the juice into sugar.” 

On why home cooking is important:  “It is a way of bringing the people of the family together—to be together, to talk. And what is the best way to bring them?  If you offer them good food.  They enjoy it, they look forward to it, and that is why it is very important.”