FF Reads: January Book Reviews

One of my 2019 goals is to REFINE…meaning to perfect, to improve by polishing or practicing. When it comes to reading and my reading life, I reluctantly admit that I’m typically a seldom, yet random, binge reader and usually with fast reads such as Hunger Games, Twilight (!!), etc and usually only when I’m on a beach. As a child, I used to be a voracious reader — reading anything and everything I could get my hands on. But as life happened and time-suck inventions like social media and Netflix came about, sitting down to read a book has become less and less of a priority for me. Until now…

This year, I have committed to growing and nourishing my practice of reading, for enjoyment, yes, but also to expand my knowledge and vocabulary around things that interest me.

As you can see from this blog, my Instagram or any time there’s a plate in front of me…food is DEFINITELY a priority and a passion. So it might come as no surprise that my first set of book reviews for the year are in the food genre. I’m hoping to post a review of 2-3 books each month (probably NOT all food-related, but maybe), so we will see how this goes. <3

First Up:

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat

by Samin Nosrat

I pre-ordered this book on my Kindle back in 2017, but truth be told, I NEED the printed version ASAP because this piece of work is and will forever be part of my cooking repertoire. A textbook for life in the kitchen, really. It is one of the most beautifully written books, and the way that Nosrat describes cooking through her simplistic, yet overwhelmingly gorgeous depiction of the most basic elements of cooking is nothing more than pure GENIUS.

The connecting thread through the entire book is one of heart and of the ultimate JOY that comes from not only eating amazing food, but also from understanding it and taking the time to know and respect the craft of cooking.

“Whether you’ve never picked up a knife or you’re an accomplished chef, there are only four basic factors that determine how good your food will taste: salt…fat…acid…heat…As you discover these secrets, you’ll find yourself improvising more and more in the kitchen. Liberated from recipes and precise shopping lists, you’ll feel comfortable buying what looks best…confident in your ability to transform it in to a balanced meal.”

This book has forever changed the way I think about cooking and eating…finding my way around the kitchen differently, more comfortably than ever before. I do, in fact, feel more liberated.

From her lesson on effectively layering with salt to the different ways fat is used a cooking medium to the beautiful illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton (that I would like to frame around my kitchen) to the many, many keepsake recipes included throughout, this book will forever hold a place in my heart and in my kitchen that I will most definitely revisit, time and time again.

If you like to cook at all or want to learn, this book is the perfect place to start. You can’t help but feel the love and joy that emanates from it’s pages. And yes for those visual learners, there’s a wildly popular Netflix edition of this, so go check that out as well. I may or may not have started weeping in the first episode when that sweet Italian lady made handmade pesto…and have since wept through every single episode…it’s THAT beautiful.

Freckled Fork Rating: 4 of 4


Food Whore

by Jessica Tom

You may be thinking…wait, what? To go from such a lovely book above to this…I must have lost my damn mind…but I JUST got back into reading for fun, and this book sounded fun to me and it was JUST. THAT. Give me a break.

The story follows a recent Yale graduate student, Tia Monroe, who travels to New York City (thus another reason this book piqued my interest…I heart all things NY) to become an intern with a former NY Times cookbook author through a program at Columbia University. Instead, she is duped and placed as a coat check at a restaurant, which turns out to be a ruse orchestrated by Michael Saltz, the (fictitious) highly feared NY Times food critic (sounding eerily similar to a Pete Wells-type). Saltz uses Monroe to ghostwrite his reviews when he discovers he’s lost his sense of taste (can you imagine?!). I won’t go too much more into detail because it is a good, quick and entertaining read, and I don’t want to give away the story.

What really drew me into this book was not the salaciousness of the NYC food scene storyline (which was pretty good, btw) but the way Monroe talked about and described the food she was eating and experiencing at these highly reputable New York establishments.

I KNOW that’s one area in my own life — especially when it comes to cooking and food — that I want to grow and expand. I want to be better equipped with an expanded vocabulary beyond my typical “awesome”, “amazing”, “incredible” and “delicious” when it comes to describing food, or really anything.

So, yes, this book was definitely entertaining, but more so, it gave an interesting glimpse into the lives of those who critique and write about food. So there.

Freckled Fork Rating: 2 of 4

And lastly:

Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line

by Michael Gibney

After the lightheartedness and enterntainment of Food Whore, I jumped into Gibney’s account of 24 hours in the fast-paced balls-to-the-wall chaotic, but beautiful, world in the kitchen of a NYC fine dining restaurant. Right from the beginning, Gibney starts by inviting you in to what feels like a very personal, special insiders peek into the close-knit, seemingly elusive members-only club that is the industry kitchen.

He takes time to intricately describe every single movement, thought, interaction and moment that comes about for the every important Number 2 to a top-ranked Chef. Every piece of the puzzle is essential and plays a key part in the culinary choreography of a restaurant kitchen. The people are just as important as the cookware as is the cleanliness of the setup as is the flow of order as is the relationships between the Front of House and the Kitchen, etc., etc. Just like the human body, every part has a very specific role, purpose and part to play in order for everything to work as it should…bringing you to the end result of ultimate success in Gibney’s eyes…Service (performance of work for another) + Alimentation (provision of nourishment) + Soigné (the French word for “to take care of”, to look after and to love).

The process of creating beautifully complex, creative and perfectly made food, presented thoughtfully and purposefully on a plate for you — the consumer — to eat, enjoy and experience the way the Chef envisioned.

“We’re here to feed people…to take care of them. Cooking is altruism. It’s not about you. It never will be. It’s only about what you do for others. There’s honor in that.”

There were so many parts of the book where I felt like I was truly a fly-on-the-wall or even better (in my perfect world), a culinary student told to sit quietly in the corner and just watch, learn and take it all in. I felt like I should highlight and write down every cooking term and culinary vocabulary word sprinkled throughout the book to keep as a reference.

There is so much beauty in Gibney’s in-depth depiction of the entire day beginning with planning the specials, checking the kitchen stations, to the human aspect of checking in with each cook, to the minutia of the dinner prep, to the kitchen politics when things get heated during the thick of service, to jumping on the line when someone can’t hack it, to ultimately doing what needs to be done in order to achieve that excellence for which they strive for every day, for every meal served.

I loved every minute of this book. It gave me a greater appreciation for the incredible work that goes into delivering what I now understand to be so much more than just a pretty plate of food.

I am especially grateful for the ones who truly amaze you with the works of art they create on the plate, for the spaces and places where it all seems to work together so harmoniously, for those who make it look so effortless.

I suppose for some, for those who have committed their heart, soul, sweat and tears to this work, the ultimate goal is for it to be just that…effortless. Not because of complacency or lack of skill, but because it’s in their bones. It’s so ingrained into who they are, they can’t help but to deliver a meal so distinctive, so warm and so welcoming that you keep coming back for more because you KNOW you are experiencing and witnessing, firsthand, a purpose being fulfilled.

We are lucky to have a number of Chefs here in Charlotte who I think fall into this group. They were meant to do this work, and I’m so grateful that they do and that I get to enjoy it with a front row seat, usually at the bar.

Freckled Fork Rating: 4 of 4, no doubt.

What book(s) did you get into this month?

I’d love to know, share in the comments! Anything I should add to my list for February?

Sobremesa: Fall Dinner

Friends, it’s that time again!

Sobremesa (n) — the time after a meal when the food is gone, but the conversation around the table continues

We had such a lovely dinner gathering earlier this summer, and we are excited to announce our next global dinner for the fall:

Join Us for a Night Under the Stars

Thursday, October 25, 2018


Joined by my lovely friend and co-host, Sarah, we invite you to a wonderful fall dinner to celebrate the season, cook together & enjoy incredible food and relish in wonderful conversation around the table with friends, new and old.

Sobremesa is a global dinner series launched earlier this year by the amazingly creative minds behind Sunday Suppers in New York. Hosts from around the world are chosen to entertain guests with seasonal dinners in an effort to gather around the table and share the simplicity and love of food.

About the Meal 

from Sunday Suppers


This meal is inspired by the earth and the processes of fermentation and natural aging.

Fall is one of our favorite seasons and connects us back to the earth. As the season shifts, the color palette mutes and darkens to deep, warm hues. We turn inward, move at a slower pace and look for comfort. Spending more times indoors, we gather around the table with the ones we love. We prepare foods you want to share.

Pungent Cheese, Meat + Fruit
Bread & Black Garlic Butter
Pear, Endive, Fennel, Coriander, Smoked Ricotta
Short Rib w/Chili Oil, Garlic Chips
Braised Olives, Pickled Carrots
Saffron Risotto
Plum Torte + Espresso

I am THRILLED about this menu, and I’m even more excited about the venue. This time, we are hosting the dinner at one of the few remaining historic mid-century modern homes in Charlotte. Formally the Blumenthal home built by New York architect Saul Edelbaum in the 1950’s, Sarah and her husband, Charlotte architect Ken Pursley, have lovingly restored and revitalized this home, while keeping the historic beauty in tact.

We cannot wait to gather together, to cook together and to share an incredible meal & amazing conversation. Tickets will go VERY fast, so grab yours today.

Tickets* can be purchased here.

*A portion of the proceeds goes to The Global Hunger Project, a global program based on an innovative, holistic approach, which empowers women and men living in rural villages to become the agents of their own development and make sustainable progress in overcoming hunger and poverty. 


Simplify Your Life: Meal Planning

This month, I wrote a blog on Meal Planning for my friends at Simplicity Organizers. They have been the organizing experts in Charlotte for more than 10+ years, and specialize in all things home & office organization. My favorite area of organization includes the kitchen (duh) and meal planning, so I was honored to write a few tips I’ve picked up through the years. 


Simplify Your Life: Meal Planning

It all started almost 12 years ago. I was a newlywed and the only thing I knew how to cook was scrambled eggs (and “fancy” ramen, where you add in vegetables to those $0.29 packs of noodles, but I don’t think that really counts). I wanted to learn how to cook, but more importantly, I was also trying to manage our newlywed finances as well, so I wanted to learn how to cook efficiently. Thus began my love affair with meal planning.

Fast forward to the present where I find myself trying to balance work, married life and the manic whims of a precious 3-year-old. Once again, I’m in a place where meal planning is ESSENTIAL for our finances, for our health and also for our sanity.

So, how can we simplify our meals and routines? How can we reclaim peace and joy in cooking?

Do a quick Google search and you will find hundreds of websites giving you “7 Tips” here and “10 Steps” there to simplify your meal planning. Hours and hours go by, hundreds of clicks to and from sites on Pinterest, and you might still end up totally confused and unsure of how to actually get started. I’ve been meal planning now for 12+ years, and I feel like I’ve tried it all. Through it all, I’ve discovered a few successful ways to simplify our lives (& our food budget) by meal planning:

Plan One Week at a Time: Gather your family calendar and decide how many nights you can cook at home vs. take-out/going out to eat. Everyone’s schedules are “so busy” these days, so plan which nights you WILL cook…aiming for at least 3-4 per week.

If you’re really ambitious, try meal-planning for two weeks. Calendars, practices, appointments, etc., are typically set in stone for at least two weeks at a time. I am usually at my MOST efficient financially and with groceries (avoiding food waste) when I plan a couple weeks at a time. Flexibility is key, groceries can carry over, and impromptu nights out don’t matter as much because you can move that night’s meal to the next open night.


Take Stock: What items do you already have? A huge part of simplifying your meals, is simplifying your ingredient list. Try to cook 5-6 ingredient meals. Use healthy, whole ingredients when possible; simple, unprocessed and whatever produce is on sale that week.

NOTE: Taking stock of your pantry and fridge are a LOT easier to do if they are organized ahead of time. Before you get started with meal planning, take an hour to go through and organize; dispose of expired food and group by “like-items” (cans, grains, breakfast stuff, etc., in the pantry and fruit, veggies, dairy in the refrigerator). Store items in clear bins or baskets for easy visibility.

Click here to read the complete blog over at Simplicity Organizers.