Vintage by David Baker is going to appeal to a variety of people on a variety of levels. Like to cook? Check. Enjoy wine? Check. Love to travel? Check. Enjoy a bit of history with your mystery? Check. Know a slacker who just can’t seem to get their life together? Check, check, check.
This book is an emotional roller coaster intertwined with a twist of Peter Pan complex. It starts out in Chicago, expanding to France, Belgian and Russia. It is filled with the fascinating details and tastes of life, wine, love, sex, aging, accountability and 21st century second chances. Just when you think you have David Baker’s main character Bruno Tannenbaum (an aging, self-described working class gourmet food writer with a distinct Peter Pan complex) figured out, a curve ball comes rolling in. Just when you wonder if this guy will ever grow up, a glimmer of productiveness arrives, but just long enough for him to fall into another hole of self-indulgence. Just when you think you know exactly where the ending is going, you trip over your own self applause into a deep hole of “what just happened here?”
The best parts of the book are cleverly weaved into the novel, creating the theme and tone. The first is Bruno’s observations of life’s absurdities such as, “Wine didn’t usually make Bruno surly. But he didn’t like this waiter, who was wearing glasses worth more than a check from Condé Nast for a freelance article on squid salads.” Anyone who has ever started their own blog or is a writer in the food, wine, or travel business is going to do some head nodding and eye rolls as they digest that remark.
The second “best part” comes at the beginning of each chapter where an excerpt is shared from Bruno’s most cheeky and beloved novel, Twenty Recipes for Love. There’s some sexy classic stuff here, like his take on Bouillabaisse. “It is a comeback meal, and with a dash of cayenne and saffron, even the most battered hearts can be restored with enough vigor to again brave the turbulent and storm-ridden waters of love.” Who couldn’t be a hero with such inspiring thoughts? I am pretty sure readers will never look at a Bouillabaisse in the same way.
Feel confident giving this book to anyone who loves a global mystery, but it is a great read for anyone into wine or cooking looking for a light mystery book. Wrap the book up with a premium bottle of Sauterne or Cab to show what a class act you are. It should also rank high as a selection for a book club, as it presents so many different layers of lovable but dysfunctional actions to reflect on. If you aren’t the main character, you will know someone like him or wish you could have just a tenth of his devil-may-care mindset.
Here’s a little extra “flavor” for you, compliments of author David Baker. The man certainly knows his food and food.
Liesbeth’s Pflaumenkuchen Cake
Courtesy of David Baker
1 1/2 lbs tart, fresh plumbs, stoned
1 tsp baking powder
5 oz flour
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 drop almond extract
5 oz caster sugar
4 eggs (room temperature)
5 oz butter (room temperature)
4 oz flour
4 oz brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 oz butter, diced
1/8 tsp cardamom
• Mix dry ingredients in a bowl with a fork.
• Add butter and mash into crumbles with fork.
• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a greased 9-inch, round cake pan on the rack.
• Cream butter and sugar in a mixer until fluffy.
• Add eggs one at a time.
• Add vanilla and almond extract
• Mix baking powder and baking soda, then fold into batter.
• Pour batter into hot pan.
• Arrange plumbs on top in slices or wedges, covering entire surface.
• Sprinkle streusel over the top.
• Bake for 45 minutes.
• Let cool in plan.
• Serve with chilled, fresh whipped cream and coffee or a glass of late-harvest Riesling.
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By David Baker