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Down South: Bourbon, Pork, Gulf Shrimp &…
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Down South: Bourbon, Pork, Gulf Shrimp & Second Helpings of Everything

by Donald Link

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Any cookbook that opens with cocktails is going to be good. Any cookbook that includes a note with a shout out to Pappy Van Winkle as a bourbon of choice is going to be GREAT.

With a subtitle of Bourbon, Pork, Gulf Shrimp & Second Helpings of Everything, Donald Link's Down South is down, down south. There is a chapter called Heads, Feet, Necks, and Bones that brought me warm memories of my MawMaw' s old kitchen with parts boiling in stock pots all around. But Link elevates his dishes, and gives you the pictures and stories to prove it.

This is a love letter to a way of cooking and living that is close to this man's heart, in his blood and you know this by looking through his book. Pictures throughout Louisiana, pig roasts, Aunt Sally' s Pie, regular customers at his restaurant, much less his son slurping up a cold Cream Soda Sherbet all showcase the inspiration for the food he lives and loves.

I suggest mixing a cocktail straight out of the first section and curling up with this beautiful book and savoring it. Read the notes, examine the pictures, imagine the smells and flavors while you sip away. And then, share the food. Get the fire going. Buy this as a host/hostess or holiday gift and share the live. Unless you are inviting vegetarians over. DON'T give them this book. Don't ever give a vegetarian a book that has a chapter called Heads, Feet...Well you know. Fix y'all another drink and get seconds of this one!

Provided by publisher for review, browsing for books ( )
  hfineisen | Sep 16, 2014 |
Donald Link didn’t just write a cookbook, he took us on a pictorial tour of the Gulf Coast area. Complete with his honest descriptions are mouthwatering photos and recipes. There is one photo taken in Apalachicola that I have snapped during a visit. I live an hour away from Apalachicola and can tell you, the seafood and laid back atmosphere are wonderful. Each section features stories about Link’s own experiences in the south – cooking, hunting, fishing and enjoying the Gulf coast area.

The book starts with drinks – a lovely Florida-Bama tropical drink, bourbon drinks and more. There are sections on side dishes, pork and steak, chicken, smoking meats, grilling meats and desserts.

Being a northern transplant to the Gulf coast area I have taken to the foods quite well and am pleased to see many of my favorites in this cookbook. Rum drinks aside I love the red beans and rice, the grilled chicken and banana pudding.

Stay tuned for many recipes from this book.
Photos may be viewed at:
http://novelmeals.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/down-south-by-donald-link ( )
  SquirrelHead | Aug 26, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0770433189, Hardcover)

Interview with Donald Link

Q. Your last cookbook, Real Cajun, was a celebration of the culture in which you grew up. With Down South, what made you decide to get out of your comfort zone, so to speak?

Growing up I had a strong influence from my Mother's father who grew up in Alabama. When it comes right down to it, I probably ate more Southern-style food growing up than Cajun food. We didn't take a lot of trips anywhere to speak of growing up except for to the Redneck Riviera. My aunt Cynthia had a house (trailer actually) on the waterfront in Gulf Shores, Alabama, so we would eat with her and at other funky restaurants on the Gulf Coast. I've also met a lot of other Southern chefs and have been able to see very distinct subcultures of southern food.

Q. I know you routinely go to France and Italy, where you rent houses, shop the markets, and cook. And before you opened your fabulous new seafood restaurant Pêche, you and your crew went to Spain and to Uruguay for inspiration. Tell us about how those experiences translate into the cooking you do in your restaurants and books.

My favorite thing to do when I travel anywhere is to cook in those locations with their regional ingredients. People think I'm crazy to cook on vacation but I tell them that cooking is why I got into this business in the first place. It is actually one of my favorite things to do. There is no way to replicate the cooking from my house or even my restaurant. The ingredients, terroir, dairy, meats, etc., are all unique in different parts of the world with very unique flavors. Taste the butter in France or the meat in Uruguay and you'll immediately see what I mean.

Q. You also travel a little closer to home--as in the places showcased in the new book. Tell us about the trips and the influences that inspired Down South.

The Southern coast was probably the most inspiring of the trip. It's very difficult to find the old-school places that I remember growing up, but there are still a few. Most of the area has been taken over by some sort of crab-trap, generic-named restaurant serving frozen crab from Alaska. Just like the food overseas, the real finds on the Gulf Coast are the markets and the fresh seafood and making my own food with those ingredients. Burris Farm Market and Joe Patti's are great examples of this.

Q. The subtitle of the new book references pork, shrimp, and bourbon, but there is clearly a whole lot more inside. What made you decided to pull those three ingredients out?

When I first set out on this book, it occurred to me that most of my forays through the South involved some sort of pork and almost always ended up with bourbon, and on a few occasions the day started with bourbon. The shrimp part came after the great Gulf Coast trip. Whereas a lot of Southerners hunt religiously, my dad and I did a lot of fishing and shrimping.

Q. This is a gorgeous book with stunning photographs. Why did you feel like it was important to shoot each chapter on location rather than in a studio?

I've never been comfortable with studio shots. I don't feel it really represents the soul of the food I cook. Shooting on location with natural light always brings about a real and authentic sense of place to the food. The book is really telling a story about food. I think it would be hard to write about one's time in Spain if you've never been there. I feel the same about food and the photos that go with it.

Q. It really feels like "Down South," to borrow your title, is really at the forefront (or maybe it's the engine) of the current national food scene--a trend driven in large part by remarkable chefs such as yourself. One of my favorite new restaurants in Manhattan, Maysville, is named for the town in Kentucky where bourbon was invented, and it has some of the best little grits cakes I've ever put in my mouth. The chef isn't Southern but his influence clearly is. First, do you agree that Southern cooking has moved to the front of the culinary pack? And if so, why do you think that is?

For a long time, I think Southern food was considered a type of peasant fattening food. I think chefs now are seeing it's not all chitlins and cornbread. Southern food is, in my opinion, the most distinct food culture the United States has. It has a real history and a solid technique. I find the real trend going on right now is what is considered real. Early in my career at Herbsaint, I had moved back from a three-year stint cooking French California food in San Francisco and was hell bent on doing the same in New Orleans. I felt like the food I grew up with would never be received in an upscale dining situation. Then I came around and realized that cooking Southern and Cajun style was my God-given birthright, and there was no reason that I shouldn't let that come to the forefront of my cooking style.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:14 -0400)

"A born and bred Cajun who grew up eating his grandparents' homecooked food, Donald also learned to love "shooting rifles, hunting, fishing...drinking beer with the boys, [and] water skiing in snake-infested rivers." And as a good citizen of the South, he's done his due diligence traveling the region, tasting foods from all over, and falling for true down home flavors. "It's impossible for me to say which part of the South has the best food, because each place has it's own soul." And Link explores it all in DOWN SOUTH--from the slow-cooked pork barbecue of Memphis, to spicy gumbos of Louisiana, fresh seafood all along the Gulf, and shell beans from the farmlands in Mississippi and Alabama. In 110 recipes and 100 full-color photographs, he takes readers on a tour of the best of the area, introducing all sorts of characters and places along the way, including pitmaster Nick Pihakis of Jim & Nick's BBQ, Louisiana goat and pig farmer Bill Ryal, Tupelo honey maker Donald Smiley in Florida, beloved Southern writer Julia Reed, and a Texas lamb ranch with a llama named Fritz"--… (more)

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