I just got back from visiting a friend in the hospital. (In summary: Not good, but he's gonna live.) Looking on the bright side, the good thing about what ails him is that he can still eat. Being that pretty much everyone this guy knows is in the food business, he is going to be the best-fed guy at Kaiser. Last night two friends came in bearing two large bags full of tuna melts, bean salads, fried pickles, and root beer from Short Order. I brought Littlejohn's toffee, which I know is a favorite of his. Today when I got there, there was a sweet little box of cookies from Susina Bakery, scones from Short Cake Bakery, and last I heard, Armenian food from Carousel was on the way for lunch, and a double order of tagliata with oxtail ragú from Osteria Mozza for dinner. Anyway, today we sat around the way you do when someone you love is in the hospital, trying to crack jokes, not sure which is worse: talking about the reason you're there or not talking about the reason you're there, basicall ...

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I bought Mario's new book today, Molto Batali: Simple Family Meals From My Home To Yours, as part of a resolution I recently added to a long New Year-inspired list, which is to break out of my tried's and true's and do what I essentially make a living hoping other people do, and that is to cook from (or at least to buy) cookbooks. The reasons I chose this particular book are first, that I love Mario's food. His sweetbreads at Babbo rocked my world the first time I ate them nearly 15 years ago. ("It's all about the duck prosciutto," he said when I interviewed him for my book, Foods of the World: New York). And then there was the book's subtitle, which contains both the words "simple," and "home," two words that should warm the heart of any home cook. Which is why the first question I asked him in an email today, was whether it was even true... 1. Are these recipes really from your home?  ABSOLUTELY! THESE DISHES HAVE ALL BEEN PERSONALLY TESTED BY MY WIFE AND KIDS. thereby assuaging ...

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Bon Appetit magazine, posted a list on their blog, 20 Reasons We Love Italy and then asked what readers might add to their list. Having just returned from six months in Umbria, the landlocked region just east of Tuscany, I found I had my own list, which didn't coincide with theirs much, if at all. My Top Ten: 1. That five grown men can sit in a bar and talk passionately for an entire hour about what makes a good Carbonara. 2. The set-in-stone ritual of an aperitivo before dinner. And how fiercely they guard their appetites. No snacking here! Only an American would fill up on those peanuts. 3. Being personally served in a grocery store, as if I were at Tiffany, buying diamonds. 4. The absence of a "diet mentality," the innocence of which is eroding as I type. As I ran through the list of things that might be considered "bad" for you with a group of Italian friends, I got the following response. Pasta? "Pasta non fa male." (Pasta isn't bad for you.) Gelato? "Gelato non fa male." Pro ...

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