Sunday, July 5, 2009

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Cocktail Tomes and Cookbooks in the French Quarter

Phillipe LaMancusa has been in the food business for the better part of fifty years. For most of that time, he’s been at the stove, but after Hurricane Katrina (“the storm” locals evoke in casual conversation), he opened Kitchen Witch, a French Quarter emporium of culinary books.

LaMacusa’s opening stock was his own collection of some 5,000 volumes, but these days, he’s just as likely to buy secondhand books from retiring chefs, culinary students, and scouts who bring him vintage and antique treasures. A case of cocktail, spirits, and wine books just inside the front should stop drinks enthusiasts in their tracks, but some digging among the shelves will turn up treasures. Berger Applegate’s 1916 Paul Verlaine: His Absinthe Tinted Dreams is a choice catch for aficionados of the green fairy.

There are also plenty of used (and some new) New Orleans cookbooks, including Mixing New Orleans and Gumbo Tales, Sara Roahen’s slam-dunk investigation into modern New Orleans food and drink. While tourists and collectors make up the bulk of buyers, plenty of locals shop here even still to replace books lost in the storm. Recapturing their readers’ lost recipes has been an ongoing project for food writer Marcelle Bienvenu and Judy Walker, food editor of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Their book documenting those resurrected recipes, Cooking up a Storm, is featured prominently. Score a copy.

Kitchen Witch
631 Toulouse Street
New Orleans, LA 70130

While you’re there, pick up:
  • Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from The Times-Picayune of New Orleans.
  • Bienvenue’s classic book of south Louisiana cooking, Who's Your Mama, Are You Catholic, and Can You Make A Roux? (a first edition of the book goes for $1,200 at the Kitchen Witch, about the only sticker shock in the whole place). More recent editions are $22.95.
  • Sara Roahen’s Gumbo Tales. A matchless introduction to what and why New Orleanians eat.
  • Mixing New Orleans, a cocktail recipe book with histories and an introduction by Wayne Curtis.

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