03-09-2010 11:56 AM - last edited on 03-10-2010 12:22 PM by Kristin_Z
Please join me in welcoming Cynthia Nims, author of Gourmet Game Night to our board.
Gourmet Game Night is a collection of wow, that's a great idea finger food recipes, the kind you want to serve when you have a book club, bridge club, charades with the extended family, or knitting night. Cynthia's clever ideas will leave your fingers nimble -- and un-sticky.
More importantly, her recipe ideas are tasty and clever, exactly what you need to get your creative juices flowing. You won't be able to settle for chips and salsa again.
And though I've invited Cynthia to talk about her Gourmet Game Night, she has worked on almost two dozen cookbooks, including The Best Places Northwest Cookbook, The Best Places Northwest Desserts Cookbook, and single-topic books like Crab and Wild Mushrooms, among others.
Please bring your questions and comments. Welcome, Cynthia!
03-09-2010 03:18 PM
I'm looking really forward to my visit with you tomorrow, Allison. It's going to be fun to chat with the book club members and answer any questions they have about hosting fun and tasty game nights at home!
03-10-2010 01:11 PM
Your book not only makes me hungry, it makes me want to host more game nights! I love the game trivia in the margins, and you said that you grew up playing games with your family. What are some of your classic and contemporary favorite games?
03-10-2010 01:16 PM
Always a good sign when a cookbook makes one hungry flipping through it, that's nice to hear!
As a little kid, I loved a lot of those classic kid's games the likes of Hi Ho Cherry-O and Mousetrap, Chutes and Ladders, I fondly remember those childhood classics. As I got a bit older, started playing lots of Cribbage, which is still a favorite game today. And we played gin rummy, Tripoley, other card games.
Today some of my favorites include games that conjur up creativity in game night play. Balderdash has everyone dreaming up responses that will convince others to vote theirs as the "right" answer. And the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Game lets everyone have a go at creating funny cartoon captions.
03-10-2010 01:24 PM
And as a writer, I guess it's not much surprise that I love word games. Scrabble is a favorite around here, and Bananagrams is a newer, less structured, quick-fire variation on the word game.
03-10-2010 01:24 PM
The recipes in the book are good and smart. Some are reconfiguring classics like the Caesar Dip, while others, like the Mole Flank Steak or Beef Yakitori could be made into entree sized portions.
What are some of your favorites; which ones do you put out regularly, and which are the recipes your friends ask for?
03-10-2010 01:32 PM
I had a lot of fun developing recipes for this book, particularly transforming "regular" dinner party items into something that would be game friendly. That Caesar dip with romaine lettuce and slender croutons is one of my favorites from the book, all the classic salad elements but just presented differently.
Among my favorite game-night ingredients is the endive leaf, a lovely, crisp, easy to use serving piece that's fully edible! In this book I fill the leaves with a simple salmon "poke," a Hawaii-inspired raw salad rather like ceviche. But you could use chicken salad, tapenade, many other items in those leaves.
Another favorite is the roasted potato, baby red potatoes, that get topped with the classic "works" combination you'd get on a classic steakhouse baked potato: a blend of creme fraiche or sour cream, minced green onion and crumbled bacon. It's a small bite but it packs a lot of flavor!
One recipe a few friends have asked about is the mini shepherd's pie, a tasty meat-and-potatoes option that's a bit more filling. The blend of ground lamb, vegetables and herbs is topped with mashed potatoes in small ramekins, very tasty and comforting.
03-10-2010 01:41 PM
Hi Cynthia, I love the concept of finger food for game night, bridge and book club. I'm envolved with all and it seems we resort to same old - same old stuff. Do you ever plan snacks around a theme, say, for example to coordinate with a book theme?
03-10-2010 01:50 PM
That makes sense; the picture of that Shepherd's pie is definitely lick-the-page.
You also have a whole section for drinks, and some really nice desserts, like Butterscotch Panna Cotta and Brown Butter Pound Cake with Caramel Dip. Plus, the recipes look incredibly simple, with very few ingredients.
To switch gears, tell me a bit about what it's like making a living as a food writer. I see you write copy for (ahem) web sites, plus you've been involved with almost 2 dozen cookbooks as a writer or editor. What is that like, as a work lifestyle?
03-10-2010 01:51 PM
I have to admit that I haven't done a lot of theme-related game night dinners yet, but it's something I get asked about a lot! In fact I'm going to plan some for the coming months--maybe some good Northeast eats while we play a rousing game of Monopoly or something along those lines. I think the closest I've come is a bit of the retro steak (skewers of Peppered Steak with Balsamic Red Onions) and potatoes (Roasted Red Potatoes with Bacon-Chive Creme Fraiche) menu, maybe with a pitcher of Manhattans with Spiced Cherries alongside!
I know that books clubs often try to create a menu of snacks to match the theme of their book, whether it's related to a particular region of the world, or perhaps an era that has some distinctive foods to connect to the book's content. It's a great way to make the evening even more dynamic with the food and the book content match.
03-10-2010 01:56 PM
Allison, the thing I love most about being a full-time freelancer food writer is the pure variety of projects I get to work on during any given month. It's never a dull moment! And it does require being flexible and bouncing between subjects and deadlines, but that kind of variety and activity suits me just fine.
Lately, most of the web writing I do is for my own web sites/blogs, my main Mon Appetit blog is at www.cynthianims.com/blog and I just launched a new one to accompany the new book, www.gourmetgamenight.com. They allow me plenty of opportunity to explore subjects and recipes and interests that I don't get to cover in other freelance projects.
I love splitting my time between magazine work and book work because to me they have very different personalities. The magazine projects are quick, usually a short deadline, dive in and write, turn it in and on to the next subject! Where working on a book is, by design, a longer commitment and I get a chance to really sink my teeth into a subject and explore it over the course of months. I hope to always be able to work in both arenas since to me they're quite complimentary.
03-10-2010 02:15 PM
Sounds like a great way to go!
Since so many of your books are about Pacific Northwest cooking, can you tell me about some dishes that are originally from the Pacific Northwest? Some classics (or lesser known) dishes that have their roots and history in this area? Dessert, main or otherwise -- you pick.
I find recipe history to be so interesting.
03-10-2010 02:23 PM
I can't agree with you more, Allison, that the story behind classic recipes can be really interesting and give the dish a bit more context for enjoying it!
When asked about classic Northwest foods, I often fall back on the idea that our regional foods here tend to be really ingredient-driven and kept, otherwise, pretty simple. So I always think about steamed Dungeness crab, simple blackberry cobbler, grilled salmon, blanched springtime asparagus with a simple vinaigrette dressing.
It's little surprise that seafood is a big star here, as well as Asian influences since we've had waves of populations settling in the Northwest from many parts of Asia over many generations. Dishes like kasu black cod is very "Seattle" to me, the fish marinated in this odd but delicious blend of sake lees (the solids left from the sake-making process) with salt and sugar, a wet "brine" of sorts before the fish is grilled. That's amazing! And you'll often see mussels cooked with a bit of spicy green Thai curry added, or crab sauteed with ginger-black bean sauce. A little messy to eat but OH so delicious. It's creeping up on lunch hour here in Seattle and this is definitely making me hungry......
03-10-2010 03:21 PM
You've made us *all* hungry, Cynthia. Thank you so much for sharing your time and insight, and giving us some fantastic ideas for Game Nights.
Please visit us again!