Foodie Holiday Gift Guide

For the inventive cook!


Jacqueline Chio-Lauri

A collection of 30 stories and recipes from expat Filipino chefs, home cooks, and writers that serves as a delicious, accessible introduction to the complex and adaptable, though perennially overshadowed, cuisine that is Filipino food.

For the introspective foodie!


An interactive keepsake journal that provides a framework for you to capture food memories beyond physical nutrition and wellness by tracking your eating habits every day for five years.

For the host and hostess!


David Danielson and Tim Laird

A tour of Bourbon Country and modern Southern entertaining through more than 90 recipes developed by David Danielson, executive chef at Churchill Downs, and Tim Laird, chief entertaining officer at Brown-Forman.

For the restaurant lover!


Alison Pearlman

Art historian and food lover Alison Pearlman visits more than 60 restaurants to take an inquiring look at the design of physical restaurant menus—their content, size, scope, material, and more—to explore how they influence our dining experiences and choices (if they do at all).

For the coffee fiend!

Jessica Easto

An accessible guide to handbrewing coffee at home that explores multiple pour-over, immersion, and cold-brew techniques on 10 different devices—written by a local.

For the carnivore!


Jess Pryles

A protein-packed cookbook for meat lovers everywhere by Jess Pryles—touted as the “female Ron Swanson” by her loyal followers—that covers everything you need to cook meat like a seasoned pro.

For the honey lover!


Carrie Schloss

A collection of 130 sweet and savory recipes inspired by the vast artisanal honey selection at Asheville Bee Charmer, a North Carolina shop located in one of the United States’s most bee-friendly towns.

For the holiday baker!


Chicago Tribune

A comprehensive collection of the best holiday cookies as curated from nearly three decades worth of reader submissions to the Chicago Tribune’s annual Holiday Cookie Contest.

For the gastrotourist!


Gabriella Opaz and Sonia Andresson Nolasco

A portrait of Northern Portugal’s cuisine and culture as told through the stories and recipes of the women of Porto's historic Bolhão Market, who have been selling produce and creating traditional artisanal goods for generations.


Agate 2018 Holiday Gift Picks for Chicagoans

For the Instagram guru!

Chicago Tribune

A charming collection of unexpected photographs from the Chicago Tribune’s vast archive, curated from the popular @vintagetribune Instagram account. And yes, there are cats.

For the activist!

Rebecca Sive

An inspirational, practical guide to why we need to elect the first Madam President in 2020 that includes action items all of us can take to help make it happen—written by a local. 

For the true crime expert!

Nina Barrett

A stunning history of Chicago’s 1924 Leopold and Loeb murder case, told chiefly through a rare collection of primary source material, including court transcripts, psychological reports, evidence photographs, and more.

For the artist!

Chris Arnold

Hours of coloring fun in more than 50 pen-and- ink illustrations, featuring modern architectural treasures, local icons, and Chicago food and fauna.

For the coffee fiend!

Jessica Easto

An accessible guide to handbrewing coffee at home that explores multiple pour-over, immersion,

and cold-brew techniques on 10 different devices—written by a local.

For the history buff!

Chicago Tribune

A history of Chicago told through the stories, headlines, and photographs of its hometown newspaper.

For the Royko fan!

Mike Royko

A collection of legendary columnist Mike Royko’s best work from his years at the Chicago Tribune, edited by his son David Royko.

For the sports fan!

Decade-by-decade team histories from the Chicago Tribune comprising essays, original reporting, archival photographs, and memorabilia from Chicago’s most beloved franchises.


Vote Her In Kicks Off Launch Week

Vote Her In Kicks Off Launch Week


Here at Agate we’re no stranger to of-the-moment books, but it is hard to think of one more timely than Vote Her In by Rebecca Sive. Last Tuesday, a panel discussion hosted by YWCA Metropolitan Chicago at WeWork Kinzie––a coworking space in River North––kicked off a flurry of events surrounding the book’s publication.

Rebecca was joined by Julia Stasch, former president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Kim Foxx, state’s attorney for Cook County, for a discussion and Q&A moderated by Dorri McWhorter, CEO of YWCA Metropolitan Chicago. The rousing conversation covered a lot of ground—from how the impact of electing a woman to the presidency will be felt throughout all levels of government and society to why it is so important that women in leadership positions lead as women rather than conforming to the norms that have historically stifled their voices. The panel also discussed how to prepare for the inevitable backlash that will come once a woman is finally elected (Spoiler alert: it is clear from the reaction to the 2016 US presidential election that the backlash will be sizeable). As Julia mentioned at the start of the panel, we have already elected a woman president via the popular vote, so the ground has been laid. And, as Kim later pointed out, when little girls tell us they want to be the “first” woman president, we should tell them we don’t have time for that—because the time to vote her in is NOW.

  Excited attendees gather to discuss political strategies and line up to get their copies signed by author Rebecca Sive.

Excited attendees gather to discuss political strategies and line up to get their copies signed by author Rebecca Sive.

Upcoming events:

November 7, 2018: Book signing and conversation with Dean Katherine Baicker and Rebecca Sive hosted by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy at Ida Noyes Hall Library in Chicago, Illinois, from 12:30 to 1:30 pm. 

November 1, 2018: Discussion and signing at Women and Children First in Chicago, Illinois, at 6:30 pm. 

October 29, 2018: Book signing hosted by Chicago Now at Rebellion Rising in Chicago, Illinois, from 6:15 to 8:30 pm. 

  From left: moderator Dorri McWhorter, Rebecca Sive, Kim Foxx, and Julia Stasch.

From left: moderator Dorri McWhorter, Rebecca Sive, Kim Foxx, and Julia Stasch.

Happy Pub Day to The New Filipino Kitchen!

Happy Pub Day to The New Filipino Kitchen!

The New Filipino Kitchen: Recipes and Stories from Around the Globe hits shelves today! This gorgeous cookbook is a mouthwatering, multifaceted introduction to Filipino food as told through the stories and recipes of 30 chefs and home cooks of the Filipino diaspora. Check out the book here, and read on to gain more insight from the book’s editor.

Q & A with Jacqueline Chio-Lauri, Editor of The New Filipino Kitchen


You have an extensive background in the food industry and you’ve worked in several different countries. How did you originally get involved in the industry?

On my last day at the University of the Philippines, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant administration, a job ad thumbtacked on the college bulletin board caught my attention. A certified Angus beef steak house in the city’s business district was looking for an assistant manager. I applied and was hired after two interviews.

Months later, the first five-star hotel to open in Manila in 15 years was recruiting for management trainees. I applied and was one of the 14 selected out of thousands of applicants. Seven out of the 14 were assigned to F&B (food and beverage) and sent to chains abroad to train before returning to Manila to open the hotel and its numerous restaurants. I was one of them.

What are some of the challenges you’ve experienced as a Filipina working abroad?

At 24, I was hired as a restaurant manager for a deluxe hotel in Dubai and offered the same salary and benefits package as my male and Caucasian counterparts. People couldn’t wrap their heads around that, so rumors spread that I was sleeping with the boss (not true, of course).

My assistant at that time was a blue-eyed, blonde German woman. Guests automatically assumed that she was the manager. One particular incident I will never forget was when I welcomed a guest to the restaurant—the guest ignored my outstretched arm, walked past, and shook the hand of my assistant standing behind me. The saddest part was that this guest happened to be a Filipina. More of the challenges I experienced appear in my story in the book.

Why did you decide to compile these stories and recipes into The New Filipino Kitchen? How did the project come together and what was your experience working with all of the different contributors like?

I was working on a food memoir about the food I grew up eating, the “emotional soufflé” of my childhood in the Philippines’ culinary capital, and my lola (grandmother)—a complex, strong-headed woman, storyteller, and cook extraordinaire. The intention was to immortalize the memories, reflections, and lessons learned so that they could be passed on to family members and relatives, but a voice in my head wouldn’t let up. “What have you done for your motherland?” it nagged.

I decided to go broader and round up kababayans (compatriots) around the world. Having lived in many places with no Filipino food presence, I always longed for our cuisine to be more accessible globally. One question I was often asked and struggled to answer was, “What is Filipino food?” No short explanation really did it justice, because as you know, most of the time, food is not just about food. The narratives behind each dish put the food into context. It’s been one hell of a ride! I can’t sing the praises enough of those who have contributed to and supported this project.

Interest in Filipino cuisine is clearly on the rise, especially in the United States and Canada. Why do you think Filipino food is only now starting to get the recognition it deserves?

I have two theories. One is globalization. I’m not from the United States or Canada so I can only speculate. Globalization has made the world smaller. What only the privileged few could experience or taste by traveling is now available to almost everyone at their doorstep. Think of all the exotic fruits, vegetables, and spices that your local supermarket stocks compared to what they stocked years ago. I remember having to ask my mother to ship ginger to me when I lived in Croatia because I couldn’t find it anywhere. Nobody even knew what it was then. Now, it’s available everywhere. People have now become more exposed and open to different flavor spectrums and combinations.

Filipino food is for the adventurous palate, and I think many people are now ready for it. I would also go as far as to say that globalization has made us Filipinos less overprotective of our culinary traditions. What might have been considered as sacrilegious before is tolerable now. Saying that, I hope the Filipino food police or the guardians of gastronomy won’t scorn if my sinigang recipe is not like their nanay’s! Knock on wood.

My second theory is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It is said that members of the new generation are better off than the members of the generation before them. Understandably, the focus of the first-generation Filipino immigrant was on survival, necessities, and security (the first stage in the hierarchy). As those needs are met for the next generation, there’s a shift up the ladder of the hierarchy. The need to be recognized or accepted for our identity and for who we are became one of the priorities. This, in my opinion, is why there are more and more people of Filipino heritage who showcase their identity through food. I think that’s what the Filipino food movement is about.

What are the three best tips you would give to home cooks who have never made Filipino food before?

1. Don’t be daunted. It’s not as difficult as it seems. Witnessing my lola slave away for hours on end in the kitchen gave me the impression that Filipino food was very time consuming and labor intensive to make—until I started cooking it myself. Believe me, it doesn’t have to be. And the more you cook it, the easier it becomes.

2. Don’t fret. If you don’t get the flavors or seasonings just right, there’s always a fallback: sawsawan, the dipping sauces and relishes that are hallmarks of the cuisine.

3. Cook more than you need. Many dishes, especially those stewed with acid and aromatics, develop flavor and complexity when stored in the fridge. Reheat and enjoy!

What’s your favorite part of Filipino food culture?

One of the most common greetings in the Philippines is, “Kumain ka na?” It means, “Have you eaten?” Food is always shared and everyone who comes to the house is invited to join at the table to eat. I grew up thinking that it was rude to eat without offering what you’re eating to everyone present. I thought this was a universal rule until I lived abroad.

Do you have a favorite recipe in the book (besides your own!)?

Not just one favorite. I have favorites depending on my mood or the occasion. For something quick that everyone in our multicultural family would surely love, I’d cook Dalena’s spaghetti sauce afritada. If I have non-Filipino guests and want to show off the range of the cuisine, I’d prepare Rowena’s inihaw—grilled fish in banana leaves—but I would use filleted fish (instead of whole) and bake it in the oven. I would also make Vanessa’s kare-kare using tofu as the protein. There’s something for everyone in the book, that’s for sure!

What’s next for you?

Getting settled in my new and seventh home country and finding the other half of my food beginnings. And who knows? Maybe The New Filipino Kitchen II.

Q&A with Regina Louise, author of Someone Has Led This Child to Believe

Q&A with Regina Louise, author of Someone Has Led This Child to Believe

Cozy up with a good book this fall: Someone Has Led This Child to BelieveRegina Louise’s unflinching, unforgettable true story of overcoming neglect in the US foster-care system, is the memoir you’ve been waiting for. 


Called “revealing and much needed” by Booklist, Louise’s latest memoir is a remarkable story about courage, determination, and renewal. From her beleaguered adolescence in the foster-care system to her long-awaited reunion with the woman whom she’d been closest to during her fragmented childhood, Louise sheds light on her own experience growing up in (and aging out of) the US foster care system, and the many ways that system failed her. The result is a rich, engrossing account of one abandoned girl’s efforts to find her place in the world, people to love, and people to love her back.

Louise’s passion and fervor rings clear in the following interview, where she discusses her evolution as a writer, the difficulty of revisiting past traumas, and the indestructible nature of the human spirit.


Q&A with Regina Louise, author of Someone Has Led This Child to Believe

Do readers need to have read your first book, Somebody’s Someone, to understand Someone Has Led This Child to Believe?

ReginaLouise_author photo.jpg

Absolutely not! As a matter of fact, it’s probably best that readers enjoy Someone Has Led This Child to Believe as a stand-alone piece. Although both memoirs address experiences that characterized the conditions that shaped my childhood, each, in its own way, serves a different purpose. Somebody’s Someone is a testimony to the misdeeds and negligent attitudes of the people in whose charge I was left, and it’s an indictment of my own recklessness and the unconscious ways I—unwittingly—made life harder for myself as a child. Someone Has Led This Child to Believe traces my childhood to the present through the lens of love: how it blossomed when I first met Jeanne and the trajectory of that love afterwards.

This book is much more introspective and reflective, written from a more informed sense of craft and personal responsibility. I understood my own journey better in writing Someone Has Led This Child to Believe, and I am much better able to articulate a fuller story with empathy for others and deep self-compassion.  

Your life story thus far is being turned into a movie with Lifetime. Was there a particular scene from Someone Had Led This Child to Believe that was surreal or emotional to see recreated on set during filming? Can you tell us about what it’s like to see your story on screen?

Oh, dear. Yes. There were so many scenes in the film that were surreal to see play out. One particular scene that stands out from filming is when Jeanne (Ginnifer Goodwin) is teaching Regina (Angela Fairley) to swim for the first time. The scene is charged with the tensions of the times—racism, discrimination, and outright disdain for these two human beings moving forward with love—and it was difficult to recall the soul-wounding and psychic injury the behavior of others impressed on me as a child. However, to see the way the Jeanne character protects her charge, the girl who is slowly being born of her heart, on screen reminded me of the ways Jeanne’s love had the power to show the young me that I was indeed worthy of protection. Those were ideals worth fighting for then, and now.

The movie really is an adaptation of Someone Has Led This Child to Believe, and I feel like my story—the book and the movie—has a sense of timelessness to it that I believe is worth its weight in gold.   

Your book deals with so many painful experiences. Were there any parts that were particularly challenging to revisit?

Writing about my womb-mother was particularly challenging, mainly because I’m certain the chance for us to get to know one another and perhaps engage in courageous and radical conversations is gone. Thank the Lord I got me some education and deep personal healing because it has helped me elevate my perspective from victim to victor.

I now better understand the historical conditions that aided and abetted not only my mother’s failure but also the generational underachievement and lack of opportunities that is synonymous with being born black. As I state in my book, I am grateful for the journey—it has given me the privilege to transform my devastation into my motivation.

What do you hope readers will take away from Someone Has Led This Child to Believe?

The indestructible nature of the human spirit, and the importance of keeping one’s solemn vow—especially to one’s self.

If there was one thing you wanted the general public to know about the US foster-care system that they may be unaware of, what would it be?

That it’s a business with the intention of parenting children from the outside in. This is done by way of professional surrogates who may or may not know how to connect with a child according to that child’s style of attachment or the true context of that child’s lived experiences. Doing so means the surrogate would tailor their care according to variables such as the child’s class, culture, race, religious practices, and gender identifications, to name a few. This is not by any means to say that these considerations are not factored into the equation as best as can be in terms of recruitment and training of prospective resource families (foster parents, fost-to-adopt families, kinship caregivers, etc.), but organizations have budgets, and it can become problematic if and when a child’s healing trajectory is directly affected by that budget. When this is the case, both the resource family and the child get the short end of the stick by not receiving all of the support and resources that bolsters a family’s ability to provide the child with what is needed at the time the need is present.

What advice would you give to a child currently in the system or who has just aged out? Is there anything you wish you could have told your younger self?

That’s another book in and of itself! Allow your imagination to be in service to you. Think and dream about the places you want to go and the people you’d like to see and ask for support to make it a reality. Make friends. Insist upon it. Learn social skills that have cache to them and pleasantries that are scalable—people love you with manners. Learn why social proclivities are the way they are, and learn how to best use them to navigate social situations. Learn the value of saying “thank you”—that can go a very long way. Practice patience and loving kindness with yourself. And if you don’t understand anything I’ve suggested, look it up online or reach out to me and I’ll assist you. My new website ( is live now!

What’s next for you?

Book three. More coaching. Maybe a PhD. Maybe a television show where I am coaching people into their highest and greatest version of themselves. Maybe a professorship. I’m open.

Crowned One of the Best Books of the Year

Sound the trumpets—Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, written by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James, is one of 2017's best books of the year!


Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2017

Publishers Weekly Best Books 2017

NPR’s Book Concierge Best Books of 2017

Horn Book Magazine Fanfare 2017

Chicago Public Library Best Books of 2017

Evanston Public Library 101 Great Books for Kids 2017

Huffington Post Best Picture Books of 2017

Boston Globe Best Children's Books of 2017

News & Observer Best Children's Books of 2017

Multnomah County Library Best Books of 2017

Mr. Brian’s Picture Book Picks Blog Favorite 25 Picture Books of 2017

Center for the Study of Multicultural Children's Literature Best Books of 2017

Denver Public Library Best & Brightest Picture Books of 2017

Los Angeles Times’ Rebecca Carrol’s Top Two Picks of 2017

Mommy Shorts Top 20 Picture Books of 2017

Mr. Shu Reads Top 20 Books of 2017

Curbed 17 Best Kids’ Books about Design and Cities from 2017


Thank you to everyone who read and loved Crown as much as we did this year!

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The Perfect No-Stress Hanukkah Menu


The Perfect No-Stress Hanukkah Menu

Happy first day of Hanukkah! To help you celebrate in style and with minimal stress, we are providing the perfect holiday menu, courtesy of Laura Frankel's Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes: 120 Holiday and Everyday Dishes Made Easy. Serve these hearty main courses up next to your traditional dishes and you're guaranteed a crowd-pleasing meal!

"This festival demands big, hearty flavors and textures to stand up to latkes, sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), and other festive treats. I reach for rich and saucy meat dishes. Garlicky Pot Roast and Coq au Vin are perfect foils for crispy potato latkes. Slow cooker ease means I don’t fuss or fret over the main course. That way I have plenty of time and energy to make my latkes and doughnuts and keep everyone happy."

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Something magical seems to happen when this dish cooks for a long time—the meat becomes fragrant and the garlic becomes caramelized and sweet. The “gravy” that results is so delicious that I often find one of my kids hanging around the kitchen with bread in hand to sop it up. The addition of the gingersnaps to the dish might seem odd, but they add a lot of flavor and help thicken the gravy.

The roast can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for 3 days, or frozen for 1 month. To reheat the pot roast, place the meat and gravy in a saucepan. Add enough chicken stock to moisten the meat, usually only about ¼ cup. Cover and cook on low heat until heated through.


3 tablespoons chopped garlic (about 4 large cloves)

¼ cup light brown sugar

¼ cup olive oil, plus extra for browning the roast

½ cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons tomato paste

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

One 3- to 5-pound chuck roast, fat trimmed

Olive oil


2 large Spanish onions, chopped

6 garlic cloves, chopped

1 cup dark beer such as Guinness or Aventinus

1 whole head of Roasted Garlic

2 cups Essential Chicken Stock 

1 cup crumbled gingersnaps (about 15 small cookies; store-bought are fine)

¼ cup tomato paste

1. Marinate the Roast. In a bowl large enough to hold the roast, stir together the chopped garlic, brown sugar, olive oil, vinegar, tomato paste, and 1 tablespoon each salt and pepper. Add the roast and turn it to coat on all sides. Cover the bowl and marinate for at least 3 hours, or overnight in the refrigerator.

2. Place a large sauté pan over medium heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Remove the roast from the marinade and pat dry. Discard the marinade. Lightly season the roast with salt and pepper. Brown the meat on all sides, about 7 minutes per side. Set aside the roast but do not clean the pan.

3. Preheat a 6½-quart slow cooker to High.

4. Make the Sauce. Add the onions to the sauté pan and cook until brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more, until the garlic is very fragrant and has softened slightly; do not let the garlic brown. Add the beer. Scrape up the browned bits (sucs; see page 7) with a wooden spoon or spatula. Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker insert.

5. Place the roast and any collected juices in the insert. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the skin and into the insert. Add the stock, gingersnaps, and tomato paste. Stir together. Cover and cook the roast on High for 7 to 8 hours, until it can be pierced easily with a fork.

6. Remove the roast from the cooker and keep warm. Strain the sauce before serving. Cut the roast into large chunks and serve hot with your choice of accompaniment. Pass the sauce.




The deep, earthy flavor and fragrance of the porcini mushroom powder complements the wine and herbs perfectly in this chicken and wine stew. This is a terrific example of a recipe that is enhanced by the slow cooker—it just gets better the more time the ingredients mingle. I prefer using the slow cooker for this even when I have time to tend the pot. The flavors are deeper and more layered when made in the slow cooker.

Olive oil

8 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered

8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons Porcini Dust (page 202)

1 large Spanish onion, chopped

2 medium shallots, chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

6 garlic cloves, chopped

1 bottle (750 ml) dry red wine such as pinot noir

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup Essential Chicken Stock (page 207)

Bouquet garni of 6 thyme sprigs, 1 bay leaf, and 6 parsley sprigs, tied together with kitchen twine

3 cups pearl onions (about ¾ pound), peeled and sautéed

1. Preheat a slow cooker to Low. Place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Cook the mushrooms until they are browned and very fragrant, about 5 minutes. Reserve the mushrooms in a covered container. Turn off the heat under the sauté pan.

2. Pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels. Lightly season the chicken with salt and pepper. Mix together the flour and porcini dust. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour mixture. Return the sauté pan to medium heat and add more oil if necessary. Brown the chicken pieces, in batches, on both sides, about 7 minutes per side. Transfer each batch of chicken to the insert. When all of the chicken has been browned, drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.

3. Cook the onion, shallots, carrots, and celery in the sauté pan, in batches, until the vegetables are lightly colored, about 5 minutes per batch. Season each batch with salt and pepper. Add the garlic to the last batch and cook for 3 minutes more until the garlic is very fragrant and has softened slightly. Transfer each batch of vegetables to the insert.

4. Increase the heat under the sauté pan to medium-high and add the wine. Scrape up any browned bits (sucs; see page 7) with a wooden spoon. Transfer the wine to the insert. Add the tomato paste, stock, and bouquet garni to the insert. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on Low for 8 hours, until the chicken is very tender.

5. Gently remove the chicken pieces to a serving platter and set aside to keep warm, tented with foil. Pour the braising liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a large saucepan. Press on the vegetables to get all of the liquid, then discard the vegetables. Skim off and discard the fat. Bring the liquid to a boil, then simmer until about 2 cups remain.

6. Add the pearl onions and mushrooms to the sauce to warm them. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve with your choice of accompaniment.


Catch up on the latest:


The Agate Holiday Gift Guide: Chicago Edition!

The Agate Holiday Gift Guide: Chicago Edition!

Not sure what to give your loved one for the holidays? Does your loved one live in Chicago? Worry not, my friend—your local indie publisher has got you covered. Scroll down to find amazing books for anyone who lives in or simply loves Chicago. Check out these great selections!

For the sports fan!

Decade-by-decade team histories from the Chicago Tribune comprising essays, original reporting, archival photographs, and various memorabilia from Chicago’s most beloved franchises. From left to right, titles include The Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago Bears: A Decade-By-Decade HistoryThe Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago Bulls: A Decade-By-Decade HistoryThe Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago Cubs: A Decade-By-Decade HistoryThe Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago Blackhawks: A Decade-By-Decade History, and coming in April 2018, The Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago White Sox: A Decade-By-Decade History


For the holiday baker!

Holiday Cookies: Prize-Winning Family Recipes from the Chicago Tribune for Cookies, Bars, Brownies and More

Chicago Tribune

A collection of the best recipes from the Chicago Tribune’s annual holiday cookie contest, as judged by the newspaper’s award-winning food writers.


For the trivia whiz!

NEW 10 Things You Might Not Know About Nearly Everything: A Collection of Fascinating Historical, Scientific and Cultural Trivia about People, Places and Things

Mark Jacob, Stephan Benzkofer

A carefully curated collection of fun and obscure facts, covering everything from language and food to politics and war.


For the caffeine fiend!

NEW Craft Coffee: A Manual: Brewing a Better Cup at Home

Jessica Easto with Andreas Willhoff

This accessible guide to making coffee explores multiple pour-over, immersion, and cold-brew techniques on 10 different devices.


For the Chicago enthusiast!

The Chicago Coloring Book: Iconic Landmarks and Hidden Gems (Adult Coloring Book)

Chris Arnold

Hours of coloring fun in more than 50 original pen-and-ink illustrations, featuring modern architectural treasures, local icons, and Chicago food and fauna.


For the true crime aficionado!

Capone: A Photographic Portrait of America's Most Notorious Gangster

Chicago Tribune

A visual retelling of the rise and eventual fall of Al Capone—the Chicago gangster, bootlegger, and leader of Prohibition’s most infamous crime syndicate.


For the photography guru!

Gangsters & Grifters: Classic Crime Photos from the Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune

A powerful and visually stunning photographic collection that tells the dark story of Chicago’s nefarious crime underworld.


For the history buff!

A Century of Progress: A Photographic Tour of the 1933-34 Chicago World's Fair

Chicago Tribune

A comprehensive photographic portrait of the second Chicago World’s Fair, a civic milestone forever honored by the fourth star on Chicago’s flag.


For the journalist!

Chicago Flashback: The People and Events That Shaped a City’s History

Chicago Tribune

A history of Chicago told through the stories, headlines, and photographs of its hometown newspaper.


Chicago Flashback is out this week—take a look inside!

Happy publication week to Chicago Flashback: The People and Events That Shaped a City’s History! As the temperature counts down to the holidays, all you need to stay entertained is this coffee-table volume that covers decades of Chicago history.

The devoted journalists at the Chicago Tribune have been reporting the city’s news since 1847, amassing an inimitable store of its hometown's long and colorful history. Since 2011, the paper has mined its vast archives for its regular Chicago Flashback feature, which reflects on the people and events that have made the city tick for 180 years.

Now the editors of the Tribune have carefully collected the most interesting Chicago Flashback stories in a single coffee-table volume, accompanied by black-and-white images from the paper’s fabled photo vault located deep below Tribune Tower. Explore the city's history—from politics and crime to arts, pageantry, and progress—as it was lived by everyday Chicagoans with this one-of-a-kind window into the past.


Check out the slideshow below for a sneak peek!

Quick, before fall ends: Try these autumnal soup, cocktail, & dessert recipes


Autumn leaves, temperatures between 40 and 60 degrees, soup and bread, seasonal cocktails, and cozy sweaters make life one hundred percent better. Today, we are celebrating the season with three of our favorite fall recipes from our Surrey Books collection! 


So, go borrow some sugar from your neighbor and stock up your bar cart, because you're going to want to get started on these recipes from Market-Fresh Mixology by Bridget Albert with Mary Barranco, Soup & Bread Cookbook by Martha Bayne, and The Fly Creek Cider Mill Cookbook by Brenda and Bill Michaels right away.


Don't forget to tag us in your "cheers" Boomerang on Instagram and your #KitchenMasterpieces on Twitter!


1. The perfect pre- or post-dinner drink for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday: a Pumpkin Cocktail

Pumpkin Cocktail


Tool Box

Mixing glass



Bar spoon


Cocktail glass


1½ ounces pumpkin liqueur

1 ounce orange vodka

½ ounce half & half

Splash of Vanilla Syrup (see page 26)

Gooseberry (for garnish)

Rim Ingredients

4 bar spoons super fine sugar

¼ bar spoon ground cinnamon

Lime wedge

To rim the glass: Measure sugar and cinnamon onto a small plate. Rim outside top of glass with lime wedge. Roll the outside rim of glass in sugar mixture. Set aside.

Add pumpkin liqueur, orange vodka, half and half, and Vanilla Syrup to mixing glass. Add ice to tin. Shake well. Strain into cocktail glass.

Garnish with a gooseberry. Peel back the outer leaves of the berry. Slit the bottom of the berry. Rest on the rim of the glass.

2. Never go wrong with soup for the perfect main course on a chilly fall evening. This Potato, Butternut Squash, and Leek Soup gets double points for using seasonal vegetables!

Potato, Butternut Squash, and Leek Soup

From Kent Lambert


(Serves 16)


1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into ¾-inch pieces

olive oil

1 tablespoon crushed coriander

½ teaspoon salt

6 pounds purple and Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, pared, and chopped into ½-inch pieces

4 leeks, finely chopped

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon rosemary

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon rubbed sage

1 tablespoon salt

16 cups vegetable stock

chopped parsley


Place the squash pieces in a roasting pan, drizzle a little olive oil over them, and toss them with the coriander and salt. Roast in a preheated 375˚F oven for an hour or more, until soft and a little bit caramelized. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, potatoes, herbs, and salt and sauté, stirring frequently, until the leeks are translucent and the potatoes are starting to brown. Add the soup stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes or so, until the potatoes are starting to get soft. Add the roasted squash. (Note: if you happen to have squash puree on hand, e.g., leftover from Thanksgiving dinner, you could just add it with some crushed coriander a few minutes after this point.)

Continue to simmer for another few minutes or until the squash is totally soft. Puree the soup and return to pot, if necessary. (If you’re using squash puree, add it after pureeing the potatoes and leeks and stir by hand until the orange streaks have vanished.) Add more salt, if needed.

Garnish each serving with chopped parsley. A touch of lemon zest or juice with each serving brightens the soup nicely, as well.

3. The best part of the meal: sweets. But don't restrict these delicious Apple Cider Doughnuts to the end of the meal, try them for breakfast. Or for a 4pm snack. Or ... really whenever.

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Fly Creek Cider Mill Apple Cider Doughnuts

(Makes 18 doughnuts)


1 cup apple cider

2 cups granulated sugar (divided)

2 teaspoons apple or pumpkin pie spice mix (divided)

3½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 tablespoon baking powder

1¼ teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, room temperature

½ cup buttermilk

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Approximately 2½ quarts vegetable oil, for frying

1. Place the cider in a small nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil; then, lower the heat and simmer until reduced to ⅓ cup. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

2. Combine 1 cup of the sugar with 1 teaspoon of the spice mix in a shallow bowl. Set aside.

3.  Combine the remaining 1 cup of sugar with the flour, baking powder, baking soda, remaining spice mix, and salt in a large mixing bowl.

4. Combine the cooled cider with the eggs, buttermilk, and melted butter in a small mixing bowl. When fully blended, stir the liquid into the dry ingredients, mixing until combined. The dough will be sticky.

5. Generously flour a clean, flat work surface.

6. Scrape the dough onto the floured surface. Lightly flour your hands and pat the dough out into a circle that is 13 inches around and ⅓-inch thick.

7. Using a doughnut cutter (a round cutter with a hole in the center), cut out as many doughnuts as possible. Repeat the process with any remaining scraps once; after one repeat, discard remaining scraps since the dough will become tough if worked too much.

8. Place the oil in a deep fat fryer over medium heat, and bring to 370°F on a candy thermometer.

9. Using a spatula, carefully transfer a few doughnuts to the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. The doughnuts should rise to the surface as they begin to cook. Fry, turning once, for 3 minutes, or until light and golden brown. Using a slotted spatula, transfer the doughnuts to a double layer of paper towel to drain.

10. Continue frying until a few doughnuts at a time until all of the dough has been used.

11. Let the doughnuts cool for a couple of minutes. Then, transfer one at a time to the dish of the spiced sugar mixture and turn to coat lightly. Serve warm or at room temperature. 


Catch up on our latest posts and newest releases below!

A Sneak Peek at The Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago Blackhawks


As the NHL delves into hockey season, you can take a deep-dive into The Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago Blackhawks for a decade-by-decade look at the city’s 21st-century sports dynasty!

Curated by the Chicago Tribune sports department, this brand new book documents every era in the team’s history, from the 1920s to the present day, through the newspaper’s original reporting, in-depth analysis, comprehensive timelines, and archival photos.

Each chapter also gives you a profile on a key coach or player, so get ready to crush your next Trivia Night!

To celebrate the book's recent publication, we are giving you an exclusive sneak peak into the pages. Let us know what you think in the comments, or here, or maybe here!


If you like this book, check out the whole series! We've got a tome on all your Chicago teams: Bears, Bulls, Cubs, and White Sox (coming April 2018).

The 1 thing you need today: 10 Things You Might Now Know About Nearly Everything

The 1 thing you need today: 10 Things You Might Now Know About Nearly Everything

How does it feel to be the smartest person in the room? 

Now you can find out for yourself because 10 Things You Might Not Know About Nearly Everything: A Collection of Fascinating Historical, Scientific and Cultural Trivia about People, Places, and Things is now available at your local bookstore, online, and anywhere else you buy books!

We think it's pretty cute, but don't take our word for it: 


This delightful and carefully curated collection by Mark Jacob, Stephan Benzkofer, and the Chicago Tribune staff provides well-researched, obscure facts on a variety of topics such as arts, culture, money, food, politics, war, science, technology, language, and more.

Here are two of our favorite lists, for your reading pleasure. Tweet us the best thing you learn!


10 things you might not know about Wine

1. Wine was first produced about 8,000 years ago in the South Caucasus, according to scientists who tested residue from an ancient pottery shard dated to about 6,000 B.C. Which means history waited about 2,500 years before it saw its first drunken driver. The wheel wasn’t invented until about 3,500 B.C.

2. Even in his wine drinking, President Richard Nixon was sneaky. He would offer run-of-the-mill wine to his guests while servers poured Chateau Margaux into his glass from a bottle wrapped with a towel or napkins to hide the label.

3. Wine grapes are a finicky bunch. A superb vintage requires a perfect mix of sun, soil and rain, which is why scientists say you’ll be saying bye-bye to Bordeaux and Napa wines by as early as 2050 because global warming will push prime growing conditions elsewhere—to such wine hot spots as Britain, the Netherlands and the Yellowstone National Park area of the American West.

4. What do you call a leprechaunlike creature that likes to drink? It’s a clurichaun. According to an Irish folk legend, clurichauns are fairies that hang out around the wine cellar, either guarding the stock or raiding it or both.

5. In the mid-1980s, about 36 million bottles of wine went undrunk, with their contents used instead to cool the ovens of a cement factory. Why? Because Austrian producers had adulterated their wines with a toxic substance, diethylene glycol, to sweeten it so it was more valuable. They got caught, and the wine was banned. No one died in the scandal, but the Austrian wine industry was badly injured.

6. Benjamin Franklin famously wrote in a lighthearted letter to a friend that wine is “a constant proof that God loves us.” Later in the same letter, to further his point, he raises a toast to the elbow, so ingeniously designed as to allow the arm to bring a goblet of wine “exactly to the mouth,” a sure sign of God’s “benevolent wisdom.”

7. Many people have likely seen or heard of a magnum of wine, equal to two regular bottles. But how about a Jeroboam (six), Salmanazar (12), a Balthazar (16) or the Nebuchadnezzar, the equivalent of 20 bottles? The larger bottles are prized for their rarity and also because the wine ages more slowly.

8. It wasn’t William Sokolin’s night. At a gathering of wine enthusiasts at the Four Seasons in Manhattan in April 1989, he was showing off a bottle of Chateau Margaux 1787. That vintage is worth a mint, but this bottle, etched with the initials “Th J,” was believed to have come from Thomas Jefferson’s own wine cellar. Sokolin said it was worth more than $519,000. Unfortunately, he accidentally hit the bottle against a table, breaking two holes into the back of the bottle. Wine gushed out. Horrified, he bolted from the restaurant with the broken bottle and went straight home. But his bad night wasn’t over. He had attended the event with his wife, who was left behind. She had to borrow taxi fare to get home. (It was later discovered the Jefferson link was most likely faked.)

9. Before early Champagne bottlers perfected the use of the cork, the drink was called the “devil’s wine” because the bottles were prone to shatter if jostled—or even explode without warning if gas built up in a defective bottle.

10. Ludwig van Beethoven, on his deathbed, accepted a parade of well-wishers bearing pastries and drink. But the arrival of a case of Rudesheimer Berg inspired his last words: “Pity, pity—too late!” 

Happy Publication Week, Crown!


At long last, you can walk into your favorite indie book store TODAY and pick up Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, written by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James. As the third installment of the Denene Millner Books line, this stunner of a children's book is an unbridled celebration of the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair. 

Already critically-acclaimed, Crown boasts FOUR starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, Horn Book Magazine, and Publishers Weekly, and is one of the "best reads for young black boys in years," according to Kirkus. Keep scrolling for more reviews.

We can't wait for you to read it! 

Crown STARRED.jpg

Praise for Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut:

“Safe to say, there’s nothing like the feeling of the fresh cut. You feel so extra visible with a fresh new cut, and this book built from that experience translates it in a way never before brought to the children’s bookshelf. Basquiat-inspired king insignias and a bit of Kehinde Wiley flair shape portraits of all the various ways men (and women too!) come into the black barbershop to restore their cool, leaving the chair with high self-esteem, self-pride, and confidence—if only for as long as their hairlines remain crisp. It’s sacred. The all-important line and the diverse styles take center stage here. The Big Daddy Kane-homage flat-top. The part. The light shape-up surrounded by cornrows and locs. The taper. The classic wavy dark Caesar. Barnes’ imaginative prose mirrors the hyperbole and swagger of the barbershop. No cut is just good. It will have you looking “presidential,” “majestic.” Like you own “a couple of acres of land on Saturn.” The swagger is on a million. The sauce is drippin’. James’ oil-based portraiture will send many readers reminiscing. This book oozes with black cool and timely, much-needed black joy, using the unique and expansive experience of the barbershop to remind young boys that their inner lives have always mattered there. One of the best reads for young black boys in years, it should be in every library, media center, and, yes, barbershop.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“A powerfully moving tribute to barbershop culture . . . . Pride, confidence, and joy radiate from the pages, both in the black and brown faces of men, women, boys, and girls featured in Barnes’s majestic paintings, and in writing that celebrates human worth with every syllable.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Themes of confidence-building, self-esteem, and joy of young black boys are the important takeaways, and the illustrations jump off the page and invite readers to share in the experience. A super fun read-aloud, this title is a recommended purchase for all picture book collections.” —School Library Journal, starred review

“Alternately precise, metaphorical, and culturally specific, Barnes’s descriptions make each page a serendipity. . . . A not-to- be-missed portrayal of the beauty of black boyhood.” —Horn Book Magazine, starred review

“Barnes mixes fresh and sharp lines with an integral part of the African American experience: maintaining one’s hair. Illustrator James deftly uses bright colors . . . and a colorful galaxy complements Barnes’ words well. The strong voice will resonate with readers, soothe any young child scared of their first cut, and give a boost of confidence to the seasoned pros.” —Booklist

“In this homage to Black barbershops, the author perfectly captures the meaning of this rite of passage for Black boys. And breathtaking visuals by the infinitely creative Gordon C. James match the energetic text. If the first three tomes are any indication, Denene Millner Books will continue to highlight the best talent and reads for an audience who truly deserves both.” —Essence

“The perfect gift for all the fly young black boys in your life.” —

Spilling the beans on French Press coffee

Happy International Coffee Day!


On this most cherished of days, we at Agate turn to the authority on all things beans and brews for guidance: Craft Coffee: A Manual: Brewing a Better Cup at Home by Jessica Easto with Andreas Willhoff. This essential manual, written by a coffee-enthusiast for coffee-enthusiasts, will teach you everything you need to know about making the best cup of coffee ever from the comfort of your own kitchen. Even Booklist thinks this book "belongs in every home barista’s tool kit,” and we have to agree!

So give yourself a gift on Coffee Day and PREORDER NOW!

Be sure to take advantage of our preorder giveaway. Place your order with any bookseller and email us at craftcoffeebook@gmail by November 1 for a chance to win a 3-month coffee subscription from Halfwit Coffee Roasters!

To tide you over until your book arrives, we're sharing two things: 

1. A chance to win CRAFT COFFEE: A MANUAL,


2. The method and madness behind at-home French Press coffee. Tweet us pictures while you're timing!


Happy brewing! Find Craft Coffee: A Manual on shelves on November 14.

The Eight-Minute French Press Method

Most coffee guides will tell you that to make French press coffee, you should pour water over the grounds and let them sit for four to five minutes. I used to make it that way, too. However, thanks to barista Nick Cho of Wrecking Ball in San Francisco, I’ve found that extremely coarse grounds and longer steep times (up to eight minutes) produce a more even, delicate cup. Because of this, Andreas and I have included specs for both the eight-minute method and the five-minute method here—shorter brewing times do have an early-morning appeal, after all.

The eight-minute method works best with a very coarse grind. Start with the coarsest setting on your grinder that still produces an even grind (the coarsest setting on our Virtuoso chews up the beans).

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Base Specs

Grind: extra coarse (39 on Baratza Virtuoso)

Brew ratio: 1:14

Water temp: off boil

Total brewing time: 8 minutes


Makes 400 grams (13.5 fluid ounces)

28.5 grams (1/4 cup + 2 teaspoons) fresh whole coffee

400 grams (13.5 fluid ounces) water, plus more as needed


1. Pour the water into a kettle and set it over
medium-high heat. Bring to a boil.

2. While the water heats, set a timer for 8 minutes but don’t start it yet. Grind the coffee to an extra coarse size, transfer it to the brewing chamber of a French press, and gently shake the chamber to level the grounds. Set it on a kitchen scale and zero the scale.

3. When the water just starts to boil, remove the kettle from the heat. Start the timer and quickly but carefully add the water to the French press until the scale reads 400 grams.

4. After 30 to 45 seconds has elapsed on the timer, gently stir the water with a spoon until most of the grounds start to sink to the bottom (there will still be a froth with some grounds at the top). Place the plunger over the vessel, but do not depress it.

5. When the timer sounds, slowly and gently depress the plunger. It’s important to do this carefully. Forcefully depressing the plunger will result in an unwanted amount of agitation, and you’ll risk ruining your balanced cup by unleashing the bitter, astringent flavors that are still in the bean.

6. Serve immediately or transfer to a separate carafe. Use any extra hot water to rinse the device. Enjoy!

Brewing Tips

Most of the methods in this section call for a stopwatch. For this method (and the Five-Minute French Press Method), it’s easier to set a timer and wait for it to sound.

One of the best things about using a French press is that it’s quick and easy to make coffee for multiple people. But remember, there is still sediment in your brew, and the bulk of it has sunk to the bottom. If you serve multiple people by filling each cup one at a time, the first cup will contain very little sediment, and the last cup will contain a lot—and it won’t necessarily taste that good. To avoid this, pour each cup in waves to distribute the sediment evenly.


Bonus Street Food Content!

Colleen Taylor Sen and Bruce Kraig, noted culinary experts and editors of Street Food: Everything You Need to Know About Open-Air Stands, Carts & Food Trucks Across the Globe, have come together to produce some bonus information on Malaysia not included in the book! Read on to learn all about Malaysian street food, from the Iban specialty Manok Pansoh to the sweet shaved ice treat Chendul, not to mention all of the delicacies in between.


Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy in Southeast Asia, consisting of 13 states and 3 Federal territories, one of which is the capital Kuala Lumpur. It consists of two regions similar in size and terrain and separated by the South China Sea: Peninsular Malaysia, which has a land border with Thailand and is linked to Singapore by a causeway and a bridge, and East Malaysia on the island of Borneo, which Malaysia shares with Brunei and Indonesia.  The population is around 31 million, 80% of whom live on the Peninsula. Malaysia’s tropical climate produces a multitude of fruits and vegetables, while the long seacoast makes fish and seafood readily available.

Malaysia is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society, reflecting its geography and history. Waves of migration from the mainland over thousands of years brought settlers speaking a Malay language into the Philippines, the Indonesian Islands, including Borneo, and into Peninsular Malaysia. Because the region held a central position in the ancient spice route, traders and settlers from India started arriving in the first century CE, bringing Hinduism and Buddhism and exerting considerable influence on the region’s culture and politics. Islam was brought by Indian traders in the 12th century and gradually became the dominant religion. Today, Islam is the official religion of the state of Malaysia. Traders from China settled in large groups from the 15th century; others were brought by the British to work in the tin mines in the early 19th century.  

The Portuguese, the Dutch and the British established an early colonial presence but from the early 19th century the British took direct and indirect control over parts of the peninsula and Borneo. They brought in Indian and Chinese laborers to work on the rubber and palm plantations which they established. In 1948, the peninsular territories were united as the Federation of Malaya; in 1957 they achieved total independence from Britain. In 1963 Malaya united with North Borneo (Sabah), Sarawak and Singapore to become Malaysia. Singapore left the Federation in 1965 and became an independent country.

About two-thirds of the population consists of native ethnic groups, called bumiputra. The largest of these indigenous groups are Malays as well as various ethnic groups of Borneo,  smaller original populations (called orang asli), and ancient Thai- or Khmer-speaking settlers. Around a quarter of the total Malaysian population are of Chinese origin, mainly from Hokkien and Teochew, while 7% are South Asian, mainly Tamils.

Malaysia’s cuisine reflects this religious and ethnic diversity.  It shares much in common with the cuisines of Thailand, Indonesia, and other Southeast Asian countries, including the use of coconut, pandan leaves, palm sugar for sweetness, galangal, turmeric and other gingers for spiciness. Calamansi limes (limau kasturi), unripe mangoes, tamarind add the dimension of sour; fermented fish sauces add complexity and depth of flavor. Sambal is a thick paste made by grinding chiles in a mortar and pestle with many of the above basic ingredients in combinations depending on regional traditions or family preferences. It may be used as a condiment for cooking, but also as a fiery relish at table. No meal is complete without a side relish like the hot and pungent sambal belacan, made by pounding together chiles, lime, sometimes shallots, and the pressed and dried fermented shrimp paste called belacan.  

There are four main culinary heritages in Malaysia: Malay, Chinese, Indian, and Colonial European.  While the various communities have retained their distinctive dishes, they have also produced some delicious hybrids. Descendants of Chinese immigrants, called Peranakans, took Malay wives, affectionately called Nyonyas, who developed a distinct and celebrated cuisine called Nyonya or Peranakan cuisine. It combines Chinese recipes and taste sensibilities with Malay cooking techniques, and incorporated local ingredients including bitter petai beans, torch ginger flowers, candlenuts, and spices such as cardamom and mace. The fermented seeds of the keluak or pangi tree stars in the iconic Nyonya chicken stew called Ayam Buah Keluak.  A well-known Nyonya dish from Melaka is Curry Kapitan. (A Kapitan was a prominent member or leader of the Chinese community who served as an intermediary for Malay rulers). In this Nyonya version of Indian chicken curry, pieces of chicken are sautéed in an aromatic paste containing ginger, galangal, lemongrass, candlenuts and "Indian" spices, then simmered in coconut milk laced with a little tamarind for a touch of sourness.  

Malaysia’s street food life is one of the most vibrant in the world. Internationally, Kuala Lumpur and Penang are the best known meccas, constantly in the media limelight (CNN recently called Penang Asia's greatest street food city), their street food vendors passionately debated by enthusiasts on the internet. But other major cities such as Ipoh, Melaka, Johor Bahru and, on Borneo, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu also have thriving street food scenes and provide excellent opportunities to sample regional cuisine. Even smaller and less-visited cities offer local specialties such as fish grilled over charcoal in Kuala Perlis or Kelantanese nasi kerabu, rice tinted blue with the butterfly-pea flower (bunga telang) and served with fried chicken and salted fish in Kota Bharu. 

As in other parts of the world, gentrification and rising real estate values have led to the consolidation of street food vendors into permanent stalls in hawkers centers as well as food courts in air-conditioned shopping malls. This has drastically reduced the number of mobile peddlers and portable food carts operating on roadsides or other makeshift urban spaces. Ironically, a lot of Malaysian food as well as eating habits originated from and are still associated with streetside food peddlers. For instance, a standard meal of rice and a choice of two stews or side dishes is called nasi kandar after the shoulder pole (kandar) once used by the ambulant vendor to carry his rice and his curries.

 We think of hawker centers as a series of regularly-spaced stalls, but there are also many small clusters of independent food vendors renting, or sharing space and facilities.

We think of hawker centers as a series of regularly-spaced stalls, but there are also many small clusters of independent food vendors renting, or sharing space and facilities.

Nevertheless, less formal open-air locales for street food still abound. Residential areas in every large town and city in Malaysia, as throughout Southeast Asia, have night markets (pasar malam) where vendors sell not only food but clothing and household goods at low prices in rows of tented stalls set up before nightfall. They are typically brightly-lit and attract big crowds. In the morning, shoppers visit pasar pagi (morning markets) to buy fresh produce for the day’s meals and enjoy breakfast or a snack. During the Ramadan month of fasting, so-called "Ramadan bazaars" pop-up throughout the country, offering a dizzying array of prepared food to eat on site or to take home for the fast-breaking iftar meal.  

In traditional neighborhoods, tiny storefront eateries open to the street and often with seating extending to the sidewalk offer a range of dishes, including many famous street food items. A kopitiam is a traditional coffee shop run by Chinese that in addition to tea, coffee and other beverages offers various noodle or rice dishes including nasi lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves, often served with boiled eggs and sambal). A classic breakfast of roti bakar (bread toasted over a charcoal fire), kaya (coconut custard), and thick black coffee (kopi-o) is also associated with kopitiams.

A unique Malaysian institution are the mamak stalls owned by Tamil Muslims. They are open 24 hours a day and feature a buffet called nasi kandar where guests select from a display of dishes to eat over rice. So-called "banana leaf restaurants" owned by Tamil Hindus offer South Indian vegetarian curries together with such South Indian dishes as idlis, dosas, sambars, and rasam. [See the entry on India.]

East Malaysia

The food in the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah on the island of Borneo reflects their proximity to the sea, rich jungle vegetation, and profusion of tribes and indigenous groups with their own cultures, some of which until recently were hunter-gatherers. Rice, cassava, sago and fish prepared in many different ways, are staples.  Rarer delicacies such as sago worms, different kinds of wild ferns or fern tips for salads or for stir-frying, a wild mango called bambangan used in cooking as a souring agent can be found in open-air wet markets (tamu) of big cities and small towns of these states.  

Many connoisseurs of street food consider the street food scene of Kuching (capital of Sarawak) and Kota Kinabalu (capital of Sabah) to rival those of the famous food cities on the peninsula. A vast range of nationally-recognized dishes associated with kopitiam or mamak stalls are available at open-air or streetside eateries in distinct and celebrated Sarawakian and Sabahan versions. These include various regional versions of Chinese and Nyonya noodle dishes such as Kuching's Kolo Mee Sarawak Laksa, Sarawakian O-a-chian and Sabahan yellow rice (Nasi Kuning). Heritage dishes of various indigenous peoples, including the Kadazan-Duzuns, the Dayaks and the Ibans can also be found at specialist hawker stalls.  An Iban specialty is Manok Pansoh, chicken spiced with lemongrass, galangal, ginger, shallots and then stuffed into a bamboo tube to cook on an open fire.    

The most famous street food market in Kota Kinabalu is the Filipino market, which has sections devoted to a large selection of dried and salted fish, handicrafts, fruit and vegetables and open-air food stalls. All the families who run the seafood grills at night are Tausugs from southern Philippines. Prepared foods include stunningly fresh fish and shellfish grilled to order, as well as sliced raw fish prepared in lime, onions, chiles and salt (a traditional preparation called hinava by the Kadazan-Dusun of Sabah and kinilaw by Filipinos). Also from the Philippine south seas are the Bajau-Laut, a sea-nomad people, represented by a few tables at the market. They offer "salads" of sliced green mangoes or different varieties of sea vegetables (agal-agal) mixed with chopped tomatoes, chiles, onions and lime. They also offer the emblematic latoh (another seaweed, usually called sea grapes or green caviar), mixed into one of those sour or sharp salads and served with putu, a word used for various types of rice cakes elsewhere in South and Southeast Asia but here referring to a dense roll of (grated cassava, steamed and eaten as a staple food.   

Major Street Foods

Fried noodles and noodle soups

Noodles make up one of the biggest categories of street food in Malaysia; there are countless versions of stir-fried or braised noodles or soups using round or wide, flat rice noodles, beehun (fine thread-like rice vermicelli), thick or thin wheat flour noodles (mee). Throughout the country, hawkers offer dozens of regional forms of noodle dishes within the narrow expanse of a small market stall, oreven from a bicycle-pulled cart. Portable charcoal stoves for woks and vats of boiling broth or sauces are organized economically in this tight space. A seemingly chaotic array of pots or bowls hold pork lard for cooking, as well as dozens of additional ingredients and accoutrements. There are bins for fried shallots or garlic, chopped cilantro or chives, and the different aromatic sambals and chile pastes to flavor or to dollop on top at the end as garnish.  

Traditional noodle soups brought long ago by Teochow or Hokkienese migrants have as a base a clear, sweet stock made by simmering pork bones or shrimp-heads and shells, or even a mix of the two. Combinations of traditionally-preferred as well as locally-available ingredients are incorporated or beautifully arranged on top.  Johor's famous kuay teow (flat rice noodle) soup feature such a light, clear broth and, variously, fish cake, shrimp, slices of pork liver and kidney, minced pork. In Kuala Lumpur and the greater Klang Valley area, pork ball noodle soups are famous, as well as "pork noodle soups" (zhu rou fen or zhu yuk fun) topped with tripe or thinly sliced intestines. Hawkers often become legendary for unique combinations or touches which might include local oysters, filleted sea bass, dried or fresh homemade sausages, puffed fish maw, abalone slices, greens like choy sum or kangkung (water spinach).  

In many Malaysian regional noodle soups, the traditional Chinese stock is completely transformed by the addition of different dried fishes, fermented fish or shrimp sauces, or with specially-prepared flavoring pastes (sambals). Such adaptations to local taste are often seen as examples of borrowing and hybridization in Nyonya cuiisine Penang  Hokkien Mee or Hae (prawn) Mee uses such a thick sambal-enriched broth, with egg noodles (mee) or fine rice vermicelli, or both together, topped with prawns, sliced pork belly or a pork rib, hard-boiled egg, sometimes also fried bean curd or cubes of congealed pig's blood. Also considered examples of Nyonya innovation are the various spicy or sour noodle soups, called laksa, flavored either with a souring agent like tamarind, or with coconut milk in addition to the flavoring paste. The latter, often described as a "coconut curry" is the base of a soup like Penang Curry Mee, also called Penang Curry Laksa, which might be topped with fish cake, bean curd puffs, cuttlefish, eggplant and the mangrove clams locally called si-ham or kerang, taken off their shells. Other cities, including Melaka and Kuala Lumpur have their own distinctive Curry Mee. But the universe of laksa is so extensive and complex, it is almost always treated as its own dish, or as a separate category, as we do below.   

There are many noodle "soups" that are served "dry" i.e. with only a little soup or a sauce poured over, or sprinkled with fragrant fermented fish sauce. The street stalls of Seremban and Ipoh are famous for Hakka Mee, egg noodles or rice noodles, served dry but napped with soy and fermented fish sauce and topped with minced pork or chicken. Kuching Kolo Mee has char siu (sliced barbecue pork), minced pork and a stalk of bok choy arranged beautifully on top. Then there are hawkers that offer noodles fried on a wok over a raging fire. Kuala Lumpur's Char Mee or Hokkien Mee is not a soup like Penang's, but thick egg noodles fried with pork, squid, prawns, fish cake, vegetables in a dark, thick sauce. Penang Char Kuay Teow, wide flat noodles stir-fried over high heat with shrimp, Chinese sausage, bean sprouts, si-ham clams, chives is today an item of fetish among visiting food tourists.    


Laksa is often called the "national dish" of Malaysia, nevertheless there are no two versions of laksa that are the same. This noodle soup differs not just from region to region but within towns. Ipoh, Kuala KangsarKuching all have celebrated laksas that radically different, but even with long-established local traditions, laksas are still not produced from set recipes or answer to standardized expectations. The Asam Laksa of Penang or Melaka Curry Mee differ considerably from one vendor or one family to the next. Differences extend to details including the types of aromatic herbs used as garnish, or even the side dishes (e.g. fried salted fish or rice cakes) that are served with it.   

Laksa does not just include those noodles in rich and spicy coconut curries. A large class of laksa are so-called asams (asam means sour), generally boiled fish soups, generally not containing coconut milk at all (there are exceptions), but flavored with sour fruits like tamarind or asam gelugor (dried Garcinia). Penang Asam Laksa, one of the most celebrated of these sour soups, is also a pinnacle of Southeast Asian fish cookery. Chub mackerel or ikan kembung is a popular choice for this soup and is cooked with tamarind and other aromatics, shredded off the bone to produce a thick, cloudy stock, which turns even more fragrant and pungent with the addition of a flavoring paste of chiles, lemongrass, galangal, shallots and belacan. It is usually garnished with bean sprouts, Polygonum leaves (daun kesom), julienned torch ginger flower (bunga kantan), sometimes a spoonful of a prawn paste called hae ko. In contrast, the laksa of northern states such as Kelantan or Terengganu (laksa utara) might prefer other types of fishes including eel or flatfishes, boiled with coconut milk to make a "white sauce" (kuoh putih) poured like a gravy over noodles, with mint or Polygonum leaves, raw sliced onions, chopped yardlong beans on top. Sometimes described as a Malay (i.e. not Nyonya) type of laksa, these northern laksa are often eaten with fingers.  The laksa of Perlis is served with either a grilled glutinous rice roll stuffed with dried shrimp (pulut udang) or turnovers stuffed with coconut flakes (kuih spera), either one meant to be broken, crushed and mixed into the laksa.


Marinated pieces of chicken, goat, pork, or other meats, strung on short skewers made of bamboo or of the midrib of coconut leaves are grilled on distinctive satay grills: long, narrow, rectangular grills which might be set on a work surface at waist level or even set low by a crouching vendor on the ground. Satay vendors can be spotted from far away as they tend their charcoal fire, fanning vigorously with a traditional palm-leaf fan and causing enticing aromas of burning fat to waft through the area.  Satay is typically served with cucumber, onions, bite-sized pieces of a rice cake wrapped in banana leaf called lontong. The sambal served with satay is made with chiles, belacan, various aromatics and spices, and ground roasted peanuts.  

Nasi Ayam (Hainanese Chicken Rice) and Nasi Ayam (Claypot Chicken Rice)

Nasi (rice) Ayam (chicken) in Bahasa Melayu (Malay language) refers to at least two very popular kinds of street food in Malaysia.  The first is the dish of Hainanese origin, beloved in Chinatowns throughout Southeast Asia. Hainanese chicken rice stalls (as well as stalls offering roasted or grilled chicken rice) are ubiquitous in Malaysia. These are almost always small specialist businesses that rent space in an alley, a hawker center, in front of a store, or that have an arrangement with a kopitiam or with fellow street food business owners to share facilities (e.g. simple tables and plastic stools for customers).  In Malaysia as in Singapore, the gently-poached "Hainanese" chicken is served with rice that has been sautéed in chicken fat before being simmered in chicken broth made fragrant with ginger, garlic, sometimes also a pandan leaf. In Melaka, following age-old local street food tradition, this rice is rolled into balls sometimes as big as a fist.  

A quite different kind of stall specializes in claypot chicken rice also called nasi ayam. Here, a broad table is required to hold rows of terracotta charcoal braziers-the primordial Southeast Asian cooking stove. Covered clay-and-sand pots are set on top of these portable stoves (a typical small business has about 12-15) to cook individual portions of rice topped with pieces of chicken cooked with soy sauce, ginger, salted fish, Chinese dried sausage, chopped green onions (variations might include dried shiitakes or a garnish of fried anchovies). Masters of claypot rice juggle multiple orders while ensuring that the rice is always fluffy but develops the prized charred crust at the bottom. To connoisseurs, the smokiness that develops with this crust and from the use of charcoal fire is an essential part of the dish! 

Roti Canai and Murtabak

Roti canai is a multilayered flatbread made from a simple dough of wheat flour and water, kneaded and oiled with clarified butter (ghee) and proofed overnight. For each order, a ball of this dough is flattened, stretched, repeatedly tossed and slapped against the working surface until paper-thin and translucent, then rolled into a flat round, or otherwise folded into a square to be griddled till golden and crispy. One of Malaysia's most iconic street foods, roti canai is specifically associated with mamak, i.e. Muslim eateries where it is always served with a gravy or a thin curry with a few tiny pieces of meat or vegetables to use as a dip. Upscale restaurants nowadays often alter that original focus on the delicious bread by piling on meat in the stew.  An egg is sometimes spread on the thin dough before the final folds to make roti telur. Or it could be sprinkled with sliced onions for roti bawang. There are also sweet versions with banana and coconut custard (kaya). Roti stuffed with a thick layer of  minced meat, beaten egg, vegetables or potatoes is called a murtabak.  

Bak Kut Teh (Pork Rib Tonic)

This rich and complex soup is regarded as a health tonic, being prepared by simmering pork ribs with dried medicinal roots and dried spices including star anise, cassia, cloves, fennel seeds and peppercorn. Depending on the individual recipe, the tonic ingredients might include such popular and traditional medicinal roots as those of dang gui (Chinese angelica) or chuan xiong (Sichuanese lovage). Goji berries and dried Chinese jujubes are also considered tonic elements and add sweetness.  

Although well-known throughout Southeast Asia among the Chinese diaspora, it was in Malaysia that bak kut teh gained special fame-in particular as a street food once served to laborers from humble stalls or from pushcarts by ambulant peddlers. Today, it is an iconic "hawker" dish in both Malaysia and Singapore, and can be found at specialists operating in rented stalls next to or inside traditional kopitiams, at food courts, and even from luxurious restaurant chains.  

Bak kwa (Hokkienese preserved meat) 

This savory-sweet dried meat (called bak kwa in Hokkienese, rou gan in Madarin), sold in pressed wafer-thin squares, is popular as a street snack and as a delicacy during the Chinese New Year period. The meat develops rich savoriness and the flavors of caramelized sugars through the slow process of drying, which even today is still often done over a charcoal fire. 

Fish head curry

Fish stews are popular throughout Malaysia. In particular, stews of the head of fishes such as kerapu (grouper) or ikan merah (snapper) are specially prized. Connoisseurs speak of the richly gelatinous flavor and texture of fish heads, and of the delicate fish cheek meat. There are countless recipes for fish head curries in Malaysia's different culinary traditions including many fascinating hybrids. Tamarind, green mango or another sour fruit might be added in different Malay or Nyonya traditions of asam pedas (sour and pungent fish cookery). Coconut milk might or might not be included to enrich. Many Chinese or Nyonya versions might be better described as fish head noodle soups. There are uncomplicated versions with just a few ingredients: ground fresh chiles, a few aromatics, perhaps ground candlenuts (buah keras) to thicken. But there are also recipes with elaborate combinations/pastes of herbs and spices (rempah). Malay recipes derived from different Tamil or Keralan traditions might include a rempah with spices such as fenugreek or mustard seeds, both spices not typically used in Malay cooking. At eateries run by Malaysians of Indian origin, these spices might be introduced into the dish through a different technique: by being "tempered" in hot oil and added at the end of cooking.  

 A covered alley lined with different street food stalls. The stall in the forefront offers both bak kut teh and fish head soup.

A covered alley lined with different street food stalls. The stall in the forefront offers both bak kut teh and fish head soup.

O-a-chien or O-chian (Fried Oyster Omelet)   (second O-chian: capitalize) 

A famous street food of the Hokkienese diaspora throughout Southeast Asia, o-a-chian is also widely available in Malaysian cities such as Penang, from specialist pushcarts, usually manned by a single person. As in many other cities in the region, small tropical oysters are sautéed and folded to cook with eggs beaten with a little sweet potato or tapioca starch to add a desired gummy texture. The omelet is usually allowed to turn lightly brown and crisp on the outside as a contrast to the soft oysters. The o-chian of Kuching (Sarawak) is distinctly different, and unique. Here, a wet batter of flour, water and egg is fried, while constantly being pushed or swirled outwards from the center, until it has turned to a thin, crunchy, often slightly-concave disk. As the batter sets, oysters are added near the center to produce what is in effect a large round oyster fritter. Chopped cilantro leaves or scallions are sprinkled on top to finish the dish.  

Ikan bakar (Grilled fish and shellfish)

Because of all the charcoal smoke generated while grilling seafood, stalls offering ikan bakar (also called ikan panggang) tend to be businesses operating outdoors in the open air or under a tent at locales like the night market (pasar malam). Large ikan bakar restaurants, roofed, but open on all four sides are also often seen by major roadsides or highways. The range of seafood depends on what is freshest in the market of the region but national favorites include ikan pari (ray or skate) as well as different rich, oily fishes in the jack or mackerel family (e.g. ikan kembung or ikan cencaru, a type of scad), fishes that hold up to the powerful sambal (spice paste), often belacan-based, that is used to flavor or as marinade. Other vendors might specialize in a seabass like ikan siakap, a snapper (janahak), or fishes with fine, delicate flavor such as pomfret or farmed milkfish, grilled directly over fire, or sometimes protected by a wrapping of banana leaf. Large prawns (udang), cuttlefish (sotong) or in season, crab, are also proudly featured. The customer's selection is served with rice and the house's chile dip, but typically a range of vegetable dishes (sayur) is also available for families to construct a full meal from on a night out.  

Sweet Dishes and Fruit

Kueh (Kuih)

Kueh are small pastries or cakes which share the same Southeast Asian heritage as the family of sweetmeats called Kanom Thai or the traditional rice-and-coconut-based sweets of the Philippines called Kakanin. These are all quintessential Southeast Asian street food, steamed, griddled or fried right out on the street in olden days, to be eaten as a snack at all times of the day. Nowadays, in both Malaysia and Singapore, they might be served as part of afternoon tea (a tradition adopted from the British) or as an after-meal dessert.  

The word kueh comes from the Hokkienese word for cake, but today it has come to refer to a vast range of sweet and savory street snacks: fritters, dumpling, crepes, European-style wafers, puddings, custards, cookies, various Indian, Eurasian or Nyonya curry puffs, and even fried plantain (pisang goreng, kuih kodok. There are hundreds of varieties and regional forms of kueh, many of them very elaborate. 

The traditional repertory of kueh is based on very ancient Southeast Asian permutations on a handful of common ingredients: rice and glutinous rice, grated coconut or coconut milk, palm sugar, banana leaf to line or wrap, pandan as flavoring. 

  • Putu piring is steamed rice cake stuffed with palm sugar made with a batter of rice flour and water scented with pandan.  

  • Putu bambu is also stuffed with gula melaka and scented with pandan but steamed in a bamboo tube and then sprinkled with grated coconut.

  • In Penang, pushcart vendors sell Tamil putu mayong or mayam, thin rice flour noodles (string hoppers) often extruded right on the street to serve with grated palm sugar and coconut.  

  • Kueh lapis is a cake made of stacked layers of steamed pudding made of glutinous rice flour and sometimes tapioca flour and coconut milk in alternating flavors and colors.  

  •  Pulut tai tai, a Nyonya specialty, is steamed glutinous rice, tinted blue with the butterfly pea flower (bunga telang), pressed into a dense cake and served with coconut custard (kaya). 

 One of the branches of a successful modern-day street food business (complete with Facebook contact!) offering traditional rice cakes steamed within bamboo tubes ( putu bambu ) on a pedestrian mall.  

One of the branches of a successful modern-day street food business (complete with Facebook contact!) offering traditional rice cakes steamed within bamboo tubes (putu bambu) on a pedestrian mall.  

There are various kueh baked inside a Dutch oven, a cast iron pot with live coals underneath and over the cover. There are many kinds of kueh that are steamed in banana leaf, stuffed with banana, or a peanut or sesame seed filling.  Kueh also encompasses many Chinese sweets made from either wheat or mung bean flour and used for New Year and other ceremonies by Chinese migrants from Hokkien or Teochew, as well as those influenced by Dutch or Portuguese culinary traditions. Kek lapis legit or Dutch spekkoek is another elaborately layered cake, but baked from a dough of wheat flour, butter and sugar, and flavored with spices such as nutmeg or cloves. Housewives offering Sarawak kek lapis with intricate and colorful criss-crossing patterns can be found selling in lobbies of shopping malls or other urban niches in Kuching and Kota Kinabalu.

Though today it is increasingly difficult to see kueh being prepared right on the street, they are still products of small-scale artisans, often specialists in one single type, made at home or in tiny bakeries or confectionaries in small quantities to be delivered to market as soon as done or to be distributed and peddled on foot, on pushcarts and even in baskets on the back of motorcycles!

Fresh fruits/Jeruk/Rojak

Fruits are a popular street food, sold fresh, pickled (jeruk), or in drinks.  Roadside fruit stalls display seasonal imported and tropical fruits including pomelo, mangosteen, salak, rambutan and durian. Many of these fruits are offered already peeled, sliced, attractively arranged and packed in clear plastic bags or Styrofoam trays with a bamboo skewer for easy snacking on the run. Tart or crunchy fruits including juicy wedges of rose apple (jambu air) or different varieties of ripe or unripe/green mango that might be sprinkled with salt, chile powder and even fermented shrimp sauce, according to customer's taste are popular. Vendors might also provide a prepared chile dip.

Rojak or buah rojak vendors are everywhere throughout Malaysia and specialize in chopped fruits including apple, pineapple, guava, jicama, cucumber which are mixed together to the customer's specification. Cubes of deep-fried tofu, prawn crackers, bean-sprouts, ground peanuts, julienned torch ginger flower (bunga kantan) are also often added to this salad before it is dressed with a spicy sauce, often a salty-sweet variation of sambal belacan. Jeruk stalls often offer two dozen varieties of pickled fruits including such local fruits as nutmeg fruit or belimbi. These are often mixed together sometimes even with salted/preserved fruits (buah kering) to take away! 


Popular in various incarnations throughout Southeast Asia, the basic ingredients of this shaved ice treat include coconut milk, palm sugar (gula melaka) and jelly noodles made from rice, mung bean or other flours and flavored with pandan leaf. Vendors might add their own special touches including sweet adzuki beans, sago pearls, bits of  fresh fruit and even a scoop of ice cream. In a period when many traditional street food items have been disappearing from public spaces, cendol remains one of the few that can still often found from pushcarts or stalls in pedestrian areas, offering relief from the tropical heat to passersby at all times of the day. 


Colleen Taylor Sen and Richard S. Tan

Agate Round-Up: News, Reviews, and More

Craft Coffee: A Manual, written by Jessica Easto along with Andreas Willhoff, received a Booklist starred review! Here’s an excerpt, just to give you a taste of what’s to come: “Easto’s manual for coffee enthusiasts goes beyond mere brew guide to pull back the curtain on the bean itself. . . . Clearly written and comprehensive, this book belongs in every home barista’s tool kit.” Preorder the book for a chance to win a 3-month coffee subscription from Halfwit Coffee Roasters! To enter, send a picture of your receipt to by November 1 (preorders placed through Agate will be automatically entered).


School Library Journal called Derrick Barnes’s children’s book Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut a “super fun read-aloud” that is a “recommended purchase for all picture book collections.” Not only that, Gordon C. James’s illustrations “jump off the page and invite readers to share in the experience.”


According to Kirkus Reviews, Simba Sana’s memoir Never Stop is a “candid testimony of struggle and achievement.” Booklist also had some praise for the memoir: “Sana’s compelling journey from life as a struggling, hungry black boy to resounding success is one that every reader can celebrate.”


Madelaine Bullwinkel’s Artisanal Preserves was recently featured and reviewed by Food in Jars,  a food blog with an at-home canning focus. Food in Jars wrote of Artisanal Preserves, “If you like vintage cookbooks that burst with voice and personality, then the reissue of this canning classic is very much for you."


Regina R. Robertson, editor of He Never Came Home, was recently interviewed about the book alongside Regina King on AM Joy, a morning show broadcast nationally on MSNBC and hosted by Joy-Ann Reid.

Q&A with Simba Sana, author of memoir Never Stop (out today!)

Simba Sana, cofounder and former leader of indie bookselling phenomenon Karibu Books, steps to the other side of the industry with the release of his new memoir Never Stop.

Called a "candid testimony of struggle and achievement" by Kirkus Reviews, Never Stop delves deeply into Sana's difficult and complicated past. The book reveals how his experience with Karibu jumpstarted his lifelong journey to better understanding himself, human nature, faith, and American culture—which ultimately helped him develop the powerful personal philosophy that drives his life today.

In celebration of the memoir's pub date (today!), we're sharing a Q&A with the author in which he discusses hard life choices, how he handles sex as an author, and what's next for him.



Q&A with Simba Sana, author of Never Stop

What compelled you to write Never Stop at this point in your life? Why now?

There was something I discovered which compelled me to tell my story. This discovery, resulting from a life-long inquiry, had to do with love and the importance of one’s inner journey. I first had an inkling to write a memoir in college. Over the next 20 years, a number of people suggested I write a book, but the busyness of my life as an entrepreneur kept me away from it. I was finally compelled to write after my business closed and there was no longer an excuse to not take up the task. In a speech, J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, referred to this as the “taking away of the inessential.


You spent the beginning of your professional career at Ernst & Young. What drove your shift to the book industry?

After working for a food-service entrepreneur and a brief stint peddling drugs in high school, I was intrigued with becoming a business owner. By the time I was working at Ernst & Young (EY), my interest in reading and books was at a heightened state. Then, on Black Friday in 1992, I helped my eventual business partner at his vending stand near Howard University, and we made good money in just four hours. The wheels started churning in my mind about making an immediate leap into entrepreneurship. I resigned from EY less than two months later.

Your book deals with a great deal of very painful life experience. What part of Never Stop was most difficult for you to write?

The final section on wisdom was definitely the most challenging to write because I had to balance openness and honesty in the telling of my story, respect for the privacy of others, and a conclusion that would resonate with readers.

Your book doesn’t shy away from dealing with sex. What made you decide to delve into an area a lot of people tend to avoid discussing?

I didn’t feel it was possible to truly tell my story without revealing some of my encounters involving sex. Sex holds such a prominent place in our daily lives. As a possible benefit to others, I wanted to detail my effort to overcome the sexual urge and the seeking of pleasure as an escape. 

Was there anything that surprised you during the process of writing the book?

The process of writing the book was at least as difficult as I thought it would be. What surprised me was that I wrote most of the book under a feeling of duress.

What do you hope readers will take away from Never Stop?

The things that compelled me to write the book: the primacy of love and the importance of focusing on one’s inner development as a way to happiness.

You started off in the book industry at Karibu as a bookseller and now you’ve written a book of your own. What’s it like to be on the other side of the business?

This is a question I can probably better answer sometime after the book’s release. At present, I’m working diligently to get the word out and hoping the book will resonate with those who read it. Of course, I have some degree of suspense over how people will react to my story.

 What’s next for you?

Living the life of a philosopher, for lack of a better word, who can travel to discuss some of the things explored in my book, would be great. I’ll have to see what life brings.


Bust Out the Waffle Iron—It’s National Waffle Day!


Patty Pinner is spreading the love for waffles with this recipe from her cookbook Sweet Mornings: 125 Sweet and Savory Breakfast and Brunch Recipes that made her feel like royalty as a child. Pinner includes personal anecdotes like the following excerpt to accompany some of the recipes in her book so you can read while you eat.

If these chocolate-macadamia waffles leave you craving more, be sure to invest in a copy of Sweet Mornings to enjoy other waffles recipes such as “Old Fashioned Gingerbread Waffles,” “Banana Nut Waffles,” and the hearty “Big Mama’s Chicken and Waffles.”

Happy waffle making!

My paternal grandfather’s sister Frances had a Martha Stewart–type personality. She cooked, crafted, and gardened like a goddess, and her front porch was always crowded with potted plants that looked as though they could have won ribbons. Whenever we traveled to Paris, Tennessee, to visit Daddy’s family, Mama and I always tried to spend a night or two (without Daddy) at her house. There was so much girly stuff to see and do, and she was always working on something new—a quilt, crocheted doilies for her tabletops, tatting for the hem of an apron, her side yard flower bed, a stenciling project. A measly hour or two didn’t give us the time we needed to take it all in. The women on Daddy’s side of the family were much better at crafts than the women on Mama’s side, who were much better cooks. Aunt Frances’s feminine artisanship appealed to my emerging inner domestic goddess.
At the end of each visit, Aunt Frances would section off pieces of the projects that she was working on to help get us started on our own projects. We would leave with a large brown grocery bag crammed with blocks of quilt starters, scraps of fabric from old dresses, hand-sketched quilt patterns, small pieces of crochet, and at least seven or eight plant clippings wrapped in wet newspaper.
Aunt Frances was also a great Southern cook. During our visits, she’d serve decadent, old-fashioned country breakfasts replete with dishes like country-fried chicken and onion gravy, homemade yeast rolls, sautéed potatoes, smoked ham slices, egg pie, blackberry dumplings, and sometimes her delicious Chocolate–Macadamia Waffles. To me, these brownie-like waffles were king. She always used to say that she reserved these waffles for special occasions, so when she included them in her breakfast offerings to us, she made us feel royal.
Chocolate Macadamia Waffles 1.jpg

Chocolate–Macadamia Waffles

Nonstick cooking spray, for greasing

2 large egg whites, room temperature

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup granulated sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

2 large egg yolks, room temperature

1 cup whole milk, room temperature

½ cup vegetable oil

2 squares semisweet chocolate, melted

¼ cup heavy cream, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ cup finely chopped macadamia nuts

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)


1. Preheat a lightly greased waffle iron according to the manufacturer’s directions.

2. Using a hand mixer set at medium speed, beat the egg whites in a small mixing bowl until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

3. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients: the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center of the mixture and set aside.

4. In a separate medium mixing bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks. Add the milk, vegetable oil, melted chocolate, heavy cream, and vanilla extract and stir until combined.

5. Add the chocolate mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just moistened. (Do not overmix; the batter should be lumpy.) Add the nuts and stir until evenly blended.

6. Fold the beaten egg whites into the batter and set aside to rest for at least
5 minutes.

7. Pour a ladleful of the batter on the prepared waffle iron and cook according to the manufacturer’s directions. Once the waffle is properly cooked, use the tines of a fork to lift it off the iron and place on a serving platter.

8. Repeat step 7 until all the batter has been used.

9. Serve warm, with a dusting of the confectioners’ sugar, if desired.

A Royal Review for Crown

We are very excited to share a KIRKUS STARRED REVIEW for the newest children's book from Agate Bolden's Denene Millner Books collection! Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, written by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James, takes young readers on a joyful ride through the barbershop experience and, according to Kirkus, "the swagger is on a million."


Safe to say, there’s nothing like the feeling of the fresh cut. You feel so extra visible with a fresh new cut, and this book built from that experience translates it in a way never before brought to the children’s bookshelf.

Basquiat-inspired king insignias and a bit of Kehinde Wiley flair shape portraits of all the various ways men (and women too!) come into the black barbershop to restore their cool, leaving the chair with high self-esteem, self-pride, and confidence—if only for as long as their hairlines remain crisp. It’s sacred. The all-important line and the diverse styles take center stage here. The Big Daddy Kane–homage flat-top. The part. The light shape-up surrounded by cornrows and locs. The taper. The classic wavy dark Caesar. Barnes’ imaginative prose mirrors the hyperbole and swagger of the barbershop. No cut is just good. It will have you looking “presidential,” “majestic.” Like you own “a couple of acres of land on Saturn.” The swagger is on a million. The sauce is drippin’. James’ oil-based portraiture will send many readers reminiscing. This book oozes black cool and timely, much-needed black joy, using the unique and expansive experience of the barbershop to remind young boys that their inner lives have always mattered there.

One of the best reads for young black boys in years, it should be in every library, media center, and, yes, barbershop. (Picture book. 5-12)

Crown will be in stores on October 10; mark your calendars! 

S'more Reasons to Celebrate

The word "s'more" can't help but conjure up fond memories of summer nights and sticky hands. Of that one perfectly browned mallow amongst a sea of blackened and burnt fluff. The faint but familiar buzz of a sugar high. But most delightfully? The perfect squish of marshmallow and melty chocolate against the crunch of a graham cracker.

Today, on National S'mores Day, we celebrate the beloved childhood treat with a grown up (but still gooey!) version. This S'more Lava Cakes recipe is a creation from Jocelyn Delk Adams' Grandbaby Cakes: Modern Recipes, Vintage Charm, Soulful Memories.

She suggests eating these particular s'mores “right out of the oven while they are still warm and gooey.”

As if we could wait for them to cool!

S'more Lava Cakes

Makes 4


½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided

½ cup graham cracker crumbs

1½ teaspoons granulated sugar

16 large marshmallows, divided

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

¾ cup confectioners’ sugar

¼ cup sifted all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 large egg yolk

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract



Prepare 4 6-ounce ramekins with the nonstick method of your choice.

In a small sauté pan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the graham cracker crumbs and granulated sugar and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until toasted and golden brown. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Preheat your broiler for 5 minutes. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the marshmallows on the prepared baking sheet and broil them until toasted brown but not burned. Watch carefully that the marshmallows hold their shape because this process happens quickly. Remove the marshmallows from the oven and set aside.

Turn off the broiler and preheat your oven to 425°F.

In a medium microwave-safe bowl, place the chocolate and remaining 6 tablespoons of the butter. Heat on high in the microwave in 20-second intervals, stirring after each heating, until the mixture is completely melted and smooth. Whisk in the confectioners’ sugar, flour, and salt. Continue to whisk until the batter is thick. It should become more difficult to whisk.

Whisk in the eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla extract and stir well to blend.

Pour the batter into the prepared ramekins until each is ½ full. Place 2 toasted marshmallows into the center of each ramekin.

Evenly distribute ⅓ cup of the toasted graham cracker crumbs over the marshmallows. Spoon in the remaining batter so each ramekin is ¾ full. The marshmallows and graham cracker crumbs should be completely covered with the batter. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes.

Let cool for 2 minutes, then run a butter knife along the inside of each ramekin to help release the cake. Invert the cakes onto individual plates.

Top each cake with 2 of the remaining 8 marshmallows and sprinkle with the remaining graham cracker crumbs. Using a butane torch, brown the tops of the marshmallows. Serve warm.

Grandbaby notes: These are best eaten the day they are made and, might I add, right out of the oven while they are still warm and gooey.

If you don’t have a butane torch, you can always stick the finished lava cakes under the broiler for just a few seconds.