You may have seen his show on The Cooking Channel, but now you can also enjoy "What Would Brian Boitano Make?" in cookbook form. His first cookbook was released earlier this month. I had the chance to speak with Brian about his cookbook, being inspired by travel, where to eat and drink in San Francisco (where he currently resides), and much more. Brian was warm, engaging, and generous with his time. Just the kind of guy who would make the perfect dinner party host. Which is why I think "Fresh and Fun Recipes for Sharing With Family and Friends" is a fitting subtitle for the book.
Here are some highlights from our conversation:
On how his travels around the world as a skater influenced his cooking and cookbook:
A lot of the things in the cookbook were inspired by my travels because I've been eating around the world since I've been 14 years old. For instance, there's an apple butter panini in there [Ham, Brie, and Apple Butter] inspired by my travels to France, and how the French use apples. I wanted to replace the apples and use apple butter. There's a whole story in the book about it.
About sharing those personal stories and family history in the book:
It made me recall so many different things....I have pictures of my first time in China, the food that I ate there. It made me rediscover how influential all my travels have been. And the fact that I went through all of my pictures, and took so many pictures of food, and had so many stories revolving around the first time I had raclette, or wienerschnitzel, or entrecôte.... And how lucky I was to be exposed to all these different things at a very early age.
On the reaction he gets when serving his cauliflower puree (part of his Sea Bass and Leek Beurre Blanc recipe) as a versatile side dish:
I can't tell you how many people rave about this cauliflower puree. I just roast cauliflower with apples and add a little vegetable stock, and just drizzle with a little olive oil. Once I roast them, I put them in the food processor and I blend them up and serve them as a side or a veg with any protein. And it's healthy, it's low in fat, and people think it's like mashed potatoes.
How he likes to entertain:
My new way of entertaining is sort of unplugging, because people are not wanting to sit in the dining room as much as they're wanting to sit in the kitchen. So what we'll do is I'll set up a cocktail bar with three different juices, three different spirits. I'll do some flavored simple syrups, and I will do three different kinds of bitters. I'll have everybody construct their own cocktails, sort of invent a cocktail for the evening. Meanwhile I'm at the stove making appetizers. We eat and drink as we go while we're sitting in the kitchen.
Brian was enthusiastic about giving me suggestions on where to get a cocktail as well as a couple ideas for reasonably cheap eats in San Francisco. For cocktails, he said I must go to Bourbon and Branch. And for budget dining, Yuet Lee in Chinatown (get the salt and pepper calamari) and Yamo in The Mission get Brian's nod.
Naturally, as the Wine Editor for Foodista, I would have been remiss in my duties if I did not ask about wine. When it comes to white wine, Brian has a style preference: "I'm really into light, crisp wines." He's especially fond of those made from the Vermentino grape, particularly examples from Liguria in Northwestern Italy where his family has roots. Visiting Liguria and the rest of the continent continues to inspire Brian and his cooking: "It's a constant time of discovery when I go to Europe."
We got a little nerdy talking about the very cool Champagne coupes Brian uses for his "Italian 88" cocktail, his take on the classic French 75, that you'll find pictured in the cookbook. And Brian revealed that if you look closely at the silver tray the drinks are siting on, it's actually one of his trophies. Talk about repurposing! And a conversation piece as well.
Wrapping up our chat about "What Would Brian Boitano Make?", Brian emphasized, "The recipes can be dressed up for the dining room or dressed down for the new unplugged entertaining I've been doing." So get into the kitchen with Brian, and please put down your phone. Because you're going to need two free hands: one for a Blood Orange Mojito, the other for a Paella Slider.
I, too, have a penchant for light, crisp wines. Enjoy some Wine Without Worry at jamesonfink.com. Note: I received a review copy of the book and the Amazon link is an affiliate link.