An ideal truffle smells like the perfect lover in your most elaborate fantasy, only better.
— Shroom: Mind-bendingly Good Recipes for Cultivated and Wild Mushrooms, Becky Selengut
Now that is something I need to taste.
Silken Scrambled Eggs with Shaved Alba White Truffles…
Paging through the book, I come across a fluted, flame-red mushroom. A Lobster mushroom. I’d never heard of such a thing.
I don’t even like mushrooms, but damn if I don’t want to tuck Shroom under my arm and set off for an afternoon of fungi foraging and blissful gorging.
From a shelf, a chop thickly rimmed in creamy fat catches my eye. Fat. Boy, what a title. I turn the book over and swoon at the sight of a crock mounded with soft, pale yellow butter.
Tearing myself away from lusty, gluttonous thoughts, I turn to a more puritanical corner of the culinary world—vegetables. Unfortunately, vegetables don’t exactly work up my blood like butter-rich brioche, or duck confit with crisp skin that melts-s-s-s-s across the tongue, or pears ripe with thick, sweet nectar, or…
Oh. Back to the, um, vegetables.
“What can you recommend for vegetables?” I ask the woman with black toenail polish and hair the color of persimmons behind the counter.
“Vegetables for a vegetarian, or vegetables for someone who wants to try eating more vegetables?”
“Most definitely the latter” I say, as a vision of steak with a grill-charred crust is placed on my mental dinner plate, rare juices pooling beneath.
She nods knowingly. “Yep, I know what you’re looking for,” and hands me a book, Plenty More, from a table where it had lain hidden to my carnivorous eye. “This one gets me out of my comfort zone, but doesn’t compel me to go out and buy a new spice cabinet for each recipe.”
Given my knack for selecting dishes requiring at least one essence-of-turmeric-whole-peppercorn-clove-never-to-be-used-again spice, I find this particularly appealing. Flipping through, I’m pleasantly surprised to find the steak on my mental dinner plate shuffling over to make room for thick yogurt over smoky eggplant pulp, and tomato and pomegranate salad.
Beyond cookbooks, Omnivore Books’ shelves are densely packed with books devoted to booze (I go from finding a recipe for the Monkey Gland in Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century, to a recommendation of Brunello wines in The Finest Wines of Tuscany and Central Italy), Parisian dining (A Food Lover’s Guide to Paris—“Patricia Wells is it when it comes to eating in Paris!”), and anything else edible, comestible, and digestible.
A pocket-sized vintage volume (the store carries many vintage and collectible editions) called One Hundred Picnic Ideas has me folding a checkered blanket and loading up a wicker basket until a quick glance reveals decidedly unappetizing picnic ideas, including eggs in aspic jelly, and liver something-or-other (I saw liver—that was enough). Definitely not the breezy, sun-dappled fare I had been envisioning. A table with modern palate-approved recipe collections by beloved San Francisco favorites such as Miette, Flour + Water, and Slanted Door produces more appetizing results and prompts an eager swapping of restaurant tips.
Omnivore Books is located at 3885 Cesar Chavez Street, and is open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. It’s truly a gastronomic wonderland. From culinary inspiration to instruction, there’s a book for it all. As well, the bookstore is renowned for its events featuring butchers, brewers, chefs… you name it. The only thing they don’t do well? Diet books. “If you deprive yourself, you just feel, well, deprived.”
I’ll raise a Monkey Gland to that.