Tuesday, April 1, 2014



BOURBON: A History of the American Spirit (On Sale April 1, 2014) by Dane Huckelbridge.  This is popular history with a whiskey-soaked edge––an artful and imaginative biography of our most well–liked and, at times, controversial spirit that is also a witty and entertaining chronicle of the United States itself.  And bourbon is “hotter” than ever right now. Shockingly, prior to this book, there exists no comprehensive and accessible history of this popular, wholly American liquor.

Few products figure as prominently or as intimately in the American experience as bourbon whiskey, and with good reason: the iconic Kentucky spirit is the American experience, distilled, aged, and sealed in a bottle.  Its primary ingredient––corn––was discovered by Christopher Columbus and is indigenous to the Americas.  Jamestown settlers became the first to experiment with distilling corn–based whiskey.  George Washington ran one of the country’s largest whiskey distilling operations at Mt. Vernon, making him a Founding Father of both the USA and bourbon.  Kentucky–born Abe Lincoln received a liquor license in 1833, and Civil War soldiers on both sides liberally imbibed before, during, and after battle.  With an influx of Scots–Irish immigrants, bourbon’s recipe was perfected on the Appalachian frontier, and it later made its way to cowboy saloons out West.  While Prohibition sought to curtail drinking, it only expanded its reach, as speakeasies welcomed women and made drinking more fashionable than ever.  Bourbon consumption reached record heights––both at home and abroad––as America came of age as a superpower after WWII and labels like Jack Daniels became global brands.  Bourbon made the West wild, the ‘20s roar, and ‘60s rock music roll.  Today the story has come full circle, as we have seen a renewed appreciation of craft–distilled bourbon that’s produced in much the same was as it was 150 years ago.

Every other book about bourbon has amounted to a cocktail manual, a textbook history, or detailed descriptions of particular whiskeys. But in BOURBON, writer Dane Huckelbridge is the first to tell the incredible tale of this nationally unique product by going back over three hundred years and tracking the origins of the Kentucky whiskey up through the international multi–billion dollar industry it’s become today.  Treating bourbon as a lens for better understanding the elusive character of the nation that engendered it, Huckelbridge finally gives the spirit the starring role in our history it so richly deserves.


VIOLA BUITONI BIOGRAPHY - Viola Buitoni, a direct descendant of the famed pasta and chocolate family, hails from Perugia, in the heart of Umbria in Italy. As a small child, she often visited the Perugina chocolate factory, where her great-uncle, Giovanni, was one of the legendary founders. It is here that Viola’s culinary interests first blossomed as she watched with intrigue, the production of Perugina’s iconic Baci confections, often sampling the premium dark chocolate and fresh hazelnuts, harvested from the countryside nearby. In 1985, Viola came to the United States for a business degree, but soon after graduation found herself drawn to her genetic passion for food.  After a few years garnering professional experience, she launched an Italian catering business in New York City with a friend from Milan. The home-based venture soon became so successful that Buitoni & Garretti was created, a small and deeply personal ode to the best of Italian food, located in the heart of Madison Avenue.  In 2001, the shop was sold and after a couple of years as a freelance caterer, Viola moved to San Francisco to start a family with her longtime companion, John Fox. In 2004, Ernesto was born and motherhood led her to put her culinary career on the “back burner.”

Once Ernesto became of school age, Viola returned to the culinary world she loved. Currently she acts as the resident culinary expert for San Francisco’s Italian Cultural Institute, where she conceived, curated and launched, "Enogastronomia," a series of events based on themes reflecting Italian food trends and traditions. The program also includes a series of small, monthly cooking workshops at the Italian Consulate, which have been featured in the San Francisco Chronicle and other West Coast newspaper.

 Viola has also contributed articles and food-based videos to MissionLocal.org, a journalism blog hosted by UC Berkeley’s School of Journalism, located in San Francisco’s Mission District where she resides.  Her passion for sharing through teaching and writing has expanded. Viola currently teaches at various cooking schools in the Bay area and beyond with classes that highlight her expertise in pasta, dessert and Italian holiday traditions. Her classes can be found at Cavallo Point Cooking School in Sausalito, San Francisco Cooking School and 18 Reasons in San Francisco, Ramekins in Sonoma and Pepperberries in Eugene, Oregon. Viola also connects with her students and followers through her website, violabuitoni.com.

In 2012, Viola served as a contributing country editor for the launch of Allrecipes.it, the Italian localized site of nationally-recognized Allrecipes.com.

In collaboration with the Legends of Europe, an EU project supporting five of Italy’s top food products (Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, Montasio, Parma and San Daniele), Viola has created and led seminars for food professionals as part of the Fancy Food Show, the International Culinary Center in Campbell, CA and local markets within San Francisco.   Throughout her twenty-five years in the United States, Viola returns often to her beloved Italy, where her entire family still resides. Every summer, while her child becomes fully bi-cultural in the company of cousins, she draws renewed inspiration by reconnecting with the culinary traditions of her native country and discovering its newest cooking trends.