Friday, May 29, 2009

Pickled Fiddleheads

If you live in the Seattle area, next time you're at a farmers market look for the Foraged and Found Edibles booth and pick up a copy of Christina Choi's Wild Foods Recipe Calendar, with illustrations by Emily Counts. This month-by-month catalog of the Pacific Northwest's wild cornucopia is a treasure trove of recipes and information. Oh, and take a gander at Christina's new blog too, Nettletown.

I tried the Pickled Fiddleheads recipe first.

1 lb fiddleheads, cleaned
2 lemons
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups wine vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp kosher salt
8-inch piece wild ginger (optional)
1 tsp whole black pepper
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp whole allspice
1/2 lb shallots, sliced 1/8 inch thick
4 pint jars with lids and screwcaps, sterilized

1. Remove strips of lemon zest with a peeler, then juice lemons.
2. Pack fiddleheads tightly into canning jars, layered with shallots and lemon zest.
3. Bring to boil water, vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, salt, spices, and optional ginger.
4. Pour over fiddleheads so that liquid reaches to within a 1/4 inch of rim, then secure lids and process in hot water bath for 10 minutes.

The biggest challenge of fiddleheads isn't finding and picking them—that's relatively easy once you have an understanding of their habitat (moist woodlands, stream banks, swampy areas). No, the hardest part is cleaning the curly little buggers. (Before and after photos above.) Fiddleheads emerge out of an underground root system in tight, sheathed coils. The choicest fiddleheads are those closest to emergence, which also means those dressed in the shaggiest coats.

Here's a cleaning tip: Use two large bowls filled with water. Soak your fiddleheads in one and use the other as a rinsing dish. The chaff will come off easily enough with a little rubbing. When chaff begins to accumulate in your rinsing bowl, strain it out. This tedious sink-side work will be paid off handsomely with a pickled batch of springtime.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I went down to the crossroads...

Imagine stumbling through a jungle of malicious trees in a strange, foreboding place, trees that move underfoot like snakes and try to wrap thorny arms around you in a sinister embrace. Brush up against one and it leaves a rash of spines—the floral equivalent of miniature porcupine quills. Its broad, prickly leaves hang like prehistoric green parasols, shutting out the light and obscuring your vision. You half expect to see a giant dragonfly buzz by.

Did you land in one of the nine circles of Hell? Nah, just another ill-advised attempt to bushwhack through a patch of devil's club right here in the Pacific Northwest.

Devil's club (Oplopanax horridus) is a shrub endemic to this region and a few other isolated pockets of North America. In rainforest conditions it can grow to a height of 15 feet but is more commonly three to five feet tall. The spines are no joke. They cause excruciating pain until you take the time to carefully tweezer them out like splinters.

As my friend Judy once said while hiking along the Pacific Crest Trail, that's one club we don't want to join. Yet devil's club has its uses, medicinal and culinary. Native Americans of Alaska and the Northwest have long used the plant for a variety of ailments and as food. The root can be eaten, and in spring, the new buds make an aromatic addition to sauces, sweets, and side dishes.

I first learned about the edibility of devil's club buds last year from the blog Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska and a post about Devil's Club Gnocchi. By then the devil's club patches in my own stomping ground had mostly leafed out, so I vowed to get some the following year. Fast-forward to mid-May of this year when I realized I'd already missed the expansive patches of lowland devil's club in the west slope Cascade foothills. Undeterred, I went higher in elevation while foraging fiddleheads and found a bunch right at snowline.

The window of opportunity is ridiculously narrow. You want to get the buds while between 1-2 inches in length, before the leaf has a chance to uncurl and its spines harden. If you go a-devil's-clubbing, wear appropriate clothes and a thick pair of gloves. I forgot mine—the gloves, that is—and suffered a few puncture wounds in my fingertips that drew blood. A worst case scenario is losing your footing and tumbling into a thicket of the stuff. The other rookie mistake is bending back a stalk to relieve it of its green shoot only to have the thorny branch snap back in your face when the bud comes free.

My next problem was figuring out how to cook them. These buds, barely an inch long, had just emerged from the papery sheath at the tip of the stalk. At this size they weren't suitable as a side dish, but as an aromatic they packed a flavorful punch, a cool, resiny, evergreen sort of flavor. I learned from Ron Zimmerman, owner of the Herbfarm restaurant, that he buds can be used to give woodsy depth to savory meat sauces and sweet dessert sauces alike.

In the end I decided in favor of a chocolate sauce. I've never actually made my own before, so it was something of a comedy of errors, but I think I learned enough during the process to offer a recipe here. Chocolate sauces are fairly forgiving when all is said and done. Like the budding period of a devil's club, the window for serving a homemade chocolate sauce is narrow, but you can always add a little warm milk or cream and stir it back into a reasonable viscosity.

Devil's Club Chocolate Sauce

1 dozen small devil's club buds, chopped
1/2 cup half and half, plus extra just in case
1/4 sugar
4-8 oz bar baker's chocolate*, chopped
1 tbsp butter

* I used a 4 oz Ghirardelli 100% cacao unsweetened baking bar. If using a bar with, say, half the percentage of cacao you'll want to double the amount to 8 oz.

1. Infuse the half and half with devil's club by covering the buds in a bowl with the cream and refrigerating for at least an hour.

2. Strain half and half into saucepan. Add sugar and bring to gentle boil, stirring. Remove from heat.

3. Off heat, mix in chocolate and butter and stir vigorously. Keep a 1/2 cup or so of warm milk or cream on hand for thinning.

4. While warm and viscous, pour over ice cream or fruit.

Here's the thing about devil's club: You want to be careful about heating it. Too much heat and it loses that remarkable aroma. Used properly, the devil's club buds will add an extra dimension of flavor to the chocolate sauce, a cool, piney flavor that deepens the sauce and imparts the mystery of the woods to whatever you're serving.

Did I sell my soul to learn the dark secrets of devil's club cookery? You be the judge. In the process of making this simple chocolate sauce I burned my hand, nearly set the house on fire, and threw our Memorial Day Weekend to the mercy of the traffic gods by delaying our departure time, all in the service of squeezing off a half-decent photograph of the final product. By the end I was sweating profusely, cursing on the front lawn, and making everyone around me extremely uncomfortable. But boy was that sauce devilishly good...

Second photo from top by skagitstan.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Dept. of Horn Tooting

If you enjoy a fish story, head over to your quality news stand and pick up a copy of the May/June Gray's Sporting Journal—and I'm not saying that just because I have a piece in the current issue, adapted from a chapter in the book. If you're not familiar with GSJ, check it out here. There are few better outlets for the reader (or writer) who could care less about trophies, secret spots, and the latest outdoorsy fashion statements.

I really like the artwork the editors paired with the story. Though a salmon fisherman isn't likely to encounter such breakers along the beaches of Puget Sound, the painting captures the feel of the elements, how you can disappear into your thoughts on a good day of saltwater casting even when the beach is crowded with other anglers.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Semolina Gnocchi with Wild Mushroom Sauce

At the monthly meeting of the Puget Sound Mycological Society last Tuesday the chef of Serafina, a Seattle restaurant, gave a cooking demonstration using this recipe. I've tweaked it slightly to suit my needs, using chives instead of green onions because that's what we've got in the garden, and pulverizing the porcini for a richer sauce.

Semolina Gnocchi

2 cups milk
2 tbsp butter
3/4 cup semolina flour
1/4 cup parmesan, grated
2 tbsp chives, chopped
1 egg yolk
salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil milk and butter over medium-high heat. Slowly whisk in semolina. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir a minute or two. Stir in parmesan, chives, and seasoning. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring. Remove from heat and stir in egg yolk.

2. Grease a baking tin and spread mixture on tin to cool for several minutes. Using a spatula, spread and flatten gnocchi evenly so it's approximately 1/3 inch thick. Refrigerate. Trim edges and cut into 1-inch squares.

Wild Mushroom Sauce

1/2 oz dried porcini
1 medium leek, divided
1/2 lb fresh morels, sliced
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil, plus more if necessary
1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
splash Madiera
1 heaping tbsp mascarpone cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1. Pulverize dried porcini and bring to boil in 2 cups water with 1/2 leek, trimmed and roughly chopped. Reduce heat and let simmer 5 minutes before removing from heat.

2. Saute morels in pan with butter and olive oil until browned, about 4 minutes. Season. Add remaining leek, cut into julienne, and cook another few minutes. When leek has softened, add sage and deglaze with Madiera. When Madiera has evaporated, add 1/2 cup of mushroom-leek broth and reduce by half.

3. Gently brown gnocchi in olive oil and butter in another pan, preferably nonstick. Cook in batches, removing to warm plate in oven when done. Finish mushroom sauce with mascarpone. Add more mushroom broth if necessary. (At this point I added a touch more Madiera.) Check seasoning and ladle over gnocchi.

Serves 4. Eat with good friends who bring good wine. A spinach salad with toasted nuts and cheese pairs nicely.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Morel Madness

The fever has taken hold. It starts with a scouting mission and a few scattered victories of patience. Not a meal, just hope. For a week you hold off because it's still too cold outside. The ground needs to warm. Some say in the forties, others argue for 50 degrees or more. Plant indicators get your pulse going: the first trilliums are blooming and cottonwood tees are leafing out. A week later, reduced to a quivering mess, you drive over the pass to investigate east side river valleys. On south-facing benches above rivers and creeks the first honest troops emerge out of mulchy leaf piles in the sunny spots. This is just the beginning. You're on a downward spiral now.

It's not a good year to have the sickness. Seattle mushroom hunters have been champing at the bit for weeks. Like last year, the morels in my neck of the woods are late. The problem with a late fruiting is the weather can put the kibbosh on the whole affair before it's even out of the gate. The ground is moist from runoff but a few days of unseasonably hot weather this late in spring can dry out the earth and cook the young mushrooms that have already poked their snouts up.

If all goes according to plan, the morel fruiting proceeds from riparian corridors on the east slope of the Cascades to higher elevation patches in the mountains, following the snow-melt. Right now the concentration is at about the 2,000-foot level in central Washington. If the weather cooperates, we'll have several weeks of morel madness interfering with work, home, sleep—with pretty much every aspect of our daily lives.

Here's some video action from this past week:

True Morels and False Morels

Compare the pictures of these true morels above with the false early morels (Verpa bohemica) I was finding a few weeks ago. Notice how the caps of true morels are more pitted while the verpas appear more wrinkly. Though not clear in the pictures, true morels have cap margins that attach to the stem while caps of verpas are more like skirts that only attach at the peak of the cap. There's also a species of true morel called a "half-free" (Morchella semilibera) with a cap that attaches to the stem midway between the hemline and the peak.

True morels are in the genus Morchella; false morels are either Verpa or Gyromitra, depending on the common name of choice in your locality. A couple weeks ago I posted a poll (results visible in right column) asking readers to vote with their stomachs. I see now that my poll is flawed in one major way: the term "false morel" means different things to different people, largely determined by region. For the purposes of the poll, I was lumping together verpas and gyromitras under the single category of "false morel," but after doing my radio interview on KUOW last Monday I had lunch with Patrice Benson, president of the Puget Sound Mycological Society. She considered the term false morel to only apply to the genus Gyromitra, and doesn't eat any of those species. Verpas she does eat.

Overall I tallied 191 votes. The breakdown went as follows: 84 (43%) don't eat false morels (or whatever they consider to be false morels); 25 (13%) do; and 82 (42%) didn't know what the heck I was talking about in the first place. It's too bad I wasn't more clear about what, in my mind, constituted a "false morel," because anecdotally I've been gathering some interesting responses lately to the ongoing question of edibility.

To wit:

  • A few members of the Cascade Mycological Society whom I admire very much for their fungal knowledge strongly believe that verpas and gyromitras should never be eaten. You can read their reasoning here.
  • One of my regular readers, John from Bellingham, has made a persuasive case for eating verpas and even a couple of the gyormitras based on his own review of the available literature (also available at the above link).
  • The current president of Puget Sound Mycological Society eats verpas but not gyromitras.
  • Verpas are sold in farmers markets in the Seattle area and elsewhere.
  • The eating of verpas, from my own unscientific survey, seems to increase in parts of the Pacific Northwest where true morels are not as easily obtained.
  • Outside the PNW there are pockets around the country where wild mushroom enthusiasts eat verpas, gyromitras, or both—despite what the literature says. This is a cultural phenomenon.
  • After raising the issue with the ForageAhead Yahoo group, the discussion became so heated that a few members threatened to quit the group.

The bottom line is that the jury is still out on many of the species commonly known as false morels within the Verpa and Gyromitra genera. As the literature is not definitive, making a decision about whether or not to eat these mushrooms comes down to personal comfort levels. This would seem to be a murky corner of mycology that an enterprising scientist could put his/her stamp on. Memo to would-be mycologist: Please give us some answers!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Forager walks into a bar...

Q: How do you eat a gigantic alien space egg?

A: Very carefully!

Da-dum-DUM! Thanks, I'll be here all week.

But seriously folks, I've been nibbling on this giant western puffball for days and barely made a dent. I figure it was close to 10 pounds when I found it on an eroded slope above MLK Jr. Blvd in Seattle this Monday en route to my radio gig. By contrast, the puffball at left—a bit smaller than a bowling ball—is half the size of the one I picked.

I gave away a good-sized chunk to the Puget Sound Mycological Society to entertain members at the monthly meeting; this chunk was donated in turn to Serafina restaurant in gratitude for their cooking demonstration at the meeting (yet another reason to join PSMS). The rest I've been cooking and eating ever since. Monday afternoon I served some of it to my son sauteed in scrambled eggs with cheddar. Tuesday night I made myself a late-night meal after the PSMS meeting, using this recipe and substituting the puffball for the porcini. And yesterday at lunchtime I took advantage of the mushroom's tofu-like qualities and used it in miso soup.

You might remember I went crazy for miso during a seasonal de-tox cleansing earlier this spring. It might have been too much of a good thing, and I forgot about how delicious a simple lunchtime miso can be. The puffball—sliced, cubed, and pan-fried—is a dead ringer for tofu and brought me back around to the joys of miso soup.

Puffball Miso Soup

1 cup cubed puffball mushroom
3 cups water
3 small carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
2 heaping tbsp miso
1 tbsp peanut oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
pinch wakame flakes
soy sauce to taste

1. Bring water to boil in pot and add carrots plus inner rings of sliced onion. Continue to simmer, covered.
2. Heat oil in pan. Add mushrooms. Chop remaining onions and add to pan. Carefully saute on medium-high so that cubed mushrooms are lightly and evenly browned. Lower heat.
3. When carrots are tender, stir in miso, then add wakame flakes and contents of saute pan to pot. Cook 2 more minutes and serve, seasoning with soy sauce.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Riding the Radio Waves

Listen to an archived edition >>

I found myself in the U-District studios of NPR Seattle affiliate KUOW 94.9 FM this morning, sitting in a sound room with "Weekday" host Steve Scher and two other local foragers, Patrice Benson, president of the Puget Sound Mycological Society and Christina Choi, a co-founder (along with Jeremy Faber) of Foraged and Found Edibles, a company that provides wild foods to area restaurants. If the other two guests were nervous they certainly didn't show it. Meanwhile my own stomach was doing back flips.

Despite the nerves, in a fortunate coup of timing I had an ace up my sleeve—or more accurately an elephant in the corner. While en route to the studio this morning I was able to stop off and nab a western giant puffball (Calvatia booniana) that was fruiting on an eroded slope above Martin Luther King Blvd. right in the heart of the Central District (less than half of which is pictured at right). The mushroom was bigger than my head. It looked more like an alien space egg. I had a prop!

Once the show went live all mental preparation went out the window. It was auto-pilot all the way—and I'm pleased to say this auto-piloting forager was able to navigate the radio waves without crashing and burning, landing safely an hour later. I even had fun. Hats off to Steve Scher and all his colleagues at KUOW for making us feel so comfortable.

You can listen to an archived edition of the hour-long show, "Nature's Bounty: A Forager's Delight."

Friday, May 8, 2009

Fancy Foothill Treats

No, I didn't bag a succulent spring lamb in the foothills, just the fiddleheads and nettle sauce. The reawakening is moving steadily higher into the mountains, bringing with it culinary goodies that have mostly played out down here at sea level.

For instance, stinging nettles are past their prime around Seattle now. Any taller than a foot or so and they become fibrous, with tougher stems and leaves that can be grainy. But in the foothills above 1,000 feet in elevation they're young and tender. Of course, your mileage may vary. Further south in the Sierra you would need to go higher.

Same goes for the fiddleheads, and this topic deserves some further discussion. While I can't speak to ostrich ferns of the eastern U.S., if you're foraging lady fern fiddleheads, make sure you get them at the earliest possible stage, when they've just emerged from the root cluster and are no more than an inch or two above the ground (see image at right). Sometimes I'll take them a little higher if the fiddleheads are still tightly coiled, but you want to avoid those specimens that have already started to unwind. The further along in the development, the more apt to be bitter. Also, it's worth remembering that fully leafed-out fern fronds are actually toxic.

Here's another tip when harvesting fiddleheads: Soak them in water back at home for a few minutes before removing the papery sheaf. The chaff is easier to rub off when wet.

For this meal I took advantage of a few rambles about town and in the woods. I got the lamb chops from a local butcher, who sources from a small-scale farm. The fiddleheads and nettles came from the foothills. Mint I found growing wild while walking around the neighborhood. I grilled the lamb chops and topped with a creamy nettle-mint sauce. The fiddleheads I boiled for 5 minutes and sauteed in butter. (The following night I sauteed the fiddleheads with chopped shallot and finished with cream and a splash of cognac.)

Nettle-Mint Sauce

Handful of blanched stinging nettles, roughly chopped
Handful of fresh mint, blanched 5 seconds and shocked in cold water
1 shallot, rough cut
3-4 heaping tbsp plain yogurt
lemon juice squeezed from 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil, more or less

Process all these ingredients in a food processor. I don't have exact measurements because I pretty much eyeballed it. You want the sauce to be creamy, not pasty like pesto. Hence the yogurt. You can adjust the strength of the mint or nettle flavor however you want. This is just a start; tweak the recipe to your forager's heart's content.

I also spied some oyster mushrooms feasting on a dead alder tree during my foothills ramble. Though too small to be harvested, I know their zip code and will be back.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cooks & Clams

I feel like I've just been run through an intensive 10-week cooking class condensed into a single night. My head hurts—and not just because of all those Grand Cru wines brought home by the House Sommelier. The lesson here: Take a couple professional gourmet chefs clamming and you'll reap the rewards. Not that it felt like work to get to the meal. I'll take this troop clamming any day.

My foraging pupils were Becky Selengut, aka Chef Reinvented, who teaches cooking classes at PCC, cooks for hire, and is co-author of the Washington Local and Seasonal Cookbook. Her old colleague from the Herbfarm restuarant, Jet Smith, joined us. And completing the trio was Amy Pennington, the gogogreengardener herself, a former lieutenant to Tom Douglas, creator of Urban Garden Share, and no slouch in the kitchen.

Don't let the fem pink gloves fool you... Most of the conversation simply can't be re-printed, as I'm trying to run a family-friendly blog here. I've been known to let loose some colorful language myself, but these three make drunken sailors sound prim and more than once did I blush in the hot sun.

We started with the oyster beds, which were fully exposed by a low tide that virtually emptied this small bay in south Puget Sound. A few down the hatch and the rest into the bag.

Did I mention the extraordinary sun? After a libation and bit of sunbathing in the beautiful sun, we attacked the clam beds. With one other clammer in sight, we had the pick of the litter. I don't think I've ever raked up a limit in such record time. The clams were practically jumping out of the sand volunteering for Becky's Grand Plan. Both native littlenecks and non-native Manila clams filled our buckets. The Manilas have short siphons and can be found just an inch or two below gravelly sand, while the natives are just a little deeper, usually three or four inches beneath the surface. On this day we found mostly Manilas—big ones too.

A patch of sea beans (Salicornia sp.) provided the final treat. We munched on them through the day and took home enough for dinner.

Back at the ranch the cooks started working their magic. A few observations:

  • Pros work very quickly. I was still polishing off my second glass of rose champagne and the ladies already had three sauces ready to go.
  • Pros don't get stressed out, certainly not when entertaining at home for such a small number of guests.
  • Pros make it look simple but their hamster-in-a-treadmill brains are forever concocting fiendish new designs to blow the minds of their hapless victims.

Though I'll do my best to parse the recipes here, please understand that the chefs were working improvisationally throughout and I don't think I saw a single measuring cup or spoon on the premises. What follows is an approximation, no doubt made murkier by the myriad wines and champagnes making the rounds. (The alcohol, I now realize, is the equivalent of a forager blindfolding his charges before entering a top secret hunting ground.)

Three Sauces

The first sauce was made by steaming a handful of clams in vermouth, shallot, parsley, and thyme. The clams were set aside for the first course and the broth strained into a blender along with some corn, blended, strained, and cooked down to a smooth sauce in a small pot, seasoned, and set aside.

The second sauce was composed simply of a small handful of parsley, blanched for 5 seconds and shocked with cold water, then blended with olive oil and salt into a cohesive oil which was strained and set aside.

The third sauce was made with a dried ancho pepper, reconstituted in warm water, seeded, and blended with tomato paste, olive oil, and salt.

First Course: Pan-Fried Pacific Oysters with Clams in Corn Sauce and Drizzled with Chili and Parsley Oils

That's what I'm talking about. We're not in Kansas anymore is right. The oysters were floured, dipped in egg, and dredged in homemade breadcrumbs, then pan-fried in a generous allowance of butter. These got plated in pyramid formations in shallow bowls ladled with the corn sauce, then topped with a garnish of thinly sliced olives and red onion bathed in red vinegar to turn a jaunty fuchsia. Steamed clams and drizzles of chili oil and parsley oil completed the sumptuous picture.

I mean, isn't that what any of us would do with a few fresh oysters?

Second Course: Cambodian Shellfish Amok

I've actually made a dish similar to this, and the beauty is just how simple it is for us normal home cooks to make. My contribution on this night was to scrub the clams, which is kinda important since freshly foraged clams will have slimy stuff on their shells, while Amy scrubbed and de-bearded the mussels. Onions and kaffir lime leaves got sauteed in coconut oil in a big pot with amok powder and Thai bird chilies. Our pile of shellfish, about 140 clams and two-dozen mussels in all, was then dumped into the pot along with a can of coconut milk and steamed. The shellfish hotpot was finished with fresh lime and cilantro, and served with baguettes for dipping up the curry-like broth.

Third Course: Oyster and Sea Bean Succotash with Stir-fried Bok Choy

We finished off the meal with a southern twist, using the bok choy as a bridge from the previous course. Chopped bok choy and onions were stir-fried with diced bacon while the succotash was composed of corn, blanched sea beans, chopped oysters, steamed and chopped carrots, chopped shallots, blanched fava beans, and diced bacon, all of which got sauteed together in bacon grease and butter.

The succotash really got me. I'm rendered helpless in the presence of salty-sweet; a night at the ballpark can't be fully consummated without a bag of kettle corn, and usually I'll eat myself right into a barf bag, such is my weakness for salty-sweet. In this case, the sweetness of the corn and carrots married with the saltiness of the oysters and sea beans, while the crispy bacon and fava beans added textural complexity. It was a dish that, on the face of it, looked so easy, and yet its flavor was as good as anything I've ever eaten. I watched it happen right before my eyes and still can't believe how good it was.

And I suppose that's how I feel about the meal in general. Yeah, I was there to witness it but I couldn't quite believe my senses. Our Wine Sommelier, April, who came home to this feast after a late night pre-opening party for the Grand Cru Wine Bar over in Bellevue, is one lucky lady.

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Houston, we have cover art!

Here it is folks, the Fat of the Land book cover. The book won't be published until August 30, but it feels a little bit more real now, even if the jacket only exists as pixels on a screen.

Try as we may, pretty much all of us judge books by their covers. Social scientists suggest there are evolutionary reasons for this, since making a snap judgment about a friend or foe was often a decision fraught with life-or-death consequences for our prehistoric ancestors. Like all cliches, there's a grain of truth at the heart of the book cover trope. I know I'm guilty. One of my favorite books of the year probably wouldn't have gotten even a cursory flip-through at the bookstore if I hadn't decided to buy it sight unseen after reading a review.

Happily, I'm pleased with the cover. I like the type fonts and those deep blue cobblestones. The fork is a nice touch, too, and the crab—well, that was my idea. You can't really go wrong with a crab. Crabs are cool (the ones you eat, that is).

Okay, enough of that. I've still got to make a few edits to the first typeset pages and get those in by tomorrow. Then it's out of my hands forever.

P.S. You can pre-order it now.