Monday, May 5, 2008

How to Have a Gluten-Free Book Signing

It had been a few years since we had an event at our bookstore and this past Saturday we hosted a book signing with Sheridan Hay, author of the biblionovel "The Secret of Lost Things". I wanted to make this a gluten-free affair so that Dan and some of our wheatless friends could enjoy the refreshments without having to ask for an explanation of ingredients, so I set to work.

I first consulted Mrs. G.F.'s great post about a gluten-free holiday party she hosted in January. This was a great starting point from the classy decorations to the great menu. I didn't need to worry about decorations, since Ms. Hay was already our glittering centerpiece , but I did have some other factors to consider. I wanted to keep messy, drippy food items to a minimum and eliminate any hot hors d'oeuvres as we only have a small, anemic microwave at the shop. My two daughters were there to help with the hostessing and keep our store cat Sam from hopping up into the food zone, so I also wanted to have some vegan delights for my oldest daughter.

After consultation with a batch of cookbooks, bookmarked blog recipes and the contents of my pantry, here’s the menu I came up with:

Small bottled waters and half-sized sodas
White Bean Dip
Pickled String Beans
An assortment of cheeses
Rice Cakes, Nut Thins, Corn Chips
Salsa (V)
Walnut-Mushroom Pate (V)
Chutney-Cheese Spread

Grapes and Strawberries (V)
Chocolate-Nut Fudge
Sesame-Ginger Cookies (V)

Items in bold above link to a recipe originally posted on this blog. Items with a V indicate a vegan offering.

I had some mango chutney on hand to blend with cream cheese, curry powder and snippets of our first garden chives, so that was easy. I also had a jar of pickled string beans from last year’s garden bumper crop, so easy again.

The first shopping trip was to the Glens Falls Farmers Market where I picked up some great local cheeses. It’s still early for the first spring vegetables and most of the farmers were still trotting out the root vegetables, so since I didn’t have too many appetizer recipes in mind involving celeriac and parsnips, I headed over to the grocery store.

There in the bulk food aisle where I was prowling for nuts for my Spiced Nuts recipe, I came upon a new discovery: gluten-free Tamari Almonds. I made a batch of Sesame-Ginger Cookies and hid half of them (key point) for this shindig, so the day before our Book Signing, all I had to do was my final grocery shopping trip and a day of intensive cooking.

My Veganomicon cookbook provided a wonderful Walnut-Mushroom Pate recipe which was a hit, even though it is not the most colorful dish.

Dan disdainfully noted that it was the exact color and consistency of his parents’ chicken liver spread, but despite this taste memory, managed to shovel quite a bit into his mouth during the course of the evening.

If I had more time and baking bravado, I would have liked to whip up some homemade gluten-free crackers, but it was easiest to rely on store-bought gluten-free dippers. Similarly, I was going to try and bake another batch of cookies, but ran out of time and so relied on a couple of canisters of Jennie’s Macaroons. Similarly, I wanted to try my hand at my Adopted Gluten-Free Blogger Buddy Fresh Ginger’s Buckwheat Pancakes with Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraiche, but again, ran out of steam. Next book signing....

All in all, a successful event. It was nice to have everyone talking and snacking and having a good time prowling around the shop and we were thrilled with the turnout for our guest of honor. That's Sheridan Hay below on the left with one of our fabulous bookstore customers.

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