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Dive into the Bizarre World of Sommeliers in ‘Cork Dork’

Here’s what editor-in-chief Amanda Kludt is reading

wine glass Paul Crispin Quitoriano/Eater NY

This post originally appeared in EIC Amanda Kludt’s From the Editor newsletter, a roundup of her favorite food and restaurant stories — both on and off Eater — each week. Subscribe now.

With one caveat, I'd like to highly recommend the newly released Cork Dork by journalist and aspiring wine nerd Bianca Bosker.

Her book follows her journey learning about the quirky, intense, and oftentimes bizarre world of professional sommeliers, wine collectors, and fat cat restaurant-goers. It is incredibly well written, intelligent, witty, and highly entertaining, and if I'm being frank, it's the first book I've been excited to come home to in the last 12 months. Especially after reading the raves and then being disappointed by Sweetbitter, I'm thrilled to see a young woman tackle this industry and do it well.

As Jennifer Senior mentioned in the Times last week, this book is more akin to Bill Buford's Heat than Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. An admitted neophyte, Bosker joins wine tasting groups, trails sommeliers on the floor, hangs around Master Sommeliers in a competition, works as a cellar rat, and also spends time with perfumers, scientists, researchers, and taste, flavor, and olfaction experts to explore the scientific and cultural forces behind wine appreciation and obsession. (And she of course gets groped and hit on by drunks in the process.)

My caveat is that readers shouldn't take this book and the characters within it to represent the entirety of the wine world, and I know many wine pros will take issue with her portrayal of their community once they start to read it (as Eater contributor Levi Dalton has already done on Twitter).

I predict many will complain about the amount of space given over to Aureole sommelier Morgan Harris, Bosker's spiritual and literal guide through the wine world. More jester than savant, Harris and some others in here — like a somm who licks rocks — paint a pretentious, silly, self-obsessed, and, at times, straight-up loony picture of the profession. As with reality television, it's a self-selecting group that agrees to be subjected to this journalistic intrusion.

That said, there’s more to the book than sound bites from some extreme somms. And I recommend you give it a go.

Ellie Sharp/Eater Houston

Opening of the Week: Yauatcha

Who is behind it?: The Hakkasan Group, a London-based restaurant group with locations across Europe, North America, the Middle East, and Asia. The chefs here are Ho Chee Boon and executive pastry chef Graham Hornigold.

What is it?: It’s the first US location of Hakkasan’s Michelin-starred, London-based high-end dim sum and teahouse, Yauatcha.

Where is it?: Inside a new addition to Houston’s Galleria mall complex.

When did it open?: Wednesday, March 29.

Why should I care?: That the Hakkasan group chose Houston, a rising culinary destination with a surplus of monied residents, over New York or Los Angeles or even Vegas or Miami, is compelling to me. Hakkasan felt more style than substance to me (especially for the price tag) when it came to New York, but my colleagues in London vouch for the quality and straight-up deliciousness of the dim sum at Yauatcha. And our Houston editor Amy tells me our audience is very excited to try it. Also: pumpkin-shaped dumplings.

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  • Here’s chef John Howie on how goddamned hard it is to make money in restaurants. It’s a response to a diner who complained about the cost of a $14 burger. [Chef John Howie]
  • What happens when real estate brokers who could benefit from gentrification open coffee shops in vulnerable neighborhoods. [Curbed NY]
  • Life goal: drink as much champagne as Ella Brennan, proprietor of Commander’s Palace and queen of New Orleans, when I’m 91. [NYT]
  • Dominique Ansel’s new thing: a zero gravity chiffon cake [Instagram]