I have a tremendous crush on Matt Armendariz. It’s awkward, I know. I’m married, he’s married; I have a kid, he has dog children. It’s okay, my husband knows. He took a picture of Matt with his shirt half off a couple years ago, so I think we’re even. Fortunately for those who are now reading this uncomfortably at home, hoping this conversation ends quickly, my crush is more of a talent crush: Matt is a former graphic designer and art director and currently a food photographer, author and the man behind the Matt Bites blog. His photography is amazing, all natural light and unfussy, but what I find more addictive than anything else is his outlook, his energy for life. It’s hard to spend 5 minutes with him without getting hooked on his enthusiasm for family, good friends, great food and a life well lived with lots of travel to far-flung places. Seriously, he even went to Avery Island, Louisiana to learn how Tabasco is made. And didn’t take my husband with him. Alex is almost over it.
And now he is a cookbook author too. [Amusingly, I think Matt and I signed our cookbook deals the same week except his book is in my hands right now and my book is … OH LOOK! Manhattanhenge! Did you catch it?] On A Stick! — yes, in which every recipe is speared or skewered or threaded on a handheld food device — is truly an exaltation of summer. It’s State Fairs and street fairs, frozen beach treats and the stuff picnics and backyard barbecues are made of: skewered salads, grilled marinated kebabs, melon with spices and fried pickles. Even unfathomable things get adorably impaled, like fried chicken and waffles, meatballs and spaghetti, potato chips (!) oh, and pizza too. It’s lighthearted, but there’s no skimping on the cooking: coconut shrimp, Chinese meatballs, pork belly and sweet and sour lollipops. Are you drooling yet?