Philadelphia-area photographer Sabina Louise Pierce was sitting on the patio of the White Dog Cafe one night with Maddie, her wirehair fox terrier, and a thought came to her:
"Wouldn't it be great if there was a menu for dogs, instead of 'a bite for me and a bite for her'?"
She filed that away. Shortly after the 2007 pet-food recall over melamine, chef Matt Levin, at the time working at Lacroix in the Rittenhouse Hotel, let on that he cooks for his dogs.
Pierce approached her friend, the author Kathryn Levy Feldman, with the idea of a cookbook: Pierce's photographs and Feldman's words. A how-to book for home cooks who want to feed Fido better.
Feldman, who has two golden retrievers and a collie, was all in.
Four years later, The Culinary Canine: Great Chefs Cook for Their Dogs - And So Can You! (BowTie Press) will reach bookshelves. Following the Sept. 28 launch will be an appearance on Martha Stewart's show and an Oct. 20 party at Square 1682 restaurant at Hotel Palomar in Center City, whose chef, Guillermo Tellez, contributed a recipe.
So did more than two dozen other chefs, including Levin, Georges Perrier of Le Bec-Fin in Center City (who has a bichon frise named Isabelle), and Christine Gyaw of Rangoon in Chinatown, who feeds her dogs ginger because it soothes the belly.
The Oct. 20 party, from 6 to 8 p.m., will be a benefit for PACT (People/Animals=Companions Together).
"There's the five people I care about most in the world and my dogs," said Levin. The fact that toxic melamine had been added to some feed in China, killing pets here, had gotten him nervous. Levin asked a friend, a veterinarian at the University of Pennsylvania, for food ideas. "He told me to use bone meal," Levin said. Now, he makes big batches and freezes dishes with such ingredients as quinoa, ground lamb, rice, peas, and apples for his two Weimaraners - Sadie and Clyde - and his Boston terrier, Señor Howie Tartufo.
The book's recipes sound like people food. Nicholas Shipp from the Upper West in Los Angeles, site of the book's Los Angeles launch party Nov. 13, contributed Yorkie Lamb Stew with Mint Cilantro Crunch. Eileen Watkin from the Inn at Penn in University City offers Brown Rice Arancini with Sweet Potato and Ground Chicken; Dana Tommasino from Woodward's Garden in San Francisco has contributed Goat Shanks With Fennel, Coriander, and Honey.
Tanya Nunes of Chef Tanya in San Francisco has contributed kosher for Passover dog food using quinoa, and Phyllis Kaplowitz of Baker's Best in Boston created Salmon Cakes with Yogurt Tartar Sauce that she prepared for her dog Diamond when he was diagnosed with a mast cell tumor two years ago. (Diamond is fine now.)
Pierce says she feeds her two wirehair fox terriers dog food, "as there are things in there they need, but they are not keen on it, so they get apples and yogurt and blueberries mixed in. . . . I mix it up, as they get bored of the same thing all the time." She puts hummus in beef bones for snacks.
She doesn't know of any restaurants that cook for dogs, per se. Health codes generally prohibit dogs from dining rooms.
"The intersection of dogs and food equals terrific people," Feldman says. "If I wrote to a chef cold [to ask him or her to participate], if that chef had a dog, I heard back from them in 10 minutes. Even if they didn't have a dog, they got back to me to say, 'What a great idea.'
"When you ask a professional chef for a recipe for their dog, you don't get peanut-butter treats, although we do have one or two recipes, including Cornelia Guest's absolutely amazing vegan one, for dog biscuits," Feldman says. "You get people- and pet-friendly food."
Feldman concedes that she feeds her three dogs prescription dog food, "and sometimes I add a little chicken. . . .
"Why don't I cook for them?" she asked rhetorically. "Two of them are too fat, and one has a sensitive stomach. I probably should."
(There also will be an author appearance at 6 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Hilton Inn at Penn's Living Room, 3600 Sansom St. Penn Chef Eileen Watkin will do a cooking demo and create "doggie bags" for people to take home.)
Makes 4 servings
1/2 cup minced chicken breast, cooked
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup uncooked rolled oats (such as Quaker)
1. Boil the chicken and ginger together in 1 cup of water for 10 minutes.
2. Add the oats and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
3. Remove from heat, cool, and serve.