Cooking The Books

In addition to my latest read, Keith Richard's Life, (and yes, it's coherent), I'm also reading two food-related works.

From SXC/Zsuzsanna Kilian

The first is one I snagged via the incredibly helpful Interlibrary Loan at my library branch -- The Essential New York Times Cookbook by NYT food editor and writer Amanda Hesser. Hesser asked for reader feedback and sifted through all the published recipes -- from cocktails to sweet endings -- in the paper's annals and whittled it down to a hefty red doorstop of a compendium.

If you've ever wondered what the "foodies" of 1897 were diggin' on back in the day, or how in the world to track down a Blue Cheese Cheesecake recipe (um, yes please), you need to acquire this beast. I decided to "try it out" via the library before I smacked down nearly $40 to own it, and I'm glad I did. I still plan to purchase it as a housewarming gift to HTT once we settle down in our next house/apartment/tiny-ass dwelling space.

My commuting read (yes, I'm that woman on the Metro who'd rather duck into a book rather than make awkward eye contact or avoid engagement altogether) right now is Ferran: The Inside Story of El Bulli and the Man Who Reinvented Food by former Gourmet writer Colman Andrews.

Ferran Adria, known to some restaurant and gastrophiles as THE chef of contemporary cuisine, is a Catalonian who reins over "the best restaurant in the world" El Bulli, in the coastal town of Roses in northeastern Spain. He's also "the foam dude" and "the spherification chef," known for pulling all kinds of crazy molecular gastronomy tricks in the kitchen in the name of creating a 30-course dining experience like none other.

Because the restaurant only serves dinner six months out of the year and seats 55 diners at a time, 2 million would-be diners try to get reservations. One meal at El Bulli can cost over 250 Euro. 

What kinds of single-bite courses can you expect from Adria's repertoire? How about pine nut bon bons, "Easter eggs" of coconut milk and curry, sake sorbet, grilled strawberries with juniper and gin, and foams of all sorts of savory and sweet notions. Adria supposedly shocked food critics and fans when he announced in 2010 that he'll close El Bulli this year.

I've learned a few interesting things from Andrews: the word "restaurant" originates from French (duh), meaning "to restore." Also, Adria isn't inventing food trickery, as chefs have deceived their patrons since 3rd Century B.C. Some people aren't such fans of the renowned chef -- they feel his use of chemicals like additives, emulsifiers, gels and gases are "poisoning" diners.

Andrews had full-on access to Adria's closest cohorts for this book, and it shows -- the book includes so many details from Adria's past up to the present and does a great job showing all sides - both positive and not so much.

Now, how about one of Adria's lollipops of white chocolate, lemon and coffee?