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November 18, 2008

Best Cookbooks on the Market

Alan and Brooks

by Julia Bainbridge and Mollie Chen

These days, we're more inclined to cook restaurant-quality meals at home (or attempt, them at least) than to splurge on evenings out. Happily, there are slew of fantastic cookbooks on the market right now. From a gastro-techno-textbook to the best in baking, here's what's currently weighing down our shelves:

* A16 Food & Wine: Nate Appleman and Shelley Lindgren of famed San Francisco restaurant A16 map out grape-growing areas in Italy's south, and then pair those robust flavors with peasant foods like chunky pastas and rabbit. This is a veritable encyclopedia of southern Italian food and wine.

* Chanterelle: There's something for everyone here: a love story (chef-owner David Waltuck credits much of his success to his partner and wife, Karen); historical trivia (since opening in 1979, the duo has witnessed huge changes in the New York's eating scene); and, of course, serious recipes.

* Baked: Finally, our favorites from this Brooklyn hipster bakery are on paper. Now, the smells of the Sweet and Salty Cake, the Peanut Butter Crispy Bar and Cheddar Chipotle Biscuits will fill up our own kitchens.

* The Big Fat Duck Cookbook: Heston Blumenthal's newest tome rivals the OED in size and weight. You may have to construct a special shelf for the book, but its surreal pictures and illustrations are worth it. And really, where else are you going to find "Salmon Poached in a Liquorice Gel" artistically reinterpreted as pink flower petals encased in a black leather corset?

* Alinea: Not exactly something to try at home, but Grant Achatz's first cookbook is a window into his award-winning Chicago restaurant, Alinea--and into his wacky world of postmodern cooking. (Lettuce ice, anyone?)

* A Day at elBulli: Second in size only to the Fat Duck, Ferran Adria's cookbook is a comprehensive survey of the restaurant, from the team and the menu to the cooking techniques and the guest experiences. You probably won't cook from it but you'll devour it all the same--and for most of us, it's the closest we'll get to the Spanish genius.

* A Platter of Figs: Chez Panisse alum David Tanis makes an appealing argument for eating seasonally in this gorgeous book. His 24 menus feature simple, eclectic recipes with a moderate number of ingredients.   

* Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide: One of the best-known chefs in the country, Thomas Keller, teams with father of food science Harold McGee to explain the value of this culinary innovation.


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