By Grant Achatz
I’ve been a busy boy.
In the recent months, I’ve been traveling quite a bit (and the end does not seem near), which has flung me far from the kitchen. I miss it.
Though I haven’t had time to cook, don’t think I’ve stopped reading recipes. No, I haven’t quite dug myself out from under a that stack pile of food and restaurant industry magazines next to my bed. Nor have I managed to finish the three books on my nightstand that I’m reading in rotation.
But I have been reading cookbooks pretty steadily.
While I have a few more gluttonous sins to work off (in the form of restaurant reviews), I’m taking a break to tell you about some of the exciting cookbooks that have arrived on my doorstep recently.
Yes, that tome – the bible of the church of modern gastronomy – arrived, as it did at homes across the world. alinea fans everywhere are genuflecting at the package and pealing out a squeal of delight, I’m sure.
il viaggio di vetri
By Marc Vetri
The “alinea Book” is everything I imagined it’d be: beautiful, sleek, fascinating, but, for the most part, completely unapproachable to most avid home cooks. But it serves as a wonderful record of my two meals at the restaurant (2005 and 2006) since recipes for each of the dishes from my two 24-course “Tour” menus are reproduced faithfully.
Its picture-perfect impracticality isn’t the only reason alinea Book will find a permanent parking space on my coffee-table: it doesn’t fit on my bookshelf. I’ll just pet it once in a while to make sure it knows that it’s loved.
Meanwhile, il viaggio di vetri, by Marc Vetri, fits perfectly on my (over-crowded) bookshelf. But I suspect it won’t spend much time there. I’ve already started plotting my next opportunity to cook everything from the smart-looking, jacket-less book.
Golden Sweet Onion Crepe
vetri ristorante, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
What makes it particularly exciting to me is the fact that I’ve actually eaten a good third of these dishes over the course of two meals I had at Vetri’s self-named restaurant in Philadelphia earlier this year (see “review: the perfect plate of pasta…“). I cannot wait to reproduce them in my own kitchen. I will start with the Corzetti with Walnuts and then master the Sweet Onion Crepes with Truffle Fondue before aspiring to perfect those amazing Almond Tortellini.
Only after I sate my taste memory will I venture into the many other wonderful recipes, like Porcini and Blueberry Lasagna, Olive-Crusted Sea Bass with Confit of Leeks, and Vetri’s version of Lobster with Spaghetti. The Venison Saddle with Bitter Chocolate Sauce and Quince sounds right just about now – what with the crisp, chilly autumn bluster raging about outside.
Recipes aside, Vetri’s stories and narrative viaggio are well-written and imbued with a wonderful sense of personality and purpose. It conveys the sense that vetri ristorante is a collaboration and the culmination of passionate artists. Jeff Benjamin’s wine notes, which are provided for each recipe, are insightful and, in my experience, successful.
As good as these recipes are, I hope that this cookbook will not etch Marc Vetri’s success in stone and time. I hope that he continues to generate new and exciting Italian creations.
The Last Course
The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern
By Claudia Fleming
Legendary Pastry Chef Claudia Fleming may not have been at Gramercy Tavern when I visited last year (she was pastry chef at Gramercy Tavern under Tom Colicchio and has since moved on to work at The North Fork Table), but Nancy Olson was. And I was lucky that she served one of her predecessor’s desserts as a pre-dessert.
I will not soon forget that refreshing two-bite trip to the tropics: coconut tapioca and pineapple-passion fruit sorbet with a halo of cilantro syrup.
The recipe, I discovered, is embedded in Fleming’s out-of-print cookbook, The Last Course, The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern. I finally purchased a copy this month, and it arrived in pristine condition.
Coconut Tapioca, Passion Fruit Sorbet,
Passion Fruit Caramel, and Cilantro Syrup
Gramercy Tavern, New York, New York
After surveying the recipe – or recipes, rather – involved, this rare treat might just have to be that: a rare treat. While I work out a game-plan for assembling all of the parts to that coconut tapioca creation, I’ll have to test some of Fleming’s more manageable desserts, like Roasted Dates with Coconut Sorbet and Candied Coconut, and Maple Flan in Walnut Crust, both of which sound like perfect endings to Marc Vetri’s saddle of venison I mentioned above.
Maybe, if I’m really good, I’ll make the Maple-Glazed Bananas with Waffles one of these mornings for breakfast.
Now all I have to do is wait for Nancy Olson to come out with her cookbook. I’ve made one of her recipes before (Crunchy Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Cake) – published in a magazine – and it was the life of the party. Now, if I could only get my hands on her formula for Chocolate Bread Pudding with Cocao Nib Ice Cream…
To Pre-Order: Eric Ripert’s “One the Line,” David Waltuck’s “Chanterelle, The Stories and Recipes of a Restaurant Classic,” and Johnny Iuzzini’s “Dessert FourPlay,” which I previewed in May.