Cookbooks


The demise of Gourmet after 68 years as America’s high-toned food and cooking magazine — the November issue will be the last — is sad, though some would say, I among them, that while Ruth Reichl brought a new, contemporary sensitivity and sensibility to the venerable publication, under her editorship the line between editorial and advertising blurred shamelessly. And despite Reichl’s important concerns for sustainability and local products, such articles as the one in the October issue in which restaurant critics were asked how they would spend $1,000 going out to eat in their home cities, when many Americans would love to have $100 to eat out, reveals a tone-deafness inspired, perhaps, by the free-spending attitude at Condé Nast.

Still, one is sorry to see it go. LL and I cooked from the recipes in Gourmet fairly frequently, and when we recently purchased the new Gourmet Today cookbook edited by Reichl (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $40, but with a deep discount at Costco), we were disconcerted to see a sticker on the cover that said “A subscription to Gourmet magazine is included with the purchase of this book.” Um, Big Oops there.

We cooked, in elegiac mood, from Gourmet Today, which offers more than 900 pages of recipes, two nights in a row.

First comes what the book calls “Garlic Shrimp,” but is much more complicated than that brief description. The dish involved, well, yes, shrimp and lots of garlic, but also dried guajillo chilies, onions and tomatoes. As is typical with dried chilies, you heat them in a skillet, pressing them down, until they darken a bit and turn a little smoky. Then you add the garlic and onions and after a few minutes the tomatoes; it’s important to let the sauce stand for 30 minuts or so, so that the cut up chilies soften, otherwise they’ll be pretty darned chewy. After that, you heat the sauce again, add the shrimp and let them cook briefly. This is incredibly smoky, intense, heady stuff, spicy but not hot-spicy, to be eaten wrapped in warm tortillas or with rice, which is what we did, along with sauteed kale.

For wine, I opened something rather unusual, a vermentino from Corsica. This was the Clos Teddi Patrimonio 2008, a really lovely vermentino that incrementally built character in the glass as moments passed. Sporting a radiant straw-gold color, the wine offers scents of roasted lemon, yellow plum and ginger, with touches of almond and verbena. It’s quite spicy in the mouth, brisk with acidity and a hint of limestone, yet with a beguiling texture of talc-like smoothness, softness and density. To roasted lemon and lemon curd flavors, it adds glimpses of grapefruit and spiced pear and dried thyme. Not wishing to romanticize the wine too much, but it struck me as the essence of a Mediterranean white wine. Very Good+. I paid $26 for this wine, but prices around the country start at about $20.
Imported by Bourgeois Family Selections, Swannanoa, N.C.

The knock-out of this duo of dishes was the Wine-Braised Chuck Roast with Onions. For a four-pound boneless chuck roast, you use two pounds of sliced onions, and as the meat slowly braises in the oven for three hours or so in wine and water, the onions almost melt into the sauce, creating a texture and flavor of incomparable richness. We altered the recipe, which curiously calls for no vegetables, by adding chopped carrots, potatoes and turnips. Boy, oh boy, after emerging from the oven after that long cooking, the meat was supernaturally tender and succulent! By the way, everything on the plate, except for the carrots, came from the Memphis Farmers Market, including the chuck roast and the green and yellow beans.

Clearly something big, rich and succulent was called for to march hand-in-hand with this dish, so I opened a bottle of the Benovia Zinfandel 2007, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. Now some commentators assert that no table wine displaying an alcohol level over say 14.5 or 15 percent can be balanced, that the presence of that much alcohol overwhelms all other aspects and automatically precludes an integrated and palatable wine. Certainly I have railed against the upward creep of alcohol levels in California and have criticized wines that flaunt their gonzo alcohol for sake of sheer size and power. So, I hope you will believe me when I say that despite sporting an alcohol content of 15.8 percent, the Benovia Zinfandel 2007, while, granted, a powerful and intense expression of the grape, is completely balanced and integrated, a sort of marvel of risky engineering. Black as the night that covers us from pole to pole (with a violet-purple rim), the wine bursts with notes of blackberry, blueberry and cranberry (with cranberry’s pert edge) infused with baking spice, licorice and a scent of damp shale. Terrific presence and substance without being weighty or obvious; lush and ripe, yes, but tempered by the rigor of brushy, briery tannins and slightly smoky oak, all this wrapped around an intense core of lavender, licorice and gravel-like minerals. Tremendous with the braised chuck roast. 197 cases made, so mark this wine Worth a Search. Excellent. About $38.

Here’s the way the week days go: LL has coffee for breakfast; I have tea and toast. Perhaps one or the other of us has a bowl of cereal. We sort of try to get through the day without eating much. LL seldom has lunch, unless she goes out with a colleague or to a meeting, and then it’s always something light. I, the stay-at-home guy, tend to snack through the day, a handful of nuts here, a slice or two of cheese toast there, whoa! where did those cookies come from? By evening, we’re ravenous, and to allay the hunger, we consume a large dinner.

To bring some common sense to our routine, last weekend LL announced a change. “I’m going to come home for lunch,” she said, “and we’ll have our biggest meal then, but not too much. At night we’ll eat something lighter. We’ll probably sleep better. We’ll probably be healthier. And we won’t feel as if we’re about to faint from starvation in the middle of the afternoon.”

One of the sources we turned to is a book called New Flavors for Soups, published this year by Oxmoor House for Williams-Sonoma ($22.95). Preparation levels range from simple to complicated; some of the soups are hearty and downhome-style, while other are more sophisticated. We chose three to start with: cumin-spiced shrimp and chorizo gumbo; spicy turkey and jasmine rice soup with lemongrass; and lentil and Swiss chard soup with Serrano ham and smoked paprika. I went to the store Sunday and loaded up on the ingredients for these soups, and on Monday, I started cooking.

Here’s how it went:

Monday morning, I made a very intense broth from a package of turkey wings. LL came home for lunch and made a salad of beet greens, tomatoes, radishes and some other salady stuff, with fried eggs on top. That was very satisfying but not too filling. We went to the Y after LL came home from work, and when we got home, we made the rest of the turkey soup. This calls for lemongrass, of course, fresh ginger, Serrano chilies — one seeded and chopped, the other thinly sliced and used as a garnish — garlic, carrots, white wine and the jasmine rice. Boy, forget the turkey and rice soup of your childhood! This soup was extravagantly fragrant and layered with complex flavors. The only problem was the lemongrass. Even following the instructions — you know, discarding the outer layers, cutting off the tops where they begin to harden and so on — we kept getting unpleasant, little woody slivers in our mouths. If anyone knows how to deal with lemongrass, I would be grateful for your advice, because we would like to make this soup again.

To go with the soup, I opened the Robert Oatley Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Western Australia. Made in stainless steel, this is exemplary for its style: clean and fresh and enlivened by lithe acidity and offering notes of peach, kiwi and mango with highlights of lime and grapefruit; a few minutes in the glass bring up touches of dried herbs and new-mown grass and a scintillating mineral element, all ensconced in a crisp yet slightly lush texture. Very Good+. About $18.

Much as we enjoyed this wine, though, it didn’t have quite the intimate relationship with the soup that we desired — a kiss is always better than a handshake, n’est-ce pas? — so on a hunch, I opened a bottle of the non-vintage Sokol Blosser Evolution “Lucky Edition” — it’s the 13th release, get it? — thinking that the tinge of sweetness that characterizes the wine would be both a supporting and mitigating factor vis-a-vis the soup’s exotic, spicy heat. And I was right. Also fashioned entirely in stainless steel, Evolution makes a somewhat humorous fetish of its eclectic blend: muller-thurgau, riesling, semillon, pinot gris, gewurztraminer, muscat canelli, chardonnay, pinot blanc and sylvaner. What, no chenin blanc or viognier? No viura or torrontes? Does the wine really require nine grapes? What if one, just one, were omitted?

Well, whatever, Evolution “Lucky Edition” is a charmer. The bouquet seems permeated by jasmine and honeysuckle, along with some astringent floral element and touches of pear, peach and lychee. Juicy flavors of roasted lemon and lemon oil dominate the flavors; the wine’s spicy and slightly herbal nature expands in the glass, with snappy acidity and a clean leafy sensation. The finish takes on some of gewurztraminer’s bracing bitterness. That, along with the wine’s sweetness, felt mainly on the entry, slid among the soup’s spicy elements and tamed them a bit, while the heat of the soup made the wine less sweet. A terrific pairing. Very Good+. About $17.

Evolution is designated “American White Wine.” The rare and extremely broad “American” appellation is generally used when grapes for a wine come from several states; as such, no vintage date is allowed.

So, Tuesday, before LL came home for lunch, I chopped fresh basil, thyme, flat-leaf parsely and a shallot, in anticipation of one of our favorite incredibly simple dishes, pasta with cold tomato sauce. Actually, the word “sauce” is a trifle misleading, since nothing here is cooked except the pasta. When that is finished, drained and placed in bowls, you take the chopped herbs and shallot and some chopped tomatoes, which LL did when she arrived, mix them together and spoon them onto the pasta, toss a bit with salt and pepper, and serve. The heat of the pasta gently warms the tomatoes so they’re not really cold. This is a wonderful dish, the essence of freshness, wholesomeness and spontaneity.

O.K., thought I cleverly, what we need is a glass — this was lunch, after all — a glass, I say, of a Beaujolais with some character. Fortunately, I had a bottle of the Potel-Aviron Fleurie 2007, from one of the 10 villages (crus) allowed to place their names on labels. Nicolas Potel is a meticulous producer, and his care reveals itself in this wine’s exuberant and layered nature. This Fleurie, which does indeed display hints of violets and roses, was made from gamay grapes taken from two vineyards, one 50 years old, the other 55 years old, and aged in small oak barrels, 25 percent new. It begins as an amazingly fresh and grapey example of a cru Beaujolais, but infused with red and black cherries and touches of smoke and black pepper. In the mouth, vibrant acidity buoys black currant and plum flavors with a spicy note of mulberry and dark chocolate-covered raspberries; a trace of minerals brings depth and density to a lovely, almost indulgent texture. This should age well to 2012 or ’13. Excellent. About $22, Great Value for the Price.

We had shrimp broth in the freezer, so I didn’t have to make that, as the recipe for cumin-spiced shrimp and chorizo gumbo calls for. That fact also meant that we could buy peeled and de-veined shrimp, since we wouldn’t need the shells for the broth. Saved two big steps there, but the prep work is intense: an onion, a stalk of celery and a red bell pepper, finely chopped, and four cloves of garlic, minced. You start the cooking by making a roux from flour and canola oil, keeping it going until it’s “the color of an old penny.” After that process, the dish is simple, just adding things to the pot, stirring, simmering for 20 minutes, more stuff goes in, and then another 20 minutes. The spices, by the way, include cumin and cayenne pepper; yes, this is an intense and spicy dish. The shrimp go in last, just to cook for about four minutes. This, Readers, is a world-class concoction. We loved this soup, with its luxurious pairing of mild shrimp and piquant meaty chorizo, its persistent heat, its complicated spiciness. I can’t imagine why I don’t have an image of this dish — I’ve gotten to be quite a bore about taking food shots — but, there it is; this time, I didn’t.

I took the easy way out for wine and opened the Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc 2008, from New Zealand’s Marlborough region. You wouldn’t mistake this sauvignon blanc for having been made anywhere but New Zealand, yet the wine exhibits an admirable sense of restraint that many models from New Zealand can’t manage. Pure lime and grapefruit in the nose, then hints of kiwi and pea shoots; roasted lemon takes over in the mouth, with touches of pear and tangerine and a note of fresh grass. Spiffy acid keeps the package lively and vibrant, while a bit of limestone offers ballast. Oh, yes, this is also made in stainless steel. Not thrilling but well-made and enjoyable. Very Good+. About $15.

The ecologically-minded will appreciate that Wairau River is certified as a CarboNZero winery by the New Zealand government. This Sauvignon Blanc 2008 is the winery’s initial release under the program. Don’t we all feel better now!

So, two days do not a revolution make, and Wednesday we fell off the Wagon of Good Intentions and Reasonableness. It was a hideously hectic day — you’re thinking, “Um, FK, aren’t you unemployed?” — and in the midst of the chaos, LL came home and made sandwiches for lunch, sandwiches stacked with several kinds of Italian salamis, tomatoes, greens, er, other stuff, anyway they were fabulous and who cares? Then more centers not holding mid widening gyres and that evening we just said, “Oh, what the hell” and had a steak and roasted potatoes and sauteed Swiss chard (at least) and a fantastically indulgent and expensive bottle of cabernet, which I’ll get to in a subsequent post. (Oh all right, the Chimney Rock Tomahawk Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley. Excellent. $110. So sue me.) Oops, that chard was supposed to go in the lentil soup. Back to the store.

Today it was bowls of the leftover turkey soup for lunch, and in a few minutes we’re going to make a bread salad for dinner. Onward and upward.


I mean Frank Stitt, the James Beard Award-winning chef and owner of Highlands Bar & Grill, Bottega Restaurant and Café and Chez Fonfon in Birmingham. The past two nights, we cooked from Stitt’s new book, Bottega Favorita: A Southern Chef’s Love Affair with Italian Food (Artisan, $40) and had terrific meals.

Monday night, I cooked the Penne with Spicy Tomato-Fennel Sauce, a dish that Stitt says he and his wife, Pardis, prepare at 11:30 after getting home from the restaurants. By 11:30, I’m usually wrapped in the arms of Morpheus, so LL and I ate the pasta several hours earlier than Stitt and his wife do. This is just a wolloping great dish. First come half a sweet onion, half a sliced fennel bulb and half a sliced leek, softened in olive oil; then garlic, fennel and cumin seeds and half of a jalapena pepper, sliced thin, all of this cooked a few more minutes. Then a can of whole tomatoes, which you crush with your hands or a wooden spoon, and the grated zest of half an orange. This all simmers and blends and melds while the pasta cooks. At the end, you toss the penne with the sauce, freshly grated Parmesan and leaves of fresh herbs like basil, marjoram and oregano. As LL and I ate dinner, we kept saying, “Man, this is wonderful” and other praiseful phrases of such import. Truly, you could taste the effect of the different elements separately yet working together too; the touch of orange zest is brilliant.

Stitt recommends a Dolcetto or Barbera from Bruno Giacoso or Aldo Conterno with the dish, but since I sadly didn’t happen to have a bottle of one of those generally excellent wines nestled in the ol’ wine rack (and wouldn’t mind if I had a few resting there), I chose the Vale do Bomfim 2008, from Portugal’s Douro Valley. A blend of the traditional Port grapes (from Port producer Dow’s) but made as a dry table wine — 40 percent touriga franca, 25 percent tinta roriz, 20 percent tinta barroca, 15 percent touriga nacional — this is a deeply flavored, richly spiced and boldly structured wine, almost inky black in color, bursting with fruit cake-infused black currants, black cherries and plums permeated by smoke, tobacco and lavender. It’s a robust wine, dense and chewy, intense and concentrated, the ripe black fruit flavors packed with potpourri and bitter chocolate and the essential elements of vibrant acidity and polished tannins. The wine, while delicious, was a bit too robust for the dish, but it certainly rates Very Good+. The alcohol level is a modest 13 percent, but even more modest is the price, about $12, making this a Freakin’ Great Bargain. Imported by Premium Port Wines Inc., San Francisco.

Last night, from the same book, LL prepared the Tuna with Ligurian Walnut Sauce. I had gotten some fresh ahi tuna from Costco, and she seared that briefly on each side in a hot, cast-iron skillet. The sauce consists of thinly sliced shallot that macerated in red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, into which you whisk a little olive oil and walnut oil, followed by chopped walnuts, pine nuts, capers, parsley and Niçoise olives. You heap a nice spoonful of that on the fish and top with chopped egg yolk. Another great dish! LL also cooked some broccoli rabe with gigante beans, and I made roasted fingerling potatoes. Many yums later, we were full and contented.

The recommendation is for a “simple, light, young white wine,” though I went for light and young but not too simple. This was the Mahoney “Las Brisas Vineyard” Vermentino 2008, from the Sonoma Carneros. Made completely in stainless steel, this charmer is delicate and winsome, offering notes of lemon and quince seasoned with jasmine, almond and almond blossom. It gains spice and a hint of dried herbs in the mouth, with generous dollops of roasted lemon and lime enlivened by brisk acidity and a dry, almost chalky limestone finish. A crisp and refreshing summertime sipper, as aperitif or with seafood. 850 cases. Very Good+ and another Great Bargain at about $13.

My linkedin profile.

Readers of this blog know that LL and I tend to cook pretty simply at home. You can look, for example, at the posts I did last week, up until a few days ago, about what I prepared from ingredients on hand while LL was out of town. When she came back Sunday, I made black bean and butternut squash chili with Swiss chard; Monday night, she made chicken mole. That kind of thing.

Occasionally, though, I like a challenge, so for dinner last night, I turned to the cookbook Asian Flavors of Cod with Malaysian Chili Sauce Jean-Georges (Broadway Books, $40), a compendium of recipes derived from three of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Asian-inspired restaurants in New York, Spice Market, Vong and 66. I was intrigued by the recipe of the straightforwardly titled “Cod with Malaysian Chili Sauce.” (66 closed in April 2007 and reopened in June 2008 as Matsugen, a soba house.)

This is one of those dishes that requires two or three preparatory steps leading to the cooking of the primary element — the cod, in this case — and then assembling the dish. First, make the basil oil from Thai basil, grape seed oil and salt. Then cook down to a jam-like consistency a mixture of Guilin chili sauce, garlic, fresh ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar, rice wine (for which you can substitute fino sherry), sugar and salt and the chopped white parts of scallions. The result is spicy, of course, but more heatedly intense and concentrated than spoiler-hot. While the cod roasts in the oven, you blanch diced celery. That’s it; all it takes is putting everything on the plate in order. It’s a great dish, with lovely and intriguing contrasts in flavors and textures, a dish which, actually, you could use at a dinner party.

For wine, I took a chance on the Loan Semillon 2005, from Australia’s Barossa Valley. I say “took a chance” because I wouldn’t typically associate the semillon grape with spicy Asian fare, but this worked beautifully, both in the sense of balance and 52936.jpg contrast. The wine boasts a perfect 13.3 percent alcohol; the grapes derive from a certified organic vineyard.

A limpid golden color with mild green highlights, the Loan Semillon 2005 — the current release of this wine — opens with scents of bee’s-wax, fig, green plum, roasted lemon and almond blossom. Give it a minute, and it tosses some lychee and lime zest into the mix. The wine ages eight months in old French barrels, lending a fine firmness of structure and a suggestion of dried spice. Moderately lush flavors of leafy fig, lemon and lime fill the mouth; fortunately — for the wine and for the dish we were eating — clean, bright acidity sweeps the palate and gives the wine a vibrant edge. Drink through 2010 or ’11. Production was 475 cases. Closed with a screw-cap. Excellent. About $22.

Imported by The Grateful Palate, Oxnard, Ca.

We often cook from a magazine-format book called Fast, published by Food & Wine in 2004. At four years old, our copy has seen hard use; the cover is separated from the inside pages, many pages are wrinkled and stained with wine or various unidentifiable substances; I think once the book was left out in the rain. Still, it survives and provides recipes for quick simple dishes that are packed with flavor. We had friends over for lunch last Sunday and prepared, from this venerable book, the Cold Cucumber Soup with Mint (it also contains radishes and dill) and the Shrimp with Watercress and Cannellini Beans.

Last night, we made the Singapore-Style Macaroni, contributed by the great cook and cookbook writer Madhur Jaffrey. This involves chicken and shrimp marinated in tamari, sherry, curry powder, sugar and sesame oil and then sauteed with garlic, ginger, jalapeno, scallions, carrots and basil (for which we substituted mint), all finely chopped. Then a little oyster sauce and chicken broth, stir it all into the pasta and voila, there’s dinner. The hardest part is the chopping, and that only takes 10 minutes or so. It was delicious; each bite allowed the elements of the dish to work together yet be detected separately.

For wine, because the dish is Asian-inspired, I thought riesling and plucked from the refrigerator the Thomas Schmitt Private riesling.jpg Collection Riesling 2005, from Germany’s Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region. In the official classification of German wines, this is a “QbA,” or Qualitatswein bestimmer Anbaugebiete, meaning that the wine in the bottle derives from only one of the country’s designated wine regions. QbA wines occupy the basic (but not necessarily “lowest”) rank of Germany’s qualitatswein or “quality wines.” I say not necessarily lowest, because while oceans of bland QbA wines exist, QbA products sometimes are made partly from declassified wines from a higher rank, and even if not that, they may reflect the true character of their grapes.

That’s certainly the case with the Thomas Schmitt Private Collection Riesling 2005, a wine that shimmers with crystalline purity and clarity. The wine is very pale gold in color; it’s clean and fresh and minerally, offering slightly spicy lemon scents and flavors with hints of pear and lychee and a touch of the grape’s defining rubber eraser character. In the mouth, it’s gently sweet on entry but firmly balanced by crisp acid and a limestone element that swings into play mid-palate and then dominates the finish. The wine is an appealing construct of freshness and delicacy for drinking through the end of 2008 or into 2009. Very Good+ and Good Value and about $15. It was lovely with our Singapore-Style Macaroni.

Visit schmitt-soehne.com.

Friends, I’m a carnivore.

It’s true that I don’t eat foie gras now, for ethical reasons, and I avoid sweetbreads as too rich and injurious to my digestion, but other than those exceptions, bring on the braised meat, the roasted meat, the seared meat, the rack of lamb, the veal shank, the short ribs, the rib roast, the strip steak. Much of that fare we — or I — partake of in restaurants, while at home we try to eat fish as much as possible. During the Yuletide season, however, we did over-indulgence with lots of meat and lots of red wine, so LL suggested recently that it would be good to try a few vegetarian dishes. Gack! I said within, but agreed to the regimen, even as I thought about tofu, brown rice and seaweed.

LL had something else in mind, though, and an example was the Brussels Sprout and Mushroom Ragout with Herb Dumplings from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen (Broadway Books, $27.50). Madison was the founding chef of Greens, the revolutionary vegetarian restaurant that opened in San Francisco in 1979, and is author of a roster of award-winning vegetarian cookbooks. Nothing wimpy here, this is an incredibly flavorful dish, filled with wintery, rooty effects of deeply caramelized onions and mushrooms, a rich mushroom broth and the hearty influence of the most tender and flavorful Brussels sprouts I have ever tasted. The dumplings, dotted with parsley and tarragon, compliment the dish wonderfully — and also make it non-vegan, since they contain milk and an egg, though Madison says that substituting wild rice for the dumplings would be fine. A little pancetta would have — no, no, I won’t say it. flowers_pn.jpg
Madison suggests a rich Santa Barbara chardonnay with “a little oak” for the dish, but the heady, autumnal redolence that filled the kitchen put me in mind of pinot noir, so I opened a bottle of the Flowers Pinot Noir 2004, Sonoma Coast (about $45 to $50). Lord have mercy, what a match! The wine is beautiful in every sense, from its intense dusky, ruby hue, like the color of a glass of wine in a Dutch still-life painting, to its bouquet of smoky black cherry, cola and spice, to its lovely harmony and balance, its black fruit flavors permeated by earth and moss and a satiny texture that has some iron and grit to it.

It was a great meal during which we listened to Christmas music for the last time as a reminder of the end of Yuletide and the New Year holiday.

A cheaper wine with much the same effect as the Flowers, but not quite the elegance or resonance, is the Lockwood Block 7 Pinot Noir 2005, Monterey County (about $20).

I like cookbooks written by (or organized around) famous chefs and have willingly enslaved myself to concocting dinner parties with menus taken from Charlie Trotter or Joaquin Splichal or Jean-Georges Vongerichten. The New Year’s Eve that I did Jean-George’s sauteed foie gras and potato terrine and a salt-crusted pheasant with foie gras sauce (a recipe that had been in The New York Times) remains an epic in the annals of my chefdom. I seem to remember washing a pan and then realizing that the sauce for the pheasant was in it. Big Oops.
I also like cookbooks that provide wine recommendations with recipes. Too often in their books even great chefs simply ignore the fact that the best foods and the best wines go together, a matter they would not ignore in their own restaurants, where of course they make tons of money on wine mark-ups.

So I was pleased to see, released in September, Ducasse Flavors of France (Artisan, $40), a monument to the ingenuity and enterprise of Alain Ducasse, the French chef who has won more Michelin stars than most rooms-full of his colleagues put together, for Le Louis XV in Monte Carlo, Restaurant Alain Ducasse in Paris and La Bastide de Moustiers in Alain Ducasse Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. Though he had to retool his restaurant at the Essex House in New York, from which patrons left scorched by the after-burners of high-octane pretension — diners were offered a choice of pens with which to sign their checks and so on — still, Ducasse is probably the world’s most successful chef-entrepreneur.

Anyway, I was looking through the book when my eye fell upon the first recipe that carried a wine recommendation, the “Mediterranean Vegetable Tourte.” Suggested Wines? “A lively Chenin Blanc, such as a Vouvray Sec Le Mont 1995 from Domaine Huet, or a Washington State Hogue Chenin Blanc 1996, from the Columbia Valley.” Whoa, I thought, those are pretty esoteric choices. First, where would you get such wines? And, second, no criticism intended of Hogue Cellars, but my estimation of a 10-year-old chenin blanc from Washington state would be a resounding, “No way.”

Next recommendations, for the “Tart of Young Lettuces and Tomato Confit”? “A flavorful, slightly spicy red wine, such as Chateau de Calisanne 1989 Cuvee Prestige, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, or a Napa Valley Merlot, such as Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1994.” “Say what?” I said.

For the “Lobster Ragout with Potatoes”? “A big chardonnay, such as a Pouilly-Fuisse ‘Les Carrons’ 1992, R. Denogent, or a Mondavi Chardonnay Reserve 1995, from the Napa Valley.”

“Chicken Fricassee with Morels?” “An elegant, not too concentrated red wine, such as an Aloxe-Corton 1990, from Tollot-Beaut, or a Pesquera Crianza 1991 Ribera del Duero, from Spain.”

“Roast Veal with Vegetables in Garlic Shallot Butter”? “An elegant Pinot Noir, such as a Clos de Tart 1986, Bourgogne Grand Cry Mommessin, or a Pinot Noir Reserve from the Te Kairanga Vineyard in New Zealand.”

By this time, my mind is reeling, and I’m checking wine websites to see if any of these wines are actually available anywhere and if their prices could be anything less than astronomical. I mean, talk about impossibly pretentious! A cookbook published in 2006 that doesn’t make a recommendation for a wine dated after 1996?

And then it occurred to me — and you’re probably way ahead of me here — to look at the book’s copyright page, where we learn that this present book is the second edition of the volume first published in 1998. Repackaged but with the wine recommendations left intact from eight years ago. In other words, these wine recommendations are largely useless. Did an editor at Artisan, a division of Workman Publishing Co., decide that up-dating the wine recommendations (originally made by Gerard Margeon) was too much trouble or would take too much time or cost too much or that even people who care about food and cooking and wine — the people who would purchase this book — really don’t give a damn?

Whatever the case, the matter stinks of cynicism and neglect.

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