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Restaurant cookbooks

I enjoy reading cookbooks put out by restaurants/ restaurant chefs. What are some of your favorites?

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  1. I still enjoy the very first one Wolfgang Puck ever put out. (Got it at the old Spago, in fact!).

    1. Tony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook is my alltime favorite single-restaurant cookbook, and one of my favorites period. If you don't mind some salty language, he not only gives good, useful bistro-type recipes, but a lot of very good advice about How To Cook. I'm in complete disagreement with him on a few things, as for instance his undying hatred of garlic presses, but I'll be forever grateful for his clear exposition of the mise en place concept and why it's as important at home as in a restaurant kitchen.

      Escoffier and Louis Diat were both great restaurant chefs in many restaurants, with careers that actually overlapped for a total span of well over 100 years, and both wrote great cookbooks. Escoffier's books are old-fashioned, of the type that assumes you're a trained cook and need only be told what techniques to use; Diat's are specifically pitched toward the home cook who needs to be shown how to bone a chicken. My favorite of his books is one of the old Gourmet hardcover series, the Basic French Cookbook (1961). If you do your cookbook shopping mostly in antique malls and flea markets, as I do, it and the others are easy to find.

      I also have a very handsome four-seasons cookbook from Georges Blanc, which I bought at his restaurant in Vonnas, France, and got him to autograph. Lovely book, a nice man and hugely successful chef, and I have yet to cook anything from it. I'm not even sure exactly where it is...

      3 Replies
      1. re: Will Owen

        I fervently second Les Halles! Fabulous!

        I also rely on the Balthazar and Union Square Cafe cookbooks. Tons of favourite recipes from those books: french onion soup, duck shepherd's pie, short ribs from Balthazar and bar nuts, mashed taters, scallops from USC.

        1. re: Will Owen

          I have to admit a fondness for Tony Bourdain...in all his irrevrent glory!! Also, the How To Bake book by, Nick Malgierie(sp?)

          1. re: nyfoodjoe

            Another vote for Bourdain's Les HAlles. I read it cover to cover in one sitting and it makes the food so accessible.

        2. Well, a personal favorite is Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen. I grew up with that book and my mom finally gave me her copy so I would stop bugging her about it! In the same vein, I really like Commander's Kitchen and The Commander's Palace New Orleans Cookbook.

          2 Replies
          1. re: katwright

            Thre: One would be the Frog/Commissary cookbook (now out of print, I think), Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook (might be A. Waters' first), and..this isn't quite a single restaurant book, but Patricia Wells' Bistro Cooking is both a great source and reference.

            1. re: Alice Letseat

              Good news! Frog Commissary is not out of print! I stumbled upon it probably on Amazon and ordered it a few months ago for sentimental reasons -- having lived in Phila and eaten at the Commissary and had friends who cooked there. Avant garde and progressive in its day. I(I've yet to cook from it though. . . . please tell me what to make!)
              My preferred online cookbook ordering source is ecookbooks.com -- better prices than amazon generally and much prompter service.

          2. I have 2 cookbooks from Charlie Trotters and they have some really amazing recipes. One of them contains some more difficult recipes and is more for an experienced cook. However the other one is "Charlie Trotter Cooks at Home" (or something close to that) and contains easier recipes that take less time but are still quite delicious. Have also been to his restaurant in Chicago as well and really enjoyed it. Definitely want to go back whenever I happen to be in that town again.

            1 Reply
            1. re: tastytasty

              I agree. I have 2 CT cook books as well that I've cooked from and the results have been really good. I have "Cooks at Home" and "Kitchen Sessions" from the first go 'round of that PBS series. I've found a couple of editing errors in "Cooks at Home" where a key instruction was missing (specifically when to add a key ingredient) and had to wing it. Neither of these books is for a novice cook, but I like them and the recipes I've made have been first rate.

            2. I've enjoyed cooking from "The Union Square Cafe Cookbook." Very appealing dishes, recipes well-organized and -written, and easily executed in a typical home kitchen.

              1. I think I am in the minority on this one, but I love the Aquavit cookbook. I am also working my way through the Shun Lee cookbook, which I am really enjoying.

                And there is, of course, the Zuni Cafe Cookbook.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Megiac

                  I second the vote for Zuni Cafe cookbook....

                  1. re: nyfoodjoe

                    A third for the Zuni Cafe book. Judy Rodgers has a fine sensibility and she really can write.

                  2. re: Megiac

                    Also, just one book by Emeril...his first one. Louisiana real and Rustic....I refer to that for that style of cooking much more than Paul Prudhomme's book. It is a great book and a bible for me

                  3. My very, very favorite is White Dog Cafe Cookbook. A progressive chef/owner in Phila. who isn't dogmatic (though committed) and great restaurant quality meals in recipes translated to the home cook, even as she insists on some veal demi glace (which I dutifully make twice a year so I can make her sauces).

                    Not fussy, just delicious. Roasted salmon on shitakes over lentils served with sauteed cabbage was pronounced by my chef friend: "restaurant quality meal"

                    In fact, I want to lobby to have it considered for cookbook of the month. I'd be interested in hearing what others think of the book. I've had great success cooking my way almost entirely through the book.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: NYchowcook

                      I enthusiastically second the White Dog Cafe Cookbook - I was going to directly reply to the original post and am glad I read down to check first. I didn't think anyone else would have had heard of it. I found it in a random search of the cookbook shelves in LA - had never heard of the White Dog Cafe - and have been amazed by the success of the recipes. My copy is falling apart. I've been intimidated by the veal demi-glace and haven't made those recipes yet. But - the fruit crisp is the best I've ever tasted (people fight over it at potlucks), the lavender shortcake is heavenly, the cranberry/apple/streusel pie fabulous, and the chiapas pie(?) also very good. As you can see, I bake often and these recipes are top-notch (be sure to check the white dog cafe website for recipe corrections to ingredients amounts).

                      If this were cookbook of the month, I'd definitely be in there cooking away!

                      1. re: jvozoff

                        Wow! A fellow White Dog fan! You've inspired me to delve into the baking section -- so far I've made almost everything but baked goods.
                        I encourage you to make the demi glace. You can make the heavenly flank steak w/ wild mushroom glaze (p. 136), which alone is worth the trouble. I've used the cherry glaze (p. 130) on whole roast duck (and everyone raves).

                        For demi glace, I actually use beef bones if I can't get veal bones -- or use 1/2 & 1/2 since veal bones are expensive. It's easy, just takes time on the stove: First day you make the stock. Second day you cook it down, put in ice cube trays, freeze and store in freezer bags. Frozen assets of the best kind!

                        1. re: NYchowcook

                          With your encouragement, I'll give the demi glace a go. I've looked at that cherry glaze a number of times and wished I could just buy the demi glace, but the purchased ones tend to be too salty. I'll let you know how it goes.

                          If you make the crisp - just a note that I cut the sugar by at least 1/3. I like the tartness of the apples and cranberries to come through and with the full amount of sugar (1 1/2 cups?) it tends to drown in sweetness. Let me know what you try - I've not come close to baking everything.

                    2. I like Jean-Georges Vongerichten's 3 books (Simple Cuisine, Simple to Spectacular, and Jean Georges: Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef), Chez Panisse Desserts, and Claudia Fleming's The Last Course. I'll also second the Union Square Cafe cookbooks.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Timowitz

                        Funny that you mentioned The Last Course. Love it! And I just recommended it on a dessert thread. There's a brain lapse for you. So yeah, what Timowitz said.

                        1. re: Timowitz

                          Do you have some favorite Jean-Georges recipes Timowitz? I have his books too.

                          1. re: Timowitz

                            I like JG: Cooking at Home a lot too. Surprisingly doable and good results.

                          2. Yes, Union Square Cafe cookbook is good (not the second one)
                            I also love Chez Panisse Vegetables.

                            1. I have cooked some delicious meals from "Charlie Trotter Cooks at Home" Try Lobster and Sweet Corn Ravioli with Sweet Corn Broth, or Poached Beef Tenderloin with Fingerling Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts, and Beef Broth. Also "Chef Paul Prudhomme's Fiery Foods That I Love" is a fun and delicious book to cook from. I just made Curried Shrimp from that one. Fantastic.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: ocaladevil

                                I love Cooking at Home with a Four Star Chef, and Sunday Suppers at Lucques. The Chez Panisse Cafe book is worth the whole price for the brined pork recipe alone. Les Halles is wonderful. The Pork Chops with Sauce Charcuterie is something we do again and again. Mustard's Grill by Cindy Pawclyn is challenging, but everything in the book is good. Just be prepared for lengthy, complicated recipes with lots of ingredients.

                              2. Fog City Diner and Union Square Cafe cookbooks.

                                1. "Screamingly Good Food" by Karen Barnaby
                                  Tony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook
                                  Both awesome!!

                                  1. I like Charlie Trotter's "The Kitchen Sessions", even thought I always complain about the craziness of the recipes. The instuctions are easy to follow, but each recipe requires making multiple little recipes and combining them. It is clear he has at least 20 sous-chefs. But every recipe I've tried has been really fantastic, and his wine pairing suggestions were out of this world. I cook from this when I have a lot of time to kill. I also like Mario Batali books.
                                    As for the French Laundry Cookbook: I love looking at this book, but I don'tthink I'll ever get the nerve up to try the recipes. Love his food, love the writing, but the recipes look completely insane. I guess that's wy we pay him the big bucks.

                                    1. HayDay Market Cookbook (chain of little Connecticut area markets and cafes)

                                      1. Paul Prudhome's Louisiana Kitchen is excellent - the pictures alone are worth the price of the book. He brings out the true character and methods of the New Orleans Cajun cuisine, although if you plan to cook from it, be prepared to use a LOT of butter.

                                        The Zuni Cafe cookbook is the most elegant cookbook I have ever read. Judy Rogers writes recipies as if they were poems. She has a unique philosophy and style of cooking that is revealed throughout the recipies.

                                        I'm a fan of the recipies in the Arrows Cookbook from a restaurant in Maine. Not sure if you can even buy that anywhere - I got mine at a used book store. The book is structured around the four seasons and the vegetables they gather from their garden throughout the year.

                                        Not really restaurant cookbooks per say, but Rick Bayless' Mexican KItchen and Mexico One Plate a a time are an excellent introduction to Mexican cuisine. Mexican Kitchen is more detailed. This is the cookbook he wrote while activley running his famous Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chciago - before he became known as a TV chef. One Plate at a Time covers more the basics for the sake of his first TV series, but its a great place to start if you are new to Mexican food.

                                        And of course - Bouchon and French Laundry (Thomas Keller) which, if you actually go to the trouble to attempt his recipies, reveal a wealth of cooking technique - something I have not found in Trotter's books. Like with Zuni Cafe, these books make you re-think the way that food can be prepared. As a very amateur chef, I find the recipies in Bouchon much more attainable than French Laundry. At any rate, they both look great on a coffee table.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: wak

                                          I have Arrows cookbook -- I like the concept of earth to table and seasonality. The recipes are fairly complex; haven't cooked from it except the yummy chive sauce to accompany crab cakes.
                                          What do you like from the book?

                                          1. re: NYchowcook

                                            I've made about half a dozen things and all have been excellent and relatively healthy. The meal that sticks in my head was the Maine Shrimp Dumplings with Cilantro and Clear Vietnamese dipping sauce ( I've made these a few times), Plank Roasted Salmon with Rosemary-Mustard Vinagarette, and a side of Celery Root Pancakes. In fact, looking through it I think I'll find some Spring ideas for tomorrow night.

                                            1. re: wak

                                              NYchowcook, This evening we had the Cedar Plank Salmon again (delicious with the vinagerette), Grilled Asparagus with shaved Parmesan, and Salad with Herb Vinagarette and Goat Cheese Toasts. Took a little preparation to make the vinagarettes, pre-cook the Aspara, skin the salmon, etc, but it was delicious. And the steps were all fairly simple when taken one at a time. Definitely worth the time, or if you're ever in Ogunquit Maine, stop by the real thing. FYI, the cooks were just nominated for James Beard best chefs in NE for 2007.

                                        2. I like Staff Meals by David Waltuck from Chanterelle. Nice assortment of recipes. I've made short ribs in beer, two kinds of bbq'd ribs, roast chicken stuffed with basil, chicken with 40 cloves of garlic -- all successes.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: akk

                                            I'm glad to hear you say that...I forgot about that book...I have made quite a few things for my family out of that book...it is quite good

                                          2. Al Forno's Johanne Killeen and George Germon have a book titled "Cucina Simpatica, Robust Trattoria Cooking". I made a baked pasta with rapini, pancetta in a spicy tomato cream sauce. My dinner guests went bonkers over it. There is also an excellent section on making their famous grilled pizza. The book is available through Amazon. Highly Recommended

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: ocaladevil

                                              Frank Stitti's Southern Table
                                              Les Halles
                                              The Hudson River Cookbook by Malouf
                                              Any Rick Bayless
                                              Absolutely hate Susannah Foo's recent production. So precious...don't you wish you could do this at home????????????

                                            2. My current two favorites are:

                                              Spice by Ana Sortun, the chef at Oleana in Cambridge, MA-- great middle-eastern flavors, organized by spices common to the region.

                                              Sunday Suppers at Luques, by Suzanne Goin-- great menus, organized by season.

                                              1. -----

                                                Personally, I don't get into the restaurant chefs cookbooks, because they would really be shooting themselves in the wallet if they give out their trade secret recipes.

                                                I believe "The Joy of Cooking" is the best general cookbook to be found, and a must for any starter cook.

                                                1. I love love love the cookbook put out by Au Pied de Cochon (located in Montreal). While I haven't made anything from it (yet), the little cartoons of pigs crack me up every single time. The comic strip (in the French version) is also quite funny.

                                                  As for cookbooks by restaurants/restaurant chefs from which I've actually made stuff, I actually like the Balthazar cookbook (the champvallon impresses every time I make it), as well as "Sunday Suppers at Lucques" and the Zuni Cafe cookbook. Oh, and the cookbook from Once Upon a Tart is favorite as well.

                                                  Currently, I'm really into Eric Ripert's "A Return to Cooking," as I'm on this fish kick of late (and his book is so wonderfully vacation-y).

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: jacinthe

                                                    I have and love the Au Pied de Cochon book/album and the DVD. It took 3 months to get having to order it from Canada but worth the wait. Even if you don't cook from it, it is a sensory feast for the eyes.

                                                  2. Can't go wrong with Union Square. Great books. Jean George's books are really nice. Try the steak witha reduction sauce made of a bottle and a few carrots. Amazing. I have Charlie Trotter Cooks at home and like it very much. The beef with cardamon dish is excellent. Less successful for me are his Kitchen Session books.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Westy

                                                      the first Union Square cookbook. The first is great; the second mediocre.