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Which restaurant and bakery cookbooks do you like and actually use?

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I was thinking of getting the Chez Panisse book, because my parents treated my then-fiance and me to a meal there last year, and it was outstanding. However, from what I've read online, it isn't the greatest cookbook out there, and I've read a surprising amount of "I'm so disappointed, some of this stuff is average or mediocre" kind of reviews.

I'm just wondering which restaurant books Chow feels is worth it? I have the Zuni Cafe book, and I love it, and for more than just the roasted chicken and bread salad! ;D I also use the Rose Bakery tome pretty often. (Entitled "Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery.") I'm considering investing in a copy of the Bouchon Bakery book as well, based on a lone macaron someone brought me from there a while back. It was unforgettable!

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  1. Mmm, the Zuni book is like gold to me. I just made their citrus risotto last night. So delicious.

    I have a few other restaurant books, but aside from Zuni, I go to the Balthazar cookbook the most. I have made the boullaibasse, cassoulet, pavlova, lemon mille-feuille, and chicken riesling (my favorite!) at least three times each, and I've made many, many more.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Diamond

      Its the newest CP books, with Alice Waters in the forefront, that aren't that good.

      But, the older CP books are much better. Awhile back, there was some controversy over how much Alice Waters contributed to those older CP books. And, if the new books are any indication, then I'd much prefer if she let others write the cookbooks.

      1. re: hobbess

        Wow, really? I always thought everything Alice Waters penned was considered to be brilliant and a must-read.

        1. re: Diamond

          Chez Panisse Cooking is authored by "Paul Bertolli with Alice Waters" and the acknowledgments were penned by Bertolli, which is indicative of the real authorship.

          1. re: janniecooks

            At least, she was willing to share the spotlight with Bertolli with that book unlike the other CP books.

            With the Chef Panisse Menu Cookbook, she didn't even credit Jeremiah Tower even though he was the chef and she was the restaurateur. That would be like Danny Meyers pushing aside Michael Romano, and taking all the credit for the Union Cafe cookbooks.

          2. re: Diamond

            The newest Waters' books are a waste of time and money, with no clear idea who the target audience was supposed to be.

            If you knew your way around the kitchen already, then the recipes were too simplistic and covered techniques you already knew. They weren't going to inspire you.

            I think it was supposed to be designed for a novice, but it failed even more for those readers. The instructions were unclear with little guidelines about how long to cook dishes or how to know when the dish was done. Instead, you'd get instructions to 'cook till done'. f you tried to follow the unclear instructions, a lot of times the recipes wouldn't work. Or, if the recipes did work, your reaction was more like, "oh, that was okay" or maybe even "good" but not nothing great.

            A lot of the same recipes and dishes were covered previously in the older CP books much more successfully. That's why I think there's a lot of credence to the idea that other people were much more involved in those other CP books than Alice Waters has acknowledged.

      2. There's an old one I turn to all the time called the Nantucket Open House Cookbook by Sarah Leah Chase. All kinds of great things in there. Sometimes I find the recipe needs a little tweaking to fit my personal preference (a little less sugar in the triple berry muffins, not as much almond extract in the otherwise unbelievable brownies), but several of Chase's recipes have entered my regular repertoire. Her hummus is some of the best I've had. More than a couple of the recipes in the Thanksgiving section have become my own, most notably the stuffing (seriously amazing stuff, I start making small batches in October to tide me over until the big day) and the pumpkin biscuits.