Several years ago, I had an...interesting internship in the Office of Alice Waters at Chez Panisse (scathing memoir forthcoming) where I was treated as both printer slave and beloved visitor. Which is to say that the best part of my day and the only thing that kept me from tossing the abundant table linens (and myself) into the middle of busy Shattuck Avenue was the kindness of the kitchen staff, including, of course, staff lunch.
Oh, the unbounded joy of braised cardoons and duck confit on a dreary afternoon! Lunch was a delight, as were the cooks who, though far busier than the office staff, were always much nicer to me. While I was there, I was lucky enough to spend some timing sitting near David Tanis. (Of course I was never really introduced to anyone who came through the office, which was terribly awkward.) But even from a distance, he gave me the impression of having exactly the right attitude about food and cooking. He exuded a down to earth reverence for flavor, seasonality and the rituals of eating, all of which shine through in his latest book, Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys.
I spotted the book in a store the other day, the sexy green-yellow-purple of an artichoke jumping out at me from the cover, and started leafing through. Well, it turns out that the cookbook is full of beautiful menus, beautiful recipes, beautiful writing, beautiful photos.... everything beautiful. In fact, the book itself probably tastes wonderful, hardcovers, book jacket, and all. I was being a cheapo, so I didn't buy it, but now of course I have no reference for this posting and nothing to help me write any kind of useful menu review. Until I get my hands on a copy again, you'll just have to believe me that David Tanis deserves the life of wonder that he leads (half time running a supper club in France and whatnot) and that the man knows a thing or two about menus.
What I did buy recently was my very own copy of the Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook. Long overdue. It's very quaint and the fact that it was written so long ago makes it easier to read because when I'm in it, I can pretend that I haven't heard ALW preaching about "a lone, perfect peach" or whatever for 40 years. I'll blog more about it later, as thinking about that internship makes me pretty bitter on the Chez Panisse front, and the CPMCookbook deserves more sweetness.