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Manresa: An Edible Reflection

Reviewed by MM Pack, Fri., Dec. 6, 2013

More Cookbooks for Under the Tree

by David Kinch with Christine Muhlke
Ten Speed Press, 336 pp., $50

"When you find something you love to do, then Work can become the highest form of Play." – David Kinch

Usually, I'm not a fan of ponderous coffee-table food tomes written by chefs and full of multilayered recipes almost impossible to pull off in the average kitchen by the average cook. Nonetheless, I'm so impressed by Manresa – one of the most beautiful books I've seen in years. And it completely captures the spirit and soul of the Northern California restaurant of the same name (where I've had two of the premier dining experiences of my career). The book is a drop-dead gorgeous amalgam of thoughtful words by David Kinch, breathtaking photos by Eric Wolfinger, and lovely, gentle prints of the surrounding region by artist Tom Killion.

After apprenticing in fine-dining kitchens in New Orleans, New York, and Europe, Kinch opened Manresa in 2002 in Los Gatos, at the cusp of Monterey Bay and the mountains of Santa Cruz. In 2006, he partnered with biodynamic farmer Cynthia Sandberg of nearby Love Apple Farms; the resulting farm/restaurant ecosystem embodies the region and elevates the farm-to-table concept to dizzy heights.

Kinch not only is dedicated to unusual but successful marriages of flavors, textures, and ingredients, he's perfected the art of artless presentations, reflected in the astonishing photographs. But beyond gazing at dreamy visuals and reading the chef's prose, can a person actually prepare these recipes? Not beginners, certainly, but the answer is "yes" for those with kitchen experience, dedication to detail, and access to fresh farm and sea ingredients (and a kitchen scale). For example, one of the restaurant's seasonal stalwarts, strawberry gazpacho with fig leaf curd, is relatively easy to achieve, even if you can't quite reproduce the presentation with cucumber blossoms and baby onions.

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