Visionary California restaurateur Alice Waters made a whirlwind tour through
Austin in late May, signing copies of her new book, Chez Panisse
(Harper/Collins, $32.50, hardcover) at a benefit for the
Sustainable Food Center, and promoting farmers' markets at the Whole Foods
Gateway store. When a customer described Austin's wealth of great grocery
stores and suggested Waters visit them, the restaurateur graciously replied,
"I'm not really interested in grocery stores, show me your best farms instead."
More than any other restaurateur, chef, or cookbook author in the country,
Waters understands the connection between the farm and the table. The focus of
her restaurant is to bring the freshest, highest-quality ingredients to the
kitchen, and to prepare them as simply as possible. Her newest work extols the
virtue of choosing the best organically grown vegetables in season and allowing
their true flavors to shine.
Each of the more than 40 vegetables featured in the book is preceded by an
essay that describes how the vegetable is cultivated, how to shop for it, and
how to prepare it for cooking. Many of the recipes are longtime favorites of
the clientele at Chez Panisse and most translate well to the home
kitchen. Waters' previous works had been criticized for being entirely too
esoteric for the average home cook, but there is very little of that problem
here. A few of the vegetables and ingredients may be unfamiliar and/or
unavailable in some parts of the country, but most of the recipes are
relatively simple. From time to time the directions are somewhat sketchy,
assuming knowledge that some home cooks may not possess. Cooks who share Ms.
Waters culinary philosophy will appreciate the bold flavors of her new
collection of vegetable recipes. -- V.B.W.