by Nancy Oakes and Pamela Mazzola, with Lisa Weiss
Ten Speed Press, 265 pp., $50For those who don't know, Boulevard has been one of the highest-rated restaurants in America's top food city, San Francisco, since it opened in 1993. After being hounded by friends and colleagues for years to write a cookbook, the duo of chef/owner Nancy Oakes and chef Pam Mazzola (who have cooked together seamlessly for 17 years) got with Lisa Weiss to do just that. Boulevard is a spectacular work, loaded with incredible food photography, brimming with culinary wisdom, and full of delicious recipes.
For the critics who feel that books like this are merely titillating food porn, Boulevard strongly delivers what it promises. The reader will find 75 accessible whole-plate menus meaning entrée with side dishes so the true recipe count eclipses the 200 mark. The food is French-influenced American cooking using the food palette and flavor profile of the West Coast (read Central Market or Whole Foods). The beauty of a book arranged this way is that you may choose to cook just the side dish, just the entrée, or combine them as intended.
Oakes and Mazzola cram each recipe with Kitchen and Shopping Notes that are a master's chef course on their own. But the food is the true gem found between the covers. The endive and apple salad with smoked bacon, candied pecans, and creamy cheddar dressing is superb. Soups like the sweet white corn and leek with crab cake soufflé are incredible. The boneless quail stuffed with spinach, porcini, and foie gras with a thyme-sherry relish and kabocha squash and pear purée ... sweetbreads wrapped in a crust of chard and potato ... fritters with a melting blue cheese center! We could go on and on. Trust us, it may be titillating, but the true orgasm comes with the first bite.