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Week of October 7, 2002

in print
Book a Trip to the Coast
Now that we're all chanting Alice Waters's seasonal-and-organic mantra and Jonathan Waxman is reliving his Santa Monica glory days on lower Fifth, it's hard to believe "California cuisine" once meant wheatgrass juice and frozen yogurt. (Symptoms of today's Cali fever include a thrice-weekly Greenmarket habit, a compulsion to make your own goat cheese, and a pre-booked heirloom Thanksgiving turkey.) New cookbooks by three of the brightest lights of Golden State gastronomy are right on top of the trend, one by the "father of California cuisine" himself, since relocated to Manhattan. In Jeremiah Tower Cooks (Stewart Tabori & Chang; $35), the onetime Chez Panisse chef and founder of Stars takes credit for mesclun, designer pizzas, and beef cheeks. Above all, he confides, "I cannot live without an egg-salad sandwich."

Which leads us to Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book (Knopf; $24.95), by the force behind L.A.'s La Brea Bakery. An outgrowth of Thursday's sandwich night at Campanile, the restaurant Silverton owns with husband Mark Peel, the book contains recipes inspired by Lombardi's clam pizza, Pearl's fried oysters, and Annisa's salt-preserved eggs. At heart, Silverton worships simplicity: "If I'm ever stranded on a desert island with only three ingredients, I pray that they are prosciutto, butter, and baguette." Coincidentally, Judy Rodgers, author of The Zuni Cafe Cookbook (Norton; $35), traces her culinary awakening to "a delicious ham sandwich" she had in France as an exchange student, where she lived with the legendary Troisgros family. From there, she stumbled into the Chez Panisse kitchen and ultimately Zuni Café, where her roast chicken and Caesar salad have achieved cult status. An unrepentant advocate of salt and leftovers, especially stale bread, Rodgers has written a comprehensive tome that guides, explains, and inspires, revealing its Californian heart. "Cookbooks will give you ideas," she writes, "but the market will give you dinner." —ROBIN RAISFELD

best of the week
Aquavit's Anniversary Menu
Aquavit marks its fifteenth year of serving Swedish meatballs, gravlax, and its fiery namesake liquor with this $19.87 special prix fixe, served at both lunch and dinner in the restaurant's café.

13 West 54th Street
to reserve, call 212-307-7311

object of desire
Big Apple Minute
Every now and then, a chef will decide that certain ingredients are so irresistible that to give them only one preparation per plate— let alone on a menu — would be to shortchange diners. Foie gras, chocolate, even tomatoes routinely get the double- or triple-play treatment. "So why not apples?" must have been the thinking behind The Dining Room's apple-trio dessert. Pastry chef Virginia Ng, late of New Jersey's Restaurant Seranäde, celebrates the quintessential fall fruit by roasting the local Granny Smiths into sweet-tart (but not mushy) submission and drizzling them with warm honey and currants. The accompanying hot mulled cider and buttermilk-cider doughnuts would make Johnny Appleseed proud.
The Dining Room

154 East 79th Street


Ask Gael
My tween daughter is Britney-struck.
I knew there must be a raison d'être for Nyla, with its wondrous iridescent swirls of girlish boudoir taffeta. The diva-in-chief stops by now and then (they say) to see what's cooking in her soaring midtown cantina. Meanwhile, your adoring bud can groove on the soundtrack, and the food-despite the revolving door of chefs-won't insult you. The menu leans toward "normal-people food" like moist roasted chicken and braised short ribs, and gives a New York twist to classics from Spears's New Orleans heritage, like delicious smoked-duck-sausage-and-crawfish gumbo and scallops in a lobster jambalaya-all stylishly plated in Villeroy & Boch. At lunch, the staff is friendly but still pea-green, dropping off soup without a spoon, chicken without a knife, and ice in a dirty glass. Is that a manager or a battery-driven bunny, ignoring our signals for help? C'mon, guys, give Britney a chance.
52 East 41st Street

Bites & Buzz Archive

Week of September 30
Chefs get creative with Italian pasta balls; Jonathan Waxman's new lunchtime cuisine; thrilling creations at Patria.
Week of September 23
Hotdogs get fancy in Brooklyn; undercover burgers in Le Parker Meridien hotel; Gael checks out the hottest new pizza joint on the LES.
Week of September 16
Mexican beers that redefine luxury imports; Savoy's cozy makeover; Le Bernardin's new fourth course makes it's prix fix even better.

and more ...

Photos:Kenneth Chen, Carina Salvi, Patrick Rytikangas

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