Dean & Deluca: The Food and Wine Cookbook

by Jeff Morgan

Published by Chronicle Books

224 pages, 2002

Buy it online



Larger Than Life

Reviewed by Daphne Gray-Grant


Dean & Deluca, that temple to Bacchus, is virtually synonymous with New York and with exquisite food. In its hallowed halls, the fruit is arranged like precious jewels; the bread -- crusty and driven by rogue yeasts -- is stacked in impossibly precarious architectural piles; and the cheese, oh the cheese -- creamy, dusty or blue-veined -- is set in wedges and pillars, reverently, like Stonehenge. That this paean to fine eating goes on for 10,000 square feet is part of its surreal charm. It's chic, it's overwhelming, it's larger than life.

Now, of course, it's also bi-coastal. Along with outposts in Washington, D.C., Charlotte, North Carolina and Kansas City (leading one to observe: "Toto, this ain't Kansas anymore") Dean & Deluca has a store in the heart of the Napa Valley, in St. Helena, California. And this store has inspired a new book -- the Dean & Deluca Food and Wine Cookbook, by Jeff Morgan.

A prettier, more stylish volume would be hard to imagine. From its elegant silver cover to its remarkable full color photographs and gorgeous layout, this is a book that inspires admiration. It is simply breathtakingly beautiful.

A large part of the credit must go to photographer Steven Rothfeld, known for his work in Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines. With skillful lighting and an artful eye he captures, among other images, a mussel soup that shimmers with saffron and cream, a lamb osso buco that glistens with the promise of flavor and a larger-than-life walnut chocolate torte that simply demands to be eaten.

The 56 pages of full color -- shared between photos of food and picturesque shots of Napa Valley scenery -- make this a book that can easily move from the kitchen to the coffee table. Kudos, as well, should go to the designer. Good design, like good ice-skating, must look effortless, and this book earns a 10, even without a French judge to guarantee the results. The typeface is attractive and easy to read and the recipe pages are blessedly clear and uncluttered. Color is applied skillfully, with shades of pumpkin, terra cotta and chocolate used to especially clever effect. The overall impression is of a book that's both contemporary and classic -- no mean feat.

But for any cookbook, a key question remains: Would you cook from it? So, here's the thing: Unless you're Gwyneth Paltrow -- with the metabolism of a hummingbird and a personal trainer standing by -- this is not an every day option. A recipe for mashed Gruyere Potatoes calls for a half cup extra-virgin olive oil, three tablespoons of butter and two cups of shredded Gruyere. Country Pate specifies eight ounces of duck fat and four ounces of pancetta -- not to mention the 1 cup of pistachios. And should you ever be overcome with a ridiculous urge to eat your vegetables, you're instructed to top them with St. Andre butter (four ounces of St. Andre cheese blended with five tablespoons unsalted butter.)

Then there's the money problem. Have a look at the menu and then consider the shopping list:

Lobster, Cabernet and Shiitake soup

Seared Foie Gras with Arugula and Roasted Asian Pear compote

Caviar soufflé

Pan-Roasted Striped Bass with Poached Oysters and Fontina Fondue

Moroccan rabbit couscous

Yummy, to be sure. But did you really want to remortgage your house just to eat dinner?

To be fair, there are some less exotic, less expensive and lower fat alternatives -- a chickpea salad, an imaginative wild mushroom ragout and a soba noodle salad among them -- but they are in the minority. Still, the book has other merits worth considering. In keeping with its title, Dean & Deluca: The Food and Wine Cookbook offers a terrific 26-page primer on California wine and intelligent suggestions for pairing it with the food. All the recipes are well explained, easy to follow and, in most cases, don't offer an intimidating list of ingredients or overly fussy preparation. Unlike many gourmet cookbooks (The French Laundry springs to mind), this one offers recipes a normal person can make in a reasonable amount of time.

At the end of the day, I'm still not certain I'd buy this book -- it's highly likely I have all the high-fat, exotic recipes my thighs and wallet can tolerate. But would I give it as a gift (especially a wedding gift, paired with a set of fashionable wine glasses)? You bet I would. And would it be gratefully received? In a New York minute. | June 2002

Daphne Gray-Grant is a freelance writer and editor.