Cookbook of the Year: Alinea

Looking for the perfect holiday gift for your fellow foodie friend? I recommend Aliena by Grant Atchatz (who won the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Chef award this year).I find myself at a loss to explain how impressively awesome this book is. The restaurant Alinea, located in Chicago and known for serving 25 course/$225 molecular gastronomic creations, is perhaps the best in our country. If you aren’t familiar with this style of cuisine, I recommend a trip to their website. The pictures here are from their gallery. The first is peanuts, then bacon and lastly heart of palm.


The 416- page, 6 pound cookbook was published in-house and the first hundred pages read like an ode to food with famous culinary authors sharing their thoughts on eating, creativity in the kitchen and how to use the masterpiece you are reading. The book is intended to provide the home cook with practical ways in which to make the elaborate recipes within. Though I myself am a bit daunted, perhaps I would make the lavender tofu (made from homemade soy milk of course) but not as a tiny garnish on an elaborate dish.


What I love are the beautiful pictures and unique ways of serving foods I commonly eat. For example, one garnish is grated frozen gravlox, which I would never have thought of. The book contains links to videos so you can watch the chefs perform cooking techniques described in the book as well as information on purchasing the beautiful plates their food is served (or sometimes perched) on.


In a recent Wall Street Journal article published on the 13th of this month, the journalist described several courses he was served: “[F]ish in an environment of tobacco, radish and cedar. This follows a pear enhanced with olive oil, black pepper and eucalyptus. And it precedes a tiny pork-belly symphony with Japanese overtones.”

Whether you think it would enhance your coffee table or provide you with hours of drooling-while-reading, I recommend it as a gift to yourself or someone you truly love.