Like a culinary Zelig, Tower seems to have popped up during key moments in modern food history. He was chef at Chez Panisse in the 1970s and is often credited with inventing "California cuisine." This Renaissance man of the culinary world (he's also the author of New American Classics and a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner) has an opinion on everything, from frying eggs to aging game birds. An initial chapter of basic instructions is appropriately titled "Delights and Prejudices." Tower is admirably specific, even when it comes to something as simple as a Chicken Club Sandwich, yet not afraid to suggest shortcuts, as in Spit-Roasted Chinatown Suckling Pig Pizza, where he tells the reader simply to purchase the pre-cooked pig. Occasionally recipes veer into fussiness, as with Rich Mussel Bisque with Shrimpmeat Garlic Toasts and Nasturtiums, and Tower is not immune to the author-chef curse of calling for highly specific ingredients that mere culinary mortals may have trouble laying their hands on, as in Figs with Wild Thyme Honey in Red Wine and Lapsang Souchong Custard. On balance, however, exciting, innovative recipes such as Leatherwood Honey- and Sichuan Pepper-Glazed Rack of Lamb with Eggplant Pasta and Green Goddess Olive Oil and Lemon Sauce dominate. Donald Sultan's vivid still-life paintings are a perfect match to Tower's lively style, and if sometimes recipes get out of hand, well, that's to be expected from this kind of creative mind. (Oct.) Forecast: It has been 16 long years since Tower's New American Classics won a James Beard Award, but he returns with a bang here. Exceptionally attractive art, including an eye-catching cover, is sure to promote sales. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
As the original chef at Alice Waters's Chez Panisse and then the chef/owner of San Francisco's acclaimed Stars restaurant and its offshoots, Tower greatly shaped what came to be known as California/New American cuisine. His first cookbook, New American Classics, was published 15 years ago; his new book is a celebration of "the new American culinary tradition." Tower includes favorite recipes from throughout his career, chosen from both the contemporary dishes he is known for, such as Green Zebra Heirloom Tomato Salad and Sea Urchin Souffl , and his interpretations of some "enduring classics," like Poached Turbot with Oyster Hollandaise. A witty and erudite writer, Tower is a man of strong opinions; "Delights and Prejudices," the first chapter, presents his philosophy on food and cooking, and recipe headnotes and other reflections throughout the book expand on that introduction. Although he has been less visible since he closed his restaurants (he is currently the host and writer of the PBS series America's Best Chefs), anyone interested in American cooking will want to read this. For most collections. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.