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COOKING FOR MR. LATTE: A Food Lover's Courtship, with Recipes

Amanda Hesser, Author
Amanda Hesser, Author . Norton $23.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-393-05196-4
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-393-32559-1
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In her wonderful debut cookbook, The Cook and the Gardener, Hesser, a food reporter for the New York Times, followed a year in the life of the kitchen garden at Chateau du Fey in Burgundy, where she worked as a cook. Hesser created four seasons of exquisitely simple recipes that inspired readers to consider the life of the land. More than that, however, she chronicled the gentle, patient way she earned the trust of the crusty, tradition-bound gardener, Monsieur Milbert. Now Hesser attempts to adapt the same organizing strategy to her roughly yearlong courtship of the handsome and talented Mr. Latte, aka New Yorker writer Tad Friend. Weaving recipes within her narrative, she presents a Sex and the City tale with dining and food subbing for sex. Readers join her as she jets to Rome and Spain, or enjoys New York dinner parties with the likes of Tama Janowitz or a crowd of stylish young urban achievers, culminating in Hesser's own wonderful engagement party and wedding. While the eclectic recipes collected here show sensitivity and taste, the spirit of gentle appreciation that gave Hesser's first book such charm is missing. Indeed, the text here comes across as shallow and lacking in wisdom (as evidenced, for example, by her telling a friend of a friend of Friend's that lunch at Jean Georges, a swank Manhattan restaurant, is "not bad... probably $100" only to be reprimanded that her lunch companion, a visitor from India, makes only $2 a day). The pervasive feeling of superficiality and calculation is compounded by the cutesy cartoons of Hesser as a sleek, big-eyed little doll. Self-promotion has its uses, but perhaps it should also have its limits—though this book will decidedly get some play among the socially, and culinarily, ambitious. 6-city author tour. (May)

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