Keller's restaurant Bouchon, in Napa Valley, Calif., is modeled after Parisian bistros and serves simple yet sumptuous fare. This graceful ode to bistro cooking emphasizes that although in America, "bistro" is synonymous with "casual," the food is prepared with "precision of technique brought to bear on ordinary ingredients." Close-up photos of signature dishes are alluring, and several action shots of food preparation may help readers refine their techniques. The book's sections progress from "First Impressions" (hors d'oeuvres and more) to "Anytime" dishes (soups, salads, quiches) to appetizers, entrées and desserts. Thoughtful introductions to each recipe grouping explain Keller's experiences with the featured dishes; sidebars on everything from oil to onions provide insight and useful tidbits. A "Basics" chapter attempts to further demystify the foundations of bistro cooking (it's built on staples like confit, stock and aioli), and a "Sources" section directs readers to bistro-appropriate tools and specialty foods. Of course, as any chef knows, food is as much about experience, memory and emotion as it is about flavor and presentation. Especially bistro food, Keller says, which retains the "spirit of the original bistro, the spirit of embracing you... restoring you and making you happy." This appealing book promises to do the same. Photos. (Dec. 1)
Forecast: A $125,000 marketing budget and author tour could bring Bouchon success on par with Keller's previous book, The French Laundry Cookbook, which is now in its 18th printing.