Cost of honored cookbook will buy lots of beans

Photo by Gretel Daugherty—Tess Furey column sig mug

The winners of the 2012 James Beard book award were announced recently as was the cookbook of the year: “Modernist Cuisine” by Nathan Myhrvold.

It actually was a multiple winner in several categories and a reviewer for The Wall Street Journal called it “the most astonishing cookbook of our time.”

Tim Zagat called it “the most important book in the culinary arts since Escoffier.”

My curiosity was sufficiently raised to stop by Barnes & Noble Booksellers to take a peek.

The award winner was not in stock, but a nice lady said they would be happy to order it for me. The price, gulp, was $459.99.

Not just out of my league, it is way, way out of my league.

The six-volume tome is 2,438 pages, weighs nearly 40 pounds and involves the kitchen research of 36 scientists, chefs and editors.

The volumes investigate, explain and make practical use of the physical and chemical transformation of ingredients that occur while cooking. Oh, and there are recipes, too.

This is what you get when you turn a scientist with an insatiable curiosity loose in the kitchen.

The author, Myhrvold, has advanced degrees in geophysics, theoretical and mathematical physics, and has worked with Stephen Hawking in post-doctoral research at Cambridge University.

The super-achiever couldn’t just dabble in his cooking hobby. When he couldn’t find proper information on sous vide (a water bath method of cooking), he embarked on a project that was years in the making and produced a virtual cooking encyclopedia that covers everything from the science and history of food to the visual aesthetics of presentation.

“Modernist Cuisine” is a fascinating, remarkable feat and will no doubt influence chefs around the world, but isn’t a must-read for most home chefs.

Other Beard book winners that are more approachable:

■ “Home Cooking” and “More Home Cooking” by Laurie Cowin.

■ “A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen” by Hugh Acheson.

■ “Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home” by Jeni Britton Bauer.

■ “Ruhlman’s Twenty” by Michael Ruhlman.

■ “Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen” by Heidi Swanson.

■ “The Food of Morocco” by Paula Wolfert.

FOODIE GETAWAY: The second annual Crested Butte Restaurant Week offers culinary aficionados great dining and lodging deals from June 8–15.

Diners and overnight guests in Crested Butte, situated at 8,885 feet above sea level, can revel and relax to their hearts’ content for $88.85 for meals or lodging. Restaurants will offer multi-course dinners for $88.85 for a party of four or $22.21 per person. Lunches, you guessed it, are $8.85. Lodging rates start at $88.85 per night.

The restaurants in the quaint mountain town include Bachanale, django’s, Marchitelli’s Gourmet Noodle, 8380 Prime, Maxwell’s Steakhouse, The Old Croatian, East Side Bistro and The Last Steep.

The Old Croatian, which serves Old World European recipes and wines from the Croatian, Slovenian and Austrian regions, sounds fascinating.

On the menu are snitzel, spatzle, paprikash, pierogies, goulash and struedel. Hold that door open for me.

For a full list of participating businesses and menus, go to

QUOTE: “After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives.” — Oscar Wilde

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