A good restaurant cookbook contains instructions, not only for the cook who wants to be inspired by a great chef, but also for the eater, on how to approach great food, and a reminder to the rest of us who know how to approach the food, that we ought to linger over what creates the meals we enjoy best. From the Introduction of Manresa: An Edible Reflection (Ten Speed 2013): (
What stayed with me most was how each restaurant spoke not only of those who ran the house but also of where it was. Each was unique to its location, like the five-house town of Mionnay, which I drove into and out of several times while trying to find Alain Chapel.(p.4)
David Kinch describes how he found his restaurant in Los Gatos, and immediately could imagine it turning into his restaurant, Manresa. His cuisine is terroir-driven, making the most of where he is in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The photographs by Eric Wolfinger on the opposite page of the Introduction show the outside of the well lit restaurant at night, and the inside foyer with a bar in the background and a couple seated happily on a couch. Manresa is about the restaurant, the chef, and his relationship to the place he chose. Like any restaurant cookbook, the aim is to present the philosophy and the excellence of the cuisine.
Can you cook from it? Sure, there are easy and beautiful recipes included that even a home cook (and home kitchen) can create. Kinch includes a recipe for An Old-Fashioned Omelet (p. 54) made properly as he was taught by Alain Passard with black truffles (in February, not December) and with Fleur de Sel sprinkled on after it is rolled and lightly buttered. It is the simplest of recipes and could be the dish your serve for Valentine’s Day.
Take your time and study the mesmerizing photographs of nature and how they yield to dishes: how a fine dice of multi-colored tomatoes becomes Tomatoes, Pistachios, and Allium Flowers (p. 22).
A one-bit wonder designed to present all the complexities of the entire tomato harvest of Love Apple Farms. A small dice of as many different varieties of tomatoes as possible is barely salted and bound with a lightly jellied tomato water.
The tomato bounty reappears in Summer Bass, Beans with Pepper, Citrus Leaf Curry (p. 28) a complex recipe of seven parts that comes together (at least in the photo) in a dish of fish, broth and brightly colored tomato. If that seems too much, then make Sea Salt and Vanilla Caramels (p. 124), tuck a few in your bag and head to California to eat at Manresa.