Friday Food Porn: Cooking The Books

Photo courtesy Joshua Huston

"The first time I saw the menu at Book Bindery, I was unimpressed. It was dishwater dull, common and so full of standard customer-friendly dishes done elsewhere that it seemed, even when brand new, already faded on the page--a copy of a copy of a copy.

I could not have been more wrong."

From this week's review of the Book Bindery. The full slideshow lives here.

Photo courtesy Joshua Huston

"The smell was evocative of oceans and comfort on cold afternoons, all heat and steam and spice. The white beans were tender and had soaked up the flavor of the buttery wine broth like sponges. The chorizo added spikes of salt and heat to every bite. The clams were done beautifully, and when I asked my server where they'd come from, he pointed out the big window to the side of the bar--out toward the waters of the Ship Canal and the small boats passing bigger waters beyond.

'There,' he said. 'They come from there.'"

Photo courtesy Joshua Huston

"There were sweetbreads with brown-butter emulsion, a duo of pork (a roasted chop paired with the ubiquitous pan-seared hunk of belly), and an apple salad with more pork belly--a dish so indicatively Washington 2010 that it might just as well be salmon. Their seared, striped bass went in half a dozen directions at once, with Spanish piquillo peppers, pine nuts, olives, and satsuma--the Japanese fruit mutant, like a nerdy little orange that'll bruise if you look at it cross-eyed. And then there was hamachi crudo, the ahi tuna carpaccio of the new millennium--a dish so overserved that there's probably a class at the Culinary Institute of America dedicated solely to its study and production: Apps for Tedious-Ass Bastards 101."

Photo courtesy Joshua Huston

"Here's what I expected when I ordered the autumn apple salad on my first visit to McCrain's workshop: a mess of crappy, unstemmed field greens out of a bag, topped with mangled slices of apple already starting to brown along the cuts, with a mound of chunky pork belly piled in the center. I expected this because it's a plate I've seen about a thousand times before and eaten somewhat less often--a lazy chef's placeholder, almost always topped with some ham-fisted fruit vinaigrette and possessing just enough 'local flavor' to make it attractive to a certain demographic of craven and health-minded foodies.

What I got was something entirely different--a pirouette on the grave of that wheezing classic, a 180-degree re-envisioning."

Photo courtesy Joshua Huston

"To work at the level McCrain and his crew are at right now, focus is what's most important. All the other stuff--the grilling and the sautéeing, the actual cooking part of cooking--must at that point be second nature, as easy as breathing.

But to cook the way they do at Book Bindery requires concentration like a surgeon's--an ability not only to do one big thing right, but to do a hundred small things perfectly a hundred times a night."

The full review of the Book Bindery can be found here. And to get a look at more than three times as many beautiful pictures as I have here, head on over to the slideshows section right here.

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