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The Fat Duck's cookbook: three stars, 250 bucks

October 6, 2008 |  1:57 pm


Heston Blumenthal is the chef behind Britain's acclaimed Fat Duck restaurant, known for its innovative molecular gastronomy. Items on the tasting menu include "Roast Foie Gras 'Benzaldehyde' / almond fluid gel, cherry, chamomile" and "Mango and Douglas Fir Puree / Bavarois of lychee and mango, blackcurrant sorbet, blackcurrant and green peppercorn jelly." The adventurous cuisine has earned the restaurant three Michelin stars; it has consistently been ranked among the best in the world.

Much-anticipated, "The Big Fat Duck Cookbook" is due out in Britain and the U.S. in October and November, respectively. This "showstopper of a cookbook," Betty Hallock wrote in the L.A. Times this summer, will be "divided into three sections: history (the restaurant's rise to three Michelin stars), recipes (for example, sardine-on-toast sorbet and chocolate wine) and science (experts talk about synaesthesia)." Sounds like it seeks to capture the spirit of the restaurant, in addition to sharing its recipes.

The cookbook has landed on the desk of William Skidelsky, a food writer for Britain's Guardian.

This is the one cookbook that no serious foodie can afford to be without.

Or is it? One could easily argue that, while it contains plenty of recipes, the Fat Duck Cookbook is not really a cookbook at all. ... Not only are [the recipes] fiendishly complex, involving a bamboozling number of stages, but they call for equipment (a dehydrator, a cartouche) that most people won't even have heard of, let alone have to hand. No, it's safe to say that this is a book that will be more gazed at than cooked from. Its luscious, extravagantly designed pages will for the most part remain unsplattered by specks of foam and liquid nitrogen.

Then again, it is, as another Guardian column notes, "516 pages of fabulously photographed, jewel-like dishes." Its price tag -- $250 in the U.S. -- is enough so that most cooks would think twice about turning its pages with a wet or oily hand. It may be part cookbook, part work of art -- which seems apt for a book about the cuisine of the Fat Duck Restaurant.

And there are early-bird specials: Pre-orders of the book on Barnes and Noble's website are $187.50; Amazon.com offers it for just $157.50.

--Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Photo illustration from "The Big Fat Duck Cookbook."