Definitely one of the events that I've been looking forward to all year -- the widely anticipated cookbook for Manhattan's well-polished gem of the Flatiron District (and my favorite restaurant of all-time), Eleven Madison Park. It is cookbooks like these -- the ones that are a grand collaboration of epic proportions -- that make cookbook release (and signing) season worth all of the waiting anxiously in queue after arriving an hour or so before the event to ensure that you won't be on the part of the line going out the door.
When it was rumored that Eleven Madison Park would possibly be doing a cookbook, I knew I had to keep my eyes peeled for any official announcements by the restaurant itself or by way any of the regular foodie news sources that I follow that would confirm this. During my last two visits to the restaurant (once right after its new menu format rolled out along with its major renovation and once during the spring before), I recall our captain mentioning something along those lines, so it was mostly a waiting game to know when it would actually come to be in print. It was earlier this year (January, to be exact) that the restaurant was proudly to announce in its seasonal newsletter that Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook was finally on its way to the publishing house, expected to be available to the public in November 2011.
So when the restaurant's mailing list sent out a newsletter for its Autumn 2011 season indicating that Chef Daniel Humm and the restaurant's general manager, Will Guidara, would be hitting to road to promote the cookbook, I immediately e-mailed Eleven Madison Park to find out when and where the signing would take place. If I wasn't the first person in line for that, I'd be pretty damn close to it, that's for sure! A prompt response told me that the signing was to take place at the Sur La Table store in SoHo from 3:30 to 5:30 late October, which confused me because the anticipated "publication date" was not until November 11 (and appropriately so -- 11/11/11 for the emphasis on the "eleven" in the restaurant's name). The simple answer to this was that the book would be available before that date (the publication date isn't always the actual release date), so all was good.
The book signing event was jointly hosted by All-Clad and Sur La Table. The cookbook itself is ultimately hoping to contain, to the best of its ability, the heart and soul of what Eleven Madison Park aims to do -- "redefining the sensory potential of fine dining while maintaining a careful balance between innovation and soul" within the restaurant's "constantly changing seasonal dishes," per the cookbooks pristine, white hardcover jacket. As I've mentioned before in my post about Eleven Madison Park, Chef Humm's inspirations are derived from the jazz style of Miles Davis to "the father of modern French cuisine," Fernand Point.
Waiting in line for Chef Humm and Mr. Guidara to sign copies of my cookbooks (for myself and for gifts).
Me with Chef Humm and Mr. Guidara. I've met them both on separate occasions at the restaurant before, but it was nice to see them together, chatting with the attendees of the book signing. They were very humble about all of the praise and kind words their fans gave them (including the amazing experiences that I've personally had at EMP that I had shared with them), so I know that their new cookbook's narrative will be worth the read. What is even more is that the cookbook (moreso, Chef Humm and Mr. Guidara) offers "technical support" via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) for those in need of some assistance, clarification, or relief from frustration. This just underscores their commitment, as well as the restaurant's commitment, to their diners, patrons, and fans -- something I deeply admire.
Along with signing books, the event had a demonstration (using All-Clad cookware, of course) showing how to prepare one of the recipes from the cookbook -- braised veal cheeks on page 273. I wasn't able to stay too long to be able to try it, but it certainly smelled amazing!
Our copy of Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook . . .
. . . signed by Chef Humm and Mr. Guidara!
Findings: Upon perusing the pages of Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook, the recipe directions seem quite approachable for an everyday home kitchen cook -- just straight to the point. The illuminating photographs by the cookbook's artist, Francesco Tonelli, are astounding and mouthwatering -- they simply bounce off the page with vibrant colors against the stark white backdrop. The focus is clearly drawn to the plated ingredients making for a versatile publication -- a beautifully done coffee table book and one that a home cook can bring into the kitchen for a little dabbing in "modernist cuisine" as Sam Sifton, former restaurant critic of The New York Times, wrote in his recent review of the EMP cookbook. Perhaps, our small kitchen can be a laboratory in testing out some of these recipes! It was so exciting to finally see recipes from the four meals I've had at Eleven Madison Park light up on these pages -- my all-time favorite restaurant will now be chronicled in the libraries of cookbooks. I think I may have found my new stash of food porn to last me for the rest of the year and next.
Price point: $50 for each book.
--October 27, 2011
Sur La Table (SoHo)
75 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012
Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook
Daniel Humm & Will Guidara
available here at Amazon.com