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The Piglet2010 / Quarterfinal Round, 2010

Canal House Cooking

Canal House Cooking

Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton

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The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook

The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook

Michelle and Philip Wojtowicz, and Michael Gilson

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The Judgment

Gwynethpaltrow

By Gwyneth Paltrow

I am happy to have both Canal House Cooking and The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook on my shelf. I very much responded to the notebook-esque feeling of Canal House Cooking. The way it’s bound makes it feel approachable and doable, like you’re following a favorite girlfriend’s home-assembled book. I like the breeziness of the photos and the stories about the contributors’ food backgrounds. For example, I loved learning from the former Saveur editor about not putting fried food on a paper towel to keep the bottom crisp. The recipes worked really well and were straight-forward. I adored the anchovy breadcrumb stuffing in the baked tomatoes — I would use that on anything. Next time I think I will slow-roast the tomatoes first before stuffing them, that’s the only adjustment I’d make. I adored the Summer Tomato Pasta, the perfect August meal. Finishing cooking the pasta in the sauce did wonders for condensing the flavors. Desserts are not my forte, but the Plum Crostata was easy to make and truly delicious.

I admired the point of view of The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook. I like how one can feel the work ethic and commitment of the threesome that started the bakery/restaurant and have brought in amazing and quirky local artisans to round out their family. The Lime Tart, albeit delicious, was more complicated than I like and required a lot of cleanup. The Ginger Ice Cream was totally sublime and is now in my summer kitchen repertoire. It was especially good sandwiched between molasses cookies. The Sweet Potato and Yam Pie had all the flavor and comfort of home, but used a lot more cream, egg yolks and cheddar than I’m used to.

I am loathe to choose one book over the other, however my selection is Canal House Cooking. While I genuinely responded to and appreciated the sense of community and slow food ethos that I felt from The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook, I am more drawn to return back to Canal House Cooking.

And the winner is…

Canal House Cooking

Canal House Cooking

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Do you Agree? (12 comments)

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over 4 years ago Rhonda35

I am not familiar with either book, so will withhold judgment as to Paltrow's decision, but do want to comment on her written analysis of the two books. I'm a fan of her food writing and her blog, GOOP, but must say that the writing she did for The Piglet contest really fell flat. It seemed as if she wrote it on the fly, squeezing in the assignment between running her children to school and getting her hair done for a celebrity appearance. She just didn't seem to be paying that much attention and, surely, she didn't spend any time at all reading previous judges' reviews or she would have realized that your readers expect a bit more than two short paragraphs that talk about how much she "adores" this or "admires" that. Let's just say it's not her best work and leave it at that. Still, I am glad you involved a wide variety of writers and am truly enjoying this fun contest.

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over 4 years ago KelseyTheNaptimeChef

I like Gwyneth's decision. I've enjoyed GOOP (she provided me with my now fav brussels sprouts recipe) and her food tv series. She is a home cook and mother, and it seems our cooking styles are similar, so I think that's why I can relate to her decision. Big Sur seems pretty awesome too, and I love to bake, so I think a lot of their recipes would appeal as well. I can't wait to get my hands on their brown butter rhubarb bars - yum! And, yes, I would love to have my own cooking lair on a PA canal - where do I sign up for that?!

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over 4 years ago dymnyno

I am not sure if Gwyneth Paltrow is qualified to judge two fantastic books. I see a trend that I had not thought of before her choice of Canal House. That is, she is a New Yorker and she chose a book that represents her city. She has always been a trend setter...vegan, macrobiotic etc. So she is qualified to know the trends of the East Coasters. But is it fair to the left side !!!

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over 4 years ago oswaldfoodies

Woo-hoo you go Christopher! Canal House is truly an inspiration!

Amypositano

over 4 years ago amyshirar

Thanks for the review by Gwenyth. I love her approach to food (natural cooking) and own a copy of the Spain on the Road Again cookbook based on the PBS show she partnered with Mario on.

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over 4 years ago Romney (Nani)

I absolutely adore Canal House Cooking and everything about the duo–the studio, workshop, artist space, etc. and gave it to my photographer as inspiration. But, gang, I'm from Big Sur and so have to hand it to the folks at BS Bakery for creating their own unique "studio" of sorts and translated in book form, with all the characters of my home town. Two totally different books that probably shouldn't be up against each other in the first place, and I ask the same question as Julianna Rose–when did Gwyneth become a cookbook reviewer?

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over 4 years ago lacerise

I have to say, after reading all the reviews that have been posted thus far, I found Ms. Paltrow's to be the least interesting. You could have snatched someone out of any restaurant and asked them to write a review; why Gwyneth? Is she jockeying for an alternate career once the parts (movies, not personal) dry up? She's an excellent actress and I'm all for being multi-passionate in your life, but she shows no talent in this arena.

Amypositano

over 4 years ago amyshirar

Paltrow is also a serious home cook and the creator of GOOP.com, where she writes about recipes she loves, meals she’s enjoyed, and the food she makes for her children. A bona fide foodie, she co-starred in Spain… On the Road Again with Mario Batali and Mark Bittman, which aired on PBS in 2008 and profiled the culinary traditions and history of various regions in Spain.

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over 4 years ago Julianna Rose Mauriello

Why is Gwyneth Paltrow even rating cookbooks? Does she even eat? It is almost like having a blind person review a movie.

Amypositano

over 4 years ago amyshirar

Paltrow is also a serious home cook and the creator of GOOP.com, where she writes about recipes she loves, meals she’s enjoyed, and the food she makes for her children. A bona fide foodie, she co-starred in Spain… On the Road Again with Mario Batali and Mark Bittman, which aired on PBS in 2008 and profiled the culinary traditions and history of various regions in Spain.

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over 4 years ago eatboutique

I got Canal House Cooking yesterday and haven't put it down. It's the cookbook I dream of writing someday - authentic, subtle, charming, real. I'd be happy to sweep their "studio/workshop" just to listen in on their food chit-chat.

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over 4 years ago SueG

I have not seen Canal House Cooking yet, and the reviews of it so far make me know I will love it when I do, but I will say that I am a bit disappointed that the Big Sur Bakery book did not advance, because that book really resonated with me the minute I started leafing through it. I own more cookbooks than a person should, and there are only a couple dozen or so that are true stand-outs, and the Big Sur book was placed in that group for me as soon as I got it. But, Canal House it is! Carry on!