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Food52, a new food networking Web site from ex-New York Times food editor Amanda Hesser, has plans to publish a cookbook of its contributor's recipes. In the meantime, it's hosting a curious Tournament of Cookbooks. Bracketed just like a sports play-off, food52 has chosen its 16 "most notable cookbooks of 2009," to be judged by 17 "top food writers and chefs." The include Gwyneth Paltrow, in her GOOP guise, right up there with Harold "On Food and Cooking" McGee and Grant Achatz of Alinea and "I can't lose my tongue, I'm a chef" fame. The smackdown promises to play out briskly over the next three weeks, culminating in what food52 calls a "celebratory event" on Nov. 9 in NYC.
And there's an S.F. angle. The play-offs begins today with chef Daniel Patterson (Coi, Il Cane Rosso, the upcoming Bracina) choosing between two fellow star chef's cookbooks: John Besh's My New Orleans, and Real Cajun by Donald Link and Paula Disbrowe. More in sorrow than in anger, Patterson chooses the "more modest" but "pitch-perfect" Real Cajun over Besh's book, which he calls "gorgeous" but "too ambitious for its own good." Patterson winds up his well reasoned, thoughtful 1,000-word explanation with this: "My New Orleans is more impressive in scope, more beautiful, more at home on the coffee table. But when I'm cooking at home, it's Real Cajun that I want in my kitchen."
Ouch! Besh knocked right out of the box in Round One.
If you wanna ask Besh how he feels about losing, he just happens to be signing My New Orleans tonight at Omnivore Books (3885a Cesar Chavez at Church) from 6 to 7 p.m. Maybe afterwards you can all caravan over to Coi for drinks in the lounge!
- Meredith Brody