BOOK AND AUTHOR: "Patrick O'Connell's Refined American Cuisine" (Bulfinch Press, $45). After 25 years at the helm of the much-heralded Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Va., O'Connell has established himself as one of the country's best chefs. These days, that's high praise. In the past decade, American haute cuisine has become admired internationally. O'Connell sees this beautifully illustrated book as an opportunity to present his own version of that cooking and the philosophy behind it.
FORMAT: To O'Connell, cooking is about entertaining, so the 150 recipes in the book were selected and organized with that goal in mind. The groupings echo the way food is served at the Inn -- from snacks and canapes, to soups, cold and hot first courses all the way through to desserts. A section on salads, cheeses and intermezzos and another on homemade "pantry" items such as sauces, vinaigrettes and edible decorations let readers in on the special touches that characterize O'Connell's food.
WHO WOULD USE THIS BOOK: For a chef of O'Connell's caliber, the recipes in this book are extremely straightforward and user-friendly, and will appeal to good home cooks who want to make a splash for guests. (It's unlikely that you'd want to make Lacy Parmesan Wafers to nibble with drinks on an average weeknight. But when you have the time, these are not difficult to do.)
Indeed, his target audience is made up of the people who want to reproduce the quality and style of the cooking at the Inn in their own homes. He writes that he's better equipped to guide home cooks because, like many of us, he taught himself to cook by reading cookbooks and knows which of his tricks, techniques and shortcuts will work in our kitchens. He's right, with a caution: This is serious cooking that demands the very best ingredients as well as high technical standards.
-- Judith Weinraub
For information on Patrick O'Connell's reception and book signing on Oct. 5 at the Kennedy Center, see www.kennedy-center.org/eventplanning.