Gourmet books roundup -- EW grades a new back of culinary releases

By Clarissa Cruz
September 23, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT

Gourmet books roundup

Julie & Julia
Julie Powell
Little, Brown, $23.95
Powell, 29 and sick of her dead-end career as a temp, sets out to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. Culinary Philosophy French cooking doesn’t have to be stuffy, as ”Bitch Rice” (Powell’s term for riz à l’Indienne) proves. Gratuitous Food Porn ”The crunch of the mustard-spiked crust somehow brings the unctuous smooth richness of the liver into sharp relief.” Lowdown Spirited and funny, Powell leaves us hungry for more. A

Don’t Try This at Home
Edited by Kimberly Witherspoon
Bloomsbury, $24.95
Top chefs like Anthony Bourdain and Mario Batali recount their worst cooking disasters. Culinary Philosophy The meal must go on — despite eels loose in the kitchen or foie gras dropped in chocolate. Gratuitous Food Porn ”The bird’s interior succulence [was] offset by its startlingly crisped, salted, bronzed skin….” Lowdown Though some tales are as bland as toast, most make you feel the oven’s heat. B+

The Hungry Years
William Leith
Gotham, $25
After interviewing low-carb guru Dr. Robert Atkins, the Brit journalist humorously explores his dysfunctional relationship with food (and booze and women). Culinary Philosophy It’s not how much you eat, but why. Gratuitous Food Porn ”I tried Jarlsberg, and Gruyère, and Appenzell, which is creamy and slightly foul or mildly rotten at the same time, seductive and punitive, and therefore rather addictive….” Lowdown Palatable, but needs some fat trimmed. B

Judgment of Paris
George M. Taber
Scribner, $26
In 1976, two unknown California wines upset the best French vineyards in a now legendary blind test. Culinary Philosophy Years of hard labor, and a bit of luck, are required to produce a fine glass of vin. Gratuitous Food Porn ”The small berries Tchelistcheff picked were a deep purple, with a light gray, waxy coating that rubbed off easily… ‘Honey. This tastes like honey,’ he said.” Lowdown A vivid, robust story that goes down smoothly. A