These days, waiting for my favorite chefs to put out new cookbooks is a little like following your favorite aging rock musician. They seem to put out better and more mature work, but less of it. Take Peter Gabriel, for example. The average amount of time between album releases is about 6 years. It's always worth the wait, but...damn. Waiting for a cookbook from Charlie Trotter or Joel Robuchon can take years, but when the build up to release begins, I start combing the web for early reviews or images. I pre-order it, usually from Amazon, or if I'm slumming it, I Wishlist it. But, discount be damned, I may just have to line-up at the local Borders for the November release of Chef Thomas Keller's latest cookbook, Ad-Hoc at Home: Family-Style Recipes.
Ad-Hoc, is of course, his informal, family-style restaurant, that was only supposed to be "temporary". In Keller's words:
While we were designing it we thought we'd experiment by opening a temporary restaurant and calling it Ad Hoc, which literally means, "for this purpose." The idea for Ad Hoc was simple - 5 days a week we'd offer a 4 course family style menu that changed each day, accompanied by a small, accessible wine list in a casual setting reminiscent of home. We wanted a place to dine for our community and ourselves. The decision to change over the restaurant, however, was taken out of our hands by our guests. The response was so positive, we simply couldn't close. So, in September, 2007, we decided to stay open permanently and now we're serving dinner 5 nights a week as well as Sunday brunch.
A dish at Ad-Hoc.
I'm a product of my upbringing. We are a family that spends a lot of time around the kitchen table. When we were younger, frequently we were either at someone's house on the weekend for dinner, or they were at ours. And the cooking began early and lasted all day. Simply put, there was always food on the table. Cooking for a lot of people became commonplace; you simply couldn't run out of food. It was unthinkable. There was always back-up, too.
Family-style dining is not widely marketed these days, probably because we live in a society where everyone seems to have some sort of "issue" when it comes to eating. And that sucks, because good food is only HALF of a memorable dining experience. The company is the other. When you share a good meal with friends and/or family, it's satisfying on all kinds of levels.
I'm most curious to see how these recipes pan-out. It seems that Italian cuisine as a rule is perfect for group eating. But, I wonder whether the focus will be on American dishes, or even if Chef Keller will try to adapt French technique and food to this concept.
Are there any places you like to dine that feature this style of eating? I'd certainly like to know, but I'm sure other readers would, too.