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Ferran Adria's $350 book now on sale

message posted 17-Jan-07 18:58:52
Deep-fried fish skeletons wrapped in cotton candy. Vegetable-flavored foams. Powdered foie gras.

If that doesn't whet your appetite, perhaps it arouses your curiosity.

The man behind all this is Ferran Adria, the Catalan chef who has elevated playing with food to an art form. He's considered the inventor of molecular gastronomy, a re-imagining of familiar flavors that depends on lab experiments and a willingness to break hundreds of years of culinary traditions in order to perfect.

Some critics question whether what Adria serves in 25 small courses at El Bulli restaurant should be considered food. Few question his influence, which has seen Spain replace France as a culinary innovator and challenges chefs to rethink everything they've learned about food combinations, textures and presentation.

And now, with a lot of ambition -- and a kitchen as well-equipped as a chemistry lab -- you can taste it at home. An English translation of "El Bulli: 1998-2002" by Adria and Juli Soler was published in August 1995. The list price is $350, but it's available on Amazon today for a mere $185.50. The 500-page book is part of a trilogy that covers two decades of the restaurant's creations; an English translation of the second volume is expected later this year.

Not that anybody actually expects to cook from the book, at least not in the way that most cooks run through a recipe.

It's a painstaking chronicle of dishes served at El Bulli, with lushly photographed images, an interactive CD-ROM with numbered and cataloged recipes, a user's guide and explanations of the inspiration and technology behind each of Adria's creations.

Many chefs eager for a glimpse into Adria's mind-set have already picked up copies of the book, either in Spanish or the hard-to-find English translation. "Restaurant people are using it for that one 'aha' idea that could put something on their menu," says Nach Waxman, owner of the Manhattan bookstore Kitchen Arts & Letters.

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