My friend Sean, an avid cooker, served up one mean lamb and cranberry meat pie last weekend that he’d done a fair share of hunting for. Well, the lamb meat itself came from the Farmer’s Market in Fort Greene Park. But the hunt for the recipe was a twisted road. A few months ago he’d purchased a glazed earthenware English pie dish at an antiques store in New Hampshire. He decided that the best meat pie he’d had was at Tea & Sympathy, a longstanding neighborhood favorite English café in the West Village.
Partly for his love of cooking and partly because Tea & Sympathy was so expensive and their service so unfriendly, Sean set out to find a recipe for lamb and cranberry pie similar to the one that the restaurant served. But the only Google matches that he could find for “lamb and cranberry pie” were related to the restaurant. He even went so far as to email the owner of Tea & Sympathy—finally, it dawned on him that the restaurant had published a beautiful, glossy illustrated cookbook, and the recipe for lamb and cranberry pie was in it.
After working for a spell in the book publishing biz, this was no surprise to me. So many popular restaurants have come out with renown-enhancing, snobbery-inducing cookbooks offering recipes from their adored culinary repertoire. Along with Tea & Sympathy, Union Square Cafe has one, Da Silvano has one. Magnolia Bakery (also in the West Village) has two cookbooks that keep selling thanks to its famous name. This is good news to chefs at home—your favorite restaurants’ cooking secrets and recipes are out of the bag!
Needless to say, Sean’s lamb and cranberry pie, seen here playfully dotted with shaped cut-outs adorning the crust, was amazing. I’ve never eaten at Tea & Sympathy, but from the way he and Meredith described it, I don’t see the need to. Rules prohibiting sharing dishes? $19 for a single-person pie? It gives me a headache just thinking about it. Then again, the layer of leftover crust on the bottom of Sean’s earthenware may be another’s nightmare. To each his own.
Does anyone else have a good cookbook–or a recipe finagled from a favorite restaurant of theirs?