Thursday, March 11, 2004

Bittersweet Cookbook

In Berkeley there are two famous Alices. One is Alice Waters, executive chef and owner of Chez Panisse, the great proponent of organic and sustainable food production and then there is Alice Medrich. Alice Medrich revolutionized the way way we think about chocolate in this country. Her store Cocolat which opened in 1976 sold the most decadent chocolate desserts and truffles ever. Gourmet magazine famously said, "Cocolat is to chocolate what Tiffany's is to diamonds". Growing up in the Bay Area Alice Medrich was the much bigger star in my constellation. Working at a gourmet food store that carried her products I had firsthand experience of her delicious confections. And so did many folks in the Bay Area as her stores expanded and a wholesale business was developed.

After college I briefly considered going to work for Alice Medrich at Cocolat, but given my retail experience, I was wanted in the store, not in the kitchen which is where I wanted to be. But I got to try my hand with her recipes as she wrote cookbook after cookbook. In fact, in the early and mid-1990's she again revolutionized the thinking on chocolate by coming out with a groundbreaking low-fat dessert cookbook. Her lower fat recipe for chocolate decadence is a classic to this day.

I got to hear Alice Medrich speak this past weekend, promoting her new book, BitterSweet--Recipes and tales from a life in chocolate. Medrich has gone back and retooled old recipes and created new recipes to work with the great quality chocolate that is more available to home cooks today than it ever was. Most of the chapters of the book begin with bits of Alice's memoirs. It is a wonderful way to learn about chocolate and the woman who introduced so many of us to the pleasures of something we take for granted today--truffles.