And I love being able to reproduce the dishes. There's always been resistance among restaurateurs to sharing their recipes, sometimes because they don't want to bother recopying a recipe that's handwritten and annotated and covered with spills. But more often, it's because of worries that customers will reproduce their favorites at home and not visit the restaurant any longer.
Except that you can't reproduce the experience of a wonderful evening at a place that suits you perfectly. Still, I'm so happy to have the Tupelo Honey Cafe Cookbook (Andrews McMeel, $29.99). I couldn't stop telling people about Tupelo Honey Cafe after a meal there about four years ago. The buzzy location in downtown Asheville, N.C., the funky floor plan, our great seats at the bar (where we enjoyed the view of workers in their assorted Grateful Dead T-shirts working on the plates, and got a feel for how much fun it must be to work there) — It all added up to exactly our kind of place.
And the food! We ordered and ordered: grits cakes, sweet potato fries, crab cakes, shrimp and goat cheese grits, the almond-crusted trout and more. With a couple of beers from their great selection, the total bill was still under $90 for three people.
A book doesn't recapture that night, but it does let me make some of the things we liked most, and try other dishes we wanted or that hadn't yet been put on the menu. The likeliest candidates are Chicken Andouille Stir-Fry with Orange Jalapeno Glaze; Lamb and Multi-Mushroom Meatloaf; Pork and Blueberry Sausage Simmered in Maple Syrup.
All of it seems doable by one person in a home kitchen, which is just another thing to love about both the cookbook and Tupelo Honey Cafe.