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review by Diana Viola
"A rose is a rose is a rose," Gertrude Stein famously said, but a 'stinking rose', as the Greeks and Romans called garlic, is far more distinctive than Stein's plebeian variety. And if a chef cooks with that rose of distinction, he needs to handle it with care and a little wit. Both are found in the great food at one of the Stinking Rose Restaurants, either the original in San Francisco, or its equally popular offspring in Los Angeles.
To celebrate the pungent rose, the restaurants are purposely flamboyant in design with larger-than-life props. Sinatra fills the air waves and photos of movie stars line the walls. As one might suspect, the denizens of Hollywood throng to the restaurants. Though the restaurants are lavish, Chef Andrea Froncillo's use of garlic is subtle, and the dishes that result from the inclusion of this scented rose have kept the restaurant popular for years.
The Stinking Rose Restaurant Cookbook brings this hearty California-Italian fare to the home kitchen. Working with writer, Jennifer Jeffrey, Froncillo has organized 65 of the restaurant's most popular recipes. For garlic excess there is Forty-Clove Garlic Chicken,then a subtler Pasta with Butternut Squash, Fried Sage & Garlic Chips. There are Italian Pot Stickers, a surprise inspired by the restaurant's proximity to Chinatown. For seafood lovers, there is Skillet-Roasted Mussels with Garlic Dipping Butter. For supreme delight there is the heavenly Gnocchi with Gorgonzola, Asparagus and Pine Nuts. Sides are not forgotten and such recipes as Pesto Mashed Potatoes and Crunchy Marinated Cauliflower Salad turn side dishes into stars.
The authors have provided a guide to garlic which covers purchasing, storing and cooking with garlic. Included here is a section called "the vampire quotient,' a necessary element if you are considering a deep commitment to garlic. Froncillo and Jeffrey treat their stinking rose with both wit and exuberance.
There are photos of the dishes and of the restaurant throughout by Caren Alpert.