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Book and The Cook: Suzanne Goin at Le Bec Fin

Seeing as both the Book and the Cook and I have been around for decades, you would think I would have years of stories of dining on meals prepared by this favorite PBS host, and that FoodTV celebrity at some of Philadelphia's premiere restaurants.

No, I've always talked myself out of it, attending only the local food expo (or "Culinary Market and Showcase") back in the early 90s. I'm a foodie, it was a food expo, there was fun to be had. That for two weeks in March dining experiences were available that usually require a trip to California or New Orleans did not move me.

The Cook

But when a friend suggested dinner prepared by Suzanne Goin at Le Bec Fin, it was the prodding I needed, although perhaps not the event I would have chosen.

At $85, it was one of the most expensive events, and after tax, tip and the wine flight, it was closer to $200.

It was, however, exquisite. Goin and the Le Bec Fin staff prepared five courses from her book, Sunday Suppers at Lucques: an amuse bouche of tomato tart with capers, watercress soup, salmon a la "Lutece", grilled steak, and an almond financier with nectarines and almond ice cream. Additionally, they managed to select wines available from Pennsylvania's notorious (but improving) liquor stores to complement each course.

Every description of the meal that comes to mind is trite: "balanced," "fresh," "delicious," "complementary." The salmon and the steak are hard to consider part of a casual Sunday supper, no matter how professionally and elegantly prepared.

Goin toured the dining room, signing copies of her book and answering questions. After three minutes I can tell you she is pleasant and confident, "Lucques" is pronounced "Luke," and she too was one of a dozen Susans/Suzannes in high school. She also works very hard, because any chef who cooks that well and is that slim goes non-stop.

The Book

Two glasses of wine and I'm a sucker for a new cookbook, plus I was goaded into the purchase by my friend Heather, who is normally a very restrained woman.

Cookbooks that can be read like any other book are my favorite. In Sunday Suppers at Lucques, Goin starts with the family entertaining and Sunday suppers that kindled her love of cooking. She describes the inspiration for each recipe, in turn inspiring her reader. Goin herself or co-author Teri Gelber is an excellent writer, getting out of the way of the prose.

The recipes are divided by season, which makes the "cook local/cook in season" way of life attainable for us mere mortals who need to plan a week's work of menus before shopping, lest we spend each night playing "what do you want for dinner" with our spouse/life partner.

Although I was assured that the recipes were achievable by the experienced home cook, they do seem involved. The watercress soup and salmon might be possible for a Sunday dinner party, when I have two days to prepare.