Buvette, Chef Jody Williams' 'gastrotheque' in Manhattan's West Village, mirrors the neighborhood in which it has its roots—cozy, charismatic, with one foot in the romanticized past and one foot firmly in the now. Unsurprisingly, Williams' new book of recipes from the restaurant, Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food, is equally charming. Like the restaurant, there's something utterly welcoming about it. This is a cookbook to get greasy and damp as you cook through its pages. And it's a nightstand cookbook, dreamy and warm, to flip through as you wind down. Reading it is like visiting your impeccably lovely friend, with the flawless skin and well-behaved dog and the beautiful but lived-in home, who makes everything look effortless and casual and who doesn't even ask you to use a coaster. It's inspirational and makes you feel like you could actually do it, too.
Jody Williams spent years in Italy learning Old World kitchen-sense: fresh ingredients worked by hand into soul-quenching and nourishing food. She brought that back with her to New York, and honed her aesthetic and sensibility under Thomas Keller and Lidia Bastianich before opening Buvette in 2010. The bistro is Williams' passion for the craft of cooking and the joy of eating incarnate. Channeling a classic French bistro, with a bit of Italy and a touch of New York thrown in, the menu spans the scope of the day, welcoming hungry guests for a respite whenever they need it—for a steadying breakfast before work, for a lingering lunch with an old friend, for a celebratory supper that doesn't break up till two in the morning.
The cookbook shares the scope and the intent. The recipes are rustic, homey, and elegant. Some are so simple they hardly count as recipes at all, more like suggestions for how to better your day with a plate of food. There's really nothing ground-breaking or terribly adventurous here, but it's as if Williams is curating a lifestyle, one in which you serve Leeks in Vinaigrette or a Raw Artichoke Salad for a light lunch, and you know how make crepes and the perfect hot chocolate and how to get red wine stains out of your shirt, instructions for all of which are in the book. The photos from Gentl & Hyers are moody, styled to be appealing but imperfect, because perfect is boring. (This credo is evidenced by Williams' preferred method for grating hard cheese: by gouging and twisting with the tines of a fork, producing irregular crumbles that add not only flavor, but texture and character to a dish.) With an affectionate introduction from Mario Batali that feels very personal, and a genial, approachable writing style, Buvette is as hospitable as it is beautiful as it is instructional.
We will start this week with a pepper-and-onion-based Piperade to which Williams adds chorizo and eggs, which she calls "especially beneficial for curing brutal hangovers." Then we'll make her luxe Salmon Rilletes with Horseradish, which she adapted from Thomas Keller's outstanding version. Finally, we'll soothe our work-week-addled selves with Soupe au Pistou, a summery bean and vegetable soup topped with a fragrant mixture of basil and cheese.
Win a Copy!
Thanks to Grand Central Publishing, we have five copies of Buvette to give away this week. Tell us what French bistro dish you would love to be able to (or do!) recreate at home in the comments section below.
Excerpted from the book Buvette by Jody Williams. © 2014 by Jody Williams. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.