Authors Dan and Kathleen Taggart, Oregon-based food writers and culinary teachers, present in Northwest Food and Wine
a collection of more than 120 often inspiring, yet sometimes flawed, appetizers, entrees, salads, and desserts, all intelligently arranged in chapters headed by a complementary grape type prominent in the making of Pacific Northwest wines (including, as they'll tell you repeatedly, as if apologizing for precluding it from the title, Idaho). It's a great idea for a book; the Northwest's bountiful seafood, produce, and wine-growing regions provide fodder and imaginative spark to any cook partial to fresh ingredients, be it mussels, Merlot, or mizuna.
Despite some problems in proofreading and layout, this book is capable of sparking the spark. A Sun-Dried Tomato Tapenade, with hints of cayenne and anchovy, adds a surprising level of complexity to a lush and grapey Pinot Gris. Likewise, Sautéed Goat Cheese on Greens with Caper Dressing provokes awe in how well it partners with a recommended Cabernet. Yet these two great recipes are printed on opposite sides of the same page--a small concern, unless you're the one whisking with one hand and adjusting the cookbook holder with the other. It's also easy to dismiss spelling errors or typos, but when, in the "Pinot Noir" chapter, the instructions for the tasty Penne with Caramelized Walla Walla Onions omit adding the onions to the finished dish, you may find yourself running to the pages that feature dishes so simple they can only charitably be called "recipes." "Cracked Whole Fresh Dungeness Crab" asks for two cooked Dungeness crabs, a baguette, and some butter; similarly, "Dill-Coated Grilled Pork Tenderloin" gets two pages for a method consisting primarily of "Roll oiled pork tenderloin in chopped fresh dill. Grill."
Consequently, this book requires vigilance and selective skimming. A Riesling-friendly Spicy Corn Relish is so good and so versatile you'll want to make it to accompany more than the suggested crab cakes; but the Red Wine Butter Sauce--four cups of Cabernet Sauvignon and four cups chicken stock reduced to two cups before adding two entire sticks of butter--lards over the dish with all the grace of a Sumo wrestler perched in a plum tree. Cookbooks are the ultimate trust exercise--two clunkers in a row and you never pick up the book again. But despite the occasional misfire, the judicious chef and enophile looking for casually elegant food and wine pairings will find rewards in Northwest Food and Wine. --Tony Mason