In her 30-year career, Cindy Pawlcyn has become one of the most celebrated chefs in the Napa Valley, the epicenter of the California wine industry. A decade before Thomas Keller bought the building that would become the French Laundry restaurant, Pawlcyn was scouring the countryside for the best vegetables and meat the local farmers had ?to offer.
At Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen, Pawlcyn's casual place, the chef has established a tradition of taking her customers around the world every week. Her Supper Club serves a menu from a non-Californian cuisine on Wednesdays and Thursdays, drawing inspirations from such far-flung outposts of flavor as Ethiopia, Norway, Hawaii, Brazil and Turkey.
In "Cindy's Supper Club," Pawlcyn takes cooks and eaters along for the journey, with a lucid and generously illustrated cookbook that seems sure to launch a thousand dinner parties. It is "part travelogue of places I have been and part inspiration from places I want to visit," she writes.
In this, her fifth cookbook, Pawlcyn takes a conversational tone, drawing the reader into her kitchen. She's not fussy, and she is quick to point out alternative ingredients and ways dishes might make parts of meals or stand alone.
The recipes she chose to share slip outside the usual culinary tourist suggestions. The Mexican section offers tacos, but they're stuffed with cochinita pibil, the "slow-roasted pork of the Yucatan." The Italian section includes pesto – walnut pesto, with broccoli rabe, arugula and prosciutto.
And while the ?Chinese chapter does include a recipe for sticky sweet-and-sour spare ribs – "I always eat too many," Pawlcyn writes – there's also a fish soup punched up with chile and garlic oil.
Taking the best ?flavor combinations ?and culinary habits ?from the cuisines she loves, Pawlcyn created a book that reads like a road map to dining adventure. Forget the suitcase. Pick up a knife, and get ready for a trip ?to remember.
On the Web: See Pawlcyn's recipe for Belgian Endive Gratin at blogs.buffalonews.com/hungryformore
Cindy's Supper Club
By Cinty Pawlcyn
Ten Speed Press288 pages, $35