Sex and food and Abraham Lincoln

Gift books for every (perverse) taste
By PHOENIX STAFF  |  December 5, 2008

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Who knew? We put out a call to our contributors to suggest appropriate holiday gift books and what do we get back? Japanese bondage photos, a photo-documentary about phone-sex workers, The Best of Sexology. (the mid-20th century sex “health” mag), The Annotated Dracula, a collection of Patricia Highsmith’s macabre Ripley novels, and a book about “the best restaurant in the world” that is, let’s face it, food porn. Nonetheless, we were able to pull back from the abyss at the last minute: a big book about Lincoln can safely be given to Grandma, a book on Jewish LPs will make zayde smile, and Peter Ackroyd’s “biography” of the Thames will keep your English prof broth-in-law out of your face. Throw in indefatigable film critic David Thomson and a book about Russia’s cultural silver age, and you’re covered. And keep in mind, the catalogue prices for most of these luxury volumes have been seasonally discounted at most brick-and-mortar and Web retailers. Enjoy!

A Day at elBulli: An Insight Into the Ideas, Methods and Creativity of Ferran Adriá
Phaidon | By Ferran Adriá, Albert Adriá, and Juli Stoler | 600 pages | $49.95

If the new Robuchon (Knopf) is food porn, then A Day at elBulli: An Insight into the Ideas, Methods and Creativity of Ferran Adriá is food S&M. You know all those dishy trends that so annoy when they pop up at hip stateside boîtes? Flavors as foam, freeze-dried, and deconstructed dishes? Adriá came up with them, and in this luxuriously photographed document, they almost seem to work. “Pistachios are coated in their own praline paste and submerged in liquid nitrogen to create Pistachios garrapi-nitro,” one caption reads, accompanying an absolutely ecstatic photo essay of a day at the Spanish restaurant. That’s just one of many gorgeous spreads by photographer Maribel Ruiz de Erenchun, and true enough these sensuous displays do make the selection of recipes appear worth the fuss (look for the ones that don’t call for liquid nitrogen). But lest you mistakenly see this as a cookbook, this huge brick — credited to head chef Adriá, restaurant creative director Albert Adriá, and restaurant manager Juli Soler — also maps out the restaurant’s cuisine, tracing graph-style the link between “asian influences” and “a new way of breadcrumbing,” as well as the leap from “deconstruction” to “reconstruction.” Decadence as a doorstop, this book faces down the everpresent epicurean question with its own: why not? Not for the Joy of Cooking crowd.

—Clea Simon

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