Reality Bites

Amanda Hesser, author of “Cooking for Mr. Latte.

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But beyond the anecdotes and recipes used in her good-humored defense of fine dining, during those three years of courtship, Hesser, who joined the Times in 1997, was also searching for her own culinary identity. Recipes culled from off-duty foodie haunts like Pearl Oyster Bar, Blue Hill and Prune, give the book an insider angle, but most dishes come via Hesser’s talented family members and her dozens of friends — all sophisticated, witty and forever tucking into a fabulous meal. There’s Tama Janowitz’s coconut cake, served at a rooftop party; the veal scallopini with fluffy parmesan a friend makes in Rome; single-girl salmon à la fashion writer Ginia Bellafante, and even Aunt Nora’s mock lobster.

In the tradition of M.F.K. Fisher, Hesser mingles the nostalgic sweep of a gourmet’s life with the practical stuff of cooking. "The recipes in the magazine were more ‘add milk, stir,’" she says. "I added back in a lot of the sensual details."

She also includes chapters that chronicle the less sugar-coated aspects of the couple’s romance, which were played down in the magazine. "A story about us moving in together and not getting along well seems a little more appropriate to a book that lays out the entire path of the relationship," says Hesser. "Luckily, nothing tragic or awful happened along the way, but if it had, I would have had to find a way to write about it."

The tragedies Hesser encounters these days are more likely to be of the sunken-soufflé variety. "People call me up and say, ‘I’ve got this thing in the oven and it isn’t looking like you described. Can you help me?’" says Hesser with a giggle. "I’ve coached a lot of people through cooking dramas."

She continues to write about food for the Times, selling anyone she can on the superior texture of chocolate mousse and the wonders of Meyer lemons, while testing recipes in the Brooklyn apartment she and Friend share.

Still, while our man Tad may have gone gourmet, it’s nice to know he’s been tamed, not broken. Just the other day, he ordered a cookie with M & M’s baked into it. "I said, ‘You can’t have that,’" Hesser reports, beaming, "and he said, ‘Oh yes, I can!’"
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