By LESLIE BRENNER
LOS ANGELES TIMES
LOS ANGELES -- Bon App & eacute;tit is 50 years old, and Barbara Fairchild, the magazine's editor in chief, is celebrating.
She played hostess during September at a splashy series of events called the "Bon App & eacute;tit Culinary and Wine Focus Beverly Hills": a rooftop dinner at Raffles L'Ermitage hotel; a grand tasting of dishes from 50 chefs at the Beverly Hilton, plus wine and cheese tastings and a poolside cocktail party at the Avalon Hotel.
But Fairchild is even more excited about the publication of "The Bon App & eacute;tit Cookbook," the first book that Fairchild, who has been at the publication for 28 years, has authored.
She's brought a copy of the cookbook along to lunch at Lucques, where we sit on the shady back patio.
"Isn't it beautiful?" she says.
It doesn't take Fairchild long to make up her mind about what to order as a starter: heirloom tomato salad with burrata, a fresh Italian cheese, made from mozzarella and cream.
"I have to have that wherever I see it," she says.
Chef Suzanne Goin sends out a glorious one, with slices of red, and purple, and orange and green tomatoes. When I had asked Fairchild where she'd like to have lunch, she chose Lucques, not just because she loves Goin's cooking, but because she loves the fact that women chefs and restaurateurs are so strong in Los Angeles. "I think the West Coast really leads in that regard," she says.
A young woman dining with her 4-year-old daughter leans over from the next table.
"I'm sorry to bother you, but are you with Bon App & eacute;tit?" she asks.
Something tells me this happens to Fairchild everywhere she goes. The woman introduces herself as a chef from Portland, Ore. Bon App & eacute;tit, it turns out, will feature her restaurant in an upcoming issue.
The main course comes: striped bass with dancing demon plums. The unusual plums, with their deep, bright flavor and emerald color, gets Fairchild talking about ingredients. And about cooking. And about the magazine. About what America likes to eat and how that's changed in the past 50 years.
The magazine's anniversary issue this month, a 244-page tome, takes a look back at that half-century. As part of it, various chefs are featured with dishes that update the ideas of each decade from the 1950s to the present.
Goin, she tells me, will be interpreting the 1990s, with a Moroccan spread called "It's a Med Med Med Med World."
"The '90s were really about that area of the world," says Fairchild, "and the latest stop is Morocco. The photos are gorgeous." Fairchild has lived in Los Angeles since she was 8 years old, when her character-actor father moved the family from New York. She divides her time between Los Angeles and New York, where Bon App & eacute;tit has a satellite office at Cond & eacute; Nast.
Well, make that between Los Angeles, and New York and Washington, where her partner of 15 years, Paul Nagle, works for Bering Point, a consulting firm, that's based there.
"We're tri-coastal," she says, merrily. But she seems to be a Los Angeles girl at heart, so it's no surprise that she has show-business connections. Ah, here comes one now: It's Ron Bernstein, taking his seat with two other diners at the table just to Fairchild's right.
Kisses ensue, then Bernstein, a literary agent at International Creative Management who handles film rights, brings up the cookbook and when it will be published.
She proudly hands him the copy she's brought, and he starts flipping through it.
"Coconut tofu?" he says. "Baked grits with Parmesan and black pepper? Barbara, you're not cooking for me, honey!"
"This is a big deal for Bon App & eacute;tit, right? I'm not eating peach grunt with caramel sauce!"
But Ron, baby, there are more than 1,200 recipes in the book beside those! They were culled from the staff's favorite recipes from the past 50 years of the magazine -- the majority of Bon App & eacute;tit's test kitchen staff, Fairchild says, has been at the magazine 20 years or more. And supplemented too, here and there, with new recipes where needed.
So what are readers most likely to turn to first?
Desserts, if the magazine's RSVP column, where readers write in requesting recipes from restaurants, is any indication.
"We can't run enough flour-less chocolate cake," says Fairchild. "And cheesecake. Any cheesecake has consistently been the favorite dessert of Bon App & eacute;tit readers for 50 years."
There are no fewer than 13 cheesecake recipes in the book.
But Fairchild has chosen, as one of her three favorite recipes (along with grilled steak salad with green beans and blue cheese, and spicy roast chicken breasts with tomatoes and marjoram), giant chocolate-toffee cookies.
"They combine my two favorite flavors," she says, "chocolate and caramel. And they're big, so you can eat half one day and the other the next -- if you have the willpower."
They are big. And rich. And gooey. And very Bon App & eacute;tit.
GRILLED STEAK SALADWITH GREEN BEANS AND BLUE CHEESE
1 pound slender green beans, trimmed
6 cups baby arugula (about 6 ounces)
4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
11/4 cups pitted Kalamata olives, halved
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground pepper
3 (8- to 9-ounce) strip loin steaks
1 cup crumbled blue cheese (about 4 ounces)
In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the green beans until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain. Transfer the beans to a bowl of ice water and cool. Drain.
Prepare a grill to medium-high heat. Combine the green beans, arugula, tomatoes and olives in a large bowl. Whisk olive oil and vinegar in a small bowl to blend. Season the dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
Brush the steaks with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil; sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Grill the steaks to desired doneness, about 11/2 minutes on the first side and 1 minute on the second side for medium rare. Transfer the steaks to a work surface; let stand 5 minutes. Cut the steaks crosswise into thin strips.
Toss the salad with enough dressing to coat. Divide the salad among six plates. Top with steak strips. Sprinkle cheese over.
Makes 6 servings.
Total time: 35 minutes.
Each serving: 503 calories; 33 grams protein; 14 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams fiber; 36 grams fat; 10 grams saturated fat; 73 milligrams cholesterol; 624 milligrams sodium.
Note: From "The Bon App & eacute;tit Cookbook" by Barbara Fairchild. French green beans called haricots verts are perfect for this salad, but if you can't find them, look for the skinniest American green beans you can get. The recipe does not indicate thickness of steaks. We used steaks about 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch thick and changed the grilling time accordingly for medium rare.
SPICY ROAST CHICKENWITH TOMATOES AND MARJORAM
24 ounces whole cherry tomatoes (about 4 cups), stemmed
1/4 cup olive oil
5 garlic cloves, pressed
11/4 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram, divided
4 bone-in chicken breasts (10 ounces to 12 ounces each)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Toss the tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, crushed red pepper and 1 tablespoon marjoram in a large bowl to combine.
Place the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the tomato mixture over the chicken, arranging the tomatoes in a single layer on the sheet around the chicken. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
Roast until the chicken is cooked through and the tomatoes are blistered, about 35 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to plates. Spoon the tomatoes and juices over the chicken. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon marjoram and serve. Total time: 45 minutes.
Makes 4 servings.
Each serving: 516 calories; 56 grams protein; 8 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 28 grams fat; 6 grams saturated fat; 152 milligrams cholesterol; 139 milligrams sodium.
GIANT CHOCOLATE-TOFFEE COOKIES
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup unsalted butter
13/4 cups golden brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 (1.4-ounce) chocolate-covered English toffee candy bars, coarsely chopped
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl; whisk to blend.
Stir the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler set over simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove the mixture from the heat and cool to lukewarm.
With an electric mixer, beat the sugar and eggs in a large bowl until thick, about 5 minutes. Beat in the chocolate mixture and the vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture, then the toffee and nuts. Chill the batter until firm, at least 45 minutes and up to one day.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop the batter by 1/4-cupfuls onto the baking sheets, spacing them about 21/2 inches apart. Bake the cookies just until dry and cracked on top but still soft to the touch in the center, about 15 minutes.
Cool on the baking sheets. The cookies can be prepared two days ahead; store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Makes about 18 cookies.
Total time: 45 minutes, plus 45 minutes standing time.
Each serving: 355 calories; 5 grams protein; 44 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 22 grams fat; 10 grams saturated fat; 60 milligrams cholesterol; milligrams sodium.
Note: From "The Bon App & eacute;tit Cookbook" by Barbara Fairchild. You can refrigerate the batter overnight.