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The National Stage: Rioja and the Piglet

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If you haven’t heard about the Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks, you’ll want to get in on the action before it wraps up next week. This NCAA-style competition is staged by Food52 and features a smackdown of the 16 best cookbooks of 2011. There’s a bracket, a star-studded panel of judges, and cookbook throwdowns. The tournament winner will be announced on Monday, February 6.

It’s all quite cool—especially because the Perfect Bite by Rioja’s Jennifer Jasinski is included in this year’s competition. In Round One, her book (of which I love and page through regularly) was pitted against Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch by Nigel Slater. The showdown was judged by Slate’s Jacob Weisberg.

Tender, which won the competition, is a remarkable book with intuitive recipes but I don’t think the Perfect Bite got a fair shake. Weisberg came to the table deeply familiar with Tender and it would have taken a lot to overcome that innate preference. True, many of Jasinski’s recipes are complex and multistepped but these are distinctly different books with distinctly different cooking styles. Alas, it’s part of the fun—as is evidenced by this faceoff (and this one too).

Keeping It Local: In addition to the Perfect Bite, I regularly page through Vesta Dipping Grill’s Beyond the Sauce, Colorado Organic by Jennifer Olson, and A Well-Seasoned Kitchen by Sally Clayton and Lee Clayton Roper. What are your favorite local cookbooks?

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