Free Book Friday: Magnolia Grill edition

Ben and Karen Barker, owners of Magnolia Grill (photo by Ann Hawthorne)

Update 6/1/12, 3:10 pm: We’ve thrown names in the hat from commenters here, on Facebook, and on Twitter, and we drew the name of Franziska Korb (FB commenter) as the winner! Congratulations, Franziska! Thanks to all who contributed. This was a totally drool-worthy comment thread. May we all dine on as Ben and Karen taught us: “Not afraid of flavor!”

We’re bidding a sad farewell this week to legendary Durham restaurant Magnolia Grill, owned and operated for nearly 26 years by Ben and Karen Barker. As Andrea Weigl writes in the Raleigh News & Observer:

No other chefs have put the Triangle dining scene on the national map like this husband-and-wife team who met their first day of school at the Culinary Institute of America.

The Durham Herald-Sun’s Cliff Bellamy writes:

“They integrated real farm-to-fork 25 years ago,” said Scott Howell, owner of Nana’s in Durham. “They were working with farmers before it became fashionable.” Howell was a sous chef at Magnolia Grill before he started Nana’s. He said the Magnolia will be greatly missed.

[. . . ]

The Magnolia Grill opened in 1986, and was a forerunner of Durham’s many independent restaurants that specialize in seasonal, and locally grown and produced ingredients. Many current restaurant owners in the Triangle are alumni of the restaurant. The restaurant has given Durham national recognition over the years. Both Ben and Karen Barker are recipients of the James Beard Award, and the restaurant frequently made Gourmet magazine’s list of best restaurants in the country.

Free Book Friday from UNC Press We’re sorry to see the doors close at Magnolia, but we congratulate the Barkers on a wonderful run and wish them well as they begin the next phase of their lives. And when we get to craving the flavors that made the Barkers famous, we’ll turn to their cookbooks and have a Magnolia Grill night in.

We’re celebrating the restaurant and its talented chef-owners with a special Free Book Friday giveaway. Enter our drawing to win both cookbooks (in hardcover) and you can have your own Magnolia Grill night any night of the week. Reservations were booked solid within days after the Barkers announced the restaurant’s closing, so if you haven’t experienced their sensational dishes in person before now, here’s your chance to learn what all the fuss is about.

Not Afraid of Flavor: Recipes from Magnolia Grill, by Ben and Karen BarkerNot Afraid of Flavor: Recipes from Magnolia Grill, by Ben and Karen Barker

From spectacular soups to inventive updates of classic American desserts, this beautifully illustrated book features more than 125 exciting recipes from Magnolia Grill. While not strictly Southern, many of the dishes display a Southern sensibility–making creative use of regional ingredients or offering a new twist on a familiar favorite. Clear, detailed directions encourage readers to try such “fearless” creations as okra rellenos, spicy green tomato soup with crab and country ham, pan-roasted duck breast with sun-dried cherry conserve, striped bass with oyster stew, wild mushroom bread pudding, brown sugar pear poundcake, and Jack Daniels vanilla ice cream.

Sweet Stuff: Karen Barker's American Desserts, by Karen BarkerSweet Stuff: Karen Barker’s American Desserts, by Karen Barker

Award-winning pastry chef Karen Barker draws on memories of her Brooklyn, New York childhood and years of professional baking experience to present a collection of more than 160 recipes for classic American desserts for the home cook, from fruit pies and fritters to cookies and ice creams. Includes Barker’s signature (and favorite) recipes: my cousin Steve’s cheesecake, cocoa fudge sauce, blueberry-blackberry pie, cornmeal vanilla bean shortbreads, blackout cake, key lime coconut pie with rum cream, and chocolate chestnut roll.

So how do you win?

The Barkers are all about bold flavor, so to win their books, you’ve gotta prove you’re a fan of flavor. Give us a brief description of the best meal you’ve ever had—leave a comment here on the blog, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter using the hashtag #UNCFreeBookFriday.

At 3 pm Friday, June 1, we’ll throw everyone’s names in the hat and draw one name. We’ll post an update here to announce the winner.

The fine print: Must be a U.S. resident. UNC Press and Longleaf Services employees are not eligible.

The backup plan: If you’re not the winner of our giveaway, we’d still like to say thanks and offer you a 20% discount when you purchase the books through our website. Either book is available for $34.95 $24.00 hardcover and $22.00 $17.60 paperback. Just enter the code 01ENEW at our online checkout to receive the discount.