[Photograph: Maura McEvoy]

Danny Meyer never planned to open another restaurant. The success of his first venture, Manhattan's beloved Union Square Cafe, was, at first, not enough for the restaurateur to expand his enterprise. But at the urging of then-partner Tom Colicchio, they went on to found Gramercy Tavern, an institution of New York dining and one of the most popular, well-respected restaurants in New York City.

The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook captures the fresh, seasonal cuisine of Gramercy Tavern chef Michael Anthony, as well as the bright, convivial atmosphere of the Tavern itself. While its glossy pages and considerable heft make it tempting to leave on your coffee table, that would be missing the point: yes, it's a beautiful book, but you can, and should, cook from it.

Like dinner at the Tavern, the book begins with drinks. Without much fanfare, you're launched into spring, with bright, curling salads and photos almost too big to take in with two eyes. The book winds its way through summer, fall, and winter, peppered with restaurant history, chef's stories, and tutorials on everything from pickles to pie crust. But does this translate to home cooking?

It's a question best answered by Chef Michael's insistence on separating restaurant from home cooking. He tells the reader not to worry if their creations don't mimic the book's, and that fresh, seasonally appropriate ingredients are paramount. And he's absolutely right. Yes, it is thrilling to prepare 3-star cuisine at home, but it is even more delightful not having to worry if everything looks perfect.

To that end, we bring you perfectly imperfect desserts from The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook. Several can be found in each season's section, but we've specifically chosen those that best warm the heart and stomach as we approach the holiday season. They're all beautifully classic, and run the gamut from gift-worthy (Chocolate-Covered Toffee with Pumpkin Seeds and Sea Salt) to I-could-make-this-with-one-eye-closed Monkey Bread. In the middle are two showstoppers: German Chocolate Cake, with chocolate flavor deep enough to drown in, and its counterpart, tongue-tightening Lemon Meringue Pie. It's not often one gets the opportunity to replicate award-winning desserts at home. It's even rarer for it to be so simple.

Win A Copy!

Thanks to the generous folks over at Clarkson Potter, we are giving away five (5) copies of The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook this week. All you have to do is share your favorite classic dessert in the comments below.


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