Search This Blog

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Nov/2010: THE RESTAURANT/CELEBRITY COOKBOOK... one of the hottest trends in cookbooks.
Actually, they've been around for many years, but never in such
proliferation. They are automatic sellers, since the book can be
flogged at the restaurant or TV show and since the chef ends up being a
celebrity somewhere, doing guest cooking or catering or even turning up
on the Food Network. Most of these books will certainly appeal to fans
of the chef and/or the restaurant and/or the media personality. Many of
the recipes in these books actually come off the menus of the
restaurants involved. Occasionally, there will be, in these books,
special notes or preps, or recipes for items no longer on the menu.
Stories or anecdotes will be related to the history of a dish. But
because most of these books are American, they use only US volume
measurements for the ingredients; sometimes there is a table of metric
equivalents, but more often there is not. I'll try to point this out.
The usual shtick is "favourite recipes made easy for everyday cooks".
There is also PR copy on "demystifying ethnic ingredients". PR bumpf
also includes much use of the magic phrase "mouth-watering recipes" as
if that is what it takes to sell such a book. I keep hearing from
readers, users, and other food writers that some restaurant recipes
(not necessarily from these books) don't seem to work, but how could
that be? They all claim to be kitchen tested for the home, and many
books identify the food researcher by name. Most books are loaded with
tips, techniques, and advice, as well as gregarious stories about life
in the restaurant world. Photos abound, usually of the chef bounding
about. The celebrity books, with well-known chefs or entertainers, seem
to have too much self-involvement and ego. And, of course, there are a
lot of food shots, verging on gastroporn. The endorsements are from
other celebrities in a magnificent case of logrolling. If resources are
cited, they are usually American mail order firms, with websites. Some
companies, though, will ship around the world, so don't ignore them
altogether. Here's a rundown on the latest crop of such books –
11. TASTE BROADWAY; restaurant recipes from NYC's theater district
(Gibbs Smith, 2010; distr. Raincoast, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-0486-
0, $19.99 US soft covers) has been assembled by Carliss Retif Pond, z
food writer living in New York city. These are signature dishes from 30
restaurants in the district, arranged by course from appetizers to
desserts (plus drinks). There are photos and engaging anecdotes from
the establishments. Preps have all been sourced as to name of chef and
resto. And there is a directory at the back with contact data and page
references to their recipes in this book. Leading the way with
contributions is the Russian Tea Room, Sardi's, and the Algonquin
Hotel. P.J. Clarke's has just one prep given (bubble and squeak).
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements,
but there is a metric table of equivalents. The print is a nice size,
and there is plenty of white space for eye ease and to write your own
notes. The book is more of a souvenir than anything else, as are the
best Broadway programs. Dishes include such as pasta e fagioli from La
Rivista, zuppa di broccoli from Lattanzi, and venison hash from
Lucille's Grill. Quality/price rating: 86.

12. THE HARROW FAIR COOKBOOK; prize-winning recipes inspired by
Canada's favourite country fair (Whitecap, 2010, 238 pages, ISBN 978-1-
77050-020-4, $29.95 paper covers) is by sisters Moira Sanders and Lori
Elstone, both culinary school graduates who worked in restaurants.
Moira has a food blog, while Lori writes locally about food and wine.
They have been assisted by Beth Maloney, a first cousin. You can check
them all out at The Colchester South and
Harrow Agricultural Society Fair was founded in 1854; it is held every
Labour Day weekend with a turnout of some 70,000. The 150 preps here
use local produce to make plates from scratch. There are preserves for
summer produce, pie bakes, and drinks. All of the recipes were inspired
by the fair and the surrounding area. Some are first prize winners,
such as buttermilk biscuits and rhubarb custard pie. Others are family
favourites passed on from generation to generation. All of them are
delicious and tasty. A full range is presented: breakfast, starters,
soups, sides, mains, desserts, plus primer data on preserving veggies
and fruit (sauces, jams, freezing, condiments, pickles). Preparations
have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois
measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Try the seven-
strata salad, the Great Lakes chowder, or any of the prize-winning pies
and cakes. A yummy book with nifty photography. Quality/price rating:
13. THE SEVEN STARS COOKBOOK; recipes from world-class casino
restaurants (Chronicle Books, 2010,; distr. Raincoast, 320 pages, ISBN
978-0-8118-7475-5, $45 US hard covers) has been pulled together by John
Schlimm, better known for his books on beer. The book is sponsored by
Harrah's Entertainment, the world's largest provider of branded casino
entertainment, operating on four continents under such names as
Caesars, Horseshoe, and World Series of Poker. It also has a majority
interest in the London Clubs International series of casinos. Despite
this provenance, there is still some heavy log rolling from Paul
Prudhomme and Rocco DiSpirito – and even novelist Jackie Collins(!).
The book features recipes from Bobby Flay and Paula Deen and other
executive chefs from casinos, including some from Canada. There's a
history of the company plus lots of photos of their casino operations.
Apart from that, it seems to be a coffee table book with oversized
photos on platings of dishes, and fare that fits into categories of
appetizers, salads, soups, sides, meat mains, pasta, fish and seafood,
desserts, and cocktails. There's a breakfast buffet-brunch and a VIP
luncheon menu. Preparations have their ingredients listed in
avoirdupois measurements, but there is a metric table of equivalents.
Recipes are sourced by casino and chef name. Prudhomme contributes a
leek and sun-dried tomato mushroom and champagne soup and a bronzed
fish, Paula Deen has her hoecakes and gooey butter cake, and Flay has
his blue corn-crusted red snapper. The book will undoubtedly sell well
at all their casino properties. Oh, and did I say that the book weighs
2.2 kilos? It's pretty heavy to lug around the kitchen when doing a
prep. Quality/price rating: 82.
14. EVERYDAY RAW DESSERTS (Gibbs Smith, 2010; distr. Raincoast, 143
pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-0599-7, $19.99 paper covers) is by Matthew
Kenney, founder and chef at 105degrees Restaurant, and a TV
personality. He has also authored some books dealing with raw foods, so
he is a go-to person in the raw food front. He has 75 preps here. He
begins with a staples list, to establish a foundation. So he has
recipes for coconut milk, coconut powder, sucanat, nut flour, cashew
flour, Irish moss paste, date paste, candied nuts, toffee and caramel,
plus raw chocolate. The secret to raw cooking is the dehydrator – and
you cannot over-dehydrate. The drier the finished product, the longer
it can last. Desserts here include cookies and candy, brownies, fudge,
puddings, pies and tarts, custards, cakes and cheesecakes, plus frozen
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements,
but there is a metric table of equivalents. Try dulce de leche flan,
candied carrot-ginger cake, or cacao cake with lavender. Quality/price
rating: 87.

15. FRESH FROM THE MARKET; seasonal cooking (John Wiley & Sons, 2010,
328 pages, ISBN 978-0-470-40242-9, $35 US hard covers) is by Laurent
Tourondel and Charlotte March. He's the founder of the BLT chain,
Bistro Laurent Tourondel Restaurants. Log rolling comes from Rachel
Ray. He stresses the local and wild foods found at farmers' markets,
mostly from the Northeast US. There's about 167 recipes here, plus
menus for a variety of occasions. He also offers cocktails and wine
pairings. The arrangement is, of course, seasonal, from Spring through
Winter. Typical menus cover Easter Sunday brunch buffet, Mother's Day
brunch, BBQ and Picnic, wine harvest, US Thanksgiving, plus Christmas
and New Year Eves. Braised rabbit legs in Chablis with tarragon
tagliatelle and mushrooms grabbed my attention. So did spiced grilled
duck with plum mostarda and foie gras. Or how about the aromatic
stuffed suckling pig?  Preparations have their ingredients listed in
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no metric table of equivalents.
Sources are all American; indeed, suppliers are mainly situated in New
York state. Useful for those living in NE US. Quality/price rating: 86.

16. BOURKE STREET BAKERY; the ultimate baking companion (HarperCollins,
2010, 370 pages, ISBN 978-1-55468-881-4, $39.99 Canadian soft covers)
was originally published by Murdoch Books in Australia in 2009. Authors
Paul Allam and David McGuinness are chefs and co-owners of the
eponymous bakery in Sydney, Australia. They specialize in rustic
breads, gourmet pies, and sweets, and there are several other branches
of the operation. So this book concentrates on those three forms of
baked goods; it also gets an endorsement from Joanne Yolles, acclaimed
pastry chef at Scaramouche in Toronto. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but
there is no table of equivalents or conversion charts. There's some
text about the bakery and some memoir-ish notes as well. Some
interesting items include spiced fruit sourdough, light rye bread,
chicken pies with eggplant and mushroom, ratatouille pie, chickpea and
goat's curd and eggplant empanadas, and chocolate mousse tarts.
Quality/Price rating: 87.

17.TARTINE BREAD (Chronicle Books, 2010; distr. Raincoast, 304 pages,
ISBN 978-0-8118-7041-2, $40 US hard covers) is by Chad Robertson. With
his pastry chef wife Elizabeth, he had written Tartine in 2006,
eventually picking up a Beard Award. Here he concentrates on just
bread, and bread made just by natural leavening. His take on this
sourdough is a younger version with little acidity, making it a sweet-
smelling yeastier relative. He must be doing something right for his
bread sells out in an hour after leaving the ovens at 5 PM. In form,
the bread would be baked dark, with a substantial blistered crust. The
crumb would have a sweet character with holes. There's a lot of
material here about his bakery (history, business, memoirs) as well as
the usual pictures. We get to the basic bread at page 45, with black
and white photos for techniques. Start with a starter, move on to the
leavening, and mixing the dough. Everything is scaled for only weights
are true measures. Preps are detailed and based on one kilogram of
flour. The recipe ends on page 79, 35 pages later. Then begin all the
variations. This is a terrific book for would-be beakers, and it is not
for the faint of heart. He concludes with some 30 recipes for making a
meal from the bread: panzanella, escalivada, bagnet vert, aioli,
bruschetta, sandwiches, fritatine, and summer pudding. Bread
preparations have their ingredients listed in metric measurements, meal
preps have avoirdupois measurements, but there is no metric table of
Quality/Price rating: 89.

18. BLACKBIRD BAKERY GLUTEN-FREE; 75 recipes for irresistible desserts
and pastries (Chronicle Books, 2010, 224 pages, ISBN 978-0-8118-7331-4,
$24.95 US hard covers) is by Karen Morgan, proprietor of the Blackbird
Bakery in Austin, Texas. Here she uses a variety of wheatless flours
(rice, tapioca, sorghum, almond) to create cookies, cakes, biscuits,
and pies. There's a primer on cooking without flour and a resources
list where gluten-free ingredients may be purchased. The preps include
popovers, pancakes, scones, muffins, banana bread, gingerbread, pound
cake, ladyfingers, shortbreads, crepes, apple pies, and more.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements,
but there is a metric table of equivalents. A useful book.
Quality/Price rating: 86.

19. MICHAEL CHIARELLO'S BOTTEGA; bold Italian flavors from the heart of
California's wine country (Chronicle Books, 2010, 223 pages, ISBN 978-
0-8118-7539-4, $40 US hard covers) is also authored "with Ann Krueger
Spivack and Claudia Sansone". The former is a cookbook author with a
Beard Award; the latter is a culinary set designer with an Emmy. The
team has garnered log rolling from Rick Bayless, Tom Colicchio, and
Hubert Keller (plus others from west coast restaurants). Chiarello runs
Bottega in Napa, just one of his many food accomplishments (his resume
is a yard/metre long) which includes Emmy-winning food television. He
opened Bottegs in late 2008; all of the preps here come from that
resto. There's a lot of restaurant memoir-history here, scattered
amongst the recipes. He begins, sensibly, with the CalItal pantry. This
is followed by the Italian meal pacing of stuzzichini (snacks),
antipasti, minestre e insalate, paste e risotto, pesce ed I molluschi,
carne e pollame, contorni (sides), and dolci. There's not much on wine,
just a minimal recommendation for most presps such as "champagne" or
"pinot noir". But there is a section on libations and cocktails. This
is followed by a list of US resources. Preparations have their
ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is a metric
table of equivalents. Typical items include his grandmother's old hen
tomato sauce, chicken wings agrodolce (yum yum), cauliflower fritto,
grilled radicchio salad with tuna, garganelli with rabbit sugo and
mushroom, and, of course, a killer porchetta using a suckling pig
stuffed with a boneless pork shoulder. But the book weighs a lot, and
the pages are 9 x 12 inches. Quality/Price rating: 88.
20. VIJ'S AT HOME; relax, honey – the warmth and ease of Indian cooking
(Douglas & McIntyre, 2010, 230 pages, ISBN 978-1-55365-572-5, $40 CDN
paper covers) is by Meeru Dhalwala and Vikram Vij. Vij is owner-chef of
Vij in Vancouver since 1994; Dhalwala and Vij together also run Rangoli
in Vancouver. Vij has appeared on many television shows. It's a useful
quick and easy guide to inspired Indian food: all preps can be done in
less than 20 minutes plus cooking times. There's a full-range of
vegetarian, seafood, poultry, meats and desserts. There's an opening
primer on Indian foods at home (spices, oils, staples) which includes
some guidelines for easier cooking, such as sizzling seeds or using a
lot of tomatoes.  Preparations have their ingredients listed in
avoirdupois measurements, but there is a metric table of equivalents.
There is also the occasional memoir material on Indian family life. And
some really sharp notes on wine pairings with Indian food (Vij is a
certified sommelier). The advice, though, is general, for there are no
specific wine recommendations for the recipes. Recipes also list three
different other food to have with the prep. Try green beans and
potatoes and spinach in coconut curry, steamed marinated halibut in
black chickpea and potato curry, marinated duck breast with mung bean
and sesame see rice pilaf, spinach and split pea mash, and brown
basmati with Portobello mushroom pilaf. Quality/Price rating: 88.

No comments: