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Thursday, April 18, 2013

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 –

13. THE MIGHTY GASTROPOLIS PORTLAND; a journey through the
center of America's new food revolution (Chronicle Books, 2012,
192 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-0596-3, $24.95 US soft covers) is by
Karen Brooks, with Gideon Bosker and Teri Gelber – all local
food writers in Portland Oregon. This is a good guide to the
street food capital of the USA, headed by log rolling from five
top food writers (including Ruth Reichl). It's a collection of
stories with recipes about some 100 top food emporiums, along
with photos. I've been to Portland, and I've eaten at a few
places on the list (Evoe) and off the list (Secret Society, run
by my "conflict of interest" nephew). Sadly, I have missed all
the food cart pods, but these are included here in the book and
I will return to them later in life. Also here are the Portland
Farmer's Market, the People's Food Farmers Market, and, of
course, lots of those food carts for which Portland is renowned.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and
avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents.
Try Pok pok's grilled corn with salty coconut cream and limes,
or Da' Sterling Bombs (espresso ganache stuffed chocolate
cookies), or grilled steak with bacon-roasted mushrooms and
black trumpet butter.
Quality/price rating: 88.

14. CRISTINA'S OF SUN VALLEY CON GUSTO! (Gibbs Smith, 2012, 200
pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-3189-7, $30 US hard covers) is by
Cristina Ceccatelli Cook, who opened her eponymous place in
1993. This is her third cookbook from her restaurant. Originally
from Tuscany, she gives us a mostly Italian-inspired cookbook,
heavily endorsed by older musical celebrities such as Steve
Miller and Carole King. Photos of the establishment have been
kept to a minimum, allowing for more expression of the plated
dishes. There are chapters for antipasti (liver crostini),
salads, soups, stews, panini, pasta, fish (black cod in salsa
verde), meat (pork osso buco with porchetta), veggies, desserts
(sbrisiolona) and breakfasts.
Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois
measurements, but there is a table of metric equivalents. A
great book for her fans. Quality/price rating: 85.

15, RAW FOOD DETOX (Ryland, Peters and Small, 2013, 144 pages,
ISBN 978-1-84975-265-7, $21.95 US hard covers) is by Anya Ladra,
founder of Raw Fairies, a raw food delivery company in the UK.
As the publisher notes, "revitalize and rejuvenate with these
delicious low-calorie recipes to help you lose weight and
improve your energy levels. She uses plant-based organic
ingredients and methods such as soaking, sprouting, and
dehydrating. A raw food detox is supposed to promote clear
glowing skin and give you better energy. It is also touted as
painless. She begins with a five-day cleansing detox. Then there
are chapters devoted to juices and smoothies, salads and
dressings, mains, snacks, sweets and desserts. Carrot and lemon
juice with omega-3 oils is a good start to the day, followed by
a sprouted buckwheat salad or tomato quiche with almond pastry.
For snacks, we could all enjoy spicy almonds or Italian flaxseed
crackers. For the meat eaters, there's a mushroom pate and a
range of desserts. The diet is easy; the dishes may take a
little insight to prepare.
recipes have their ingredients listed mainly in avoirdupois with
some metric measurements, but there is no table of equivalents.
There's a list of suppliers in the UK and the US. Quality/price
rating: 87.

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