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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on May 30, 2000
The recipes in this book are wonderful, some of the most creative and inventive cooking I have ever seen. The book seems to be aimed at someone who is a confident cook, but by no means an expert. Your Mom could probably handle anything in this book.
I have made Sea Bass with Port Wine Sauce, which is not only delicious, it has a fabulous sauce that does not start out by using fish stock. In fact, many of the sauce recipes do not require first having some sort of home made stock, and that is a great time saver. Another wonderful recipe, Chicken with Shallots and Endive, also did not require making a stock. I have also had the best soup I've ever tasted from this book - Shrimp Soup with Roasted Corn. Just wonderful!
The book does not have many desserts, but the warm chocolate cake is fabulous. I also find that the instructions are written in such a way that it requires more thinking than seems necessary. Not that the recipes are tricky or anything like that. Its more that they exist in lots of separate parts and trying to imagine what the whole effect will be is sometimes difficult.
On the whole, though, this is a great cookbook, one of the most fun I have seen. And the illustrations and visual design add to the pleasure of using it!
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on December 14, 2001
Portale is not trying to train you to step up to the saucepan at Gotham and will not have you spending your Saturdays peeling grapes a la Thomas Keller's "French Laundry" cookbook. He's also not trying to give you a complete course in basic techniques a la Julia Child's "The Way to Cook". Instead, what you get is more of a philosophy and a sketchbook. The introductory essay, titled "Cooking Like a Chef at Home", is both insightful and inspiring. The recipes, which are presented in their basic form and presentation are sometimes followed with "flavor building" tips (usually additions, like roast shallots for lamb), "variations" (usually substitutions, say of sea bass for red snapper), and sometimes "Gotham Presentation". Given Portale's trademark towering presentations, it's disappointing that there's not more detail in the book (though he does let you in on how the seared tuna with papardelle and red wine sauce is put together in the restaurant, which is one of my all time favorite dishes). Judging from the end of the introductory essay, Portale's just tired of people focusing on presentation more than flavor.
The terse writing and lack of meticulously detailed instructions is a huge contrast with my three other favorite cookbooks named after restaurants: Deborah Madison's "Greens", Alice Waters' "Chez Panisse", and Barbara Tropp's "China Moon". I typically consult all of these books and a few more when I cook something to triangulate both technique and proportions. For instance, consider Portale's recipe for mashed potatos (half of page 206). There are two fundamental clues in this recipe that have transformed my spuds. First, after boiling the potatos, Portale has you return them to the pan to evaporate extra moisture. The critical idea is that the potatos should be dry before you mash them. (Also important for making light gnocchi.) It's the idea and goal that are important -- other chefs get dry potatos differently, say by not peeling or quartering the potatos first. Second, use a potato ricer. The difference between that and blending or using a masher is amazing. You'll have to read other cookbooks to learn that you shouldn't overmash your potatos or they'll become sticky. Ironically, the potatos at the restaurant are not riced, at least with the lamb chops, although I imagine they might be with other dishes; the point is that once you know what's going to happen, you have control. Sadly, Portale doesn't provide photos or instructions on the Gotham presentation, which is in a large scoop set atop a carved-out baked potato with the trademark flying herbs.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I live a block and a half from Gotham Bar and Grill and it's one of my favorite restaurants in the world. If you go there, you can get a copy of this book signed along with a nice little ink illustration of a simmering dish by the chef.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on December 11, 2000
I have been a amateur cook for approximately 4 years and only fantasized about making dishes like the ones in this book. I found all of these recipes very easy to follow and the methods are not confusing. Preparing these kinds of elaborate dishes(seafood salad, soft shell crabs, bouillabaisse, and stocks, etc.)has always intimidated me and I never took the initiative to try. I am so glad I bought this book. It has elevated my cooking and most importantly - my presentation. This book has encouraged me to create dishes on my own. It's a great inspiration.
Also, at the beginning of the book, it talks about how the Gotham restaurant operates and how it (and Mr. Portale) got started - very interesting.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2000
I have been a long time fan of Gotham Bar a Grill in NYC and I received this wonderful cookbook as a gift for Christmas. I recently became interested in cooking and had little to no experience in making anything appealing or delicious enough to feed others. This book not only educated me in the art of cooking but also instructed me on how to use the book. The little sidebars and helpful hints were great. Having eaten at Gotham countless times, I never thought that I could accomplish dishes so grand and sumptous - but I did!! I didn't think I could do it!!!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 1999
Not only is the cookbook photographed wonderfully, the contents are substantive and the reader learns from Portale. I've made 10 dishes from this cookbook, all of them crowd-pleasers. I would have made more by now, but I kept forgetting to look at this book. I especially love his seafood recipes. This chef doesn't get much national attention, but he's right up there with Boulud and Waters.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2008
The basic problem with most restaurant cookbooks is that they're all about impressing you with the simplicity and beauty of the stuff they serve. There are exceptions, of course, like The French Laundry Cookbook, which doesn't pull its punches and lets you know just how difficult and complicated everything is. But Portale is a much better teacher: he wants you to make the dishes, and cares a lot less that you present them his way.

If you are comfortable in the kitchen with complex, multi-step cooking, the sort of thing where you make one thing one day and another the next early afternoon and then finish the dish a la minute, you will find everything here marvelously easy. If you want 30-minute cooking, you will still find gems here to savor.

What stuns me about this cookbook, though, is that once you get the hang of what Portale has in mind for a given dish or approach, you can replicate it without a recipe. My favorite example here is a pasta dish made with pea shoots, prosciutto, garlic, butter, and cheese. Once you understand what he's doing --- making the sauce by using the heat of the pasta and a dab of the pasta-boiling water, thus emulsifying the butter, binding it with cheese, and simultaneously heating up all the chopped ingredients --- you can repeat the dish perfectly with whatever comes to hand that seems appropriate.

Conversely, many of the truly difficult and finicky things here can be done almost entirely in advance. He's got the famous Gotham Chocolate Cake, which you make 100% in advance --- in fact, you should make it at least several days in advance, and let it sit in the freezer. To serve, you take out your main course from the oven, shut it off, and put the cake --- still wrapped in seran-wrap --- in the oven, perhaps with the door cracked. When you want dessert, peel and slice, and add a little ice cream. This is the fancy home-cook's dream dessert: insanely tasty, intricate and obviously hard work (which it is), but totally brainless and zero work on the day of the dinner party.

To top it all off, Portale can write. I don't know if he had a cookbook writer assistant here --- I'm guessing he did --- but he's got a voice and a manner that is very much his own. You get a feel for him in a way you don't with most restaurant chefs writing cookbooks: he comes to life in the way Julia Child, Paul Prudhomme, Diana Kennedy, Jacques Pepin, or Marcella Hazan come to life. But his thing is he's a restaurant chef, and he wants you to calm down about that and just learn a little how to cook.

Ultimately, I find that this is one of the small number of cookbooks that I reach for when lacking inspiration, when not sure how to go about something, or whatever. He doesn't give you everything from soup to nuts --- that's Child. He doesn't give you a specific regional cuisine --- that's Kennedy, Prudhomme, Hazan, etc. He doesn't give you 100% perfect technique all the time --- that's Pepin. He gives you a balanced approach that does a little of everything, very elegant, very modern, and entirely do-able for the serious home cook.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 19, 1999
As a lifelong die hard collector of cookbooks and devoted amateur chef, this is the perfect book for those who wish to spend a little extra time to add real polish to their culinary skills and presentation. The recipes both taste and look wonderful -- there is much to be learned here, even for those with a good classical technique. Descriptions are unfailingly clear and each recipe is beautifully organized. One of those rare books where you feel compelled to cook your way from the first page on to the last.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 1999
The food at the resturant was fantastic and I seriously doubted that I could recreate such dishes as "Fetucccine with lobster bolognese sauce" but with the explicit directions and helpful suggestions, I was able to use the lobster shells to flavor the stock, then finish off the dish by adding just the right amount of tarragon and cream. Who would have thought that you would do anything but throw the shells in the garbage. It took four hours for me to make the dish but it was worth every second.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2006
This cookbook is beautifully done. Steps include tips and photos. Complicated recipes are explained well. Great restaurant, great chef, great addition to my kitchen
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 10, 2004
I am a current Culinary Arts Student, and recently just bought this. It is amazing. Nice pictures of the food and a real nice insight into what got Alfred into the business. I really loved how he showed "The Gotham Presenation", basically the exact way he serves his plates in his restaurant in NYC. The only real drawback of this book ( On a basis that I have a passion to cook) is that he doesnt go too in depth into fancy garnishes and how Gotham Bar and Grill continues to shine on a daily basis.
Trade secret, probably. Anyways an excellent book, you can never have to many. I would also recommend, Thomas Keller's French Laundry, and Bo Friberg's book on Pastries, plus Sarah Labensky's Revised text "On Cooking"<<<<<< A must have for any1 who really wants to learn how to really cook. Thanks
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