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Aquavit: And the New Scandinavian Cuisine Hardcover – October 2, 2003

25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

What kind of food would a French-trained Manhattan chef, born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, produce? The unique food of Aquavit, the Scandinavian restaurant whose refined, contemporary cooking Marcus Samuelsson presents in his eponymous debut cookbook. Samulesson's cuisine reflects the Swedish love of seafood, game, and pickled and preserved dishes, enlivened by Indian spices (brought to Sweden in the 17th century), plus other approaches. Thus Aquavit offers reborn Scandinavian favorites like Gravlax with Mustard Sauce and Swedish Roast Chicken with Spiced Apple Rice plus delights like Tandoori-Smoked Salmon with Goat Cheese Parfait, Hot-Smoked Char with Lemon Broth, and Glazed Salmon with Wasabi Sabayon. Though the book includes among its 150-plus recipes fare that's definitely friendly to the home cook--like Barbecued Boneless "Ribs" (made with boneless pork shoulder) and Slow Roasted Turkey Wings--this is fundamentally a chef's collection, and will probably be pored through more readily than cooked from. Nonetheless, for readers interested in the food of singular talent, presented in an oversized format as lovely as the cooking itself, the Aquavit is essential.

Chapters cover the basic menu stops, including soups, salads and sides, plus the likes of Steamed Crab Rolls from "Bites, Snacks and Little Plates"; Blueberry Bread from "Crackers and Breads"; and Lamb Sausage Wrap from "Sandwiches." Chapters on dessert offer such treats as Swedish Pancakes with Lingonberry Whipped Cream and Chocolate "Blini"; and a drinks section includes the unusual and very palatable likes of Lemon, Pepper, and Dill Aquavit and Yellow Mary Mix, a yellow-tomato bloody mary descendant. Illustrated with ravishing color photos that reiterate the sleek pleasures of the food, Aquavit is as special as its innovative and very worldly author. --Arthur Boehm

From Publishers Weekly

When he became executive chef at New York City's swank Aquavit at the tender age of 24, Samuelsson began educating Americans about his native Swedish cuisine, but he also received an education in return. And it's that exchange that elevates this book beyond traditional Swedish cooking to an expression of one chef's unique viewpoint. There are certainly traditional Swedish dishes represented, such as Gravlax with Mustard Sauce, Swedish Meatballs, and Prune-Stuffed Pork Roast, but they stand side-by-side with successful experiments like Pickled Herring Sushi-Style, with slices of herring served on tiny mashed potato logs that resemble rice, and Warm Beef Carpaccio in Mushroom Tea, inspired by a trip to Japan. Every cross-cultural gambit, from a Tuna Burger with Cabbage Tzatziki to a Gravlax Club Sandwich with guacamole, sounds fabulous (with photos by Shimon & Tammar, which are as beautifully clear and crisp as the recipes). Samuelsson unabashedly confesses to a fascination with "junk food culture" that dates back to a time before he knew what the words meant and results in wonderful finger foods such as Crispy Potatoes dredged in corn flakes and panko bread crumbs and fried twice. Desserts exhibit the same combination of adherence to tradition and thoughtful experimentation and range from Swedish Pancakes with Lingonberry Whipped Cream to Black Pepper Cheesecake with blanched peppercorns. Samuelsson is one of our great chefs, and a warm-hearted and generous writer to boot.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (October 2, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618109412
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618109418
  • Product Dimensions: 10.4 x 11.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #515,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A James Beard Award-winning chef and author of several cookbooks, Marcus Samuelsson has appeared on Today, Charlie Rose, Iron Chef, and Top Chef Masters, where he took first place. In 1995, for his work at Aquavit, Samuelsson became the youngest chef ever to receive a three-star review from The New York Times. His newest restaurant, Red Rooster, recently opened in Harlem, where he lives with his wife.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Anne Cheilek on December 8, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is not a perfect cookbook, by any means. Out of 19 recipes we tested, 12 gave excellent results and 7 were disappointing. That's not a very respectable ratio. But the good recipes are so startlingly good they make up for a multitude of sins. Some of my favorites are Juniper-Apple Soup (superb balance between fruit and meat flavors, especially when garnished as suggested with duck confit); Coffee-roasted Duck Breasts (a simple preparation resulting in a deceptively complex flavor); Salsify "Tagliatelle" with Smoked Salmon (a delicious and unusual dish faintly reminiscent of spaghetti al carbonara); Salmon Bundles with Orange-Fennel Broth (again a sophisticated balance of sweet-tart fruit flavors with the bass notes of seared salmon); Squab Toasts (irresistible treats in fig season); and many more. Less successful, to my palate, were the Pickled Herring Sushi-Style (harsh combination of strong flavors); Curried Cauliflower, Potato, and Sprout Salad (muddied, indistinguishable flavors); Salsify Cappuccino (no standout flavor I could discern at all); Pear and Fingerling Potato Ragout (too sweet); and Glögg-Poached Pears (not exciting enough to warrant all the work). Overall, it seems to me that this chef has a marvelous instinct when it comes to fish and meat, and creates many new flavor combinations that really work. He is less reliable with vegetable dishes and desserts, both of which tend to be excessively sweet. We cook out of this book frequently, however: if you have the patience to sift the wheat from the chaff, this book will reward you with plenty of delicious and inspirational meals.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
If you have ever eaten at Aquavit in New York, you know how hard it is to resist buying this gorgeous cookbook. If the meals at the restaurant can be created to be even half as amazing at home, the book is weel worth its cost!
Luckily, they have turned out to be extremely successful in my own kitchen. And, might I add, most of them are far easier to make than they appear. I love this book and appreciate the chef's work so much that it blows my mind when I read some of the criticism in the reviews.
First of all, this book is so beautiful that I keep it in a bookshelf in the living room, not the kitchen. The pictures are so lovely but at the same time might intimidate certain readers who fear they won't be able to recreate the image. To this I have to say: "It's ok. You aren't putting the meal into a book to be published and you're not serving it to paying customers... It's allowed to look different, as long as it still tastes good." Samuelsson is a chef. The food is on a different level than that of Ina Garten, Rachel Ray or Nigella Lawson (as much as I like all of them.) Some of these recipes will take a bit more effort, but many you can make with very little effort! The soups, roast chicken, meatballs, salads, and many main courses are not as difficult as they appear.
Another gripe I've read in other reviews is that the recipes are not as much Scandinavian as they are Asian. Whoever said this knows very little about Swediesh food! As a Swede, I found all of the recipes to be based in strong Swedish tradition. But like the title says, it's the NEW Scandinavian cuisine, melded with tastes from all over the world. Ingredients like curry, have been used in Northern Europe for centuries now.
This book has brought a lot of joy to our home. The pictures and tastes make us homesick! His food is authentic and groundbreaking at once and I believe Marcus Samuelsson deserves all the praise he has received.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By B. Marold HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
James Beard Award winning New York chef Marcus Samuelsson has headlined the writing of this book of his `New Scandinavian Cuisine' and the food of the restaurant of the same name `Aquavit'. This book is a coffee table foodie picture and recipe book in the same style as Eric Rippert's `Return To Cooking' and Thomas Keller's `French Laundry Cookbook'. The price is a typically high $45. The big question is whether the acoutrements attached to the recipes make it worth more than a $30 cookbook. It is also a valid question to ask if it is worth $30 as a cookbook alone.
I think the answer to the second question is a solid `Yes'. The cuisine and the recipes are interesting, inviting, and accessible to the average home cook. Samuelsson makes it clear from the subtitle of his book that he is spicing up the usual Swedish meatballs and gravlax with fusion elements. The surprise is that middle eastern spices arrived in Swedish cuisine several centuries ago through the Swedish East India Company trade between India and Stockholm.
The book has thirteen chapters, mixing conventional with unconventional recipe categories. These are:
The Raw and the Cured is preparations of uncooked salmon, herring, tuna, bass, char, cod, duck, and beef.
Bites, Snacks, and Little Plates, appetizers and hors d'oeuvres
Sandwiches, more gravlax, plus wraps and crispbread
Salads, fairly conventional root vegetables, seafood, and trendy greens. Still delish.
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