Ina Garten has given us a new book on `cuisine bourgeois', and one immediately wonders if the world really needs another book on everyday French cooking, since we already have great works from Julia Child and Elizabeth David, excellent works from Patricia Wells and Richard Olney, and hundreds of others, including an excellent volume from Garten's mentor, teacher Lydie Marshall, author of the excellent book `A Passion for My Provence'. The questions become doubly appropriate with the recent appearance of Food Network colleague Tony Bourdain's really excellent book of bistro recipes, `Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook'. To complete the picture of my general skepticism about book is the fact that Ms. Garten's book lists at a higher price than Bourdain's book, yet it has substantially fewer recipes and none of Monsieur Bourdain's really excellent tutorials on cooking technique. Yet, here is the key to Ms. Garten's enterprise and audience.
Ina Garten has no intention of emulating Julia Child in her writing or even in her TV shows. She is squarely in the tradition and style of Martha Stewart. Like Stewart, she started in the culinary business as a caterer and she was, for many years, a major contributor of culinary material to Martha Stewart's magazine. All you need to do is compare the design of Garten's books with either Bourdain's book or even Julia Child's books, and the difference is evident. Bourdain limits himself to pictures of dishes and series of pictures illustrating culinary techniques. Garten pictures lots of dishes, but she also pictures lots of pottery, table settings, and flowers as well. Each chapter has a prelude on marginally culinary matters. The brief chapter on wine is excellent, but it could have been lifted straight out of `Martha Stewart Living' as `Wine and Food Pairings 101'. Other prefatory essays cover flower arranging, table settings, cooking schools in Paris, and cooking equipment stores in Paris.
All this means is that Ina Garten's books are as much about lifestyle as they are about cooking, and Ina will probably be the very first person to agree with this statement. And, this is a perfectly legitimate enterprise. In fact, although Jamie Oliver is an exceptionally talented chef (whose passion and skill with food may even put Bourdain in the shade) writes books that are as much about lifestyle as they are about cooking. It's just that it is a different lifestyle than the one being celebrated by Ms. Garten.
I believe the recipes in all of Ms. Garten's books are very good for the home cook. As she says in many of her books, these recipes were done for 60 servings a day at her shop, `Barefoot Contessa' so they had to be simple and they had to be good. This doesn't mean I didn't find a few oddities here and there, especially in her headnotes to some recipes. One puzzling comment was her apologizing for using cremini mushrooms as an unusual ingredient in a recipe, when I can find cremini mushrooms in every larger food store in the Lehigh Valley, including ones which make no pretense to carrying gourmet ingredients. A few pages later, she uses celery root, fennel, morels, and Belgian endive in recipes. All of these ingredients are either hard to find or expensive. Another puzzle is her blanching thinly sliced fennel bulb for a fennel salad. Neither Marcella Hazan nor mentor Lydie Marshall blanches fennel for their several salads that use this ingredient. I know exactly why Garten does it, because I considered doing the same thing when making Mme. Hazan's fennel salads, but I just couldn't bear giving up the fine crunch of raw fennel. The solution is to slice very, very thinly and possibly to salt the fennel and let set as you do for cabbage in making cole slaw.
Another oddity with Ms. Garten's recipes is that although she emphasizes easy recipes, her Moules Marinieres (Mussels in White Wine) recipe has many more ingredients and a slightly more complicated procedure than Tony Bourdain's recipe for a dish of exactly the same name. Personally, I would go with Bourdain's recipe as it adds the wine right after cooking the shallots in butter in order that the wine will deglace the pot and almost all alcohol will cook off before more ingredients are added to the pot. Ms. Garten uses the very understandable technique of mixing olive oil with the butter for the initial sautee, and the wine is added mixed with water, tomato, and spices. Bourdain's recipe is simpler, but requires just a little more attention and skill to attend to the hot butter and add the wine before it gets too dark. An even more interesting comparison between Garten and Bourdain is with their boeuf bourguignon recipes. Garten complains that traditional recipes that keep the dish in the Dutch oven on the stove for three hours, the meat comes out dry and the veggies mushy. I have seen this happen and it doesn't surprise me that Garten is wary of it, as her instructions are to barely cover the meat with liquid and bring to a boil, then into the oven for 75 minutes. Thus, she is treating the dish like a braise while Bourdain, who simmers the dish gently on the stovetop for 120 minutes, treats the dish more like a stew, with strong admonishments to check the dish every 20 minutes for sticking. Again, Bourdain's recipe has fewer ingredients and is somewhat simpler, as it doesn't require the oven or a step to burn off the alcohol.
This is not to say Garten's recipes are not as good as Bourdain's. Only that the two authors have two different audiences. Garten is writing for the virtual tourist in Paris and the seeker of advice for entertaining in the Parisian style. Bourdain is writing for cooks. I have done several recipes from Garten's books, including this one, and I have never been disappointed.
Highly recommended for a virtual taste of the Parisian lifestyle.
on October 27, 2004
I am true-blue Ina Garten follower! I have been watching her for years and have each of her (equally) amazing books. I find her style and way to welcoming and educational. She has NEVER presented something that I haven't been able to make on my own. Yes - sometimes her ingredients are on the wicked side - but, there is nothing that is keeping you from altering some of the cream and butter steps. Ina is all about doing what feels and tastes good to you. She is never pushy or overbearing.
"Barefoot In Paris" is her newest venture - and I think one of the strongest in her collection. I loved all the personal commentaries before each of the sections (To Start / Lunch / Soup & Salad / Dinner / Vegetables / Dessert) and all the wonderful recipes that are like a passport to Paris.
Some highlights of the book include:
Blue Cheese Souffle
Mussels in White Wine
Lentil Sausage Soup
Endive, Pear & Roquefort Salad
Chicken w/Fourty Cloves of Garlic
Roast Lam with White Beans
Salmon with Lentils
Brussels Sprouts Lardons
Chocolate Orange Mousse
I also really love her "Ingredients you'll want to try" section as well as the "If You're Going" section with amazing tips and places to visit, should I ever get my dream trip to Paris. But - until that day I can book with Ina and take a mini-vacation with amazing new book.
Congrats to Ina on her new accomplishment!
on October 25, 2004
This book is much like Ina's other books in that it has very clear instructions, lots of color photographs and a lot of her personal opinions. The recipes are not, I repeat not, pure French, but one talented woman's unique take on them.
Ina has inhereted a style that began with the original Loaves and Fishes, The Silver Palate, etc. If you have liked the food you have made from the recipes in these books and you generally like French food, you should enjoy this book. Fans of her other books will enjoy this as well. I have.
I tend to buy a lot of cookbooks. Too many as a matter of fact. Over time I tend to cull my collection. I know that this, as are my other books by Ina, will be a keeper.
on October 10, 2006
My only regret about this cookbook is that I have neglected for so long to type my review. I really love Ina Garten, her cookbooks, and her Food Network show. She has such a relaxed, engaging, lovely way about her, and it certainly translates to her recipes. I am a fairly adventurous cook, and so have used lots of complicated recipes, and respect many of the chefs cited in the very thorough review above by B. Marold. In my opinion, though, this cookbook is absolutely tops for recreating the taste, feel, and experience of French bistro food. Also, every single recipe I have made turns out beautifully every time. I place a very high value on reliability, but an even higher value on taste, and this book delivers both! Highly recommended!
on June 3, 2007
I am a fan of Ina's and currently own 4 out of 5 of her cookbooks (the Parties one is the only one not on my shelf), and of all her cookbooks, this one is, by far, my favorite. As it says on the cover, this truly is "Easy French food that you CAN make at home"!
The format of this book is just like all her others...the contents are divided into small, easy to read chapters which include starters, lunch items, soups and salads, dinner items, vegetables, and desserts. Many beautiful color photos of the dishes and ingredients are found throughout, as well as Ina's helpful hints along the sidebars. I love that her books have big margins so that you have room to write your own notes and comments about her recipes. And as always, Ina injects her humor and friendliness throughout the book, making it a fun, relaxing read. She clearly is passionate about food and entertaining, and it shows!
But the very best part of this book is the recipes. Almost all of Ina's recipes are very good to stellar, but this book seems to be a collection of her very best. Clearly, Ina loves and is comfortable with French food, and the recipes she offers will knock your socks off....Spinach in Puff Pastry, Goat Cheese Tart, Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic, Lemon Chicken with Croutons, Pear Clafouti, her easy, delicious version of Creme Brulee, etc...these are dishes you will make over and over again, both for everyday fare and company dinners. As always, Ina keeps her food simple and accessible while elevating the dining experience to new highs. She is the queen of simple elegance!
This is an amazing book and has become one of the most used in my collection. If you long to be able to make simple, elegant and utterly delicious French food, then look no further. Ina has given it to you.
on March 14, 2007
I don't like typical French food - heavy sauces and meals - but this is nothing like that. Ina takes the best qualities of French cooking - fine quality and simplicity and makes something absolutely gourmet. You just will love the simple roast chicken to the soups (and salads, and side dishes, oh - yeah, and desserts!) Bon apetite!
on January 31, 2005
I am French myslef and sometimes struggle to adapt my French receipes to the US food/creams/ingredients.
This book gave me a fresh look at French food and at US adaptations. I have made some of the receipes already, and they all turned out very well.
My only caution when following the receipes: do not use all the butter/oil she recommends. Her receipes are too greasy. For eg, when you cook the mashed potatoes, she makes you fry the garlic clove in olive oil, then she makes you pour all the oil (1 cup!) in the mashed potatoes! I only added 1 tablespoon of the oil, for the taste/texture, but adding it all in would be horrible! Same for the Cauliflower au Gratin, where she pours melted butter on top of the topping cheese/crumbs mix. The grating browns well without the butter, and the dish is heavy enough as is, not to add more fat to it!
I still gave this book a 5 because the receipes are very French, and if you don't put as much butter or oil as recommended, they turn out very good!
on February 24, 2006
The recipies in this book turn out so well! They are especially easy to follow, and bring a special touch to any meal that is prepared with care. It's written in a simple yeat beautiful manner. If you love French food, this is one of the best cookbooks I've found!
on May 23, 2010
Now this is the way I like to cook and entertain! Simple, delicious, elegant food for friends and family. I love every recipe in this well-photographed, easy to follow cookbook.
Barefoot in Paris is organized in to sections; to start, lunch, soup and salad, dinner, vegetables, and dessert. My MUST MAKE, standout recipes include:
Herbed-Baked Eggs (finally the whole family, brunch party, etc. can sit down and enjoy eggs together-- and what winning eggs!)
Lemon Chicken with Croutons (do not miss out on this recipe-- it is truly outstanding, the best chicken dish I have ever made-- easy to make but still perfect for special dinner guests)
Coeur a la creme with Raspberries (a great, easy, impressive, different dessert and one I will make again and again)
Elephant Ears (aka Palmiers-- these couldn't be easier to make and they are a crowd pleaser-- I serve them alone as a sweet appetizer or with ice cream for dessert)
These are my favorite recipes from any Barefoot Contessa cookbook (except Beatty's Chocolate Cake from Barefoot Contessa at Home: Everyday Recipes You'll Make Over and Over Again). If you love Ina, you will LOVE this cookbook.
on November 2, 2015
I have several Barefoot Contessa cookbooks and enjoy using each one. Though Barefoot in Paris is an older book (published in 2004), I purchased it recently after a 3 week river cruise in France during which we enjoyed fabulous French food. I wanted to incorporate more French cuisine into my repertoire, and knew that Ina Garten's recipes are always well written, well tested and easy to replicate at home. Some of the recipes aren't particularly French, but rather an American adaptation, but that's fine with me. Some of the recipes are repeated from her other cookbooks, such as Lentil Sausage Soup, which I highly recommend. Other predictable French favorites are included, such as Boeuf Bourgignon, Creme Brûlée and Brioche loaves.
The cookbook is printed on large glossy pages with generous use of beautiful photography throughout. There is plenty of white space on the page for your own notes, and helpful notes. You can plan a entire meal from the included sections: To Start, Lunch, Soup and Salad, Dinner, Vegetables and Dessert. Or you can browse through and just select one recipe for your menu.
The recipes are achievable by a cook with a modest amount of skill in the kitchen, as long as you carefully follow the steps in sequence and make sure you have on hand the necessary ingredients and tools. I like the fact that nearly every recipe is accompanied by a photograph to help you graze with your eyes but also to help with plating and serving ideas.
Whether you're looking for a new book to add to your collection, or one to gift, "Barefoot in Paris" would be a great choice.