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`Bite Size' by the renowned pastry chef / restauranteur, Francois Payard is a simply delightful book with enough good ideas for a book twice its size and price.

I'm comparing it specifically of Christopher Styler's oversized and under conceived `Working the Plate', a demonstration of about two dozen plating techniques listing at $40, with poor photography and informative but not instructive biographies of `plating technique' notables. While Styler's opus has several good ideas we don't find in other books, it still does not meet expectations.

Payard's book exceeds normal expectations and almost surpasses my standard for books from nationally known culinary artists. While it has a boatload of nifty ideas for appetizers and cocktail parties and nibbles in general, all it's ideas are easily doable by an amateur with a well-equipped kitchen and a modicum of baking skills. In this regard, the book is much more practical than Rick Tramonto's `Amuse Bouche' while offering far more elegant fare than the usual antipasto / hors d'ourves book such as Penelope Casas' `Tapas', Joan Goldstein's `antipasti', or Carol Field's `Italy in Small Bites'. While these are superior books, and are the books of choice if you are interested in following an ethnic theme, Payard's book is the reference of choice if you want to simply impress big time!

It seems as if everything about the book is well conceived. The introductory chapters on `Equipment' and `Speciality Ingredients' are unpretentious, but offer some important little insights into cooking small. My two most interesting finds are the importance of using fine-mesh sieves in preparing small dishes and the fact that mini-muffin pans are the utensil of choice for making miniature tart shells or `tassie' shells. The most interesting ingredients are the ficelle, which is a shrunken baguette and `truffle juice', sold in small cans. I really like the fact that `The Basics' recipes are put in the front of the book rather than in the back. It is so easy to overlook these utility recipes if they are in the back and you are not inclined to snoop around into all the darker corners of a book before starting to cook. While many of these recipes are pretty standard, there are some surprises, such as the `black bread mini burger rolls' made without rye or buckwheat flour!

The four main recipe chapters combine the height of simplicity with the novelty of making cheese a star performer. These chapters are:

Vegetables, 18 recipes, almost all of which represent some new approach to an old standby. While many of the dishes have familiar names or components such as guacamole, Panna cotta, frittata, Caesar salad, mushroom tarts, Madeleines, polenta, risotto, and gnocchi, each and every dish with these components speak of a new take on the old ideas. The vegetable frittata, for example, looks much more like a strata than a frittata, especially since it's baked in a loaf pan. The value to this is that squares cut from the depanned cake are visually much more interesting than the usual eggy wedges cut from a frittata.

Cheese, 10 recipes of familiar dishes all done with a fresh approach. The Greek salad, for example, is served up on a skewer. And, the Parmesan cups (molded Parmesan frico) are filled with a Lilliputian Ratatouille. I confess the cheese sticks and gougeres (cheese puffs) are simply good versions of old standards.

Fish and Shellfish, 24 recipes with plenty of tartares and ceviches (European answer to sushi). It is not surprising that there are more of these recipes than in any of the other groupings, as fishy dishes are the most popular starters. What is more than usually novel in this chapter is the number of `delivery systems' made from fruits and vegetables, such as dried apple slices and radish cups. This chapter also seems to have the most fun with cone-shaped preparations. I'm also tickled by the recipe encrusting scallops with hazelnut and pear puree. Whee! For a little surprise, we also get a salmon version of `Croques Monsieur' with gruyere (contrasted the classic toasted ham and cheese sandwich). While almost all these dishes are relatively easy to make, they will still tend to the expensive, especially if you get high quality, fresh ingredients.

I generally don't find a strong urge to need good color photographs of finished dishes (step by step procedure picture series are a different matter), but for this subject, they add a big advantage to the instruction on how to prepare the dish. As the tip about the fine mesh strainer should warn us, making things small is no easy task. Material has to be diced with greater precision and cooking times are more fussy. So, every main recipe in this book is accompanied by a superior full color snapshot done at close range. And, since you only really need to see one small finished piece, the fuzzy background detracts nothing from the value of the pic.

Best of all, this little gem lists for less than $20. The only drawback of the modest price is that someone may mistake it for a bargain title. While the price is right, the contents are more than just right. They are, like Payard's earlier book, `Simply Sensational...'. It is a perfect companion to Cindy Pawlcyn's book 'Big Small Plates', but if you can have only one, pick Payard.
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on December 4, 2007
Chef Payard's Bite Size is an amazing cookbook. I owned his previous one, Simply Sensational Desserts and this one was just as good. There is a lot of variety, beautiful pictures and easy step-by-step to follow. I don't understand why some people just give it a bad rating because it's not appealing to them or the ingredients are hard to come by. If you don't like the book return it. And if you want to make pigs in a blanket then buy another book. Your guests will be amazed next time you host a party. Also very helpful is the part telling you how to organize your time when planing a party.
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on November 24, 2008
Contrary to some other reviews, these recipes do not have to be that difficult. For most of the recipes, there are suggestions on ways they can be done faster or with less exotic ingredients. Most are simple, elegant bites that are as pleasing to the eye as they are to the palate.
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on May 27, 2008
Truly elegant, unusual and delicious canapes with enough of a twist to enliven what can be very ho-hum food these days. Also, enough to inspire the home cook who wants to do more than just open packets and jars.
Excellent photographs that show the food as it should look instead of the arty irrelevant photos we see in too many recipe books these days.
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on November 6, 2010
I bought this book anyway, even with the Publisher's Weekly bad review about it not being for home cooks. I LOVE it, it's given me a lot of ideas, and most of the recipes are easily done. Some do require making right before your guests arrive, but as an amateur gourmet chef, I like that most of them have do-ahead parts. I might be able to mingle with my guests more now!

Some of the instructions need to be read completely to understand, since they do leave some steps out on a few. But overall I think you'll be pleased with this book.
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on May 27, 2013
This Book was giving to me as a Gift, it is a Small Book for "Bite Size" Appetizers by Francois Payard. About 75 Recipes divided in Four Groups: VEGETABLES, CHEESE, FISH and SHELLFISH and MEAT to choose from. since I don't eat much Meat I decided to make "Vegetable Spring Rolls with Guacamole" I was surprised how easy and fast it went, I was able to get about 24 Pieces out the 4 Rolls the Recipe Makes, I made my own Guacamole Recipe no Red Bell Pepper or Cilantro as the Recipe Calls for,... my Family was Impressed. I like making "Paella" and noticed another Bite Size Appetizer "Paella Cakes with Chorizo" so I made it, this appetizer is more Laborious and requires more Time.

I started the day before to let the Paella Dry out in the Refrigerator to be able to cut it in Rounds with a Cookie Cutter. I used my own Paella Recipe with Chicken and Shrimp instead of the Clams Mussels and Squids the Recipe calls for and Topped each Square with Prosciutto instead of Chorizo, next time I'll try Chorizo if I find it. It turned out Excellent, what an unusual and Creative Idea. That's what I like about this Book, so many Elegant and Classy "Hors d'oeuvres" Recipes, they can be Tweaked a little or a Lot and they still come out Great, and so many of them, Recipes with such Creative, Exquisite and Scrumptious Little Bites of Food. You don't have to like "Foie Gras" Pate or Oysters or even Caviar, I just Substitute some of the Ingredients for those my Family and I liked to Eat

Francois Payard "Bite Size' Book has the most Refined Dainty Delicacies "Phyllo Purses with Sea Scallops and Black Truffle Sauce" or "Duck and Almond Pastillas" and since I like anything with Phyllo Dough, I made the second one, ...and yes, I did Substituted Duck for Chicken and I went easy with the Cinnamon the Recipe calls for, and it turned out Excellent, my Family and I eat it all up, not a single Crumb Left. I made many others, so many Wonderful Recipes and each one with a Beautiful Full Color Photograph of the Appetizer, so I know how the Final Recipe should look like, almost 3D Pictures that are Enticing and Tempting to Lure you to make the Recipes. This is a little Book, however, is Filled with Great Big Taste and Scrumptious Appetizers, many Possibilities to Make an Incredible Presentation at your next Entertaining Dinner Party! ...Thank You D.D.
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on October 29, 2007
Francois Payard has put together a dynamo book for appetizers. The recipes are fantastic and the pictures do not disapoint!!!
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on December 17, 2013
Can't believe how amazing and helpful this cookbook is! I was able to find a number of recipes for a last-minute party with most everything I already had on hand or could easily get at the local market. Some knowledge and skill is required, but most recipes were incredibly easy. Best thing about it: you can adapt recipes for vegetarian and vegan guests with little lost in translation.

Love this cookbook!
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on August 7, 2007
Beautiful book, very elegant recipes. I have not made any of them yet, but do intend to. It does sometimes require gourmet and other ingredients not usually on hand.
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on December 8, 2010
Let me start by saying that I attended 7 months of pastry courses at Le Cordon Bleu a few years ago, and so am no stranger to making pate a choux. I'm throwing a large cocktail party this Friday and am expecting 50 guests. I've had this book for awhile, but hadn't made anything from it yet. When making the menu for this event, I wanted to make everything in the book! I finally settled on two items: gougeres and cauliflower panna cotta with salmon roe. Gougeres are a great make ahead item that can be frozen and then re-heated just before serving, I've made them several times. Gougeres are, in essence, a pate a choux (unsweetened cream puff dough) with gruyere cheese mixed in. I needed a double recipe. At the front of his book, he advises that all recipes can be easily multiplied. I have to disagree with him there, stirring the dough over low heat to dry it out is very physically demanding. A double batch is difficult, to say the least, and I'm a fairly strong woman. I bought a very nice cave-aged gruyere, and even though the hunk of cheese cost me $35 for my double batch, I knew that it's incredible flavor would make the simple gougeres swoon-worthy food.

So, I put my 2 cups of water and stick and a half of butter in a dutch oven and brought it to a boil. When I looked at the bowl full of 7 cups of flour, I thought, "That's a lot of dry ingredients." And I was right, once mixed together, I had lumps of flour coated in lots of dry loose flour. I stirred and stirred, it wouldn't come together, not enough liquid. It's winter in Montana, and it's very dry here, so that, I'm sure, has something to do with it. I added more water until it came together. Once I transferred the dough to my mixer and began adding the eggs, I heaved a sigh of was beginning to look like it should. All 10 eggs in, I went for the warm heavy cream (a step I've never seen in a gougere recipe). I incorporated the 1 1/4 cups and immediately regretted it. It loosened up the batter way too much. I hoped the 7 cups of cheese would help bring it back to piping consistency. Nope. I used two teaspoons and dropped small amounts on the baking sheet, threw it in the oven and crossed my fingers.

FAILURE!!! The gougeres are dense, flat pucks (and yes, I folded the cheese in gently...but it was too late, because of the cream I had a bowlful of gougere batter instead of dough). And to top it all off, they are nowhere near salty enough. They're edible, I'm going to add more salt to the remaining batter and serve them...I can't throw away [...] worth of ingredients! But, I'm going to be completely mortified because several of my guests KNOW what a gougere should be like, AND they know that I've gone to pastry school. I'll take Julia Child's advice and serve them as if they are exactly as they should be...never admit to/complain about mistakes in the kitchen! It makes guests uncomfortable.

Now, I'm afraid to make the cauliflower panna cotta. I spent [...] on the salmon roe for that, too, plus had to pay for overnight shipping.

Darn! I should have just stuck with my trusted old gougere recipe. Darn, darn, darn!!!
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