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52 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on October 30, 2011
This is actually the first review I have ever written here. I have a literal library of cook books and baking books. I just found this book so inspiring, that I wanted to share my new found love for it. I bought this book not really knowing what I was going to get, but I am so glad I ended up buying it. All the photography is so stunning and the plating is just artful. However, this is not a cook book for the average "Joe." Each dish has a multiple of components that go on each plate and some have components that have to be made in order to use it as an ingredient for another part of the dish. I love that the book is separated by season, and each season has a recipe progression makes you feel like you are sitting down, eating a meal at Eleven Madison Park. That is, you start with recipes from appetizers, entrees, then desserts. Bottom line, if you have some cooking experience, the patience, time, and money (as many of the ingredients are very luxurious), these recipes can definitely done by the home cook. However, if you lack the skills, I would still get the book if only to see the amazing food they make, and mostly to give you inspiration in your own cooking adventure.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 2012
That answer is not my answer but the answer the authors give themselves. And it is definitely not a complaint on my part either: it is a very accurate appraisal of a beautiful book written with the kind of attention that goes into creating innovative epicurean delights. I heard about Eleven Madison Park through the New York Times review. I would love to go there for dinner but have not gotten to New York since reading about them. So my wife got me this cookbook for my birthday.

This book is about restaurant food -- high end restaurant food. The kind of food that is prepared with the help of a sous chef and specifically the kind of food that is prepared in a kitchen that uses all kinds of delicious house made ingredients (basil oil, lemon oil, crumbles, fresh mayonaise etc.) to create depth in the recipes. The recipes have not been streamlined to create "gourmet food in thirty minutes". Yes that does limit the utility of the book. But if it were not this way it would not do justice to food that most of us only dream of eating.

I have only made a few things from this book -- mostly salads and granolas (since we are vegetarians, many of the meat dishes will be left aside). Even a simple looking salad can create challenges (if you don't have the lemon oil made in advance). But, as the authors promise, if you do take the time to create these dishes, you will be rewarded. We have yet to have a dish from this book that was not stupendous.

I am using four stars to alert people that this is really not a home cookbook. If I were rating just the food, I would petition for the addition of a sixth star.
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59 of 70 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2011
I have just finished reading this cookbook. That's right, reading. In the tradition of the stronger narrative and transformative cookbooks like Judy Rodgers' Zuni Cafe Cookbook, Keller's The French Laundry Cookbook, and perhaps Blumenthal's The Fat Duck Cookbook, this book comes along with not just the gorgeous production value of an auspicious coffee table art book and the exactly duplicated recipes of one of the most interesting young chefs cooking today but with two important stories: one is the detailed story of the making of a brilliant chef, and the other is the surprisingly revealing story of growth of the culture of a well run restaurant and it's successful parent company.

I say transformative because just as those cookbooks change, perhaps forever, the way a chef or cook might look at food, this book will leave readers from all of the various tiers of expertise, from the dedicated home cook to the ambitious chef/restauranteur with invaluable ideas for their own cuisines and companies. For the professional not just in the industry, but professionals in any sort of business, there are valuable lessons to be gleaned from the book. As you proceed through the four seasons into which the recipes in the book are divided, you also proceed through a narrative arc that describes, in short essays written under the headings of the restaurant's core values (derived, incidentally, from a statistical analysis of the most common adjectives found in articles describing Miles Davis and his music that the company performed and then made into a poster that hangs in the kitchen, i.e. "collaborative" "vibrant", depicted in the book if you would like to discover them) the story of the restaurant told through time up to the present day detailing various key players in the growth of the restaurant, and the meals and ideas that inspired the way the staff work. For example, based on a suggestion from one waiter, the terms "front of the house" and "back of the house," an ancient division/rivalry in the industry, were dismissed of along with the perceived division, replaced with "dining room" and "kitchen." Also, the company allows its staff to take "ownership" of their respective areas. The evolutionary impact of these and myriad other ideas on the way the restaurant runs, as well as how they were arrived at, forms the core of this narrative arc. No other cookbook, I think, has proved this detailed about how a staff formed goals, strove for them, and achieved them, sometimes meeting failure along the way. The failures are detailed: the original Madison Park restaurant, the failure of the chef to win the James Beard award, even the restaurants failing finances as the recession kicked in. All are told in the shadow of three michelin stars, but even though you know the story has a happy ending you are still surprised by how close failure came, repeatedly.

Then, after you have learned how they got here, they take you through all the events of a service (a la A Day At El Bulli, except here it is A Day At Eleven Madison Park). The foodie voyeur and the professional alike will find such detail tantalizing.

Let me disabuse you of the idea that this book is simply a storybook. It is first and foremost a huge collection of accessible, sensible recipes accompanied by detailed photographs highlighting the unique aesthetic of the presentation. The recipes are spectacular because Daniel Humm's food is spectacular. All of the hits are there, from the incomparable chicken roasted with truffles and leeks, to his series of pork dishes (a haiku, if you will, on the possibilities of the pig), to the granola you get when you leave the restaurant. Recipes are organized into four seasons, with the entirety of the menu from each of the four seasons presented as such, with a large (and worth the price alone) collection of base recipes and sources at the end.
Much noise is made by many every time a "professional" cookbook such as this one comes out, complaining that the book is not "accessible" to the every day cook for reasons of ingredient or technique, but in an important way the authors anticipated this. Most of the recipes are easily accomplished with a knife, some pans, and a stove. So called modernist techniques are there, but sparsely and with suitable 'traditional' alternatives presented right there. Sometimes, the chef even points out the technique isn't even necessary at all, and explains the effect it aims to achieve. For example, while acknowledging and describing how sous vide can be used to, say, seal two skate wings together or to prepare an egg, a suitable and completely acceptable home technique is provided alongside that right in the recipe. Wherever liquid nitrogen or a professional ice cream maker is called for the chef invites the reader to make a granita, freezing the ingredient in a pan and then scraping it with a fork to produce the requisite "snow."
This speaks to a fundamental truth of Mr. Humm's cooking: he uses regular ingredients, avoids entirely anything chemical or difficult to source (well, sort of, truffles and bee's pollen are in there, sometimes copiously) and his goals with LN2 and sous vide are textural- they involve exchanges of heat easily accomplished (and described in detail every time) with an oven or a stove. There are little things that any home cook will be able to impress with: the soups, the sauces, the garnishes. There are also big things the skilled cook will impress with: everything. This book is a manifesto, a thorough and personal statement about a mature cuisine by a chef in his ascendancy. A fertile imagination can take this book, study the music of Daniel Humm, Will Guidara, and Danny Meyer, and begin to improvise on their own. While we can't all be Miles Davis, its glorious to hear him describe what he's thinking while he plays.
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125 of 168 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 2011
This book in terms of inspiration for ideas and technique is amazing. In addition, many of the recipes in the book are very approachable as long as you are comfortable as a cook. Meaning you do not need step by step instructions to do everything little thing).

The biggest flaw in the book is the measurement system. I simply cannot understand how a book written at this level of sophistication with such amazing ideas can have volume measurement and only volume measurements. Even for pastry/desert recipes there are only volume measurements. Recipes for salted caramel ice cream have measurements like "1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar"... really? "1/2 cup glucose"... really? "2 1/2 cups buffalo mozzarella"(for an ice cream recipe so it needs to be accurate)... REALLY?

I thought maybe they had an overall conversion chart that was specific to their cookbook for basic items like milk,cream, glucose, sugar and flour. Nope. Even flour is listed in cups-making recipes more time consuming and inaccurate. A few recipes that use hydrocolloids even list teaspoons along side of grams-which is crazy because using a drop more xanthan gum or agar agar can drastically affect outcome.

It would be great if the authors could attach a chart that listed the weights according to the ingredients used to test the recipes.

e.g.-1 cup heavy cream=250 grams in our cookbook.<- something like that would have been awesome-but it is no where to be found.

If the momofuku milk-bar cookbook can put the recipes in weights than Eleven Madison Park should be able to do the same. It is just inexcusable.

The book is probably still worth buying-but it could be so much better.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2012
I got a copy of this book as part of a tasting dinner with the head chef at a club. Also provided was a printout of the 5 dishes that we tasted.

The lobster dish alone had over 30 "fiished" ingredients (ie not counting the individual components of some of the sauces, crumbles, oils, doughs, etc).

The book is lovely to look at and if you do in fact have access to a huge kitchen with unlimited prep space and storage space for ingredients, it's a fun book to play in the kitchen with. Note that this takes over-the-top multistep cooking to new levels; we are not talking mere molecular gastronomy but iterative levels of prep and ingredient lists that would make the caterers at Caligula's birthday party blush.

Otherwise, be inspired by the "idea" of some of the flavors and try to adapt them at home. Example: My takeaway of the Lobster Thing with Spicy Granola and 45 Different Sauces would be a lobster slad served with a curry slant.

If you want to go the real route though and actually cook from this book, get ready to order ingredients you never heard of (and this is coming from a very jaded NYer who has never, ever had issues finding odd ingredients--I had no idea there was such a thing as "violet mustard") and brace yourself for recipes that have steps akin to "process in your fusion reactor for ten minutes. Please note that if you don't have a professional fusion reactor, Williams-Sonoma is debuting a small (3qt) countertop model, the "FusiGlow 9000" this Spring. It will retail for $2,777.00 and will be available in white, black, pistacio, and brushed stainless (note: The black and pistacio are currently backordered)."

While the recipes may never make it onto your plate, the book is a definite coffee table/foodie gift pick (especially if you can't drop $500+ for "Modernist Cuisine").
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 2011
This is a cookbook that will be sought after by cooks for generations. As a chef, I have been early awaiting it and it did not disappoint. This book is on par with other recent cookbooks like the Big Fat Duck Cookbook, Quay, and of course the now-becoming-a-classic French Laundry Cookbook. In fact, I would describe this book as very similar to the Quay book. The photography is stunning, the plating is fantastic, and the recipes are well structured.

Like another reviewer suggested, this book is not one for amateur cooks, but either as a "coffee table book" or for more professional cooks. Many recipes are complex, though there are a number that are pretty straightforward (at least from the professional cook's perspective). Many recipes are very inspiring and innovative. This book uses a lot of modern techniques, as well as relying on some of the classic methods.

As might be expected from Danny Meyer, this book offers some restaurant philosophy and some behind-the-scenes sections. These are helpful in both understanding how Eleven Madison Park works, and as a sort of business lesson (as another reviewer pointed out). These are perhaps more the former, simply solving some curiosity but for professionals will give some inspired tips or ideas to try in their own restaurant.

For anyone who loves fine cuisine, this book is a bargain. It is straightforward (it offers tips on how to complete some recipes without certain equipment or ingredients, e.g. liquid nitrogen) and it is beautiful. Strongly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2012
This Book is Amazing!! It is quite substancious, and has extremely many details - but it is perfect for the amateur chef, who want's to know how to make all the little extra things you get in restaurants in this scale. I love it..
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2012
In addition to a bunch of really great recipes, this book provides a behind-the-scenes look at how a great restaurant is organized and runs. The dishes are time-consuming to prepare, but work if you follow the steps and they're fantastic.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 28, 2012
I will come out and say straight up that Eleven Madison Park cookbook is one of my all-time favorite cookbooks. The book itself is laid-out in an artful but logical and easy-to-read format. Special mention should go to the "back-of-the-book" recipes, which are organized into sections such as [fluid] gels, purees, ice creams, jus, butter, etc. I have never seen a high-end restaurant cookbook with such a vast section of component recipes. It goes without saying that the food photography is world-class and I have yet to see any cookbook with better photography.

The recipes are obviously the heart of the book, and they will not dissapoint. This book features a collection of complex dishes, organized by season. Each dish generally features one or two star ingredients, along with a multitude of component recipes that serve to highlight that ingredient in very unique flavor combinations. For example, my favorite dish I've cooked so far out of this book was "Pork Belly with Mint, Peas, and Lettuce." Other combinations are even more inventive, such as "Foi gras terrine with plums and bitter almond."

A word of warning: these recipes are not for the novice home cook. Many of the recipes call out for specialized equipment such as dehydrators, sous vide equipment, professional blenders, and liquid nitrogen. I do applaud the authors for attempting to make the recipes *slightly* more accessible to home cooks by offering alternative preparation techniques when available. Most of the sous vide recipes also offer an oven-roasted alternative preparation. Similarly, many of the liquid nitrogen recipes (such as "almond milk snow" and "green apple snow") also offer options to prepare using a standard freezer.

I did take off one star for the use of volumetric measurements, which is a bit perplexing. It is pretty much the de-facto standard to use weight measurements in advanced cooking, but Humm has chosen to use volumetric measurements (cups) instead - which makes executing the recipes less precise. He still provides weight measurements (in grams) for some ingredients that require the extra precision, such as modernist ingredients (agar agar, xantham gum, etc). It is also worth mentioning that the recipes seem to be a bit salt-heavy across the board. I don't know if I'm just a bad cook, but I have more-or-less used half the amount of salt the recipes call for to achieve a reasonable saltiness.

Make no mistake about it - these recipes will take a lot of time to prepare (I would estimate between 3 and 8 hours per recipe) and will often call for hard-to-source ingredients (unless you don't mind going online). As such, this book is probably only appropriate for adventurous home cooks and restaurateurs. But for those who are interested in this sort of thing, it's the best offering this side of the Modernist Cuisine.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2014
I own hundreds of books, most from the worlds greatest restaurants. The French laundry, fat duck, el bulli, modernist cuisine, the square, le Bernadin, you name it. This is my all time favorite cookbook. It's beautiful, absolutely perfect t food. Beautiful presentations, chef Daniel is the best!!!
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