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188 of 197 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars for those who love to cook
A beautiful book that is nice to browse through for the non-culinary inclined and inspirational to those who love to cook. Keller is a genius, that is evident in the recipes. However, to successfully recreate a French Laundry meal from this book will be a daunting task for the more experienced home cook and virtually impossible for a beginner. The small portion sizes...
Published on January 12, 2000

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130 of 151 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lot's of Work but Worth the Time!
Keller is, as you have probably surmised from the other reviews, the consumate chef's chef. Food at the French Market is spectacular and the book is worth having if you are interested in cooking at all. However, do not expect to rush home after a busy day and prepare one of these dishes. I would call the ingredient list "Gourmet" and many of the...
Published on November 30, 1999 by James R Collins


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188 of 197 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars for those who love to cook, January 12, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The French Laundry Cookbook (Hardcover)
A beautiful book that is nice to browse through for the non-culinary inclined and inspirational to those who love to cook. Keller is a genius, that is evident in the recipes. However, to successfully recreate a French Laundry meal from this book will be a daunting task for the more experienced home cook and virtually impossible for a beginner. The small portion sizes require at least 4 or 5 dishes to comprise an entire meal (although the recipes may be scaled up to more typical serving sizes without much problem). The book can be pretentious (witness the blurb entitled 'the importance of offal'), includes recipes that 99.9% of readers will not bother to attempt (stuffed pigs heads, for example) and more than a few recipes require a very well equipped kitchen to pull off (juicers, mandolines, silipat baking sheets, variety of strainers, etc...), but all seem accessible if you take your time and have mastered some basic cooking skills. A very fun and informative book for those who love to cook and enjoy a challenge in the kitchen. If you are serious, you will have a blast, learn a lot, and eat some spectacular food. If the food tastes this good when I make it, I can only imagine how good it is at the restaurant.
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122 of 130 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great restaurant; great book, September 26, 2002
By A Customer
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This review is from: The French Laundry Cookbook (Hardcover)
I've eaten at the French Laundry three times now-most recently the first week of September 2002. This makes it spring, summer, and fall. My next trip to Napa will be to see how he (Chef Thomas Keller) manages with winter vegetables.
Chef Keller offers three menus: a five-course dinner menu; a nine-course tasting of vegetables menu; and his 10-course prix fixe menu (which is currently $135). He follows the typical French format:
Amuse Bousche (His signature salmon tartar with sweet red onion crème fraîche)
1. Cold Hors d'ouevre
2. Vegetable or Foie Gras
3. Fish
4. Seafood (or second fish course)
5. Rabbit or Veal
6. Pork or Lamb
7. Cheese
8. Sorbet
9. Dessert
10. Mignardise (petit fours and candies)
Sometime in your life, you must experience this restaurant. It will be the best four-hour dinner of your life!
Now for the book review. The book is presented in a way that shows a lot of planning went into it. While the recipes have many ingredients and details, the instructions are written in a manner that everyone can follow. If you're an experienced cook, this may slow you down a bit.
There is plenty of background to the recipes that you won't find elsewhere; such as big pot blanching and how to handle your homemade stocks.
I've made about 10-15 recipes out of this book. All work... eventually. They require three or four read-throughs, full preparation of equipment and ingredients (mise en place) before starting, an understanding of what happens to food when heat is applied, and better-than-average knife skills.
Keep in mind there are a few bugs here and there. For example, the chive chips in the white truffle oil-infused custard recipe says to bake it at 275F for 20-25 minutes and to, "remove the chips when they are golden brown." This doesn't work. Golden brown is a term meaning that the product has reached caramelization (the sugars are browning). Browning does not begin until the product has reached a temperature of 338F - 350F, which will not occur in a 275F oven. I've had my chive chips in the oven for over an hour and they are, at best, an off-yellow color. Maybe they meant 375F? I've made adjustments by cooking them at 350F, but they don't turn out as nice as they do in the restaurant.
The point I'm trying to make is you have to practice. Don't try these recipes and expect them to turn out the first time. Your skill set, more than anything else, will determine the recipe's success. Nevertheless; if you're a foodie, this is a must-have book.
Of the 400 or so cookbooks I have, this is the one that I enjoy reading the most; it's the one that has the most prominent place in my kitchen bookshelf for everyone to see.
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229 of 258 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible, but be forewarned..., January 2, 2001
By 
Jack Dempsey (South Miami Beach, Florida) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The French Laundry Cookbook (Hardcover)
To put it simply, this book is amazing. I'll try to sum it up in a few main points...
Design--the design on this book makes it a work of art. The photographs and layout are literally awe-inspiring. A word of caution...the size is very cumbersome and doesn't exactly make for ease in the kitchen.
Text--Very enjoyable text and it is pleasurable reading. Most helpful are pointers on technique and procedure.
Recipes--Most are difficult, a few are pretty easy. Herein lies the caveat/point of caution. To understand this point, one must understand the philosophy of this restaurant/Keller. Food is a work of art and presentation is everything in Keller's mind. With that in mind, be ready to break out the tweezers and forcepts to get this food to appear as it does in the restaurant/book. It can be painstaking and frustratingly over-done.
On the restaurant--It is a very good restaurant and worthy of most of the commendations about it. It is perhaps one of the best dining experiences I've experienced. However, it is becoming, in my humble opinion, slightly over-rated. The wait on reservations has now hit the 3 months+ mark. (From those slightly less demanding, I've heard stories of a 6 month wait.) In other words, if you would like to dine there in April, better make reservations in January at the latest. To be honest, the experience is not THAT fabulous and such a wait is more of a product of hype than of quality. You would be better off going to Terra or Tra Vigne in the same area. It would likely be more enjoyable as well.
Don't get me wrong. This is a fantastic book and it is a fantastic restaurant. It is just not THAT fantastic if you follow me.
But as for the book, purchase it if you understand what you're in for--it will be a valuable addition.
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130 of 151 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lot's of Work but Worth the Time!, November 30, 1999
This review is from: The French Laundry Cookbook (Hardcover)
Keller is, as you have probably surmised from the other reviews, the consumate chef's chef. Food at the French Market is spectacular and the book is worth having if you are interested in cooking at all. However, do not expect to rush home after a busy day and prepare one of these dishes. I would call the ingredient list "Gourmet" and many of the preparations "advanced." Your average main course prep time will be two to three hours (not including shopping). That said, the menus I have tried are accurate and clear in instruction. Guests at your upcoming dinner parties will rave about your culinary prowess.
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79 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reflections on America's Culinary Philosopher King, January 6, 2004
This review is from: The French Laundry Cookbook (Hardcover)
I always like to see the Yankees win the World Series and Tiger Woods win a major tournament. This confirmations that there is someone who is certifiably the best at what they do. For the same reason, after reading the pieces about Thomas Keller and the French Laundry written by Tony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman, I am happy to believe that Keller is simply the best chef there is in the United States.
Reading `The French Laundry Cookbook' by Keller, Ruhlman, and the French Laundry staff and `family' does nothing to detract from that opinion. Keller's words enhance my opinion of him as the ultimate culinary artist.
Most successful culinary educators from Martha Stewart to Alton Brown to James Peterson deal primarily with technique. Even major successful chefs who write or demonstrate on TV such as Wolfgang Puck, Mario Batali, and Jaques Pepin deal primarily with techniques with a background doctrine of using fresh, high quality ingredients. The occasional references by Mario or Sara Moulton or Emeril to smells and sounds and tastes often get lost in the woods of prep and firing techniques.
Keller is all about smell and taste and what may seem like totally over the edge concentration on respect for materials. One example is when he insists on storing fresh fish on ice in the same position as they swim so the muscles in the flesh are not stressed out of shape. He is all about providing service and pleasure to his patrons by excellence in the kitchen. One professional observer says the French Laundry kitchen is as quiet as a watchmaker's workshop. This simply fits into Keller's need to have an environment where his staff can experience their preparations with as few distractions as possible.
This, for example is one of the things which separates Rocco DeSpirito from Jamie Oliver in their shows on the opening of their respective restaurants. While Rocco was in the front of the house smoozing with customers, Jamie was in the kitchen at the expediter's table keeping tabs on the quality of what was leaving the kitchen. It was a revelation to see the superficially sloppy Oliver exhort his staff to use gentleness in cooking and plating and his focus on tastes and smells. Needless to say, Rocco has redeemed himself when he did a book, which focused on taste. But, with Rocco, it was reduced to a system understandable by the layman. Keller remains the ultimate empiricist.
This book contains the very first aesthetic justification for small portions at high-end restaurants. The theory is that the patron's first taste senses something wonderful. The second bite confirms the initial reaction, but the reaction is less dramatic. The third bite simply confirms that more of the same is on the way. Keller would rather provide a large number of dishes, each of a few bites, and each providing an exquisitely prepared experience. His doctrine with luxury ingredients such as truffles, foie gras, and caviar is to not skimp on the amount placed on each serving. The rationale is that without that second confirming taste of truffle, the patron may not really know what all the excitement is all about. (I have no idea what the French Laundry charges for a dinner seating, but I'm willing to believe it is pretty expensive. From the evidence of this book, I believe it is worth every penny.)
The book contains recipes actually prepared at the French Laundry. They include all of the whimsically titled dishes reported by Ruhlman and Bourdain, including `Bacon and Eggs', `Macaroni and Cheese', and `Coffee and Doughnuts'. In spite of the fact that some of these recipes are some of the longest I have seen in print, Keller says there is no guarantee this is exactly how they prepare them every day. This harks back to his primary doctrine that the soul of cooking is attention to the individual material in front of you and it's qualities, rather than what is written on a piece of paper. That doesn't mean these recipes will not work in a home kitchen. Madame Keller has in fact, tested them in a home kitchen by her own staff. The recipes in fact elaborate on a number of techniques I have seen before and introduce some which are new to me. The most important is the use of the beurre monte emulsion of melted butter in a very little amount of water. The technique and its uses appear very similar to the beurre fondue technique reported by Tom Colicchio. Both are media for holding or conditioning food in the kitchen rather than sauces used during plating. (I guess it's time I finally read Escoffier). Keller's techniques for shellfish are totally new to me as well. His discussion on cooking lobster is a demonstration of extraordinary sensitivity to his raw material. It easily equals the fussiness of Paul Bertolli in his latest book.
The cuisine is almost entirely based on classic French technique, so it will not be totally foreign to someone schooled by Julia Child and Jaques Pepin. While many recipes are daunting, most are doable by a dedicated amateur and even those recipes which may be beyond ones patience will contain useful techniques.
This is an early celebrity chef coffee table book format, and the photography is worthy of the price. The index is very good and the book includes a good list of sources. The editors have also included a complete list of recipes. The publisher did Eric Rippert's book and with this book they did not make the same mistake of using a font too small. The book also contains a lot more than lip service to the restaurant's suppliers, as it includes several two page essays by Ruhlman on some of the French Laundry's more interesting purveyors.
This book is one of the most lucid characterizations I have seen of the chef's art. This is one source for reading about the very best in American culinary thought and skill.
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42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful cooking book but not for everyone, July 11, 2000
By 
Yalek Ho (San Francisco, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The French Laundry Cookbook (Hardcover)
We got this cookbook last Christmas and used the recipets on the new year dinner. In the cookbook, most of the dishes are elegant and well present. But it did not mention how much works and patient are involved. We made the lobster soap and it took almost a whole day to cook it. Finally, we spent almost 3 days and 4 people to prepare for that dinner. However, most of the dishes were phenomenal. To be honest, I don't think I will try to use that cookbook again unless special occasion. But I truly enjoy the whole process. Cooking is not only to make a dish to eat. If I just want to eat, I will go to restaurant. But the process, the achievment and the joy are way more important. So, I still think this is a great cookbook. It give us more than food(after a long, painful process). It is the joy. Thank you, Mr. Keller.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Coffee table book., September 1, 2006
By 
Hank (San Francisco) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The French Laundry Cookbook (Hardcover)
Let me make things clear early in this review. I think this is a great book, but most people who aren't professional cooks will have trouble preparing the recipes verbatim. That's part of why I say it's a great coffee table book.

The other reason I deem it to the den is that it has some great reading that isn't solely about food preparation, rather stories about suppliers of meats and vegetables that Keller uses in his world famous kitchen.

I'm a pretty experienced cook (not chef) and I've cooked about 5 recipes in this book. What I've chosen to do is take certain parts of a recipe and focus on that or use techniques that he recommends and use them to embellish dishes. For instance, he gives a great explanation on getting pan seared fish skin really crispy that has suited me very well. Also, I've used his technique for liver and onions to spruce up my version.

One recipe that is not very difficult, and adds a new twist to a rib-eye steak is the "Yabba Dabba Doo". I highly recommend the novice chef to try that one, since it takes the familiar and (excuse the banality) "kicks it up another notch".

In summation: if you like to peruse wonderful pictures and read about the nuances of food preparation, this is the book for you. If you're a novice chef that wants to emulate Keller's dishes in a sinch, forget about it. Put the $40 or so dollars towards his other book, Bouchon, which is much more approachable and just as good. The recipes are "bistro style" (i.e. they don't involve 5 people working on them simultaneously and an MFA in food artistry) like his haute cuisine at the Laundry.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Mixed Bag, March 7, 2005
By 
P. Bonfils (Indianapolis, IN) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The French Laundry Cookbook (Hardcover)
I'm a very serious home "chef", and I have now tried 10 of the recipes in this cookbook. Some have turned out well, but others appear to have errors or important details left out. This cookbook appears to be like many others from famous chefs: pretty to look at, but not really intended to allow you to create the dishes at home.

Don't expect detailed instructions. The cookbook's photos are for showing the end result, not for showing you how to produce it.

That said, the cookbook will give you many new and creative ideas. The frustrating part is that you will then have to figure out how to actually prepare them on your own.
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43 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The French Laundry Cookbook, November 21, 2000
By 
GlobalChefs.com (Chicago, IL United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The French Laundry Cookbook (Hardcover)
Chef Thomas Keller's first cookbook The French Laundry ia a beautiful book and a must read for any professional cook.While so many celebrity chefs try to cash in on their fame with a quick restaurant cookbook, Thomas Keller seems to be trying to do something much different.His book is more about how cooking "feels" rather than the actual physical process itself. The recipes are all very workable for a professional chef but would be difficult for home cooks to execute. It really doesn't seem to matter though, because just reading it is enough. The photographs are wonderful and the "zen like" narratives about food from the Chef and his support staff are fascinating. His love and respect for what he does certainly shines through. I think this cookbook is a definite classic and well worth the price. A absolute must-read for anyone interested in food.
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39 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Cookbook you can learn from, January 13, 2000
This review is from: The French Laundry Cookbook (Hardcover)
After eating at The French Laundry last year(and being blown away!)I was first in line to buy this book and have yet to be disapointed. Thomas Keller doesn't just sell you a few recepies, he give you a peice of himself, "Chef Keller",the chef who has created one of the most talked about restaurants in the country. His idea of what a dinning experience should be,his tips and sugestions on how to prepare food the way he does,how he feels you should be creative with food, to make it your own, not to be intimadated by it. Isn't that what we are all looking for when buying this book? the masters way of doing it? and that is exactly what you get. Along with a beautiful book to look through, it is a book to learn from, the meals I've created with this book have amazed me,every one better than the one before. Maybe he gave away too much information.
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The French Laundry Cookbook
The French Laundry Cookbook by Michael Ruhlman (Hardcover - November 1, 1999)
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