La Tartine Gourmande: Recipes for an Inspired Life
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2012
As a regular follower of Bea's blog, La Tartine Gourmande, I've been looking forward to this book for months and was so happy when it arrived. Her cookbook is one of the rare books that allows me to cook for my husband (who has celiac) while not holding me back from experimenting and taking advantage of the lovely, local ingredients we have in the region. While a great resource for anyone who must avoid gluten, the recipes elevate the ingredients with a little bit of fresh herbs, a spice or two and a few fresh vegetables. The millet, amaranth and brown rice pie crust was so easy to prepare and delicious paired with zucchini and ricotta in her marjoram flavored tart. Our current favorite is the watercress and orange salad with a lovely cumin-flavored vinaigrette. It is so beautiful when presented and many of the dishes would be perfect for entertaining as well as for daily family meals. I particularly enjoy the addition of fresh herbs and citrus to many of the dishes as they pair so nicely with everything (I wouldn't have thought to add lime to ricotta for a tart!). I'm looking forward to testing out more recipes and adding some to our regular repertoire!
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119 of 143 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2012
First, the good:
1) Every recipe has an accompanying photo, beautifully staged and shot by the author herself. Impressive.
2) Notwithstanding the dessert chapter, the recipes are relatively straightforward and well within the grasp of most cooks.
3) The desserts, despite a big jump in complexity from previous chapters, are wonderful; probably the best recipes in the book.

Now for the downside:
1) TOO MUCH BLOG! I know Peltre's blog has a large following; it's how the book came to be. She should have left her blogging about life, vacations, childhood, etc. online. I couldn't care less about the kitchen she cooked in on her 10th anniversary trip or any of the rest of it. For those who want that stuff, hey...she has a blog!!
2) Overly simple space-filling recipes. Do we really need a recipe for yogurt with muesli & fruit? Or for fruit juice with ginger? Or for shredded carrots w/vinaigrette? No. Frankly, it borders on insulting. Did the publisher demand a minimum page count before going to press? Also, save 1 or 2 recipes, the entire breakfast/brunch chapter could have been scrapped. Only so much filler, not unlike the blogging bits, actually.

In conclusion, beautiful to look at, yummy recipes mired in a blog of filler, overly simple fare and way too much life story. A 4-star book that loses one for all the stuff it would have been better off without.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2012
I have such a crush on this book. It's so attractive and hard to keep my mitts off! Just made the buttermilk, poppyseed & quinoa pancakes to great applause. And because they are nutritious (ie NOT full of marg, white sugar and white flour), there's no guilt attached.

You'll learn how to incorporate wholegrain flours such as quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth and millet into your baking without your taste buds objecting. This isn't easy to do, so she's obviously a very clever and capable cook. And a seriously talented artist.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Based off of her wickedly popular blog, Bea's cookbook is an extension of herself and a window into her personal life and the relationships and experiences that have shaped it. She shares intimate moments abroad with her husband and snippets of meals shared with memorable friends and neighbors. Not only do we see the joy these people share together over dishes of dressed carrot salads or chocolate almond cakes, but we gain insight into how food is meant to string together people in a grand tapestry of tastes and connections.

Each recipe is well thought out, carefully constructed, and as I can see from cooking in it, thoroughly tested. Not a single recipe will fail you. Crème anglaise was spot on and silky as a custard sauce should be, and eggplants stuffed with white sweet potato looks forward to stunning your guests.

Yet, while the recipes are kaleidoscopic in color and approach the most indelible impression is the one the book and Bea herself leave upon you after reading.

As I see it the best cookbooks evolve you and make an impression on your cooking style. This last day, after reading another chapter of her book, I found myself rather famished. I rustled through the kitchen for what was available and wondered, "What would Bea do?" I believe she would roast the asparagus I had in a bit of avocado oil and fresh tarragon; serve it over some warmed ricotta; and finish it off with cracked pepper, olive oil, and the zest and juice of a Meyer lemon.

This is not a recipe from the book, but simply what I threw together when her air and voice were still with me. Simple, flavorful food that was stunning to look at and endearing to eat. I also found myself whipping out the colorful tablecloths that I so wish I used more often and the special plates for fun because why not take a few minutes for that extra step on a Tuesday night?

Beatrice has my respect for this book (though she had it long before it was published, too).
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on February 9, 2012
I love this cookbook! This collection from Béatrice Peltre is well organized, thoughtfully written, and beautifully displayed. Béatrice has an honest and charming elegance that shines throughout this book in the recipes, the photographs, and in her writing. Not only is this book full of recipes, some simple, some challenging, but it is also full of her wonderful photography (including photos for all major recipes - a huge plus) and her lovely musings; she relates stories and anecdotes from her life as a small child in France, as well as her travels as an adolescent, as a young adult, as a newlywed, and as a mother... in a manner that feels like having an intimate chat with her in her kitchen while whipping up some tasty treats to share with friends and family. This book draws you in as a reader and engages your senses with color and language... it truly does inspire. Thank you Béatrice!

Of special note, I really enjoyed the sections on her go-to ingredients and kitchen essentials; often I find these sections in cookbooks kind of a bore or slightly unrealistic for my kitchen but that is not the case with this book - these sections are interesting, unpretentious and full of great information and alternatives if you do not happen to have a particular ingredient or gadget. I cannot wait to try these recipes and also experiment with all the different flours that she likes to use! This book will definitely become a treasured favorite in your kitchen - after only one day it has already found its way onto my favorites shelf!
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2012
Pros: as other reviewers have said, this book has beautiful pictures, unique and inspiring recipes, lots of gluten free recipes and personal stories (that may be a con for some, I'm indifferent). I love french food and I was (and still am) excited to dive into this book and learn some new recipes.

Cons:
1. Errors: the first recipe I tried (chocolate & plum almond cake) had a typo. The ingredients list said the plums needed 1 TBSP butter but the directions of the recipe said 2 TBSP. The recipe would probably work either way (I used 2 TBSP and it seemed like a bit much) but it was disconcerting to find an error on the first recipe I tried.

2. Some of the ingredients and equipment are inaccessible for even a well equipped home cook. That plum cake required a 13 3/4 in x 4 1/2 in springform mold. In baking, it's not unusual to run into a recipe that requires a pan I don't have, but usually the recipe will suggest an equivalent pan size or I can google and find the equivalent pan size. In this case, no amount of googling could even find a product that matches this description, much less a baking conversion.(I used an 11x7 pan and it worked out ok). It would be helpful if she included alternatives for all the specialized cookware she recommends. The recipes also call for quite a few unique and/or expensive ingredients (quinoa flakes, cardamom pods, vanilla bean, etc.). Though there are some substitutions recommended at the beginning of the book, I'm still wondering what I can substitute for quinoa flakes (which I can't find at whole foods) and I don't want to spend $20 to buy cardamom pods. It would be nice if she had some cheaper/easier to find substitutions for those cooks who don't have the 11 specialty flours she recommends or who don't want to (or can't afford to) throw a $5 vanilla bean into a recipe that serves 4.

3. Recipe sizes seems generally small. I love the idea of sweet potato and carrot pancakes, they look delicious. Do I want to go through all that effort (including pureeing the carrot & sweet potato & beating egg whites) to make 6 3in pancakes? That's like one serving for my husband. For the very fancy desserts (with multiple layers of cake, mousse, etc), I generally won't make something that complex unless I'm having friends or family over. However, most of the recipes in that section serve 4, some serve 6, which won't work for larger groups. I get it that Americans eat more than the French, but if I'm going to go through the effort of shelling and grinding pistachios, infusing butter with whole vanilla bean and cardamom pods and beating egg whites, I want more than 8 muffins (in this case, muffin sized financiers) out of the deal. And no, we're not overweight.

4. Recipes lack key details. I consider myself a decent home cook. However, when a creme anglaise recipe says to add milk to egg yolks "stirring constantly", I don't know off the top of my head if I should be stirring fast or slow. I stirred fast, got lots of foam, later ended up with a grainy (and not very nice) creme anglaise. I later learned also that I shouldn't have cooked the egg & milk mixture over "medium low" as recommended in this recipe, but rather over low heat. Also, boiling the meringue yielded soggy and ugly "islands", I will bake the meringue next time. I recognize that these are small details, but I think it's fair to assume that the average home cook might need more guidance when making some of these more complex french desserts. Also, on a similar note, the pictures don't always match the recipe. For the ile flottantes recipe, the picture has the dessert garnished with lavender flowers, not cocoa powder as recommended by the recipe. I tried the lavender flowers since I had some extras and I thought the picture looked pretty. Yuck. We ended up picking out all the flowers. Again, just details, but sometimes the details can make or break the food.

Though I've listed a lot of cons above, I think the book could still be worth it because of the unique and beautiful recipes it contains. But if you are an average American cook like me, be aware that it might take some extra work to figure out how to make these recipes work for you. Maybe also try to get the book second hand, so you have some money left over to buy cardamom pods.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2012
I'm one of those people for whom cooking is a chore, but at the same time I appreciate a nutricious delicious meal. Yet I am not creative when it comes to cooking, and I've found along the years that following Bea's recipes has allowed me to learn some basics from which I can then depart and add my touch to. The key is that her passion and ideas are always a source of inspiration. I've made about a dozen of her recipes from this book, and countless from her blog, and nothing ever disappoints.
I agree with another reviewer who said this is a great coffee table book - the photography and design are a feast for the senses and it won't take long for even the most novice cook to feel compelled to try. Once you start, there is no turning back!
I also love how Bea's recipes have exposed me to try and use new ingredients that I would have never known before even if they were right in front of me.
I can't wait to see what else Bea will delight us with!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 29, 2012
I love this book! It invites you in with the cover and wraps you in a comforting blanket of delicious food and memories. The pictures make the food leap off the page and the photos truly represent the food not a picture of food warped by overly aggressive food styling. The writing is full of memories of family and food growing up in France and the new memories made with husband and child. The recipes are spot on...and delicious. Her use of fresh and seasonal ingredients as well as incorporation of flours other than wheat really pleases me. I was thrilled to find her including quinoa, hazelnut and other flours. The recipes can be made using these or the regular wheat flour that most are used to. Many of the recipes are simple but always delicious. They make for a relaxed or quick lunch or weeknight dinner. Some are slightly more complicated..for some special dinner or an evening with friends. This books extends an invitation to share a life of food and the stories from the heart of the author. Accept the invitation and buy the book and treat your self to a happy experience.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2012
Bea has succeeded in bringing fresh new recipes in a gourmet setting. She speaks directly to the reader as if we are old friends in her book just as she does on her blog. One word comes to mind immediately - LIGHT! The photography is amazingly light, bright and colorful. The recipes are light but still inspired. While I do not cook wheat-free, I will adapt these recipes to my style while still incorporating her (sometimes) whimsical mix of herbs, cheese and seasonings. I sat down and actually read this book from cover to cover as soon as it arrived! I sooo wanted to turn down the pages of the recipes to try, but soon discovered that would be almost every page. My husband suggested starting on page 1 and cooking our/my way through. I think he has a great idea!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 22, 2012
There are so many things to love about this book. Gorgeous photographs, beautiful design, smart layout, captivating story and, of course, amazing recipes.

I pre-ordered the book and have been drooling over it since it arrived. So far I've made the banana hazelnut muffins, the carrot salad and the apple tartlets -- all were delicious. I love that so many of the recipes are gluten-free and vegetarian. The only adjustment I have to make is to substitute dairy-free options, which is easy enough.

Bea's love of food and attention to detail shine in this book. Her photography alone is enough to make you sprint to the kitchen and start cooking. This is the book I'll be recommending over and over to friends and family.
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