Once Upon a Tart offers 225 recipes from the eponymous Manhattan shop, which, in addition to sweet and savory tarts, prepares delicious soups, salads, and muffins. Both book and shop are the work of business partners Frank Mentesana and Jerome Audureau, whose Soho store has flourished for almost a decade, providing notable quality while expanding tart-consciousness. Among the tart recipes, particularly winning are the Zucchini Tart with Curried Custard and Dried Currants; Roasted Ratatouille Tart with Herbes de Provence; Chocolate Pear Tart; and Jerome's Mother's Famous Almond Tart, a melt-in-your mouth confection. Equally good are the recipes for sandwiches, such as pork loin with frisée and rosemary-garlic aïoli; soups, including black-bean-and-pumpkin with cinnamon and ginger; scones, like honey caramel; and quick breads and cookies, such as Apple-Cranberry Muffins and Rosie's Peanut Butter Cookies.
What makes the book especially worthy is its instructive approach. The recipes themselves contain useful technical guideposts (the authors zero-in on desirable unbaked dough texture--"just past crumbly, but still holding together"), and there are many illuminative asides, both personal and to-the-point ("'Each variation on an ingredient changes the taste and texture of the cookie,' says Frank--this kind of thing excites him," is one). With its attention to the personal, the book is also something of an autobiography à deux, and readers will enjoy getting to know the authors, one very French, one solidly American. Illustrated with color photos, and with useful notes on equipment and fundamental processes, such as How to Deal with Eggplant, the book should please bakers at all skill levels. --Arthur Boehm
From Publishers Weekly
Once Upon a Tart, a charming cafe in New York's SoHo, was founded by two refugees from hotel management intent on a dream. Audureau, who ran a tarterie in Avignon, France, his home town, saw that New York had not discovered this French lunch delight the savory tart, with its accoutrements of salads and the finish of a sweet. Jersey-born Mentesana learned to cook from his Italian grandmother. The cafe chefs add unusual twists to traditional recipes for example Zucchini Tart with Curried Custard and Dried Currants and Chickpea-Tomato Soup with Fresh Rosemary. Zestful loving touches, such as Tomato Chutney with Golden Raisins as a spread for sandwiches, are what make this book and the cafE a standout. In chatty, accessible style, Audureau and Mentesana explain everything from blanching vegetables to how to cool tart crust and how to make apricot glaze for sweet tarts. The cafE's regulars will be ecstatic to have this generous offering of recipes for their favorite tarts, scones, tea breads, and cookies, such as My Mother's Are Better Ginger Cookies and the Chocolate-Pecan French-Style Macaroons. Each section, from salads to condiments, is carefully presented and full of ideas and hints. The lunchbox-size book (9 x 7) and lovely photos make for a cozy, lighthearted presentation.
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