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The Elements of Taste Hardcover – October 24, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Kunz (former four-star chef of New York's Lespinasse restaurant) and Kaminsky (New York Times food writer and author of The Moon Pulled Up an Acre of Bass) team up for a cookbook variation. Instead of arranging food by course or primary ingredient, they identify 14 basic tastes (salty, sweet, floral herbal, "funky," meaty, etc.) then groups them into four categories: Tastes That Push, Tastes That Pull, Tastes That Punctuate and Taste Platforms. The resulting recipes are, understandably, high-concept chef food. Explaining how they layer and balance tastes, the authors conclude each recipe with Our Taste Notes, which take an oenophile's approach to flavor description. Sweet Scallops in a Pink Lentil Crust with a Hot-and-Sweet Bell Pepper Reduction ends thusly: "The taste comes through first as crunch, then salt, and then heat. Next you get sweetness from the scallops.... The celery leaves provide a final garden note with some bitterness to close down the taste." Components are combined fearlessly. Green Onion Fondue includes scallions, tomatoes, dates, cornichons, mint and ajowan. Lady Apples with Gruyere Celery Pork Pockets are stuffed pork chops tweaked with cumin, mustard, prosciutto, turnips and quartered lady apples. As complicated and as multi-ingrediented as many recipes are, the directions are admirably clear, and some recipes, such as Oysters and Cabbage and Two-Tomato Coulis with Three Basils, are quite simple. While some readers may initially find the concept to be contrived, most will welcome this unusual means of creating and characterizing food.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Kunz, who earned four stars as the chef of Lespinasse in New York City, and Kaminsky, a food writer, have written an unusual cookbook. Kunz is known for his innovative recipes; having trained in Europe and worked in Singapore, he was one of the first young chefs to combine Asian and French flavors and cooking styles. He and Kaminsky have come up with a vocabulary of taste, comparable to the vocabulary of winespeak, based on 14 basic tastes they identified, from "Tastes That Push," or heighten the other flavors in a dish salty, sweet, and picante to "Tastes That Punctuate" sharp, bitter tastes like that of horseradish. They have grouped their 130 recipes according to these tastes, e.g., Seafood Casserole with Floral A oli falls under "Spiced Aromatic" and Gratin of Sweet Peas, Tarragon, and Pistachios is under "Garden," one of the "Taste Platforms." Each recipe is followed by Taste Notes, descriptions similar to wine notes; many of the headnotes describe the ideas and experimentation that led to the recipe. This is certainly an interesting approach, though some readers will find it unbearably esoteric. In any case, their book is full of delicious, imaginative recipes and gorgeous photographs of the sophisticated presentations. Highly recommended.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (October 24, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316608742
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316608749
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 1 x 11.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #463,715 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 56 people found the following review helpful By disco75 on October 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
What a great time to be buying cookbooks! While we have for a long while had access to recipe collections and representations of the cuisine of various nationalities and popular restaurants, recently there has been a growing library of culinary tomes that give us the skills for producing creations of our own minds. Titles such as Sauces by James Peterson, the 1-2-3 series by Roxanne Gold, Culinary Artistry, Great Wine Made Simple, and now this book provide us with the information about tastes and combinations of flavors and textures to deconstruct, reconstruct, and just plain construct familiar and novel dishes.
The Elements of Taste provides a brief introduction to the authors' theory of flavor. They broadly group flavors into four categories based on the purpose they serve in a dish. Thus, Tastes That Push represent the well-known seasonings that we use to balance sauces, for example: Salty, Sweet, and Picante. Tastes That Pull represent those taste elements that highlight underlying flavors. The authors include here Tangy, Vinted, Floral/Herbal, Spiced Aromatic, Funky (pungents or musky flavors), and Bulby (what have commonly been called Aromatics such as onions and garlic). Taste Platforms represent the textures upon which dishes are built. These include Garden Platforms, Starchy ones, Oceanic ones, and Meaty ones (what the Japanese call umami). Finally, the fourth category is Tastes That Punctuate, basically bitters that stop tastes and cleanse the palate.
This model is very useful one. The authors seem not to have done their research in examining precursors to this model, and make little reference to other cuisines than the one they constructed for this book.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Y. Demus on July 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Not only is it full of WONDERFUL recipes, it is also full of a lot of taste commentary and other information that will help you to design your own wonderful recipes. If you like to cook, or like to eat, this is the book for you!!!!
This is an especially great book for meat-eaters, who have over 70 amazing recipes to choose from. It's not so great for vegetarians (25 recipes), pretty poor for vegans (9 or 10 recipes), and downright bad for "no-honey" vegans (5 recipes). Still, the book is about more than just recipes: it is about taste, and the factors of taste.
Please note that the recipe count above does NOT include items in the chef's larder: a section filled with 43 recipes for things used to make other things, such as ginger confit, bourbon mustard brine, floral herbal aioli, tomato fennel broth, almond milk broth, bulby citrus butter topping, orange spice mix, cranberry glaze, and crispy rice flake breading.
All in all, an excellent book. One of the things I dig about it most is that it considers TEXTURE as a part of taste, and this is apparent in the recipes. The very first recipe in the book, PAN ROASTED SALMON WITH AROMATIC SALTED HERBS, had me convinced. The thing that really says something about this particular recipe is that both my father and I like it. My father adores salmon; I can't stand the stuff, but I like this. Seriously: try the recipe even if you don't like salmon, and especially if you do; it's easier than it looks and tastier than it sounds. Either way, I believe you will be pleasantly suprised.
Each recipe includes a section on taste, called "taste notes". These help you to hone in on the different tastes in the mix, and why they taste the way they do together.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By J. Miller on June 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The concept is interesting, but I have to say that the recipes could have used a bit more testing and/or proofreading. Almost everyone I've tried has been delicious (5 good to 1 bad), almost all have needed some tweaking in quantities.
The strawberry soup with champagne ice is fantastic, but makes more than twice as much ice as is needed.
The Italian Sausage with Lager Sauce and Apple Bouillon is delicious, but the Lager Sauce has the same consistency as the Bouillon (next time I'll be drastically reducing the amount of lager in the sauce).
One recipe description talks about how the flavor of the almonds interact with the other ingredients but there are no almonds in the recipe!
None of these problems are insurmountable, and I love the complexity of flavor that he layers into the dishes, but a little more testing would have removed a fair amount of frustration.
But it was really worth the price just for that strawberry soup...
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
i have been frustrated when trying to learn more about, i have to say it, the elements of taste. what makes a dish taste good? what ingredients compliment each other, which do not? i am a novice cook but i have reached the point where i want to be able to understand why i am cooking something the way the recipe calls. or why i am using certain ingredients. i am shocked at the lack of books out there about this topic. if you want to learn to appreciate and develop your taste buds, this is a prefect starting point.
the book discusses the many elements of taste. it then delves into recipes specific to those aspects of taste. and then, the best part, it sums up what you should look for when eating the dish (salty taste at first, giving way to sweetness from the aroma of caramelized onions, the texture, etc. etc., then the finish).
this book explains taste, allows you to create a dish, then explains what the dish does to your mouth. i am very satisfied with the book and believe this is an excellent launching pad for me to learn to create my own dishes.
i would also recommend "culinary artistry". it is more textbook-like, however, it has a HUGE appendix telling you what foods compliment one another.
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