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The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs Hardcover – September 16, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Dornenberg and Page's follow up to their award-winning What to Drink With What You Eat certainly compliments its predecessor (part of the intent), but works equally well as a standalone reference for cooks of all skill levels. An alphabetical index of flavors and ingredients, the book allows readers to search complimentary combinations for a particular ingredient (over 70 flavors go well with chickpeas; over 100 are listed for oranges), emphasizing the classics (chives with eggs, nutmeg with cream, sardines and olive oil, etc.). Entries for ingredients such as chicken, beets and lamb span multiple pages and feature menu items from chefs such as Grant Achatz of Alinea, Alred Portale of Gotham Bar and Grill and Le Bernardin's Eric Ripert. Regional tastes are well-represented in broad entries for classic German and English flavors, as well as the more fine-tuned flavors of, for example, northern France or West Africa. The listings, combinations and short essays from various chefs on different matches are meant to inspire rather than dictate-there are, in fact, no recipes included. Instead, the volume is meant as a jumping-off point for those comfortable in the kitchen and eager to explore; though experienced cooks and chefs will benefit most, novices will find themselves referring to this handsome volume again and again as their confidence grows. Color photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Creative, self-motivated cooks who don’t demand recipes’ precise prescriptions will cheer the publication of this guide to the kingdom of taste. Addressing the nature of flavor and its role in cooking, the authors have gathered creativity and wisdom from dozens of the world’s best chefs. Page and Dornenburg define the aesthetic of flavor as a combination of taste, mouthfeel, aroma, and a mysterious factor perceived by the other senses and by the diner’s emotions. They then break down in hundreds of tables how ingredients’ flavors relate to one another. For example, the table for apples notes their affinity for cinnamon, pork, rum, and nuts. They also list the most common ingredients of national cuisines. In some cases, they note clashes, such as oysters and tarragon. This is a valuable reference for all aspiring chefs and sets down in print what has often been believed inexpressible. --Mark Knoblauch
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I enjoy cooking. Friends will tell you that I am a gourmet chef but the fact is that I really am not. I am a foodie who loves to experiment with flavors and also likes the challenge of replicating foods and flavors that I've had in a restaurant. My palate isn't all that sophisticated though. When it comes to cooking I will look online for ideas, I will look at recipes and perhaps start with something I see and then embellish and experiment as I go along. That's where the flavor bible comes in. If I'm in the kitchen the F Bible is never far from my side. I hosted a small plates party recently. I used a couple of mainstay dishes that I always cook but I wanted to branch out... baked egg rolls, hmmmm what vegetables and seasonings would work well together (I didn't want to go for the obvious soy and ginger) -- I ended up with garlic, cumin and soy as a base. It was delish.
My challenge at this small plate feast was that there were people who couldn't handle any level of spice, a person deathly allergic to mushrooms, and a vegetarian. I needed to find substitutions and I did. It was fun figuring out work arounds for everyday flavors and ingredients
There are obvious pairings (garlic and onion) and there are less obvious and more exotic pairings. These folks have so much knowledge. The book is a treasure trove. A great reference for when you want to go with new pairings or if you just have a question about something you'd like to try. You can't imagine the wealth of information packed into this very portable volume. Figs, hmmm what would go well with figs. Crack the book open to page 161 (its arranged alphabetically) and you will find a list of fig info including ways to use it and cook with it.... and then a list of its complementary foods and flavors In this case the fig pairs with; Almonds, anchovies, anise, apples, arugula, bacon, butter, a few cheeses, cherries, chicken, chococate........ All this and I'm only up to the letter C. It goes all the way through to walnuts.
BOTTOM LINE.... Honestly, my review here can't begin to do this book justice. it is well worth double its list price. I've owned my copy almost ten years and I am not sure how I got along without it. You can go online and pretty much find any recipe you desire. But the information in this book just isn't available in any sort of comprehensive way online that I have found. This truly is a flavor bible written by religious food fanatics.... they have left very few stones unturned. Though I see now that they have a vegetarian flavor bible. I might have to check that out as well. If you like to be creative in the kitchen this book is a must. Buy it. Honest. You'll thank me.
At first I felt as if the authors had started out to write a book, but were overwhelmed by the huge collection of notes they had accumulated and instead just published the contents of their index cards, so to speak, in alphabetical order.
Gradually I formulated an analogy with a book intended to teach writing, in which many words of the language are listed in thesaurus format with emotional reactions and typical types of stories in which they might appear. The concepts of style, grammar, and punctuation for which someone might have bought the book appear only as list entries. Thus, to learn where to use a semi-colon in a run-on sentence, one must look up "semi-colon", after having looked up "punctuation" to find out what one might possibly use in this sentence.
In the end, I found the key in their use of the word "creativity". I think they purposely left the book as unstructured as possible in order not to place limits on the creativity of the reader. If you want food for summer, you can look up summer. If you want food typically served in Ethiopia, you can look up Ethiopia. If you have a potato in the pantry, you can look up potatoes. If you want serve a meal after which you can drink whiskey, you can look that up, too.
Unfortunately this approach essentially requires that you read the entire contents of this thesaurus in order to know what you might look up, because there are no lists to aid you. I understand that to list the names of all of the foods would be repetitive and space-consuming, but it would be nice to know what cuisines are included, for example. What culinary concepts (sourness, astringency, etc.), what meal-formulation guidelines (dessert, appetizer, etc.), what the rules are by which the authors intended you to use the definitions they supplied (balance, seasons, etc.). All of these things only appear in the alphabetical database and the reader could easily miss them if he or she gave up in frustration or despair before scanning the entire text.
On a final note, this is, as they do say on the cover, a compendium of opinions. The opinions are supposedly those of experts, from supposedly famous establishments. I've never heard of any of them, but I don't get out much so that doesn't mean anything. There are many anecdotes in the book, most of which serve to demonstrate that even the experts don't agree on everything. I was amused, for example, to read two diametrically opposed opinions of the use of bay leaves. One expert can't get enough of them, and one thinks that two in 40 gallons is more than enough. My mother was very conservative with spices, and even she used one entire leaf in a one-gallon pot of stew. I found a number of opinions with which I don't agree, but that is okay. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Just be aware that this book doesn't have profiles for foods that are based on any objective measurements. They are all based on the net result of the opinions of the experts interviewed. It can still be a useful book, especially if you start making your own lists to help guide your future use of the book.