Customer Reviews: The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs
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on October 12, 2008
I recently added this book to my cookbook collection, which numbers more than 1,000 volumes (probably more like 1200 but I'm still cataloging). It has immediately become one of my favorites (and definitely my #1 favorite in English). If you are a serious cook, love to read cookbooks like novels, and view recipes as suggestions rather than as requiring strict adherence to precise measurements, then this is the book for you! (Did I say I LOVE this book?)

I make all of the desserts for my husband's restaurant. If I snag some particularly luscious fruit and want to make it into a dessert, this is the book I reach for first. I don't WANT to be told how to make a fruit sorbet. I already know how. But I love having a list of suggested flavors and products that go with what I already have. It's like having an uber-creative friend at your side saying "hey, why not try THIS?"

And if you are not an experienced cook, this book provides invaluable guidance that a recipe book never could. It is wholly different from every food book I have ever read.

The book is clever, useful, and obviously the product of prodigious research. To the authors, I send my humble gratitude. You have made my life immeasurably easier, and my dishes far more interesting than ever before.

This book is a must-read if you love to eat or love to cook. I have already bought six copies and have given two as gifts. It's THAT good.
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on September 4, 2010
It's more of a compendium of alphabetical listings of foods that are paired together. The format basically goes something like this:

Season: spring-summer
Taste: sour-sweet
Botanical relatives: huckleberries
Weight: light
Volume: quiet-moderate
Techniques: cooked, raw
Tips: Can subtitute huckleberries

butter, unsalted
chocolate, white
cinnamon basil

It is like a book that is a giant index, which refers you to things that can pair well. This book is more for people who have a willingness to experiment. It gives pointers on what other people think might go good with an item, such as blueberries. You have to figure out your own proportions. Of course, responsible cooks probably want to taste the food they serve beforehand anyways. ;)
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on September 16, 2008
Flavor is the basis for all food, without it, the world would seem less colorful, lifeless, and bland. Food isn't just about what you can taste in your mouth but also what you can see with your eyes, what you smell with your nose and what you feel in your heart. That's what is presented in this book. (The authors wrote two other acclaimed books, Culinary Artistry and What to Drink with What You Eat.)

Culinary Artistry showcased was that food can be art. That colors structure on a plate can evoke emotions the same as any other art work. And like any art work, is in the eye of the beholder.

What to Drink with What You Eat gave us the understanding that beverages (not just wine) can be paired and should be thought of as a condiment rather than an afterthought

The Flavor Bible talks about, well, flavor; but more then that, it talks about what flavor is and how we perceive it, receive it, balance it and emphasize it. All coming to the climax which is a very in depth list (3/4ths of the book) of ingredients detailing its profile (weak, strong), seasonality, and every herb, spice, fruit, vegetable, meat, fish, poultry and alcoholic related item and what would go exceptionally well with it.

So, if it is so good, why did I give it only 4 stars? The list for the most part is just an update from Culinary Artistry; most flavor companions haven't change since the days of Escoffier. The "new" list does give mention of the seasonality of produce and also the break down of different cuts of meat such as beef, lamb, pork, and poultry into their respected parts and given their own listings.

Culinary Artistry was my best friend going through culinary school and now I have a great addition that I am sure I'll end up burning through as well. I look to this book every time I cook to add that extra something to a dish. So if you are even the slightest bit interested in cooking or making good food taste even better then you can't go wrong buying this book.
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on October 15, 2008
Bought this book w/o a whole lot of information about it. Can't believe it -- I now have the resource I've been looking for --

I'm a cook with some years of experience, a huge cookbook collection, a list of classes taught by renowned experts and cookbook writers, and still I yearned for a reference that gave me the info on what goes with what (w/o me researching my whole library or classnotes. I guess I need "permissions" and this book gave it to me.

Tonight I made redfish (snapper in the book) with a crust of almonds, chives, parsley and dill (methodology learned in all those classes). Served w a favorite zuchinni recipe that included the "go-to" ingredients for snapper, and roasted potatoes with light sprinkling of rosemary and salt (again, a "go-to" herb for the main dish).

It wasn't overkill (my worry) -- it just plain worked and I did it w/o a single recipe. Cut my cooking time in half and raised my personal culinary "thermometer" by a ton of degrees.

If you cook, know methodology and are looking for a silent but knowledgeable help in the kitchen, buy this book. It's a gem!!!
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I absolutely love this book! I first discovered it when it was cited as a reference for a cookbook and am glad I did. While I am not a trained chef, I am an avid home cook that enjoys writing my own recipes, experimenting with foods, and as of late, entering recipe contests. This book helps me be more daring in my flavor combinations and has inspired new recipes.

The first section of the book is a great introduction to flavor. It talks about what is perceived by the mouth, what is perceived by the nose, and my personal favorite, what is perceived by the heart, mind, and spirit. It has great passages from chefs from all over the country talking about things like balancing flavor.

The second section expands on this further by talking about things like seasonality, taste, weight, volume, function, region, and flavor affinities. This helps set up the flavor matching chart since many of these dimensions are used to describe key aspects of each ingredient.

The final section, and bulk of the book, is comprised of matchmaking charts. Simply look up a listing alphabetically and you will be presented with a list of ingredients that pair well with it as well as 'flavor affinities' that include the featured ingredient with more than two additional ingredients. This book gives you the ability to look up cheeses, chile peppers, cuisines, fishes, flavorings, fruits, herbs, ingredients, meats, oils, peppers, salts, spices, tastes, vegetables, vinegars and more! Overall these charts are very extensive and include a variety of ingredients from around the world. If you are interested in an ingredient there is a good chance you will find it in here. Also in this section you will find different tips and comments from Chefs that relate to the ingredients as well as examples of dishes (without recipes) that incorporate the ingredient. These can be great in bringing the combinations to life and jump starting ideas.

It is also worth noting that this is really a reference book. There are no recipes in this book. However, this does not bother me at all as I have tons of cookbooks and come to this book when I want to create something on my own.

This is quite a fantastic reference book that I cannot say enough about! I believe it is something that an avid cook who likes to experiment and create their own recipes would find not only helpful, but enjoyable to have in the kitchen.
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on October 8, 2010
I love that this isn't a recipe book that tells me what to do moment by moment. Instead, it's a reference book that helps me to add flavor to my own dishes, flavor that differs from my own tried and trues. I love to cook and have been doing so for more years than I care to admit to. I don't always want a recipe to tell me what to do. Sometimes I just want to make something of my own creation. This book really helps with that. I've only had it a few days but it's already been quite useful. It lists flavors that different "experts" (doesn't say who the experts are unless I've missed it) use for particular ingredients. And it lists them in different type according to how many experts recommend that particular flavor combination. Bold type, all capitals, with an asterisk is use for the tried and true flavor combos. Small type, regular print (not bold) is for the least recommended but still mentioned by one or more. Those are the extremes, there are others in between.

For instance, there are two pages on Asparagus, covering both regular and white. It begins with the season it's generally available (spring), the weight of the flavor (light-medium), the volume of the flavor (moderate) and the techniques (blanch, boil, deep-fry, pan roast, stir fry). Then it offers a list of the nuts, herbs and spices, other vegetables, cheeses, eggs, sauces, oils, salts, creams, stocks, etc. that work well with Asparagus. It then gives you Flavor Affinities, which are groups of flavorings that work well together such as asparagus + ham + morel mushrooms + Parmesan Cheese. It then offers some dishes from chefs in which Asparagus is featured such as Ricotta Gnocchi with Asparagus, Morels and Pine nuts from Dan Barber, Blue Hill at Stone Barns (Pocantico Hills, NY). Last, it gives a recommendation on how to make asparagus soup from Daniel Humm of NYs Eleven Madison Park: You need a lot of asparagus flavor. You need acidity. You need sweetness that will come from the asparagus. You need the right amount of salt. You need just the right amount of spice, so that it doesn't actually taste spicy. We use a lot of cayenne, but you would never know it is there; it is just an accent. You need fresh lime juice to finish. Then he discusses the balance of flavors in soup and how to manage that with this soup (sweat the asparagus). Instead of a recipe, you get a how to on making your own soup your way. The whole book has tips from chefs just like that.

I'm going to love this part on "Chocolate/Cocoa-in general" Stuff that works well with chocolate! Experimenting time!!

I hope I've given you an idea of what this excellent book can do for you.
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I started learning to cook by following recipes that were either handed down to me or that I got out of a cookbook or magazine. When comparing this method to professional chefs who pull together wonderful, creative dishes with seemingly effortless ease it seems amateurish and simplistic, however it is a necessary phase. By following recipes I learned crucial techniques as well as what a well prepared meal should look and taste like.

The next phase started when I tried to create my own recipes by first substituting one ingredient for another and later by going off the reservation completely by trying food combinations that I had never encountered in my recipes. Sometimes this worked, sometimes it led to disaster. Enter The Flavor Bible.

A few reviewers have criticized this book for being a mere collection of lists of ingredients. Far from that, I see it as the Rosetta Stone for serious home cooks and professional chefs alike. As I have learned to use fresh, locally grown foods more I am often searching for a way to combine them. Trying to find a recipe that allows me to take advantage of a bumper crop of artichokes, sweet onions and garden grown thyme can be challenging. By using The Flavor Bible I look up artichokes and I can see what ingredients compliment it and I can put together a great tasting dish. However, this is only one element of the book.

Beside listing ingredients and pairing them with other flavors the book also lists cuisines that make use of the ingredient in question. You may also look up a specific cuisine (Indian, Thai, Tex-Mex, Moroccan, etc.) and find commonly used ingredients, Flavor Affinities and often, a paragraph or two from a professional chef. Something else that I liked was that you could look up seasons (summer, winter, etc.) and find what foods are best served when it is hot or cold outside.

The photographs (by Barry Salzman) are top notch and very inspirational. There are not very many of them but I don't think that there needs to be since this is not a cookbook you don't need to see what a particular dish is supposed to look like when completed.

If you are still a little rusty on technique and are unsure about relative proportions you may not be ready for this book. If however you have graduated from only using the recipes of others and would like to explore unique and wonderful flavor combinations, I couldn't recommend this book any higher.
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on March 24, 2009
This book is for the person who wants to understand flavor combinations, and a good assist toward cullinary creativity. It's definitely for the more experienced chef - it is assumed that the reader has an understanding of how to work with ingredients to make the classic flavor combinations that are recommended in the book. For example, the book will tell you that carrots and lime go well together. It does not tell you whether to chop, puree or juice the carrots, use lime juice or zest, or what other ingredients to combine with them. That's the part that's up to your creativity as a chef. Get into the kitchen and go wild!
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on February 19, 2011
The content of the book is great. I agree with most other reviews. But the Kindle version is a disaster. Quotes, pictures and other information gets placed in the ingredient list of either the subject before it or after it. For example, a picture of proscuitto right in the middle of the ingredients that are listed under pumpkin. Another example, chef quotes about how they use citrus in the middle of the ingredient list for clams. Another, menu titles using coffee in the middle of the section for cognac. These kind of errors happen every couple of pages. I put up with the madness for half of the book then gave up. Even paging through the rest of it I could see the errors continued!!! Bottom line, great material but buy the book in print!!!! Stay away from the Kindle version!!!
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on December 28, 2011
The eBook version of flavor is horrible -- hundreds of pages of a flat text list, no tables formatted, no organization, no index to help with ingredient finding in the long, unformatted list. There are many key features, like seasonality, that are simply omitted in the ebook version. Oh yeah, where there are sidebar paragraphs in the paper book, those paragraphs are just inserted inline at random places in the long flat list text, as if the text of the paragraphs were part of that ingredient's information.

I can't imagine the shiftlessness and greed that encouraged the publisher and authors to approve the ebook version. It's unusable junk, really.

They could have paid a high school student one day's worth of woord processing to make the ebook version more useful. And the ebook price is not cheap!
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