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5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, 21 Mar. 2013
I. Darren (Fi) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Where There's Smoke (Hardcover)
This book is a bit like a piece of good steak. A big thick meaty slab, oozing with goodness and whilst it might appear simple and straightforward it can also be as complex, as involved, as flexible as you want it to be.

At first glance you could think this is a great coffee table-type book, thanks to its general design and wonderful, engaging photography. You get to read a modest, yet interesting introduction to the author and what makes him tick before the focus is turned to the overall "mechanics of grilling". The author has a clear preference for "live fire" grilling rather than using a gas barbecue, yet gas grill owners need not feel left out of the love, even though there is an extensive look at the art and craft of grilling in a more traditional manner.

It was pleasing to note that the author even considered "workflow" issues, that is to say reducing your effort and stress whilst grilling through the planning of what you shall cook and a general order of doing things. There is even a look at typical wines that could accompany your grilled creations. Talking of drinks, the very first recipe in this book sets the stage, gives you a taste of things to come, for being different and intriguing - a refreshing blueberry-mint spritzer! There are plenty more drinks you can also make and they are not thankfully your typical common-or-garden variations on a theme too. So, the recipes... these are split into sections that are named in a form that this reviewer often sees on jaunty restaurant menus - setting the stage (soups, salads); stars (vegetables, accompaniments), fins & shells (fish, shellfish); wings (chicken, turkey, duck); hooves (beef, pork, lamb) and various basics.

Sure, there will be many everyday favourites possibly with a twist, such as Smoked Clams & Mussels or a Spicy Cucumber Salad but there are many, many other great recipes here through the entire "catalogue" that will have your eyes lighting up, even when it is a familiar combination of items carefully, artfully put together, yet on paper it would be so obviously, clearly simple and clear such as a Summer Corn Salad or Grilled Liver with Figs & Onions. Every recipe features all the key information (and more besides) you could want, including scene-setters, motivations, hints and tips. The instructions are clear and easy to understand, preferring to focus on step-by-step details instead of general assumptions. A great way to learn, no matter what level of grill expert you may or may not be. Sure, a few niggles, such as the measurements being only in imperial units and no approximation of a preparation and cooking time, but in the whole consideration of this book such things don't even scratch the surface of dissatisfaction.

This is a book you really must read sequentially through, at least once, for two reasons - to really get a grip on what you are getting and to soak up the various bits of knowledge liberally spread throughout. This book could easily have been cut in half, one volume for theory and one volume for recipes with the price unchanged and still it would feel a great investment. Do you want more? There is even a page devoted to further reading recommendations (both offline and online), a list of sources for some of the various ingredients (in the United States) and a top-rate index.

This reviewer sees new cookery and food books every day. Very few get to even see a place on the reviewer's own personal bookshelves. This one will be and in a place that is very close to hand. Summer is coming, time to start stoking the fires of the mind in readiness for stoking the outdoor grill.
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Where There's Smoke
Where There's Smoke by Barton Seaver (Hardcover - 18 April 2013)
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