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This review is from: Manresa: An Edible Reflection (Hardcover)
This reviewer must confess a smidgeon of ignorance by not recognising the author, who is apparently one of the San Francisco Bay Area's star chefs who has become known for how he has "...revolutionised restaurant culture with his take on the farm-to-table ethic and focus on the terroir of the Northern California coast."
Mind you, ignorance can be a blessing and it means that one has no preconceptions or expectations either! This is a richly-decorated, highly-illustrated book with a fair few pleasant differences. After a fairly interesting introduction one is given a "how to use this book" mini chapter - how to use a cook book you may ask - but the authors make it clear that cooking should be more than just following a series of steps mechanically. Clearly the results will be good if you follow the recipe but will there be any "heart and soul" in the dish. Whilst teaching the reader many interesting recipes and possibly many new techniques or little wrinkles, there is a clear exhortation to cook with your hands, use your experience and feel for the dish and so forth. So whilst there are clearly recipes that you can follow, the strongest possible encouragement is given to using the recipes as a guide.
Everything is concentrated into nine distinct chapters, each with fairly abstract or indirect names such as "An homage to an egg" and "To renew". This is a book where clearly you should read the text that accompanies the recipes as by doing this you will get a greater insight to the recipes, a deeper feeling to food combinations and a rather interesting literary guided tour. You might find the internal navigation frustrating if you just want to dive in and grab a main course recipe for chicken but this book is, one respectfully suggests, more than just a source of basic recipes.
Looking at some of the dishes you might consider them to be overly-fussy or even pretentious but don't judge things by name alone. Recipes such as "25 tomatoes, pistachios and allium flowers", "bundles of lightly smoked vegetables and albacore" and "creamy nasturtium rice with passion fruit and crab" might require a little deciphering but when viewed in the context of this book it is strangely part of the charm. Looking at some of the combined ingredients is certainly thought-provoking and gives scope for the more experienced cook to improvise other recipes in the future. The recipes are clearly written and methodically designed for those who wish to follow them step-by-step. It would have been nice for an estimated preparation and cooking time to have been present - even if the larger aim is for you to "go with the flow" but kudos must be given for the use of dual metric and imperial measures! Special praise must also be given for the food photography used - it is evocative, detailed, uncluttered and eminently framable (for your wall) but then it would be sacrilege to cut up this book.
The price of this book means that it will sadly be out of reach of many cooks. This is more than just a cookbook, that is for sure, but if your budget stretches for a bit of culinary curiosity that could make a positive impact on your cooking skills and your family's diet this could be something of worthy of closer consideration. For those who like to dive in and out of a book a good index is essential but unfortunately the promised index was not present in this pre-launch review copy so no opinion can be given to it. That said, one would be surprised if the publisher has cut a corner in this otherwise top-rate book.
This time, it was good to have examined this book without knowing anything about the author. Now one really needs an excuse to visit San Francisco to test the food "direct from the source!" Just cooking their recipes cannot be enough...