Before we get into the gritty part of the review, (you don’t really need it) I am saying this is one of the most comprehensive books I have seen. So many amazing texts on the subject of food, it is ridiculous a new tome would cross my path and impress me so much as much. So let’s get to it.
1. Cover: excellent and rugged. At first I thought I had received a used item, but the cover only LOOKS splotched and stained. This is a brilliant move and shows how even the cover connects to a pub-like restaurant. The cover art is bold and subdued at the same time featuring the blood pasta. Cover is solid and will withstand many hours on my commercial kitchen counters, as it will most likely be spending a majority of it’s life.
2. Binding is a strong stitch and glue. Stitching is important to me, and it is apparent the authors actually expect the book to be used regularly.
3. Pages are heavy with nice smooth feel, and are not so ‘white’ to blind you when reading. As I age I find this is an important thing.
4. Text is crisp and easily read, along with bold type, where bold type is important. Excellent use of italics as well bringing attention to important factors of each formulae (recipe). Notes in the margins are nice addition.
5. Page numeration are easy to follow, only being absent when full page color plates are used.
6. Photos are great, full page color plates are beautiful and makes you want to dive into the food and/or setting, giving the reader a ‘I wish I was there right now!’ feel. I love the real-life shots of the artists at work and the feel of inclusiveness.
First of all, let me just say that it drives me crazy the people who post poor book reviews that give really great books low reviews based on the availability of ingredients for their area. I’m not saying it isn’t annoying to not have the items available, but I also know that there are work arounds to these things. ‘Cheers’ is not pretentious at all about their ingredients. If you can’t get piment d’Espelette in your area, suck it up and throw in the best smoked paprika you can find. It’s not hard. I do wish they had helped me to understand what ‘AOC’ was, (appellation d’origine contrôlée) but a quick Google search fixed that.
Introduction: was awesome! Loved the narrative. Anytime you can put ‘Trappist cheese’, ‘peasants’, and ‘Night Ranger’ together on a page is just plain smart. Well done Mr. Kahan. The homage to the ‘partners’ was a nice touch on page 7.
Pantry: Really well written, simple and to the point.
To The Mighty Vegetable: This is a surprisingly long section and smelled of Ottolenghi. I am anxious to try the Barbecue Carrots, and an upgraded version of Elotes. The spiced honey looks particularly interesting as well.
The Seafood section is expansive and delicious looking. I admit I thumbed through these glancing here and there and look forward to adapting to our landlocked location, but it’s just not my ‘go-to’, from a restaurant perspective. Don’t be mistaken however, tons of ideas on Chicory, croutons, mayo, and sunchokes. Don’t skip it simply because of a lack of access to the fresh good sea stuff.
Now to the one reason I pre-ordered the book. ‘Swine, Bovine, and Particularly Fowl’. With emphasis on the fowl. I have heard stupendous things about the Publican Chicken, and I have dreamt of having a ‘whole bird’ on the menu. This easy to perform recipe is welcome in ANY pub, restaurant, or home kitchen in the world! It can be a bit tricky learning how to debone a whole bird, but not impossible. This recipe is absolutely brilliant and I have executed it several times now.
Surprise #1: Yes, I was surprised to see a section on Charcuterie. Even more surprised that the narrative is humble in the fact that these brilliant masterminds arn’t afraid to talk about their failures as much as their successes. This section reminds me so much of another great book ‘Olympia Provisions’ that I almost forgot I was reading ‘Cheers’. With enough of a narrative to embolden the home chef with the knowledge of how to tackle this art safely.
Surprise #2: A complete section on offal, scraps and bits. Excellent! Even one of my favorite things, ‘fish collar’, which in my humble opinion is one of the most flavorful parts of the fish, and most don’t even know about it. Homemade butter cheese is enticing at the very least.
Surprise #3: I love baking, particularly hearth style breads. I was completely shocked to see that there is an entire section of bread. Not just any bread, but real, honest to goodness sourdough. The real McCoy. Even employs Chad Robertsons technique (not sure who invented it, just stating where I had read it first of baking off in cast-iron pots) for airy, open-crumb hearth bread. A nice addition on cultured butter in this section too.
A parting shot for publican waffle with honey butter rounds out the book with the important ‘Sources’ section, Acknowledgments (yes I read them) a nice expansive appendix and a little more about the authors. The epistemology here is important and suddenly the reader goes, ‘OOOHHH, of course ‘Gramercy’.
So, yes, long review. If you are still on the fence about buying this, I totally understand, no book can be that good….could it? My answer is yes, if for no other reason than to pull off the Publican Chicken, and dream about all the others.