I'm very surprised by the low number of reviews for this book given Chris Cosentino's presence in food television (Food Network, Top Chef) and the San Francisco and national food scene. This cookbook is very fun and inspiring. I judge a cookbook by how many recipes I actually want to make from it, and I can say that it is about 90%+ for this book.
There were several reasons for my purchase of this book, despite a bookshelf sagging underneath the weight of my obscene cookbook collection:
1) Interesting concept: I like the idea of a collection of starter/appetizer recipes. Although, don't be turned off by thinking that it is limited in scope, because many of these recipes can be scaled to serve as a main course (both light and hearty ones).
2) Interest in supporting a local chef: I live 3 blocks from Cosentino's restaurant in San Francisco, Incanto, which is a fabulous place. I occasionally see him holding staff meetings as I walk or run by the restaurant.
3) Interest in supporting a very creative, smart (and nice!) chef: After watching his performance on Top Chef Masters, I can say that Chris seems to be an incredibly inventive and interesting chef that pushes the envelope to make delicious food without resorting to gimmicks (i.e. like some in the molecular gastronomy field). In addition, having once bumped into Cosentino, I can say that he is very pleasant in person.
OK, but what about this book? I have read all the recipes almost cover to cover, and have to say that I am very impressed with the collection. First, I enjoy the philosophy of the book and the way the recipes are written. This book doesn't do too much hand holding. It presumes you know the basics about cooking and describes the steps with enough thoroughness, but leaves some room for interpretation as well as providing thought-provoking, interesting ideas for you to try. Having spent a lot of time in the kitchen as a home cook, this book has awakened me to some new methods and ingredients -- one of the main reasons I love it. There is also beautiful photography and a little hand-written anecdote above each recipe to give it some context/personalization. It also provides some fun ideas for how to plate and present some of the dishes in a beautiful way.
Some of my favorite recipes include:
-Marinated Sardine & Cured Meat Crostini
-Pickled Boar, Herb Pesto, Grilled Onions & Pine Nuts
-Charred Eggplant, Summer Onions & Chile
- Foie Gras, Corn & Onion Charcoal
- Clams, Prosecco and Lemon Verbena
- Marinated Tripe, New Potatoes and Parsley
- Roasted Figs, Sheep's Milk Ricotta, Fig Leaves
- Pumpkin, Pumpkin Seeds and Pickled Cranberries
- Pork and Porcini Meatballs
- Acorn Squash, Stracciatella Cheese and Sage
- Duck Conserva & White Bean Bruschetta
- Dungeness Crab, Fregola, Chiles & Fennel
I highly, highly recommend this cookbook, particularly for those who have some experience in the kitchen and are looking for new inspiration.