Damn Good Food: 157 Recipes from Hell's Kitchen Hardcover – Oct 1 2009
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Food writer Ann Bauer also gives us a glimpse behind the scenes, revealing Omer's darker side, the side responsible for the decor of Hell's Kitchen, described as the "nightmare side of Sesame Street." Bipolar, obsessive-compulsive, and a former addict, Omer's roller-coaster ride of a life has taken him through many towns and love affairs, numerous jobs, and even more controlled substances. But through it all, there has been food--recipes inspired by places and people, including Omer's own close-knit family, reworked and made his own. He beats back his demons every day with his dad's caramel rolls and coleslaw, locally raised bison burgers smeared with his mom's mustard, and his own famous homemade peanut butter, and he invites you in to share it all.
"Mitch makes extraordinary food. But even more important, he makes extraordinary life. And he knows what one has to do with the other--how food is only part of the equation. This is a man who wakes up every day curious, full of gale-force curiosity and joy."
–from the book
"If you have time for only one meal in Minneapolis or Duluth, we strongly urge you not to go to Hell's Kitchen. Coming for just one meal will be insanely frustrating. There are too many outstanding things to eat. You will walk out yearning for the likes of hand-pulled corned beef hash, char-broiled pit ham, baked huevos rancheros, and a dozen other items for which there was no space on the table."
–Jane and Michael Stern, Gourmet, December 2008
Mitch Omer is the chef-owner of Hell's Kitchen in Minneapolis and Duluth. Ann Bauer was food editor at Minnesota Monthly and is the author of the novel Wild Ride up the Cupboards.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
to Minneapolis. And I just might try to make the peanut butter myself!
Love all the photos too... good shots of the food, but also good photos of Mitch's family and friends in and out of the restaurant, gives you a great sense of what and who's behind the magic!
I didn't make much use of it until I moved away. I craved many of the dishes that one could get there. I would say the recipes I use most are: Maple-Glazed Bison Sausage, Mahnomin Porridge, Lemon-Ricotta Hotcakes, and the condiment recipes (ketchup from hell, world famous PB, etc.). I can attest that the recipes in the book are true to their in restaurant counterparts. Because of this, because they is really the truly real recipes from the restaurant (so to speak), they can be complex or require ingredients that likely will need to be ordered online (like Carbon's Golden Malted Pancake and Waffle Flour). A number of reviewers have complained about the complexity, but I absolutely do not mind. I appreciate that Mitch chose to share the real deal...to give us readers/cooks the benefit of the doubt in terms of our abilities and not dumb it down or oversimplify them. In my mind, as long as you know going in that these are the actual restaurant recipes scaled down, one gets this book to savor something they experienced and want to recapture at home.
As for the people who complain about the profanity, if you have visited Hell's Kitchen, then you will not be surprised. The name of the book is Damn Good Food, for heaven's sake. ;) But I suppose, be warned, if you've never been there. In addition to excellent recipes, there is adult content.
Omer's fascinating story of mental health, drugs, and gluttony fill the pages of this cookbook. From rebellious son to drug-filled bouncer to backroom cook, the storyline is intermingled with recipes acquired during the many stages of Omer's turbulent life.
"He started snorting blow every night and then zipping through the dining room, making funny, charming small talk with the guests. When cocaine got too expensive, Mitch switched to crystal meth. And eventually, when even meth failed to send him, he started smoking PCP."
Damn Good Food is a meat-lovers wet dream. Carnivorous taste buds will salivate with recipes like "Biscuits with Rabbit Gravy," "Antelope Stroganoff," and "Bison Benedict." The mashed potatoes even sport an impressive `2 cups rich chicken broth." Vegetarians shouldn't shy away from dishes, like "Mahnomi Porridge," "Hot Damn Buttered Pretzels," and "Lemon-Ricotta Hotcakes." In addition to its range of recipes, another distinguishing factor to this cookbook is the completeness. There are directions for tartar sauce, curries, rubs, and even peanut butter. If a recipe calls for mayo or Jamaican jerk rub, you have a reference to that recipe.
"There are three key spices in any jerk seasoning: Jamaican pimento (which we call allspice), thyme, and Scotch bonnet peppers, so hot they have been known to spontaneously combust. No longer relegated just to pork, jerk seasoning is used on every manner of meat and fish, as is seen in this book's charred sea bass recipe."
The vicious red cover, punk photos and remnants of Omer's youth grace the pages. Despite his current success and happiness, anyone else walking in Omer's shoes may not have made it. The inspiration of Hell's Kitchen and life of Omer is captured charismatically by Bauer, who discovers she is a bit of a badass, herself. If the rock-n-roll lifestyle takes a slight precedence over the food, we can hardly blame either writer. This is full-on cooking in every sense.