Fans of the Le Pigeon Restaurant in Portland, Oregon are going to fall for this lovingly-created book that highlights the best of the first five years of its existence. The story is told not only in the recipes, but in the beautiful pictures and stories and essays that help the reader reminisce.
It is hard to write a review of a restaurant chef's cookbook. How to balance a star rating between stunning talent and superb recipes that work in a restaurant, and what works at home? How to inform a potential cookbook buyer of its at-home-cooking value, without offending the talented chef, the restaurant staff that works so hard, and the restaurant fans? Oftentimes, chefs and restaurant staff are so close to their work, that they don't see that their supplies, their abilities, their facilities are way more sophisticated that what is the norm for a home cook. Please believe me when I say that I don't mean to offend anyone; and if you read my words carefully, I hope you can see that my review is as unbiased and informative as I can make it. It is posted here to help you make an informed choice--whether or not to BUY the book. If I wrote my review as an "advertisement" for the restaurant, I would be writing my review for all the wrong reasons. So, please, if you don't like my better-than-average "I like it, I truly do" four-star rating, let me know where my thinking is wrong by way of a comment below--and not a simple negative vote....
I usually shy away from restaurant chef cookbooks because, while the recipes are always fabulous, they are often works of art and complicated, with long ingredient lists and hard to find (and oftentimes expensive) ingredients. Excuse me, but that is why I "go out" to dinner! I like to cook, but I don't often want to spend all day in the kitchen. I also don't like spending a day shopping for special ingredients, or waiting days for an internet order to arrive. This cookbook falls into that category. So while it is definitely a wonderful and beautiful grouping of recipes, you should be aware that you are not going to find a majority of recipes that you can whip together on a week night. You may want to pick up this book simply because it is a product of your favorite restaurant and its up-and-coming chef OR you might just pass it by because most of the recipes are not simple and easy to prepare. You may want to pick it up for its lessons in creativity, as the chef is definitely insightful and intuitive.
This cookbook is a combination of the laborious works of art that I describe above, plus wonderful (Oregon and Pacific Northwest) sourcing information and tips, plus some good ole' easy favorites. You will find that most of the recipes incorporate ingredients that are plentiful (or popular) in the Pacific Northwest. You will definitely find the Le Pigeon chefs' "keeper" recipes. You want to recreate a dinner you've had there? Then, this book's for you.
The chapter titles provide some insight into the type of recipes included: The book opens with "Lettuce and Such" and it's probably the "tamest" of all. The next chapters get into the meat of things: "Tongue" (lamb, elk, beef, pork); "Fat Liver" (foie gras); "Little Birds" (pigeon, squab, duck, quail, pheasant); "Rabbit" (smoked, in a terrine with eel, braised, chicken-fried, etc.); "Little Terry" ( fried razor clams, Dungeness crab, geoduck, octopus, black scallops, clams, escargot, etc.); "Big Terry" (sea bass, trout, king salmon, swordfish, sturgeon, halibut); "Pork" (belly, cheek, shoulder confit, foot, and a simple roast pork loin); "Horns and Antlers" ( beef cheek, heart, tripe, oxtail, hanger steak, calf's head, sweetbreads, bone marrow, rib-eye and a burger); "Lamb" (ground, shank, neck, belly, brains, etc.); "Veg" (eleven fairly sophisticated vegetable dishes), and last but not least "Choco, Tart, Profit" ( a nice grouping of sorbets, ice creams, a pie and a cake.)
Ingredient lists are long, but precise and accurate. There are full-color pictures for most of the recipes. Layout and type style make the recipe instructions easy to follow.
I picked up this book because I am interested in unusual cuts of pork and beef and in recipes using more unusual meats. From the paragraph above, you can tell I found that plenty of recipes to feed my interest. I won't be buying this book, though: While I consider myself an experienced cook, I am still a home cook. These recipes are too involved for my taste. Plus, I live in Texas, so most of the fresh fish and seafood chapters are out of bounds for me because we don't see much West Coast product here. And the "Fat Liver" chapter I wouldn't use because I'm not going to indulge in foie gras (except on rare occasions when visiting a top notch restaurant).
All in all, it was a very interesting cookbook to browse through, but it is not my style. I had to give it a four-star rating though, because I think it would be of interest to people in and around Portland--and I surely wouldn't want to dissuade those people from considering this book. Plus a lot of work went into creating this book.
**I received a temporary download of this cookbook from the publisher, through NetGalley. I've been scrutinizing and working with this cookbook for about two months.**