Most helpful positive review
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Lives Up To Its Title
on November 11, 2008
This book takes the core of the authors' previous book "Culinary Artistry" (which contains a list of just about any food you might wish to eat, and the flavors do and do not go with that food), and expands it to include a greater range complementary flavors, based on interviewing chefs and reviewing menus and recipes throughout America, based on evolving tastes since the earlier book came out.
The Flavor Bible is better organized in many respects than Culinary Artistry - more food combinations listed, flavor affinities ranked (from "marriages made in heaven" to merely recommended), flavor conflicts better identified, and less of the authors' rather frou frou prose. Classic combinations of multiple flavors are provided as well (use these herbs and oils for Greek, use those for Thai). Chef's quotes provide interesting insights about flavor and technique throughout as well.
If you are an improvisational cook, this might well become the most useful cooking reference on your shelf. Buy this volume instead of Culinary Artistry if you don't already own the earlier book, but if you already own Culinary Artistry, you will want to own this one as well (I grabbed it the day I saw it). Pass on your much used, food stained copy of Culinary Artistry to a new cook.
My main quibble with the Flavor Bible would be that the three-column layout make it somewhat difficult to spot the main food at the head of each list - in this regard, I would have preferred that the authors stick with the layout of the list in Culinary Artistry.
I noticed that at least one flavor conflict (lavender and chestnuts) identified in a chef's quote did not make it into the lists - it might be worth scouring the quotes to look for other affinities and conflicts within the pages of the book for the next edition. They do not list two of my personal favorite flavor pals (strawberries + Drambuie, and cherries + harissa); however, my wife disagrees with me over the latter, so perhaps that is just as well.
A searchable CD-ROM containing the lists would be a valuable enhancement to this text; it would be wonderful to be able to cross reference compatible flavors with the other dimensions of flavor (taste, mouthfeel, aroma, and "the X factor") which are identified in the book, in order to facilitate experimenting with the types of contrasts which often lead to the creation of a successful dish.
None of the foregoing, however, should take away from the scope and accomplishment of this magnificent, ambitious, and highly useful work.