Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Platter of Figs: To be continued

I won't do a full wrap-up review until I've cooked David Tanis' spring menus, but in the last two weeks I've made 21 dishes from Platter of Figs:

Worth the price of the book: 0
Great: 2 
Good: 12
So-so: 3
Flat-out bad: 4

Consider: By some measures, the Best of the Best of Alaska -- a kitschy, Jell-O mad, spiral-bound featuring the "cuisine" of a state where nothing grows but moose and blueberries -- scored better, with 2 recipes that were "worth the price of the book" and fewer repulsive failures.

Shocking, given Tanis' pedigree (Chez Panisse chef) and the glowing reviews (Gourmet, New York Times) that I read for months before finally getting my hands on this book. 

Obviously, the pedigree has something to do with the reviews. Also, I'm not sure how much cookbook reviewers actually cook from books before offering their opinions. I did some searching and found a third disinterested party, besides Philomere and myself, who made Tanis' chicken tagine and found it wanting

And, to be fair, most the recipes were "good," which means they were pleasant and they worked. 

Two things I appreciate about the book so far:

-The photographs are gorgeous.

-Lovely and thoughtful writing. You come away liking David Tanis for passages like these:
"Now, about cooking for friends. At my house there always seem to be at least eight of them and I've designed all the menus in this book for a table of eight or ten. That should not be daunting. And most recipes can be easily halved, or increased (as in add another potato to the pot). What matters is that you do it."

Sweet and true, if not worth the price of the book.


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