The Paris Café Cookbook brings home a food experience peculiar to a single city and singular kind of establishment. In Paris, the birthplace of the café, these establishments provide a sense of family cooking where little of it exists at home any longer. Daniel Young, restaurant critic for the New York Daily News, has produced a delightful and informative book.
Young begins his book with a long elaboration that defines the Parisian café, setting it apart from brasserie and bistro, though some can be either. Though his book is set up to follow a standard pattern (appetizers, sides, main dishes, and desserts), the divisions are broken up by short essays describing each of the 50 cafés Young has selected. This is as much tour guide as cookbook at this point.
But it also anchors to a specific place and sensibility the food described in the recipes. Sure, Pot-au-Feu recipes are a dime a dozen, but Young gives the reader the Pot-au-Feu to be found at Brasserie Stella--as well as the Brasserie itself. Steamed Chicken with Tarragon Sauce is sure to elicit no big surprises, yet this is the recipe served at Pétrissan's. The Stuffed Artichokes with Ratatouille Niçoise can be found at Les Fontaines or at your very own dinner table. Café food is not elaborate or technique intensive. You can, in fact, do this home cooking at home.
That's what is so delightful about The Paris Café Cookbook: anyone who can't make it to Paris 16 times in three years to work on a book about Paris cafés can simply cook the food at home, establish the right ambience, sit down, dine, and pretend. Let taste be your guide. --Schuyler Ingle [via]