8.31.2009

Cookbook Review: The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook

Big Sur Bakery CookbookI'd like to consider myself fairly knowledgeable about food. What constitutes good food. What pairs well with other ingredients to bring out the exquisite natural flavors. Where to find the freshest, purest ingredients. How to prepare, season, and serve fine quality dishes. I'd like to call myself a foodie. Unfortunately, I can't. My knowledge of fine cuisine comes from watching Top Chef and the Food Network, which means my experience in the dining part of the kitchen is practically non-existent. I'm limited to pasta and things from a box. I don't normally even buy real food for my house most of the time. The majority of my grocery bills go to baking supplies. The rest is spent on hot dogs and frozen dinners. Combine that with the fact that I'm one of the world's pickiest eaters, and no one in their right mind could ever consider me a "foodie." (Heck I wouldn't even touch half of what those Top Chefs plate up to serve the judges.)

That's why I stick to baking. I understand it, and most importantly, I can eat it! For the same reasons, I find myself reading more baking books than anything else. Once you take out all the things I won't eat from regular cookbooks, there's not much left. (Seriously. It'd take less time for me to tell you what I
will eat than what I won't.) I can at least enjoy the majority of baking books. So when I picked up the Big Sur Bakery Cookbook, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. I was wrong.

Despite being called the Big Sur Bakery, it's immediately obvious opening the book that it's much more of a restaurant than a bakery. A restaurant. With food. Food that I don't eat. I'm in trouble here. (I guess I should have paid a bit more attention to the subtitle of the book!) Just flipping through the pages, I'm already in over my head. This is definitely what I would consider a "foodie" type book. I should probably close the book and put it away now. There's likely nothing here for me. But since I've already got it out, maybe I'll just skim through a few more pages and see if anything looks interesting. Hmm.. A profile of a farmer near the front... He says his chickens are pasture-raised because "free-range don't mean shit." Wait. What? Later he calls himself a bad m--f--er. Whoa! Can you say that in a cookbook? Maybe this isn't such a foodie book after all! Maybe I'll actually take a look through the rest.. See what else is in here!

I literally read this book from cover to cover, which is rare for me. Although there are recipes, it reads more as a record of the life surrounding the restaurant, rather than just a collection of the restaurant's favorite dishes. You get a real glimpse into the lives of the inhabitants of the Big Sur community, as well as a look at the community itself, with all its stark and majestic beauty. (Big Sur isn't even an actual town! It's a 90-mile long stretch of land between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Lucia Mountains. There's no real "Main Street" and they apparently don't even have a real grocery store. Who knew!) Throughout the book, you'll not only find recipes, but you'll meet the farmers, fishermen, and friends who provide the ingredients, friendships, and ultimately life to the Bakery. The book is set up seasonally, chronicling each month of the year and the events the restaurant experiences; the holidays, special parties, the winter debt as the tourism dries up, as well as the story of a mountain lion that terrorized the community for four months at the height of tourist season. By the end, you feel as if you've not only been a part of the Big Sur Bakery, but part of Big Sur itself.

Although they're mostly real food I know nothing about, the recipes sound delicious. The pictures throughout the book are even more fantastic. There's a beautiful mix of the food, the people, the restaurant, and Big Sur. They truly make the book worthy of display. These are ones you definitely want to show off because they're amazing. Those of the food look good enough to eat. Well, that is until I remember I hate seafood and vegetables. I'll have to pass some of the recipes on to Boyfriend because I know he will enjoy a lot of them. As for those that do involve baking, I can't wait to try them! Right away, the doughnuts and chocolate bundt cake caught my eye, and made me drool!

I'd recommend this book to anyone that loves elegant food using fresh, high-quality ingredients. Especially those that can truly call themselves foodies and mean it. Even if you're not, like me, it's a beautiful book worth taking a look at. You may find yourself, like so many others, falling in love with Big Sur. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go microwave a hot dog and bake some cookies.




The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook by Michelle and Phillip Wojtowicz and Michael Gibson
Published June 2009 by HarperCollins
ISBN: 9780061441486
List Price: $40.00
272pp

Rating(1 = Worst,
5 = Best)
PresentationIllustrations
Depth of InformationPracticality
ValuePermanent Library
Gift GivingLevel of DifficultyAverage to Advanced
Overall
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3 comments:

sarahe said...

you sound a lot like my husband! i will try anything once, and do consider myself a bit of a foodie, but i don't get to make anything b/c he won't eat it! no vegetables except corn & potatoes...no casserole, nothing mixed together...no noodles or rice even! i have a rotation of 4 things that i make for him each week, and then make small portions of other stuff for me!

at least he will try most baked goods...which is why i also navigate to anything and everything baked!

Rachel said...

I was at the Big Sur Bakery this summer, and the food and pastries were AMAZING!!! We were there three times in two days! Unfortunately, I think my favorite thing there didn't make the cookbook (the fruit strudel). If it's in there, make it ASAP!

Danae - The Busty Baker said...

Sarahe- I'm completely with your husband on the corn and potatoes! Those are the only ones I eat too! Although I do like noodles and rice. I'm a carb-a-holic if you hadn't noticed already.

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