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After reading the first review posted of I Love NY, I rushed to buy it. I was prepared that these were not what we think of as 'classic' NY recipes. I was very excited to see that the book revolved around local, seasonal produce, and also had a great deal to say about the local farmers. So I was expecting a roughly old-school telephone-book sized volume, with gorgeous photos, and imaginative recipes from renowned restaurant chefs. In all of that, I was not disappointed. The book literally takes my breath away with reading about the farms, looking at the pictures, and reading the recipes. I can honestly say I love the book, and am happy to have it. When I read that the authors really wanted cooks to jump in the kitchen and cook from the book, I was all set to do just that. It is only in attempting to cook the actual recipes, that I have issues.
I live near Austin, TX, a fairly far cry from NYC. Still, we are teaming with local goat dairies, natural beef, and a long growing season with many wonderful organic farms. I was fairly confident that I would have no problem cooking from this book, especially since I just secured a certificate from a cooking school, after being a home cook for decades. A lot of the ingredients are extremely specific (onion blossoms, fennel fronds, nettles, quail eggs, garlic chive flowers, etc.), but the dishes should work ok in most cases without them or with substitutions.
There are nearly 150 'main' recipes, from 55 categories (Apples, Asparagus...Eggs, Fluke, Foie Gras...Parsnips...Sheep's Milk....Walnuts) but almost every 'recipe' is actually composed of several component recipes (many can be used with other things), so really there are likely around 500 recipes by my estimate. All of the multiple components are of course, what would make the finished dish extraordinary in flavor. I mainly try to cook seasonal, plant based food, but don't mind a bit of animal protein in for some flavor. I did have difficulty finding many purely vegetable or fruit based dishes, other than desserts. The 'Roasted Carrots with Wheat Berries and Cumin' for example, got me really excited. However, it has 5 components to make (plus a sneaky one on another page), then additional instructions to finish the dish (as most of these dishes have). The components are: Carrot-Duck Crumble (which uses 1-1/2 lbs. duck skin, that the butcher should grind for you, or you do it yourself, you need to render the fat and save it for another component), Duck Fat-Roasted Carrots, Wheat Berries (with Lemon Vinaigrette from another page), Cumin Oil, Carrot Sauce, then Carrot tops and finishing instructions. Ok, so that would be one side dish for my family for dinner. Now what to go with it, provided I could find duck skin? There are a few simple, one component dishes. Like the Oven-Baked Asparagus. I am a bit sad that the recipes might not come out quite as flavorful as they should be, since a lot of the fresh produce/ meat/ cheese is so specific and local to NY. The Chocolate Truffle Tart looks amazing, and I hope that if I can't find Mast Brother's Blend Chocolate it will work ok with a substitute. There are some additional recipes in the back, under 'Basic Recipes' for things like Brown Butter, Beef Broth, and Corn Pudding.
A downfall in the book? Perhaps it was lack of space, but a brief bit at the top, right under the recipe title, that tells you a bit about the dish would be very helpful. The first recipe in the book for example, Caramelized Apple Brioche (Brioche, Apple Honey, Apple Granite, Apple Spread, Lemon Syrup, and To Finish) had me scratching my head trying to figure out why I needed the Apple Honey, which was not mentioned in the text, just in the ingredients for the Apple Spread. But a brief explanation about what the dish entails, and how it comes together, would save the reader some confusion.
Bottom Line? This is without a doubt, an amazing book in every way. It is perfect for the armchair cook to read, and would be great fun for a group of friends who love to cook to get together and cook from. If you live in NY, you simply must have it, you can actually buy all of these amazing ingredients! Is it an updated 'New York Cookbook' by Molly O'Neill (which I love and actually have cooked from a lot)? Absolutely not. Will I cook from it? Probably not much. I just don't have the time, energy, or money to track down all of the ingredients for the components, and to actually make them, by myself, along with other dishes, for a meal that my family will scarf down in a half-hour. I will try some of the recipes for a dinner with friends, when I have a lot of time to work on it. Also, some 'components' take 48 hours or more to prepare, (eg. the Labne in the Wheat Berry Salad with Yogurt, Cucumber, and Melon). The Grilled Green Onions with Buttermilk Dressing looks amazing, the Parsnip Cake is unique and totally do-able, and looks wonderful. The Potatoes in baked Puff Pastry will be the first thing I will try.
I think the people who would love this book the most, are those who simply love reading cookbooks, gardeners who cook, and professional chefs, who have the staff, and time, to locate the ingredients and prepare the food properly. But even casual cooks can find a few killer recipes that will surely be fantastic. Do look very closely at the preview of the book, and you can see the components, etc. and see if you might like it. I love it and will be reading it and enjoying it for a long time. I now want to visit NY to sample some of their local produce for myself. The photo on page 272 of the elderly man with the baby lamb has to be one of the most moving photos I have ever seen. I like it more with each reading. Is it perfect? What book ever really is? By today's standards, Mastering the Art of French Cooking would be slammed for lack of photos to inspire....