Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Book Review : The Tru Cookbook


First of all, let me say that I absolutely hate this cover. In fact, I took it off and threw it away. You'd think someone who does such artsy food would have a better looking book cover, but oh well, we can't all be the French Laundry.

But once you get past the cover and chef Rick Tramonto's dedication to "my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ," (gack) this is a pretty interesting book overall. It kicks off with Tramonto's hors d'oeuvres, amuse bouches and appetizers which, in my opinion, is Tramonto at his best. The bouches in this book are pretty bad-ass: watermelon-lavender juice shooters with yellow watermelon salad, rabbit roulade, purple peruvian potato soup in a flat japanese soup spoon. Playful, colorful, tasty - just what a good bouche should be. Something to get you excited about the meal. Next, in the appetizers, comes the famous Caviar Staircase - a miniature glass staircase with four different caviars and their traditional garnishes. Like a lot of things in this book, I find it kind of gimmicky but kind of cool, as well. I wonder how many of those staircases they go through a year due to mishandling by the dish staff...Likewise I wonder about the "Live Japanese Fish and Chips," which is basically a bowl of seviche set inside a fish bowl with a fucking Beta fish swimming around in it. This is where I draw the line between "playful" and "get-this-the-fuck-off-my-table-you-clowns." Stupid. But then you turn a couple pages and get to the "Braised 31-vegetable Ragout with Chervil Butter" and it's like wow, maybe this guy does know what he's doing.

It's dishes like this that make me love what I do for a living. Thirty-one different baby vegetables, each cleaned and cared for according to their type, each cooked to the perfect done-ness and tossed together with a fresh and slightly anise-flavored chervil butter...Extremely simple, but it highlights how the proper love and care and technique can eleveate a simple vegetable medley into a fucking amazing dish. Tramonto gets two guns up for this one.

The rest of the book I am only so-so on. His foie preps are okay, but he's one of those dudes that makes really dessert-y foie dishes and that kind of gets on my nerves. Just because foie gras goes well with sweet flavors doesn't mean you can put fucking ice cream with it. His meat work is also pretty uninteresting, and the fish and seafood part is uninspiring, over all. The dessert chapter is pretty cool, but chef said that when he ate there the desserts were totally disappointing, especially since the Tru pastry chef is so hyped.

So overall, I would have to say that I didn't mind spending $35 on this book, even if it was only to enjoy Tramonto's smaller courses. It's fun to look at, and I have learned a thing or two from it. I've also noticed that our pantry guy rips Tramonto off with his bouche preparations sometimes, but if you have to steal, at least you're stealing from one of the best. I'd have to say that I recommend this more for restaurant industry workers than for home cooks, as a lot of the recipes haven't been dumbed down for home production, which I also value.