Book Review: The Recipes Behind the Restaurants
Some favorite cookbooks from some favorite local eateries
Reviewed by Kate Thornberry, Fri., May 20, 2011
Fired Up!: More Adventures & Recipes From Hudson's on the Bend
by Jeff Blank, with Sara Courington
Laurentius Press, 207 pp., $35
When it comes right down to it, the most important thing about any restaurant cookbook is: Does it tell you how to make their food? Really tell you? So that you can duplicate the dining experience at home? I am happy to tell you that this cookbook delivers. Chef Jeff Blank really does want you to know how to make his creations, and not only tells you exactly how, but also includes cooking secrets to ensure perfection.
The fare at Hudson's on the Bend is deservedly famous – and quite expensive by most people's standards. Making it at home isn't cheap, either. Most of the recipes call for top-shelf booze, exotic game, exorbitantly priced seafood, and often unusual spices that call for some investment. This is the kind of food that one would make for an impressive dinner party, and, very intelligently, the recipes are written accordingly, usually for eight people. The ultimate usefulness of the book hinges on this question: Do you throw a lot of impressive dinner parties?
Of course, there are qualities other than usefulness. One of the goals of the authors is to give the reader a well-rounded sense of the entire Hudson's on the Bend experience, from the kitchen to the dining room, and at that they succeed mightily. The restaurant staff and the chef's former wife contribute to the book in various ways, relating anecdotes, suggesting music to be played while preparing the dishes, providing apt quotations, and showcasing original artwork. Each dish is illustrated with lush photographs that stimulate the appetite. Initially, the impression is chaotic, but ultimately the chaos is endearing. The "soul" of the restaurant, the ineffable sense of place, is effectively captured between the covers. As a cookbook, it is factual and substantive. As a memento of Hudson's on the Bend, it is superb.