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Posted March 24, 2010
A Beautiful Restaurant Cookbook
A cookbook about Barcelona? With recipes of all those great things I ate when I was there last spring? When I first heard about 'The Barcelona Cookbook' that's exactly what I thought. Then when I received it for review I discovered that it wasn't that at all. Instead it's a cookbook based on a Connecticut restaurant group: Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurants. The concept is tapas and wine; the restaurants have been around since 1996. The book's subtitle is: A Celebration of Food, Wine and Life. When co-owners Sasa Mahr-Batuz and Andy Pforzheimer opened their first restaurant they decided to name it after the city of Barcelona because of its vibrancy, and colorful lifestyle -- its 'cosmopolitan, pan-European' feel. They wanted to evoke the feeling of eating in a restaurant along the Mediterranean coast. However, the dishes served in the restaurants, and the recipes used in the cookbook, are not solely Catalan or Mediterranean. Mahr-Batuz and Pforzheimer have traveled to Spain often so the dishes on the restaurant menus come from all over Spain, or are Spanish-influenced; Mahr-Batuz is originally from Argentina so there are Argentinian influenced dishes as well.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
I have found with other restaurant cookbooks that the recipes don't always work. It can be difficult to translate dishes made in a professional setting to the page for the home cook. Professional chefs cook differently than the home cook; they also have different equipment at their disposal. I didn't find that to be the case in the recipes I tried from 'The Barcelona Cookbook.' The recipes worked just fine. I chose to try recipes that I had eaten in Barcelona -- to see how they measured up. One of my favorite dishes on my last trip was patatas bravas -- olive oil fried potatoes served with a spicy mayonnaise. It's a very simple dish and the cookbook's recipe for 'Catalan Potatoes Bravas' measured up perfectly. I was momentarily transported back to my favorite tapas bar in Barcelona. I also made the 'Barcelona Gazpacho.' An easy recipe to follow and execute, and the added touch of a garnish of day old bread, scallions, cucumbers and green peppers made this cold soup exceptional. Since meat is almost a national pastime in Spain I decided to try a recipe for grilled steak: 'Steak Paillard.' The recipe includes a delicious bell pepper and tomato vinaigrette that is spooned over the grilled meat, as well as fried potatoes. Simple, basic and a perfect summer evening meal.
The book covers a lot of ground, and if I was going to offer any criticism that might be it; there's a lot contained in its 202 pages. It might also suffer from a bit of an identity crisis in that I did think it was a cookbook about food from Barcelona; and it does veer away from strictly Spanish food to include dishes from South America. Once the reader understands what the restaurants are about that is easily overlooked. And if one is looking for a serious Spanish food cookbook, this is it. It has most of what you would want and need plus more. I do wish there was a recipe for one of my favorite Spanish tapas dishes: Padrón peppers. But there is enough else to make this a worthy addition to any cook's bookshelf.