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I'm close to making absurd pronouncements about The Flavor Bible by Page and Dornenburg. I got their What to Drink with What You Eat as a gift last month, devoured it, and immediately ordered the Bible.

I haven't been disappointed. The book is a treasure trove of information for advanced cooks who want to think about flavor pairings that are both ordinary and extraordinary. I've been marking up the book with three marginal notes: an arrow for "good idea," an exclamation mark for "wow -- check this out," and a bunch of plus symbols for combinations that I could use in the kitchen.

There's not a single recipe for the novice cook, but if you know how to handle your proteins, grains, and plants, you'll be overwhelmed by the sheer intensity of the possible ideas inside, many of which come from the best chefs of this generation. I'm averaging about three pages an hour because I'm constantly testing ideas against my mental palate -- a remarkable pleasure.

Anyone else hooked?

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Haven't seen it yet but I'm already ordering a couple of books so maybe I'll toss it in the cart and check it out if it's that good.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Haven't seen it yet but I'm already ordering a couple of books so maybe I'll toss it in the cart and check it out if it's that good.

I am glad you started this thread. That book is right near the top of my "Must Buy" list.

I will be interested in the replies.

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I bought it after it was described in another eGullet thread.

I'm with you Chris. For someone looking for flavor combinations that work when creating new recipes, it is an invaluable resource. I am also making marginalia about additional combinations that probably don't feature as highly in the USA as they do here because we are close to Asia.

Edited by nickrey (log)

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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I love it too. I haven't done more than some browsing, but so far I'm really enjoying it. I particularly like the short 'interviews' with chefs and professionalsabout why they think certain flavor combinations work.

IIRC (don't have the book here right now) when you get to pistachio, there's one person who says you can combine them with everything cause the're so mild, and another who said you have to be careful cause they have such an assertive flavor. :smile: I actually think that's cool, cause it makes you think about your own tastebuds and how you perceive things..

And yes, for inspiration, this is a wonderful resource. I already thought of dozens of new flavor combo's to use in dishes, thanks to reading this book.

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It's an amazing book, and I think it's their best work yet. I just wish they'd package it as an iPhone app so it would be possible to take it to the market for shopping. You get to the farmer's market, they have ramps, you key ramps into the machine and you get ten top chefs' ideas about what flavors work with ramps.

Back when we had the eGullet Society Heartland Gathering this past summer, I had just received the unbound page proof for the Flavor Bible. I was thinking how great it would be to bring it with me to Chicago in order to have it during the collective marketing effort. But it was too damn big to put in my carry-on bag (unbound, it's even bigger). So that's my one knock against the Flavor Bible: it's such a fantastic book, I want to take it everywhere with me, and I can't.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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i'm teaching a "beyond the basics" series right now, with a group of long-time students, which is fun, because they are really giving great input into how to structure the classes and content.

this week the topic was seasoning, and i was sorely tempted to do a salt tasting, and then just hold up this book. while we did go into the hows, whens, whys and whats of seasoning in as much depth as one can in a 2 hour class, i made sure to pass the book around, and pretty much implored everyone to go get it. too bad i don't sell books, because i'm positive everyone went off to buy, perhaps multiple copies.

a recent review i read of the flavor bible likened it, very aptly, i thought, to the i ching. i use it for inspiration both before and after i shop...picking up what looks great, checking the bible for flavor pairings and taking off from there, OR doing the fridge search, and then consulting dornenberg and page for inspiration. i absolutely love this book. a masterwork. i'm working on a book now, which gives me even more respect for it---i can't even imagine what the process of creating this entailed. staggering.

Edited by chezcherie (log)

"Laughter is brightest where food is best."

www.chezcherie.com

Author of The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook ,The I Love Trader Joe's Party Cookbook and The I Love Trader Joe's Around the World Cookbook

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This article in the Chicago Tribune is the source, I think:

"We started wondering, 'What would the ultimate cookbook be like?' " Page said. "Well, it would teach you to make any dish you ever wanted. But would it be infinitely long and have a recipe for absolutely everything? Well, no. Maybe you can just keep the principals: What makes things taste delicious? Well, you have the four basic tastes, and you have mouth feel, temperature, texture, you have aroma."

...

The new book reveals what they refer to as the "essence" of various ingredients and cuisines in terms of season, taste, weight, volume, function and technique.

And, because the book's subtitle is "The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs," the listings contain synthesized information and advice on complementary pairings of ingredients from 38 chefs from around the country.

The resulting book resembles none of the foodie culture's memoirs or cultural histories or cookbooks.

"In our less humble moments, we say we've written a chef's thesaurus," Page said.

It's more like the I Ching. Open it randomly, and it will open you up to an array of possibilities in your culinary future.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Some of my notes so far, with simple lists taken directly from the book:

Allspice: added anchovies to the list; my experience with Jansson's Temptation have convinced me that salt, onion, pepper, allspice, and anchovies are the perfect combination with potatoes.

Almonds, honey, olive oil, orange.

Apples and eggplant.

Apricots, vanilla, and lavender.

Arugula, pears, coriander vinaigrette.

Basil and raspberries.

Black bass, porcini, parsnips, chestnuts. (That's from David Pasternak at Esca.)

Bay leaf, caramel.

Black beans, lemon, sherry.

Short ribs, cinnamon, molasses. (This weekend's braise.)

Deglazing steak au poivre with rye.

Beets, lime, coriander.

Blueberries, cinnamon.

Brussels sprouts, juniper, celery.

Brussels sprouts, cranberry polenta, braised fennel. (That's from Thierry Rautureau, from Rover's in Seattle.)

Brown butter vinaigrette. (Traci Des Jardins.)

Roast cabbage.

Cardamom and peas.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I almost bought it and had it in my hands many times. I've held off so far because I just recently got Culinary Artistry, which seems to cover quite some common ground. As it'll be years before I used all the ideas in CA, I'm wondering if I need the Flavor Bible too?

I'd be curious to hear from some that have both books and use them. Why one would be better than the other for any given situation.

And I agree, either one or something similar would be a really cool thing to have as a portable app on the Iphone (not that I have or need one right now). And I'm sure it'll happen sooner than later, maybe somebody is already busily typing away at it!

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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i feel like the germ of the flavor bible was planted in culinary artistry, but the fb goes so much further in pairings, suggestions and ideas...i highly recommend both, and i refer to both. currently referring to fb more frequently.

"Laughter is brightest where food is best."

www.chezcherie.com

Author of The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook ,The I Love Trader Joe's Party Cookbook and The I Love Trader Joe's Around the World Cookbook

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If ever there were a book built for a simple, searchable database application, this is it.

What are some of the surprising combinations that people have discovered?

Chris, I agree with you 100%. I received TFB as a Christmas gift and have spent a lot of time reading through it and considering the lists of pairings.

I had a swordfish steak I needed to do something with a week or so ago, so I pulled out TFB and turned to swordfish to see what it recommended and what I had on hand. I ended up putting together a sauce with olive oil, lime juice, cilantro, green onion and pine nuts. Would probably not have considered the pine nuts had it not been for TFB, they kind of took the sauce and the swordfish to a whole new dimension.

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Yes.

I just read through this over the weekend. It's definitely an idea-starter, which is one of my favorite things in a cooking book. I'll probably be reviewing it on my website within a week, but I sort of wish that I could turn the book into a website... as chrisamirault says, it begs to be put into a database. Cross-referencing could result in some really surprising and potentially exciting combinations.

That said, my contrary nature definitely got a hold of me while reading it. I'd see a suggestion and immediately want to try a substitute for it. (Oranges go with that? Well, wouldn't key limes be better?!?)

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Chris, thanks for that listing; when I saw the book around Christmas, I put it down because 1) I didn't want to spend money on myself at Christmas 2) I didn't think I could use it to its potential (as I am good cook, but certainly not someone that can create and invent) and 3) I thought I saw too many "obvious" combinations.

However, your examples clearly have convinced me otherwise. Black beans, lemon, and sherry? Very intriguing.

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I recently got the book. It seems interesting, and like a potentially useful reference. But I think it falls short in the area of theory. There isn't much about why certain flavors work together. And because of this, there's really little in the way of a conceptual framework to help you come up with interesting combinations that no one's thought of before.

Keep in mind the author's methodology was to interview lots of chefs about what they like to put with what. That's great ... but the result is basically a retrospective: "Here's what's been done."

Hints of what's possible exist in books by Harold McGee and Hervé This, where they discuss actual aromatic compounds present in certain foods. Some classic combinations can be understood, in small part, in terms of overlapping ingredients (on the molecuar level). Kind of like matching a tie to a shirt (both patterns include the same green ... kind of like two foods that both contain diacetyl or vanillin).

Also on the theory front, I find it annoying that a contemporary book called The Flavor Bible still adheres to the nearly 100 year-old model of flavor, stating that tongue is sensitive only to five basic tastes. Over the last decades, this model has basically been shredded.

Notes from the underbelly

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Paul, I think the point of the Flavor Bible is to be the foundation upon which such theories can be created. We haven't really had an explicit catalog of what has been done before... which is probably a prerequisite for serious theories of flavor.

I get it, and appreciate the book on that level. But see potential for it to go a step farther ... to look at what's been generalized from flavor chemistry and act as a resource for people who want to take the next steps.

It could be done in a small way, even with a single chapter. Something to act as a bridge to newer ways of thinking about flavor combinations.

Notes from the underbelly

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Oh well, b&n sent me a coupon in the mail and I ended up with my copy now, LOL.

I think this will be a very valuable tool to have handy, I often find myself with a something or other in the fridge and either don't want to make anymore what I had initially intended or ended up with more than needed etc. It'll be really neat to look up what combos the book suggests and develop something from there.

Actually, it could be interesting to have a thread here, Flavor Bible Based Recipes developed by our members!

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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I get it, and appreciate the book on that level. But see potential for it to go a step farther ... to look at what's been generalized from flavor chemistry and act as a resource for people who want to take the next steps.

I can see the argument both ways.

On the one hand, I'd like to see someone starting off in that direction.

On the other, I can understand the desire to have this text stand on its own as a resource, without trying to draw preliminary conclusions.

Ultimately, I'm sympathetic to what the authors chose to do. Putting this book together was probably a serious effort. Using it to derive theory is arguably a wholly separate project... and requires a wholly separate skill set. I don't know whether or not it is even a job that the authors of this book are cut out for. (They might be, I just don't know.)

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Ultimately, I'm sympathetic to what the authors chose to do. Putting this book together was probably a serious effort. Using it to derive theory is arguably a wholly separate project... and requires a wholly separate skill set. I don't know whether or not it is even a job that the authors of this book are cut out for. (They might be, I just don't know.)

Yes, and I realize that I'm being a whiney little ingrate. I just sometimes go crazy when I see what seems like obvious unrealized potential. I don't go off on rants about bad movies--but a good movie that would have been ingenius if only the director had _______ ... can send me off on a tirade.

This is that kind of thing.

In the mean time, I'm sure I'll get a ton of use and inspiration out of the book just as it is.

Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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  • 3 weeks later...
I love it too. I haven't done more than some browsing, but so far I'm really enjoying it. I particularly like the short 'interviews' with chefs and professionalsabout why they think certain flavor combinations work.

IIRC (don't have the book here right now) when you get to pistachio, there's one person who says you can combine them with everything cause the're so mild, and another who said you have to be careful cause they have such an assertive flavor.  :smile:  I actually think that's cool, cause it makes you think about your own tastebuds and how you perceive things..

And yes, for inspiration, this is a wonderful resource. I already thought of dozens of new flavor combo's to use in dishes, thanks to reading this book.

I love the book, too, but I agree, Chufi, this is one of the coolest aspects of it. It really challenges me to try different flavors and combinations to see how I perceive them. The idea that the way an individual's palate perceives a flavor can vary so widely is pretty mindblowing in a wonderful way. No food nerd should be without this book.

"Life itself is the proper binge" Julia Child

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can't believe i missed this thread. i just bought the book and can't wait to read through it. i like their style and always like that they include chefs' insights as well. i agree with the people above who would like to have this as a database...couldn't they have included a cd-rom with the book in order that you have the information in a downloadable format?! that would have been awesome.

Fat Guy, start working on the iPhone app please.

Edited by alanamoana (log)
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