Modern gastronomy is often about looking forward; to the next Instagrammable dish, the next fashionable cuisine, the next tasting menu to tempt the jaded palettes of jet setting foodies. It’s timely then, that Bon Appetit magazine editor at large and food writer Christine Muhlke, along with a panel of six other experts (including London-based Richard Vines, chief food critic at Bloomberg) have curated a collection of 240 restaurant dishes that span six centuries and illustrate how a good idea can, or have the potential to endure.
From the first ever gelato created in 1686 by Procopio Cutò at Le Procope in Paris to Tomos Parry’s whole turbot, first served at his London restaurant Brat in 2018, this is an idiosyncratic collection that will raise an eyebrow or two (Big Mac anyone?) and spark debate, rather than stand as ‘the definitive canon of cuisine’ as claimed in the introduction.
But it is a fascinating read, with Muhlke’s concise, well written and researched narratives (all illustrated with hand painted watercolours by artist and trained chef Adriano Rampazzo) providing descriptions and histories of the dishes that are full of fascinating detail. Did you know for example that Baked Alaska was first served at Delmonico’s in New York in 1867 in honour of the treaty with Russia that signed Alaska over to the US?
The book falls down slightly when it comes to recipes, with rather too many listed as unavailable. Josef Kelle’s 1915 recipe for Black Forest Cake may be ‘a closely guarded secret’ but an alternative if less authentic version would have been better than the rough description provided.
Signature Dishes That Matter is an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of world cuisine and is perfect for bedtime reading and could also provide inspiration for a retro-themed dinner party.
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars
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Signature Dishes That Matter
This review was originally published by The Caterer