Friday, April 1, 2011


Here are a few quick reviews:

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
This is Bauermeister's first novel and the story opens on the first night of a beloved restaurant's cooking school. Each chapter focuses on one of the students with a continuing thread of the class itself.  I cared about the characters in this book and its sweet storyline. Sometimes a happy story with pretty writing is just what is needed.

I did find the writing to be a bit over-wrought. As you can see in the excerpt below, the writing is descriptive.  But so many sentences are just like this making me skim over these types of passages to get to the story.

"He placed the pot on the stove and listened again, as the water heated then boiled, rising like a little, contained tornado through the grounds until the coffee gurgled into the upper chamber and the kitchen filled with the smell, riding on the steam, pure and strong, like the first shovelful of dirt after a spring rain."  The character is making espresso.

But if you are looking for a quick, uplifting read (and like a lot of adjectives), you will enjoy this book.

Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter - Phoebe Damrosch

Damrosch writes about her experience as a server at Chef Thomas Keller's New York restaurant, Per Se.  This is the sister restaurant of the famous French Laundry.  Reading about the behind the scenes of the opening was fascinating.  The amount of time and money spent on food is hard to comprehend (Chef's tasting menu, ten course meal = $295, service included).  The months of training leading up to the opening are intense and the writer does a good job building the pressure. The staff is trained and tested to know the history and varieties of French and Italian olive oil, cheese (goat, cow, sheep, blue), butter (the names and locations of the cows who produced the milk for the butter), mushrooms, caviar, etc. 


I skimmed through the passages of the writer's personal life, my interest was in the restaurant and floor activities of the wait staff. If you care about this sort of thing, it will be worth your time and it is a quick read.

Perfumes: The A-Z Guide - Lucia Turin and Tania Sanchez 

Recommended by Mary's Library, this was a fun read.  Turin and Sanchez are a husband and wife team that review perfumes.  Their book covers over 1800 perfumes and their descriptions made me laugh out loud.  Usually they were spot-on.  For instance, I happened to have several samples of fragrances on hand so I sat down with the book in my lap, smelled the fragrance, read its review and then smelled it again.  Here's my favorite description:  "A heavy overripe floral like the smell in your leather purse when you've had a banana in it since yesterday" (that would be for Prada and it was spot-on).

Turin and Sanchez rate each fragrance on a scale of 1 to 5 stars - 5 stars meaning out of this world.

So, after reading this book, what new perfume did I choose?  Two, both Chanel: Cristalle  (rated 5 stars) and No. 5 Eau Premiere (rated 4 stars).  I love them both.

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