This book’s subtitle is “Recipes and Stories from 31 Restaurants That Put Brooklyn on the Culinary Map:” I’ve lived in Brooklyn for coming up on seven years now, and of those 31 restaurants, I’ve been to exactly three: applewood (literally down the block from where I lived for five and a half years, great food, outstanding cocktails, and cozy atmosphere—with a fireplace!; this is and has been my go-to restaurant for birthday dinners for a while now) and Beer Table (I’ve only been once, but it was a great experience, with delicious honey mead and yummy food: I plan to go back), and iCi (I’ve never been for dinner, but I had a very good brunch there once). But I’d heard of most of the others, and some (Egg, Palo Santo, Rose Water) have been on my list of places I would like to try for some time now.

Meanwhile, I like cooking, but I have no delusions about my cooking aptitude: I am slow at chopping; I don’t have much patience for long/involved recipes; I’m still squeamish about cooking meat (though I make exceptions for bacon and sausage). It’s unlikely that I’ll ever want to make Pan-Roasted Chicken with Sweet Potato Strudel, Adobo, and Brussels Sprouts, especially given that the adobo requires a pound of chicken gizzards, even if “everything except the chicken can be done ahead” (12). But it sounds delicious, and having read about it means I might think of going to The Grocery for some future special-occasion dinner.

And that’s what I wanted to read this book for: to learn more about the restaurants, and for the stories about them that the subtitle promises. The stories are mostly little snippets about the restaurants, two pages per story (with pictures) preceding the recipes from a particular restaurant: interesting, but I often wanted more. The best parts of the stories are the moments where the Vaughans write about their own dining experiences at the restaurants, not just general notes about the food or how the restaurant started: their pleasure in good food really comes across when they’re writing about their memories of eating it. There are also interviews with Brooklyn-based food/drink producers like Shane Welch of Sixpoint Craft Ales, Jon Orren of Wheelhouse Pickles, and Betsy Devine of Salvatore Bklyn, all of which were really fun to read. And the photos, by Michael Harlan Turkell, are excellent, whether they’re of some interesting detail (glass seltzer bottles, pussy willows in a restaurant window and the reflection of a brownstone across the street), or of a restaurant’s space (the bar at James, the back garden at iCi), or of food.

As previously mentioned, the recipes are a bit out of my league—but there are a few exceptions. The blueberry crumble from DuMont would be manageable for me, and so would their ridiculously rich-looking mac & cheese. I could handle the Pappardelle with Zucchini, Roasted Tomatoes, and Rosemary from Aliseo Osteria del Borgo, and the Spaghetti alle Vongole from Al Di Là would be good, too, if I liked clams. The M’hamsa Couscous with Almonds and Spicy Raisins from Bklyn Larder looks easy and delicious, and there’s a delicata squash recipe from Vinegar Hill House that sounds both decadently buttery and manageable. Still, I don’t think I’ll actually be cooking anything from this book, so it’s good that I got it from the library rather than buying it, but I am glad I read it.

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