The beerbistro Cookbook
by Stephen Beaumont and Brian Morin
Published by Key Porter
264 pages, 2009
Reviewed by Adrian Marks
Much of the time, cookbooks attached to a restaurant the author either owns or cooks for ends up feeling like a big, glossy ad: a come-on for those who happen to pick the book up to actually go on down to the restaurant and enjoy what’s on offer in person. In short, many of those types of book have a very limited appeal, both regionally and, in a way, spiritually. Despite the title, The beerbistro Cookbook is not that book. If anything, linking the book tightly to the popular Toronto eatery seems like a mistake. Sure: beerbistro patrons are likely to want a copy. But what about the rest of us? What’s in it for us?
The fact is, though, The beerbistro Cookbook is without doubt the very best book on the topic of cooking with beer that I’ve seen. And, sure: I’ve haven’t actually seen a lot of them. When it comes to alcohol and cookbooks, wine has beer beaten by an acre of hops. Or two. But this is how good The beerbistro Cookbook is: once you’ve immersed yourself in these great recipes and the fantastic food styling and great photography, you’ll wonder why that is. I have no doubt at all that at least part of this is due to the contributions of co-author Stephen Beaumont, who is well one his way to becoming one of the ranking beer writers in the world. He is the author of A Taste for Beer, Stephen Beaumont’s Brewpub Cookbook, Premium Beer Drinkers Guide, and others. Say it simple: Beaumont knows beer.
If that’s true, though, then it also must be said that co-author beerbristro chef Brian Morin knows food. His resume shows it, but it’s not required: first leaf through The beerbistro Cookbook and then cook from it. This is a super cookbook from just about any angle. Even if you are not particularly interested in beer, accomplished home chefs will find much to enjoy and share. But if you do like your beer, bring it on: before you even get to the kitchen, you’ll learn about various brews, various pours and just so many details that will simply not have occurred to you. This is great stuff.
And then? The food! The beerbistro Cookbook uses beer in food in every conceivable way: marinades, for curing, dressings, grilling, as poaching, steaming and sautéing liquid, for creating sauce, in stew, in batter, even in desserts -- and not just one or two. Nor are any of these novelty recipes. For the most part, these are solid, elegant, well researched and executed additions to the cuisine. Just fabulous!
Some personal highlights: I love mussels but had never baked them before. The beerbistro Cookbook offers several variations and every one I tried produced fantastic results.
The Belgian Ale Steak Stew produced one of the simplest and richest stews I’ve ever enjoyed. It’s really nothing like an Irish strew, but neither is it meant to be. This stew seems worth the price of cookbook alone.
Though there’s no beer in the recipe, beerbistro’s Belgian-style frittes are worth knowing how to do if you love French Fries. (Because, arguably, Belgians make the best Fries... and here’s how.)
Nor is there beer in the Grilled Lamb Loin Nicoise, but it’s a fantastic recipe that duplicates nothing I’ve ever seen. And the desserts, of course, start with interesting and end up being unbelievable. My favorites: Stout Brownies, Beery Berry Sorbet and I’ve not yet made the Beeramisu, but will be soon. Who could resist?
The beerbistro Cookbook was a delightful find. My favorite new cookbook thus far this year. | September 2009
Adrian Marks is a January Magazine contributing editor.