21 April 2012

Weekend Cooking: Review: The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook by Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell

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I have a feeling I'm going to be drummed out of cookbook town by my blogging friends. I bought The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook by Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell on the recommendation of several Weekend Cooking participants. I'm sorry to say that this will not be a well-used, much-loved addition to my collection.

I bought what is called the "Keepsake Edition," and here was my first problem. It includes a glued-in six-page insert in which you are to add your own recipes. First, I don't want to add my own recipes to the cookbook, and second, the insert is stiff and it quickly ripped the page it was glued to, forcing me to try to carefully detach it from the book. I admit, this made me cranky.

The book starts out with an introduction by the authors, explaining what they mean by "heirloom" and how their cooking and eating habits changed when they moved out of the city. The recipes are divided by season, and each page includes a section for you to add your own kitchen notes. I like that idea! I also like the seasonality of the book because I like to buy what's fresh, either in the store or at the farmers' market.

The mix of recipes is pleasing, and I thought the inclusion of recipes for interesting non-alcoholic drinks (such as a cucumber cooler and a spiced tea) was a great idea. Unfortunately, a number of the recipes included hard-to-get ingredients. Not necessarily unusual items, but things that are not common in my part of the country. Here are some examples: goat's milk yogurt, Blaak cheese, and ancho powder. I know I can easily make substitutions for any ingredient that's not readily available, but it makes me less inclined to reach for The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook.

The biggest problem I have this cookbook, which was not a problem my friends had, is that I don't feel inspired when I flip through it. I saw recipes that looked good with easy-to-follow instructions. The flavors range from gourmet to comfort, and every recipe looks doable. But for some reason I didn't linger over the pages, imagining the dishes on my table. Was it my mood? I don't know. I want to list a few recipes to give you an idea of what's in the book:
  • Linguini with peas and garlic scapes (but it calls for chopped fresh lavender)
  • Tomato bread salad with cannelli beans and goat feta cheese (looks pretty and easy to make)
  • Broccoli-Cheddar soup (yum)
  • Mulled cider (with warm spices and a bit of orange)
  • Beer-braised beef with onion dumplings (winter comfort food)
  • Roast chicken with potatoes and rosemary (simple but good)
  • Spiced carrot cake (complete with cream cheese frosting)
They all sound good, don't they? I think my problem might be that although some recipes call for lavender or goat's milk yogurt they really aren't all that different from my normal fare. I have long since stopped using a recipe to roast a chicken with herbs, for example. Perhaps I'll revisit this book again in a few months, when the farmers' market is bursting with vegetables, to see if I change my mind.

Vegetarian/vegan alert: Vegetarians will find enough recipes to make it worth their while to either own the cookbook or to check it out from the library. Vegans will have a tough time because almost every recipe calls for honey, butter, eggs, or dairy. Even the poached figs include cheese.

Despite the rave reviews (including several starred professional reviews and thumbs up from bloggers), I suggest looking through Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell's cookbook before spending your money.

Buy The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook at an Indie, at Powell's, at Book Depository, or at bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs
Published by Sterling Epicure, 2011
ISBN-13: 9781402787096
Rating: B-
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Libby 4/21/12, 6:48 AM  

Sounds like it was 'ok' but just did not have anything to get excited about. You know, when I first saw this, I thought it was Beeton's (with a 't.') I have always gotten a kick out of that book!

Some of these recipes don't sound very heirloom-ish.

Well, I am off to google Blaak cheese...wonder if it is black...

Thanks for hosting!

Uniflame 4/21/12, 7:07 AM  

To bad that you didn't really got inspired by the book. I often have this with books from the states because I live in Europe. When it is full or harder to obtain ingredients, I am less likely to pick it up myself.

Carol @ Always Thyme to Cook 4/21/12, 8:00 AM  

I have this one, I liked it but not loved. The keepsake part tearing would make me cranky too!

bermudaonion 4/21/12, 8:08 AM  

I really dislike it when a cookbook features hard to find or really expensive ingredients. We can usually find the ingredients here, but it means trips to several stores across town. I'll look this one over at the store before I buy it.

caite 4/21/12, 8:20 AM  

Yep, it is also one of my pet peeves with cookbooks, hard or impossible to get ingredients. ok, if it a cookbook with recipes from different countries, I can see it. What might be common for the might be rare for me. but for a book like this..not so much.

Alex 4/21/12, 9:02 AM  

I am afraid I have more than one cookbook I feel this way about. I tend to donate my to the used bookstore run by my local library in the hope it will inspire someone else.

Annie @ButteryBooks 4/21/12, 9:04 AM  

I live in a rural area and often have a tough time finding particular ingredients. Even though just about every hard to find ingredient can be found online, I normally don't plan my cooking that far in advance, unless I'm planning for a party. Usually, when I'm flipping through a cookbook, it's because I'm looking for something to cook THAT day.
I do have some old, old cookbooks that I love going through because I find it so interesting how cooking has changed throughout the years!

jama 4/21/12, 9:13 AM  

Sorry to hear you were disappointed with this one. It does look like it would be interesting, especially with the word "Heirloom" in the title.

Heather S-G 4/21/12, 9:27 AM  

Bummer. It does sound just okay. In theory, I like the idea, but it doesn't exciting enough to hunt down. If I see it at the library or something, I'll probably look through it, but... thanks for the review.

JoAnn 4/21/12, 10:24 AM  

I can't seem to get past cooking with lavender...

Patty 4/21/12, 12:48 PM  

Hi Beth, thanks for an honest, unbiased review. I am little prejudiced against books that try to repackage old information and sell it as "traditional" and "heirloom". Given the experience I, as a reader, have in the kitchen, I have to be really certain that any new book will provide that extra plus I'm looking for. Thanks for pointing out that this cookbook would probably not do so.

Margot 4/21/12, 2:23 PM  

You will absolutely never be drummed out of cookbook town. You are our anchor and I trust your opinion in these matters. The book sounds great in theory; they just didn't deliver.

Christine 4/21/12, 3:03 PM  

I'm excited to have written my first EVER cookbook review this weekend! And guess what? I reviewed the SAME one! Now weekend cooking readers can get a second opinion, although it sounds like we're of the same overall impression. I found most of the recipes to be rather commonplace and uninspired. Lovely basic recipes, but nothing overly noteworthy. I'd give it 3.5 stars out of 5 or a B/B- Oh how I wish we could do half stars on goodreads!

I wasn't really bothered by ingredients being difficult to locate. I know they pushed their own cheese a lot, but they did give three substitutions that I think are pretty easy to find anywhere: Parmesan, manchego, or goat Gouda. Okay, maybe goat Gouda isn't so easy to find. I'd end up using regular Gouda. As for the goat milk yogurt, I'd just use greek yogurt and go with it.

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog 4/21/12, 3:22 PM  

I just found this cookbook today, and it's already on my to read list. I appreciate the honest review!

This is my first time participating, thanks to Christine!

cessie 4/21/12, 3:37 PM  

I agree, the one thing I want most from a cookbook is to get inspired by it. Most of the time I will adjust recipes anyway but above all I want to get inspired :)
Sorry to read that this cook book just wasn't it for you. I find it irritating too when ingredients are hard to get.
Ah well, there's plenty more cook books I guess!
Have a good weekend!!

Carole 4/21/12, 4:17 PM  

Hi again, Beth. Glad to see ou had a good week. I will also put a link to my Food on Friday series - this week it was asparagus.

Carole 4/21/12, 4:38 PM  

Hi Beth - next week will be fish and seafood. plenty of scope there. I haven't time limited the Linky's so entries are still open on eggs and asparagus.

Esme 4/21/12, 6:32 PM  

The recipes sound interesting enough although I am not interested in another cookbook with hard to get ingredients.

Heidenkind 4/21/12, 7:37 PM  

I think I would probably agree with you. The recipes you listed all sound like things I already have favorite recipes for. I don't even know where I would get lavender as an ingredient...

Stacy 4/21/12, 7:40 PM  

I quickly became addicted to this show but sad for me they only I think 10 of them available through netflix. While I like the show, I have been reticent on buying any of the books that are associated with Beekman. Sometimes the show is enough. I will be back to post for Weekend Cooking tomorrow... read-a-thoning today:)

Julie Goucher 4/22/12, 6:48 AM  

Interesting review. A different take on the book to Christine, but overall neither of you appear to be inspired by the book and as someone who would have to buy an American book from a UK supplier I would not make the effort!(Amazon.co.uk list this at £15). What a shame the book did not live up to it's expectations.

I do find that books that are published outside of the UK understandably use terms relating to local knowledge and it does seem odd when the internet has made the world "smaller" that authors can not explain some of the brand and name info.

Michelle (my books. my life.) 4/22/12, 8:37 AM  

You're allowed to disagree with others. :) Sorry this one didn't work out for you. I recently bought a book aimed at vegetarian mothers and expectant mothers after reading wonderful reviews. While every recipe was edible, none of them seemed to have any flavor. I've given up even trying anything else in there. Sometimes, a cookbook just doesn't work for you.

Elisabeth,  4/22/12, 9:56 AM  

I believe the cookbook was an outgrowth of their experiences becoming "farmers" which is based on the memoir The Bucolic Plague. Have you read it?

Beth F 4/22/12, 10:05 AM  

@Elisabeth: You're right. I have their memoir and have looked through it but haven't read it cover to cover. My friend Dawn from She Is Too Fond of Books stayed at their inn and loved the experience. I'm happy to have the book because of its connections to the authors, but I doubt I'll do much cooking from it.

Tina 4/22/12, 11:09 AM  

I've enjoyed my previous reads about the Beekman boys, but I definitely will be looking through any cookbook before buying. I'm spending more and more of my cookbook browsing time browsing the internet and I agree with you when you say "they really aren't all that different from my normal fare . Like exactly how many ways are there to make a good roast chicken? I SO agree with you.

Tam Linsey 4/22/12, 11:12 AM  

I appreciate honest reviewers, Beth. I love the title of this book, but like you, my cooking has progressed beyond needing to know how to bake herbed chicken. I do tend to like to try out odd ingredients, but it is usually while cooking ethnic foods rather than simply twists on recipes I already have favorites for.

Unknown 4/22/12, 3:18 PM  

Honestly, the whole thing is a little too "lifestyle" company for me to have a lot of interest. Are you selling me your love of food, or your idea of a bucolic lifestyle created with your products?

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