August 10, 2017
August 6th, 2014: “I honestly can’t see the difference between perfume and good cooking.” ~ Ida
August 6th, 2017: “WOW! That comment of yours three years ago is just about when I started writing the book – what an incredible connection we have – it is like you were reading my thoughts.” ~ Mandy Aftel
Some things cannot be made up, nor do they need to be; they simply exist with no rational explanation.
Chef Daniel Patterson and Perfumer Mandy Aftel
When I was given the opportunity to receive and review Chef Daniel Patterson and Perfumer Mandy Aftel’s latest collaboration, The Art of Flavor – there was not a smidgen of hesitation on my behalf. I was thrilled to bits and wound up devouring it over the space of 36 hours, notwithstanding the normal quotidian interruptions. It IS that compelling.The difficult part comes in the retelling, synopsis – whatever you choose to name it.
Bogdan Grom, Homage to Brueghel
I’ve been cooking and baking since I was six; it was expected of me, and I did what I was told back then (well…mostly). I had the advantage of growing up in a tightly-knit ethnically varied neighborhood; I was voraciously curious and absorbed all the cuisines that wafted through those crowded kitchens. Our extended family, Bogdan Grom – was from Trieste, and he carried with him the diverse cuisines of Italy, the South Slavs, and vestiges of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He recreated German, Russian, French, Mediterranean foods as well while I watched, memorized, and polished them off with gusto.
I’m here to tell you that seasoned cooks CAN learn new tricks. With the rare exception, the lion’s share of recipes in Daniel and Mandy’s book are composed of ingredients to which most of us have access. They make sense. They are NOT twee impossible dishes which are designed to demonstrate how far the cook will go to impress. Many recipes span comfort food, meals for family-sized portions, for real-life: yours and mine. In this wise, it is a rarity and a great source of pleasure.
Eloquently written with engaging historical references for good company, The Art of Flavor draws you in as it unfolds. Its goal is for YOU, the reader, the cook – to more fully comprehend basic principles of creating, balancing, harmonizing flavor – so that you may blaze your own individual culinary trail.
Chef Daniel Patterson and Pastry Chef Bill Corbett of Coi – San Francisco via famouschefs.com
Curiously enough, the analogy to perfumery is embedded as if it too were embroidered. It is all of a piece – and abundantly clear that chef and perfumer are in mutual accord.
Mandy’s Perfume Wheel
Just as Mandy has constructed a Perfume Wheel, there is also The Flavor Compass: comprised of the categories Spices, Citrus, Herbs and Flowers, one recognizes the intimate kinship between perfumery and cuisine. Many of the constructs feel highly intuitive – The Four Rules of Flavor, for example. AND applicable to the art of perfumery:
1.) Similar ingredients need a contrasting flavor;
2.) Contrasting ingredients need a unifying flavor;
3.) Heavy flavors need a lifting note;
4.) Light flavors need to be grounded.
Locking flavor and burying flavor are two concepts which the authors share – again, this feels perfectly logical and accurate.
Chef Daniel Patterson “The Flavor Compass”
Locking refers to the phenomenon which occurs when ingredients commingled become more than the sum of their parts: earthy flavors amplified by the addition of other elements (beef and strong black tea), the presence of pinene in both grapefruit and rosemary, strawberry combined with vanilla.
Burying connotes the accentuation of flavors and also the ability to minimize unexpected and/or unwanted flavors which crop up: frying potatoes with rosemary softens the latter’s terpenic verdancy, imparting a lilt to the mild potato flavor – as opposed to cudgeling the diner with a sound slap of herb which can overwhelm the dish.
The Seven Dials of flavor are those elements which adjust and balance our cuisine: salt, sweet, sour, bitter – plus umame (savoriness), fat, and heat. At this point, I would analogize these flavors and their relationships to one another as if playing cards – salt pushes down sweet; sweet pushes down salt, sour and bitter; sour pulls down all the other dials; bitter is tamed by sour, salt and fat; umami intensifies; fat fixes flavor and pushes down sour, salt, bitter and heat; heat tempers richness and works well with every other dial.
Aftelier Perfumes and Aromatics
One of the facets of this book which I adore concerns the chemical component aspects of our flavorful aromatic materials and their exquisite complexity. One doesn’t need to be well-grounded in chemistry to comprehend them, either; it is enough to recognize those elements which occur in commonality: coriander seed’s floral, woody, peppery notes; black pepper’s containing linalool, which imparts a sequestered floralcy.
Daniel Patterson and Mandy Aftel
When Mandy and Daniel observe that “Nature is the original flavorist”, they are spot on. There exist plenty of recipes which illustrate and incorporate the tenets we are given, and not only for carnivores and omnivores, but also vegans and vegetarians. This is particularly marvelous, because my own dear ones span all preferences – and it is a joy to be able to recommend a cookbook which appeals. My foodie pharmacist loved it in every regard, my vegetarian physical therapist will delight in its myriad salads and treatment of root vegetables, my carnivorous sons and husband will savor how beef, pork and chicken are fêted with originality.
Aftelier Chef Essence Sprays
In reference to Mandy’s chef essences and sprays – I have been utilizing them for a long time and giving them as gifts to those who appreciate them most. Recently we met our in-laws-to-be from Houston, and being the sneaky bugger that I am, I baked them a rose-infused crème brûlée (Kerrygold butter crust) tart. Our eldest’s birthday dessert was a very rich butter/sour cream cake infused with jasmine and enrobed in dark chocolate with a zip of grated orange zest on top. I’ve always added cardamom to my chili, a whisper of dark chocolate to my braised beef, lemongrass or shiso to a jasmine rice salad vinagrette with chiffonaded cilantro as finish, for example.
Colette,a true Burgundian
Don’t be timid. Create! Compose! Enjoy! Use your imagination…Be a Burgundian, in the truest sense. As Auntie Mame was known to posit: “Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!” And she wasn’t referring to food, by the by.
Many thanks to Mandy Aftel and Foster Curry for providing the book – and chef Daniel Patterson for his encyclopedic expertise. Opinions entirely my own.
For those who would like to purchase a signed copy of their own, please visit the Aftelier website: http://www.afterlier.com/theartofflavor
Alternatively, one may purchase directly from online booksellers here: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/318362/the-art-of-flavor-by-daniel-patterson-and-mandy-aftel/
– Senior Editor, Ida Meister
Art Direction: Michelyn Camen, Editor-in-Chief; photos courtesy of Mandy unless otherwise specified
Thanks to the generosity of Mandy Aftel we have a SIGNED COPY OF The Art of Flavor for or one registered reader in the US PLUS Mandy’s two favorite Chef Essence Sprays: Organic Pink Grapefruit and Fresh Ginger. Be sure to register or your comment will not count). To be eligible, tell us what appeals to you about Ida’s review, if you like to cook and what type of meals you might prepare with the Fresh Ginger and /or Pink Grapefruit Sprays. Draw closes 8/14/2017