I've always wanted to visit the Pacific Northwest and even contemplated moving to Portland, Oregon. Now I know, if I do end up going there, where I will be eating first.
Kimberly and Vitaly Paley went into the restaurant business, as it seems so many people do, because of their love for food and love for the arts. They have managed to combine their passions into a very successful restaurant. How and where they came together is covered in the first chapter. But I'll let you read it for yourself, it's a nice story.
What I got from the book was that the Paley's place is more than just a restaurant; it's a place to gather, a place where you can eat eclectic and excellent food and be among friends. It seems to have that small-town kind of feel
There's a symbiosis between Vitaly and Kimberly. Kimberly is the sommelier of the family while Vitaly is the chef. It's always important for the Sommelier and Chef to get along and understand each other, but it seems to work so much better when there is an intimate relationship between the two. It seems to me that because of this, the wines and food share a kind of intimacy not usually found.
Paley's Place works by combining fine cuisine with an appreciation, understanding and use of the locale. In so many locations the food establishments have no choice but to buy what the purveyors offer. Not every restaurant has the luxury of having farms nearby that will work so closely with them. Oregon is a very diverse farming community and because of that Paley's Place works to nurture the relationships with local farmers and that reflects in the cooking.
Of course this is a cookbook and so it has your typical chapters. There are the Appetizers, Pasta dishes, Meats, Vegetables, and Desserts sections, but the book takes it a step further and adds a "Bar and Pantry" section. The recipes selected for each chapter are diverse. From the mundane sounding Stuffed Eggs (which is anything but mundane!) to the more exotic Crispy Pan Fried Lambs tongues with spicy Saffron Aioli.
Many recipes includes chef tips and, which wine would go best. When there's something a little out of the ordinary, such as the lambs tongue recipe you get an anecdote that goes along with it. You get a glimpse into the chef's mind and his way of thinking.
Chapter Two, Soups, Sandwiches and, Salads is again a wonderfully diverse section celebrating, in many cases, the foods of Oregon. Included of course are the Chefs tips and suggested Wine pairings.
Frankly the one thing that did surprise me in the Seafood section was the lack of seafood recipes. With the abundance of Pacific Coast seafood, to only have eight recipes struck me as a little odd, but I will say they're very good recipes.
In the Meat, Game, and Fowl section we meet one of the Paley's Place game purveyors. We learn a little bit more about the food and where it comes from. If you read this book and, you get the pleasure of dining in this restaurant I think you will look at the food a little bit differently. You will have a more intimate knowledge of the food and cooking more so then you would have by just simply reading what's on the menu.
Vegetables and Side dishes reflect quite a bit of the local farming area. I actually learned more about potatoes then ever before from one local farmer.
On to Desserts! These are not your ordinary run-of-the-mill desserts. I would be hard-pressed to find Cherry - Olive oil Polenta Cake anywhere else! Or Ginger pillows and Ricotta, or Oranges Blintzes with roasted Rhubarb to name but a few. Again I feel I should emphasize that not only do you get recipes but you get the background to the recipes and of the people that make them, and some history of the ingredient itself.
The book ends up with the Bar and Pantry section which gives you a lot of the basics for the drinks and foods that are in this book without which the recipes just wouldn't be the same.
As is often the case with cookbooks from chefs of this caliber the recipes are not your run of the mill type. A well stocked pantry and some basic experience will go a long way in making many of these recipes. However that doesn't mean that novices will not be able to use this book. In fact with many of the mini lessons that are in the book I think a novice cook could learn a trick or two from Chef Paley. Most of the ingredients are fresh as befits a restaurant's recipes, included in the book however are resources for many of the items that you might not find locally.
So there you have it. This is an upscale cook book with lots of very nice recipes, reflecting the very impressive cooking of two very impressive people. You can't help but to want to visit there; not only for the food, but also to meet these people. After reading this book, I see Paley's Place as being more than just four walls and a kitchen. It is a living, breathing, environment where you get the feeling that it's more like eating at a friend's house (albeit friends that cook really well!)