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Review: Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking

post #1 of 5
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As we’ve discussed more than once, here at Cheftalk, the Food Network has brewed a stockpot full of programming errors the past few years. Of them all, so far as I’m concerned, the worst was not retaining Mario Batali.
    
Truth to tell, I was never enamored of the Food Network’s fascination with Italian food. For many years, in fact, it would have been easy to conclude that Italian was the only ethnic cuisine the folks at FN knew about. Even so, Batali’s style and expertise remained a major asset.

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Nicko 
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post #2 of 5

I disagree with Brook's sourcing issues in his posted review 

Schmoozer reviewed May 1, 2010 at 10:20 am
 
I am commenting only about Brook's comments that some items mentioned in Batali's book are difficult to obtain or obscure.  They are very common here.  I've been using Pomi for years, although I now use other brands, and it's commonly found on the shelves of many supermarkets in the area.

The cacio di Roma, if you're unfamiliar with it, was found with a simple Google search, and quite a few hits turned up.  There are at least two cheese shops within a few minutes of Casa Schmoozer that carry the cheese.

Perhaps, in some areas of the country, it may be difficult to find some ingredients, but with the prevalence of on line searching and ordering, odd or obscure ingredients might be easy to find.  That said, I'd agree that it would be nice to offer the reader some substitutes.  A lot of cook books and cook book authors do that, even for what may be common ingredients.

BTW, Mario has a page on his site that lists and describes many of the ingredients he uses: http://www.mariobatali.com/food_wine_ingredients.cfm
Schmoozer
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post #3 of 5

Well, as I indicated in the review, Schmoozer, it's one thing if you live in New York or San Francisco, quite another if you live in the middle of the country.

 

For those who don't know, San Francisco describes you. So it's no surprise that you can find it locally.

 

I live near a small city of about 85,000, with four supermarkets---none of which stock Pomi products. In the nearest larger city, Lexington, I found only one store that carries it, and they don't stock it in depth.

 

My point, of course, wasn't that Chef Batali shouldn't specify products that he likes. But, for the audience outside big cities, more generic descriptions would be nice. From my viewpoint, there's no reason the incredients list can't say: Pomi crushed tomatoes or other tomato puree.

 

The cacio di Roma is an even better example. I checked all the sources listed in back of the book, and none of them list it as a product. At least none of those who sell on-line.

 

It's true there are a number of google hits. But if you actually open the sites, as I did, confusion sets in.

 

I found at least four different descriptions of the cheese, comparing it to everything from provolone to manchego, and claiming different kinds of milk as it's base. On Chef Batali's site he notes that it is also referred to as caciotta. Using that as a reference, the World Cheese Book gives yet a fifth description.

 

From what I understand, caciotta is one of the commonest cheeses in Italy. But not in central Kentucky. There are four significant cheese outlets in Lexington. Not one of them stocks it.

 

So, I stand by what I said. To not suggest alternatives is a flaw in what is otherwise a superlative book.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #4 of 5
Quote:
Originally Posted by KYHeirloomer View Post

Well, as I indicated in the review, Schmoozer, it's one thing if you live in New York or San Francisco, quite another if you live in the middle of the country. 

 

I started to reply to that comment a few days ago, but I think I never finished the post before logging off.

 

I can only speak for my experiences, and I've found some of the hard to find ingredients, such as Pomi, in St. Louis, MO, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, College Station, TX, Jackson Hole, WY, Wasilla, AK, and other places.

 

My feeling is that, because you haven't found the ingredient(s) doesn't make it/them all that rare.  Of course, just because I have, doesn't make it/them all that common, either.

 

I think I may have mentioned that I agree that it would be nice if Mr. Batali gave more information or a source list, just like numerous other cookbook authors have done.

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post #5 of 5

He does have a source list, Schmoozer. More than 20 companies, scattered all over the country.

 

In the case of the cheese, none of them list it as available. Trust me, I checked.

 

One problem with ordering from those companies (assuming they stock the ingredient you want) is that the shipping often makes them cost prohibitive. This isn't unique to Molto Gusto, of course, but typifies a fundamental problem with ordering from the net. I remember trying to get Spot Prawns once, for instance. They were, IIRC, something like $24/lb, with a 2-pound minimum order. Shipping would have been more than 70 bucks. Ain't gonna happen.
 

I used the Pomi and cheese in the review merely as examples. But I made a list, and there are 13 ingredients that are not available locally. I don't believe I'm unique, especially since I've gotten PMs from other members who agree that they can't find many of the ingredients in the book either.

 

Some of them are so offbeat I'd never even heard of them before.

 

Ironically, there are a few times where Chef Batali does offer alternatives. For instance, one recipe calls for lemon argrumento oil. He provides a way you can make an alternative to this yourself.

 

What that does, however, is really highlight the more numerous examples where he doesn't.

 

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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