East of Paris: The New Cuisines of Austria and the Danube

by David Bouley, Melissa Clark, Mario Lohninger
ISBN: 0066214491

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A Review of: East of Paris: the New Cuisines of Austria and The Danube
by Sarah Sheard

Connecticut-born David Bouley is a wunderkind. A baby chef by his teens, he finished high school and headed for the Sorbonne to study business but got sidetracked, apprenticing instead with la creme de la creme chefs of various Paris kitchens. His passion for food led him to Vienna and there he fell in love with Austrian cuisine. How, exactly, to define that? Well, the Danube river flows through a number of countries, picking up the flavours of each locale's distinctive classic dishes and seasonings until it reaches Vienna to deposit a transcultural smorgasbord, the logical place for an enterprising chef like Bouley to sample its heady fusion. Germanic, Magyar and Mediterranean palettes smash together to produce the characteristic slow-braised meats, pickles, smoked fish, goulashes, mousses and schnitzels, fruit-filled pastries and tortes. Yet what this cirque de potages most reminded Bouley of was the soulful cuisine of his own French grandmother with its light sauces and fresh ingredients. In Vienna, he envisioned a way to combine the best of all these worlds.
Flushed with inspiration, he swung back to America and in 1987, opened Bouley in New York City, an instant hit. He closed that in order to open Bouley Bakery in 1997 and then two years later, launched his Viennese restaurant, Danube, around the corner, with the collaboration of his Viennese executive chef, Mario Lohninger. The explosion of 9/11 seriously damaged both his establishments and shifted New Yorkers' priorities from fine dining to security. Undaunted, Bouley started up Green Tarp, a glorious soup kitchen that fed rescue workers around the clock for a month. Working with the Red Cross, he served over one million meals to relief workers before reopening Danube.
The energetic young chef's revitalised eatery won top awards and soon drew huge business back into his shellshocked Tribeca neighbourhood. This cookbook- a collection of recipes designed for the home cook- showcases his magic collaboration with Lohninger, and is drawn in part from their combined repertoire as well as from traditional Austrian dishes.
This book is definitely suited to the accomplished and affluent home cook-or cooks. Production of several of these dishes would be eased by working in a team of two or more people. The recipes are, without exception, imaginative, ambitious concoctions and exquisitely photographed, but also labour-intensive, requiring intricate preparation. Some ingredients are too expensive and/or elusive for the home cook to consider experimenting with on a Saturday afternoon. Marinated sea scallops, for example, with passion fruit and truffles, is not exceptionally tricky to make but it does require that the celery be blanched and its threads pulled; that a vinaigrette be made of the passion fruit and that the sea scallops be in their shells and alive. Bouley and Lohninger tactfully suggest here and there that timing is key and if anything their warnings are understated. Locale weighs in pretty heavily too. Tracking down fresh sea scallops and a decent passion fruit outside city limits is not child's play. Truffles feature in a number of recipes. Pusateri's in Yorkville carries fresh white truffles at $10 a gramme; black truffles at a mere $4 a gramme. The average truffle weighs between 15 and 20 grammes. Doing the math on this dish may cause some home chefs to skip to the next recipe.
East of Paris is organised by season rather than by stages of a meal, although, not to spit pips here, but roasted foie gras with fresh Bing cherry sauce fell under Summer. Maybe in Manhattan. The Signature dishes section features eight exotic cocktails and martinis, (including one with truffles) and delights like Tyrolean wine soup with fresh trout and smoked trout crepes.
Fresh fruit sauces, vegetable sorbets and pures characterise Boulet's style, rather than heavy cream and butter sauces. His emphasis on fresh, airy ingredients appeals to heart-smart North American diners and dodges the heaviness of traditional Austrian fare-until we reach the desserts section with apple strudel, sachertorte etc.
Those home cooks, for whom time, money and the taking of pains are no impediment will be richly rewarded by the offerings of this breathtaking book.

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