The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook by David Ort — Reviewed

I own a lot of cookbooks.  I’m a chef by training and I’ve been given a great many.  It’s funny, though, as I — like many other professional cooks and bakers I know — don’t really “use” cookbooks.  We read through them with interest, particularly if they describe an ingredient or technique we’re not familiar with.  We devour the photography lustily, as  a 13 year old boy with a found Playboy might.  We gain inspiration to combine different flavours in new ways or present familiar dishes with a new approach. But we rarely prop the book open on the counter, and follow the recipe.  At most, those lists of ingredient are guidelines, right?  So, to be honest, I don’t personally get too jazzed about just any new cookbook.

The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook — David Ort

The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook — David Ort

When I heard my friend and fellow Toronto beer writer David Ort was about to publish his first book, a cookbook focusing on recipes to have with good craft beer, I was happy to hear it, and more than a bit interested. For one, while the topic of pairing great food and beer is one that gets attention, I think we can always do more to connect the idea of “…bringing beer back to the dinner table where it has always been and always belonged.” to quote Garrett Oliver, a man who has done more than most educating about this topic.  As a cook, I’m always pleased when the conversation about beer and food focuses on great craft beer, and preparing your own food.  I was also aware that David is not just a beer writer, but in fact a man who writes on food as well, so he was particularly well-suited to pen this book. It promised to be a great addition to the world of beer writing.

Indeed, everything about The  Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook fulfills this.

The book is broken down into sensible sections, covering snacks, soups, salads, fish, meat, desserts, etc and includes a “pantry” section on making stuff to have on hand (mustards, pickles, mayo etc), which I love, as I’m a big make-it-don’t-buy-it kind of guy.  He also covers ice cream recipes in the dessert section, which is another big passion of mine.  More people should be making their own ice cream!

Each recipe is discussed, covering it’s historical significance, ways it connects to beer, and other interesting tidbits.  The instructions are clear and often include suggested best-practices in the preparation.  David uses his years of personal experience, as well as a wealth of information from other food writers he cites, to make even the more complex recipes easier and more manageable for home cooks.  The photography of the dishes, as well as the section covers, is spectacular, showing the beauty of the food, as well as providing a guideline for roughly how things should look (which was of vital importance to me in the days before I started cooking professionally).

The book reads and feels a lot like the early Jamie Oliver Naked Chef books, but with a clear craft beer theme.

David also covers off some basic beer knowledge, exploring styles, ingredients and other info to put even the most green would-be beer cook on a solid footing in the world of craft beer.  The recipes always suggest pairings featuring beers from breweries across Canada.  He also includes profiles of three important people in Canadian brewing (Nicole Barry, Brad Clifford, and Mirella Amato) and one on Spinnaker’s in Victoria.

I’m stoked to play with many of the recipes he covers, particularly the Soba Salad (I love great Soba dishes), the porter gingerbread and IPA guacamole.  Mmmmmm, hoppy guac!

Cheers to David, and congrats on the first book!

The Canadian Craftbeer Cookbook by David Ort. Whitecap Publishing, 2013. It probably goes without saying, but this would make an excellent gift to a beer-fan this holiday season.

One Comment