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DINE FINE FORGET FRUGAL A Wholesome Approach to Fine Food

Jonathan Ho Outskirts Press $41.95 hardcover, $35.95 paperback

ISBN: 978-1-4787-6516-5;

May 25, 2016 BOOK REVIEW

A fusion chef presents 30 high-end hors d’oeuvres. “I’ve committed my career to celebrating the US culinary melting pot,” Ho (That’s the Spirit, 2012) declares. He grew up in Hawaii, where he helped in his father’s Honolulu restaurant, and at age 16 moved to Pennsylvania’s Amish country. Both influences are evident in his recipes—“Hapa-Ham” Burgers and Rock Salt Plum Ribs; and an unusual take on Pennsylvania Dutch chicken and waffles—alongside a range of other American food cultures, including Tex-Mex, Southern, and various Asian cuisines. The book focuses exclusively on appetizers and soup shots. Even familiar foods like macaroni and cheese are reworked with piquant flavors to make them special-occasion dishes—in this case, using a blend of fine cheeses and adding crab meat, saffron, and caviar. Ho delights in blending the traditionally savory and sweet in playful combinations that will be “confusing to the palate,” like filling a donut with chicken, beans, and cheese, or flavoring a potato-corn cupcake with vanilla and chamomile tea. One of the best examples of the fusion food approach is his “terichanga,” a fried burrito stuffed with teriyaki-marinated rib eye beef and topped with mango-avocado salsa. Best not to look too closely at the nutritional information—the figures are slightly alarming, even for amuse-bouche serving sizes. Each recipe is accompanied by an appealing color photograph, background information, substitution advice, and details on how to source unusual ingredients. Some explanatory notes (for hoisin sauce, Berkshire pork, and the Amish) are repeated in multiple recipes; they could all be collected into a glossary at the end. Fractions would be more useful than decimals when measuring ingredients, and the ornate font becomes a challenge to read. But these small quibbles cannot detract from the quality of these truly indulgent dishes. In many cases, the ingredients are so expensive that these recipes are likely to be reserved for a blowout dinner party, perhaps around Christmastime—a perfect occasion for Turkish-style reindeer meatballs. A final section of musings gives strategies for creating harmonious dishes and pleasing picky eaters. A mouthwatering collection of decadent appetizers.