Many people think of French food as being rich and using lots of cream, butter and thick, syrupy reductions. That can be true, and once in a while, that kind of meal is satisfying. Now, though, many of the younger French chefs - or rather, chefs making French cuisine - are rejecting stuffy haute cuisine restaurants in favour of opening more casual spots where they prepare lighter food using international ingredients and cooking techniques.
"Bistronomy," Katrina Meynink writes, "is the food without the pomp and circumstance. It is a growing culinary culture that celebrates integrity, simplicity and democracy in dining … It is a food approach based on building a direct relationship between garden, kitchen and diner, with a real sense of place, produce and the wine that might be drunk alongside. It is a combination of bistro (a nod to the traditional dishes that form the starting point for many bistronomy chefs) and gastronomy (a reference to the haute cuisine techniques used to update them).
"Bistronomy is an elusive style of dining: the sort of laid-back eating experience that offers the gustatory nirvana without the buttock-clenching, wallet-evacuating price tag penance."
Meynink's book showcases the recipes of 31 chefs making this type of French cuisine in France, Canada, Britain, the United States, Panama and Australia. I've been to five of the seven places in Paris (Bones, Septime, Le Chateaubriand, Le Comptoir du Relais and L'Ami Jean) and can see why they've been included in this volume - the food served at the restaurants is both inventive and (for the most part) delicious.
My one complaint is that the index doesn't include a section indicating which recipes are by which chef, so you have to leaf through the book to search for dishes you've eaten at particular restaurants.
Most of the recipes seem quite simple, even for the home cook. They include veal tongue with pea ice; globe artichoke soup with scallops and truffle; duck confit croquettes; smoked bonito with salted grilled plums and onion; shio koji barbecued duck hearts with horseradish (I remember this from when I ate at Bones about three years ago); beetroot risotto; ricotta, plums and lavender.
Bistronomy - French Food Unbound by Katrina Meynink