September 28, 2013

Diner's, Drive-Ins and Dives by Guy Fieri and Ann Volkwein

I love the FoodNetwork show that this cookbook is based off of. Seriously, I practically worship it and Guy Fieri and make it a point to go to all the places I can that have been featured on the show. Which means, that when this book came out, it of course had to go on my shelf. But now, I've owned it a few years, and have still rarely selected it as a go-to cookbook. But I'm still obsessed with the show.

For those not familiar with Guy Fieri or Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, it's a show where chef Fieri drives around America looking for those places to eat that only the locals known about. These can be roadside stops to hole in the wall diners. But the thing they all have in common is delicious food you can't get enough of. Sometimes this food is as innovative as Captain Crunch French Toast (a recipe in this book) or as simple as a burger cooked right. This book, in addition to having some recipes either from the locations or loosely based off of some of the recipes, has small snippets about the different places the crew went, little blurbs written by Guy, and an introduction to the team that films the show.

The book itself is separated into regions (i.e. Northeast, South, etc.) but if you're looking for a specific type of food, there's a glossary in the back that separates them out with page numbers according to the meal type. Then, in the regions, we are introduced to the place without about a page of description on the location, maybe a picture, and then however many recipes are being offered for the location. Unfortunately none of the pictures are in color though. I would have paid more for this book for color photographs.

I've tried about twelve of the recipes in this book. The first of course (going in order of the book pages) was the American Chop Suey. I pasta and hamburger dish that was tasty, especially when you added cheese to it. It made a lot though, so prepare to eat leftovers! The Three Cheese Macaroni and Cheese was very filling and had a thick sauce with a rich taste. The Beef Brisket from MoGridder's was ok. I made the seasoning and sauce that went with it, but they were both pretty standard and nothing any better than what I get on a grocery store shelf. Pete's Rubbed and Almost Fried Turkey was very salty. And I have to warn, this should probably be done outside, even if it is just a breast, because most kitchen's exhaust systems won't be able to handle it. The InCrusted Dolphin Sandwich from Scully's Tavern had a nice crunch to it. And you could bake instead of fry if you want to. A local haunt near where I live, The Penguin, offered up some pimento cheese. It did not taste the same as at the restaurant and had too much mayo. Although admittedly there has been change in ownership since the show filmed so that could account for the variance of taste as well.

Probably some of the best recipes in this book were the pies. Both the Coconut Cream and the Black-Bottom were delicious and easy to make. And in case of the Black Bottom Pie, it was very impressive looking. Because I can't pass up a Mac & Cheese recipe, I also tried Smoque's version. It wasn't bad, and I did enjoy the breaded topping. Unfortunately Mom's Meatloaf wasn't near as good. It was plainer than a lot of other meatloaf recipes I've come across. I also had a lot of trouble with the Hodad's Bacon Cheeseburger. My bacon patties just wouldn't stay together. And the Squeeze burger is definitely better made on a flap top. A regular home cook just won't be able to replicate it easily. The Greek Money Meatballs were also nothing special but they were filling. The pollo guisado was way too spicy for me. I couldn't handle it. And I'm very glad that I didn't add water to the sauce, because it was watery enough without adding it.

So overall the recipes were a mix of good and bad. I think this book is more useful as a guide to the different places Guy visits rather than a cookbook. There are some decent recipes but really, they aren't the ones from the show and some make you scratch your head wondering where they came from as they were dishes not even mentioned at the various places. I'd rather cook Guy's original food (which you know is the exact recipe you're seeing on tv) than have fake copies of the ones off of DDD. And a lot of the recipes are more appropriate for a restaurant setting as they use a myriad of different ingredients and would be expensive for a standard sit down meal at home.

I think if you approach this book for the stories you'll be more content than thinking of it as a cookbook. But since it advertises itself as "with recipes" it's hard to align yourself to that sort of thinking. Maybe with some color photos and a few better recipes this could have been something amazing. But hey, there's a second book (and maybe even a third at the time of writing this review) that may be worth taking a look at! For now though, I'll consider this book merely average compared to the brilliance of the show.

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