L’essentiel de Chartier: Best Wine & Food Cookbook in the World?
Social Vignerons’ friend Francois Chartier was granted in 1994 the tittle of Best Sommelier in the World (Grand Prix Sopexa).
He is also a successful innovator and published author about the practical science of pairing wine with food, and vice versa…
That explains Francois Chartier’s strapline as “Createur d’Harmonie” or Harmony Creator.
One of Chartier’s previous book: Taste Buds and Molecules (2010 French Version – 2012 in English) was awarded in 2010 as the Best Innovative Food Book In The World, at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Paris.
Perhaps in some sort of coincidence, I received a copy of Francois’ last book for review: L’Essentiel de Chartier (2015 Les Editions La Presse) just before it received in its turns an international acclaim and acknowledgement of its quality.
Two days ago, on Sunday May 29 2016, The international jury of Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, an international competition hosted in China recognizing the best culinary books, awarded L’Essentiel de Chartier the tittle of Best Cookbook in the World – Innovation Category!
This international award followed a more local one, yet telling, from Francois Chartier’s home country: Best Cookbook in Canada granted in 2015.
It was certainly about time for me to have a closer look into L’Essentiel de Chartier cookbook, and share with you the secrets it holds.
This is particularly true since the book is, so far, only available in French.
Being French therefore able to read the book in its current language, but writing in English, I felt a liability to share my thoughts about it with you…
Pairing Ingredients with Each Other, and with Wine
Most of the book lists cooking ingredients (over 200 of them) by category, one page per ingredient.
Ingredient categories include: fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs, meats and charcuteries, fish and seafood, cereals, nuts and seeds.
Each page, for one ingredient, provides a short introduction on the characteristics on the ingredient itself from a sensory perspective, and on how to pair it consequently.
Each page also contains a table that simply and clearly details:
- The other food ingredients that pair well with the given produce e.g. Salmon successful pairings include nectarine, green capsicum, prosciutto, thyme, or tomato.
- Wines and beverages to match it with e.g. raw carrots go well with with Assyrtiko or Garganega, and cooked ones with Merlot, Syrah, or Green Tea.
All pages also include a ‘What to Cook’ section providing dishes idea to cook the ingredient into.
Not sure what to cook lemon with? L’Essentiel de Chartier suggests for example a Salmon Gravlax with lemon and rosemary, prawns steamed with green tea and lemon, or a little more expectedly perhaps: lemon and rosemary tart.
Quite a few pages include a full short recipe to use the ingredient into and create a successful combination of flavors, such as a Miso Eggplant Caviar.
If you’re a food geek that loves experimenting, or more simply a passionate chef with an innovative mindset, there is so many ideas and possible combinations in there, you are sure to find the one that corresponds to your taste, or teases your curiosity.
Pairing Each Wine Grape Variety with Food
L’Essentiel de Chartier also details how to match each wine grape variety with a variety of food ingredients.
Again, one page per grape variety delivers:
- a lists of ingredients to match it with
- suggestions of what to cook with it
- sometimes recipes of matching dishes
The Pinot Noir page (pictured below) suggests to use, between many other matching ingredients: cinnamon, mushrooms, quail, nutmeg, salmon, or confit tomatoes.
This provides an endless source of inspiration on what to cook with certain types of wines. There is such a variety of suggestions!
I guess all you need to do from there is go online and search for recipes that include these ingredients that match well with your wine.
The book goes even beyond, providing with other types of wines and beverages that would work well with the selected grape variety. I suppose this is if you’d like to serve several different wines on a dish, or run a whole meal with dishes and wines that work well together as whole.
Staying with our Pinot Noir example, the book suggests Barbera, Gamay, or Nebbiolo are good complementary wines. One can easily see why and how this works, all of these wines being considered coming from elegant and complex grape varieties, each in their own style.
Finally, the last small section of L’Essentiel de Chartier provides an insight into which food ingredient should be paired with which specific spirit: rum, Cognac, bourbon, whisky, vodka, and tequila, most of them are there.
Scotch with chocolate, coconut, or vanilla, Gin with fennel, green pepper or ginger are two examples that make perfect sense.
The title L’Essentiel de Chartier would translate into ‘The Essentials from Chartier’ and that is what the book is all about: a wealth of concentrated information about how to pair wine (but also tea, beer and spirits) with food ingredients directly from the brain of a world expert in the suibject, and Best Sommelier in World in 1994 at that.
All these possible combinations and harmonies between flavors that each page provides are a potentially-infinite source of inspiration for developing recipes and dishes that will inspire the senses.
Of course, this is aimed at people passionately involved in cooking, innovating and experimenting with flavors, taste buds, and molecules: cuisine professionals and fervent foodies and winos.
Yet, it contains an immense wealth of information and knowledge that should encourage creativeness and lifelong wine & food pairing experimentations to anyone curious enough to give it a try.
Photo illustrations, as I hope my pictures in this post show, are simply… appetizing!
We regret it’s only available in French for now. But success of the book allowing I’m sure, it will probably be translated in English soon.
So is this the Best Wine & Food Cookbook in the World?
Perhaps, as the recent award suggests.
But one thing is for sure, this will stay for Social Vignerons and many others a reference book on how ingredients and families of molecule can positively interact with each other to ‘create harmonies’.