A peek into the Stone Edge Farm Cookbook

Stone Edge Farm Cookbook

After the self-published Stone Edge Farm Cookbook by John McReynolds came out of nowhere to win both IACP Book of the Year and the Julia Child Award for first cookbook, I was intrigued. However, since the book is only available by mail order unless you live in Sonoma, California, I wasn't able to leaf through the book to see if it lived up to the hype. The cover photo featuring a chicken finally pushed me over the edge (I'm a sucker for pretty birds), so I shelled out $80USD (including shipping) to get this now-lauded volume.

The heft of this oversized, 372-page book is at once impressive and impractical. It consumes a copious amount of counter space, and one would hate to splatter grease on the lush pages brimming with photographs. The Stone Edge Farm website describes this as a coffee table book containing over 100 primary recipes, so it's meant to be used as well as admired. The recipes are interspersed with chapter introductions and reflections by Culinary Director John McReynolds, essays on gardening by Colby Eierman, a winemaking essay by winemaker Jeff Baker, and a vineyard essay and a poem about terroir by viticulturist Phil Coturri. In an interview, McReynolds said that one of his main incentives to write the book was to explain the philosophy of Stone Edge Farm, where wine is regarded as part of a bigger picture of agriculture and sustainability.

The themes of sustainability and how small changes can have a great impact recur throughout the book. However, it is a bit difficult to reconcile homilies like: "We all make choices every day that have an effect on the entire world. If we choose to buy meat from a small farmer who raises that animal…it is better for us, the farmer and the world" with the fact that the cookbook is printed in China.

The book is divided into themes based in part upon the vineyard and in part on McReynolds' predilections. "Gathering - Foraging, a deep connection to nature," "Olives and Oil - an ancient necessity of life," and "Orchard - branch, blossom and fruit" are three chapter titles. This means that you will find salad, main course, appetizer and side dish recipes sprinkled throughout the book; however, there is an index to help you locate specific recipes or ingredients.

Three recipes from the cookbook are available on the Stone Edge Farm blog, Morrocan spiced carrots, Schiaciatta con l'Uva (flatbread with red wine grapes), and muhammara (a spicy walnut-red pepper sauce). The recipe for muhammara is different online than in the book (the amount of walnuts is trebled online). Given this discrepancy and the one noted below, an extra-close reading of the recipes is warranted.

I made the quinoa salad with vegetables and roasted lemon vinaigrette. There is a discrepancy between the amount of olive oil listed in the ingredients and in the instructions (1/2 vs. 1/4 cup). Although the total yield would lend itself to the former measure, the amount of lemon juice from the two roasted lemons was not adequate to balance the flavors. It would be helpful to know how much lemon juice one should expect from the roasted lemons. Otherwise, the recipe instructions were clear. The salad had great texture and lively flavors, and the roasted lemons added depth to the vinaigrette, although the salad would have benefited by having more quinoa.

While the book is not aimed at novices, Chef McReynolds does provide explanations for some tasks (such as coring a fennel bulb), and offers substitutions for rather obscure ingredients like piment d'Espelette, which McReynolds frequently utilizes. The recipes are vegetable-centric, which is not surprising since the book is focused on products available locally to the vineyard in northern California. There are plenty of vegetarian and vegan soups, salads and side dishes. Many of the recipes are simple and straightforward, although some require several steps or waiting periods. The book concludes with a 15-page conversation on pairing food and wine (specifically discussing a suggested winter menu), among McReynolds, Baker, and the vineyard's proprietor, Mac McQuown, who also wrote the book's foreword.

There is no doubt that this book is a labor of love, even if at times it comes across as a bit precious. The high price and inability to browse before buying are obstacles that will likely keep this book from becoming a bestseller. The book will be indexed on EYB very soon so you can view the recipe titles and see if they inspire you to make the leap of faith. 

Photo courtesy Stone Edge Farm website

6 Comments

  • TrishaCP  on  4/4/2014 at 7:52 AM

    Thanks so much for this interesting review Darcie.

  • jenniesb  on  4/4/2014 at 12:47 PM

    Thank you for this review Darcie! I had been wondering whether it was worth getting the book and I think based on some of your observations I will not at this time. It will be a library rental for me!

  • robinorig  on  4/6/2014 at 11:10 PM

    Very interesting review... I'll also wait until I can see the book somewhere, library or elsewhere!

  • CharmianC  on  4/14/2014 at 9:02 AM

    I was lucky enough to buy a signed copy at the IACP conference in Chicago and meet the authors and photographer. From talking to them, even briefly, it’s easy to see how this book captured the judge’s attention. This book sits on my coffee table and I leaf through it for inspiration. It will not make it into my grease-splattered kitchen. But the ideas will. Thanks for the balanced review.

  • CharmianC  on  4/14/2014 at 9:02 AM

    I was lucky enough to buy a signed copy at the IACP conference in Chicago and meet the authors and photographer. From talking to them, even briefly, it’s easy to see how this book captured the judge’s attention. This book sits on my coffee table and I leaf through it for inspiration. It will not make it into my grease-splattered kitchen. But the ideas will. Thanks for the balanced review.

  • CharmianC  on  4/14/2014 at 9:02 AM

    I was lucky enough to buy a signed copy at the IACP conference in Chicago and meet the authors and photographer. From talking to them, even briefly, it’s easy to see how this book captured the judge’s attention. This book sits on my coffee table and I leaf through it for inspiration. It will not make it into my grease-splattered kitchen. But the ideas will. Thanks for the balanced review.

Post a comment

You may only comment on the blog if you are signed in. Sign In

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!

Archives