Cindy Pawlcyn's mark on the culinary scene spans decades. The California chef runs three revered restaurants in the Napa Valley, has appeared on Top Chef Masters and won a James Beard award for her last cookbook. She also recently opened a restaurant at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and champions sustainable seafood in addition to farm-to-table cooking.
Pawlcyn's newest cookbook was born from a weekly supper club series she started at her restaurant, Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen. Menus were inspired by Pawlcyn's travels around the world, researched from various sources and driven by the seasons. In Cindy's Supper Club, readers and intrepid home cooks can bring the global-themed menus into their own kitchens with recipes from The Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, and The Middle East.
Chapters are divided by country, each with an introduction by Pawlcyn sharing her travel experiences or background about the area and how it inspired the recipes. Recipes are more adventurous that your standard pad Thai, spanakopita, pasta, and pupus. They range from South African bobotie to sherried squab livers on toast and sour and sweet stuffed sardines. Of course there's Irish soda bread, Swedish meatballs, gazpacho, and poke, but the variety of recipes offer some unique global flavors.
Many recipes in Cindy's Supper Club are weekend projects, especially if you want to pull off the whole theme for one meal. There aren't many easy weeknight options, unless you have a pretty well-stocked pantry and mad kitchen skills. Some though, like the halibut curry or chicken and egg stew are one pot meals most home cooks could pull off easily. Other dishes are a meal in themselves, even without all the accompaniments. For the chestnut and green olive pork stew, it's suggested that you make the dish the day before and then reheat it. Pair it with the suggested polenta and you have a great Italian meal.
In some ways, this isn't a cookbook in the traditional sense. There are no tips in the introduction for what equipment to use, how to measure flour or which olive oil the author prefers. That's not to say recipes aren't well-written and instructions aren't clear, but rather that this feels more like a diary. There are cooking tips hidden in recipe headnotes and sidebars, and basic recipes like chicken stock, gremolata and ghee scattered throughout. But each chapter is written about a specific, country-inspired menu you should make at home. Even if you only make one or two recipes from a country's chapter however, it will likely transport you far away.