For cooks with an adventurous palate.
By Liz Marsham, Critical Role, Jesse Szewczyk, Susan Vu and Amanda Yee
Foreword by Quyen Tran and Sam Riegel
What They Say
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Featuring sixty delicious recipes from across the world of Critical Role, every Critter will find something to whet their appetites in this official cookbook.
Join a party of culinary adventurers in search of the fabulous flavors and delightful delicacies that make Exandria so exquisite. Here, they present their bounty: sixty dishes collected from each continent!
Start in Tal’Dorei, where you can nab a trio of pastries from the Slayer’s Cake, a staple of Whitestone’s patisserie scene. Journey next to the birthplace of civilization, Issylra, and devour some absolutely divine Highsummer Honey Polenta. Travel to Marquet and explore Jrusar’s Core Spire while enjoying some street meat. And finally, end in Wildemount, where you can unwind with a famous Ruby of the Sea Cocktail.
The recipes from these diverse dives are accompanied by the histories of each land—and stories of iconic culinary capers by Vox Machina, the Mighty Nein, Bells Hells, and more. Enjoy Percival de Rolo’s Revenge Pasta, stuffed with enough garlic to ward off even the strongest vampires, and blackberry and lemon hand pies inspired by Scanlan’s favorite spell. Prepare for battle with Jester’s Sweet Feast, a platter of pastries made complete with a dash of cinnamon and a covert sprinkle of the Dust of Deliciousness. And as the night comes to a close, settle down with Lord Eshteross’s Maple Ginger Cookies.
With a foreword by Quyen Tran and Sam Riegel, gorgeous illustrations and photography to accompany mouthwatering recipes, and lore from each corner of Exandria, this is a must-have cookbook for every Critical Role fan.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Note to self: Next time you review a cookbook, make sure you actually know what the fuck you are getting yourself into. Full disclosure, I hate cilantro and live in a portion of the US that is known for historically being oblivious to anything that isn’t lobster, ice cream, or linguica. While I can cook I don’t usually do anything more complicated than the basics (breakfast foods, skillet food, homemade Hungarian mushroom soup, the occasional congo bar bake) it’s just way easier to buy a six buck rotisserie chicken from the nearest wholesale club.
Hey, at least I’m not my sister, she can’t make lettuce.
Exquisite Exandria is the latest publication from the Critical Role empire. A cookbook featuring recipes inspired by the show, from dishes eaten in the game to libations roughly inspired by locations. (No sandkheg here, sorry.) The book is fronted by an intro from Quyen and Sam before it shifts to a fictional cast of characters tracing the foody paths of Exandria.
The book is broken into dishes by region rather than the usual categorization of either ingredient or course. That can make it hard to find specific items, although there is an index for looking up certain ingredients or dishes. Beyond the large and nicely staged photographs of the finished dishes, there is a smattering of original artwork in the style of D&D sourcebook illustrations. Top-notch presentation all around and the hardcover opens easily and lays flat for cooking referencing.
My main complaint is, and this is highly subjective, there just weren’t a ton of recipes that really piqued my interest. There is also the issue of difficulty for some of these recipes. There are some that are brain-dead simple, such as instructions on how to make a charcuterie board, a sub sandwich, or the single salad included. On the other end of the spectrum are some high-skill recipes that simply frighten me. (Pickled shrimp? Homemade booze?! Puff pastry!?! Even America’s Test Kitchen just tells you to buy that shit premade!) Then there is the matter of ingredients and this is when I realized that my neck of the woods is an ‘ethnic food’ desert. I’d have to drive an hour away to find some of these ingredients so substitutions would be a must. Which I always feel defeats the purpose of using a recipe.
In fact, many of the recipes certainly feel more metropolitan than I would have expected. It turns out I am not very adventurous with food.
So I can’t review this book properly without making at least one recipe. The obvious recipe that is present and accounted for that most folks would want to make are the Black Moss Cupcakes. However, I operate in a large party of one and my gaming group hasn’t gotten together in over a year. I didn’t want to make a massive batch of cupcakes with the risk something could have gone wrong. So I opted for the easier (ha ha haa…) Gunpowder Green Tea shortbread cookies.
Starting off on a poor note, I couldn’t find any gunpowder tea nearby so I had to do as the book suggests and use normal green tea. Following the recipe I ran into a few hiccups. It recommends forming the very dry and firm dough into a roll and the size it tells you to cut the cookies into is smaller than the cookie count would suggest. Also, the ‘stick it in the freezer for an hour to firm up’ was… uh, too long for my freezer apparently. Trying to stick the sugar garnish before cutting made a goddamn mess and maybe I’m just not very good at this whole baking thing.
My finished cookies sort of resemble the photo in the book, if you squint.
I had relatives over at the time I made these and everyone enjoyed them but the tea flavor really didn’t come through in the final bake. Paul Hollywood would not approve. Maybe if I’d had the correct tea it would have been stronger. Hmm.
Exquisite Exandria delivers its promise of providing an extensive spread of foods that came into play during the three extant campaigns of Critical Role. Fans will, of course, note that several of those dishes served in the game are not exactly something that you would enjoy eating. The recipes featured in this book range from ‘duh’ to ‘master class’ in difficulty scale, often without markers to differentiate those skill levels. We could have used an encounter rating scale for assistance. The recipes also assume that you have access to a metropolitan supermarket, so woe be the chef who wishes to make a dish in a food desert. Despite the flaws in the actual menu, the book is clearly made with love and the artwork and meta-commentary from the fictionalized adventuring authors is cute.
Content Grade: B –
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Released By: Penguin Random House
Release Date: August 29, 2023