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Small Bites Big Nights

Seductive Little Plates for Intimate Occasions and Lavish Parties
by Govind Armstrong

Small Bites Big Nights: Seductive Little Plates for Intimate Occasions and Lavish Parties

At his restaurant Table 8 in Hollywood, Govind Armstrong has elevated the concept of small plates to celebrity status. The market-driven, seasonal lounge menu attracts a well-heeled crowd of famous young things and food adventurers alike with inventive diminutive dishes. Armstrong is something of a sensation himself, having started his cooking career at the tender age of thirteen under the tutelage of Spago’s Wolfgang Puck. In Small Bites Big Nights, his first book, Armstrong reflects on the journey that led him to his small plates specialty and reveals the recipes for some of his most sought after creations, including the now-famous grilled cheese with pulled short ribs, Krispy Kreme “Coffee & Doughnuts” bread pudding and signature Table 8 creamsicle cocktail. This is a personal and passionate book, evidenced by Armstrong’s intimate introduction and his explanations, tips and anecdotes that accompany each recipe. 

As far as organization, eight is the magic number: the eight chapters have roughly eight recipes each (plus cocktails), designed for the most part to feed eight people (Armstrong’s ideal party size). Such internal consistency speaks to Armstrong’s deep attention to detail. Recipes appear as building blocks of fresh ingredients wedged between forward slashes: arugula/dates/parmesan, roasted sunchoke soup/blue cheese croutons/pear, beef tenderloin/oxtail ravioli/swiss chard/cipollini onions. Such seeming simplicity belies the sophistication of technique. Luckily, each recipe is marked with difficulty level from easy to challenging to tip you off to the amount of time and labor involved. A centerpiece of the book, the chapter on dinner for eight supplies an elegant menu of Santa Barbara spot prawns in pernod and whole-roasted Colorado lamb rack with wine pairing suggestions. Cooking for only two? The chapter on “sexy savories” includes sensual possibilities like truffled gruyere fondue and oysters with Champagne granita. Since the plates are small, you won’t feel as guilty indulging in petite desserts like mascarpone peanut brownies or carrot cake with cream cheese mousse. This former child prodigy has certainly preserved his sense of wonder when it comes to “playing” with food.

Reviewed by Rachel Levin

(Updated: 12/23/08 SB)

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