Ahhhh… home cooking. There’s nothing like it. Unless you’re the cook. I consider it a mark of sanity to prefer going to Cracker Barrel and having their yummy macaroni n’ cheese (as well as their fabulous corn and marvelous meatloaf) to actually staying home and cooking it. Maybe that’s not such a good example, since the recipe for “Cracker Barrel Macaroni N’ Cheese” in Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3: The Secret Formulas for Duplicating Your Favorite Restaurant Dishes at Home by Todd Wilbur is so simple, I could make it every night (although I really wouldn’t want to).
There have been over four million Top Secret Recipes Cookbooks “served,” and there must be a reason for that. Actually, there are several, the main two are: 1) not everyone lives within an easy commute of their favorite restaurants; and 2) have you looked at the check at a restaurant lately?!
One summer when I was a little girl, my family was walking down the crowded streets of Provincetown. We approached a bar, and my father needed a beer (if you knew my mother, you’d understand). So while Mom and the three kiddies waited outside in the street, Dad went in, had a beer, and came out indignant, “Do you know how much they charge for a beer? A quarter!” You know those crazy resort towns — they think they can get away with anything. I wonder what Dad would say if he were alive today and picked up the tab for a round of margaritas?
Learning to make those luscious drinks that the chain restaurants serve might be a very frugal move (although the ingredients, I can promise, will cost more than a quarter). Todd Wilbur makes it a little easier with choices like “Gordon Biersch Cran Blueberi Lemonade Cocktail” and “Gordon Biersch Raspberry Iced Tea Cocktail” (which makes a Long Island Iced Tea seem so much less elegant). These don’t appeal to you? You’re kidding; how about P.F. Chang’s “Asian Pear Mojito,” Margaritaville’s “Havanas and Bananas Cocktail,” or T.G.I. Friday’s “Candy Apple Martini”?
You’d rather make Hard Rock Café’s “Twisted Mac & Cheese”? While there are no apple pie recipes in Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3, there are a whopping five different recipes for macaroni and cheese. What does that say about America? (In addition to Hard Rock’s and Cracker Barrel’s, there are duplicates of Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse’s “Chipotle Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese,” T.G.I. Friday’s “Fried Mac & Cheese,” and Mastro’s Steakhouse’s “Gorgonzola Mac & Cheese.” You’ll never be tempted by that box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese again.
Several dozen restaurants are represented with recipes for dips, sauces, drinks, entrees, desserts, soups, sides, and salads. While you’re deciding which mac & cheese recipe you want to try, I’ll just go ahead and make the “Olive Garden Smoked Mozzarella Fonduta.” A local store sells a really nice Tuscan bread.
Bottom Line: Would I buy Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3? Yes — with so many restaurants and types of restaurants represented, it will make a great gift for friends who cook, and may even tempt a few who don’t into trying (good luck with that one, though).