Reviews

Exquisite Exandria — The Dungeon Masters guide to cooking

A photo showing the book Exquisite Exandria, a cookbook by Critical Role

I own 23 cookbooks. The majority of the cookbooks I own are devoted to different techniques, cultural stylings, particular dishes, and have a wide range of skillsets within. Some of them are great, some of them are not so great, and at least two of them are probably better off sitting in a library somewhere. I have cooked hundreds, if not thousands of dishes from these books, ranging from a simple burger to a 13 hour brisket, to classic coq au vin. Because of these books, my pantry is full of exotic ingredients, I have 3 fancy knives, and I maintain restaurant grade cookware. You might say I know a thing or two about home cooking.

When I received my advance copy of Exquisite Exandria, I admit I opened the book with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. Typically when it comes to pop-culture related cookbooks, they’re usually filled with basic dishes that have the name of a simple dish gussied up with some “fancy” spices (typically paprika) and then given a name like “Harold’s Fireball Burger”. I find myself disappointed by these kinds of books.

Exquisite Exandria, The Official Cookbook of Critical Role, breaks this trend by not only carefully curating the dishes so they feel correct within their respective regions of Exandria, the writers included unique dishes with advanced preparations, exotic ingredients, and a wild variety of options and additional accouterments, which makes me believe this is the best themed cookbook I’ve read to date.

The book is heavily rooted in the Critical Role universe, with a foreword by Queyen Tran and Sam Riegel, who discusses the level of detail that Matt Mercer puts into describing the food and how hungry it makes them, and after that, the book dives straight into the universe, being told by characters within the world.

A photo of an illustration in the cookbook

The chapters of the book are beautifully illustrated.

For example, instead of breaking the chapters of the book into classically accepted sections like “appetizers”, “meats”, “seafood”, regions of the world are used instead – Tal’Dorei, Issylra, Marquet, Wildemont – And within those worlds, the reader gets an introduction to each geographic location, with tons of references and easter eggs reaching far into the lore of Critical Role. These parts of the book feel like I’m reading source material for my D&D campaign, and it’s an excellent introduction to the dishes. It’s treated with a level of seriousness that I expect out of my fancy cultural cookbooks that dive into the specific regions of Mexico, and it’s absolutely delightful to read through.

A photo of the text in the cookbook

The lore of Critical Role is firmly in place in this cookbook, with easter eggs hidden throughout.

Each chapter of the book is gorgeously illustrated, with both paintings of the world and absolutely delectable photography of the dishes within.  Characters like the Shadow Baker and locations like Marquet all make an appearance, although I wish there was more art throughout the book, but it doesn’t detract from the experience of the book itself.

The variety of dishes is as varied as the world Critical Role lives in itself. In Issylra, you’ll be making traditional Danish Smorrebrod, which is retitled to Shorecomb Smorrebrod, with instructions for making cod and potato puree, compound butters, and fried capers. Once again, these are not dishes I would have expected in a Dungeons & Dragons themed cookbook.  In Tal’Dorei, you’ll make Scanlan the Grand’s Hand Pies, which suspiciously look like the best pop-tarts I’ve ever seen in my life, and are inspired by his favorite spell. In Marquet, a humble breakfast sandwich. In Wildemount, the Jester’s Sweet Feast, which is a variety of pastries, complete with an easy to make puff pastry dough.

A photo of a food spread in the cookbook

An example of a recipe and gorgeous photography, showing some hand pies!

The recipes are written exceptionally well thanks to Liz Marsham and her staff of recipe writers and food stylists, namely Jesse Szewczyk, Susan Vu, and Amanda Yee, with some including those easter eggs that point back to Critical Role, but what really surprises me are the variety of techniques in these recipes. Have you ever tried to make pickled shrimp before? This book will show you how. Ever cook with goat liver? It’s a part of a charcuterie board. They even have a recipe with crickets in it. Yes, reader, you read that correctly, a dish that incorporates crickets.

Not everything is as fantastic or unusual as those dishes though, which means this book has something for everyone of every skillset and experience in the kitchen, like Caduceus’s Ethically Sourced Mushroom Toasts, which are a basic preparation of mushrooms, ricotta, and herbs, and Pocket Bacon, which are spicy candied bacon strips, yet are a core component of the Nestled Nook Breakfast Special! And everything in the recipes is represented in both imperial units and grams, along with notes for alternative/optional ingredients, which I appreciate because some of the ingredients may not exist in your pantry.

A photo of a chicken and pineapple kebab

The finished Bad Aim chicken was delicious

But of course, you can’t just read a cookbook.  For this review, I cooked the Bad Aim Chicken and some Pocket Bacon (because how can you not). The Bad Aim Chicken came out great, despite a substitution for chicken breast vs thigh, and I credit that to the recipe. The sauce was herbaceous, and not too spicy, for the more discerning palette. In the future, I recommend several changes. I would let the marinade and chicken sit together for a longer time, and I would leave in the seeds from the jalapeño, because I love heat.

Marinade for kabobs

The marinade for Bad Aim Chicken is herbacious!

Pocket Bacon was one of the easiest things I’ve ever made in a kitchen. Crunchy, sweet, smokey, it reminded me that sometimes the simplest dishes can be the best. Flip em halfway through though, as the recipe only gives you one side of sweet smoke. Also, despite what the book says, I don’t recommend sticking maple glazed bacon in your pocket.

A photo of pocket bacon, cooked perfectly crispy

Many of the recipes can be altered depending on your pantry, like adding different spices to Pocket Bacon

Ultimately, a successful dish is a combination of good cooking skills and a balanced recipe. My experience with this book is that they have the recipe part covered…it’s up to you, the talented cook, to see if you can roll high enough in cooking, but I think the skill check is low. Good luck.

Tabletop Editor | [email protected]

Randy is a designer, nerd, and mini painter. He's been painting since 2015, and has learned a lot in his time! Come with him as he continues to push his craft forward, always down to try new techniques, tools, and paints!

95

Excellent

Exquisite Exandria

Review Guidelines

Exquisite Exandria is a great cookbook, both from a recipe standpoint, and a lore perspective. This book presents a variety of recipes that welcome a range of skills, tastes, and ingredients, from the typical to the exotic. It’s a wonderful read, and a great addition to your cookbook library or your D&D Library, and a must have for any fan of Critical Role.

Randy Gregory II

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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