Truthfully, I’ve never been one for cookbooks. Coming from a family that has passed down recipes through hours in the kitchen together and measurements and descriptions like “you know how much” and “a palm-full” or “the one spice your abuela used,” I’ve never seen the use for them. That said, when I got the opportunity to review Heroes’ Feast, the official Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) cookbook from Penguin Random House, I decided to break my not-so-much rule and dive headfirst into fantasy recipes. The cookbook offers up 80 recipes inspired by the magical world of Dungeons & Dragons that range from savory to the sweet and the boozy. And the most magical thing, some recipes that blend them all.
Heroes’ Feast comes from the D&D experts behind Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana, and invites fantasy lovers to celebrate the unique culinary creations and traditions of their favorite fictional cultures. The book itself is broken down into sections based on the four races from D&D: Elves, Dwarves, Humans, and Halflings. Additionally, there is a section for “Uncommon Cuisine” and finally “Elixirs & Ales.” With this book, you can prepare dishes delicate enough to dine like elves and their drow cousins or hearty enough to feast like a dwarven clan or an orcish horde. Each of these 80 dishes was developed by a professional chef and while the way the descriptions are weighty, they’re not hard to prepare yourself.
Heroes’ Feast includes recipes for snacking, such as Elven Bread, Iron Rations, savory Hand Pies, and Orc Bacon, as well as hearty vegetarian, meaty, and fish mains, such as Amphail Braised Beef, Hommlet Golden Brown Roasted Turkey, Drow Mushroom Steaks, and Pan-Fried Knucklehead Trout—all which pair perfectly with a side of Otik’s famous fried spiced potatoes. There are also featured desserts and cocktails—such as Heartlands Rose Apple and Blackberry Pie, Trolltide Candied Apples, Evermead, Potion of Restoration, and Goodberry Blend—and everything in between, to satisfy a craving for any adventure.
But, this wouldn’t be a review, if I didn’t get to head into the kitchen and prepare some of the cookbook’s treats. While each of the recipes features a list of ingredients that are relatively common, or can be subbed out with more common ones, each one of the recipes I prepared required a trip to the market. While the ingredients themselves weren’t hard to find in the wild, they’re not all easily found in your pantry. That said, that element is one of the fun elements involved in diving into a fantasy world of food.
To try out the instructions we chose to make the Black Pudding, a rich chocolate pudding (not the English kind of black pudding), and two drinks: the Chultan Zombie and the Dwarven Mulled Wine. The Black Pudding was extremely rich but also extremely simple. While it needed a number of ingredients that I didn’t have like espresso powder, Dutch ground chocolate powder, heavy cream, and cornstarch, the steps to put it all together were extremely simple. That said, the instructions are presented in prose format which can be slightly overwhelming. Bulleted instructions would have made the cook instructions more simple, but after reading the paragraphs through it was simple enough. Mix all the powders first. Add the cream and milk. Put it on a stovetop until thick. Finally, add the brandy, Kaluha, butter, and vanilla, then put it in the fridge to set, and it’s done. While I am a cook, I am not a baker, and yet, my Black Pudding came out extremely close to the picture and didn’t give me much if any trouble.
On the drink side of things, we chose to make one hot and one cold. Now, not all of the “Elixirs & Ales” are alcoholic, but can easily be made that way. There is a selection of teas, a nice hot cocoa, and the mixed drinks. The directions don’t work much differently when making a drink but again would have benefited from having a format that focused on step by step.
While three of the recipes may only be scratching the surface, the fact that each one was successfully finished, delicious and looked like the picture makes it clear just how user-friendly Heroes’ Feast is. On top of that, there isn’t really an end in immediate sight as I work through the meals, breads, and more. Overall, Heroes’ Feast is perfection. The lore it uses to introduce each recipe is also well-done, and as someone not extremely well-versed in D&D, I found myself reading the explanations for the dishes for entertainment. As my first cookbook, I can assure you that I’ll be coming back to it for more and looking out for other geeky culinary additions to my kitchen.
Heroes’ Feast is perfection. The lore it uses to introduce each recipe is also well-done, and as someone not extremely well-versed in D&D, I found myself reading the explanations for the dishes for entertainment. As my first cookbook, I can assure you that I’ll be coming back to it for more and looking out for other geeky culinary additions to my kitchen.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.