Cooking for nerds.
This is the easiest game review I've ever written. Normally when you sit down to play a game, you're in for the long haul. You might have to put 60 or 100 hours into an MMORPG before you feel comfortable grading it. I was ready to go with America's Test Kitchen: Let's Get Cooking after about 15 minutes.
[image1]That's for two reasons. First, it's exactly the same software as Personal Trainer Cooking with only a few minor additions and a new set of recipes. In fact, all the recipes in this “game” come from the folks at America's Test Kitchen; it's not just a slapped-on name.
Second, because it's America's Test Kitchen recipes, I've already cooked a dozen of them before. These are the same cooking nerds behind Cook's Illustrated, the best cooking magazine on Earth and I've had a subscription for about 15 years, and I really do refer to it as “cooking for nerds”.
For one thing, the magazine has no advertising, so they can feel free to criticize Kraft's processed foods and not worry about losing ad money. That's a bigger deal than you think. Hell, Gamespot fired their own editor- in-chief over just such an issue (allegedly but probably). The other thing is their commitment to testing recipies. It is not unusual for them to make 50 versions of a dish, just to find the best one.
What other cooking magazine delves into the science of gluten formation (and tells you about it) in order to make perfect tempura batter? (The secret is club soda and vodka). These guys really know their stuff.
[image2]All the functionality of Personal Trainer Cooking is back with a few more additions, like separate chef logins and the ability to split some recipes between two cooks. But frankly, these new features are fairly useless to almost all users, and go into the already cluttered "nice-idea-but-I'll-never-use-it" bin. The strength of both these cooking titles lies entirely in the terrific interactive cookbook, which is only cluttered by grocery lists, cooking calendars, broken voice recognition, and other “features”.
The most obvious missing ingredient is the ability to sort recipes by nationality. That's because all of America's Test Kitchen's 300 recipes are as American as apple pie. (Yes, it has an apple pie recipe.) From meatloaf to baked beans to glazed ham, not one of these dishes will make your picky friend say “Eww, what's in that?” Let's Get Cooking rides on the back of an eagle while waving the Stars and Stripes.
The most ethnic it ever gets are popular dishes that will not intimidate anyone, like teriyaki chicken or chicken parmesan, and you won't find the aforementioned tempura batter anywhere in the lists. In fact, it often has totally American versions of foreign recipes, like “Chinese” chicken salad [Is it made from Chinese people? Then no. ~Ed. Nick] and ground beef tacos in crunchy shells, which, I assure you, do not exist in Mexico.
On the plus side, while unadventurous, these recipes go beyond merely competent and are instead really, unbelievably good. Plus there are 300 of them for $20, which is actually cheaper than the cookbook. Besides, who doesn't love a plate of perfect fried chicken with coleslaw? USA! USA!