Book Review: Sweeter Off The Vine

an unexpected fruit-based book

We love fruits and this book was an anticipated 'must read' for a book review. I thought that since it attacks one of our favorite things to eat fruit.. and makes it into desserts, how could you not love it? So, I was thrilled to get this one:

Sweeter off the Vine: Fruit Desserts for Every Season: Youssy Arefi.

Well.. here is what I discovered. This book is a mixed bag.

On the good side, this book is broken down into seasonal produce, the book includes many fruit-based preparations, a great thing if you are just looking for strawberry based desserts and such.

On the minus side, the photographs may be gorgeous in real life, but when they went into the book, someone missed the proofing process it seems and the overall book feels like I am reading it in a dark room! The overall design is darker, with gray and black pages to break the color-scheme, which somehow is not as appealing or appetizing as the idea of cooking from a fruit-based, sweet-tooth friendly content. I am missing the bright and luscious colors of fruits - partially the reason why they are appetizing.

  • For instance, when I see a raspberry based cake, I WANT to see the signature bright raspberry pink contrast with the chocolate and the cream.

  • When I am looking at a Watermelon based dish, I am expecting bright reds and deep crimsons, not a muted old-lady peachy photograph.

Also, I am not sure I understand the way the photographs are laid out either especially because some are full bleed and others are not. It throws me off. But that may just be me.

Another thing that I was not so fond of, font. Tiny, compact and a little tough to read through for me.

Perhaps because of the photographs, the book has an old-sy feel, if you understand that word. I kept trying to shine a light on the book.

I have to wonder about something else too. The author is a well positioned food-professional with many strong connections and this book was even nominated for some cookbook awards earlier this year. Good for her.

But, for an industry that prides itself in book design, I am surprised. Perhaps I should not be ... no one is calling it out for its 'look'. In fact, I am quite curious how in the world Publishers' Weekly and others use adjectives such as vibrant, bold, showstopper, modern, tempting, eye-catching and such for the photography or the book. Am I looking at the wrong dictionary or am I just turned off for all the wrong reasons?

Sadly none of the photographs actually TEMPTS me to make anything. I love dark backgrounds, don't get me wrong. But dark on dark is not my favorite look for FOOD.

I am an amateur photographer, and I think even my untrained attempts (see below) have been a little more appetizing than what are in this book. Perhaps it was the deliberate styling attempt, I don't know.

I like the clean layout attempt in the book - lots of breathing room on the pages.

BUT head-notes interfere with the ingredient listing - it looks awkward.

ALSO some recipes, like the Chocolate Celebration Cake with Fresh Raspberry Butter Cream runs three pages long. I understand, it is a special occasion cake, but I don't have the patience for a process that takes this much time. I am disappointed because we LOVE raspberries in this household and I would have loved to be excited about cooking something from a new book.

Here is our favorite Raspberry recipe, not from this book, but from mine, incidentally created by my daughter!

I am going to hand the book to my daughter to cook from, she has a new found love of baking, perhaps she is able to overlook my dreary opinion of leafing through it and will cook and photograph something more appetizing.

You know I'm going to look at the book for overall appeal and book design and not just the listing of recipes, and sadly, I've seen better designed books that makes me WANT to leaf through it and WANT to cook from it. Is it any surprise that it took me a year to write the review?

I don't know everything, and perhaps that may just be the case - maybe I just got one of the overprint / overstock copies.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program, in the summer of 2016, in exchange for this review. It took me a while to get to the review. As you can tell, the review remains unbiased, regardless of the promotion.


Nandita Godbole

Once a botanist & landscape architect.

Now a personal chef & author, an artist, graphic designer, blogger & poet. 


Loves freshly brewed chai, the crisp salty ocean breeze, watching monsoon rains & walking barefoot through cold mountain streams. 


Believes in the strength, positivity of the human spirit. Is spiritual but not a fanatic. 


Mom of one. Two, if she counts her husband.

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