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Monday, December 27, 2010


Stocking stuffers are at the top of everybody's gift list: something
affordable (under $10, up to $20) that can also double as a host gift,
something small and lightweight. Most of the books here are paperbacks.
And of course, they can stuff an adult stocking. Typical for food are:
--RECIPES EVERY MAN SHOULD KNOW (Quirk Books, 2010, 144 pages, $9.95 US
hard covers) by Susan Russo and Brett Cohen. "This book is for hungry
guys" – a little black book of primer data plus recipes categorized
into breakfasts, snack, burgers, meat and potatoes, pasta, bar food,
chocolate and cheesecake. Hardly any BBQ and no index!!
--I LOVE BACON! (Andrews McMeel, 2010, 136 pages, $22.99 CAN hard
covers) has more than 50 preps from celebrity chefs in the US,
including Cat Cora (Iron Chef). It begins with making your own bacon,
moving through brunch, salads, sides, pasta, fish and meat, up through
desserts (pig candy ice cream, maple-bacon ice cream). Nice layout,
with metric conversion tables.
--APPLES I HAVE EATEN (Chronicle Books, 2010, unpaged, $14.95 US) is by
Jonathan Gerken. All of the 47 varieties of apples photographed and
mentioned in this book were gathered by Gerken during the autumn of a
single year (2007?). They are local and heirloom varieties acquired
from California farmers' markets, out-of-the-way orchards, neighbours,
and friends. As the book says, "After being photographed, the apples
were eaten. They were really tasty."
--EASY ASIAN NOODLES (Wiley, 2010, 128 pages, $17.95 US soft covers) is
from Helen Chen, owner of Helen's Asian Kitchen in the USA. As she
says, "If you can cook pasta, you can cook Asian noodles." Well,
duh….Helen has a line of Asian cooking equipment, and her earlier books
included Chinese Home Cooking, Peking Cuisine, and Easy Chinese Stir-
Fries. With 60 recipes, Chen shows how to prepare noodles which are
served cold, pan-fried (crunchy), or in soup, stir-fried, sauced, and
in noodle salads. Most can be done in thirty minutes or less. Her range
covers all South-East Asian countries.
--SKINNY DIPS (Chronicle Books, 2010, 144 pages, $20 US paper covers)
is by Diane Morgan. Here are 60 guilt-free recipes for light dips and
the crispy dippers to eat them with. Veggie and herb dips, salsas,
guac, bean and legume drips, crudités. Plus the elements of party
--SIMPLE COMFORTS; 50 heartwarming recipes (Andrews McMeel, 2010, 136
pages, $19.99 CAD hard covers) has recipes from five other cookbooks
put out by the Sur La Table stores. Heart breads, savoury thick soups,
stews, big sandwiches, mains, sides, and desserts. For the hungry guy.
--COOKING WITH WHOLEGRAINS; the basic wholegrain cookbook (Farrar,
Straus and Giroux, 2010, 72 pages, $12 US paper covers) is a reprint of
the 1947 book; it was written by Mildred Ellen Orton who just recently
passed on at age 99. The book was one of the first to re-introduce
stone-ground whole grains to America (she and her husband operated a
stone mill). There are preps for breads, rolls, cakes, scones,
crackers, muffins, and desserts – two or three to a page. It's now a
curiosity, but all the recipes work well, and it's a good small gift
book to the healthy cook.
--A ZOMBIE ATE MY CUPCAKE! (Cico Books, 2010, 64 pages, $17 CAD) by
Lily Vanilli, well-known British baker and graphic artist. Here she
comes up with 25 cupcake recipes, each with sculptured toppings –
eeyrie eyeballs, zombie snacks, mutant ears, bleeding hearts,
radioactive slime. Best at Halloween, but creepy anytime.
--COFFEE AND CAKE; enjoy the perfect cup of coffee – with dozens of
delectable recipes for café treats   AND
--TEA AND COOKIES; enjoy the perfect cup pf tea – with dozens of
delectable recipes for teatime treats. Both are from Chronicle Books
(2010, 152 pages each, $24.99 in Canada). These books, written by Rick
Rodgers, deal with pairing beverage and dessert. In one, there's a
short history of coffee and a primer on cakes. In the other, there's a
short history of tea and a primer on cookies. Learn the differences
amongst these two beverages, along with how to make a perfect cup.  The
three dozen or so cookies and a similar number of cakes are innovative,
and most are elegant. A useful gift, but what if one likes coffee with
cookies? Or tea with cake?
--CANADIAN CHEESE; a pocket guide (McArthur and Co., 2010, 232 pages,
$19.95 CAD soft covers) is by Kathy Guidi, founder of the Cheese
Education Guild and Artisan Cheese Marketing. She's had a lot of
experience in the cheese world, and this is her first commercial book,
detailing 180 cheeses. She says that there are 450 Canadian cheeses,
but space was limited, so some duplicative-style cheeses were omitted.
Cheese are grouped alphabetically by category (fresh through hard and
blue), with primer detail on storage and service and how to buy. It's
pocket-sized, so please take it with you to your cheese monger.
Other little books, for beverages, include:
--ABSINTHE COCKTAILS (Chronicle Books, 2010, 112 pages, $20 US hard
covers) seems to be from the dark side. The whole book is white-on-
black. That'll certainly discourage the photocopiers. This book is a
basic history of absinthe, a spirit which is now legal for sale in
North America. So it is a field guide to buying and mixing. Kate Simon
wrote it up, along with 50 preps for classic drinks, mostly from the
early 20th century. Beware of the absinthe-minded puns in the book.
--A TASTE FOR ABSINTHE; 65 recipes for classic and contemporary
cocktails (Clarkson Potter, 2010, 176 pages, $28.99 CAD hard covers) is
by R. Winston Guthrie. It's a bit bigger than the Absinthe Cocktail
book above, with 65 preps and a higher price. But at least it's normal
– black print on white background. Classics (Sazerac) and modern mixed
drinks are here. The books cover the same ground, and were written to
take advantage of the fact that US-made absinthe was now being
produced. Guthrie runs
--OLD MAN DRINKS; recipes, advice, and barstool wisdom (Quirk Books,
2010, 160 pages, $14.95 US soft covers) is by Robert Schnakenberg. It's
a basic booze book for the aging baby boomer, complete with the
standard preps for Boilermakers, Singapore Slings, Sidecars, Bloody
Mary, Cuba Libre, Gibsons, Gimlets, Rusty Nails, Martini, and others:
all the classics that your grandfather would remember. Nothing "pink"
and nothing with umbrellas. Just the Guy stuff. And there are pictures
and quotes from old men.
--HOW TO BUILD A SMALL BREWERY; draft beer in ten days. 3rd edition
(White Mule Press; distr. McArthur, 47 pages, $24.95 CAD soft covers)
is by Bill Owens. He has a six barrel brewhouse at his brewery (Buffalo
Bill's, in California) and he replicates the same brewing techniques
for home use. A ten gallon brewing system can be built in a few days,
and this includes building a mash tun from a camping cooler,
constructing as heat exchanger from a garden hose, and converting a
beer keg into a kettle. In just ten days, you should be able to produce
cold, clear and carbonated brews. Hey – 30,000 previous purchasers of
this book cannot be wrong!
--THE BARTENDER'S BLACK BOOK. Updated 9th ed. (Bartender's Black Book
Co., 2010; distr. McArthur, 288 pages, $16.95 CAD spiral bound) is by
Stephen Kittredge Cunningham. It was first published in 1994. It is not
like a fancy book which goes on and on with pictures of mixed drinks
and stemware. It is more like just a database. There is only one
drawback here: the print is incredibly tiny, and you just simply cannot
read it without adequate lighting far beyond a bar's capability.
Nevertheless, with about 20 preps a page and an index by ingredient,
the book has the best value of any competitor in the marketplace. There
are over 2800 recipes in all, with 143 being new modern takes, advice
for the bartender plus wine advice which includes Parker's Wine Vintage
Guide through May 2010, and more glossaries. There's even a metric
conversion chart. The publisher claims "over 1 million copies sold".

Annual calendars are always monster hits and are often appreciated,
both the wall and the desk type. The best of the desk are the two
"page-a-day" (PAD) calendars from Workman. THE WINE LOVER'S CALENDAR
2011 (Workman, 2010, $16.99 CAD) has been put together by Karen
MacNeil, author of "The Wine Bible". Saturday and Sunday have been
combined on one page. There is a new varietal highlighted each month,
tips galore for pouring and tasting, food and wine matching, bargains,
pop quizzes, etc. etc. And 100 "must try" wines are highlighted (many
can be found in Canada). 365 BOTTLES OF BEER FOR THE YEAR 2011
(Workman, 2010, $16.99 CAD) too has a combined Saturday and Sunday
page. Most of the beers appear as imports in Canada, but otherwise
there are few Canadian brews included. Lights, lagers, ales, porters,
stouts, and lambrics – they're all here. Other material in this PAD
includes beer festivals, beer facts, label lore and vocabulary. There
are also 100 "must-try" beer recommendations. If you buy any of the PAD
calendars, then you can go online to the website and pick up other
stuff, usually free at For wall calendars, there is
GO VEGAN! 2011 Calendar (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2009, $14.95 CAD) which
has full-colours throughout and is the same size as an LP (remember
those?). Susan Kramer has authored many vegan books for this publisher.
She appears here in many re-creations of LP covers, reworked for modern
vegan audiences. There are facts, dates and trivia here. For example,
you can celebrate World Vegan Day on November 1. The Vegan Society was
started in Great Britain in 1944 (that's the year they ran out of every
food possible).
On to the wine annuals. The two leaders are HUGH JOHNSON'S POCKET WINE
BOOK 2011 (Mitchell Beazley, 2010, 320 pages, $17.99 CAD hard bound)
and OZ CLARKE'S POCKET WINE GUIDE 2011 (Sterling Epicure, 2010, 352
pages, $17.95 CAD hardbound). Both are guides to wines from all around
the world, not just to the "best" wines. Similarities: Johnson claims
more than 6000 wines are listed, while Clarke says more than 7000, but
then recommends 4000 producers. News, vintage charts and data,
glossaries, best value wines, and what to drink now are in both books.
The major differences: Johnson has been at it longer – this is his 34th
edition -- and has more respect from erudite readers for his exactitude
and scholarliness. His book is arranged by region; Clarke's book is in
dictionary, A – Z form (about 1600 main entries). It is really six of
one, or half a dozen of another which one to use. Johnson's entry for
Canada is 1.2 pages (big deal). Oz has only one paragraph apiece on
Inniskillin, Okanagan (recommending just red wines), and Niagara
(recommending just icewines). Both books have notes on the 2009
vintage, along with a closer look at the 2008. It is fun to look at
both books and find out where they diverge. As a sidelight, Johnson and
Oz are moving into food: there is a 16 page section on food and wine
matching in the former, while Oz has 6 pages. Johnson also has a
listing of his personal 200 fave wines. Both books could profit from
online accessibility or a CD-ROM production.
Other wine annuals – mostly paperbacks -- deal with "recommended"
wines, not all of the wines in the world. They can afford the space for
more in-depth tasting notes (TNs) of what they actually do cover
(usually just wines available in their local marketplace).
--THE WINE TRIALS 2011 (Fearless Critic, 2010, 288 pages, $18.95 CAD
soft covers) is by Robin Goldstein, with Alexis Nerschkowitsch. Both
have food and wine credentials, in addition to authoring restaurant
review books and travel books. They have been assisted by named
contributing writers and 500 named blind tasters. The object of the
book is to come up with hidden wine values. The cover proclaims brown-
bag blind tastings for wine values under $15. That's $15 US, of course,
and does not allow for discounts and sales so prevalent in the US
marketplace. It is possible that a top rated US wine at $20, going on
sale for under $15, could be well over $30 in Ontario. Most of the
wines sold in Ontario are under $25 – the trick is to find the best
ones. This book could give some guidance. They list 175 wines (up from
150 last year) under $15 US that outscored $50 to $150 bottles, using
hundreds of blind tasters who filled in a simple form. The authors have
lots of material justifying their choices, and there are copious notes
for each of the 175 wines, filling a page apiece. Only about half the
wines are available in Ontario, and many are not value priced because
of the LCBO mark-up policy and lack of sales/discounts. The book just
whets your appetite for a privatized company to sell wine in Ontario.

--THE 500 BEST-VALUE WINES IN THE LCBO 2011 (Whitecap, 2010, 250 pages,
$19.95 CAD paper back) takes a more determined run at the wines at the
LCBO. This fourth edition, by Rod Phillips (wine writer for the Ottawa
Citizen), has wines arranged by wine colour and then by region/country
with price and CSPC number. Each value wine gets a rating (the basic is
three stars out of five), and there is an indication of food pairings.
A good guidebook, but I'm afraid most people will just look through it
for the 5 star selections and leave it at that. Turnover in Ontario is
enormous because this update claims over 160 new wines for a book that
deals with just 500. Coverage is limited to LCBO General Purchase wines
and LCBO Vintages Essentials, the wines that are available (if only by
special order) in every LCBO store.

--BILLY'S BEST BOTTLES; wines for 2011 (McArthur & Company, 2010, 240
pages, $19.95 CAD soft covers) by Billy Munnelly is back for another
round (21st ed), creating more emphasis on wine and food pairing, party
planning, and some social manners. There's some info about country
trends and frequently-asked questions about wine. Plus data on Ontario
winery tours. His whole concept of wine is organized by Mood, with
sections on wine colour and style/weight, and the wines are usually
those available at the LCBO. Most should be available across the
country. He has over 200 best international wine buys, with most under
$20 and many under $12. And there is a wine index at the back where
wines are listed by region. Check out

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