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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

HOLIDAY GIFT BOOKS: art and expenmsive wine and food books


Actually, these might be the best books to give a loved one (or
yourself, since you are your own best loved one), because most are
going to cost you an arm and a leg, even at a discount. Books for the
coffee table have their place in the gift scheme: just about every such
book is only bought as a gift! And don't let the prices daunt you. Most
such art books are available at a discount from Amazon.Ca. These books
here are mainly wine and travel books, with some elements of food.

* AROMAS OF ALEPPO; the legendary cuisine of Syrian Jews (Ecco, 2007;
distr. HarperCollins, 388 pages, $52.95 hard covers) is by Poopa Dweck,
an expert on Aleppian Jewish cooking. She performs cooking demos and
lives in New Jersey. The book weighs five and a third pounds; it is the
heaviest book I've reviewed this season (and it ships 12 to a carton:
that's 65 pounds a box!)...180 Syrian-based recipes are presented in a
historical and cultural context, with material on customs and
celebrations and observations. The range is from appetizers to small
dishes to daily food to holiday fare (e.g., a 12 course Passover
seder). There is a 40 page guide to Syrian Jewish holidays, and six
menus, along with historical photos, glossary, and bibliography. This
is a very comprehensive package.

* MY LAST SUPPER; 50 great chefs and their final meals: portaits,
interviews, and recipes (Bloomsbury USA, 2007, 224 pages, $49.95 hard
covers) is deliciously described via the subtitle. Unfortunately, the
index is only by chef, so you wouldn't want to use this book in looking
for a recipe. Each chef is asked: what would be your last meal? Who
would prepare it? Where would it take place? Who would sit with you at
the table? The photographs are of chefs in unusual settings, and are
worth the price of the book alone. I am not going to spoil the fun by
telling you what the chefs want to cook. But I will tell you that there
are few women here. Chefs include Anthony Bourdain, Mario Batali, Alain
Ducasse, Ferran Adria, Rick Bayless (great pork recipe), Charlie
Trotter, Thomas Keller, Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay, et al.

Chang, 2007, 496 pages, $90 hard covers) comes from the 20-year old The
French Culinary Institute in Manhattan (think Pepin, Immer, Soltner).
Contributions came from Alice Waters, Bobby Flay, Alain Sailhac, and a
bevy of alumni. Judith Choate is the focusing food writer ("distill it
into an accessible book"). There are 650 colour photos and 20
illustrations, and 200 recipes. This book presents the six- and nine-
month courses at the FCI, and illustrates 250 basic techniques of
French cooking. Each of the sessions opens with theory, moves to
techniques, and then creates a demonstration for you to try in the home
kitchen. All measurements for each ingredient are in both US volume and
metric. There is also a glossary. Be warned: the book is heavy in

* THE ART OF DRINKING (Victoria & Albert Publications, 2007, 144 pages,
$60 hard covers) has been edited by Phillippa Glanville and Sophie Lee,
both researchers and curators at the V and A. Glanville curated "Drink:
a history 1690-1920" at the UK National Archives a few years back.
Here, she and Lee pull together a lot of visual material (paintings,
cartoons, sketches, architect plans) from the past and three
dimensional objects (stemware, vessels, tankards, cups) in a stunning
array of photography. It celebrates attitudes, ritual and ceremony,
drinking establishments, drinks and vessels. The scope is 500 years in
the UK; the range of material is principally derived from the V and A,
but collectors, auction houses, dealers, and other museums furnished
items for discussion. Glanville wrote most of the text, but there are
about two dozen other contributors.

* FANDANGO; recipes, parties, and license to make magic (Artisan Books,
2007, 314 pages, $49.95 hard covers) is by Sandy Hill, a free lance
writer and owner of Rancho La Zaca and Oak Savanna Vineyard. There are
125 recipes contributed by Stephanie Valentine (currently chef at the
Vineyard), once a sous chef at Charlie Trotter's and a chef at
Roxanne's (raw food in San Francisco). They purport to create an
environment for true entertaining, and it is a lot of work. This big
book is not for the faint of heart. They admit it upfront. Entertaining
ain't easy: no pain, no gain. While the preps look easy enough, they
must be done with just fresh ingredients - nothing prepared by others.
Here are accounts of memorable parties: rodeos (I've just had one in my
city backyard, thank you), treasure hunts, shooting skeet, riding
horses on the beach, reciting poetry, blind wine tastings, and the
like. Recipes also have wine pairing notes, using the Oak Savanna wines
and other California wines, beers and spirits. Recipes embrace French,
Mexican, Italian, Spanish, and Indian cuisine. A good concept: when the
going gets tough, the tough get going...

* WHERE FLAVOR WAS BORN; recipes and culinary travels along the Indian
Ocean spice route (Chronicle Books, 2007; distr. Raincoast, 287 pages,
$51.95 hard covers) is by food writer Andreas Viestad, who is also a TV
chef specializing in Scandinavian cooking. He currently lives on a farm
outside Cape Town, South Africa. The book weighs just under 4
pounds...The spice route here rims the Indian Ocean and includes the
Red Sea. The 100 recipes (all sourced as to country) are augmented by
travel material and historical matter for about 20 different countries
in the region (India to Australia to Bali to Zanzibar, etc.). It is
atmospheric with its street scenes and agricultural farm fields. The
arrangement is by spice (cumin, pepper, ginger, chilies, cardamom, and
coriander - 14 in all). The book concludes with a bibliography.

* NO RESERVATIONS; around the world on an empty stomach (Bloomsbury
USA, 2007, 288 pages, $39.95 hard covers) is by bad boy chef Anthony
("Call me Tony") Bourdain, and is derived from the Discovery Channel
series of the same title. Bourdain had previously written eight other
books, including Kitchen Confidential and The Nasty Bits. Here are 400
photos with a written opinionated commentary, warts and all. The warts
include pictures of hazardous bathrooms, strange and indigenous
beverages, and weird looking cooks. Go with Tony on the planes, hotels,
boats, and through the jungles.

* COUNTRY COOKING OF FRANCE (Chronicle Books, 2007, 392 pages, $59.95
hard covers) is by Anne Willan. It weighs 5.25 pounds, a perfect size
for the coffee table. Rustic cuisine is emphasized, with more than 200
recipes, from all regions in France, There is, of course, the cassoulet
de Toulouse, Provencal fish stews, savoury tarts, and Alsatian
treasures and Burgundian beef stews. There are 270 colour photos, split
amongst food styling, markets, and people. There is even sort of a

* THE TASTE OF FRANCE: 25th anniversary edition (Stewart, Tabori &
Change, 2007, 288 pages, $60 hard covers) was first published a
quarter-century ago. This tour of France went on to sell 200,000 copies
over the years. It now has 375 colour pix and 100 recipes, plus a
narrative description of some 14 food regions, as written by Richard
Olney, Alan Davidson, Anne Willan, Jill Norman, and others. Robert
Freson did the photography; Jacqueline Saulnier researched and adapted
the recipes, which have the ingredients expressed in both US volume and
metric weight measurements.

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