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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cookbooks as Holiday Stocking Stuffers -- part two

A non-book entry is the collection of 50 recipe cards, often called
recipe decks. This year there is THE TEA DECK (Chronicle Books, 2008,
50 cards, $14.95) with cards on how to prepare, serve and enjoy tea.
There are tasting notes, tips, and recipes for accompaniments such as
buttermilk scones, almond cakes, et al. Next, THE TAGINE DECK
(Chronicle Nooks, 2008, 25 single-fold cards, $14.95) has double cards
on Moroccan cooking. There are 25 preps here, classic Moroccan and from
other regions: pork stew and mole, chicken with pomegranate and
walnuts, fish with chick peas and peppers. And THE PICNICS DECK
(Clarkson Potter, 2008, 50 cards, $14.95) with tips on planning and
cleanup, emphasizing salads, sandwiches, and desserts. Portable recipe
cards for portable foods. MOOSEWOOD RESTAURANT SOUPS & STEW DECK
(Clarkson Potter, 2008, 50 cards, $14.95) emphasizes vegetarian fare,
while GREAT COOKIES DECK (Clarkson Potter, 2008, 50 cards, $14.95) by
Carole Walter delves into the classics of oatmeal raisin, chocolate
chip, and toffee nut squares – one per card with a pix and baking
Other non-book items include MOLLIE KTZEN'S RECIPES: SALADS (Ten Speed
Press, 2008, 120 pages, $14.95 US) in an easel edition. This is a
spiral version of a card deck (see Moosewood above), and it is a
collection of 50 salad recipes – which can be added to soups and stews
(above). And there is a new CD this season: I LOVE PIE; an opinionated
hands-on how-to for making pie crust, biscuit dough, and more, written
and narrated by Ann Tudor (Molten Gold, 2008, 65 minutes, $13 includes
shipping). This will tell you all you need to know about pie dough. For
ordering details, email

Yet another non-book is the virtually-blank journal. I have two for
food and three for wine. One food journal is RECIPE FILE (Ryland,
Peters & Small, 2008, 144 pages with 8 card pockets, $19.95 spiral
binding). You can keep all your loose recipes in one place (unless you
have hundreds of them). There are many lined pages for making notes or
indexing recipes from books. Space is also available for shopping
lists, website directory, and a journal. And there are metric
conversion charts for the 52 recipes. There is a quality elastic
closure band. Another food book is RECIPE SCRAPBOOK (Duncan Baird,
2008, 75 colour pages, $24.95) somewhat pricier, but featuring lots of
room with 16 pockets and printed recipes in a scrapbook format. It also
has 80 recipes, good for all courses and beverages. It too comes with a
quality elastic closure band for keeping it all together.
For an almost blank wine book, try WINE JOURNAL (Ryland, Peters &
Small, 2008, 144 pages, $19.95), a reissue of the 2002 book. It has
details on planning a cellar, grapes and styles, storing and serving,
and room for tasting notes and cellar notes. Advice comes from UK wine
writers. There is plenty of space to add your own comments, and pocket
dividers are here to add your own notes. This is a spiral binding, with
an elastic closure. The similarly named WINE JOURNAL; a companion for
wine lovers (Chronicle Books, 2008, 192 page, $30 US paper covers) is
by Brian St. Pierre, the author of numerous books on wine. It is a
leather-bound guide to the usual primer information about wine, with
ample room for jotting down your own notes on all aspects (colour,
aroma, flavour, etc.), food and wine pairings and visits to wineries.
There is also a bound-in pocket for keeping labels. There is also
POCKET PADS FOR WINE LOVERS (Clarkson Potter, 2008, $9.95 for 4 books)
a set of four tasting journals, about 3 by 5 inches, stitched. These
are portable, to take to the vineyard or to restaurants, to slip into
your purse or pocket. The really are good for jotting tasting notes.
There are ruled lines for names, vintages, vineyard or restaurant, and

There is a category of foodbooks called "little cookbooks"; these are
usually placed at POS (point-of-sales) spots. I've located a very good
collection of quick and easy, from Ryland Peters and Small, all
published in 2008. They are 96 pages each, and sell for $15.95 US, but
they are also hard covers, so they look a bit more posh -- especially
with the photography and the metric conversion charts. There are about
recipes) by Linda Collister, with preps such as triple chocolate
cookies and lacy brandy snaps (didn't I go to school with Lacy
Brandy?). Iced star cookies are always a treat. PARTY BITES (50
recipes) by Lydia France, has lots of small food. There are preps for
dips, finger foods, tartlets, toasts, skewered food, biscuits, breads
and some sweet treats. France also throws in some party planning menus
and shortcuts. CURRY (51 recipes) by Sunil Vijayakar covers Indian,
Thai and Vietnamese versions, from madras to masala and side dishes.
Chicken is the most popular, followed by fish. There are also preps for
rice, breads, chutneys, kacumber and raita. COOKING WITH PUMPKINS AND
SQUASH (50 recipes) is also timely since these are still locally
available through the winter. Brian Glover is the author; he covers all
courses and desserts. Try zucchini and ricotta fritters, roasted squash
with leek and barley pilaf, chicken and butternut squash tagine, and
spiced pumpkin and apple pie.

There's another collection from BBC Books, all on the theme of 101
recipes from British magazines. They are 216 pages each, and retail for
$12.95 Canadian. And a very convenient 5 inch by 6 inch size. Each
recipe has a pix of the finished plate, and the style is quick and
easy. By Janine Ratcliff there is OLIVE 101 GLOBAL DISHES, from Olive
Magazine in the UK, "classic dishes from around the world". She also
wrote OLIVE 101 QUICK-FIX DISHES, about no-fuss 30 minutes or less
authored by Lulu Grimes. The smart suppers have slick ideas for week
nights, while the seasons revolve about locally available food. From
Angela Nilsen, there is GOOD FOOD 101 MEDITERRANEAN DISHES, from the
BBC's Good Food magazine. Standard classics from both ends of the Sea,
emphasizing midweek suppers. All courses are here. Jeni Wright's GOOD
FOOD 101 BEST EVER CHICKEN RECIPES pushes chicken as a perfect
convenience food (it cooks quickly): kebabs, risotto, curry, and the
Annuals --
There is a sub-category of stocking stuffers that is really appreciated
by wine and food lovers: the ANNUAL…Most of these books are pocket
guides, at least the wine ones are. The food books are regular-sized.
But you can wedge them into a stocking -- somehow.

BEST OF THE BEST, v11; the best recipes from the 25 best cookbooks of
the year [i.e. 2007] (American Express, 2008, 288 pages, $32.95) has
more than 100 recipes, about four from each book, all re-tested.
Cookbooks include "Cooking with Jamie" (Jamie Oliver), "Bobby Flay's
Mesa Grill Cookbook", "The Art of Simple Food" (Alice Waters), and "The
Deen Bros. Cookbook". The books are pretty well divided between
Mediterranean, Asian, US South and Southwest, and baking. Twenty brand
new "exclusive" recipes have been contributed by these cookbook
authors. In addition, there are interviews, quotes, extra reading, and
ingredient and technique advice. Websites are listed for even more
recipes. This is a great formula annual, with all of the recipes being
regularized for format and re-tested.

FOOD & WINE ANNUAL COOKBOOK 2008 (American Express, 2008, 408 pages,
$29.95) delivers good value in its more than 600 recipes: and then why
bother to subscribe to the magazine? There are no adverts here in this
book. There are accompanying wine recommendations for just about every
prep. The major arrangement is by season.  Some categories have been
rearranged to allow for a section on fast foods, healthy foods, comfort
foods, and "chef recipes for home use". There is a plethora of advice
(50 new ones this year, plus a glossary of accessible wines).
Unfortunately, the year covered is 2007, so the book will always be a
year behind.

On to the wine annuals. The two leaders are HUGH JOHNSON'S POCKET WINE
BOOK 2009 (Sterling, 2008, 320 pages, $15.95 hard bound) and OZ
CLARKE'S POCKET WINE GUIDE 2009 (Harcourt Books, 2008, 344 pages, $15
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 32rd 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 2007 vintage, along with a
closer look at the 2006. It is fun to look at both books and find out
where they diverge. As a sidelight, Johnson and Oz are now moving into
food: there is a 16 page section on food and wine matching in the
former, while Oz has 6 pages. 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. Thus, 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). FOOD &
WINE's WINE GUIDE 2009 (American Express Publishing, 2008, 320 pages,
$12.95 paper covers) offers notes on 1000 wines from all over the
globe; there are plenty of European wines here. Sections cover the
elements of tasting, a Bargain Wine Finder (a listing of 50 rated wines
that offer the best value for the price: thankfully, no chardonnays are
listed). Also here are food pairing guides, wine country trend reports
and the year in wine. Canada is listed along with Mexico and Uruguay.
Glossaries, guides, tips, wine and food pairing charts, best of lists –
it goes on and on, and his top star producers are highlighted. Many of
the wines can also be found in Canada.
HAD A GLASS; top 100 wines for 2009 under $20 (Whitecap, 2008, 160
pages, $19.95 Canadian paper covers) is by Kenji Hodgson
and James Nevison, the authors of 2003's "Have a Glass; a modern guide
to wine". They are the British Columbia Had a Glass
(now in its fourth edition) showcases top inexpensive wines available
primarily in BC, although those labels with national distribution will
also be found in other provinces. They try to pick wines available to
match any occasion, and along the way they provide tips on food and
wine pairing and stemware. The first forty pages present all the
basics, including food recipes. I am not sure why it is here since the
book is really about the top 100 wines. Most readers/buyers will head
straight for the listings which follow, one per page, for whites,
roses, reds, aperitifs, dessert wines and sparklers. There are indexes
by countries, by wine, and by food. Tasting notes are pretty bare
bones, but each wine has a label, a price, and some food matches.

BILLY'S BEST BOTTLES wines for 2009 (McArthur & Company, 2008, 185
pages, $21.95 CAD spiral bound) is back for another round (19th 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. The whole thing is organized by
wine colour and style/weight, and the wines are usually those available
at the LCBO. Most should be available across the country.

THE 500 BEST-VALUE WINES IN THE LCBO 2009 (Whitecap, 2009, 256 pages,
$19.95 CAD paper back) takes a more determined run at the wines at the
LCBO. This second edition, this time by Rod Phillips, is arranged by
colour and then by region/country. Each value wine gets a rating (the
basic is three stars out of five), with 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. Coverage is limited to
General Purchase wines and Vintages Essentials only.

FOOD & WINE COCKTAILS 2008 (American Express Publishing, 2008, 232
pages, $18.95 paper covers) is a spirits companion to the wine guide.
It keeps tabs on the trendiest nightlife and drinks. These are the top
150 drinks that bartenders get asked for again and again. The
arrangement is by type of spirit, and there are plenty of anecdotes.
KEVIN ZRALY'S AMERICAN WINE GUIDE 2009 (Sterling, 2008, 246 pages,
$16.95 paper covers) tries to cover all 50 United States. It is by the
author of the best selling "Windows on the World Complete Wine Course".
Not all wines in his book are derived from grapes; some come from other
fruit such as pineapple, rhubarb, pears, apples, and the like. He has
maps for each state, with grape-growing areas clearly presented as well
as illustrations of noble labels. The accompanying fact box highlights
state wine production, the number of wineries producing what types of
wines, and the key varietals. There are also wine trails and guides,
vineyard tours too. Zraly also has a recap on wine tasting and wine
history in the US. Most of the detail is on big state producers, which
are (in order of volume) California, Washington, New York, and Oregon.
Websites of well-known wineries are also listed. The back of the book
has lists of his hot picks and best values under $50.

More next time...

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