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Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Stocking stuffers are at the top of everybody's gift list: something affordable (under $10,
up to $25) 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:
--DISHES (Artisan Books, 2013, 456 pages, $17.50 CAN paper covers) is by Shax
Riegler. It covers some 623 colourful dinner plate patterns from around the world.
Riegler provides historical details and anecdotes for each. It's arranged by theme (art and
craft, flora & fauna, people and places, holidays). Artists covered include Frank Lloyd
Wright; manufacturers include Wedgwood and Spode.
--PIE POPS (Gibbs Smith, 2013, 96 pages, $23 CAN hard covers) is by Marcie Ballard,
and PIE POPS (Ryland, Peters and Small, 2013, 64 pages, $19.95 CAN hard covers) is
by Carol Hilker. They cover the same ground: mini-pies on a popsicle stick, either sweet
or savoury but always portable. This is good fun at Christmas. Ballard gives us 40 preps,
including smores, nutty nutella, lemon meringue, and chocoholic. Each recipe makes two
dozen. Hilker gives us 30 preps, including chocolate-dipped key lime pie pops, chicken
pot pie pops, orangesicle pie pops, and butterscotch pecan pie pop.
--200 EASY CAKES & BAKES (Hamlyn, 2013, 240 pages, $8.99 CAN paper covers) is
part of the 200 Easy series, a trusty database of recipes. Covered are cake, muffins,
cupcakes, brownies, cookies, and savouries such as cheese straws or soda breads.
--CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES (Chronicle Books, 2013, 128 pages, $23 CAN hard
covers), by the team of Carey Jones and Robyn Lenzi, has a slight 40 recipes, but these
cover crispy cookies, soft cookies, vegan, gluten-free, salty and nutty versions. There are
some contemporary flavours here, such as coconut-sesame and olive oil.
--CEREAL SWEETS & TREATS (Gibbs Smith, 2013, 96 pages, $23 CAN) is by Jessica
Segarra who incorporates all those morning dry cereals into desserts and snacks: bars,
cakes, muffins, candies, cookies, frozen items. They add texture and some flavours, as
well as sugar replacement, to the end product. It's a fun thing, like pie pops.
--CLASSIC CANDY (Skyhorse Publishing, 2013, 119 pages, $16.95 CAN soft covers)
by Abrigail Gehring deals with old-style fudge, taffy, caramel corn, and others. The 60
recipes cover brandy balls, peanut butter cups, raspberry pate, and citrus hard candy.
--PORK CHOP (Chronicle Books, 2013, 128 pages, $27.95 CAN hard covers) is an
interesting single ingredient book from Ray Lampe. There are 60 preps for such as spicy
pork chop lettuce wraps. Various cooking styles are listed: BBQ, grilled, breaded, fried,
baked, jerked, stir-fried, slow-cooked, sammie, and salad. Just watch out for bones.
--WING IT! (Gibbs Smith, 2013, 96 pages, $23 CAN hard covers), by Robert Quintana,
has about 30 preps for spicy chicken wings and sides (salads, BBQ beans, veggies,
chutneys). Included are some recipes using curry and garam masala for the serious wing
The mother lode of small stuffers must be Ryland, Peters & Small. All of their small gift
books are hard covers, usually line priced at $19.95, with 64 pages. Here's just a
sampling of the latest, suitable as stuffers or host gifts: the above-mentioned PIE POPS;
MAC'N'CHEESE (by Laura Washburn who gives us pancetta & gorgonzola & tomato
additions, or Serrano ham and Spanish blue); BOOTLEG BAKERY (by Kiki Bee, 28
recipes for decadent cakes and desserts with a cheeky cocktail twist); RETRO CAKES
AND COOKIES (by Wendy Sweetser, 25 nostalgic cakes and cookies such as Anglesey
cakes, plus nostalgic trivia about each); and BURGERS & SLIDERS (by Miranda
Ballard, 30 recipes of mini-burgers such as lamb and feta with tzatziki and baby spinach).
Other little books, for beverages, include those on wine and spirits:
First up, wine –
--HELLO, WINE  (Chronicle Books, 2013, 228 $29 CAN paper covers) is by Melanie
Wagner. She tells us the most essential things you need to know about wine. It's
delivered in point form, a good idea, and relatively quick to memorize. There are also
recommendations for the US market, illustrations, and party menus for tasters.
--WINE: HOW TO CHOOSE, TASTE & ENJOY IT (Ryland, Peters & Small, 2013, 96
pages, $9.95 CAN hard covers) has an unbeatable price. Jonathan Ray is a drinks
columnist  for GQ. The grape varieties are covered, wine labels, storage, service, tasting,
and more. It was first published in 2001, and of course it is now updated.
(Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013, 22 boards $24.99 CAN) is by Richard
Betts, a Master Sommelier. His belief is that wine is a grocery, not a luxury. It comes
complete with a map and aroma wheels. As a scratch and sniff  book , it has aromas of
pears, stone fruit, red fruit, vanilla, black fruit and assorted spices and herbs (dill). It is a
great evening's entertainment.

Next up, cocktail books --
--COCKTAILS FOR A CROWD (Chronicle Books, 2013, 96 pages, $22.95 CAN) is by
Kara Newman, and features 40 recipes for making popular drinks in party-pleasing
batches. So bring out the pitchers! Here she scales upwards for punches and cocktails,
such as a litre of margaritas (one of my faves). There's the usual primer on equipment,
ingredients and garnishes. But of course – beware of leftovers!
--TRUE BLOOD (Chronicle Books, 2013, 128 pages, $23 CAN), compiled by those
involved with the HBO show, has 45 preps and cocktails by Dawn Yanagihara. Desserts
and snacks are in "bites", many drinks include no alcohol (don't want to thin that blood!),
and also what to eat while watching the show.
2013, 224 pages,  $21.99 CAN paper covers) is by Jeremy LeBlanc and Christine
Dionese. The main chapters include party drinks and punches, classics with a twist,
exotic cocktails, and a collection of syrups-infusions-elixirs. There are also an enormous
series of tips and tricks and advice for enhancing your bartending experience. Try The
Crawling Milan or a Rhubarb Syrup or Sangria Manzana. Of particular value: the book is
constructed so that the pages nicely lie flat.
--WINTER COCKTAILS (Quirk Books, 2013; distr. Random House Canada, 2013, 160
pages, $24.95 CAN) is by Maria DelMar Sacasa. She presents 100 seasonal recipes for
mulled ciders, hot toddies, punches, pitchers, plus cocktail snacks. You can re-create hot
buttered rum, English Christmas punch, pumpkin-bourbon egg nog, coquito, and salted
caramel hot chocolate. She's also got a whack of entertaining and food ideas, plus bar set
--THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE COCKTAIL (Race Point Publishing, 2013, 144
pages, $18 CAN hard covers) is by Amy Zavatto. She tries to construct the perfect
cocktail from the bottom up: should it be stirred or shaken? In which order do you pour
ingredients? How many ice cubes to be added? What stemware is appropriate? Mixing
and straining? It is a tech book, designed to appeal to the male techie who drinks. There
are blueprints for each cocktail (about 75 of these) with recipes for classic and
contemporary drinks. It is a very handy size for keeping at the bar.
--APOTHECARY COCKTAILS (Fair Winds Press, 2013, 160 pages, $23.99 CAN spiral
bound) is by Warren Bobrow. He's collated many restorative drinks from the past, with
some contemporary spins. We used to call these things "snake oil", as charlatans would
tout them from a wagon. But pharmacies did prepare tincture, butters and herbal remedies
with an alcohol base for curative benefits, usually poor digestion. Now they have
appeared in trendy bars. Bitters and vermouths fly off the shelves of liquor stores.
Bobrow gives a history (Chartreuse, Peychaud's Bitters, etc.), and goes on to discuss
herbs, flowers, extracts, and spices. Oh, would that we had Everclear in Ontario (it's in
Alberta) – 196 proof distilled spirit, perfect for infusions – so that we can make our own
at home. Nevertheless, this is a delightful book, made all the better with a spiral binding
so that it can be flat on the table.
--GIN, VODKA, TEQUILA (Duncan Baird Publishers, 2013; distr. Random House of
Canada, 208 pages, $20.95 CAN hard covers) is by Brian Lucas. It has been extracted
from  Duncan Baird's The Big Book of Cocktails. There's a short primer on bars,
followed by a long chapter on gin, then vodka, and then tequila (shortest chapter).  If you
love white spirits, this is the book for you. Preps listed in both avoirdupois and metric
forms of measurement. A large typeface also helps.
--INSTANT EXPERT WHISKEY (Princeton Architectural Press, 2013, 144 pages,
$19.95 CAN hard covers) is by John Lamond, and is one a series labelled "Instant
Expert", a sort-of Dummies guide, but more compact for traveling or shopping. Lamond
takes us through the tech process and ends with tasting notes, featuring single malts and
bourbons plus some blends. There's a glossary, but its main importance is its portability
and thumbnail sketches.
--DRINK MORE WHISKEY (Chronicle Books, 2012, 176 pages, $24 CAN hard covers)
is by Daniel Yaffe, with the subtitle "everything you need to know about your new
favourite drink". It is meant for consumers who are looking to drink better whiskey from
Canada, US, Scotland, Ireland, and other places. To this end he's also got 20 recipes for
cocktails scattered throughout. For example, there are three from Canada – Scofflaw,
Court Jester, Saskatchewan Punch (do these suggest Duffy, Ford and Wallin?) – along
with descriptions of how they came to be.
Last year I mentioned a book DRINKING GAMES. There's an update – a kit of beer
mats (DRINKING GAMES, Ryland, Peters and Small, 2013, $16.95 CAN). Here are 15
beer mats (3 each of 5 designs) with the rules for 25 drinking games. A necessary
accompaniment to beer….
And for no alcohol, consider –
--MAKING YOUR OWN COFFEE DRINKS (Skyhorse Publishing, 2013, 99 pages,
$17.95 CAN hard covers), by Matthew Tekulsky, tells you how to make coffees and how
to make drinks (e.g. spiced coffee cider, blended banana coffee, iced almond coffee). He
covers espressos, cappuccinos, lattes, mochas, and more. He's got hot and cold drinks,
along with a glossary of terms.
--THE GREAT TEAS OF CHINA (Raincoast,  2013, 72 pages, $16.99 CAN paper
covers) is by Roy Fong, owner of Imperial Tea Court in San Francisco. He's a master of
the art, and details white tea, green tea, black tea, oolong – 11 types in all – with
illustrations, maps and stories.
And there are even a few non-books, such as the AFTERNOON TEA WITH BEA SET
(Ryland, Peters and Small, 2013,  $22.95 CAN) which complements the book of the same
name which I had reviewed last year at Christmas. The kit includes a 64 page cookbook
with 30 preps for cakes and sandwiches, 12 cupcake wrappers, 12 cake toppers, and 10
invitations with envelopes. This is all you would need for a tea party with friends.
Annual calendars are always monster hits and are often appreciated, both the wall and the
desk type. The best of the desk are the "page-a-day" (PAD) calendars from Workman.  A
YEAR OF BEER 2012 (Workman, 2013, $16.99 CAN) 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, wheat, lagers, ales, porters, stouts, seasonal beers, and
lambrics – they're all here, 161 craft beers. Check out Brew Dog's The End of History at
55% ABV. Other material in this PAD includes beer festivals, beer facts, label lore,
trivia, and vocabulary. There are also "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 COLLECTIBLE TEAPOT & TEA CALENDAR 2014
(Workman, 2013, $14.99 CAN) which has, for every month, a distinctive teapot and tea
service set, plus an indication and preps for sweets and nibbles for a tea party. Great fun,
which encourages you to have a monthly tea party, even if you don't own the appropriate
tea pot.  The calendars are worth saving if you are a collector. 365 DAYS OF EXTREME
CAKES 2014 (Workman, 2013, $15.99 CAN) has been put together with cake designs
from Cake Alchemy, City Cakes in New York, Colette's Cakes, Lulu Cake Boutique, and
Riviera Bakehouse. These edible masterpieces are sculpted out of sugar and fondant:
wedding cakes, replicas of cathedrals, holiday cakes, "sushi platter" cake. Each month
has a theme, and there is lots of baking here.
There are also some journal and organizer items. FRUIT & VEGETABLE GARDEN
NOTES (Ryland, Peters and Small, 2013, 192 pages, $18.95 CAN hard covers) is for
both novices and experienced gardeners. Here you can plan a veggie garden layout,
record the successes of different seed types and plant varieties, and organize the year. The
blank pages will be good for a diary and sketching beds; there is also an envelope for
storing seed packets and labels. DRAWING FOOD (Chronicle Books, 2013, 180 pages,
$19.95 CAN paper covers) is a sketchbook with drawing techniques for food: use it for
anything and everything in the kitchen, for all foods, and produce a sort-of diary at the
same time. It is also portable enough to take with you to markets, farms and cafes.
RECIPE ORGANIZER (Ryland, Peters and Small, 2013, 128 pages, $34.95 CAN, hard
covers) has eight dividers and pockets for storage, plus 20 perforated tear-out pages and
some stickers. It is ring-bound and sturdy. The organizer helps you store everything in
one place with lined pages and dividers. There are built-in cooking guides and conversion
charts. WINE JOURNAL (Ryland, Peters and Small, 2013, 144 pages, $24.95 CAN hard
covers) is similar, but for wine. It's got four dividers and pockets, colour photos, space
for wine tasting notes, wine cellar advice and listing space, plus some tips and advice
from Jonathan Ray and Andrew Jefford. BEER TASTING NOTES (Ryland, Peters &
Small, 2013, 192 pages, $18.95 CAN soft covers) completes the offerings. There's a
listing of  the characteristics to some 100 craft beers, an envelope to store labels, bottle
caps or beer mats, and space for notes.
And so on to the wine annuals. The two international leaders are HUGH JOHNSON'S
POCKET WINE BOOK 2014 (Mitchell Beazley, 2013, 336 pages, $17.99 CAD hard
bound) and OZ CLARKE'S POCKET WINE GUIDE 2014 (Pavilion, 2013, 368 pages,
$15.95 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 and growers are
listed, while Clarke says more than 7500 wines, 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 37th edition
(Clarke is celebrating his 23rd anniversary) -- 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. This year, though, the Clarke book is a couple bucks cheaper.
Apparently, Amazon.Com reports that many people buy both, for about $20 US total.
Both books have notes on the 2012 vintage and some details about 2013 potential, along
with a closer look at the 2011. It is fun to look at the two books and find out where they
diverge. As a sidelight, Johnson and Oz are moving more into food: there is a 13 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. What I don't like about both books is that they come out too
early. Johnson was available August 15, while Clarke was released on October 3. I guess
that this gets them off the hook about having to comment on the 2013 harvest and vintage
in the Northern hemisphere!!
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). 
These are for Canada, in 2014:  THE 500 BEST-VALUE WINES IN THE LCBO 2014
(Whitecap, 2013, 256 pages, $19.95 CAN paper back) takes a run at the wines at the
LCBO. This sixth 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 occurs regularly as quotas
are unmet or prices rise or the producer decides it is time for a change; there are 140 new
entries this year, which is about a third of the book. Coverage is limited to LCBO General
Purchase wines and LCBO Vintages Essentials, the wines that are available (if only by
special internal order) in every LCBO store. New this year is the fact that there are NO
three star notations: everything is 3.5 stars or better. And Phillips has included the newish
LCBO perceived sweetness notations rather than the older Sugar Codes. HAD A GLASS
2014; top 100 wines under $20 (Appetite by Random House, 2013, 176 pages, $19.95
CAN paper covers) is by James Nevison, the co-author of Have a Glass; a modern guide
to wine. He reports regularly at Had a Glass showcases top
inexpensive wines available with national distribution. He tries to pick wines available to
match any occasion, and along the way he provides tips on food and wine pairing and
stemware. The first forty pages present all the basics. I am not sure why the basics are
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. In view of rising prices, he also covers some "splurge"
wines. For Ontario, this is just at the very time that the LCBO is concentrating on the $15
to $19.95 spread. There are indexes by countries and by wine/variety. Tasting notes are
pretty bare bones, but each wine does have a label, description of the product, a price, and
some food matches.

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