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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Event: Gourmet Food & Wine Expo (20th anniversary)

The Date and Time: Thursday, November 20, 2014  5:00 PM to 10 PM
The Event: Gourmet Food & Wine Expo (20th anniversary)
The Venue: Metro Toronto Convention Centre
The Target Audience: opening night VIPs, wine trade
The Quote/Background: There was an engaging wine faults workshop at 5PM that I attended. Unfortunately, only white wine was covered. Paolo Lopes from the Faculty of Oenology at Bordeaux University and Amorim R&D did the presentation. While I was told that the seminar (free to trade) was full, they only had 40 people and lots of empty chairs-- which was too bad, for the tasting was pretty good.
The Wines: I did not taste all the wines at the show, just an eclectic number.
**** BEST -- Four Stars (91+ in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Brancott Estate Letter Series B Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Marlborough, $19.95 LCBO
-Marisco Vineyards The King's Bastard Chardonnay 2012 Marlborough, $19.95 Vintages
-Oyster Bay Sparkling Cuvee Rose NV New Zealand, $21.95 Vintages
-Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Marlborough, $17.95 Vintages
-Lailey Chardonnay 2011 VQA NOTL, $20
-Mure Signature  Gewurztraminer Alsace 2012, +387563, $21.95
-Decelle-Villa Savigny-Les-Beaune Cotes de Beaune 2012, +378208, $40.95
-Five Stones Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Margaret River, +157305, $20.95
-Domaine Martin Plan de Dieu Cotes du Rhone Villages 2011, +370197, $19.95
***1/2 BETTER -- Three and a Half Stars (88 – 90 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Marlborough, $18.95 Vintages
-Saint Clair Family Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Marlborough, $15.95 LCBO
-Stoneleigh Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Marlborough, $17.75 LCBO
-Stoneleigh Vineyards Pinot Noir 2013 Marlborough, $19.95 LCBO
-White Cliffs Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Marlborough, $14.95 LCBO
-Campo Viejo Reserva Rioja 2009
-Hermanos Lurton Tempranillo Toro 2012
-Torres Vina Esmeralda 2013 Catalana [gewurztraminer and muscat]
-Fowles Are You Game? Chardonnay 2012 Australia
-Casar de Burba Godello Bierzo Spain 2011, $16.25 +368381
-Five Stones Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon Margaret River 2010, +108001, $19.95
-De Buzet Red Badge Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon Buzet 2010, +350249, $12.95
-Chateau Le Grand Verdus Bordeaux Superiore 2010, +388330, $15.95
-Finca Allende Calvario Rioja 2005, +63206 $146
*** GOOD -- Three Stars (85 – 87 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Babich Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Marlborough, $14.95 LCBO
-Kate Radburnd Sun Kissed Pinot Gris 2013 Hawke's Bay, $15.95 LCBO
-Oyster Bay Chardonnay 2013 Marlborough, $18.95 Vintages
-Oyster Bay Merlot 2013 Hawke's Bay, $18.95 Vintages
-Stoneleigh Vineyards Chardonnay 2013 Marlborough, $16.95 LCBO
-Weingut Bischel Riesling Trocken Rheinhessen 2012, +377614, $16.95
The Downside: every year it seems that there are new rules and regulations, almost so it is no longer fun. In order to get in I had to be validated and show a wristband; I was also not told I could use a quick Elite entrance, which I found by accident, saving some half hour waiting.
The Upside: a chance to taste some wines I had missed this fall.
The Contact Person:;
The Event's Marketing Effectiveness and Execution (numerical grade): 88.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Event: Pahlmeyer (California) wine dinner

The Date and Time: Tuesday, November 18, 2014  7Pm to 10 PM
The Event: Pahlmeyer (California) wine dinner
The Venue: Le Select
The Target Audience: wine writers
The Availability/Catalogue: the wines are available through a variety of distribution channels (see below)
The Quote/Background:
The Wines: There was also a Jayson Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, but it was corked.
**** BEST -- Four Stars (91+ in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Wayfarer Chardonnay 2012 Sonoma, $110 private order [Wayfarer was originally bottled by Pahlmeyer, but by 2012 a decision separated the two labels from Napa and Sonoma; Pahlmeyer's daughter Cleo is at the Wayfarer helm. 4 clones are used. 600 cases.]
-Pahlmeyer Napa Chardonnay 2013, April Vintages
-Pahlmeyer Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2012, $99 May 2015 Vintages
-Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red 2011 Napa, $160.95 Vintages [Meritage, 95% cab sauv] March 2015
***1/2 BETTER -- Three and a Half Stars (88 – 90 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Wayfarer Pinot Noir 2012 Sonoma, private order [12 clones are used]
-Jayson Chardonnay 2012 North Coast, $70
-Pahlmeyer Merlot 2012 Napa, Vintages [2011 in Classics], $85US March 2015
-Pahlmeyer Pinot Noir 2012 Sonoma Coast, Vintages
The Food: we had dinner with the tasting, to show off the wines as food wines, beginning with country style pate matched with Wayfarer Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. This was followed by a light, airy terrine de poisson fume that was part smoked Georgian Bay whitefish and a lot of cream, coupled with focaccia. Paired with Three chardonnays – Jayson Chardonnay, Napa Chardonnay, and Sonoma Coast. I added the rest of my Wayfarer for a taste comparison, giving me three 2012s and one 2013 (Napa). Wayfarer won. With the bison steak tartare (I had just had bison heart sausage for brunch!) and frites came the lighter reds of Pinot Noir and Merlot. And finally, with the gigot d'agneau from Alberta and Peruvian potatoes, we had the Jayson Cabernet Sauvignon (but it was corked) and the Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red, succulent and dense with the food. No dessert of course.
The Downside: I was a few minutes late, having just disembarked from an airplane at Pearson.
The Upside: a chance to taste a variety of some well-constructed California red and white wines.
The Contact Person:;
The Event's Marketing Effectiveness and Execution (numerical grade): 90.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Event: Chateau Palmer Grand Tasting

7. The Date and Time: Wednesday, November 12, 2014  2PM – 4 PM
The Event: Chateau Palmer Grand Tasting
The Venue: National Club
The Target Audience: wine media
The Availability/Catalogue: all wines tasted were available for purchase, but quantities were limited.
The Quote/Background: we tasted of range of wines, most of which were at the dinner held later that day. But there were also different wines at the dinner (1999, 1978). The wines were presented by J-L Carbonnier, Director, The Americas.
The Wines:
**** BEST -- Four Stars (91+ in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Chateau Palmer 1995 Margaux, +403287, $529
-Chateau Palmer 2004 Margaux, +403303, $415
-Chateau Palmer 1983 Margaux, +188532, $1479 – best fave wine of the tasting!
***1/2 BETTER -- Three and a Half Stars (88 – 90 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Chateau Palmer 2008 Alter Ego Margaux, +403311, $139
-Chateau Palmer 2007 Historical XIXth Century Wine, +403329, $499 [88% merlot and cab sauv from Margaux and 12% northern Cotes du Rhone wines]
The Food: a variety of salumi and cheeses and breads.
The Contact Person:
The Event's Marketing Effectiveness and Execution (numerical grade): 92.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Event: the 3rd annual Portfolio Tasting for Cavinona

The Date and Time: Sunday, November 9, 2014  1PM to 5PM
The Event: the 3rd annual Portfolio Tasting for Cavinona
The Venue: Terroni Adelaide
The Target Audience: clients and wine media
The Availability/Catalogue: items are available at different time periods, some are private orders. They were all available for purchase for a later delivery or pick up date.
The Quote/Background: 17 producers were present with their wines. The catalogue had brief descriptions of all the 51 producers from 21 regions, with a listing of their wines by the case. Not all wines were presented at the tasting.
The Wines: I did not taste all the wines. Prices are by the case of 12.
**** BEST -- Four Stars (91+ in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Grifalco Aglianico del Vulture 2011, $306 per case
-Fatt. La Rivolta Terra Riserva Aglianico del Taburno 2009, $582
-Contadi Castaldi Bollicine Franciacorta Brut, $378
-Contadi Castaldi Rose Franciacorta Brut, $414
-Mamete Prevostini Grumello Valtellina Superiore 2011 Lombardia, $330
-Mamete Prevostini Sommarovina Valtellina Superiore 2011 Lombardia, $249
-Germano Ettore Cerretta Barolo 2009, $774
-Carvinea Frauma IGT Salento 2008, $402
-Carvinea Merula IGT Salento 2007, $318
-Carvinea Sorma IGT Salento 2008, $402
-Carvinea Sierma IGT Salento 2009, $474
-Torre d'Orti Amarone 2010, $654
***1/2 BETTER -- Three and a Half Stars (88 – 90 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Girlan Pinot Noir Patricia Alta Adige 2012, $318 per case
-Fatt. La Rivolta Aglianico del Taburno 2011, $282
-San Patrignano Avi Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore 2008, $408
-I Clivi Friulano Brazan Collio Goriziano 2012 Bianco, $318
-Mamete Prevostini Albareda Sforzato Valtellina Superiore 2011 Lombardia, $393
-Mamete Prevostini Corte di Cama Valtellina Superiore 2010 Lombardia, $345
-Mamete Prevostini San Lorenza Sassella Valtellina Superiore 2011 Lombardia, $303
-Mamete Prevostini Sassella Valtellina Superiore 2011 Lombardia, $342
-Colombera & Garella Bramaterra 2010 Piemonte, $366
-Germano Ettore Serralunga Barolo 2010, $630
-Marco Porello Roero Torretta 2011, $342
-Carvinea Lunachiena IGT Salento 2009, $346
-Amantis Montecucco Sangiovese 2008 Tuscany, $342
-Casanuova delle Cerbaie Brunello di Montalcino 2008, $381
-Marco Donati Nosiola Trentino Sole Alto 2013 Bianco, $246
-Antonelli San Marco Contrario Umbria IGT 2009 Rosso, $342
*** GOOD -- Three Stars (85 – 87 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Primosic Refosco Venezia Giulia IGT 2012, $234 per case.
-Fondo San Giuseppe Fiorile IGT Ravenna Bianco 2013, not yet priced.
-La Calombera Derthona Colli Tortonesi 2012 Bianco, $342
The Food: this was a major food production effort (Cavinola sells a lot of wine through Terroni). We had a wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano, charcuterie-salumi, hot chestnuts, cold porchetta with head, breadsticks and focaccia and breads, mushrooms, arancini, and sweets in their own special room (I did not go there).
The Downside: I got there late and thus I was part of a crowded tasting. It was all my fault, something to do with time differences.
The Upside: the wines I enjoyed the best of all were the Mamete Prevostini Valtellina Superiores 2011 (Lombardia) followed by the Carvinea IGT Salentos.
The Contact Person: Gianna Sami
The Event's Marketing Effectiveness and Execution (numerical grade): 89.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Event: Taste Taiwan; a tasting of new Taiwan-inspired dishes plus the new Taste Taiwan documentary.

The Date and Time: Tuesday, December 9, 2014  5PM to 8:30 PM
The Event: Taste Taiwan; a tasting of new Taiwan-inspired dishes plus the new Taste Taiwan documentary.
The Venue: NAO Steakhouse, Avenue Road
The Target Audience: media, travel operators.
The Quote/Background: Three chefs (one each from Toronto, Chicago, and Los Angeles) spent eight days exploring around Taiwan earlier in the year. This resulted in a 30-minute documentary. Toronto was represented by Chef Stuart Cameron of NAO. More than 100 of us tasted Chef Cameron's new Taiwanese dish, Crispy House Tofu. "Using ingredients found in Taiwan and then putting them together with modern techniques, this dish represents my travels in Taiwan," he said. It's made with silken tofu, beef, red bean paste,  beef tendon, and stock. They've got it on the menu from January 5 through February 5 in 2015. Everybody who orders it gets a free DVD of Chew Cameron's travels in Taiwan.
The Wines: There was beer (Peroni, Asahi) and wine (Matto Pinot Grigio IGT Veneto from Stem Importers), and a red -- Castillo de Monseran Garnacha Old Vines 2012, 14.5% ABV which was remarkable value.
The Food: there were many platters of food, I tried to get to as many as I could but there was a large crowd. We started with mild skinny peppers and soy sauce, followed by the crispy tofu (excellent, by the way), fish with limes, a tuna tartare with avocado, lime wild dried rice, and served on a wasabi leaf (mild), and some beef tartare as well. I was well-prepped for Taiwan food as I had just viewed a DVD of Monika Treut's documentary The Raw and the Cooked, about her travels in Taiwan (Hakka food, dumplings, night markets everywhere, street food, roof gardens in the populated areas, indigenous tribes, and pomelo tea), and I had just returned from Devourfest where I saw the feature film Zone Pro Site: a moveable feast (story about a young Taiwanese girl who was competing in a national chef contest).
The Downside: unfortunately the noise level was high, which made it awkward to carry on conversations.
The Upside: the wine went surprisingly well, even the Garnacha which was ripe and fruity and stood up to the Asiatic dishes.
The Contact Person: or or
The Event's Marketing Effectiveness and Execution (numerical grade): 88.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Event: Borealia launch dinner

.The Date and Time: Wednesday, December 10, 2014  6PM to 9PM
The Event: Borealia launch dinner
The Venue: Borealia, 59 Ossington Avenue
The Target Audience: wine and food media
The Quote/Background: This was the launch of an indigenous food restaurant in Toronto We had small plates for sharing of a variety of dishes (eight in all) sourced from Ontario farms and waters, for the most part. Chef Wayne Morris had a modern take on recipes dating back to the 1600s (think Order of Good Cheer). Currently, the restaurant is open Wednesdays through Sundays, at 5:30 PM.
The Wines: We had Southbrook Chardonnay Triomphe 2013 VQA (93 points, one of my faves this year) and Southbrook Cabernet Franc Triomphe 2012 VQA (90) as the red, for a reception wine. There was also Borealia's signature cocktail, Grapefruit Shrub Spritz, made was grapefruit shrub, aperol, and cava. The reception wine continued through the meal.
The Food: Seating was on benches, tables or booths. I was in a booth with two other wine writers. It certainly helped that indigenous wines went with indigenous foods. Preps were dated on the menu, from their first appearance. In celebration of her heritage, co-owner Evelyn Wu contributed devilled Chinese tea eggs with sausage and five spice, referenced back to about 1855 and the beginning of Chinese immigration. She also had chopsuey croquettes (like arancini) from that same time period, and it was a revelation of flavours. Bravo! On to the bison bresaola done pemmican style with wild blueberries and lardo – worked well with the smokey Chardonnay. There's a story behind every dish, and the staff are pleased to talk about it. Next up was the braised whelk with seaweed and  burdock, it was a lot like conch with a similar shell but more tender. So far I had been coasting on Chardonnay since I appreciated it more than the Franc, and actually of all the dishes, the Franc probably really shined with the last meat course (pigeon pie). So I continued with the white wine, no hardship there! Next up was l'eclade from 1605 (mussels smoked in pine needles with pine ash butter, served over red fife bread and cultured butter). It had a light dusting of singed pine tones, and went rather well with the Chardonnay. Next was a salt cod quennelles prep from 1776 with lobster veloute (a natural for Chardonnay of course), followed by the pigeon pie which had roast squab breast and parsnips (this was from 1611). For dessert, there was Louisbourg Hot Chooclate Beignets (spiced chocolate ganache, beer batter, and lemon sugar, from 1795 and a definite West Indies influence). No wine or drink, but maybe next time a Southbrook Whimsy The Anniversary, a fortified aged chardonnay straight up – to continue the Chardonnay theme.
The Downside: it was bitterly cold that night and the Oz bus was packed, but I walked down from Dundas. Brrrrrr....
The Upside: we were given a small takeaway sample of the grapefruit shrub base: my wife loved it once I added bitters and cava to the glass.
The Contact Person:
The Event's Marketing Effectiveness and Execution (numerical grade): 92.


Monday, December 22, 2014

The Event: Mark Anthony's 2nd annual Portfolio Tasting

The Date and Time: Wednesday, November 5, 2014 
The Event: Mark Anthony's 2nd annual Portfolio Tasting
The Venue: TIFF
The Target Audience: wine trade
The Availability/Catalogue:
The Quote/Background: 36 producers were highlighted in this huge tasting with a huge spiral bound booklet. Unfortunately, the page references were tiny and hard to read, and some of the booths were out of booklet order. In desperation, I ripped out the index and used it as a GPS location finder. It worked.
The Wines: I did not taste all the wines, but recorded notes on most of them.
**** BEST -- Four Stars (91+ in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Gunderloch Riesling Sp├Ątlese Nackenheim Rothenberg 2012, $36.95
-Gunderloch Riesling Auslese Nackenheim Rothenburg 2012, $55.60
-Gunderloch Jean Baptiste Riesling 2013, $19.95
-Collavini Broy Bianco 2012 Colio, $49.95
-Mission Hill Compendium 2010, $39.95
-Graham's 20 Year Tawny, $33.28
-Stoney Ridge Excellence Chardonnay Barrel Aged 2011, $20.90
-Chateau Lamarque Haut Medoc 2009, $34.95
-Louis Latour Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2007, $245.48
-Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2006, $189.95
-Lanson Extra Age Champagne Brut, $123.45
-Lanson Black Label Champagne, $48.79
-Chateau Montus 2008 Madiran, $32.95
-Brumont Gros Manseng Sauvignon Blanc 2013, $11.36  Value of the Day
-Alois Lageder Gewurztraminer 2013, $24.95
-Sant'Antonio Campo dei Gigli Amarone 2008, $89.96
-Vivanco Reserva Rioja 2007, $27.92
-Nederburg Airhawk Sauvignon Blanc 2012 South Africa[fume style] $22.95
-Rodney Strong Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, $59.95
-Davis Bynum Chardonnay 2012, $29.96
-Davis Bynum Pinot Noir 2012, $36.95
-Brothers Ridge Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, $99.95
-Adelsheim Elizabeth's Reserve Pinot Noir Oregon 2011, $66.41
-Gilles Louvet O Pinot Noir Languedoc 2012, $13.14  Value Red
***1/2 BETTER -- Three and a Half Stars (88 – 90 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Mission Hill Oculus 2010, $70.95
-Mission Hill Perpetua 2011, $30.95
-Mission Hill Quatrain 2010, $39.95
-Mission Hill Reserve Shiraz 2012, $18.45
-Mike Weir Chardonnay 2012, $12.45
-Stoney Ridge Excellence Pinot Noir 2013, $25.20
-Stoney Ridge Excellence Meritage 2013, $29.34
-Donna Paula Argentina 1100 2012, $19.95
-Chateau Blaignan 2009, $24.95
-Louis Latour Volnay 1er Cru En Chevret 2008, $70.21
-Tormaresca Torcicoda 2012 Puglia, $21.95
-Tormaresca Maime 2011 Puglia, $37.61
-Tenuta Lageder Conus Lagrein 2011, $27.95
-Falesco Tellus Syrah 2012, $17.95
-Rodney Strong Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, $24.73
-Tyrrell's Vat 1 Semillon 2009, $57.30
-Castello Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva 2010, $26.70
The Food: breads, charcuterie, salumi, international cheeses, and others from O & B.
The Contact Person:
The Event's Marketing Effectiveness and Execution (numerical grade): 90.

Friday, December 19, 2014

My annual Holiday Cookbook/Winebook Gift article -- part three -- stocking stuffers

Stocking stuffers are at the top of everybody's gift list: something affordable from under $10
up to $25, and that can also double as a host gift, being something small and lightweight. Most of
the books here are paperbacks. And of course, they can stuff an adult stocking.
Typical for food are:
--PIMENTO CHEESE; THE COOKBOOK (St. Martin's Press, 2014, 138 pages, $24.99 CAN hard covers) is by Perre Coleman Magness. It has about 50 recipes covering pimento cheese, ranging from snacks to mains. Most are classic Southern US faves – they go ape over pimento cheeses in the Deep South. Try popovers, cheese waffles, pimento romesco, pimento shrimp.
--PICK A PICKLE (Clarkson Potter, 2014,  $17.95 CAN) is by Hugh Acheson, a Beard Award chef. It is a fun book of 50 recipes, a pullout shape of classics, contemporary spins, and whatever on pickles, condiments, relishes, and fermented foods.
--THE HEALTHY LUNCH BOX (Grub Street, 2014, 64 pages, $14 CAN soft covers)  is by Fiona Beckett, who's got some ideas for preparing a kid's school lunchbox so it could be high in fruit, veggies, and protein, but low in fat, sugar and salt. There's some practical tips and hints, as well as a Top Ten Themed series of lunchboxes for diets, budgets, ethical considerations, fussy eaters, and so forth.
--THE EASY KITCHEN: PASTA SAUCES (Ryland Peters & Small, 2014, 144 pages, $24.95 CAN soft covers)  has 65 preps and has the usual tomato-based sauces. But also included are cream sauces, herb and oil sauces,  and seafood sauces for extra excitement at the novice level.
--THE EASY KITCHEN: ASIAN FOOD (Ryland Peters & Small, 2014, 144 pages, $24.95 CAN soft covers) has a huge assortment of recipes – 110 for quick dishes such as satays, soups, noodles, pad Thai, bibimbap, spring rolls, and the usual items found in a quick service Oriental restaurant. .
--AMAZING FOOD HACKS (Clarkson Potter, 2014; distr. Random House Canada, 67 pages, ISBN 978-0-7704-3441-0, $19.99 US boards) is by Peggy Wang, founding editor of, which deals with celebrity-based lifestyle social media news. Here she gives us 75 easy tips, tricks and recipes to ramp up the flavours of foods – and in line with newtalk, she calls them "food hacks". To me, a food hack is actually cutting up a raw chicken or fish, spiraling through the bones. For her, pancakes are popular, as are Greek yogurt preps, breakfast pops, siracha popcorn, crunchy edamame, taco wontons, and more.
--THE DRUNKEN COOKBOOK (Clarkson Potter, 2014, 128 pages, $12 CAN hard covers) was originally published in the UK. It's by Milton Crawford, who has quick and easy cooking with food and wine pairing – without sharp or dangerous implements (e.g., no knives). The recipes are tailored to your level of tipsiness. It's available also as an ebook but I'm not sure how you can access it if you are drunk.
--MY DRUNKEN KITCHEN (Dog 'n' Bone, 2014, 128 pages, $20.95 CAN hard covers) is by British food writer Helen Graves; it is similar to THE DRUNKEN COOKBOOK (what is it with these Brits and drink?). Here are 45 recipes inspired by, including, and accompanied with a good shot of alcohol. Chapters cover all occasions which you are likely to imbibe, alone or with family or with guests. Most drinks are meant to sample as you cook. There is a section on using alcohol as an ingredient and stuff about hangovers.
--LAST SUPPERS (Dog 'n' Bone, 2014, 128 pages, $18.95 CAN paper) is a miscellany collection of last meals enjoyed by about 60 famous and notorious people before they died – death by misadventures, overdoses,  passing away in one's sleep, death row, etc. Includes Elvis, the Titanic, and other trivia stuff to surprise you. Look at Jimi Hendrix's tuna fish sandwich, or Mama Cass' ham sandwich. Even Elvis' peanut butter sandwich. Who would have thought that pop music stars had such plebeian tastes?  Good stocking stuffer.
Academia Barilla from Italy has launched a fun series of special die-cut cookbooks, and these make excellent stuffers or host gifts. Each is on a theme (e.g., PIZZA, CUPCAKES, JAMS & PRESERVES, BARBECUE) uniformly priced at $18.95, 128 pages with 50 easy recipes apiece, 7" x 9" in size. Everything is Italian-influenced, even the BBQ.
But the mother lode of small stuffers must be Ryland Peters & Small. All of their small gift
books are hard covers, usually line priced at $20.95 with 64 pages each. Some of the latest  include BAKING MASH-UP by UK cakemaker Victoria Glass emphasizes "chownies", "tiramuffins", "pretzants", "sneezecake" and other hybrids. There are 30 here that re-invent and merge cakes and bakes. CREAM PUFFS by Hannah Miles deals with the single product using flour, butter and eggs, plus other materials for the fillings. Classics include Gateau St. Honore, chocolate eclairs, coffee religieuse, choux pate, profiteroles, strudel – 25 recipes in all. GRILLED CHEESE by Laura Washburn covers meatballs and garlic and tomato sauce with fontina, and Philly cheese steak sandwich, among 28 recipes. PERFECTLY DRESSED SALAD  by Louise Pickford has a generous 55 recipes, and emphasizes herbs, oils, creamy, and fruit versatility. BURLESQUE BAKING by Charlotte White is mainly about decadent decorating for cakes and cookies; it has 25 recipes. FOR THE LOVE OF OATS by Amy Ruth Finegold has 30 preps for breakfasts, snacks, toasted treats and even drinks: hot, cold, raw and baked. GLUTEN-FREE HOLIDAY by Hannah Miles gives the celiac sufferers a chance to celebrate holidays. Party food here includes blinis for caviar and smoked salmon, salted caramel tarts, pecan chiffon pie, yule log, and what's needed for a gluten-free stuffing to accompany the big bird.
Other little books, for beverages, include those on wine and spirits:
First up, wine –
(both Ten Speed Press, 2010, 2014, 242 pages $23.99 CAN each paper covers) are by Tilar Mazzeo. There are about 70 or so wineries in each, mostly family run and off the beaten path. The latest edition has new wineries, restaurants and local attractions. There are maps and full colour photos. Both are arranged by AVA to make itinerary planning easy. Many of these wineries never export to Ontario, so if you want the wine, you've got to go there or try some bigger store in New York state. Not much in the way of tasting notes.
--INSTANT EXPERT: CHAMPAGNE (Princeton Architectural Press, 2014, 144 pages, $19.95 CAN paper covers) is a pocket sized handbook by Giles Fallowfield and W. Craig Cooper. It is all you basically need to know about Champagne, with a directory of the larger houses. It's got travel destinations, US bars serving lots of champagnes, cocktail recipes, and champagne pairing with food.
Next up, beer and cocktail books (many this year) --
--99 WAYS TO OPEN A BEER BOTTLE WITHOUT A BOTTLE OPENER (Chronicle Books, 2014, 104 pages, $11.95 CAN paper covers) is by Brett Stern who provides photos of techniques. Okay, you can use your belt buckle, video remote control, wheel chair, chain-link fence, ski binding, and others. The best one is to use a "vice" because it is actually "vise" misspelled. Each is rated as per difficulty, and there is an index by method.
--MAKING CRAFT BEER AT HOME (Shire Publications, 2014, 112 pages, $14.95 CAN paperback) is by Gretchen Schmidhausler, who has made small batch beer for the past two decades (she currently owns and brews at Little Dog Brewing Co. In New Jersey). It is fairly comprehensive, and provides background of ingredients and equipment for the step-by-step home-brew experience. It is extremely well-illustrated, with both contemporary and classic photos and adverts.
--THE ESSENTIAL BAR BOOK (Ten Speed Press, 2014, 327 pages, $23.99 CAN)  is by Jennifer Fiedler; it is an A-Z guide to spirits, cocktails and wine, with related drink recipes. There is an explanation for all kinds of drinks plus 115 preps. All of the preps are in photocopy-unfriendly white on dark blue. Still, with the Internet you can get a recipe and just read the prep she has in the too.
--THE BAR HOPPER HANDBOOK (Chronicle Books, 2014, 112 pages, $13.95 CAN) tells you how to scam a drink, score a date, and rule the night. It's by Ben Applebaum and Dan Disorbo. There are schemes for scoring free drinks (although I am not sure if these work in Canada), tips for becoming a karaokegod, toasts, and dance floor domination.
--COCKTAILS FOR BOOK LOVERS (Sourcebooks, 2014, 136 pages, $14.99 CAN hard back) is by Tessa Smith McGovern and is all about cocktails inspired by fave authors such as Bronte, Fitzgerald, O'Connor, Woolf, Dorothy Parker, Hemingway – 50 in all. Leading to 50 recipes and literary references.
--101 SHOTS (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, 128 pages, $20.99 hard covers) is by Kim Haasarud. She's written other 101 drink books (Martinis, Margaritas, Tropical Drinks). Here it is all about shooters with various adjuncts, such as fresh  fruit purees, Guinness, Tabasco and smoked paprika, cider, and gelees.
--SHOTS & SHOOTERS (Dog 'n' Bone, 2014, 64 pages, $19.95 CAN paper covers) is by Michael Butt, and is quite similar to 101 SHOTS. But there are only 50 drinks here, including the classics, and there is an emphasis on the traditions of neat drinking and games, such as Shot Russian Roulette.
--COCKTAILS FOR THE HOLIDAYS (Chronicle Books, 2014, 120 pages,  $23.95 CAN) comes from Imbibe magazine. These are 50 festive drinks to celebrate the season, contributed by North American and Australian bartenders. For example, gin has a cranberry smash, a merry rose, and northern lights. Each has a pix, description, a source, tool list, glass size to use, and suggested garnish.
--THE OLD FASHIONED (Ten Speed Prerss, 2014, 168 pages, $21.99 CAN) is by Robert Simonson. It's the story of the world's first classic cocktail, with recipes and lore. He's got a history of a cocktail in 65 pages, and 50 recipes (indexed) in 90 pages. It is just a matter of whiskey, bitters, sugar and ice. But which brand? In what proportions? And with what garnishes? One for the Old Fashioned lover.
And for no alcohol, consider...
– MODERN TEA (Chronicle Books, 2014, 164 pages, $19.95US)  by LisaBoalt Richardson, a certified tea specialist. It is a basic book covering tea history, definitions, terroirs, types, shopping, storing, steeping, tasting, and health remedies. She's also got pairing with foods, cocktails, caffeine data, sustainability, and its relation to coffee.
--AFTERNOON TEA WITH BEA (Ryland Peters & Small, 2014, 64 pages, $9.95 CAN hard covers) comes from a 2011 book I mentioned a few years back. There are some 28 recipes for cookies, bars, scones, and cakes – all on the sweet side (no sandwiches or other savouries). Some notes on teas and coffees..and away you go for a tea party!
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 GOOD BEER 2015 (Workman, 2014, $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, 165 craft beers. Check out Brew Dog's The End of History at
55% ABV. Other material in this PAD includes beer festivals, beer facts, food and beer pairing, tasting notes, 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, free stuff,
For wall calendars, there is THE OLD FARMER'S ALMANC 2015 RECIPES  CALENDAR (Yankee Publishing, 2014, $9.99 CAN plus HST) which gives one illustrated recipe a month this is easy and delicious. In this year we have purple cauliflower, figs, strawberries, honey whole wheat bread – all at the appropriate seasonal time of year.
And for other non-book items, there have been a whack of  cards and blanks this year. For the Home Brewer, there is, naturally, THE HOME BREWER'S LAB BOOK (Chronicle Books, 168 pages, $24.95 CAN), a guided journal with two pages devoted to each of your home brews, with check boxes, fill-in-the-blanks, and free space to detail everything  that factors into the final product (temperatures, ingredients, yeasts used, SG, storing, aging, tasting notes). It can be accompanied (as a separate purchase) by HOME BREWER'S LABELS (Chronicle Books, 40 pages, $16.95 CAN). The 160 stickers cover 40 or so bottles, and include space for the name, beer type, and date brewed. Or, since that works out to 40 cents a bottle (raising the per bottle price dramatically), you can photocopy the material and craft your own labels.
POCKET BEER GUIDE 2015 (Firefly Books, 2014, 320 pages, $19.95 CAN soft covers) organizes 3500 beers (500 more than the previous edition) by 65 countries. Canadian Stephen Beaumont and Tim Webb (UK)  are the authors, along with a team of international beer experts. Webb is a specialist in Belgian beers. This is a huge database of beers, and for the price, well worth acquiring.
Staying with non-alcoholic beverages, there is COFFEE NOTES (Chronicle Books, 2014, $12.95 CAN), a collection of cards and a coffee cup shaped note pad of 220 sheets for ideas or notes inspired by the caffeine hit. There's a CHOCOLATE TASTING KIT (Chronicle Books, 2014, $28.95 CAN) by Vancouver choco-blogger Eagranie Yuh which contains a 48 page booklet with profiles of flavours and people and types of chocolates,  tasting notepads (100 sheets), and 12 tasting flash cards of flavours, with an envelope for storage of chocolate wrappers (sorry, chocolate is not included). Or, for half the price, there is CHOCOLATE NOTEBOOK COLLECTION (Chronicle Books, 2014, $15 CAN) which collates three notebooks, one gridded, one lined, and one unlined, all with some chocolate information. Turning now to real food, there is FOOD GAZING (Chronicle Books, 2014, $19.95 CAN) a set of 20 notecards with envelopes (10 designs repeating 2 times). Each has a watercolour illustration reflecting the harvest (e.g., star fruit, artichoke, peach, pomegranate, etc.). This can be followed by DOUGHNOTES (Chronicle Books, 2014, $16.95), a set of 12 cards and glassine envelopes with address labels. The cards are in the shape of doughnuts. Others: CHEERS (Chronicle Books, 2014, $16.95) with 12 notecards of 6 designs (repeated twice) and envelopes and a sticker sheet. These are for invites, thank you notes, happy birthdays (but nothing serious); SAVOR & SEND (Chronicle Books, 2014, $16.95 CAN) has 12 recipe cards (4 designs) and envelopes for sharing fave recipes with friends and family; and CHEESE PAPERS (Chronicle Books, 2014, $19.95 CAN) a set of 18 sheets (3 designs of linen, dots, flowers) to wrap cheese for gifts. Sheets are 11 x 14 inches. There are also 44 closure stickers and labels.
And so on to the wine annuals. The two international leaders are HUGH JOHNSON'S
POCKET WINE BOOK 2015 (Mitchell Beazley, 2014, 336 pages, $18.99 CAD hard
bound) and OZ CLARKE'S POCKET WINE GUIDE 2015 (Pavilion, 2014, 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 7000 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 38th edition
(Clarke is celebrating his 24th anniversary) -- and has more respect from erudite readers
for his exactitude and scholarship. 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 2013 vintage and some details about the potential of 2014, along
with a closer look at the 2012. It is fun to look at these and find out where they
diverge. 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 September 2, while Clarke was released on October 28. I guess
this gets them off the hook about having to comment on the 2014 harvest and vintage
in the Northern hemisphere!
Other wine annuals 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).
In the US, there is   WINE WINE GUIDE 2015 (American Express Publishing, 2014, 320 pages, $15.95 CAN paper covers) , now in its 17th edition. It comes, naturally, from Food & Wine magazine. They have 500 of the most reliable US wineries, and include recommended bottles from each of the producers. Other highlights include data about the major US wine regions, wine and food pairings, some wine-friendly food recipes, and strategies for buying the best bottle. There is also FOOD & WINE COCKTAILS 2014 (American Express Publishing, 2014, 224 pages, $18.95 CAN paper covers) which is the 10th edition. It is a guide to contemporary and classic cocktails. Here there are 150 recipes, arranged by spirit, with bar food suggestions and preps for tapas and small plates to do at home. Also covered are about 100 US bars and a barware guide.
In Canada, we have  THE 500 BEST-VALUE WINES IN THE LCBO 2015
(Whitecap, 2014, 256 pages, $19.95 CAN paper back) takes a run at the wines at the
LCBO. This seventh 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 now 3.5  stars out of five; there have not been any 3 star wines since 2011), 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 over 100 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. Phillips has also included the
LCBO perceived sweetness notations rather than the older Sugar Codes. HAD A GLASS
2015; top 100 wines under $20 (Appetite by Random House, 2014, 179 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. New this year is a section on cocktails which use wines. Also new  is material on cask and boxed wines, not many of which are available in Canada (why waste space on these?). 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.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Event: a tasting of Possente wines with dinner

The Date and Time: Tuesday, November 4, 2014 6:30 PM to 10PM
The Event: a tasting of Possente wines (Sicily) with dinner
The Venue: Grano
The Target Audience: wine writers
The Availability/Catalogue: Possente wines are repped by DiVino Wine Merchants in Ontario.
The Quote/Background: we were supposed to have a tasting of wines from three Sicilian wineries found on the western side of the island. Through administrative/bureaucratic foulups, we ended tasting only one winery: Possente (the other two were BioViola and A Cassara). Francesca Pirrone spoke to the Possente wines.
The Wines: We were only able to taste one-third of the wines, these from the Possente winery. We had the wines with a meal:
Stuzzichini of calamari, pizza, mushroom caps, with the Possente Grillo 2013 (organic), four stars (90), $18.10.
Antipasto salumi with the Possente Rosso 2013 (three stars, 87).
Primo pappardelle ai frutti di mare, with the Grillo.
Secondo lamb rack, caponata, swiss chard, with the Possente Nero d'Avola 2013 (organic), $18.10, 3.5 stars (89), $18.10.
Formaggio pecorino with figs and BioViola honey.
Dolce cannoli siciliani
The Downside: it was a long day, and we didn't find out until our arrival that two wineries would not be present.
The Upside: good food, which made the wines taste even better.
The Contact Person:
The Event's Marketing Effectiveness and Execution (numerical grade): 86.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Event: 50th Anniversary of Bollinger R.D.

The Date and Time: Tuesday, November 4, 2014   5 Pm - 7PM
The Event: 50th Anniversary of Bollinger R.D.
The Venue: King Edward Hotel
The Target Audience: clients and wine media
The Availability/Catalogue: all wines are now at the LCBO, Classics or Vintages.
The Quote/Background: Guy de Rivoire, Bollinger's international marketing director, spoke to us about the quality of the Champagnes as we celebrated the release of the 2002 Bollinger RD Extra Brut into the Ontario marketplace. The first RD was in 1952, and this is the 50th anniversary of that release. All of the wines are around 60% pinot noir, 25% chardonnay, and 15% meunier.
The Wines:
**** BEST -- Four Stars (91+ in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Bollinger R.D. 2002 Extra Brut, $180 (RD on March 13, 2014)
-Bollinger Rose NV Brut, $100
-Bollinger Special Cuvee Brut, $75
The Food: cheeses and pates, breads
The Downside: this was the third of four tastings on this long day.
The Upside: Bollinger RD is one of my best faves in Champagne.
The Contact Person:
The Event's Marketing Effectiveness and Execution (numerical grade): 92.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My annual Holiday Cookbook/Winebook Gift article -- part two

B. For the more literate person, there are the histories , "memoirs"  and humour of writers, chefs,
and wine people. Some have called these memoirs "creative non-fiction", many with
embellishments and gilding. And most – not all -- of them suffer from a lack of indexing, which
makes it difficult to find what the writer said about another person or subject. But this
also avoids the potential for lawsuits and disjointed noses. Nevertheless, they are
rewarding to read. Who cares about poetic license? Here then are some that stood out
from last year's run, and any of them would make great gifts for the reader. Here we go,
in no particular order…
--MEET PARIS OYSTER (Grand Central Life & Style, 2014, 149 pages, $22 CAN hard covers) is by Mireille Guillano, author of French Women Don't Get Fat. It is a stylish book, meant for the oyster lover, and endorsed by Daniel Boulud himself. This is the culture of the oyster lover in Paris; it begins with Huitrerie Regis, probably the best oyster bar in Paris. She chats with Regis, and then moves on to purveyors in Marennes-Oleron and winemakers in Sancerre. Along the way she writes of the health benefits of oysters, and then shares her fave oyster recipes and wine pairings. A book to give to oyster lovers.
--THE BREAD EXCHANGE (Chronicle Books, 2014, 240 pages, $40 hard covers) is by Malin Elmlid. She launched the Bread Exchange in 2008 when was a fashion-industry professional with an obsession for making her own bread. She started offering her breads to others in return (exchange) for recipes, handmade goods, and services. Her bok is the story of how managed it all, including traveling (she's from Sweden) to Berlin, Bavaria, Warsaw, Kabul, Antwerp, California, London and New York. There are more than 50 recipes here for naturally leavened breads and her exchange foods. Lovely photos.
--THE TEMPORARY BRIDE (Little, Brown, 2014, 240 pages, $22.99 CAN soft covers) is by Canadian-born Jennifer Klinec, who now runs a cooking school in London UK. Its subtitle is "a memoir of love and food in Iran" so it is part romance and part foodie. She searches for ancient recipes in offbeat places, and ends up in Iran helping a woman with her cooking and learning from her. This is a relationship venture as well since Klinec gets involved with the woman's son. He gives her a food tour of Iran, including a camel slaughterhouse. Good reading, great for discussion about Persian food and love.
--INVENTING BABY FOOD (University of California Press, 2014, 236 pages, $39.44 CAN soft covers) is by Amy Bentley, a public health professor at New York University who has also published other food cultural history books. Her subtitle is "taste, health, and the industrialization of the American diet" . She shows how the invention of commercial baby food shaped American notions of infancy and influenced the evolution of parental and pediatric care. By the 1950s, babies were eating a lot of the wrong ESSES: sugar, salt and starch. It's well-researched with extensive endnotes and a bibliography, plus index and some black and white illustrations.
--SOUS CHEF (Ballantine Books, 2014, 214 pages, $29.95 hard covers) is from the executive sous-chef  at Tavern on the Green in NYC, Michael Gibney. It is about 24 hours on the line, with nuts and bolts about the restaurant industry and its insanity, spread over a full day. Gibney is descriptive of jobs and duties. It comes complete with a kitchen floor plan and a kitchen chain-of-command chart; it is told in second person narrative. Well worth a read.
--MASTERING THE ART OF SOVIET COOKING (Crown, 2013, 2014, 352 pages, $18 CAN paper covers) is a paperback reissue of food writer Anya von Bremzen's now classic memoir of food and longing. She's the winner of three Beard Awards and the author of five cookbooks. It's her story of life in the USSR, the privation of 18 families sharing one kitchen. She and her family eat their way through the decades, from the 1910s and the Czar to Lenin, Stalin, Glasnost and Putin on the Ritz. Along the way there are some non-indexed USSR recipes as well as sharp writing.
--COOK YOUR DATE INTO BED (Dog 'n' Bone, 2014, 128 pages, $19.95 CAN hard covers) is Helen Graves's look at the relationship between food and romance: eating out, sharing recipes, and how to make all foods delicious (she's got some preps like boozy Mexican hot chocolate, snacks, cocktails, and saucy breakfasts for apres. Plus some aphrodisiacs.
--HOW TO DRINK AND NOT LOOK LIKE AN IDIOT (Dog 'n' Bone, 2014, 128 pages, $19.95 CAN hard covers) is a guide to distinguishing quality booze from cheap rubbish. When you want something sophisticated, reach for this book. Emily Miles has the tips, tricks and tools for high-end restaurant or cocktail bar drinking. This is food and wine matching, sipping single malts, preparing a home liquor cabinet, and more. Deftly illustrated.
--THE PERFECT KEG (Greystone Books, 2014, 210 pages, $19.95 CAN paper) is by Ian Coutts who has written many articles and books about beer in Canada. Here, he looks to make the perfect keg of beer, from the beginnings of sowing, scything, malting and brewing up his best-ever pint of beer. It ia the record of a year long journey. He grew everything and made it all himself. It was part of his 100-mile-diet approach. The barley and hops came from the Ottawa Valley; the yeast he captured himself. Of course, it was not easy – but read it for yourself. He's also got 10 recipes for making different  beer styles.
--WE MAKE BEER (St. Martin's Press, 2014, 213 pages, $28.99 CAN hard covers) is by Sean Lewis, former columnist for BeerAdvocate. It is all about a variety of American craft brewers and their artisanal workmanship. 31 breweries are covered, including such well-known names in Canada as Samuel Adams and Sierra Nevada. Personalities, inventiveness, and hard work is covered in this community of brewers.
--A BOWL OF OLIVES (Workman Publishing, 2014,  128 pages, $23.95 CAN) is by Sara Midda, a UK illustrator , principally of food (she's done In and Out of the Garden and South of France; a sketchbook).. Her watercolour paintings here celebrate food and memory (a salad from the garden, a picnic on the beach, podding peas. There are even a few recipes amongst the excellent illustrations. A treasure for holiday gifting!
--THE PORTLANDIA COOKBOOK; cook like a local (Clarkson Potter, 2014, 176 pages, $28.95 CAN hard covers) is by an assortment of people. According to the verso, it is copyrighted by Broadway Video Entertainment Inc., with Library of Congress authorship attributed to Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein from the TV show, and  photos by Evan Sung. Near the bottom, it says the text is by Alice Mathias and the recipes by Grace Parisi. The book is a collection of preps from all over Portland, from chefs to home cooks (although the photos look suspiciously like TV celebrities). The recipes look pretty good, divided into small plates, desserts, brunch, main courses, and drinks. But it is hard to figure out if food trucks are involved. Anyway, the recipes come from Grace Parisi, and include Brussels sprouts with bacon, grilled cheese nests, basket salads, lavender shortbread, Sichuan chicken wings, and other stuff that young people eat. Background on the restaurants is humourous and may be spurious, as is the show itself.
--DIRTY FOOD (Ryland Peters & Small, 2014, 160 pages, $31.95 CAN hard covers) is by Carol Hilker. She promises us it is "the best worst food you will ever eat" – ribs, burgers,  fried chicken, sassy sandwiches, bbq, grilled foods. Stuff like the grilled steak ranchero burrito or maple-cured bacon and tomato sandwich. She manages, quite easily, to lift the fat and sugar content of everything.  But essentially, these are "gourmet" versions of fast finger-licking food.
--FOOD; a love story (Crown Archetype, 2014, 341 pages, $31 CAN hard covers) is by food comedian Jim Gaffigan. It is a hilarious follow-up to his first too, Dad Is Fat. It is full of memories, opinions, and fantasies, and it is also heavily illustrated with black and white pix. These are worth a 1000 words each since the text is chopped into 62 chapters dealing with buffets, gravy, BBQ, Mexican food, wine, coffee, donuts, bagels, hot dogs, corned beef – and lots more. Fun over the holidays!
--THE CALL OF THE FARM (The Experiment, 2014,  273 pages, $19.95 CAN paper covers) is by Rochelle Bilow, now a staff writer at Bon Appetit, formerly a line cook and farmer. It is about an unexpected year of getting dirty, home cooking, and finding herself. With a broken heart, she moved from the city to a New York state CSA farm, ostensibly to write a short profile of a sustainable food venture. There she learned about food in the rough, and stayed – and found another romance. A great read for the holidays, complete with a few recipes.
…and some worthwhile novels include –
--A TABLE BY THE WINDOW (WaterBrook Press, 2014, 306 pages, $17.99 CAN soft covers)  is by Hillary Manton Lodge. It is a novel of family secrets with heirloom recipes. The youngest heir to a French-Italian restaurtant dynasty is also a food writer, and this is the story of her moving through life. Chick lit and romance, but it does not beat  Stanwyck's The Mad Miss Manton....
--DELICIOUS (Appetite by Random House, 2014, 383 pages, $29.95 CAN hard covers) is a justly acclaimed novel by triple threat (food reviews, memoirs, fiction) Ruth Reichl, who now has more time on her hands since Gourmet folded. It is all about Billie Breslin who leaves Cali for NYC and a job at a food mag. In the mag's library, she finds letters from Lulu in Ohio to James Beard from over 50 years ago. There's a love story here plus a family tragedy and some detective work. It is literature.
C. Family values Christmas gift cook books would have to include:
--IN HER KITCHEN (Clarkson Potter, 2014, 248 pages, $35 CAN hard covers) has been pulled together by Gabriele Calimberti, a photographer and storyteller. Nothing says family more than grandmothers who cook, and Calimberti gives us profiles of some 58 grandmothers from around the world. Each has a  story, a recipe, a portrait, and a plated dish photo. It is one Nana/Nonna/Murmor/etc  per country, such as Kathy O'Donovan in Whitehorse (bison casserole under the midnight sun) or Melanie Hill in Utah (chocolate toffee trifle). There's the common (tiramisu from Tuscany) and the uncommon (lok lak from Cambodia). The profiles of the villagers are marvellous, and the recipes scrumptious. I do wish I knew some of these cooks.
--BEST OF THE BEST; the best recipes from the 25 best cookbooks of the year (Food & Wine Books, 2014, 272 pages,  is from "Food and Wine Magazine" in the US. This is the latest -- there were 15 or so earlier ones, with different books of course. The editorial team has selected 110 recipes from 25 cookbooks published in 2013, and has kitchen-tested them. Some titles: Vegetarian Literacy (Deborah Madison), One Good Dish (David Tanis), Root to Stalk Cooking (Tara Duggan), River Cottage Veg (High Fearnley-Whittingstall), and Smoke & Pickles (Edward Lee). Some preps are unique to this book, having been contributed by the selected cookbook authors:  scallops with orange sauce, orange and fennel gravlax, chocolate caramels, eight-layer nachos, blood orange panna cotta parfaits, et al.  The selection of recipes definitely emphasizes the home cook, with easy to do cakes, bagnat, dumplings. Still, a basic level of cooking expertise is expected. The index is by principal ingredient and course -- so you can put together a whole meal from the different cookbooks.
--THE KITCHEN TABLE COOKBOOK (Whitecap, 2014, 290 pages, $29.95 CAN paper covers) is by Moira Sanders of the Harrow Fair Cookbook, who presents  some family-friendly preps for a 365 eating pattern. "I generally focus on eating local, seasonal an real food, and moderation is the umbrella that everything falls under". Amen to that. Her 150 dishes include Dagwood sandwich with homemade mayonnaise, rhubarb vanilla soda, lamb burgers, and more.
--ONE POT (Clarkson Potter, 2014,  256 pages, $31 CAN paperback) covers the range of Dutch ovens (beef stew, baked risotto), slow cooker (pulled pork, pot roast), skillet sautes (poached cod, stir-fried chicken),  roasting pan (rib-eye with root veggies, Tuscan pork roast), pressure cooker (short ribs, chickpea curry), stockpot (soups), and desserts. It is "From the Kitchens of Martha Stewart Living", so it is reliable and user friendly.
--THE POLLAN FAMILY TABLE (Scribner, 2014, 334 pages, $36 CAN) is by, well, the Pollan family – touted by the publisher as "the best recipes and kitchen wisdom for delicious healthy family meals". This has been seconded by log rollers Ina Garten, Alice Waters, Michael J. Fox, and Mario Batali. Oh, yes the Pollan family authors are mother Corky plus sisters Lori, Dana and Tracy. The 100 preps are well-illustrated with family photos in addition to the plated dishes. Lots of tips and advice, but minus any metric measurements or equivalents. There is a foreward by Michael Pollan. One of my fave recipes is penne alla sherry with shiitake mushrooms and spinach.
--COMFORT FOOD (The Old Farmer's Almanac, 2014, 288 pages,  $23 CAN) is by Hen Haedrich and the Almanac editors. Indeed, nothing says family more than the Old Farmer's Almanac. Every course is covered, and there is an index by tips as well as by ingredient, Typical are bacon baked beans, avocado cream, deviled eggs, cherry tea cake, pumpkin burgers, butterscotch pudding – plus many variations.
--DELICIOUSLY VINTAGE (Ryland Peters & Small, 2014, 144 pages, $24.95 CAN hard covers) is Victoria Glass' charting of the range of fave classics in the area of cakes and bakes, concentrating on family preps passed down from generation to generation. It's Brit based since she has a bespoke celebration cake business in London. Traditional scones, rock cakes, lamingtons, cinnamon buns, sachertorte, eclairs – about 60 vintage recipes in all.
--THE SKINNYTASTE COOKBOOK (Clarkson Potter, 2014, 320 pages, $35 CAN) is by owner and blogger Gina Homolka. Her response to WeightWatchers (which she actually liked but was not tempted by the recipes) was to simply re-use her favourite flavoured recipes for herself and family. She worked them out all over again so that they retained a maximum amount of flavour while reducing calories, fat, and sugar. So here are her 150 top recipes, which include flank steak salad, lemon sole, lamb chops, apple spiced oatmeal, French onion soup  (hold the bread), and potato and kale sausage frittata. She's done all the work for you by reducing what she could but still retain flavours. There's nutritional information and photos, plus the "skinny" (i.e., tip). And there are more recipes at the website.
--BEST OF BRIDGE HOLIDAY CLASSICS (Robert Rose, 2014, 303 pages, $29.95 CAN  spiral bound) is by the Bridge Ladies. This is the first time they have collected holiday recipes from amongst their vast collection of preps. There are also two chapters devoted to Leftovers and Food Gifts: using up the food not consumed at holidays, and making gifts for friends and hosts. Typical here are eggnog supreme, cheddar rabbit, Christmas marmalade, fruit and nut shortbread, and the inevitable roasts.
--THE FAMILY COOKS (Rodale, 2014, 278 pages, $29.99 CAN) has more than 100 recipes to spice up regular meals at home. Kirstin Uhrenholdt did the recipes, and Laurie David did the text. There are preps for basic food such as scrambled eggs, with thoughts and variations on how to play with it and make frittatas.
--THE AMERICAN COOKBOOK (DK Books, 2014, 256 pages, $26 CAN hard covers) means American classics, and nothing says "family food " as well as American cuisine. It is arranged by course with side trips to the Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, Midwest, and Pacific Northwest. Some preps have a classic presentation with contemporary variations. The 150 comfort food recipes include apple pie, burgers, french fries, and salads, and explore the Spanish, Italian, Asian, and African influences.
--THE REALLY HUNGRY VEGETARIAN STUDENT COOKBOOK (Ryland Peters & Small, 2014,  144 pages, $21.95 CAN) is a publisher's package with recipe credits going to Chloe Coker, Jan Montgomery, Laura Washburn, and 14 others. These are preps that vegetarian students would enjoy, plus tips on how to eat well on a budget. These are also quick and easy, beginning with breakfast boosters, lunchboxes with carbs, and a pot luck section for quick items such as bean chili, lentil curry, or tofu stir-fry. The healthy snacks here are basically popcorn-based, and they are really inexpensive. Sweets can be a problem; I would simply go back to popcorn and add caramel.....yummy. But then that's me.
--HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING FAST (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, 1056 pages, $45 CAN) continues Mark Bittman's How to Cook series with new ways on how to do it quickly. He gets the preps that consider cooking time, and speeds it up, such as wonton soup in 30 minutes, cheddar waffles, charred Brussels sprouts, or fruit crisp on the stovetop, and others. It is mainly a game plan (time management) book that deals with over 2000 main dishes and sides. It means you work harder by prepping one dish while cooking another or two. Apart from the time element, the theme here is flexibility.
--150 BEST INDIAN, ASIAN, CARIBBEAN DIABETES RECIPES (Robert Rose, 2014, 256 pages, $24.95 CAN paper covers) is by Sobia Khan, a nutrition prof at George Brown College in Toronto. She's also an RD speacializing in areas relating to the prevention and management of diabetes. The text  is very appealing: it deals with alternative food for Indian, Asian and Caribbean people suffering from diabetes, and it offers some adventurous food eating for others. So it is win-win. All of the preps have crafted and tested by George Brown College, and most of them can be made in under 20 minutes. Each has a complete nutritional analysis and handy tips. The organization is by region, with Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka followed by Sichuan, Hakka, Cantonese, Latin America, Spain, Antigua, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad. It is an important too for its multiple diversity, with vegetable and cheese curry, bora beans, Caribbean pumpkin soup, Cantonese scallop fry, and others.
--NOURISHING BROTH (Grand Central Life & Style, 2014, 338 pages, $25 CAN paperback) is by Sally Fallon Morell who proposes that you can treat the symptoms of autoimmune disorders, infectious disease, digestive problems, and other chronic ailments with broths (seasoned stocks). These are made from bone stocks, so there are no veggie stocks here. It is a good premise that seems to work, as with psoriasis or eczema. The section on broth recipes also comes with a variety of soups, aspics, stews and stir-fries.
--THE GRAIN BRAIN COOKBOOK (Little, Brown, 2014,  339 pages, $33 CAN) is a New York Times best-selling too already. Here are more than 150 gluten-free recipes that purport to transform your health, written by Dr. David Perlmutter who also authored Grain Brain. He makes the case for a wheat-free approach, but also includes sugars and carbs. Basically, if you eat the right foods, you can reduce your chances of getting Alzheimer's, ADHD, depression, epilepsy, headaches, insomnia, etc.  It is arranged by course, and once you've gone through it, you can find other recipes on your own. Just stay away from  wheat, remembering that barley and rye also have gluten.
--THE PH BALANCE HEALTH & DIET GUIDE FOR GERD, IBS & IBD (Robert Rose, 2014, 408 pages, $24.95 CAN paperback) offers practical solutions, diet management and 175 recipes – from  naturopath Fraser Smith, Susan Hannah (researcher) and Daniel Richardson, PhD.  These experts in nutrition attempt to restore the body's acid-alkaline balance which is a key to good health: highly processed foods and meat-dairy-sugar acidify the body. Get the balance back through a 28-day meal plan, and you will be a happy camper. Good quality recipes from about 21 authors in the Rose stable of cookbook writers.

Monday, December 15, 2014


Dear Dean,
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Best wishes for a Happy Holiday Season and my sincere thanks for your trust and support- throughout the year,
Kindest regards,
From: Dean Tudor
Sent: Friday, December 12, 2014 11:24 PM
To: blog1
1.Chateau des Charmes Cabernet-Merlot Old Vines 2012 VQA NOTL, $19.95
winery +222372: a substantial wine made from plots planted beginning in
1983-1985 and then again in 1992-1996. Cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot,
coming in at 13.5% ABV after time in French oak. Expect medium mocha, cedar, vanilla and cassis, but double-decant the bottle before serving. Maybe wait until next spring? The extra time will help soften it and give it a longer length from the older vines. Quality/Price rating is 88 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
2.Chateau des Charmes Sauvignon Blanc 2013 St. David's Bench VQA, +391300 $14.95 LCBO: last tasted by me in the 2010 vintage. Here, good balanced fruit, citric tones, zest, MVC typicity. Fresh but so far maybe too fresh. I thought 2010 was better. 12.8% ABV. Quality/Price rating is 87 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
3.Puklus Pinceszet Tokaji Szamorodni 2009, +179374 Vintages, $18.95 for 500 mL:
a second-tier Tokay wine, usually medium-sweet and done naturally with
no added puttonyos. Botrytised grapes would vary from vintage to
vintage and from producer to producer. The last Puklus we had was 2006
vintage; this current version (2009) seems to offer bitterish dried
apricot flavours and oxidative notes. A good dessert wine, certainly
affordable, and perhaps best with egg dishes such as custards. 13.5%
ABV. Quality/Price rating is 92 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
4.Puklus Pinceszet Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos 2008, +47209 Vintages, $35.95 for 500 mL:
intense Hungarian nectar, full of apricot, dried peach and orange peel, tempered with caramelization. Long finish deserves foie gras as a starter, or quality blue cheese as an ending. Good value for the price, especially as this is a half-litre. 11% ABV. Hungarian Gold Medalist. Quality/price rating 94 points by Dean Tudor.
5.Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 VQA NOTL, $22.95, +193573 Vintages Essentials (also available at Marks and Spencer UK for 15.99 pounds): organic wine also certified as biodynamic by Demeter. Intense, well-developed cabby savvy, typically North American, with twist top and 12.9% ABV. The many times that I have had it, I gave it a ranking of 89 – 93 depending on the wine's development at the time. Lately, it has been higher. An obvious choice for Christmas. Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
6.Southbrook Canadian Framboise NV, $15.95/375 mL, +341024 LCBO: jammy raspberry nose and palate, excellent on its own, with chocolate or (even better) as a Raspberry Kir with your bubbly of choice. 13.5% ABV. Twist top. Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
7.Rutherford Ranch Chardonnay 2012 Napa, +136382, $20.95 Vintages: a soft wine full of orchard fruit, creamy, bright, some vanilla but little oak. Aperitif or with seafood. 13.5% ABV. Quality/Price rating is 88 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
8.Many times at Toronto Italian trade shows I have heard the words, "You don't go to Italy for white wine". So I am trying to find out if that is true. Wines from indigenous grapes such as found in frascati, orvieto, soave, grillo, pinot grigio – all have their distinctive tastes and fans. International grapes such as sauvignon blanc and riesling are easily obtainable in their country of origin. I decided to take a crack at some mid-weight mid-priced Italian chardonnays from the north, offered by Majestic Wine Cellars as part of their private stock, to compare and contrast in an evaluation. This is an area of intense competition, the mid-point of $15 a bottle. We make a nice chardonnay in Ontario at that price point, but so do others in the world.
I started with Cantina Valpantena Veneto Chardonnay IGT 2013 ($11.95 Majestic, plastic cork). It's a definite antipasto or pre-prandial wine since it was light lemons with lively acidity, some tart apples, 12% ABV, and a longer finish than I was expecting (87 points). Quite pleasant. I moved on to Albino Armani Claps Chardonnay Friuli Grave Sequal ($15.50 Majestic, composition cork) at 13.5% ABV, a more mellow, rounder wine with less acid (more sweet apples) by a longer finish in the mouth (88 points). I next tasted Albino Armani 1607 Chardonnay Trentino 2013 ($18.95 Majestic, composition cork) which had sweet apples, limes and citrus, and a brightness from the stainless steel (89 points). For international comparison, I tried Morgan Bay Cellars Chardonnay 2013 with a California appellation ($13.95 Majestic, cork disc closure) which had well-rounded texture meant to appeal to the US palate. There were lemons and green apples, but also the softness and taste of a creamy caramel. 13.5% ABV. It says California, but there is also enough finishing acid for a first course. Otherwise, sip away (89 points); I was expecting more food bite and stainless steel at this price level. All of these wines are consignment from Majestic, and all of them are well-priced and useful as restaurant house wines (or by the glass) to be marked up under $40 a bottle.
9.Fernet-Branca Amer/Bitters, +220145, $21.85 for 500 mL: from Fratelli Branca, this is one of the top bitters of the world. It comes in at Christmas here with a tin can for gifting and some historical reproductions on the can. Other than that, it is the same aperitivo or digestif. Here are 27 herbs and spices aged in oak for a year. It can be enjoyed with beer, mixed drinks, on the rocks, or with soda/pop drinks. But it is best straight. 40% ABV, with that characteristic gentian and vanilla/oak matured flavour.  Quality/Price rating is 93 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.


The Event: Tasting Le Velette wines from Umbria

The Date and Time: Tuesday, November 4, 2014  2PM to 5PM
The Event: Tasting Le Velette wines from Umbria
The Venue: Grano
The Target Audience: wine writers
The Availability/Catalogue: currently, private stock, with upcoming presentations to the LCBO
The Quote/Background: Corrado Bottai from the winery in Orvieto helped to taste the wines with us.
The Wines: available from Noteworthy Wines,
**** BEST -- Four Stars (91+ in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Le Velette Sangiovese Accordo 2009. $20
-Le Velette Taluce 2013, $22
***1/2 BETTER -- Three and a Half Stars (88 – 90 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Le Vellette Grechetto Solo Uve 2011, $22
-Le Velette Rasenna 2012, $16
-Le Velette Sangiovese Cabernet Sauvignon Calanco 2009, $35
-Le Velette Rosso di Spicca, $16
-Le Velette Gaudio 2010, $35
*** GOOD -- Three Stars (85 – 87 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Le Velette Berganorio Orvieto Classico 2013, $16
The Contact Person:
The Event's Marketing Effectiveness and Execution (numerical grade): 84.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

My annual Holiday Cookbook/Winebook Gift article -- part one

By Dean Tudor, Ryerson Journalism Professor Emeritus and Gothic
Epicures Writing, (World Wine Watch Newsletter).
        Twitter: @gothicepicures
There are so many new food and wine books out there for people who have picky tastes!!
What to choose? I have cast about for material and have come up with a decent selection
to satisfy any pocketbook, any host, and any friend or relative. All books and book-like
materials that are listed here are RECOMMENDED, and can be purchased at a
discount via Amazon.Ca, Chapters.Ca (with free delivery on a total purchase of over
$25), or even The Book Depository in Guernsey.
Price Alert: because of US dollar fluctuations with Canada, all prices will vary. I have
used CAN wherever I know it.
A. Art/travel/expensive cookbooks might be some of the best books to give a loved one
(or to yourself, since you are your own best loved one). Most may cost you an
arm and a leg. Books for the coffee table have their place in the gift scheme: just about
every such book is only bought as a gift! And are often perused first by the donor (you).
Don't let the prices daunt you. Such books are available at a discount from online vendors.
Because of the "economy", not too many pricey food and wine books were released last year
and this year, and some book reviewers were cut off from many expensive imported books.
--RELAE (Ten Speed Press, 2014, 448 pages, $58 CAN hard covers) is by Christian F. Puglisi, chef and owner of Relae (2010) and Manfreds (2011) in Copenhagen. He's worked at El Bulli, Taillevent and Noma, where his tenure got the restaurant a rating of the best restaurant in the world. He's also been chosen as one of the top ten chefs in the world under 30 by the Wall Street Journal. Weighing in at almost 4 pounds, it becomes one of the top hefty gift books of the year. As he says, it is a book of ideas with meticulous techniques and a way of doing dishes, much the same as the El Bulli principles. But El Bulli is retired, and Puglisi has moved on from Noma. So this is the work of the most influential chef in the world, bar none. He says, "As I was thinking about this book, I realized that all our dishes are interconnected by the ideas behind them—the practical ideas, theoretical ideas, and technical ideas. The dishes themselves are the most superficial expression of our work. Rather than just list the ingredients and step-by-step methods for each dish, I felt it was more useful to actually articulate the concepts that underlie them." Diverse topics include pickled mackerel or  plating cauliflower, At the bottom of each page there are ideas for more techniques or principles or theory. It is really a real foodie book, well-worth the investment.
--EATING DELANCEY (powerHouse Books, 2014, 232 pages, $35 CAN hard covers) is a delight as a Chanukah gift. It is a celebration of Jewish food in Brooklyn, pulled together  by Aaron Rezny and Jordan Schaps. It is an homage to the vanishing flavours of Bubbe's Russian Yiddish American Brooklyn kitchen. There are lots of recipes and comments by a huge number of people. As well, many historical photos and stills from the movies illustrate the text. But primarily, it is also about food photography with bagels, knishes, farfel, old seltzer bottles, bialy, pistachio halvah, and pickles being the stars. Strewn throughout are pithy sayings such as "worries go better with soup" or a Passover proverb "They tried to kill us. We survived. Let's eat". Try Aunt Sylvia's chicken fricasee with potted meatballs or Arthur Schwartz's stuffed cabbage.
--BRAZILIAN FOOD (Firefly Books, 2014, 256 pages, $39.95 CAN hard covers) is by Thiago Castanho, a chef-owner of two restaurants in Northern Brazil, listed in "Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants", and featured in Michael Palin's television series "Brazil". The 100 preps have been co-authored by Italian-Brazilian food writer-chef Luciana Bianchi. It is a wide-ranging tome that moves from street food to seafood, sweet treats to cocktails, and more. The major roots are from indigenous people, Portugal, and Africa, with notes from immigrants of Germany, Italy, Syria, Lebanon and Japan, and the food itself comes from five regions and 26 states. Castanho and Bianchi also have recipes from three other award-winning local chefs.
--1,000 SPANISH RECIPES (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, 692 pages, $40 CAN hard covers) is by the late, great Spanish cookbook author Penelope Casas. Before she died, she managed to collate preps for 242 tapas and small plates, 130 salads soups and stews, 72 paella and rice dishes, 83 veggie and bean dishes, 317 fish-poultry-meat dishes, and 162 desserts and drinks. Recipes are in two columns, and there are no colour photos: just the real goods. Both English and Spanish titles are used for the preps. There are menu suggestions, a listing of vegetarian dishes, and a glossary-pantry section.
--VEGAN HOLIDAY COOKING FROM CANDLE CAFE (Ten Speed Press, 2014, 168 pages, $26.99 CAN) is a useful too for this time of year, especially with meatless celebrations. It comes with the inevitable log rolling by Woody Harrelson, but at least all of the preps are derived from the Candle Cafe group of restaurants, including Candle 79 and Candle Cafe West. These are all celebratory menus and recipes from the reliable New York plant-based restos, arranged by the ten menus for Lunar New Year, Valentine's Day. Passover Seder, Easter Brunch, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.  Very timely for Christmas Holiday giving, and well worth a look.
--MALLMAN ON FIRE (Artisan, 2014, 306 pages, $50 CAN ) is a posh too dealing with the Argentine grill and BBQ/ Here are 100 recipe for the home cook, along with gorgeous smokey-toasty photos. He enlivens the downscale of gauchos' and stevedores' portable cooking. But he's also got a day-long menu for an 18-person Parrillada of pork and veggies. He's got a cowboy rib-eye a la plancha, a charred herb salsa, and some deserts as well. There are a lot of photos here reflecting Mallman in Paris, New York, Uruguay, Brazil, Patagonia, and the Argentine highlands, a travelogue-memoir of sorts as stories to go along with the apps, mains, sides and desserts.
--THE SLANTED DOOR (Ten Speed Press, 2014, 264 pages, ISBN 978-1-60774-054-4, $40US hard covers) is by Charles Phan, chef/owner of The Slanted Door family of restaurants since its founding in 1995 in San Francisco. He has won an IACP award for his 2012 book on Vietnamese cooking, a Beard for Best Chef California, and another Beard for Outstanding Restaurant of 2014 . He's got the street creds, and this too is just what the gourmet armchair traveler requires. It has some memoir material about his life and restaurant, plus a variety of homestyle cooking preps from starters such as spring rolls to a raw bar, salads, soups, mains, desserts, and cocktails. Great photographs, lovely to look at, and the recipes actually work too (although you might want to photocopy them since there maybe splatters on the page). However, once you give it as a gift, it is out of your hands
--HUCKLEBERRY (Chronicle Books, 2014, 288 pages, $35 US) has 115 recipes from the Huckleberry Bakery & Cafe, which opened to Santa Monica locals in 2009 as a breakfast-brunch place emphasizing savoury scones, egg sandwiches, brisket hash, and a variety of pastries. It is a good too for brunch lovers, and kind of memoirish in its narrative approaches of stories behind the restaurant. Authors Zoe Nathan and Josh Loeb work and own the cafe, plus a few other restos in the areas. Pastry chef Laurel Almerinda also contributes. The contents are broken down by the work day, so at 3:30 AM they start the muffins (but you don't have to follow this schedule), with biscuits and scones at 4AM, cakes and teacakes at 4:30, breads at 5:30, flaky doughs at 6AM, and so on through to 9:30AM and heartier foods.
--SUGAR RUSH (Clarkson Potter, 2014, 352 pages, $46 CAN hard covers) is by renowned pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini, a Beard Award winner. He was a formerly a pastry chef at Jean-Georges and has judged many food competitions on Food Network. Here he has master tips and techniques for custards, creams, meringues, caramels, cakes, cookies, fillings and sauces, in 150 preparations. Loaded with about 250 photos. Not for the faint of heart...
--LONG NIGHTS AND LOG FIRES (Ryland Peters & Small, 2014, 176 pages, $32.95) is a British publisher's package of recipes from named contributors such as Ross Dobson, Maxine Clark, and Fiona Beckett. They've been available before, but they are neatly drawn together over the theme of cozying up during the winter. They are supposed to keep your warm through to May: hot soups and snacks, warm dinner dishes, one-pot casserole wonders with the oven on, roasts, and lots of hot drinks featuring rums and ciders. Over 200 ways here for winter eating and festive entertaining.
--TORONTO COOKS (Figure 1, 2014, 232 pages, $37.95 CAN) is from Toronto food writer-columnist Amy Rosen. It is a collection of recipes from renowned restaurants in Toronto, along with a profile of the chef-at-the-time (they move around) and advice on how to cook the prep. There are 48 restaurants, with a total of 100 preps. They range from Allen's through George through Mistura to Vertical, in alpha order. From Edulis there is baba au rhum, from El Catrin there is ensalada destileria, and from Elleven, there are lobster rolls. The best part: for the holidays the giver and the giftee can argue the selection of restaurants (hey, why no Gallery Grill?).
--CALGARY COOKS (Figure 1, 2014, 192 pages, $34.95 CAN) is from Gail Norton and Karen Ralph, both food writers (Norton also owns The Cookbook Co. Cooks). It too is a collection of recipes from renowned restaurants, but in Calgary, along with a profile of the chef-at-the-time (they move around) and advice on how to cook the prep. There are 48 restaurants, with a total of 78 preps. They range from Anejo`s guacamole through Cassis Bistro`s Dover sole, through Craft Beer Market`s warm chorizo and frisee salad, , then Il Sogno`s radiccio salad with poached pears and burrata, and ending with Yellow Door Bistro`s baked French onion soup with braised oxtail – 39 restaurants in all, with chef pix and profiles. Again, a great source of opinions and arguments.
--FLOUR + WATER PASTA (Ten Speed Press, 2014, 260 pages, $41 CAN)  is by Thomas McNaughton, with food writer Paolo Lucchesi. McNaughton is chef and co-owner of three restaurants in San Francisco. He gives us a virtually complete primer on pasta making, which is dependent on the freshest dough. Here are 75 seasonal preps for home cooks at every skill level, and include such as pumpkin tortelloni, tomato farfalle, and asparagus caramelle with brown butter. There is also a wide range of sauces and chances for you to improvise.
--MEDITERRANEAN COOKBOOK (DK Books, 2014, 320 pages, $37 CAN hard covers) is a collection 300 healthy recipes employing the Mediterranean diet techniques from Tuscany, Provence, Spain, Greek Islands, and the Middle East (Morocco, Egypt). Preps are arranged by food and not by country, so it is easy to combine the cuisines of different countries within one meal, and still be a part of the Mediterranean diet. Another too with some 250 full-colour great pictures.
--75 FLOWERS FOR CAKE DECORATORS (St. Martin's Press, 2014, 144 pages, $24.99 paper covers) is by Helen Penman, and it is a terrific too with excellent illustrations of simple blooms and exotic flowers. She teaches us to create a bouquet with fondants and modeling paste, making piped, pulled or freehand flowers, stenciling or using brush embroidery. A nifty little gift for your pastry lover friends.
--FROM A PERSIAN KITCHEN (I.B.Taurus, 2014,  272 pages,  $33.50 CAN hard covers) is by Jila Dana-Haeri. The subtitle says it is fresh discoveries in Iranian cooking. And the range is aashes, khoreshes, khoraks, rice dishes, and the usual accompaniments, sides and salads. Plus sweets, of course. The recipes are titled in both Persian and English. Typical are date halvah, eggplant with yogurt, and spicy chicken in coconut sauce. Iran has a diverse regional cooking approach as it is a bridge to Europe and Asia. Prominent to us in the west are berries, walnuts, coriander, and mint. And this is covered in the author's history of the cuisine.
--A GOURMET GUIDE TO OIL AND VINEGAR (Ryland Peters & Small, 2014, 176 pages, $27.95 CAN hard covers) is by Ursula Ferrigno. With 62 recipes, it is an illustrated explanatory book on the wide range of oils available and how to use and season them. Most of it is Mediterranean-inspired olive oils, but there are also nut oils (hazelnut, walnut, pistachio). Vinegar comes from alcohol beverages such as wine, sherry, Champagne, cider, and grains.
--HERITAGE (Artisan Books, 2014, 336 pages, $50 CAN hard covers) is by Sean Brock, executive chef and partner of four US Deep South restaurant, principally in Charleston. He has a Beard Award and performs as a TV chef. The book has heavy log rolling from Batali, Bourdain and Chang. He relates his stories and passion for preserving heritage foods, as well as his re-interpretations on Southern food (both comfort and restaurant food). It's organized by place, with The Garden on veggies, The Yard on poultry, The Creek and The Sea, and others. He profiles his fave purveyors but encourages us to use non-local ingredients where it makes sense. Locally, his Any-Vegetable Salad prep calls for "12 ounces each of the 6 best-looking vegetables at the market".  A good read, and usable cookbook.
--BAKING CHEZ MOI (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, 477 pages, $51 CAN hard covers) is by Dorie Greenspan, a Beard Award-winning cookbook author. This is the world of French baking, which apparently is slowly disappearing from France itself. Nevertheless, there are classics and contemporary preps here, along with seasonal ingredients, visits to markets, and regional specialties. Includes madeleines, caramel tart, apple flamenkuch, eclairs, cream puffs, galettes, brioche and more – all for the home baker.
--THE BAKING BIBLE (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, 560 pages, $50 CAN hard covers) is by Rose Levy Beranbaum, an award-winning author of ten cookbooks, some in the Bible series.  Here she consolidates and refashions many of her faves from the past, with new photos and new interpretations, plus some more original recipes for baked goodies (e.g. Mango Bango Chesecake). She has a good discourse on flours but all references are to wheat types.  She's got the basic tips, tricks, troubleshooting advice, and some "golden rules". Arrangement is by type of baking: cakes, pies and tarts, cookies and candy, ending with breads and yeast pastries. Every prep is listed by weight (scaling) and by volume.
--A KITCHEN IN FRANCE (Clarkson Potter, 2014, 304 pages, $46 CAN hard covers) is by Mimi Thorisson, now living in the Medoc and performing in two cooking shows on French television. It is French regional cooking at its finest, moving through the seasons from Spring through Winter. Good photography, good stories about the locals, good summary of moving problems and resolutions. Sort of like A Year in Provence, but here it is the Medoc – better wine too! I love the leading and the spaciousness of the tome; it is great for tired eyes.
--JEWISH SOUL FOOD (Schocken Books, 2014, 218 pages, $41 CAN hard covers) is by Janna Gur, founder and editor of the leading Israeli food and wine magazine. She had previously authored The Book of New Israeli food. Here, she writes about both Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewish cooking; the subtitle indicates "from Minsk to Marrakesh". There are about 100 dishes, updated for the modern kitchen. Typical dishes include sabich, hamin macaroni, mafroum, feta-stuffed pepper cutlets, and fluden. This is Jewish heritage food.
--7000 ISLANDS (Hardie Grant, 2014, 336 pages, $39.95 CAN hard covers) presents a wealth of recipes from Filipino regions scattered across 7000 islands. Yasmin Newman, an Australian, gives us a thorough enough coverage with short chapters on American, Mexican, Spanish and Malaysian/Spanish influences, and on Filipino drinks. She's got humba (braised pork with black beans) and lechon kawali (pork belly) plus all the various adobos. Most everything can be found in supermarkets except for some spices, but you can load up on these  latter once a year via websites or specialty stores in the big city.
--THE WORLD'S BEST SPICY FOOD (Lonely Planet, 2014, 224 pages, $24.99 CAN paper covers)  is about where to find and how to make spicy foods. There are 30 contributing food writers dealing with the history and profile of each dish: Sichuan hot pots, Mexican salsa, hot curries, Malaysian laksas, and more. 100 preps in all, with a glossy of exotic ingredients. For the arm chair traveler.
--THE FOOD LOVER'S GUIDE TO PARIS 5th ed  (Workman, 2014, 454 pages, $20.95 CAN paper covers) is by Patricia Wells, the cookbook author who runs cooking schools in Paris and Provence. The first edition was in 1984. This fifth edition covers some 457 (345 new, 112 revisited)  restaurants, cafes, charcuterie shops, patisseries, cheese shops, wine stores, and others, with updated addresses, phone numbers, hours, websites, nearest metro stop, etc. She's also got 40 recipes, contributed by local chefs.
--DI PALO'S GUIDE TO THE ESSENTIAL FOODS OF ITALY (Ballantine Books, 2014, 235 pages, $34 CAN hard covers) is by Lou Di Palo who has been running Di Palo's for the past 40 years. He's an Italian food purveyor whose store has been around for a century. He's got a lot of stories to relate. It is part history of a store, with pictures, and part story of Italian food, with 18 or so recipes. He's got the basic material on how to buy, to store and serve Italian food. But essentially it is a good guide to the types of food from Italy – that his comprehensive store sells.
--QUEENS; a culinary passport (St. Martin's Griffin, 2014, 214 pages, $22.99 CAN paper covers) is by Andrea Lynn. It is an illustrated cook's tour through the Borough of Queens in NYC, exploring ethnic cuisines (Italy, India, Greece, Latin, China) at 40 restaurants and food stands, with chef profiles and signature dish recipes. She's even got subway directions and detailed neighbourhood walking tours.
--THE KITCHEN ECOSYSTEM (Clarkson Potter, 2014, 408 pages, $32 CAN hardbound) is by Eugenia Bone. Her principle is that preserved foods and products made from preparing one dish could boost the flavours in the next dish. To her, foods are building blocks, continuously changing into a pantry of plenitude. So, you can make stocks from uneaten leftovers, while juices from canning foods go into syrups and granites. Don't forget that marinades and pickling liquids add extra flavours as well. Just get a main course and add into it, creating an ecosystem. One way or another, there are about 400 preps here.
…and gift books for the beverage drinker? Try –
--WINE; a tasting course (DK Books, 2014, 256 pages, $26 CAN) written by Marnie Old, formerly wine director at the French Culinary Institute. She has written many other books about wine, but this is her first all-embracing beginner book. It is also very heavily illustrated, showing, what the publisher says, what other wine books only tell you. There are chapters on building wine skills, navigating wine by style, grape-growing choices, discovering wine grapes and regions, and the like. There is something for all of us here, even wine experts like myself!
--THE WORLD ATLAS OF COFFEE (Firefly Books, 2014, 256 pages, $35 CAN hard covers) is by James Hoffmann, 2007 World Barista Champion. Over 440 million cups of coffee are consumed daily in North America. Behind each cup is an explanation by this too, a global tour of 35 or so coffee-growing countries, with colour photos. So for Malawi, for example, there is detail on cultural and business history, a taste profile of the coffees, an interconnection with other countries, a description of the main growing regions, and pictures of pickers. The countries are grouped by continent: Africa, Asia and  the Americas. Both organic production and the fair trade movement are discussed. He's got full tasting notes for over 500 different beans and grinds. Detailed maps locate growing areas and worldwide trends. A great book to look at and to delve into, for you to explore beyond your fave coffee.
--COFFEE OBSESSION (DK Books, 2014, 224 pages, $23 CAN hard covers) by Anette Moldvaer is not all that pricey, falling line with other DK Books. Here are over 100 global recipes from chai latte and affogato  to kahwa and ristretto, covering each of the coffee-producing nations (New Guinea, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Brazil, et al) with locations and maps, terroir and different flavours, climates, local processing There is some step-by-step instructional material for self-barista training (about half the book), as well as over 200 photos. Save money, stay at home, do it yourself – for nobody seems to socially interact in person in a coffee shop anymore. It is all textual communication.
--BAROLO AND BARBARESCO (University of California Press, 2014, 346 pages, $44.60 CAN hard covers) is by Kerin O'Keefe, who has also authored Brunello di Montalcino for UC Press. Here she moves from Tuscany to Piedmont and gives a very through overview of the contiguous growing areas for both wines, areas that are separated only Alba. She's got a few profiles of the movers and shakers who play with nebbiolo grapes, as well as the villages of Barbaresco and Barolo. She covers climate change, treatment of vineyards, vinification methods and modern changes, the status of aging, and the expansion and zoning of vineyard areas to meet world demand. There is also a vintages guide (in 2007 Barbaresco bested Barolo) and a glossary of Italian wine terms, along with scholarly end notes and a bibliography.
--WINE ATLAS OF GERMANY (Uibersity of California Press, 2007, 2014, 278 pages, $67 CAN hard covers) is by Dieter Braatz, Ulrich Sautter, and Ingo Swoboda. It was originally published in 2007 in German, but here it has been translated for the English-language world, and comes with a Forward by Jancis Robinson. There are 67 colour maps with detailed references to vineyards and appellations. There is commentary on all the wine-growing regions of Germany as well as and analysis and ranking of the most significant vineyards of each region. Rieslings get prime coverage, especially of the Mosel and Rhine rivers. There are also sidebars and other essays.
--DEATH & CO (Ten Speed Press, 2014, 300 pages, $46 CAN hard covers) is by David Kaplan, Nick Fauchald, and Alex Day. David and Alex are co-owners of the eponymous cocktail bar in New York City. It is also partially a memoir of the bar, with much history since 2006. The book has about 500 creations, each with terrific detail and indexing. For example, they give the classic Negroni, and then nine variations including White Negroni and others made with tequila or rum substituting for the gin. Well worth a look and eventual purchase as a gift for the cocktail lover.
--THE CURIOUS BARTENDER: AN ODYSSEY OF WHISKIES (Ryland Peters & Small, 2014, 288 pages, $32.95 CAN hard covers) is by Tristan Stephenson, not only a drinks author but also a brand ambassador and consultant in the UK world of cocktails. His second work covers malt, bourbon and rye types of  whiskey, with histories, an exploration of the barrel-aging process, and a swing through 60 distilleries throughout the world but principally the UK and the US. He's also got some classic preps for cocktails, such as the Boilermaker. It follows the rising tide of brown spirits that has returned after many years of clear spirits.
...perhaps some reference books? Such as:
--THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE (Little, Brown, 2014, 554 pages, $44 CAN hard covers) is by Karen Page, the Beard Award-winning author of The Flavor Bible. Her bestseller was based on compatible flavours rather than recipes, and here she concentrates on plant-based cookery. She's got a lot of opinions from many American chefs, and is a chief promoter of vegetarianism based on her personal experiences of giving up meat. For those of us who still eat meat (but meat consumption is down in North America for the fifth consecutive year), the knowledge of flavour profiles may be just what we need to encourage the use of meat as just a garnish. There's a lot in the book: profiles of   several hundreds of foods (nutritional contents, serving suggestions, cooking tips) arranged in dictionary format from acai to zucchini blossoms; lists of idea starters to inspire your next creation; maximizing flavours; pairing wine with plants;  and search patterns by ethnic cuisine or flavour or season.
--FIFTY FOODS THAT CHANGED THE COURSE OF HISTORY (Firefly Books, 2014, 224 pages, $29.95 CAN hard covers) is by Bill Price. It's a guide to foods that have had the biggest impact on civilization (one of them – the mammoth -- is no longer with us). These are short illustrated chapters dealing with the food in terms of cultural, social, commercial, political and/or military spheres. Beyond bread, sugar, wine potato, beef and rice, there is also paella, hardtack, cassoulet, hamburger, and bananas. Very readable, especially late at night – a chapter at a time.
--THE SPICE & HERB BIBLE. 3rd ed (Robert Rose, 2014,  800 pages, $34.95 CAN paperback) is by Ian  Hemphill. He's been in the spice trade for the past four decades. Indeed, his mother Rosemary Hemphill wrote a major best seller in 1959, The Penguin Book of Herbs and Spices. Kate Hemphill, a UK chef, developed the 177 recipes. There are six new spice entries here, bringing the total up to 97. 102 of the recipes are new. There are also 33 new curry spice blends and 17 other new spice blends. Everything has been redesigned and reorganized with new full colour photos; the resulting book weighs because of its thick paper. Each entry has lists of common names in non-English languages, an illustration, background, a listing of other varieties, buying and storage, use, and a recipe. Typical preps include Baharat beef with olives, Ras el Hanout chicken, and shrimp moilee. You just cannot get more encyclopedic than this: give it to your foodie reference person, wean him/her off the Internet.
--GOOD FOOD GREAT BUSINESS (Chronicle Books, 2014, 256 pages, $22.99 CAN soft covers) is by food business strategist Susie Wyshak. It's about how to take your artisan food idea from concept to marketplace. It has a glossary and bibliography plus a resources list. The examples used are American, but the principles are the same for Canada. It's a nice gift for your pickle-maker  or jam-maker neighbour.
--THE MEAT COOKBOOK (DK Books, 2014, 320 pages, $37 CAN hard covers) is a package visual guide to choosing, preparing, and cooking meats (pork, lamb, beef, poultry, game and offal). There are 300 international recipes here, as well as advice on getting the best quality cooked meat from the raw. There are 50 step-by-step techniques on how to cook various meats such as sausages, turkeys, steaks. Jam packed with 500 colour photos, including some self-butchering materials.