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Thursday, August 21, 2014

* THE RESTAURANT/CELEBRITY COOKBOOK... one of the hottest trends in cookbooks. Actually, they've been around for many years, but never in such proliferation. They are automatic best sellers, since the book can be flogged at the restaurant or TV show and since the chef ends up being a celebrity somewhere, doing guest cooking or catering or even turning up on the Food Network. Most of these books will certainly appeal to fans of the chef and/or the restaurant and/or the media personality. Many of the recipes in these books actually come off the menus of the restaurants involved. Occasionally, there will be, in these books, special notes or preps, or recipes for items no longer on the menu. Stories or anecdotes will be related to the history of a dish. But because most of these books are American, they use only US volume measurements for the ingredients; sometimes there is a table of metric equivalents, but more often there is not. I'll try to point this out. The usual shtick is "favourite recipes made easy for everyday cooks". There is also PR copy on "demystifying ethnic ingredients". PR bumpf also includes much use of the magic phrase "mouth-watering recipes" as if that is what it takes to sell such a book. I keep hearing from readers, users, and other food writers that some restaurant recipes (not necessarily from these books) don't seem to work at home, but how could that be? The books all claim to be kitchen tested for the home, and many books identify the food researcher by name. Most books are loaded with tips, techniques, and advice, as well as gregarious stories about life in the restaurant world. Photos abound, usually of the chef bounding about. The celebrity books, with well-known chefs or entertainers, seem to have too much self-involvement and ego. And, of course, there are a lot of food photo shots, verging on gastroporn. There are endorsements from other celebrities in magnificent cases of logrolling. If resources are cited, they are usually American mail order firms, with websites. Some companies, though, will ship around the world, so don't ignore them altogether. Here's a rundown on the latest crop of such books –
15.DELICIOUSLY VINTAGE (Ryland Peters & Small, 2014, 144 pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-486-6, $24.95 US hard covers) is by Victoria Glass who runs Victoria's Cake Boutique. She also does design work for the cakes, and has written Boutique Wedding Cakes. Here she concentrates on sixty baking classics (cookies, cakes, pastries). They range from jumbles to chocolate chip cookies, scones, Victoria sponge cakes, sachertorte, eclairs, lemon meringue pie, trifle, madeleines, Black Forest, peach cobbler and more. All of them are easy enough o do, and it is good to have them all under one set of covers. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric (mostly) and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
16.MARY BERRY COOKS; my favourite recipes for family and friends (BBC Books; distr. Random House Canada, 2014, 320 pages, ISBN 978-1-849-90663-0, $39.95 CAN hard covers) is meant to accompany the TV series of the same name, for the BBC. It is a new collection of her preps, covering about 100 recipes. It's arranged by plate or course, beginning with the primer and moving on to quick bites, canapes, starters and apps, veggies, salads, cold desserts and hot puddings. There are separate chapters on sharing plates, family favourites, suppers, and afternoon tea. It is very British, with aubergines and courgettes, but it is vitally useful to her legion of worldwide fans. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, and there are even tables of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
17.MUSSELS; preparing, cooking and enjoying a sensational seafood (Whitecap Books, 2014, 196 pages, ISBN 978-1-77050-214-7, $29.95 CAN paper covers) is by personality Alain Bosse (chef, consultant, food editor) and Linda Duncan (executive director of the Mussel Industry Council). If you love mussels and want to cook them at home, then this is the book for you. The collaborators tell how to purchase, store and prepare mussels. The variety of 77 preps range from classic marniere to curried, risottos and carbonaras to more  contemporary offerings which move into South East Asia or Latin America. There's Tom Kha soup with mussels and lemon grass, mussel ceviche, chorico cider mussels, and sweet Thai chili mussels. Mussel strudel used mangoes. It's arranged by course (apps to BBQ, with sides and breads covered) with plenty of detail on home cooking such as BBQ. They are enthusiastic and the pix are gorgeous. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 89.
18.THE DELICIOUSLY CONSCIOUS COOKBOOK (Hay House, 2014; distr. Raincoast, 240 pages, ISBN 978-1-4019-4580, $19.95 US paper covers) is by Belinda Connolly, a private chef who runs a stall at the Totnes Market in Devon, England. She's got about 100 vegetarian recipes here: many are GF, dairy free, low sugar and/or vegan. There are some notes on her philosophy of cooking plus some memoirish material. This is followed by savoury recipes, from soups to salads to pastries, and then sweet recipes (tarts, cakes, cheesecakes). She's also got a resources section, both US and UK, with some recommended reading. Try her butternut-berry & goat's cheesecake, or Thai cauliflower with coconut and lime as a soup. For the unusual, there is adzuki bean fudge brownies and tropical parsnip and polenta cake. Also mushroom chard and cheddar quiche. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of  equivalents. Quality/price rating: 86.
19.BEEROLOGY (Appetite by Random House, 2014, 179 pages, ISBN 978-0-449-01612-1, $24.95 CAN, paper covers) is by Mirella Amato, a Master Cicerone (a beer sommelier) living in Toronto. Indeed, she is an award-winning judge and the first non-US resident to be a Master Cicerone, and heard on CBC Radio. Any book with French flaps and the word "Cicerone" gets my immediate attention. She's written a convincing introduction to the world of suds, one that is not gung-ho with machismo prowess, thus it appeals to women as well. There's some log rolling from Brooklyn Brewery and Dogfish, both American craft breweries, but the book needs American sales to thrive. Amato has been promoting local beer and beer appreciation since 2007. The first part of the book deals with the mechanics of making beer and other basics. Then she has a section on beer styles, ranging from light to heavy, with top notch descriptions, what each is fun with, food to pair with, and some international label examples (there are a lot of Canadian and US examples here). The last section is the "entertaining" one, with points on constructing a beer tasting, pairing beer with food, and beer cocktails. These have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements. At the end, there is a resources section with a glossary, evaluation sheet, beer flavour wheel, and some visual reference charts. There is more to be found at where she has news and a blog. Quality/price rating: 90.
20.SCOOP ADVENTURES; the best ice cream of the 50 states (Page Street, 2014, 191 pages, ISBN 978-1-62414-034-1, $19.99 US soft covers) is by Lindsay Clendaniel, a blogger at It comes with log rolling endorsements from some head pastry chefs. Here are the preps from great ice cream shops in New York, Maryland, Illinois – at least one per state. Clendaniel has adapted the recipes from the creameries for home use. There are over 80 ice creams here, with anecdotes behind the flavours, photos of the shops (but not the people) and photos of the finished scoop. It is arranged by region; even DC is covered. There are names and locations for each place, including websites (but for three places, just phone numbers: nice to know that not everybody is on the web. And their ice cream is also old-fashioned). Try key lime pie ice cream, purple cow ice cream, or chipotle raspberry ice cream. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, with no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 88.
21.MERINGUE GIRLS; incredible sweets everybody can make. (Chronicle Books, 2014; distr. Raincoast, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-3353-9, $19.95 US hard covers) is by Alex Hoffler and Stacey O'Gorman, the Meringue Girls in London UK who plan food-events and supply sweets and food stylings. It was originally published in the UK in 2013 by Square Peg. It is a basic book about what you can do with meringues, incorporating ideas for design. There are many preps for kisses, summery desserts, and winery puddings, plus gift ideas.  Of particular value is the chapter on "using your yolks". In addition to the regular meringue method, they highlight three others: marshmallow meringue, Italian meringue, and maple meringue. It is an extremely colourful and playful book, bound to reward all younger readers. Try almond meringue roulade, Eton mess, pomegranate meringue slab, or meringue Easter eggs. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of equivalents. Quality/price rating: 87.
22.PALEO GRILLING; a modern caveman's guide to cooking with fire (Fair Winds Press, 2014, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-59233-612-8, $22.99 US paper covers) is by Tony Federico, who hosts a paleo radio show and is a full-time writer, and James Phelan, who last was chef at Matthews' restaurant in Florida but is now a gourmet paleo delivery service. So this is the paleo guy book of meats and sides. There are also drinks and desserts, but mercifully short with only five apiece. There are over 100 preps here for grilling (charcoal, gas, smoking, BBQ), along with a primer and a "primal pantry". There's a good section on smoking without a smoker and a resources list. Log rolling comes from five other paleo authors. The book is arranged by meat type, and does include wild game and offal. Try smoked offal meatloaf, or BBQ bison ribs, lamb steaks with gremolata, herb-smoked clams, or Korean frilled pork belly. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements. Quality/price rating: 88.
23.CAESARS; the essential guide to your favourite cocktail (Appetite by Random House, 2014,  200 pages, ISBN 978-0-449-01648-0, $19.95 CAN paper covers) is by Clint Pattemore, chief "mixing officer" for Mott's Clamato; he has been the brand ambassador since 2012. Connie DeSousa and John Jackson, partners in CHARCUT Roast House in Calgary, developed the 20 food recipes designed to accompany or "pair" with the 50 drinks here (which include such variations as blackberry lemon Caesar, Thai mango Caesar, and smoked lime and tequila Caesar). A Caesar or Bloody Caesar is a cocktail created and primarily consumed in Canada. It typically contains vodka, Clamato (a proprietary blend of tomato juice and clam broth), hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce, and is served with ice in a large, celery salt-rimmed glass, typically garnished with a stalk of celery and wedge of lime. The Caesar was invented in Calgary (1969) by Walter Chell to celebrate the opening of his new Italian restaurant in the city. It quickly became a popular mixed drink within Canada where over 350 million Caesars are consumed annually and it has inspired numerous variants. However, the drink remains virtually unknown outside Canada. The standard is vodka with clam and tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce and "other" spices, quite similar to a Bloody Mary. But like the Martini, it has been popularized with other base alcohols. All of the preps here use some product from Mott (such as Mr. and Mrs. T), but you can, of course, substitute your own. The arrangement of the drinks is by season. None of the food recipes use Mott materials, except for one vinaigrette. All of them have been paired with a suggested "Caesar" of different provenance. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements. Try some figs stuffed with blue cheese, turkey breast porchetta, or grilled asparagus with tarragon dipping sauce. Quality/price rating: 85.
24.THE POUND A DAY DIET (Grand Central Life & Style, 2014, 298 pages, ISBN 978-1-4555-2367-2, $26 US hard covers) is by Rocco DiSpirito, a Beard winner and author of 9 other diet and cookbooks. He founded Union Pacific restaurant (which became a major food show on US TV), and is also now a host on the Food Network. This current book says that you can lose up to 5 pounds in 5 days by eating the foods you love. This is accelerated weight loss by virtue of eating six low-calorie meals a day. The principles are explained, followed by the recipes for both the diet and the maintenance program. There are about 60 recipes, mostly quick and easy, and with five ingredients or fewer. There is also some advice on how to buy store-bought versions of the main foods. He's got some menus and shopping lists as well as calorie counts. Typical preps include rotisserie chicken and teriyaki Asian noodles, turkey Alfredo, cab taco, frozen dark chocolate shake, and sweet potato chips. Worth a shot. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. At the end there is a resources list. Quality/price rating: 85.

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