There are always 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 of materials published in 2015 to satisfy any pocketbook, any host, and any friend or relative. All books and book-like materials that are listed here are RECOMMENDED for gifting, and can be purchased at a discount via Amazon.Ca, Chapters.Indigo.Ca (with free delivery on a total purchase of over $25), or even The Book Depository in Guernsey (free delivery and no GST from the UK).
Price Alert: because of US dollar fluctuations with Canada, all prices will vary.
Part One: TOP GIFT IDEAS
A. Art/travel/restaurant 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 but sent a PDF or a BLAD.
--HARTWOOD (Artisan, 2015, 304 pages, $55 CAN hardcovers) is by Eric Werner and Mya Henry, who relocated from restaurant jobs in NYC to the small town of Tulum in the Yucatan Peninsula. Five years later, Hartwood has drawn acclaim from such as Waters and Redzepi (Chez Panisse and NOMA). It has been described as a restaurant between the jungle and the sea, with tropical flavours. That makes it hard for us at home since ingredients can be scarce here; nevertheless, the tome is a travelogue, an adequate replacement for the armchair people to view the location and the food. Typical preps are chilled sandia soup, prickly pear preserves, and agave pork belly with grilled pina. It is an engaging look with the authors describing a restaurant in the tropics without a roof, walls or electricity. Sort of like a Stadtlander experience, but much more isolated.
--ATELIER CRENN; metamorphosis of taste (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, 360 pages, $50 US hard covers) is by Dominique Crenn, chef-owner of the Atelier Crenn in San Francisco. It is a combination of Brittany and California, mainly seafood, merging the Atlantic and the Pacific. Crenn was the first US woman to receive two Michelin stars. The volume is divided into chapters on Origin, Plant, Sea, Land, Dream and Craft, with French recipes situated in US West Coast sensibility. There are lots of photos and stories here, well-worth a read, and impressive for those who want or require an expensive gift. Some recipes are easy, others are complicated, but all are good: the kir breton, carrot jerky with orange peel, abalone, foie gras with winter nuances, and buckwheat flatbread.
--A TURKISH COOKBOOK (Grub Street, 2015, 176 pages, $29.95 CAN paper covers) is a reasonably priced paean to traditional Turkish food, with stories, poems and pithy sayings, authored by the late Arto der Haroutunian, owner of many UK Armenian restaurants. Classics include seafood and fish dishes, exotic pastries, different kebab skewers, and a wide-range of mezze small plates.
--EAT ISTANBUL (Quadrille, 2015, 208 pages, $39.95 CAN hard covers) is by Andy Harris. It is a "journey to the heart of Turkish cuisine": part cookbook, part travelogue, and all delicious. He includes artisan bakers, chefs, fishermen, street vendors, with stories. Over 90 preps, some from the artisans. So here is one city, one food – breakfast, followed by street food, snacks, veggies, meats, seafood and desserts, along with a glossary.
--NEAR & FAR (Ten Speed Press, 2015, 330 pages, $38.99 CAN hard covers) is by Heidi Swanson, who gives us "recipes inspired by home and travel" -- near and far. Here are 120 vegetarian dishes, from the near of San Francisco to the far of Morocco, Japan, Italy, France and India, accompanied by her thoughtful photographs. So it is part memoir, part travelogue, part recipes, and all gift for the home chef.
--MORITO (Ebury Press, 2014, 288 pages, ISBN 9780091947309, $45 CAN hard covers) is by Sam and Sam Clark who own Moro in London. They also own Morito, the little sister, which is noisier and more experimental with a collection of tapas and mezze: para picar (Spanish nibbling, pinchos (Basque tapas), montaditos (much like bruschetta), eggs, veggies, cheese, fish, meat, drinks, and more. Good photography of the staff and location, plus a bookmark ribbon.
--THE ESSENCE OF FRENCH COOKING (Quadrille Publishing, 2014, 978-1-84949-662-9, $61 CAN hard covers) is by the renowned Michel Roux (La Gavroche, The Waterside Inn at Bray) who has had a range of three Michelin stars for over 30 years. His other cookbooks have sold over two million copies and he is probably the best well-known chef in the entire world...yet the publisher still needs log rollers (Keller and Boulud). Hello? This is a book of classic recipes, the basic 100 or so covering all the regions of France. Most also have variations
--BISTRONOMY (Rizzoli, 2015, 240 pages, $39.95 CAN hard covers) is by Jane Sigal. She writes about what is happening in the hottest Parisian bistros today. This is modern day food, not your fatty duck cassoulet. There is also a lot of material on how the home cook can reproduce bistro food in the small house kitchen.
--CAKES IN BLOOM (Quadrille, 2015, 224 pages, $61 CAN hard covers) deals with the art of exquisite sugarcraft flowers. Peggy Porschen, who has her own Peggy Porschen Parlour and Academy, is a master cake decorator. Here she gives the reader intricate details and the need for dexterity in the sugar blooms, frangipans, and modeling techniques. There's a huge array of flowers creatively used on a variety of cakes, with lots of instructional photos and pix of finished products. Hey, a good gift for your baking friends.
--LONELY PLANET: ITALY FROM THE SOURCE (Lonely Planet, 2015, 272 pages, $30 CAN hard covers) is one of a new food and travel series from the Lonely Planet folks. Actually, it is mainly the armchair traveller and the intermediate level cook that is the audience. The aim is to present authentic preparations from the people that know them best: the street food vendors, top chefs, and the local families. The Italian book is authored by Sarah Barrell, and is divided into four regions (northeast, northwest, central and south. This is a travelogue with classic preps, all sourced, and with pix of producers, chefs, farmers, and market stalls. Typical recipes are for pezzogna all' acqua pazza con vongole e rucola, stews, pastas, and desserts. LONELY PLANET: THAILAND FROM THE SOURCE (Lonely Planet, 2015, 272 pages, $30 CAN hard covers) is by Austin Bush. It too is in four sections: central and Bangkok, northern, northeastern, and southern). There are hot fish curries and delectable savoury salads along with the usual setup and a glossary. It looks like we can be in for a long series, say 100 books.
--MY PARIS MARKET COOKBOOK (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015, 206 pages, $35.99 CAN hard cover) is by Emily Dilling. It is a cookbook and a travel guide that will teach you how to shop, cook and eat like a Parisian. It is based on her blog, "Paris Paysanne". Profiles of artisans in coffee, local products, farmers, chefs, cafes, restaurants are accompanied by seasonal recipes. It is a good volume for travellers in that it does cover many places to eat and drink.
--RUSSIAN CUISINE (Whitecap Books, 2015, 236 pages, $29.95 CAN softcover with flaps) is by Maria Depenwiler, a food writer and nutritionist who was born and raised in Moscow. There's a lot of culinary history here, culture, eating habits, Russian oven samovar, and so forth-- through 180 ethnic groups!! There's tea drinking, table settings, backyard gardens, and the winter markets; each of the 113 preps (schi, rasstegai, zakuski, ant hill torte) has some cultural detail.
--INDIAN KITCHEN (Hodder & Stoughton, 2015, 256 pages, $38.99 CAN hard covers) is by Maunika Gowardhan, a Mumbai-born food writer and blogger (Cook in a Curry) in the UK; the book is endorsed by both Jamie and Yotam. It is divided into relevant chapters based on mood: hungry, lazy, indulgent, celebratory; there are also chapters on pantry, breads, and chutney. It is a good concept.
--BATTERSBY (Grand Central Life & Style, 2015, 352 pages, $39 CAN hard cover) is by Joseph Ogrodnek and Walker Stern, chef-owners of Brooklyn's Battersby and Dover restaurants. They came up through the CIA and Alain Ducasse. Both restos have extremely small – but open – kitchens. So the book has immediate appeal to condos and apartments (Battersby's kitchen is 4 feet by 6 feet). The trick is to have a roster of dishes that are prepared in advance and just need some finishing off. The 149 recipes here are divided into "to prep" and "to serve" instructions, with the first part done well in advance. Great for entertaining.
--V IS FOR VEGETABLES (Little, Brown and Company, 2015, 374 pages, $47.50 CAN hard covers) is by Beard Award winner Michael Anthony, chef at Gramercy Tavern. It is a personal tome, arranged by veggie from A to Z, and with 150 recipes (crispy composed salads, fresh herb sauces, warm gratins, stews, and sauteed greens). It must be anticipating some action since the announced first printing was 75,000 copies.
--ZAHAV; a world of Israeli cooking (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015, 368 pages, $46 CAN hard covers) is by Beard Award winner Michael Solomonov, who opened his Israeli restaurant in 2008 in Philadelphia. This is modern Israeli cuisine, a compendium of his preps with the mosaic of Middle Eastern, North African, Mediterranean, and Eastern European themes. He's got the mezze of fried cauliflower, a sublime hummus, a pink lentil soup with lamb meatballs, Persian wedding rice, and roasted lamb shoulder with pomegranate and chickpeas. There are sidebars on ingredients. The work has a lot of illustrations and a trip through Israel. He's also got at least four other restaurants in Philadelphia, dealing with BBQ, donuts, and small plates).
--LIDIA'S MASTERING THE ART OF ITALIAN CUISINE (Appetite by Random House, 2015, 464 pages, $45 CAN hard covers) is by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich with her daughter Tanya Bastianich Manuali. Lidia has won multiple food awards and Emmys, and owns quite a few restos. This is the masterclass many of their followers have requested, covering everything from ingredients to techniques to tools, complemented by 400 recipes. So this is the basic primer for Italian food from its many regions. Double-column pages include both Italian and English recipe titles. It is a no-nonsense book with no photos, just a handful of decorative line drawings. It's subtitle is "everything you need to know to be a great Italian cook": the book is unbeatable in its presentation of Italian cookery – with lots of explanations and stories. It is arranged by course, ranging from classics (e.g. risotto, sugo and ragu, pastas) to her contemporary spins such as beet ravioli in poppy seed sauce or bread and prune gnocchi.
--MONET'S PALATE COOKBOOK; the artist and his kitchen at Giverny (Gibbs Smith, 2015, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-4236-3997-8, $30 US hard covers) is by Aileen Bordman and Derek Fell. She's a filmmaker (Monet's Palate, 2004) and he's an author who has written a series of books about the Impressionists. He's also a gardener and has hosted gardening shows on TV. Monet's two acre kitchen garden has been brought back to life, and the book has been produced to accompany the PBS documentary of the same name. An excellent art book with traditional classic French recipes from all over France.
--GOODNESS; recipes and stories (Blakeman Books, 2015, 328 pages, $29.95 paper covers) is from the Neal Brothers, Peter and Chris, who have expanded from their processed-naturally food company (organic foods such as salsas, potato chips, tortilla chips, coffees, chocolate) to wines (Neal Hanna) and to support of Community Food Centres Canada. This work celebrates 37 chefs, entrepreneurs, growers and food activists who believe that good, healthy food should be accessible to all. Each has a story top tell, supporting sustainability, promoting access, outreach and education. Each sends along a dish or two that can be made at home (recipe provided, of course, like the crispy egg and pork belly salad). Half of the profits from the sale of GOODNESS will be donated to to the CFCC. Another perfect gift volume.
--MODERN JEWISH COOKING (Chronicle Books, 2015, 352 pages, $35 US) is by cookbook author Leah Koenig. These are recipes and customs for today's kitchens. Three major food cultures are covered: Ashkenazi (Antique Europe), Sephardi (Iberia), and Mizrahi (Middle East), 175 recipes in all emphasizing the classics but with the modern spin of new techniques and lower fat/calories.
--TRUE THAI (Rizzoli, 2015, 256 pages, $35 CAN hard covers) is a modern Thai cookbook for the North American market by a Thai chef, Hong Thaimes. It has the basic classics and the contemporary spins on these classics. Included also are tips, tricks, and absolutely drop dead gorgeous photography. Another nice gift.
--THE FIRE OF PERU (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015, 276 pages, $45 CAN hard covers) is by Ricardo Zarate, a Lima-born LA chef and multiple restaurateur. It is a combo, with classic Peruvian specialties and well-integrated modern contemporary takes on indigenous Latin American foods, incorporating Asian and European influences. The 100 recipes include Peruvian-style sushi, ceviche, and of course Pisco Sours. It is part travelogue as well, with pictures and accounts of Zarate's life: one of 13 kids, he cooked and sold street food...And other "stories from my Peruvian kitchen".
--THE NOMAD COOKBOOK (Ten Speed Press, 2015, 552 pages, $129 CAN hard covers shrink-wrapped) comes from the NoMad Hotel. There are actually two books here – one is the cookbook/description of life at the NoMad Hotel, penned by Daniel Humm and Will Guidara, also authors of "Eleven Madison Park". The other is a bar book with cocktail recipes, written by Leo Robitschek who won a Beard Award for Outstanding Bar Program in 2014. The packaging is just right for Christmas, and has been inspired by a Prohibition-era book safe. The cocktail ledger is found hidden within the pages of the cookbook.
--MONTREAL COOKS (Figure 1, 2015; Random House Canada, 252 pages, $37.95 CAN hard covers) and WINNIPEG COOKS (Figure 1, 2015; Random House Canada, 192 pages, $34.95 CAN hard covers) continue the series which began last year with TORONTO COOKS (collected by Amy Rosen) and CALGARY COOKS (Gail Norton and Karen Ralph). The Montreal book has been collected by Jonathan Cheung and Tags Spencer. These are all collections of recipes from renowned restaurants in their respective cities, along with a profile of the chef-at-the-time (they move around) and advice on how to cook the prep. There are 40 restaurants in Montreal, and 44 chefs in Winnipeg – with signature recipes, profiles and pictures. A good series and a great source of opinions and arguments.
--FIRE + ICE (Ten Speed Press, 2015, 298 pages, $51 CAN hard covers) is by Beard Award winner Darra Goldstein. It concerns classic Nordic cooking throughout Scandinavia, along with a travel guide and pix. It eschews completed plate food photos for travel and pictures of ingredients. Fairly comprehensive and thorough, covers a lot of ground.
--PHOENIX CLAWS AND JADE TREES (Clarkson Potter, 2015, 368 pages, $45 CAN hard covers) is by Kian Lam Kho, a NYC-based chef-teacher-blogger. Its subtitle is "essential techniques of authentic Chinese cooking". Kho emphasizes the subtle tones of food flavours through cooking techniques, and describes which technique is best for particular ingredients and the end results. The 158 recipes usually have step-by-step photos. The work is arranged by technique: wok, oil-dipped, sauces, boiling, steaming, smoking, etc., such as carp with pine nuts or pan-fried whole prawns. There is even a ribbon for a bookmark.
--SOUTHERN HEAT (Taunton Press, 2015, 282 pages, $45 CAN hard covers) is by Anthony Lamas and Gwen Pratesi. He's the owner-chef of Seviche where he blends Latin food from his heritage to Southern foods where works (Louisville). Traditional southern food is "peppered" with bold flavours and textures of Latin cuisine, such as Nuevo Latino shrimp and grits or macadamia-crusted striped bass with red chile or roasted sweet potatoes with sorghum and chipotle-pecan butter from amongst the 125 recipes.
--THE MAD FEAST (Liveright Publishing, 2015, 418 pages, $45 CAN hard covers) is by Matthew Gavin Frank who has written about Italian wine-making and pot fams in California. Here he produces the stories behind some of the ingredients in American food. The subtitle is "an ecstatic tour through America's food". He uses a signature dish from each of the 50 states, such as key lime pie (Florida), peach pie (Georgia), or dry rub rib (Tennessee). There are some regional variations given from within each state, and a concluding recipe, usually from a restaurant. Well worth a look, especially for his vivid writing style.
--CITY HARVEST (Rizzoli, 2015, 224 pages, $40 CAN hard covers) is by Florence Fabricant. It is a charity cookbook for lovers of New York restaurants. There are major contributions from celebrity chefs Eric Ripert, Marcus Samuelson, and Tom Colicchio (among others). Together they give us 100 preps.