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Thursday, January 24, 2019

* 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 –
3.I AM A FILIPINO (Artisan, 2018, 352 pages, ISBN 978-1-57965-767-3. $35 USD hardbound) is by Nicole Ponseca, founder of Maharlika and Jeepney restaurants in NYC, and Miguel Trinidad, chef at both places. The amazing primer is the section Filipino Food 101 which defines the regional cuisines, the ingredients, the cooking techniques, and the spices of what makes Filipino food Filipino. These are both modern and classic preps, displaying Chinese influences (noodles and dumplings), Middle Eastern, Spanish, Mexican (tomatoes and tamales), and some American-styles (banana ketchup ribs, fried chicken and ube waffles). The range is from fatty and fried street foods through adobo, soups, salads, "burnt coconut", and sweets. Superbly photographed. Try the balbacoa (hock and oxtails), piaparan manok (chicken wing stew), or the lumpiang sariwa (fresh veggie crepes). Metric and avoirdupois measurements are both employed, a plus. Quality/price rating: 89
4.DETOX KITCHEN VEGETABLES (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018, 304 pages, ISBN 978-1-4088-8446-1, $36 USD hardbound) is by Lily Simpson, who launched Detox Kitchen in 2012 in the UK, a food business with natural ingredients. This is largely a plant-based cookbook devoid of dairy, wheat and refined sugar. But it does include eggs and honey. The primer includes a larder/pantry. It's all arranged by ingredient, beginning with broad beans and moving through peas, asparagus, fennel, rhubarb, kale, okra, beetroot, tomato, squash and 23 more. There's broccoli carpaccio with homemade hoisin sauce, green salad with tahini and ginger, and cucumber and avocado coconut smoothie. Good British sensibility here. The book could have been improved if it also used all metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Tbsp and tsp are used but no mL. Quality/price rating: 88.
5.COCKTAIL CODEX (Ten Speed Press, 2018, 310 pages, ISBN 978-1-60774-920-7, $40 USD hardbound) is by the Death & Co. team of Alex Day, Nick Fauchald, and David Kaplan. It's a book of fundamentals, formulas, and evolutions. They believe that there are only six categories of cocktails, all based on one of "the old fashioned", "the martini", "the daiquiri", "the sidecar", "the whisky highball", and "the flip". A chapter is created for each. In the appendix there are a variety of preps for syrups and cordials, infusions, mixes and sodas, salts and rims, tinctures and concentrates. Plus a resources list and bibliography for additional reading. The martini section has the classic recipe for a gin martini, followed by a "root" recipe and a template. This is followed by the variations, including vodka martinis. But what happened to the Gibson? The Gimlet is here (under daiquiri), but there is no Gibson. It's also a useful and technical book for descriptions, and should bolster the knowledge appeal and controversy for any cocktail specialist. The book could have been improved if it also used metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 88. 
6.JOE BEEF: SURVIVING THE APOCALYPSE (Appetite by Random House, 2018, 335 pages, ISBN  978-0-14-753079-0, $50 CAD hardbound) is by Frederic Morin, David McMillan and Meredith Erickson, the authors of the well-received earlier cookbook,"The Art of Living According to Joe Beef". Morin and McMillan are co-owners of a variety of Montreal restaurants, including Joe Beef. Morin was the first Joe Beef chef; McMillan is the current chef. Erickson is the collaborating food author. Their first book was personal (living life the Joe Beef way), and this one is an extension with 150 new recipes sourced from all of their restaurants plus summertime in the Laurentians and Sunday dinners at home. There is even a Christmas in July, should you wish to embrace it, with recipes. It's light and breezy, with marrow pilaf, pot-au-feu (both d'hiver and d'ete), Dutch babies, pickled tongues, greens cheesecake, and a variety of off-the-wall but workable dishes. This is a good fun book with lots of memoir family material and personal thoughts plus the obligatory photographs of the team at work. The opening section is called The Cellar, and this is what foods you put aside in case there really is an apocalypse. While it still uses teaspoons and tablespoons as sole measurements for that quantity, all the other measurements are in both metric and avoirdupois. A great book for the fans of Joe Beef. Quality/price rating: 90.
7.THE DEAD RABBIT MIXOLOGY & MAYHEM; the story of John Morrissey and the world's best cocktail menu (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018, 288 pages, ISBN 978-1-328-45187-3, $28 USD hardbound) is by Sean Muldoon, Jack McGarry, and Jillian Vose. The first two are the co-owners of The Dead Rabbit, and Jillian is the bar manager/beverage director (coming over from Death & Co.). The Dead Rabbit has twice been named the World's Best Bar, and now introduces a six-part graphic novel. "The story is centered around The Rabbit, a mysterious character channeling the reborn spirit of John Morrissey, leader of the notorious 1850s Irish street gang that gave the bar its name." (publisher blurb). Along the way there are 90 Dead Rabbit cocktail recipes. Great, great fun for the millennials and fans of graphic novels. The book could have been improved if it also used metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 88.
8.AVOCADERIA (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-328-49793-2, $19.99 USD, hardbound) is by Alessandro Biggi, Francesco Brachetti, and Alberto Gramigni who founded Avocaderia, and all-avocado cafe in Brooklyn and Manhattan. The first two men are owners, and Alberto is the chef. It's a straight forward book, emphasizing the healthy nature of avocados. Of course, there si descriptive material about handling avocados. And the five top varieties are discussed: Hass (95% of the market), Pinkerton,  Fuerte, Reed, and Zutano. A range of courses are presented: breakfast, sandwiches, salads, bowls, mains, apps, sides, sweets, spreads, smoothies, dressings, and menu ideas. There's a listing of vegan dishes, vegetarian (ovo-lacto) dishes, and gluten-free dishes. Impressive single ingredient cookbook. The book could have been improved if it also used metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 88
9.FESTIVE HOLIDAY RECIPES (St. Martin's Griffin, 2018, 226 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-14636-6 $19.99 USD paperbound) is by Addie Gundry, a Food Network regular and executive producer for RecipeLion which creates culinary content for multiple web platforms. She's been involved with 10 other books in this "103" series (e.g. Retro Recipes from the '50s and '60s). More are at These are all the more popular preps for the holiday season that begins with US Thanksgiving at the end of November and ends with New Year's Eve. But I think that we in Canada, who look at the larger picture, would think of this period as being from mid-October (Canadian Thanksgiving) through to Valentine's Day in mid-February. That's four months of sheer cooking bliss as opposed to just 6 weeks in the USA. And enough time to use every recipe in the book. It's all arranged by course, from brunch through apps, mains, sides, desserts and drinks. Pretty straightforward with no surprises but a lot of stress-free ease in cooking relatively simple food, e.g., easy garlic-parmesan knots, overnight cinnamon bread, easy cheese dip, pretty part pinwheels, loaded devil eggs, easy pecan pie bars, no-bake holiday fruitcake – even slow cooker peppermint hot chocolate. Terrific for young people getting to know about foods. The book could have been improved if it also used metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 85
10.HERITAGE BAKING (Chronicle Books, 2018, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-4521-6787-9 $29.95 USD hardbound) is by Ellen King who runs Hewn Bakery, with Amelia Levin as the collaborating food writer. She believes in baking rustic breads and pastries using artisanal flour made from named wheat varieties, such as Red Fife. So she's got more than 45 preps described as having a toothy texture (my kind of bread!) and an excellent crumb. She believes in using freshly stone-milled flours from heritage varieties (Glenn, Warthog, Marquis, et al) and a natural sourdough-style starter. The primer covers all this plus the master starter recipe and the master heritage bread formula, followed by 16 other breads. Next up are 15 enriched heritage breads which include brioche, dinner rolls, and cornbread. Muffins and scones have their own chapter, as do cakes-cookies-brownies. And each prep has been scaled so quantities are exact. Kudos on a major accomplishment.
Quality/price rating: 90.
11.COMPLETE WELLNESS (DK Books, 2018, 304 pages, ISBN 978-1-4654-6392-0, $30 USD hardbound)
is from the team at Neal's Yard Remedies in London. They've been in business since 1981, selling a wide range of herbal remedies and essential oils. They now sell certified organic health and beauty products in 20 countries. In the US they sell through a network of independent consultants. The range here begins with the holistic approach, rotating through the mind and emotions that have impact on skin, hair, nails, eyes, ears, mouth, and throat, moving on to the larger digestive system/urinary system/cardio system/brain and nervous system/respiratory system, and skeletal system. Other topics deal with systemic disorders, immunity, women's health, men's health, children's health, first aid, and more. There are recipes for wellness (overnight oats, smoothies, spreads, soups, dips, energy bites) as well as a supplement chart.  Practical advice is given in how to make things such as a balm, a cream or a syrup or herbal infusion. Quite encyclopedic, but with a UK orientation. There are both metric and avoirdupois for listed ingredients, but the book could have been improved if it also used metric in the recipes with regard to teaspoons and tablespoons. Quality/price rating: 90.
12.FOR THE LOVE OF CHEESE (Appetite by Random House, 2018, 214 pages, ISBN 978-0-14-753046-2, $24.95 CAD paperbound) is from Toronto's Cheese Boutique, written by owner Afrim Pristine. It's a four-generation fifty-year old cheese store with about 500 different kinds of cheeses. Plus upscale breads and biscuits, butters, charcuterie and other forms of ready-to-eat meats. Here Afrim delves into the basics of some 55 popular cheeses. He also presents 60 basic and easy recipes, with an additional 20 contributions from Daniel Boulud, Claudio Aprile, Anna and Michael Olson among others. There is also some family reminiscence, almost a memoir, and detail about the Cheese Boutique itself, with compelling photography by Steve Elphick. His primer tells us what cheese is all about and how to care for it. His top 16 cheeses are carefully explained, and this is followed by the 55 popular cheeses, a great starter selection before moving on. He's also got a recipe for each and some "fun facts". The preps are arranged by course, from breakfast through to desserts. Do try cacio e pepe popcorn with pecorino Romano, drunken goat in a pot, slam-dunk sandwich, or the "I am not afraid of blue cheese anymore" caramelized cookies. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements. Quality/price rating: 90.
13.THE CURIOUS BARTENDER VOLUME II: The New testament of Cocktails (Ryland Peters & Small, 2018, 208 pages, ISBN 978-1-84975-893-2 $24.95 USD hardbound) is by Tristan Stevenson, co-founder of Fluid Movement, a drinks consultancy; it is his sixth book. His first book was volume 1: The Artistry and Alchemy of Creating the Perfect Cocktail. He's got 32 of the classic cocktails here, followed by 32 "game-changing reinventions". His book is loaded with tools and techniques, for cocktails have become more diverse and accessible lately. His are based on brandy, vodka, gin, rum, whisky and tequila. His re-invention of the Champagne cocktail is the Liar's Champagne, with Chablis, amontillado, Genever, green chartreuse and then carbonated. Wow. His take on the Americano includes cold coffee. He turns a sherry cobbler into a slushy. There's a buying guide and a list of suppliers plus a glossary. Quality/price rating: 89

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