It's the beginning of the Gift and Holiday Season, with students returning to school, Thanksgiving in Canada and the United States, and the run-up to Christmas...There are lots of stories to tell through these book reviews that follow below (prices are in Canadian dollars) ---
8.MADE IN MEXICO THE COOKBOOK; classic and contemporary recipes from Mexico City (Rizzoli, 2019, 272 pages $55 hardbound) is by Danny Mena, chef at NYC's Hecho en Dumbo, with great endorsements by Rick Bayless and Richard Sandoval. It's a flavourable and colourful work of preps and travel about Mena's fave diners, fondas, loncherias, taco stands, and restaurants in Mexico City, with recipes from the locals plus his own takes. This guidebook covers the city's dining and cooking activities, how the natives drink and eat, but with also a lot of relevant commentary. It's useful for any trip to Mexico City, with the caveat that the tome weighs about 1.25 kilos.
9.AMERICAN SFOGLINO; a master class in handmade pasta (Chronicle Books, 2019, 272 pages, $50 hardbound) is by Evan Funke, an American sfoglino (maker of fresh pasta sheets called sfoglia) who rigourously trained with Bologna's Alessandra Spisni (eight-time world champion pasta maker) and Japan's Kosaku Kawamura. He's opened many restaurants in LA, but managed to find the time to offer this massive work which has a powerful log-rolling endorsement from TEN other chefs, many of whom are Beard winners. It's arranged by 15 pasta shapes, such as tagliatelle, strichetti, strozzapreti, and gnocchi di ricotta. Each section has stories, recipes for sauces and accompaniments. Lots of full-colour photos of techniques for preparing bowls, plates and stuffed pastas. A great tome for pasta lovers.
10.ADVENTURES ON THE WINE ROUTE (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1988, 2013, 2019, 276 pages, $25 softbound) is by Kermit Lynch. It's his wine buyer's guide of France, originally published in 1988 but with a 2013 addition of a 33 page epilogue, a 2013 addition of "25 most memorable bottles of wines", and a 2019 affordable paperback reissue perfect for gifting. It's a classic work for wine lovers, especially for French wine lovers. It's a highly influential look at the wine trade as it is a record of Lynch's buying patterns (he was an importer: these are his notes).
11.LONELY PLANET'S GLOBAL DISTILLERY TOUR (Lonely Planet, 2019, 264 pages, $26 hardbound) is from the publisher Lonely Planet with contributions from over three dozen writers. It;s a guide to tasting whisky, gin, bourbon and other spirits at the world's best distilleries and bars. Over 30 countries are covered, with regional drinks from Canada (10 pages), USA, Mexico, Japan, the UK, and New Zealand. There are local itineraries that recommend top sights and experiences, and a special section that showcases the world's best cocktails.
12.THE ULTIMATE SCRATCH & SNIFF GUIDE TO LOVING BEER (Flatiron Books, 2019, 12 boards, $28.99 hardbound) is by Richard Betts. Rotem Raffe did the artwork. Together, with deft illustrations and sniffing they do a good job in breaking down the ingredients, the science, and the processes behind how beer is made and enjoyed. They claim that with this reference item the reader will have the tools to make informed decisions. A fun work of art.
13.WE ARE LA COCINA (Chronicle Books, 2019, 288 pages, $36 hardbound) is a collection of recipes in pursuit of the American dream. "La Cocina" ("kitchen" in Spanish) is an organization that promotes foodways from all over the world. It helps to develop food products, restaurants, food trucks, and food stall concepts. It's a group which lobbies for inclusion and equity for entrepreneurial women of colour and recent immigrants to the USA; all of the royalties go back into La Cocina to support new entrepreneurs. There are 75 recipes here and stories from 40 successful alumni of the kitchen incubator. These different foods (momos, albondigas, onigiri, et al) are accompanied by 150 photos by Eric Wolfinger.
14.ANDALUSIA (Hardie Grant Books, 2019, 256 pages, $57 hardbound) is by Jose Pizarro, who owns three restaurants in London called (wait for it): Jose, Pizarro, and Jose Pizzaro. It's a good collection of local cuisine and preps from Seville and other places within the Spanish region by the sea. He's got some memoirish material plus lots of photos from Emma Lee. It's divided into 4 main sections of meat, fish, veggies, and desserts, plus some Andalusian menus with a timeline of work routines for the days before. This is followed by a listing of places to eat in the area. Loaded with photos.
15.PROVENCAL (Pavilion, 2019, 256 pages, $47 hardbound) is by Alex Jackson, owner of Sardine in London UK, which centres on Provence and the surrounding Mediterranean area. So this is Southern French cooking with an emphasis on fresh veggies, herbs, olive oil and breads. And it is seasonally arranged from Spring through Winter, opening up with socca with artichokes and closing with the grand bouffe of pot-au-feu. It's a charmer of a collection of preps, centred around rusticity. But it is hard to find at a commercial restaurant even in Provence. As the author says, "short of knocking on farmhouse doors, it's difficult to piece it all together." You have to rely on books and do it yourself. So this work is a good start to begin with, and then move on to Richard Olney and Robert Carrier. Nicely laid out with line drawings. Pissaladiere anyone?
16.PROVENCE: the cookbook (Interlink Books, 2019, 208 pages, $43.95 hardbound) is by Caroline Rimbert Craig, whose fruit farmer heritage shines forth in this collection of recipes from the French Mediterranean. There is much detail (and photos) on how the locals eat and their customs over the years. The Provencal larder is explored, with its olive oils, herbs and aromatics, garlic, salads, preserved anchovies, wines, breads, cheeses, salt cod, nuts, and red wine vinegar. The contents are arranged by season, from Spring through Winter. Some faves of mine appear: salade de feves et d'asperges, pissaladiere, tarte de blettes, and the wonderful sandwich des cyclistes! The range is from accras de morue through soupe au pistou through tartines de truffes. Another great too for the armchair traveller and/or the home chef.
17.PARIS FOR FOOD LOVERS (Hardie Grant Travel, 2017, 2019, 176 pages, $28.99 paperbound) is by Elin Unnes. It was originally published in Swedish, but here it has been updated for the 2019 English edition. It's a guide to the new Paris, the 11th arrondissement (natural-wine restaurants, divey bars, market stalls, alley lanes for unmarked restaurants, and more). Each has a photo and brief description, plus the deets. She also covers other areas such as the 10th, 12th, and 20th. Maps are included. Really an interesting work, written in conversational style.
18.ROME FOR FOOD LOVERS (Hardie Grant Travel, 2018, 2019, 176 pages, $28.99 paperbound) is by Peter Loewe. It was originally published in Swedish, but here it has been updated for the 2019 English edition. It's a more traditional organization, with chapters on different types of places to eat at, food stores, the outskirts of town, and the avoidance of tourist traps. Each has a photo and brief description, plus the deets. Maps are included. Really an interesting work, written in conversational style.
19.TOKYO FOR FOOD LOVERS (Hardie Grant Travel, 2018, 2019, 176 pages, $28.99 paperbound) is by Jonas Cramby. It was originally published in Swedish, but here it has been updated for the 2019 English edition. It's a personal guide arranged by type of food served: ramen, tsukemen, udon, tempera, yakitori, curry, biru, gyoza, tonkatsu, sushi, and izakaya. Plus locations of fast food, street food and bars (beers and sakes). Each has a photo and brief description, plus the deets. Maps are included. Really an interesting work, written in conversational style.
20.FRUIT FROM THE SANDS; the silk road origins of the foods we eat (University of California Press, 2019, 374 pages, $43.95 hardbound) is by Robert N. Spengler III, the Archaeobotany Laboratory Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. He's traced the history of many foods back to prehistoric Central Asia (the crossroads of the ancient world) and the Silk Road, from where the foods moved to Europe, America, and East Asia. Covered then are apples, millet, barley, wheat, grapes, tea, legumes, rice and others, The exchange of goods started over 5000 years ago, and the actual "organized" trade along the Silk Route can be traced back to Han Dynasty China (206 BCE). The major source of evidence are the preserved remains of plants found in archaeological sites. The Silk Road exchange (overland route) and the "accidental" Columbian exchange (maritime route) were similar attempts to get to the spices and foods of Central Asia. Fascinating reading complemented by notes and references.
21.ITALY'S NATIVE WINE GRAPE TERROIRS (University of California Press, 2019, 376 pages, $70 hardbound) is by Ian D'Agata, the world's leading expert on Italian wine. In 2014 he authored NATIVE WINE GRAPES OF ITALY. This current work is all about the various DOCs and DOCGs in the wine production areas of Italy's native wine grapes. Easy-to-read descriptions have easy-to-read geologic data, biotype and clonal info, followed by producer interviews and comments. Facts and figures provide the beginnings of in-depth analysis for the terroirs that produce the great wines (Barolo, Chianti Classico, Brunello de Montalcino) to the lesser-known Ischia and Turbiana. The slightly oversized tome has double columns, so lots of information is given. It all comes complete with a glossary, a bibliography, and three indexes. A brilliant giftbook for the demanding wine lover!
22.BAKING WITH KIM-JOY: cute and creative bakes to make you smile (Hardie Grant Quadrille, 2019, 176 pages, $34.99 hardbound) is by Kim-Joy, a finalist on two UK TV baking competitions. It's a spiffy, colourful work that is essentially a guide to decorating fun cakes, profiteroles, cookies, breads, macaroons. These are really imaginative designs: some are easy, some are complicated, all are enjoyable. Of course there is much material on layouts, frostings, icings, and other decorations. The basic requirement is merely a steady hand. She opens with an "easy" pistachio and cardamom cake with mango-saffron jam, followed by a vegan chocolate cake with praline – and then begins to move on to other enjoyments such as "pigfiteroles in mud". All the photos are very bright and colourful, and all the ingredients are listed in both metric and imperial measurements.
23.THE VIBRANT LIFE: eat well, be well (Chronicle Books, 2019, 240 pages, $42.95 hardbound) is by Amanda Haas, a cookbook author who is also a former culinary director for Williams-Sonoma. She's got recipes, meditations, and guidance on ways to well-being, from acupuncture through meditation, for the midlife and beyond person. The 60 recipes emphasize self-care, and include basics for salsa verde, preserved lemon gremolata, and cucumber salad. It's all arranged by "best breakfasts", veggies and fruits, selected meats and seafoods, and useful sweets. Plus about 14 items for the mind-body-spirit.
24.CALGARY EATS: signature recipes from the city's best restaurants and bars (Figure.1, 2019, 233 pages, $38.99 hardbound) has been edited by Gail Norton and Karen Ralph, who both edited the companion CALGARY COOKS. The is the ninth work in the Canadian series of urban food and eating from Figure.1; others included Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg. It's a good second sampling of the cuisine scene in Calgary, with preps from Alloy Dining, Cassis Bistro, Cilantro, Knifewear, Market (duck confit pot pie), and others. Great food styling photos, as in all the rest of the series. And: there are metric conversion charts!!