ON THE DEAN'S LIST:
MY 25th(!!) ANNUAL SURVEY OF FOOD AND DRINK-RELATED BOOKS
SUITABLE AS HOLIDAY GIFTS FOR THE 2021 COVID-19 PERIOD
DECEMBER 1, 2021
By Dean Tudor, Ryerson Journalism Professor Emeritus and Gothic
Epicures Writing, www.deantudor.com (World Wine Watch Newsletter).
Reviewer Timeline: Cookbook Reviewer, Library Journal, 1969-1974; Cookbook Columnist and Lead Reviewer, The Booklist (American Library Association), 1974-1985; CBRA Cookbook Reviewer, 1975-1985; Freelance Cookbook Reviewer, 1985-1999; Gothic Epicures Writing Lead Cookbook Reviewer, 2000+
These food and wine book reviews are always available at www.deantudor.com and at my blog http://gothicepicures.blogspot.com
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 2021 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 $35 or so), or even The Book Depository in Guernsey UK (free delivery and no GST).
Price Alert: Books are in Canadian dollars, but because of USD fluctuations, all prices may vary.
Part One: TOP GIFT BOOKS
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 this year. Herewith, and in random order:
--AMBER & RYE; a Baltic food journey (Interlink Books, 2021, 256 pages, $45 hard covers) is by Zuza Zak, an award-winning Polish "storyteller cook" who has published books and articles dealing with Eastern Europe as her beat. She has also appeared on the Food Network. Her PhD studies are focused on exploring Eastern European food from a socio-cultural perspective, as a cultural anthropologist would. The Baltics are between Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, with many culinary influences. There is also a confluence with Poland bordering Lithuania (she's got some Baltic DNA in her). So here she's got guidance around the capitals of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, with local stories from the chefs, the cooks, the greengrocers, the farmers. In addition to the stories on food and travel, she's also incorporated poetry, literature, song, and proverbs. The arrangement is loosely by course, from apps through snacks, soup, mains, salads, sides, fermented foods, desserts and beverages. There are extensive notes on ingredients and a bibliography for further reading. Typical preps are rhubarb and rose meringue tart, potato-fennel-fish bake, charred pork chop with apple and sea buckthorn sauce, fermented beet slaw, crayfish salad, creamy barley groats with asparagus, fermented wild garlic and buckwheat soup, and nettle leaf salad.
--CYPRUS CUISINE (Whitecap, 2021, 274 pages, $34.95 papercovers) is by Christina Loucas, a Victoria BC-based creator of Afrodite's Kitchen, a website devoted to Cypriot food. It was originally published in 2016 in Italian, and here it is translated into English. It is a very good well-researched summary of Cypriot food: she's got 80 detailed recipes that range from classic to contemporary. Food in Cyprus has been heavily influenced by the spice trade and its location in the Mediterranean near the Middle East. It's part memoir, part travel guide, and part cookbook like so many other regional cookbooks. She has the basic history of food in Cyprus, the larder/pantry needed to maintain a kitchen, some drinks (tea, lemonades, coffee), and then moves on to breads and pastries such as halloumi mint scones, tsoureki (Easter orange bread), kattimeri (crepes), and koulouria (sesame bread rings). Next up in the meal are soups, salads, small bites, mains, condimenti, cakes and sweets. Her book also concludes with some suggested dinner menus for 2, 4 or 6 persons, followed by a listing and description of local markets in Limassol and Nicosia. It is a bright book , loaded with exceptional closeups of finished plates.
--FLAVORS OF THE SUN; the Sahadi's guide to understanding, buying, and using Middle Eastern ingredients (Chronicle Books, 2021, 352 pages, $50 hard covers) is by Christine Sahadi Whelan, culinary director of her family's 130 year-old importing firm in Brooklyn. There are about 120 relatively simple preps here, including the range from starters through desserts. It's all arranged by context: bright, savory, spiced, nutty, and sweet, along with nine special menus for that holiday gathering or outdoor summer party, brunch, meze, buffet and/or cocktail party. The basic flavours (found all over the Middles East) that suggest these foods are found in sumac, urfa pepper, halvah, pomegranate molasses, and preserved lemons. Lots of scrumptious photos and salivating texts. They give us much detail on what to look for in buying foods and what to serve with what foods. Highly recommended.
--ISLAND EATS; signature chefs' recipes from Vancouver Island and the Salish Sea (Figure 1, 2021, 200 pages, $38.95 hard covers) is from the team of Dawn Postnikoff and Joanne Sasvari, both food and drink writers and editors (they are with "Edible Vancouver Island" magazine). This is the latest in the Canadian food city series from Figure 1 – there are now 10 of them: Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto. Ottawa, Winnipeg et al. And they are exceptional arm chair traveller books. The tried and true formula is to present details and photos about about the best restaurants in the region followed by a house specialty recipe usually with a pix of the finished plate. For example, Glo Restaurant + Lounge, led by Andrew Fawcett. Does a Tan Tan City Salad using chicken breasts, and a Spicy Kung Pao Tofu bowl. The Butchart Gardens does an Okanagan Cherry Panzanella and a Maple Bourbon Verrine. Forty-one restaurants or businesses, arranged alphabetically. Terrific presentations for that Western Canada food fan.
--SUMAC; recipes and stories from Syria (Interlink Books, 2019, 2021, 248 pages, $45 hardbound) is by Anas Atassi, who emphasizes his family's food traditions and culture. He's a Syrian chef now living in the Netherlands (this book was originally published in Dutch in 2019). Here are 80 classic and contemporary recipes strewn about various chapters such as breakfast, mezze (his mother's annual soirees), street food, grains, veggies, meats-poultry-fish (midsummer BBQs) , and desserts (the Ramadan table). Each prep has a story with some illustrations, plus a Syrian name for the dish. Excellent photography and layout, more about food than about travel. Preps are perfectly adaptable for the North American kitchen: Sumac is an essential ingredient in Syrian cooking; it is used everywhere. This is a nifty exploration of a series of influences from the Ottomans, the Persians, and the French. Take a look at lamb koftas in tahini sauce or shorbat ameh (lamb shanks) or musakham wraps.
--BASQUE; Spanish recipes from San Sebastian & beyond (Hardie Grant Books, 2016, 2021, 256 pages, $32.99 hard covers) is by Jose Pizarro (a Basque chef who owns three restaurants in London. It's a well-illustrated and photographed travelogue-cookbook – and a great introduction to the Basque cuisine and country. It's all arranged by ingredient: meat, fish, veggies, desserts, concluding with a collection of Basque menus: two for pintxos, others for a simple three course menu and for a feasting menu for friends. Typical are roasted chicken wings with oregano and garlic, cured duck ham with pomegranate salad, griddled marinated quail with pickled shallots, piquillo peppers stuffed with oxtail, sukalki (beef stew), sardines a la plancha, pan-fried hake with wild chanterelles, and pan-fried porcini with egg yolk. It's a major contribution to the arena of Spanish cookbooks.
--PORTUGUESE HOME COOKING (Interlink Books, 2021, 304 pages, $45 hardbound) is by Ana Patuleia Ortins, who has a degree in culinary arts and teaches Portuguese cooking. She's also written "Authentic Portuguese Cooking." She makes strong use of her family background from the Alto Alentejo region. In common with many cookbooks, it is arranged from soup to nuts, ending with material on wines and cocktails. And in common with many books in this Interlink series, it is loaded with photos of food and family. Typical pantry ingredients include onions, garlic, tomatoes, paprika, bay leaves, red pepper paste, cumin, chili peppers, cilantro, olive oil, vinegar and wine. Just add meat and veggies and fruit, and then choose a cooking method (braise, saute, roast, etc.). It is not really that simple, but then it is home cooking without the molecular work, the sous vide, and other typical restaurant procedures. Her petiscos (little dishes) are smaller versions of mains: chicken pies, clams cataplana, fireman's linguica, fresh cheese, salt cod cakes, shrimp rissoles, graciosa-style tortas. Her family's region is well-known for wheat, olives, pork, wine and a cork industry.
--MACEDONIA: THE COOKBOOK; recipes and stories from the Balkans (Interlink Books, 2021, 272 pages, $45 hardbound) is by Katerina Nitsou, who grew up in a large Macedonian-Canadian community in Toronto before moving on to Le Cordon Bleu, the LA Times Test Kitchen, catering and private chef in California – and subsequently living in Australia. It's a great little book in the renowned Interlink series of regional cuisines. Macedonian food has been described as a rich mosaic of influences fro, Middle East and Mediterranean foods, tempered by the rest of the Balkans. It's arranged by course, and each of the 100 preps has both an English and a Macedonian name. First up are the small plates of mezze, then salata, supa, meso (meats), zhivina (poultry), riba (fish), zelenchuk (veggies), leb (breads), slatko (sweets, and zimnica (preserves). There are descriptive notes, culture, stories, memoirs, and many photographs. Typical dishes include leek crepes (palachinki so praz), lekja supa, pilinja pecheni (braised quail), and kozinak (Easter bread).
--FLORENTINE; the true cuisine of Florence. 2D ed. (Hardie Grant Books, 2016, 2020, 272 pages, $42.99 hard covers) is by Emiko Davies, who, in her mid-twenties, moved to Florence to study art restoration and photography (she did the location photography for this book). Her book is a travelogue-cookbook – she has also written two other Italian food cookbooks, and continues to write about regional Italian food and travel for numerous publications and her own blog. There is a brief history of Florence and its food and culture, a Florence city guide and address guide, glossary, and bibliographic references. Preps and dishes are strewed about such walking tour topics as "La pasticceria" (pastry shop), "Il forno" (bakery), "Il mercato" (market), "la trattoria", "il macellaio" (butcher), with typical dishes such as panino con insalata belga, pecorino e miele (panino with Belgian endive, pecorino cheese and honey), crostone con salsiccia e stracchino (crostone with sausage and stracchino cheese), piselli all Fiorentina, insalata di farro, frittata di finocchi (fennel frittata). She's good at telling the story of food in Florence plate by plate. Yet another great regional cookbook.
--FOODIE BREAKS: England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales (Dog'n'Bone, 2020, 144 pages, $19.95 flatbound) is by Richard Mellor who had previously written Foodie Breaks: Europe. In this book he examines 25 cities and towns with 250 (10 each) essential eating experiences within his UK homeland. With pictures, it provides a snapshot of 25 culinary UK "hotspots" with recommendations to try establishments. He's got the best places for breakfasts and brunches, street food, gastropubs, inexpensive diners, and cool places to drink. This is a quick, easily digestible summary for your British traveller.
--ARZAK + ARZAK (Grub Street, 2020, 256 pages, $49.95 hardbound) is by Juan Mari Arzak and his daughter Elena Arzak. The Restaurante Arzak has been in San Sebastian since 1897, and it has had three Michelin stars since 1989. It has also been included on the World's 50 Best Restaurant list since the ranking's early days. Elena has been there since 1994 after working her way through the kitchens of Troisgros and El Bulli, among others. This is a lavishly produced book celebrating the research and the gastronomy of one of the finest restaurants in the world. This is the beginning of the New Basque Cuisine. Copious photographs and generous texts illuminate every phase of their daily work together and with the 64-member team, and includes a separate chapter on their research and research methods. Finally, at page 113 we arrive at the beginning of the 64 recipes which Jaun Mari and chef Elena worked out together over the past 10 years, with great colour photographs of ingredients and finished plates. It begins with hake and chickpea paint, moves on to veal cheeks stew, nectarine and squid vines, and ends with honeymead and fractal fluid. It would be pretty hard to find a better gift book for the gastronome.
--AEGEAN (Interlink Books, 2021, 224 pages, $50 hardbound) is by Marianna Leivaditaki, who was raised on Crete and now is a London UK chef at Morito. Her paean to the Aegean is centred largely on Crete as just one of the many islands that belong to Greece. Other major islands include Rhodes, Karpathos, and Kasos. As the largest and most populous island, Crete has an original cuisine that Leivaditaki delves into. She conveniently divides the book into three: the sea, the land, the mountains, with recipes and personal stories for each. And there are lots of great photos here of prawns with ouzo, orzo and zucchini, tomato and oregano fritters with feta, and the kakavia one-pot fish stew. This is the Mediterranean diet in all of its full-blown glory, with olive oils, fresh veggies, fruits, nuts, whole grains, fish. A delight.
--PARWANA (Interlink Books, 2021, 256 pages, $52 hardbound) is by Durkhanai Ayubi, with recipes by Farida Ayubi and Fatema Ayubi.. These are stories and preps from an Afghan kitchen -- Parwana
Restaurant in Adelaide, Australia, which opened in 2009. The 100+ recipes have been family-held for years, and embrace both day-to-day preps and celebrations: rice, curries, meats, kebabs, naan flatbread, halwah, dumplings, Afghan pasta, sweets, chutneys, pickles, soups and breads. Everything is complemented by food photography and family photos as the text convincingly shows the interrelationship between food, people and communities over time and place. There's morabayeh anjir (whole fig jam), torshi bemasalah (pickled veggies), shorwa thin soup with vegetables, aush thick soup with noodles, and banjaan borani (braised eggplant with yogurt dressing).
--TABLES & SPREADS (Chronicle Books, 2021, 288 pages, $27.95 USD hardbound) is by Shelly Westerhausen Worcel with Wyatt Worcel. She's a vegetarian food blogger; he's an aquaculture graduate.
Together they have compiled a go-to guide for snacks, small gatherings, and inviting feasts. They present 21 inspired design ideas, with timelines, shopping lists, and diagrams. Plus of course the recipes. The duo's got some tips for choosing a theme and styling the food in a creative manner. Linens, flowers, and music complete the picture. Platters can be as small as a burrata bar or a creamy polenta spread, or just a selection of delicious dips. Some typical themes embrace a savoury focaccia party, a mezze spread, pierogi dumplings, breakfast nacho buffet, Dutch baby party, and the like. Taking their notes and ideas you can create many more tables and spreads. There's one spread for boughten sliced meat and sausages, but the recipes themselves are all vegetarian.
--VEGAN RECIPES FROM JAPAN (Grub Street, 2020, 208 pages, $32.95 hardbound) is by Malte Hartig and Jule Felice Frommelt. He's a trained chef with a PhD on Japanese food and culture and Zen Buddhism; she's a freelance food photographer and recipe developer. Together they write about what is essentially "shojin ryori": the traditional dining style of Buddhist monks in Japan, made without any animal products. So it becomes a perfect vegan diet. Foods are based on tofu, seaweed, seasoned veggies and wild mountain plants. Balance and alignment are brought to the body, mind and spirit. The preps are simple and humble, seasonally done with Japanese ingredients such as miso, soy sauce, sake, mirin, dashi, and mostly steamed or grilled or deep fried. The arrangement is by season, beginning with spring, and there are many cultural/social background notes, along with a glossary and other references.
--BITTER HONEY; recipes and stories from the Island of Sardinia (Hardie Grant Books, 2020, 256 pages,, $58 hardbound) is by Letitia Clark, a seasoned UK chef with a great resume that includes pastry and baking. She moved to Sardinia with her then-boyfriend (also a cook) to work a rural farm and produce Sardinian recipes. Although Italian, there is a strong French influence from this part of the Mediterranean (e.g., the onion soup prep is straight French Onion Soup). As she says, it's all about traditions, stories and memories, with insight into people's lives, habits and histories. Age-old methods and tools means that just about everything is cooked very slowly. So this is all home-food with great photography by Matt Russell. Topics are arranged by theme: apertivo, terra, merenda, mare, verdure, grano, and dolci e bevande. There 's a Sardinian pantry, which includes bay leaves, borage, capers, chestnuts, limoncello, myrtle, guanciale, and oranges. Lots of local food and colour here – a good book for your Mediterranean food lover who has everything (when was the last time you saw a Sardinian cookbook?)
--CARPATHIA; food from the heart of Romania (Interlink Books, 2020, 224 pages, $49.95 hardbound) is by Irina Georgescu, a Romanian food writer with a blog (Small Bites). Romania is a well-travelled through country with many melting pot dishes. I was very impressed with a Romanian food documentary film from some years back, about farmers who grew just two crops (potatoes and cabbages) and tried to work with a depressed market for those two items. So I used this book's index to find caraway sauerkraut clorba with potatoes, potato bread in cabbage leaves, and potato moussaka. There were more preps with cabbages, including sauerkraut. Her book concentrates on small plates (from her blog), breads, street food baked goods, and a broth soup augmented by "bors" (sour fermented wheat) or by "ciorba" (vinegar, pickled brine). The heart of Romanian cuisine is carefully explored with material on pork, coarse polenta, broth, garlic, cheese, yogurt, pickles, and wine. Desserts are based on the Austro-Hungarian empires. She concludes with some notes on the seasons and superstitions in Romanian cuisine, the culinary heritage, and the cultural food values.
--THE FRENCH LAUNDRY, PER SE (Artisan, 2020, 400 pages, $100 hardbound) is by Thomas Keller, a major cookbook author with material from all of his reaturants, and the first US chef to have two Michelin Guide three-star-rated restaurants. The French Laundry is in Yountville, California, and per se is in NYC. Both are connected by video, and both exchange ideas. The major secret to Keller's success has been acquiring the best top notch ingredients from their food connections: the farmers, fishermen, foragers. Here are the major 70 prep recipes plus photos and descriptions for home use and entertaining, plus 40 more recipes for the basic techniques of saucing, dehydrating, broths, compound butters, and more. Food stories and essays complete the package. Typical plates include smoked sturgeon rillettes and celery root pastrami. Not only is this a coffee table book, at 28.5 cm. square in size -- it IS a coffee table by itself.....Just add legs...For the foodie in your life.
--PERSIANA; recipes from the Middle East and beyond (Interlink Books, 2014, 2021, $49.95 hardbound) is by Sabrina Ghayour. It's a needed reissue of a Middle East food and culture book, with 100 preps for dishes from the Mediterranean Sea's south and eastern shorelines. All of the dishes are modern and accessible, covering the range from mezze through breads, soups, tagines, roasts, salads, and desserts. Dishes include fava beans with garlic, dill and eggs (baghala ghatogh), smoked eggplants with garlic (mirza ghasemi) and lamb-butternut squash-prune-tamarind tagine. Many dishes are from the eastern end of Iran-Persia, and some of the variations come African shores. Food culture notes accompany all dishes.
B. And how about gift books for the beverage drinker? Try –
--THE CURIOUS BARTENDER'S GUIDE TO RUM (Ryland, Peters & Small, 2017, 2020, 160 pages, $19.95 hardbound) is by Tristan Stephenson. It was originally part of a much larger work in 2017, and now it has been abridged with an expanded Directory of Distilleries. So: there is material on the history of rum, how rum is made, and some recipes for rum cocktails – plus a glossary. Thumbnail sketches all the way and a bargain for under $20.
--THE NEGRONI; a love affair with a classic cocktail (Artisan, 2021, 160 pages, $22.95 hardbound) is by Matt Hranek, who has done major research in this area. The Negroni is a great Euro-cocktail with its botanicals from the bitters, the vermouth, and the gin. The best ones have a balance of bitter and sweet. This current book comes well-endorsed by Chef Michael Ruhlman: "This is one of the best books devoted to a single cocktail I've read." Hranek begins with the components of Italian bitters (I think Campari has a stranglehold here), moving on to Italian red vermouth (Antica Formula Carpano or Punt e mes) and then gin. Garnishes, ice, and equipment come next, followed by 31 recipes for the drink and 11 food snacks. Terrific illustrations, mostly posters. He's even got a list of the best places in Europe to enjoy the Negroni!
--THE MARTINI; perfection in a glass (Artisan, 2021, 150 pages, $22.65 hardbound) is by Matt Hranek, who also wrote the definitive THE NEGRONI (see above). It's a great basic guide, covering gin, vermouth, bitters, garnish – and even vodka (if need be). All the gin preps here can easily become vodka preps. It all depends on how much juniper-forward tastes you would enjoy. There's a cultural history of the drink, barware and glassware, various techniques (stirred, shaken, et al), and a whole pile of over illustrated 30 variations to try out. The martini is the consummate cocktail: writers, actors, politicians. You could start with the Martinez from 1849, but it's a lot sweeter since it uses sweet vermouth. It's more like a gin Manhattan without the bourbon. The concluding section has a listing of 10 appropriate snacks, an espresso martini, and a listing of global bars to savour this drink.
--WINE FROM ANOTHER GALAXY (Quadrille, 2020, 354 pages, $65 hardbound) is by Dan Keeling and Mark Andrew, MW, co-founders of Noble Rot magazine and restaurants in Bloomsbury and Soho. They also own a wine importer, Keeling Andrew & Co. It's an unusual wine book, based on their writings in Noble Rot magazine. Part one is the "Shrine to the Vine" with primer-like detail on how wine is made, noble grapes, how wine ages, wine cellars, desert island wine lists. How to serve wine, how to order wine in a restaurant, even a hilarious alternative wine aroma wheel. Part two is the road trip travel through Europe – the people and places behind their fave wines: France, Hibernia, Italy, Germany, Greece, ending with English sparklers. And it ends with a listing of their top wines, about 99% of which are from France (who knew?). An interesting book for the millennial wine lover.
--ZERO PROOF COCKTAILS; 90 non-alcoholic recipes for mindful drinking (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021, 256 pages, $32 hardbound) is by Elva Ramirez, a freelance lifestyle journalist and consultant, formerly with the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and others. The book notes, "as consumers become more mindful and re-examine their relationship with alcohol, the no-proof movement is gaining more and more prominence". Here is a collection curated by Ramirez, with preps and notes of cocktails and mocktails from an international assortment of bartenders and bars. It's all arranged by taste, from bright and refreshing through fruity and floral, tangy and tropical, rich and decadent, and even vegetal and savoury. Forty contributors and their deets are noted. Recipes for a huge selection of syrups are given, and the author also presents a short history of temperance movements. A great book gift for any time of the year, with such as Seedlip spice and all things nice, morning grove fizz, almost famous, and the red passion.
--THE SCIENCE OF WINE; from vine to glass. 3rd ed.(University of California Press, 2005, 2012, 2021, 224 pages, ISBN 978-0-520-37950-3, $48.38 CAD hard covers) is by Jamie Goode, UK wine writer and columnist. The first edition in 2005 was the Glenfiddich Drink Book of the Year. It's a great introduction to the scientific and technical innovations applied to grape-growing and winemaking. He explains how the practical applications of science affects the quality, flavour and perception of wine. In addition, there is also some material on Mother Nature such as the newly re-written climate change and global warming chapter, and how this is affecting wine production and styles. As the book is about the "science" of wine, he also covers biodynamics, health benefits, and screw cap closures. About half the book is totally new or extensively re-written and updated to this third edition (published nine years after the second edition): a discussion of "when things go wrong", vine immunity and breeding for resistance, yeasts and bacteria, non-saccharomyces, phenolics, extraction and maceration, whole cluster and carbonic maceration, wine faults, evolution of élevage, flotation, and sweet wine. This is an immensely accessible book, written for the lay person, and with a glossary and bibliography at the end.
C.Perhaps some food and drink reference books? Such as:
----PIE ACADEMY; master the perfect crust and 255 amazing fillings with fruits, nuts, creams, custards, ice cream and more: expert techniques for making fabulous pies from scratch (Storey Publishing, 2020, 470 pages, $48 hardbound) is by Ken Haedrich who runs the Pie Academy and has authored more than dozen cookbooks. He's also won a Julia Child Cookbook Award. Since the subtitle is fairly explanatory, I don't really need to add much more: there's a lot of primer material about pie making and doughs (the first 86 pages) followed by pies arranged by fruits such as berries, apples, pear, pumpkin, cranberry, et al. Then come the nuts, custards, hand pies of minis and turnovers, icebox pies, and cream pies. The ingredients are by volume but there is a metric conversion chart. There are even some savoury pies using cheese and eggs. A good-looking gift for the baker in the family!
--A FIELD GUIDE TO CHEESE; how to select, enjoy, and pair the world's best cheeses (Artisan, 2018, 2020, 272 pages, $37.95 hardbound) is by Tristan Sicard. It was originally published in French by Hachette in 2018; this is the English translation for the North American market. Over half of the book is devoted to the listing of cheeses. This is arranged by style: fresh cheeses, whey cheeses, soft with different rinds, pressed cheeses, blues, stringy, runny and flavoured cheeses. The rest is for how cheese is made, where to find cheeses, and how to taste cheese (with aroma wheels, alcohol pairings, different cheese platter services for 3 or 5 or 7 cheeses, and how to wrap cheese for storage. Excellent reference tool.
--DUMPLINGS AND NOODLES; bao, gyoza, biang biang, ramen, and everything in between (Hardie Grant Quadrille, 2020, 192 pages, $35 hard covers) is by the indefatigable Pippa Middlehurst (winner in 2018 as Britain's Best Home Cook) who actually makes all her own noodles and dumpling pastas. Her book is divided into three parts: dumplings, noodles, sauces plus sides and snacks. Great photographs of Pippa at work, a section on how to use this book, a pantry one can live with (variety of sauces, oils, pastes and vinegars) , types of equipment needed, and cooking from frozen. Dumpling wrappers and noodles are easily bought. She's got six meal planners for course suggestions, ranging from a Friday night in to a Vegan dinner to something for the kids. There are only two recipes for dumpling dough (these are all that you will need): fa mian and jiaozi-- both richly illustrated with photos and texts on technique. There are plenty of sauce recipes, such as dan dan, spicy sesame, crunchy topping, XO sauce, chilli sauce, and others. Typical preps include okonomiyaki (my fave), spring onion pancakes, rainbow soba salad, ramen eggs, and yakisoba. Not only for the adventurous cook – but also for the armchair chef. Highly recommended, especially as a chef's reference book.
--BOWLS & BROTHS; build a bowl of flavour from scratch, with dumplings, noodles and more (Hardie Grant Quadrille, 2021, 176 pages, $35 hard covers) is the follow-up book by the indefatigable Pippa Middlehurst. These are broth-based preps with layering, seasoning (sauces, crunchy bits, aromatics), and ultimate versatility: constructing a bowl from the bottom up for max texture and flavour. She continues along the lines of her "Dumplings and Noodles" book, from ramen to rice bowls. The layout and illustrations continue on from her first book, with separate chapters on noodles, hotpot, dumplings, rice and sweets. A lot of what she covers comes from foraging in her freezer and refrigerator plus a quick look at her shelf pantry for extras. The principles are exceptionally useful and have a wide application to what you can find at home. Not only for the adventurous cook – but also for the armchair chef. Highly recommended, especially as a chef's reference book. Yum-yum to both books.
--GASTRO OBSCURA; a food adventurer's guide (Workman Publishing, 2021, 440 pages, $55 hardbound) has been pulled together by a food crew headed by Cecily Wong and Dylan Thuras. It's part of the Atlas Obscura family, a firm which seeks out the weird/wonderful delights of the world. With Gastro Obscura, it is the weird/wonderful food and drink of the world. Not everything here is "edible" for humans, but it is food for other living things. Curious people can explore what food and drink reveal about the places where they're made and the people who make them. Typical are a beer made from fog in Chile, threads of God in Sardinian pasta, histories of food conventions such as the Roman fish sauce factories, rice puddings, tea-houses. The arrangement is by continent, with Europe up first. Canada gets 26 pages, sub-arranged (like the other countries) by regions. There are lots of cultural bits about the Atlantic provinces, such as rappie pie (NS), seal flipper pie (NL), screech and iceberg ice (NL), cod tongues (NL) but only Thrills and bagged milk from Ontario. Illustrations include photos, food product adverts, action shots, and finished plates. This is a great reference book, created to be read over and over again. Hugely addictive.
--GRIST; a practical guide to cooking grains, beans, seeds, and legumes (Chronicle Books, 2021, 448 pages, $50 hardbound) is by Abra Berens, a Michigan-based chef, author (her "Ruffage" was a Beard Nominee), and former farmer. So she's travelled from grower to eater, and is connecting more people to the source of their foods. She's got more than 80 recipes for 28 different types of grains, legumes and seeds, and more than 160 variations, and more than 55 recipes for condiments of sauces, dressings, and pantry items that can mix-and-match multiple flavours. These are all basic preps, with at least three variations for each recipe that are useful for substitutions, seasonal produce, or whatever is at hand. Everything here can be considered a go-to dish. It's a marvellous reference book with international global scope in preps and flavours. Indeed, she "promises" a week's worth of lentils without any boredom. She details creating a myriad of fresh bean salads. The book is nicely illustrated with photography, line drawings, stories about the grains, and more stories about farmers who produce them.
She's added a glossary of terms, a list of sources, a vegetable cheat sheet, and good common sense.
D. For the more literate person, there are the histories, anthologies, "memoirs", polemics and humour of writers, chefs, and wine people. Some have called these memoirs "creative non-fiction", some with embellishments and gilding. And many of them may 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 this year's run, and any of them would make great gifts for the reader. Here we go, in no particular order…
--MY PLACE AT THE TABLE; a recipe for a delicious life in Paris (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021, 239 pages, $39 hardbound) is by Alexander Lobrano, a food and travel writer (articles and books) now living in Paris and the South of France. The subtext is "how does a timid boy from the suburbs of Connecticut become one of the most influential dining critics in France?" He's also met enough high flying performers along the way to get a considerable number of log rollers: Ruth Reichl, Bill Buford, Alice Waters, Devil Lebovitz, Alain Ducasse, He's adept at shaking up the bistro scene, commenting on exciting new dishes made with international ingredients. At the end, he's got 15 pages devoted to his fave 30 hangouts in Paris, ranging from simple through complex (and priced accordingly). His memoir is absorbing and well-worth reading, although it lacks an index to tie it all together.
--WHY WE COOK: Women on food, identity, and connection (Workman Publishing, 2021, 232 pages, $33.95 hardbound) has been pulled together and edited by Lindsay Gardner, who also illustrated the book with her watercolours. These are essays, interviews, recipes, and stories from 112 women in food. Sections deal with Memorable Meals, Kitchen Portraits, Home Cooks, Profiles, and advice from contributors. Included are such well-known names as Ruth Reichl, Deborah Madison, Dorie Greenspan, and Anita Lo. The 11 preps are eclectic but not indexed. There is a contributor idex with notes and credits. The main section delves into such matters as "what is your fave part of the cooking process?", "how do you overcome creative ruts?", and "what kitchen tools do you love most?". There are activists here, as well as food truckers, bakers who give back, women in wine, and even ice cream innovators. This is a terrific gift book for any occasion.
--THE DOUBLE HAPPINESS COOKBOOK; 88 feel-good recipes and food stories (Figure.1, 2021, 312 pages, $37.99 hardbound) is by Trevor Lui, who has been cooking since he was seven, when he first manned the grill at Highbell, his father's North York Chinese restaurant. This memoir and cookbook has developed Toronto boites which include Kanpai Snack Bar, La Brea Food and Popa. Typical are ramen carbonara, udon-stuffed meatballs, the Last Samurai, and bulgogi beef tostadas.
A lot of it falls into the category of street food trucks, but the range does include vegetarian, chicken and egg dishes (eg, Nashville Hot Chicken sandwich burger), family style comfort foods, rice and noodles. Many preps are contributed by his fellow chefs, and there are food stories for just about every recipe. A good gift book too.
--HOW WILD THINGS ARE; cooking, fishing and hunting at the bottom of the world (Hardie Grant Books, 2021, 241 pages $42.56 hardbound) is by Analiese Gregory, and partly biography by Hilary Burden, and recipes and memoir material from the chef- author herself. First rate photography is by Adam Gibson. Gregory grew up in coastal New Zealand (there are sections here on her youth and on New Zealand cooking) but on a whim she later moved to Tasmania in 2017 after forgoing France. This story is featured as the bulk of the book: living on a somewhat isolated island far from the mainstream. Her credits include working in some of the top notch restaurants of the world. But here she is doing a reno of an old farmhouse while foraging and hunting and cooking. She's got 40 recipes, including ferments, all mixed in with narratives. Many of the preps are unique, such as sea urchin farinata, abalone fritters, chargrilled oyster mushrooms with wakame sabayon, and oca (yam) with spelt and roasted pears. Try also the confit lamb ribs with date syrup. Some of the book was written during the recent pandemic. An excellent book for Oz and Kiwi expats.
--A GOOD MEAL IS HARD TO FIND; storied recipes from the deep South (Chronicle Books, 2020, 160 pages, $23 CAD hard covers) is by the team of Martha Hall Foose (recipes) and Amy C. Evans (illustrations). Both are also storytellers. Each of the 60 preps here are preceded by vignettes about Southern living, such as Francine's doughnut, Edna's blind date at a BBQ, or Camille's egg salad at a bridge club. Dee-lightful eccentricities, arranged by course (morning glories through lingering lunches through afternoon pick-me-ups, dinner dates and late-night takes...plus, of course, "anytime sweets". Great recipes and paintings (acrylics on wood panels) merge into whimsical stories based on whimsical characters.
--BEST AMERICAN FOOD WRITING 2021 (HarperCollins, 2021, 217 pages, $24.99 papercovers) has been edited by Gabrielle Hamilton and Silvia Killingsworth. It's one of a "The Best American Series" of writings. (travel, mystery, science, et al). The scope is USA only, although the topics can be universal or at least global. As is common with all of these annual series, the date on the cover is the year after the writings, so the material here was actually published in 2020. The series began in 2018 (covering 2017) and edited by Ruth Reichl. There are 24 essays here, reprinted primarily from periodicals that published in 2017. Topics include pandemic effects on food industry, (restaurants, grocery stores, shelters), being quarantined with a Michelin-starred chef boyfriend, fundraising, et al. Contributors include Bill Buford, Priya Krishna, Jonathan Kauffman and Amy Irvine. What I like about it is that there are several pages at the back listing "other notable food writing", so you can actually track the writings down via a public library or the Internet.
Part Two: STOCKING STUFFERS
Stocking stuffers should be at the very top of everybody's gift list: something affordable from under $10 up to $25 or so, 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 all stuff an adult stocking.
Typical for food are:
--LAZY DAY BRUNCHES; relaxed recipes for the morning (Ryland Peters & Small, 2021, 144 pages, $20 hardbound) is a publisher's book with 65 preps by 11 food writers, principally Carol Hilker (23 recipes) and Kathy Kordalis (15 recipes). It's arranged by course, from fruit and grains through pancakes & waffles, eggs, salads, sides, pastries, preserves and drinks. A handy compilation.
--MORTAR & PESTLE; 65 delicious recipes for sauces, rubs and marinades (Ryland Peters & Small, 2021, 144 pages, $20 hardbound) is a publisher's book with 65 preps by 22 food writers. Valerie Aikman-Smith leads off with 13 different recipes. It's arranged by course, and includes sauces and condiments, snacks and small bites, poultry and game, meat, seafood, and veggies. Another handy compilation.
--FOOLPROOF BBQ; 60 simple recipes to make the most of your barbecue (Hardie Grand Quadrille, 2021, 144 pages, $28.99 hard covers) is by Genevieve Taylor. It's a manual to home BBQ, with an emphasis on year-round fail-safe grilling. Material embraces equipment and techniques. The whole range of meats is covered: chicken, pork, beef, lamb, fish/seafood, veggies, even desserts. Well-worth a look, and a pretty good book in the "Foolproof" series.
--FOOLPROOF ONE POT; 60 simple and satisfying recipes (Hardie Grant Quadrille, 2021, 144 pages, $28.99 hard covers) is by Alan Rosenthal. It's another entry in the publisher's "Foolproof" series. It's open and shut: throw a lot on ingredients into a single pot or pan. These are the "acoustic" versions of the "electric" pots: no slow cookers or instant pots here, although the preps can be adapted to that equipment, Most recipes here are "low and slow" on top of the stove; some are pot bakes for the oven. There are both savoury and sweet preps. Vegan and vegetarian recipes are marked as such. There are two types of pot needed – deep and wide-shallow. Browning meats is a plus, as are side dishes which are mainly potatoes, rice, whole grains and pasta. Easy-peasy.
-GLUTEN-FREE HOLIDAY COOKIES (Artisan, 2020, 96 pages, $17.95 hardbound) is part of the Artisanal Kitchen series of small handbooks. This one is by Alice Medrich with Maya Klein. They've got over 30 recipes "to sweeten the season" . Not all then preps are exclusively Christmas: the standards here reflect both the classics (chocolate chip, ginger, double oatmeal, nutty thumbprint, et al)
and the festives (buckwheat walnut or hazelnut tuiles, toasty pecan biscotti, chocolate sables, ginger-peach squares, et al). Sure to be a winner in the hostess gift sweepstakes, for it even includes conversion charts.
--BOARDS, PLATTERS, PLATES: recipes for entertaining, sharing, and snacking (Artisan, 2021, 160 pages, $24.95 hardbound) is by Maria Zizka, co-author of the excellent "Tartine All Day" cookbook. Here she gives us 30 boards/platters/plates for all manner of events, ranging from the basic charcuterie board and cheese board through appetizer board, Parisienne party size board, cauliflower pakora, beachside, Lebanese lunch, vegan rainbow, bagna cauda party size, and even six boards for dessert. Very well-presented with illustrated examples of layouts of boards and identification of all the components. Fish and seafood are also added, as for the beach or for the grand aioli. Well-worth a look.
--ONE-BOWL MEALS: simple, nourishing, delicious (Artisan, 2021, 160 pages, $24.95 hardbound) is by Maria Zizka, co-author of the excellent "Tartine All Day" cookbook. Here she has given us 30 combinations organized by base (oatmeal, chia, yogurt, grains, noodles, greens. The basic formula is start with a base, build with a protein, and add a sauce, and then a couple of toppings, and some crunchy garnishes. Thes one-meal bowls can be protein-enhanced, or made vegan, or made gluten-free. She's got the ideas all laid out for us. Yummy photos too.
Other little books (and calendars), for beverages, include those on beer, wine and spirits:
--LET THE FUN BE GIN; cocktail recipes & coasters for the happiest hours (Castle Point Books, St. Martin's Press, 2021, boards and coasters kit in book form, $24.99) is a collection of stylized 10 pop-out coasters and 10 cocktail recipes, designed to jazz any celebration with colour and with clever sayings. It's your own Algonquin Hotel (but without New York). Coasters are easy to save and to re-use. The 10 recipes include the Aviation: citric tones, herbaceousness, floral notes. Full instructions given!
--NEGRONI (Ryland Peters & Small, 2021, 64 pages, $15 hardbound) is by David T. Smith and Keli Rivers. Here are more than 30 classic and modern recipes for Italy's iconic cocktail. Variations make use of dry and aged vermouths, along with ports and sherries and white bitters. One for the cocktail friends.
--CLASSIC COCKTAILS; the very best martinis, margaritas, manhattans, and more (Artisan, 2021, 112 pages, $14.95 hardbound) is by Nick Mautone. It's a utilitarian guide to the 40 most popular and iconic cocktails. These are the basics, suitable for all levels in its conciseness. The primer has opening notes on the right tools and the right techniques, followed by a series of drinks based on the type of alcohol, from gin through vodka, whiskey, rum, tequila, brandy [just two: sidecar and alexander] , and wine (including sparkling wine). 'Nuff said.
--IT'S WINE TIME (Dog `n` Bone Books, 2005, 2020, 64 pages, $13.95 hardbound) is by Chris Losh. It was previously available as "Pick the Right Wine Every Time", and it is now back in print as a nifty little work that details everything you've always wanted to ask about red, white, rose and sparkling wine. The food section now also includes matching with vegetarian dishes, written by Fiona Beckett. Coverage extends to specific themes of drinking at home (lunch, BBQ, before and after dinner), splurging at dinner parties, eddings, holidays, and parties in general, drinking while out at bars and pubs, date nights, picnics, gifts, and restaurant wine lists.
--WINTER DRINKS (Ryland Peters & Small, 2020, 144 pages, $19.95 hardbound) has been pulled together by Julia Charles. It's a publisher's package of previous preps by several food and drink writers, most notably Louise Pickford with 17 and Julia herself with 16. Eleven other writers also contributed.
So here are 75 recipes to warm our hearts, with hot drinks, toddies, part cocktails, and mocktails. Included also are hot chocolates, warm milks, coffee drinks and teas, as well as restorative mulls, revivers and soothers. My fave is the sparkling cocktails. My wife likes the sparkling mocktails. Chacun a son gout.
--STRANGER GINS; 50 things to drink while you watch TV (Dog 'n' Bone, 2021, 64 pages, $13.99 hardbound) has been compiled by Carol Hilker, a Chicago-based food writer. All of the shows are "series" and include old and new. Thus, there's Twin Peaks (recommended drink: Jacoby's Coconut). Fleabag (Hot Priest), Mad Men (Dirty Don Martini), and Seinfeld (Festivus)...But no Sopranos. She's got recipes and reasons for each show. PS: I'm not ashamed to admit having seen all of these shows but drinking just wine.
--HUGH JOHNSON'S POCKET WINE BOOK 2022 (Mitchell Beazley, 2021, 336 pages, $20 hardbound, $14.99 Kindle ebook) is a guide to wines from all around the world, not just to the "best" wines. His co-author is Margaret Rand. It is in its 45th year (first published in 1977). Johnson claims more than 6000 wines and growers are listed. News, vintage charts and data, glossaries, best value wines, and what to drink now are here. His book is arranged by region, with notes on the 2020 vintage and a few details about the potential of 2021, along with a closer look at the 2019. He's got notes on what wines are ready to drink in 2022. Johnson is also moving into food pairing: there is a section on food and wine matching. He also has a listing of his personal 200 fave wines. The Kindle edition is digitally enhanced for word searching, so it often beats a printed index for retrieving data – and it is $5 cheaper! A great purchase....
--A YEAR OF GOOD BEER 2022 PAGE-A-DAY CALENDAR (Workman, 2021, 320 pages, $22)
quenches the beer lover's thirst: microbrewery recommendations, beer lore, trivia, history, labels, vocabulary, tasting notes, beer festivals, and more daily fun. America's bestselling beer calendar—now with 1.3 million copies in print—is back with a year of recommendations for every season and occasion. Crack open an Amra Mango IPA, boasting a lush fruitiness balanced by its dry finish. Or the New Glarus Flanders Sour, with tartness, malt, and hints of chocolate for a stellar interpretation of a classic style. Plus Craft Ingredients, Beer Trivia, food pairings, Dogfish Head Mixed Media and other brews to win over your wine-drinking friends, and Winston Churchill's strong words on Prohibition: "An affront to the whole history of mankind." Some 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 or so craft beers. If you buy any of the PAD calendars, then you can go online to the website and pick up other, free stuff, at www.pageaday.com.