Don’t forget: the books mentioned below are available at 20 percent off for tablehopper readers for two weeks following this mention at Green Apple Books—simply use the code “tablehopper” at checkout (either at the store or online) for your discount.
If you know someone who loves food, or cooking, or reading, it’s a great time of year. From straight recipe books to food porn, there are plenty of new gems from which to choose the perfect gift. To get you started, here are six great new releases, all by folks with local credentials (with one worthy SoCal exception).
If you buy any of them, I urge you to shop locally. Whether it’s my shop, the lovely Omnivore Books, or other indie booksellers, keep your money in the local economy (we spend it all on books and food!).
The purest recipe-driven book in the list is One Good Dish by Chez Panisse alum David Tanis (Artisan, $25.95). What I like about this handsome book is its straightforward nature—it’s just a collection of great dishes. No three-course menus, no sous vide, no torches. Think comfort food with a California slant: Mexican Corn and Squash Blossom Soup, Seaweed Salad with Sesame Dressing, or fragrant Sea Scallop Cakes. Most recipes are very easily accomplished by basic home cooks, and one good dish can really be enough for a meal or take an otherwise ordinary meal up a notch.
The most straightforward of the bunch is New California Wine by San Francisco Chronicle wine editor Jon Bonné (Ten Speed Press, $35). This book is a three-part tour of California’s producers and wines. First up are thoughtful essays on “Searching for the new California.” Think farming techniques, the challenge of making decent table wines, and a brief history of recent wine movements. Part Two is a road trip of terroir, a very character-driven journey among various producers. And Part Three is a guide, of sorts, to what Bonné’s driving at all along, defining “new” California wine. It’s a lush and reader-friendly book.
Next up is Cowgirl Creamery Cooks by Sue Conley and Peggy Smith (Chronicle Books, $35). This is the obvious gift for the cheese lover in your life, with plenty of history, information on cheese, and a great smattering of recipes to doll up cheese, use milk in drinks, create cheese-driven main courses and desserts, and more. Did I mention cheese?
Moving toward more professional cooking but still in the wheelhouse for home cooks is Suzanne Goin’s second book (finally!): The A.O.C Cookbook (Knopf, $35). Ms. Goin got her start with Lucques in LA; she then opened A.O.C to build on the eat-at-the-bar culture she observed at Lucques, and the food herein reflects that small plate (not tapas) sensibility. The recipes are arranged by course (salad, fish, meat, veggies) and season. Recipes are generally doable at home, like Dandelion and Roasted Carrot Salad with Black Olives and Ricotta Salata; Crème Fraîche Cake with Santa Rosa Plums and Pistachios in Olive Oil; and Pink Snapper with Coconut Rice, Peanuts, and Kumquat Sambal. And there’s more to the book than recipes—Goin explains her culinary decisions and explores ingredients while her partner Caroline Styne provides wine notes. Of all the books this winter, this one packs the biggest “yum” factor, for my palate, at least.
Now on to the heavy hitters, the books aimed at the pros and the coffee table cookbook set. First up is Manresa: An Edible Reflection by David Kinch (Ten Speed Press, $50). Do you have three or four days to finish your own salt from seawater taken from the Pacific? Have access to fresh abalone and the patience to create milk skins to wrap over pig’s feet? Think you can handle an etrog citron confiture? Then this is the gift for you. To be fair, though, this book has a lot going for it. Some recipes are doable: my first attempt at the epic egg was pretty darn tasty. Kinch’s philosophy, clearly laid out herein, has earned him two Michelin stars for a reason. And perhaps the book can provide inspiration and guidance to aspiring professionals. As an object, it’s certainly a conversation starter—Manresa’s succulent photos make this hefty tome the opposite of an eBook.
Finally, local chef Daniel Patterson has offered up his own top-notch food porn/professional recipe book. It’s called, of course, Coi: Stories and Recipes (Phaidon, $49.95). This is another personal, philosophical, and gorgeous book by a Michelin-starred chef. It’s generally not much help to the casual home cook, but it’s lush, compelling, and clear. One indicator that this is not really a recipe book—each recipe is on one page with a photo facing it, but ingredients and their measurements are in the back of the book. Nonetheless, Patterson’s stories and recipe narratives should absorb any foodie for weeks. Snuggle up with a glass of tea or wine and lose yourself in Patterson’s art. And if you do try one of the recipes, drop a taste off for us at the bookstore!
Thanks for reading and shopping locally!