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.
Oh man, the shelves are heaving under the weight of our biggest hopes for a cookbook-laden holiday season. Local publisher Ten Speed Press alone has Manresa, Pok Pok, and Ivan Ramen coming out this month. I’ll get to most of these as Christmas approaches, but for now, let’s start with cookbooks with a Portland pedigree.
First up is Le Pigeon: Cooking at the Dirty Bird by Gabriel Rucker and Meredith Erickson ($40, Ten Speed Press). Le Pigeon, on Portland’s east side, is a “celebration of high and low extremes in cooking.” Think fine Burgundies and Coors, “buffalo wings” made with sweetbreads, and a lamb belly BLT. The “dirty” part of the title comes from frequent use of offal and nose-to-tail meat, but the book is not dogmatic, and even less adventurous eaters will find plenty of inspiration herein.
Mostly, the recipes are replicable by home cooks, like the Lamb Shank and BBQ Beans or the Apple Cheddar Crostada. Some are more complex than weekday recipes, and the daring can try the Tête de Veau (Calf’s Head Terrine), Gribiche, and Egg dish or the Grilled Pork Tongue, Refried Beans, and Lardo. As always with Ten Speed, the book is hefty and gorgeous, from the debossed cover to “food porn”-quality photography.
About a mile and a half north of Le Pigeon is an irreverent and lively Spanish-inspired spot called Toro Bravo. Their new book comes from San Francisco publisher McSweeney’s (whose first cookbook was from Mission Chinese Food). This one is called Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull. ($35). True to its name, the book is almost more story than recipes. There’s the chapter on a DIY meat curing setup, the tattoo of a chicken pooping out the name of the sous chef, and hundreds of photos.
Once you get to them, the recipes are pretty appealing all around. There are basics and fundamentals, from Romesco Sauce to Roasted Spanish Nuts. There are loads of small plates, both classic (Boquerones with Toasted Bread and Piperade) and creative (Butter-Braised Turnips with Mojo Picon). And there are mains (Lamb Ragù with Eggplant or Rabbit Fideos). And there’s plenty more: cocktails, charcuterie, desserts, and so on. In short, Toro Bravo is both inspiring to flip through and practical for everyday cooking and feasts alike.
The last book in today’s lineup isn’t totally Portland-centric, but the editor lives there and a fair portion of the recipes come from folks in Portland. It’s The Kinfolk Table: Recipes for Small Gatherings by Nathan Williams (Artisan, $35). I almost didn’t review this one, as it feels too precious, like more of a lifestyle book of pretty people and their awesomeness than an honest cookbook. There are many pages of cuteness, style, and design that seem superfluous to the recipes. That style will surely appeal to some: the cover photo looks like a Vermeer, and someone must appreciate photos of beards and bangs and bikes and biscuits.
But the recipes save the book for me. Everything appeals: the Citrus Lentil Salad; the Mushroom, Tomato, and White Bean Stew; the Spidskal (Cabbage Salad); Smørrebrød; the Sea Legs cocktail. I especially like the Copenhagen-based section. The recipes are all doable, mostly simple and elegant, and many are vegetarian-friendly. There are also lovely sentiments behind each featured recipe creator about food and community and the pleasures of gatherings. And unlike some of the cookbooks I bring home and never cook from, I get the feeling this will be dog-eared pretty quickly. So despite the stylishness (which, again, some people will love), The Kinfolk Table is a fine collection of simple but inspired dishes.
Thanks for reading, and bon appétit!