By Pete Mulvihill of Green Apple Books
Don’t forget: these books below are available at 20% off for tablehopper readers for two weeks following this review—simply use the code "tablehopper" at checkout (either at the store or online) for your discount.
You asked for it, and here it is: The five best cookbooks for the holiday season. It’s a little weighted towards local cooks and dessert, but that seems appropriate, given tablehopper’s focus on the Bay Area food scene and her sweetness, eh? [Ed. note.—Sweetness? Ha! I will cut you! Now excuse me while I finish this puppy sandwich.]
First up is Elizabeth Falkner’s Demolition Desserts. Falkner is the chef/owner of Citizen Cake, and I appreciate that she begins the book with chocolate chip cookies, straight up. From there, it all gets more complicated and interesting, but most recipes include versions for both the more serious and experienced baker, and the short-on-time enthusiast. From single items like cupcakes and cookies to plated desserts, there’s a reason Citizen Cake is always crowded, and much is revealed herein.
While we’re on local desserts, consider Indulge: 100 Perfect Desserts by French Laundry pastry chef Claire Clark. Now, this book is out of my league—this is not a book for beginner bakers—so it’s hard to say too much about it. But it’s lush and dense with recipes, photos, and informative sidebars. And even before landing at French Laundry, Claire Clark’s reputation was made long ago, so anyone serious about making dessert will surely learn a thing or two.
Staying local but moving away from desserts, check out The Seventh Daughter: My Culinary Journey from Beijing to San Francisco by local legend Cecilia Chiang. Chiang brought authentic Chinese food to the Bay Area with her Mandarin restaurant (1961-2006), fusing real, gutsy northern Chinese regional cooking with impeccably gracious service. This book is largely a memoir of her journey from the little girl who wasn’t allowed in the kitchen in Beijing to the culinary revolutionary lionized by the likes of Julia Child and Jacques Pepin. But there are also 75 easy recipes that show just how simple good Chinese food can be.
Ranging a little further afield (to Big Sur), here’s our vegetarian option (and this may be one of those menus on which the veggie option is also the best). It’s the new Tassajara Cookbook: Lunches, Picnics, and Appetizers. Here’s what E.H., my veggie co-worker has to say about it, "I've had this cookbook less than two months and my copy is already dog-eared, counter-worn, and full of protruding scraps of paper. These are delicious, interesting, really user-friendly recipes. There are many vegan options, and the ‘vegan cookies and sweets’ chapter is the best dairy-less desserts chapter I’ve ever come across. This book is the perfect way to upgrade the vegetarian/vegan lunchbox and cookie jar."
Last month, I mentioned Alice Waters’s The Art of Simple Food, and I have to re-plug it here—it’s a lovely basic primer on simple seasonal cooking.
In the same vein are a few other textbook-y new releases (including one from Jamie Oliver). Aside from Alice Water’s primer, I favor James Peterson's Cooking. It’s a notable career’s worth of knowledge distilled into one master-class. This could be an essential reference book for the occasional home cook, a textbook for someone determined to learn the basics of technique, or the ultimate edition of Cook’s Illustrated; it includes 1500 photographs, mostly of the how-to variety. Compared to the industry's standard textbook (The New Professional Chef), this is both more user-friendly and way cheaper.
Finally, we have about 25 more signed copies of Anthony Bourdain’s new book No Reservations. Call or come in to make sure you get a signed one. If none of these strike your fancy, feel free to ask for me when you’re in the store. I love talking cookbooks.
Thanks for reading
Pete Mulvihill of Green Apple Books recommends
By Pete Mulvihill of Green Apple Books