Another holiday season is upon us, and another rich bounty of cookbooks has sprung from Bay Area cooks. Sure, there are many other worthy food books out there (Spuntino, The Nordic Cookbook, Pop Chart Lab’s A Visual Guide to Drink, etc.). But the Bay Area’s intersection of ingredients and culture is always compelling, and we’re all about local, so here are some temptations for the food lover in your life.
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.
Near and Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel by Heidi Swanson is the best of both worlds: vegetarian recipes inspired by NorCal and its market offerings, plus food inspired by Heidi’s travels in Morocco, Japan, Italy, France, and India. The book is gorgeous enough to perpetually be left on your counter, and most recipes don’t require trips to speciality markets. That said, Near and Far will have the home cook stretching boundaries and trying new ingredients and combinations, like the Quinoa Blini, the Lilikoi Curd, or the Vaghareli Makai. It’s not quite as user-friendly as her Super Natural Every Day for the less adventurous home cook, but it is full of delectable recipes. And at $30 (Ten Speed Press), it leaves some cash for odd spices.
Another book sprouting from an intersection of cultures comes from Brittany-born Dominique Crenn, the first woman in the United States to receive two Michelin stars. Her Atelier Crenn: Metamorphosis of Taste is a big leap up the ladder of sophistication and artistry, and it’s probably more aspirational for many home cooks than practical—one recipe,”Birth,” goes on for seven pages. But it’s beautiful and thorough and oozing with love and appreciation. So for the true pro or aspirant on your list, this $50 book (from Houghton Mifflin) is the professional choice.
For a quirkier food book, check out The Mission Chinese Food Cookbook by Danny Bowien and Chris Ying. If ever there were an adventurous fusion experiment, this is it, and I don’t only mean the food. The book is really a mash-up of narrative, interviews, sharp photography, and recipes from the Korean-influenced fusion pop-up in a Chinese restaurant in a Latino neighborhood. The food is creative and relatively doable for the home cook, and ingredients are easy to come by around these parts. Think Taiwanese Eggplant and Clams, Sichuan Green Peppercorn Salsa Verde, or Salt Cod Fried Rice. It’s $34.99 (from Anthony Bourdain Books).
From across the bay comes This Is Camino by Russell Moore and Allison Hopelain. I’ll let the LA Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold sell you on this one:
“Russell Moore is the ninja of California live-fire cooking…Camino, which he runs with his wife Allison Hopelain, is one of my favorite restaurants in the world. But when you read this book, what emerges is the soul of a principled cook…This Is Camino is easily the most important chef’s book to come out of the Bay Area since Judy Rodgers’s Zuni Cafe Cookbook almost 15 years ago.”
It’s from (local!) Ten Speed Press and it’s $35.
Finally, for the nerdy cook—and our pick for Cookbook of the Year—check out The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science by J. Kenji López-Alt. You may recognize Kenji’s name from his kitchen science columns on Serious Eats. Regardless, this giant tome (more than 900 pages) houses the results of thousands of trial and error experiments, and even reading just a few pages will make you a better cook. From knife skills to perfecting fajitas, this book is extremely practical, very well illustrated, and offers straightforward recipes for a wide variety of food. He even answers questions I wouldn’t think to ask: should I add oil to my pasta water? The book, from Norton, is $49.95, but the bang for your buck is excellent.
I hope your season is merry and full of good food. Please put your money where your mouth is this season and shop local first. Thanks for reading!