I have been accused of being hard to shop for in the sense that I don’t really like jewelry or clothes or perfumes or any of the typical girly gifts that one may think to offer. However, I think I am so easy to please since all you have to do really is consult my Amazon wish list or walk into any bookstore and just pick up a cookbook. Cookbooks make me happy. I read them like novels before going to bed. I curl up with them on the couch on a rainy Sunday afternoon and savour every picture and every recipe. I have stacks of them near my bed and on my nightstand, on my dining room table, in my living room… I have nightmares of my apartment burning and of me trying to save as many books as I can while carrying a cat under each arm. Which ones to save and which to leave behind (the books, not the cats)? A dilemma I would never be able to solve! Ok, I admit I may have a slight problem, but there’s no closer feeling to Santa Claus shimmying down my chimney then when that Amazon package arrives at my door!
Did you notice how I didn’t say “cookbooks” in the title of this post? That’s because some of these favourites are not cookbooks per say but they are certainly food-related books. If you have a food lover in your life, chances are they feel the same about food books and would love nothing more than to receive one this Holiday season. Below are some of the ones that have made a particular impression on me this year, in no particular order. I hope some lucky cook or food lover in your entourage will get to enjoy one of these in the coming year. You will find these books at all good bookstores as well as online at Amazon.
1. Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi and David Chang
I waited for that book for a long time. I’ve been a fan of Momofuku’s milk bar for a while now and it is always on my itinerary when I visit New York. Their cookies, pies and cakes are unbelievable but what really makes my heart race are the cake truffles with their incredible melt-in-your-mouth feel. Now I can make them myself! I did spend a whole day in the kitchen with my Milk Bar book not long ago and have since made some of the cookies a couple of times. This book is ideal for the dessert-loving person who is not afraid of spending a little bit of time on spoiling their sweet tooth. Read my full review of it here.
2. Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook by Daniel Humm and Will Guidara
This was by far the book I anticipated the most this year! It is absolutely gorgeous and will stay on any food lover’s coffee table for a long, long time. You will find yourself flipping through it just like you flip through a beautiful art book. The recipes might not be the easiest to make but the stories and photos are so riveting that you it will surely become one of your most prized books.
Read my full review including a recipe right here and don’t forget that I am giving away a copy of this book! You can participate until Christmas day!
3. Market Chronicles: stories & recipes from Montreal’s Jean-Talon Market (Susan Semenak)
When I first laid eyes on this book, I fell immediately in love. It is the story of “my” market, the one that I made a point to move closer to. It was also the story of all the producers and farmers that make up the soul of the Jean-Talon market, beautifully captured in images, words and recipes. It is a great book to offer anyone who is a fan of Montreal, of its markets and of its food. Read my full review of this book including a recipe here.
Note: unfortunately, this book is out of print in English for the time being but you can still find French copies everywhere.
4. Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
Plenty is one of the most beautiful books I got this year. I bought both books by Yotam Ottolenghi at the same time and they are both excellent but I have a definite preference for this one. The spices and ingredients used by Ottolenghi speak to my childhood taste buds and remind me of home and of growing up in Lebanon. The spices might be familiar but the recipes are far from classics, which is what I love the most about this book. This is the perfect book for any vegetarian foodie but will equally satisfy any and all carnivores, guarantee!
5. Chocolat (in French)
I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t love chocolate and if I have, then I have surely blocked that out of my memory! For all you chocolate lovers out there, if you want to find out a few secrets about this most delicious ingredient then this encyclopedia is definitely the book for you. It contains recipes from some of the greatest chocolatiers and pastry chefs in the world as well as detailed techniques on how to handle the precious ingredient to learn how to create the most stunning desserts!
Encyclopédie du chocolat, de Fredéric Bau et Clay McLachlan, Éditions Flammarion
6. The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria by Ferran Adrià
Have you ever asked yourself what chefs eat everyday? What about the chefs who run the (now closed) best restaurant in the world? Wonder no more! Ferran Adrià Is here to tell you what the chefs in the elBulli kitchen cooked and ate day in, day out. This book is a collection of these everyday complete and balanced meals. So if you feel like eating as if you were in the elBulli kitchen, then this book is a must have.
7. The Art of Living According to Joe Beef: A Cookbook of Sorts by David McMillan, Frederic Morin & Meredith Erickson
Although the recipes in this book are most interesting, they play second fiddle to the rest of the book. The stories told by the most rock ’n’ roll of Montreal chefs, Fred Morin and David McMillan, are some of the most interesting I have read this year. Their passion for food and for Montreal is palpable and is absolutely contagious. It is a Montreal-based book but the passion and stories are universal. This is arguably one of the most interesting food-centric books to come out this year and it makes me feel lucky to be living in the same zip code as the Joe Beef guys.
8. India: The Cookbook by Pushpesh Pant
Indian food is my favourite cuisine but I never cook it at home because it always seemed so complicated. Written by a cookbook author and adapted to western kitchens, this book will change your way of looking at Indian at home cooking. It is as thick as a bible and contains 1, 000 easy-to-follow recipes spanning the whole country. It also contains interesting information about the different regions of India and their very distinct styles of cooking, guides to ingredients and equipments and a wealth of other useful information. Oh and did I mention that the book comes in a cloth rice bag? Cute!
9. Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
Gabrielle Hamilton is a great author and this book, although a memoir, reads like a great work of fiction. It details Chef Hamilton’s life of trying to make it as a chef, a single mother and a woman in a world full of challenges. It is a story of perseverance and hard work and is told with such prose that you can’t help but get immersed in it. I read this book in a few short days, stayed up much later than normal reading it because I just couldn’t put it down.
10. My Life on the Line by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas
I just finished reading this very emotional book and all I want to do now is go to Chicago so I can shake Grant Achatz’s hand… and eat his food of course! His story is one of determination, hard work and perseverance, whether in becoming the best chef in the US or fighting a life threatening tongue cancer. His harrowing fight with cancer, which left him temporarily without the sense of taste, is nothing short of heroic. So is his rise to fame and his willingness to take risks and turn the world of cooking on its head. A very inspiring story indeed!
11. Lucky Peach Magazine
Special mention to Lucky Peach magazine, now on its second issue. Although not technically a book, every issue of this magazine is almost ad free and contains as much content as some books out there. Created by David Chang of Momofuku fame, both issues have contained essays, interviews and recipes from some of the best out there today, including Anthony Bourdain, Adam Gollner, Wylie Dufresne and Juan Mari Arzak. Written with humour and passion, these magazines are a great addition to any culinary library. Hurry up and buy some copies of the first two issues on the Internet and start subscribing to Lucky Peach today. I am sure these will be collectors items some day!
Happy Holidays everyone! I wish you health, love,e lots of good eats and great travels!