Each December, we head north to Noe Valley in San Francisco, where we find the ever-helpful Celia Sack behind the counter of one of our favorite independent bookstores, Omnivore Books. Sack joins us again this year to talk cookbook trends and share her top recommendations for every foodie, baker or cook on your holiday gift list.
Author Joyce Goldstein is back this year with the perfect gift for the serious hobby cook. “The New Mediterranean Table: Old World Recipes for the Modern Home” bridges together themes from her previous cookbooks in what Sack describes as Goldstein’s “opus.’ Adventurous cooks will revel in the North African spice paletttes and colorful history of Sephardic, Maghrebi and Mizrahi culinary traditions.
Cookbooks such as “Taste of Persia: A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan” by Natalie Duguid, “The Saffron Tales: Recipes from the Persian Kitchen” by Yasmin Khan and “Samarkand: Recipes and Stories from Central Asia and the Caucus” by Caroline Eden and Eleanor Ford transport us beyond our kitchens and encourage us to explore new ingredients and regional food cultures. Sack says the dishes you’ll discover are fun and accessible for even the home cook. Other favorites include “All Under Heaven,” Carolyn Phillips’ encyclopedic collection of recipes spanning 35 regions of China, and Fuschia Dunlop’s “Land of Fish and Rice,” which takes an in-depth look at the cuisine of central China.
“A Modern Way to Cook: 150+ Vegetarian Recipes for Quick, Flavor-Packed Meals” is Anna Jones’s follow-up to last year’s “A Modern Way to Eat: 200+ Satisfying Vegetarian Recipes” that will guide even the busiest home cook through a few simple steps to creating tasty, un-fussy weeknight dinners. Recipes like the Nordic-inspired porridges and grain-focused salad bowls found in Alex Hely-Hutchinson’s beautiful new “26 Grains” and other vegan and vegetarian cookbooks reflect eaters’ changing dietary preferences toward more veg-focused meals.
“The Everyday Baker” will appreciate Abigail Johnson Dodge’s detailed recipes and techniques for foolproof baking. It’s a thoughtful, must-have for anyone who likes, loves — or lives! — to bake. Also on Sack’s list is “Marbled, Swirled and Layered” by Irvin Lin if you’re a fan of marbled brownies and marbled cheesecakes. Lin’s book is chock-full of 150 fanciful recipes that will have you swirling your way through the holidays in no time! And, of course, what list of baking books would be complete without baker extraordinaire Dorie Greenspan’s latest homage to — you guessed it — “Dorie’s Cookies“? You know we’re fans!
Interestingly enough, fewer cocktail guides were published this year as drink enthusiasts’ changing tastes shifted focus to refining the classics, albeit the old fashioned or the negroni. Bittersweet amaro also experienced its resurgence in popularity as more than just an additive. Gift Brad Thomas Parsons’ “Amaro” to your favorite barman or woman, and you’ll be sure to lift their spirits. For the curious, “A Proper Drink: The Untold Story of How a Band of Bartenders Saved the Civilized Drinking World” by New York Times cocktail writer Robert Simonson whisks us on a journey through the entire history of the bar movement up to the present day craft cocktail renaissance.
And if you’ve still got a few names to check off on your holiday shopping list, every aspiring food critic should have a copy of Paul Freedman’s “10 Restaurants that Changed America.” It’s a must-read for those who want to understand how our country’s restaurant scene has evolved from its earliest fine dining days at Delmonico’s in Lower Manhattan to Alice Water’s Chez Panisse in Berkeley.