My bookshelves are overflowing this year with cookbooks, and even though I was on a quasi-ban on purchasing new ones (my fellow food bloggers know what I mean), inevitably I find yet another new one that I can’t resist. I’m cheating a bit here, as not all of these were issued this year, but I just had to include them. I’ve had fun doing a bit more cooking this year than I have in the past, and hopefully in 2013 (fingers crossed) – I’ll share some of that on this blog. Without further adieu…
Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller & Sebastian Rouxel, Artisan Books
It probably goes without saying that I definitely look for great photography when it comes to cookbooks. Artisan is one of a handful of publishers that I know that they’re involved in a book, that the photography will be spot on, and that’s definitely the case with this book. I first happened upon Bouchon Bakery when walking back from Central Park several years ago, and fell in love with macarons and their take on the Oreo, the famous TKO’s. There are definitely varying levels of difficulty, but thankfully this recipe is pretty easy and I plan on taking it on soon. I had a chance to meet both chefs at a media event before a series of packed book signing events at Aria Restaurant and I found Keller surprisingly down to earth and candid on his thoughts on the dining scene.
The Sprouted Kitchen by Sara Forte, photography by Hugh Forte, Ten Speed Press
Several years ago I flew to San Francisco to go to the first large scale conference for food bloggers, BlogHer Food. Yes, I’m a guy, and no they don’t have gates at the door barring entry to males. I had a chance to start friendships with bloggers far and wide, male and female, and during one session by White On Rice Couple bloggers Todd & Diane, they introduced us to the blog The Sprouted Kitchen. When the images from the blog were displayed overhead, I was fascinated by the photos and I’ve had a blog crush on them since that day. I rarely pre-order books, but jumped at the chance on Amazon and I haven’t been disappointed. Inventive recipes, with a focus on vegetables and whole grains, and photos bathed in natural light.
Focus On Food Photography for Bloggers by Matt Armendariz, Focal Press
I’ve been a fan of the blog Matt Bites, long before I became a food blogger myself, and I finally had a chance to meet him at the aforementioned blogger conference. He’s always been eager to share his love of photography and led a session with 101 Cookbooks blogger Heidi Swanson. I’ve since become good friends with Matt and a few years ago I had a chance to check out his studio (it’s apparently expanded since then, I guess I need to visit again, Matt?) and marveled at what he was able to accomplish with natural light, and it was incredibly fun to see what food stylist Adam Pearson to keep the food looking great. At that time they were prepping test shots for what would become Matt’s book On a Stick ( a perfect stocking stuffer itself) and now he’s sharing details on photography without fussy multi-light setups. Although focused on bloggers, the book is for anyone who would like to take their photography up a notch.
Southern Comfort: A New Take on the Recipes We Grew Up With by Allison Vines-Rushing and Slade Rushing, Ten Speed Press
Unlike most on this list, I had no prior knowledge of the Rushings nor was I familiar with their New Orleans restaurant before getting ahold of this book. I happened to see a notice on Eater for a cookbook contest, and lo and behold I won a copy. This is the second book on this list published by Ten Speed Press and the photography by Ed Anderson in this book is absolutely stunning. The book tells their tale of growing up in the south, finding love, and of course sharing recipes with roots in New Orleans with their own personal touches.
The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from my Frontier by Ree Drummond, HarperCollins
I think it’s safe to say that Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, is the Queen Bee of the food bloggers. Her blog is insanely popular and her book signings rival the crowds of celebrities. As a novice cook, this book is a lot of fun because, just as she does on her blog, she includes setup photos that show you step by step how to prepare the featured dish. You’ll find photos of her family, and the ranch, and you’ll find some recipes featured on her Food Network show. I had every intention of making the strawberry jam this year, but our local strawberry season was gone in a flash. I plan on tackling it next year.
Keys to the Kitchen by Aida Mollenkamp, Chronicle Books
The Joy of Cooking, with its cover constantly dusted with flour, was a constant companion to my mother in her kitchen, and if there was an update, with glorious (yes, glorious) photos it would be Aida’s new book. I met Aida at the second BlogHer Food conference and I’ve been a big fan of the FoodCrafters show that aired on the Cooking Channel. On a book tour stop in Atlanta, I was shocked when she mentioned that it was only the second cookbook that Alex Farnum had shot, and I was definitely impressed in the variety of recipes & cooking techniques that she was able to include in the book. The tagline on the cover “the essential reference for becoming a more accomplished, adventurous cook” is the absolute truth and I look forward to having this one by my side for years to come.
A New Turn in the South by Hugh Acheson, Clarkson Potter
I almost feel that this book needs no introduction, and certainly Hugh Acheson has made quite a name for himself in recent years as the smart alecky judge on Top Chef. The book, published last year, with its beautiful photos by Athens photographer Rinne Allen and fantastic illustrations make it feel like you’ll keep it around for a while and where writing in the margins is encouraged. I love the shallot-thyme vinaigrette in the book and use it on salads as well as an accompaniment to roast beef on a sandwich. The cane vinegar chicken thigh recipe is next on my list to cook. If my recommendation isn’t good enough for ya, the James Beard Foundation happened to think it was well worthy of praise.
Fire in My Belly by Kevin Gillespie, Andrews McMeel
Years ago, I received an e-mail from Melissa Libby saying that she needed a photo of mine to send the folks at Top Chef to go along with an application for the show. I had taken a photo of Kevin Gillespie while doing a fun tour of restaurant wine pairings with my friends Hardy & Matt at a quiet little restaurant, Woodfire Grill. Fast forward to a month ago when I attended a jam packed book signing where fans lined up for an autographs & photos with the now celebrity chef. The food in the book is much more down home & comforting than you’d find at Woodfire Grill and gives us some glimpses into what we’ll see soon at Gunshow in Glenwood Park. The hottest item on display that day? Kevin’s Closed on Sunday chicken sandwich, which features King’s Hawaiian sandwich buns & Hidden Valley Ranch dry salad dressing mix (yes, really) was definitely in demand that day and I hope to try it soon.
Tiny Food Party! by Teri Lyn Fisher & Jenny Park, Quirk Books
Last, but certainly not least is a book by my friend & photographer Teri & food stylist Jenny Park. I first encountered Teri by stalking my friend Matt’s facebook page and we finally met a few years ago in Los Angeles in what seemed to be a sketchy strip mall. I ended up having a fantastic meal, at Thai restaurant Jitlada ( I can’t wait to go back!). Teri & Jenny run the fantastic blog Spoon Fork Bacon and the book includes bite sized recipe that naturally are perfect for a party. The photography is beautiful (yes, I’m biased) and the recipes range from American classics to Korean specialties. It’s been so successful that they’ve recently signed on for a second book and I can’t wait to pick that one up as well.
I hope that everyone is having a wonderful holiday season. It’s a time for being with family and being thankful for what we have, I myself am looking forward to seeing my sister who will be arriving this weekend. Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! I hope you enjoy these selections and I look forward to talking about more books in 2013.