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Many years ago, a student of mine –an aspiring chef and sommelier– cooked dinner for the entire wine school staff. Her sole reference was the classic and erudite Larousse Gastronomique Encylopedia.
You have to be pretty amazing to understand the complex culinary ideas within that hallowed tome. I am a former executive chef, and I have written a bestselling cookbook. However, even I wouldn’t have risked preparing an entire 8-course French menu around Larousse.
How did the meal go? It turned into an epic bacchanalia, so I don’t think many attendees remember. And those that do aren’t saying.
My point is: knowing the intentions of a book are key to utilizing a book. Larousse Wine is not a universal encyclopedia of wine. It is not Oxford Guide to Wine, with its British-centric take on wine. No, this is a French guide. And that means France concepts and French wineries take about 75% of all the pages.
Written by David Cobbold and Sebastian Durand-Viel, both sommelier-professors of the L’ACADÉMIE DU VIN DE PARIS. This is very much an academic book, one I use and reference when teaching French wine classes.
Via Amazon: Larousse Wine
The Way of Whisky: A Journey Around Japanese Whisky
There are many great pleasures in my job. One of the greatest is hosting a whiskey class every month. People often find it odd that a winemaker has a deep and abiding affair with the hooch. I don’t have an answer to why that is. Maybe it was all those years racking wines from one barrel to another that instilled a love of oak, the primary flavor component of whiskey.
Any journey into the spirit world is best with a knowledgeable guide. For much of the past decade, David Broom has been my whisky walker. Notice the missing “e” in whisky? That’s because Dave is one of the great writers in the Scotch Whisky world. First as an editor at Whisky Magazine, then at Scotch Whisky Magazine. His columns in Whisky Advocate are worth a read, as are his work in Germany’s Mixology and China’s Drink!
Oh, and his great reference book, The World Atlas of Whisky, is part of the Wine School’s permanent library. And then he wrote this beautiful book. It is hard to explain how Japan took the idea of Scotch and turned it into something so different and beautiful yet retained the very essence of Whisky. So if this is an adventure you want, this is the guidebook you need.
Via Amazon: The Way of Whisky: A Journey Around Japanese Whisky
Wine is bottled poetry. (Write Now Journal)
I am a sucker for a good journal. My job is mostly taking notes. I’m always jotting down wine reviews when I have an idea about a new wine class (how about a Wines of Canada?) and working on a menu for a cooking class. This notebook makes me look a hundred times more classy than I have the right to be. It’s the right size and sturdy enough. For anyone who needs a place to jot down wine notes, this is a good choice.
Via Amazon: Wine is bottled poetry. (Write Now Journal)
What a Swell Party It Was!
Michael Turback has written thirty books in twenty years. His oeuvre is limited: cocktails and sundaes are core to his ambition. An occasional book on Ithaca or Hot Cocoa is sprinkled in for good measure. A book or two on New York Wines.
But this guy has a lot of knowledge to impart. He opened the first localvore / farm-to-table / hipster cocktail / local wine scene restaurant in Ithaca, NY. In 1968! Yeah, let that sink in. Michael isn’t famous, but he was far ahead of his time. His books now tend to look far back into American food and booze history.
What a Swell Party It Was is a history of the food and cocktails of the 1940’s nightclub scene. Post-prohibition was a crazy time in America, and this book captures that spirit in its pithy copy and simple recipes. So get ready to brew a Pousse-Cafe and tuck into Chicken Gismonda. It’s party time!
Via Amazon: What a Swell Party It Was!
Let’s be upfront here. I’m a WASP of a particularly snooty origin: a Boston Brahmin. My adolescence was little more than purging of that starched history. Angry poetry and playing lead guitar in a punk rock band pretty much cured the worst of it. It has given me a lifelong appreciation for other cultures, especially their foods. It’s a trait I share with many of you.
Neha Khullar has taken that inclination and turned it into a years-long passion. The result of all that travel was this remarkable cookbook. With a deft eye for the delicious, Ms. Khullar has created a joyful treatise on humble foods from across the world. Avocado shakes from Dubai, Croatian Cevapcici, Bubble and Squeak from England, Pambazos from Mexico City, Israeli Beets. This book spans the world searching for cheap eats and shows you how to make them yourself, easily.
Via Amazon: Palate Passport
Pantry and Palate: Remembering and Rediscovering Acadian Food
What do Louisiana and Canada’s Prince Edward Island have in common? They were both settled by the Acadian peoples, who first arrived in the 17th Century. The foods are similar, too. The influences of rural French and Native American cooking are there. The greatest difference is Cajun cuisine uses spices borrowed from Creole cuisine.
Most of us know and love Creole, but very few have ever sampled the source material. This is a welcome cookbook and one that should be in every cook’s library. The recipes are simple, but the execution isn’t always simple. For instance, a recipe for headcheese calls for only seven ingredients. One of them is the fresh head of a pig. Not sure I can order that on Amazon Fresh.
Despite a few impossible dishes, there are plenty of great easy to make discoveries in this book. Les Dames Patronesses Tourtiere is the richest and lush pork pie you’ll ever eat. Salted green onions will soon become a staple in your larder. Molasses cake is an absolute crowd-pleaser. Finally, seaweed pie is far more delicious than the name implies.
One of the more innovative and informative cookbooks I’ve seen in some time.
Via Amazon: Pantry and Palate: Remembering and Rediscovering Acadian Food
The Complete Sous Vide Cookbook
Back in the Iron Age, I worked my way up into an executive chef position. I’m not talking prehistory (that would be a feat), but when all food was cooked using the raw power of hot iron grills under massive exhaust hoods. I left the kitchen back in the ’90s, just before a quiet revolution was about to begin.
Actually, it had already started in the 1970s in France, but it wasn’t until the first years of the 21st century that it started making its way into commercial North American kitchens. As a result, the technique, called sous vide cooking, remained virtually unknown outside of the professional chef community, despite how fundamentally it changed cooking.
This is a cookbook that should be on every home cook’s shelf. Chef Chris McDonald has a firm grasp of the technique and has developed a book of straightforward recipes introducing the home cook to these innovative and consumer-friendly techniques.
Via Amazon: The Complete Sous Vide Cookbook