2013 Cookbook & Style Book Roundup: David Tanis, Charles Phan, Vogue and more…

by Sasha Wilkins on December 21, 2013 · 10 comments

2013-best-cookbooks

Time for a quick non fiction book roundup: this is by no means a definitive books of 2013 list, (several of them are classics from a few years back), but they are some of the many I have enjoyed reading over the past year. Some are US published, reflecting my recent years living in America, – but Amazon takes care of that (and if you have Prime you can order up until Monday for next day delivery to make your Christmas present pile.)

One Good Dish by David Tanis
I first came across American chef David Tanis’ glorious food writing when browsing through the food section at Strand Books in New York five or so years ago. (My post about some of the lovely food books I have bought in Strand is here.) My mother and I both love his direct, delicious and simple approach to food, honed over years working at Chez Panisse, which still manages to surprise and delight. This is his third book, celebrating the joy of eating exactly what you like, when you like. I would eat anything he described. It is a crying shame that he is not more well known in the UK. BUY THIS BOOK.

Tartine: Sweet and Savory Pastries, Tarts, Pies, Cakes, Croissants, Cookies and Confections by Elizabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson. From the eponymous San Francisco bakery, this, the first Tartine book, is a kitchen classic from 2006 that is to be found on the kitchen shelves of most of my cookery-loving American friends. (My New Jersey boys have a well thumbed copy, from which Yoann has made some epic desserts.) I find their recipes both delicious and foolproof, and it’s handy that they give measurements in cups, grams and mls. It’s particularly useful if you have a yearning to master American classics like chiffon cake, angel food cake, or banana cream pie.

Comptoir Libanais by Tony Kitous & Dan Lepard
A wonderful exploration of Lebanese food, from the founder of the Comptoir Libanais restaurants in London, who is known for his passion for the food of the Levant.It’s a pleasure to now be able to replicate his simple recipes for homestyle Lebanese food. (And if youneed ingredients his cafes sell them too. They are worth a visit anyway for the EPIC baklava, which I normally dislike.)

Do-ahead Dinners: how to feed friends and family without the frenzy by James Ramsden
I met lovely James this spring when we went to Jerez to experience Tio Pepe En Rama. So, of course, I bought his book when it came out later on this year. James is known for his London supper club, The Secret Larder, and through his experiences there has become a master of the non-fluster meal, preparing the majority of his food ahead. In this book, James’ recipes can be prepared ahead and served up without a fuss so that the cook can be with their guests, not stuck in the kitchen: which is exactly my way of thinking

Vietnamese Home Cooking by Charles Phan
I bought this book a year or so ago, in its first edition whose cover typography, made me wince every time I looked at it. Fortunately it has been re-designed, and the recipes and information within far transcend the knocked up in a few hours  design: I’m glad because Charles Phan, quite simply, a food god. E
xecutive chef and proprietor of The Slanted Door family of restaurants in San Francisco (to which I make a beeline the moment I arrive in the city), he received the James Beard Award for Best Chef California in 2004, and in 2011 was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s list of Who’s Who of Food in America. But, most of all, his restaurants serve the best Vietnamese food I have ever eaten.  And if that’s not a reason to buy this book, I don’t what is.

Food from Plenty: Good Food Made from the Plentiful, the Seasonal and the Leftover with Over 300 Recipes, None of Them Extravagant
I love Diana Henry’s cookbooks, which my mother introduced me to. In fact, I love them so much that I usually buy them as hostess gifts for my friends in America whenever I stay, because I just *know* that my food kindred spirits will love them as I do. This book is not new, but it is one I love to read again: Henry has the same kind of magpie mind about food that I have, taking influences from all over the world, and she practices thrift in the kitchen, but by stealth. It also has a properly wonderful title.

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The Paris Gourmet: Restaurants Shops Recipes Tips by Trish Deseine and Christian Sarramon
I may travel to Paris ten or so times a year, but I still feel as though I know so little about the city of lights: take me out of the 1st – hotels, Les Arts Decoratifs and Fashion Week, the 6th – St Germain – for eating and shopping, and the 4th – the Marais – for most of the above, and I am flailing. So thank goodness for this wonderful book which, although it carries its authority lightly, really is an enquire-within-upon-everything bible for both Paris and Parisian living.

The Southerner’s Handbook: A Guide to Living the Good Life by David Dibenedetto (Author), and Garden & Gun (Editor). Having made my first proper trip to the South this October, when I spoke in Charleston, I am itching to know more. I bought this last week, and love the wide array of pithy essays by wonderful writers like Julia Reed, on everything from planting a Southern garden and the secret of entertaining with aplomb, via how to wear cowboy boots, and make sweet tea.

vogue-on-quadrille

The  writers of the Vogue On…designers series have unfettered access to the Conde Nast archives and it shows:  this series offers authoritative and fascinating insights into the life and work of some of the world’s most iconic designers, by some seriously heavyweight fashion writers. The latest is Ralph Lauren by Kathleen Baird-Murray, and other titles in the series include Bronwyn Cosgrave on Coco Chanel, Linda Watson on Vivienne Westwood, Drusilla Beyfuss on Hubert de Givenchy, Chloe Fox on Alexander McQueen, Charlotte Sinclair on Christian Dior, and Susan Irvine on Cristobal Balenciaga.

I don’t have a copy because it was published as an e-book, but parts of Esther Walker’s first cookbook,The Bad Cook, from her blog Recipe Rifle, made me hoot with laughter, even though I was reading much of it second time around:  There’s no new content here  – it’s basically an anthology of her blog writing, but if you find the idea of a combination of searing honesty and a no holds barred analysis of middle class North London life then this is one for you. (Esther’s schtick is that before she got married she was capable of burning water, so the recipes are not for a seasoned cook, but the hefty intro essays are worth the £1.99 download if you haven’t read the blog.)

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