Every so often decisions are made almost effortlessly.
Here’s the thing. I didn’t set out to write a “Best of” today. In fact, I had already resigned myself to the reality that the last thing the resource stretched internet bandwidth needed was another regurgitation of the same twenty cookbooks reorganized to suit my purposes and justify my tastes.
That was last week. The beginning of last week to be more specific. On Wednesday, all of that changed.
Wednesday was the day that the book arrived on my doorstep. Not a book, THE book. Plats du Jour; the girl & the fig’s Journey Through the Seasons in Wine Country. I had no idea just how stunning a cookbook could be. This culinary piece of work has so much going for it that you really have to sit down with a copy to have a full appreciation of its depth of subject matter.
It’s impossible to summarize all it has to offer in this space. Here are a few thoughts that spring immediately to mind. Images, stunning. Recipes, delicious. Concept, well executed. You could read it cover to cover, not cook a dish and still be thoroughly satisfied. That’s an achievement.
Finding anything that isn’t perfect with this book would be a challenge. The thing that puts Plats du Jour completely over the top for me is the following:
Cheese. I love cheese. It’s not obsession, but, if I didn’t watch myself it could be. And, it is well represented here. Useful cheese information is sprinkled liberally throughout this cookbook. Pairings, notes and detailed descriptions are all intertwined with mouthwatering seasonal recipes. Restaurateur Sondra Bernstein, has gone above and beyond to deliver a cookbook that will make you say WOW every time you open it.
Still doubting? Take a look at this amazing plate of winter squash.
I think you’re beginning to understand…
The second of my newfound loves has been a challenge since it hit my desk this summer. It has been peering at me from around the stack of other books wondering when I would get to it. I wasn’t sure what I could write that would do it justice. It is elBulli after all. I think I have solved that dilemma.
This books simple, understated elegance proves that a cookbook should be more than a compilation of instructions. It should have a soul. Of course I’m speaking of, The Family Meal: Home cooking with Ferran Adrià.
What is it like to eat a staff meal at the legendary elBulli? The Family Meal gives you a rare glimpse into what fuels the famed restaurant’s hard working staff. As much photo essay as cookbook, Adrià shows you in a smart, step by step fashion how you can eat like someone on the inside.
The irony of this book is how strikingly simple the meals are to prepare. A far cry from the cuisine the restaurant served to its guests. The book takes you on a trip through a year of staff meals. The attention to detail is not a surprise given the author. But, what is incredible is how uncomplicated each of these recipes are when they are laid out in this fashion.
The fifteen images that make up the Caesar Salad recipe leave no doubt as to how this dish should be executed. Follow along, make an amazing Caesar, impress your guests.
Once you open the minimally designed cover be prepared to be lost in the “story”. Just as if you were reading a novel you couldn’t put down. It’s like having a window into a world that most of us living outside of the kitchen doors never have an opportunity to see. The Chef provides us with the hole in the fence for us to watch through. And, it’s hard not to stare.
I’m not exactly sure what 2012 has in store for the cookbook industry. My guess is there will be tons of new releases both in print and digitally. Some will be great, others will miss the mark. I’m already waiting to see if my feelings for these two amazing books is really love or just a passing infatuation. I believe it’s the former.
Green Onions, Laura Chenel Cabecou and Winter Squash, images courtesy: Steven Krause
The Family Table, images courtesy of Phaidon Publishing
For those of you who feel cheated by not having a true best of list to disagree with, here’s what appears to be the general consensus among people “in the know”.
In alphabetical order:
All About Roasting • The Family Meal • The Food52 Cookbook • The Food of Spain • From the Ground Up • Heartland: The Cookbook • Home Made • The Homesick Texan Cookbook • Jeni’s Spendid Ice Creams at Home • Mission Street Food • Momofuku Milk Bar • The Mozza Cookbook • Plenty • Super Natural Everyday
Feel free to discuss.