Restaurants, Wine, Travel, Opinions

Good Books

We regularly pick out some memorable books in various categories (eg Cookbooks, Travel Guides etc) that might interest you or let Amazon choose.






Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat
Samin Nosrat

This fascinating book has burst onto the scene with, seemingly, everyone talking about the passion that shines through the writing. And, it is not only passion but also depth, style, breadth and a masterful use of words to convey a message that is both uncompromising yet understandable. 

The book is divided into two sections. The first covers the four main elements of Samin's approach to cooking, namely the control of salt, fat, acid and heat. The second section then provides recipes under headings such as salads, vegetables, fish, sauces, butter-and-flour doughs and sweets among others. This is an exciting book that will be in the pantheon of great cookbooks for a long time.







Stella Park

We almost didn't buy this newly released book because we have very savoury palates and, while we make a number of desserts, we often find desserts in the United States either too over the top or far too sweet. However, friends whose opinion we respect said that the book was a breath of fresh air and we should take a look. We were glad we did. 

Many of the popular American desserts are featured such as Chocolate Chip Cookies, Fudge Brownies, Boston Cream Pie, Lemon Meringue Pie, Pumpkin Pie (with a twist), English Muffins, Vanilla Ice Cream and Hot Fudge Sundae. The recipes are easy to follow and explained in suitable depth. This is a great contribution to the science and art of preparing dessert.







Six Seasons - A New Way With Vegetables
Joshua McFadden

The start of this book is very interesting with discussions on a number of topics including the ingedients the author favours (olive oil from Katz, balsamic from Villa Manodori, Tellicherry black pepper, Jacobsen salt from Oregon and fish sauce from Red Boat. He then segues into a set of his base recipes that feature in many other recipes such as mushroom butter, roasted, brined almonds, whipped ricotta and so on.

The book is then divided cleverly into six seasons due to summer being divided into early summer, mid summer and late summer. The recipes are then based around the vegetables that are fresh in that season. So for early summer the author addresses recipes for Beets, Carrots, Celery, Fennel, Potatoes and Turnips, for example. The recipes and accompanying explanations are clear, and easy to follow. It is a very good book. And don't be fooled into thinking that there are only recipes for vegetables. Rather the recipes are based on vegetables but may include a meat component.






Market Cooking
David Tanis

It is not often we find a book where you want to cook every single recipe - but this is such a book. David Tanis was formerly a chef at the wonderful Chez Panisse and it shows. The book displays a simplicity in the approach to cooking that we love. However simplicity does not imply a lack of flavour as these recipes prove. 

This is a perfect book for those wanting recipes that do not rely on protein-packed heroes but rather a book that elevates vegetables and fruit to their rightful place without eschewing meats.





Modernist Cuisine
Nathan Myhrvold

A new 2438 page cookbook set has burst onto the scene and is certainly making waves!

It is the result of the obsession of former Microsoft executive Nathan Myhrvold in collaboration with Chris Young and Maxime Bilet both of whom spent time working with Heston Blumenthal at the Fat Duck before joining Myhrvold at his Intellectual Ventures in Seattle.

Now we should add that we think that many of the outward manifestations of modernist cuisine leave us cold. Spherification, liquid nitrogen cooking, foams and gels are not for us. However, this set of books goes beyond the frippery and delves into the HOW and WHY of cooking in a way that helps the reader understand cooking in much more depth.

And there is another dimension to the books that is truly staggering. The photography is simply awesome! It is used to elaborate on a concept in a way that words could never do.

The bookset isn't cheap but it is worth every cent. This has to be the ultimate birthday present this year!







The Essential Mediterranean
Nancy Harmon Jenkins

Nancy Harmon Jenkins is a fine writer who believes in telling the whole story, not reducing recipes to the simple and simplistic. In this book she anchors her recipes on some of the produce treasures of the Mediterranean including salt, olive oil, wheat, pasta, wine, tomatoes, pork and seafood among others. The chapter entitled The Family Pig is a classic with a more erudite discussion of curing pork than that found in Ruhlman's Charcuterie. 

This is not only a useful cookbook but is also a fascinating discourse on the wonderful foods of the Mediterranean.







Thomas Keller and Jeffrey Cerciello

The term bouchon comes from the traditional eateries of Lyon where marvellous food is dished up at affordable prices. This book is a bold new venture for Thomas Keller of French Laundry fame who has teamed up with chef Jeffrey Cerciello from Bouchon to produce a massive tome that sets new standards for the preparation of classic French bistro food. All the classic recipes are included along with detailed instructions on how to prepare them in the home kitchen. This book will be around for a very long time and will become a classic for both home cooks and professional restaurateurs. 






The Balthazar Cookbook
Keith McNally, Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson

Balthazar is one of our favourite restaurants in the United States and, along with Gramercy Tavern and Café Boulud, one of our three favourites in New York. It was established by experienced restaurateur Keith McNally. We like it because it is not pretentious. It sets out to be a French bistro and succeeds admirably. The book has an excellent introduction by expatriate Australian and prominent art critic Robert Hughes. This is a lovely vignette of life behind the scenes in a busy restaurant. The recipes are beautifully presented and easy to cook in a home kitchen. The layout of the book is clean and classical and is supported by over one hundred beautiful photographs.







Thai Food
David Thompson

David Thompson writes with extraordinary knowledge, passion and commitment. He is truly a master, and this book should be a bible for anyone remotely interested in cooking or eating Thai food. An absolutely essential read prior to visiting Thailand if food is one of your obsessions.