A Work in Progress: Notes on Food, Cooking, and Creativity by René Redzepe (Phaidon Press, 2013; $60)
René Redzepe, chef at Copenhagen’s world-renowned restaurant Noma, is behind this Phaidon triple-threat. The set includes a cookbook, a Moleskine-like pocketbook of behind-the-scenes snapshots of the restaurant, and Redzepe’s journal, which chronicles “creativity, innovation, and the meaning of success.” The journal—the meat of this collection—is a food nerd’s dream because readers get a sneak peek at what happens during a restaurant’s menu creation process. The cookbook, categorized by month, features local, super-complex recipes (“An Apple falls into the Grass” anyone?) that benefits from an appendix highlighting must-know base recipes, like porcini oil and hay cream.
Provence 1970 by Luke Barr (Clarkson Potter, 2013; $26)
M.F.K Fisher, James Beard and Julia Child travel to Provence… It sounds like the beginning of a good gastronomic joke, but in Luke Barr’s elegiac debut book, Provence 1970, these events actually transpired. Culled in large part from the letters of Fisher—Barr’s great aunt—this is an account of a momentous winter where America’s titans of cuisine (along with writer Richard Olney and Simone Beck, Child’s co-author) meet at crossroads in their careers: Fisher is having an existential crisis regarding her beloved France; Child is ready to slough off the strict boundaries of being a “French chef”; Beard’s declining health takes its toll while he finishes his opus, American Cookery.
Road to Burgundy: The Unlikely Story of an American Making Wine and a New Life in France by Ray Walker (Gotham, 2013; $26)
Let’s be honest: Who amongst us hasn’t entertained dreams of leaving it all behind and buying vineyard property in France to live happily ever after? Well, Ray Walker didn’t just dream about it—he did it. In this charming memoir, Walker chronicles how he went from a career in finance to living as a winemaker, whipping up Grand Cru and Premier Cru Burgundies—with no previous wine experience and very little knowledge of French. Fueled by what he claims is his need to create something to call his own, Walker recounts his struggle with procuring grapes, establishing himself among Burgundians and raising his young family, all while trying to define his philosophical approach to wine.
The New California Wine by Jon Bonné (Ten Speed Press, 2013; $35)
The San Francisco Chronicle’s Wine Editor, Jon Bonné reports on California’s history with the vine and its current state of winemaking in this new release. Throughout the course of the book, Bonné charts the Golden State’s past, starting with when “big flavor” wines—high alcohol, high tannin wines—called the shots to the present day. Broken into three parts, The New California Wine is a comprehensive look at the vanguard of personalities who are bucking what’s expected and boldly redefining California’s place in the wine world.
American Whiskey, Bourbon and Rye: A Guide to the Nation’s Favorite Spirit by Clay Risen (Sterling Epicure, 2013; $25)
Reviewing 200-plus whiskeys is no easy feat, but Clay Risen stepped up to the challenge. This book promises to deliver what the title suggests: Each profile features the bottle’s background, tasting notes, ratings and price, following an extensive, yet concise introduction of whiskey styles. Ideal for the hobbyist and neophyte alike, it makes for a great reference for building your perfect at-home bar.
A.O.C. Cookbook by Suzanne Goin with wine notes by Caroline Styne (Alfred A. Knopf, 2013; $35)
These recipes are no thirty-minute meals—they’re challenging, but Suzanne Goin—author of the James Beard Award-winning Sunday Suppers at Lucques and proprietor of L.A.’s A.O.C. Wine and Cheese Bar—hopes you’ll “learn something along the way.” And we think you will, too, since she takes the time to explicate complex recipes (such as lamb merguez with eggplant jam, roasted cherry tomatoes and green olives) over several pages, with extensive notes that promise to not only help home cooks recreate restaurant-worthy dishes, but also teach them the “why” behind a process. Accompanying each dish is a pairing provided by Goin’s business partner and sommelier, Caroline Styne.
Art of Simple Food Volume II by Alice Waters (Clarkson Potter, 2013; $35)
Alice Waters’s new cookbook follows in the same footsteps laid down by her first volume. Over the course of 200 recipes, the doyenne of the organic, local-food movement covers familiar ground as Art of Simple Food, while singing the praises of gardening, with chapters covering such topics as “Fragrant and Beautiful” (herbs) to “Seed to Seed,” which guides readers on how to grow their own garden. The straightforward recipes—like Black Mission Figs roasted with wild fennel and Blood Orange and Golden Beet salad—punctuate the tome, hammering home Waters’ loyalty to fresh, seasonal and local flavors.
An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails by Orr Shtuhl, Illustrations by Elizabeth Graeber (Penguin Books, 2013; $20)
“When there’s a drink, there’s a story”—at least that’s how Shtuhl describes his whimsical cocktail book, which features fifty simple recipes accompanied by tales of their origins. Shtuhl’s interesting bits of history are complimented by Graeber’s pretty illustrations, and while this is not an exhaustive tome full of bar lore, it is a book worth picking up if you need a sprinkling of bar inspiration.
Complete Beer Course by Joshua M. Bernstein (Sterling Epicure, 2013; $25)
We’ve heard it before: It’s a great time to be a beer drinker. Bernstein hammers the axiom home here, where he explains the differences between brews, from lagers to Trappist ales and everything in between. The book also explores those flavor elements that make beer America’s adult beverage of choice, with easy-to-follow lessons and tastings meant to create a more informed brew-head.
Hello, Wine by Melanie Wagner (Chronicle Books, 2013; $25)
Melanie Wagner’s breezy book, published earlier this fall, is the perfect companion for budding oenophiles. A Chicago-based certified sommelier, teacher and wine consultant, Wagner dispels myths, offers tips and distills wine knowledge in an approachable style sure to appeal to folks intimidated by what’s in their glass. Sixty illustrations by Lucy Engelman are also beautifully featured.