Gift Guide 2003

 

 

 

 

 

 gifts of art and culture children's gifts crime fiction gifts gifts of fiction gifts of non-fiction

 

 

 

 

Bordeaux and its Wines
by Robert Joseph
photography by Max Alexander
Published by Raincoast Books
144 pages, 2003

One would think that the topic of the wines of the Bordeaux region of France had been done to death. Since, historically, some of the world's finest wines have hailed from Bordeaux, it is unsurprising that books on this topic have been legion. What separates Robert Joseph's view from the pack is more than his expertise -- though, as editor of London's Wine Magazine and a frequent contributor to Food & Wine and the author of a half score of books on wine, he certainly has this area covered -- but his genuine passion, not just for wine but for Bordeaux wines, in particular. A passion that, curiously, began in childhood: "Even at that early age, I was aware that the secret of all these stern, straight-sided, high-shouldered bottles and their contents lay in the place they came from." The Bordeaux journey that Joseph guides us on lacks for nothing: in various chapters we learn about the region, its history, a close look at the Médoc ("if this part of Bordeaux were a film, it would be the kind of epic that features cameo roles by an array of the biggest stars of the silver screen.") and other important areas within Bordeaux, then how to choose wines in Bordeaux. The book concludes with a "Practical Reference" that perhaps covers everything that didn't logically fit into any of the other chapters and that, on its own, would make for an interesting little book. Illustrated with photographs by Max Alexander, Bordeaux and it Wines is like a mini-vacation for the oenophile.

Covered in Honey
by Mani Niall
Published by Rodale
186 pages, 2003

Let's get one thing out of the way: Mani Niall, the author of Covered in Honey is the spokesperson for the National Honey Board. That is to say, he has a vested interest in the nectar of bees. That said, Niall is also pretty much an acknowledged honey expert: just the person you want telling you what honey is, how it's made and what to do with it once you get it. That nutshell is really too small because Covered in Honey is so much more. Niall gives us the history of honey ("Honey has been lending its sweetness to the Earth longer than we have walked on this planet."), the life of bees and how they get around to making their liquid lunch, a bit about beekeeping, the varieties of honey, how they differ, and how to pair various honeys in cooking. The balance of the book is devoted to recipes containing honey in baking, drinks, appetizers and salads, entrées, marinades and sauces, vegetables, legumes and side dishes, candy, sweets and desserts. An irresistibly sweet little book.

Culinarytherapy: The Girl's Guide to Food for Every Mood
by Beverly West
Published by Universe/Rizzoli
256 pages, 2003

Just in case you're not yet sick to death of themed books with pink covers giving lip service to women's empowerment, Culinarytherapy wraps all that was good and shameless into one carefully designed package. "If you're feeling fed up," writes author, Beverly West, "starved for attention, or hungry for love, take heart! The relief you need is no further than your own kitchen." And she's not talking Percodan, girls. But mood food, thoughtfully categorized by helpfully named chapters: Diva Dishes, Comfort Food, Recipes for Revenge, Dating Dishes, Culinary Vacations, Rising to the Occasion Recipes, Inner Guy Food, Reward Recipes, Day Late and a Dollar Short Recipes and Food for the Soul. Even if you get the feeling you've been down this road before, Culinarytherapy makes a clever girlfriend gift.

Everyday Asian
by Marnie Henricksson
Published by Morrow
193 pages, 2003

Marnie Henricksson first discovered her love of Asian food when she was living in Japan in the mid-1980s. In 1991 she opened Marnie's Noodle Shop in New York City, "a tiny restaurant with a counter and a few tables that brought to mind the many mom-and-pop establishments I had visited in Japan." Everyday Asian, writes Marnie, was born of her experience as a travel, restaurateur and "later as a home cook who had to find ways to make my recipes work in a standard kitchen." It's this last that really sets Everyday Asian apart. One of the mandates of the book is to make Asian cooking understandable and possible to the average North American home chef, even one who doesn't have access to a lot of ingredients that may locally be considered exotic. In the first part of the book she carefully goes through her basic larder and explains all of the ingredients that will be asked for in her recipes. If you've ever been reading a cookbook and wondered what miso, mirin or krupah might be, you'll appreciate this section. The next few pages deal with helpful equipment. The balance of the book is devoted to recipes: 75 selections from the traditional cuisines of Japan, China, Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and India.

Foods That Don't Bite Back: Vegan Cooking Made Simple
by Sue Donaldson
Published by Whitecap Books
160 pages, 2003

If you ignore the overworked, uninformed rhetoric in the preface to Sue Donaldson's Foods That Don't Bite Back and focus -- where you should focus on a cookbook -- on the food, it's a very good book. Though her principles for -- and preaching on -- becoming vegan bear the stamp of politically correct thought, the recipes themselves are richer than much vegan fare. Veganism, of course, is the practice of eliminating all animal products from your diet and -- where possible -- your life. The recipes in Foods That Don't Bite Back are varied, satisfying and easy-to-follow. Anyone interested in a more healthful diet would do well to add some of Donaldson's recipes to their repertoire.

A Passion for Desserts
by Emily Luchetti
Published by Chronicle Books
191 pages, 2003

The perfect gift for the person on your list with a sweet tooth and a sophisticated palate. A Passion for Desserts is large format and filled with beautiful color photographs of desserts that are mostly not just for every day. Persimmon Rum Mousse, Chestnut Chocolate Marquise, Apricot Jalousie Tart: these are desserts for the connoisseur who wants to impress their friends. Or just cuddle up with an elegant, well produced book chockfull of yummy goodness. Author Luchetti has contributed to Martha Stewart Living, Food & Wine and others and is the author of Stars Desserts, For-Star Desserts and was a contributor to the Farralon Cookbook.

Semi-Homemade Desserts
by Sandra Lee
Published by Miramax
205 pages, 2003

Like its predecessor, Semi-Homemade by the same author, Semi-Homemade Desserts initially strikes the purist as the anti-cookbook. And, truly, scanning ingredients lists can be a little bit like looking through your mother's cookbooks: not only are you buying packages of this and bottles of that, brand names are most often specified. On first contact, its a little bit scary. However, the popularity of Lee's Food Network program indicates that, some of us, at any rate, don't mind looking to the same places our moms looked for inspiration. And, in some cases, with both better reasons and results: Since a lot of us work full time, who has hours to muck about making icing, when Betty Crocker has already done it and left it conveniently ready-to-go at the market? What Lee does is help her followers slap supermarket ingredients ingenuously together in a way that your friends and family will take at face value: hence the names of both books.

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