The perfect gift for your favorite cook? What else but one of the new volumes? Think of it as the gift that keeps on giving. Dinner, anyone?
The year's most talked about restaurant-based cookbook has to be "Fäviken" (Phaidon Press, $49.95), a stunner that channels chef/author Magnus Nilsson's work -- every ingredient served at Fäviken Magasinet, his 12-seat restaurant/laboratory in northern Sweden, is culled from the surrounding 20,000-acre estate -- into home-cook terms.
Well, sort of. Because the recipes' ingredients tend to read like the rural Nordic version of a locavore scavenger hunt, the book is less about practicality and more about extreme farm-to-table inspiration. Forget about the kitchen bookshelf: This beautifully written and photographed travel guide belongs on nightstands, where readers can happily immerse themselves in Nilsson's fascinating world.
From his perch in the stratosphere of the American culinary world, chef Thomas Keller ("The French Laundry Cookbook," "Ad Hoc at Home") has released another homage to one of his top-rated restaurants. This time it's "Bouchon Bakery" (Artisan, $50), a make-at-home survey of the breads and sweets that line the counters of his popular bakeries in New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Yountville, Calif.
Like Keller's other titles, the recipes are as exhaustive as they are exacting (Keller's co-author is his devoted pastry chef, Sebastien Rouxel), and they run the gamut from relatively simple -- scones, muffins and drop cookies -- to master guides that require some serious time and know-how: The basic croissant dough recipe stretches across three type-filled pages, and the baguette formula nearly constitutes an entire chapter. The stunning photography is by longtime Keller collaborator Deborah Jones.
Maricel Presilla, a New Jersey chef with a distinctly lower profile than Keller's, although perhaps not for long, is the force behind an extraordinary work of scholarship: "Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America" (W. W. Norton, $45). Not that this leave-no-stone-unturned survey of the Western Hemisphere's Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking regions exudes even a whiff of "textbook."
With more than 500 recipes and countless essays, sidebars and insider's notes, this "Dr. Zhivago"-length work is a page-turning must-have for anyone with a taste for this region's cooking.
Beyond the predictable
Yes, the culinary-industrial complex continues to churn out books from TV-famous chefs. Gordon Ramsay has "Gordon Ramsay's World Kitchen" (Sterling Epicure, $24.95). Tyler Florence produced "Tyler Florence Fresh" (Clarkson Potter, $35), Ina Garten's latest is "Barefoot Contessa: Foolproof" (Clarkson Potter, $35), Michael Symon penned "Carnivore" (Clarkson Potter, $35), Jacques Pépin updated his classic "New Complete Techniques" (Black Dog & Leventhal, $39.95) and Rick Bayless explored Mexican-themed nibbles and drinks in "Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles and Snacks" (W. W. Norton & Co., $24.95).
Why not expand your kitchen library beyond the familiar brand names up and down the dials of the Food Network and PBS?
Adam Perry Lang, founder of Daisy May's BBQ in New York City, puts a fascinating new spin on grilling in the smart and highly useful "Charred & Scruffed"(Artisan, $24.95). Kevin Gillespie of Atlanta's Woodfire Grill reveals his fascination with grilling and smoking, Southern-style, in "Fire in My Belly" (Andrews McMeel, $40), sharing 120-plus recipes.
A more refined Southern cooking is showcased in the food-porn-heavy "The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farm" (Clarkson Potter, $60), a sumptuous homage to proprietor Sam Beall's eastern Tennessee foodie mecca.
Charles Phan of San Francisco's fabled the Slanted Door doesn't showcase his top-rated restaurant in his debut cookbook. But his "Vietnamese Home Cooking" (Ten Speed Press, $35) is a must for anyone interested in replicating the home cooking traditions of Phan's native country.
Nostalgia must be job No. 1 at the Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, Ga., at least that's what's reflected in the lovable, updated-from-yesteryear recipes in "The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook" (Artisan, $24.95) by Cheryl Day and Griffith Day.
Two titles from the Pacific Northwest underscore the supremecy of that region's bakeries.
"Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza" (Ten Speed Press, $35) is by Ken Forkish, the genius behind the remarkable Ken's Artisan Bakery in Portland, Ore.
Re-create a bit of Seattle with Tom Douglas' "The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook" (HarperCollins, $35), starting with the recipe for the awesome coconut cream pie. Oh, and the tomato soup.
Or for something a bit different, transport yourself behind the kitchen door of some of the nation's -- and the globe's -- top restaurants. In "Secrets of the Best Chefs: Recipes, Techniques, and Tricks From America's Greatest Cooks," author Adam Roberts (he's the blogger behind www.amateurgourmet.com) taps the wisdom of 50 top practitioners, including Alice Waters, Jonathan Waxman, Jose Andres and LidiaBastianich.
Authors Christine Carroll and Jody Eddy illuminate just how well restaurants feed their own in "Come In, We're Closed: An Invitation to Staff Meals at the World's Best Restaurants" (Running Press, $35), including a chapter on Piccolo in Minneapolis.
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Poll: Which 2013 Taste Holiday Cookie Contest entry do you most want to try?