by Dean Tudor


Art, travel and history books about food and wine might be the best books to give a loved one (or to yourself, since you are your own best loved one), because most may cost you an arm and a leg. Books for the coffee table have their place in the gift scheme: just about every such book is only bought as a gift! And don’t let the prices daunt you. Such books are available at a discount from online vendors. Because of the “economy”, not too many pricey food and wine books were released last year and this year, and book reviewers were cut off from many foreign imports and expensive books.

Opus Vino (DK Books, 2010, 800 pages, $75 US hard covers) explores more than 4,000 of the world’s most significant wineries, from up-and-comers to established producers. There’s a lot of general information here about the wine regions of the world, plus many wine labels and bottles, but the heart of it all is the exposure of some 30 or so new wine voices – they are all young, judging by their pictures. The two most prominent for us in Toronto are Lindsay Groves (she wrote the section on Turkey and Lebanon) and Alder Yarrow (Sonoma and Marin chapters) of, probably the best wine blog on the planet. It is good to have more young people writing about wines with their fresh thoughts. And to give exposure to countries such as Brazil, Canada and Mexico. You’ve got to be young to read the book: it weighs in at 8 pounds!!

Domaine Chandon Cookbook: Recipes from Etoile Restaurant (Chronicle Books, 2010, 224 pages, $40 US hard covers) is by Jeff Morgan, although the preps come from Etoile, the on-site restaurant. There’s advanced log rolling here from Thomas Keller and Karen MacNeil. The Michelin-starred resto itself is described, and many of the photos here come from that place. 75 preps are presented, with an emphasis on casual elegance. It’s a pretty book, covering all courses, with am emphasis on sparkling wine to accompany the plates. Lavish photography and presentation.

Gifts Cooks Love: Recipes for Giving (Andrews McMeel, 2010, 184 pages, $32.99 CAD hard covers) comes from the American kitchen equipment firm, Sur La Table. The book is crammed with recipes and ideas for food to pack into a jar or can or box or cellophane bag. There’s a primer on preserving and dehydrating, smoked and cured gifts, baked gifts, confections and drink gifts. I liked the orange cardamom marmalade. Many useful packaging and gift card ideas too. The material ranges from entry level to qualified levels. 40 recipes.

One Big Table: A Portrait of American Cooking (Simon & Schuster, 2010, 864 pages, $57.99 CAD hard covers) has been collated by Molly O’Neill, former food columnist for the New York Times. It’s a huge book, with many archival and current illustration and photographs. The subtitle says it has “600 recipes from the nation’s best home cooks, farmers, fishermen, pit-masters, and chefs”. This is a road trip across the continental region, and there were more than 20,000 contributed preps. You could say that these are heirloom recipes, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Despite all this, log rolling was added, with endorsements from Alice Waters (who else?), Ethan (Joy of Cooking) Becker, and Thomas (French Laundry) Keller. All preps are sourced, with further info at Also a huge list of acknowledgements that is well-worth reading. A fascinating book for lovers of American “national community” foods.

Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens (Nimbus Publishing, 2010, 229 pages, $17.95 CAD soft covers) is by Marie Nightingale. It was originally published 40 years ago to great acclaim, and here it is back again — reprinted with a baker’s dozen new recipes and an introduction by Chef Michael Howell (Tempest Restaurant, Wolfville). These are the traditional foods of the province, displaying Acadian, Scottish and First Nation roots and cultures. The new preps (in its own, separate chapter) include spiced Christmas beef, chicken legs with sauerkraut, curried cider mussels, plus desserts.

Fannie’s Last Supper: Re-Creating One Amazing Meal from Fannie Farmer’s 1896 Cookbook (McClelland & Stewart, 2010, 260 pages, $32.99 CAD hard covers) is by Chris Kimball, host of America’s Test Kitchen (PBS). He also founded Cook’s Illustrated magazine. The book accompanies the film of the same title, which aired in Fall 2010 on PBS. It includes dishes from the dinner that Kimball cooked, along with some revised and updated recipes from The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. It’s an armchair experience as Kimball researches a twelve course Christmas dinner that Farmer served at the end of the 19th century. There are lots of historical details behind every dish, and there is a useful index.

The Food Stylist’s Handbook (Gibbs Smith, 2010, 264 pages, $50 US) is something different for the foodie that has everything. The book is a manual for every picture telling and selling a story about food. It’s meant for culinary students, but it is also an accessible book at an affordable price. There are lots of photos and ideas on how food pictures sell food. Topics include how recipe testing works and food advertising. And there’s a huge chapter on tricks of the trade (shaving cream, grill marks, food colouring, and more).

Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between The World’s Greatest Chocolate Makers (Douglas & McIntyre, 2010, 348 pages, $29.95 CAD hard covers) is by Deborah Cadbury, a relative of the Quaker family that went into the business of chocolate. The major English firms were all Quaker family enterprises, and their religious passions made them very philanthropic. English rivals included Fry and Rowntree. When they tried to move into the American market, they were rebuffed by Hershey and later, Mars. Eventually, Cadbury won out over many other companies in England. But it was purchased by Kraft in 2010 for $19.5 billion. The author writes a spirited and engaging business history, which should appeal to those food historians among the chocolate fanciers. And there is the scholarly bibliography of archives, manuscripts, books, and articles.

An Organic Slice of Life (DK Books, 2010, 352 pages, $19.95 US paper covers) is by Sheherazade Goldsmith, a writer who runs an organic farm in Devon, England. It was originally published in 2007; this is the paperback reprint. The author is listed as “editor-in-chief” which seems to imply that other people wrote the material. But I don’t see any other writing references, although there are many acknowledgements to photographers. The book is in three parts: what you can do to be eco-friendly if you don’t have a yard; what you can do if you have a patio or a small yard; and what you can do if you have a large yard or field or even community garden. Under the latter, there are 33 activities, ranging from keeping some chickens (illegal in Toronto), making simple preserves, nourishing the soil, to using up a glut of tomatoes, planting a vine or simply creating a pond for wildlife. There are about 90 activities in the book. At the very least (with no yard), one can bake bread, check the label, make flavoured oils and vinegars, and shop ethically. Commonsense will win out. This is a very good book, with a few recipes (all indexed in italics).

Next week, Part 2: Memoirs and Creative Non-Fiction…

Dean Tudor is a Ryerson University Journalism Professor Emeritus, The Treasurer of The Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada and creator of Canada’s award-winning wine satire site at Visit Dean’s websites at and His motto: “Look it up and you’ll remember it; screw it up and you’ll never forget it.”