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Dean Tudor's 2009 Holiday Book Picks (Part 2)

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By Dean Tudor

Stocking stuffers are at the top of everybody’s gift list: something affordable (under $10, up to $20) that can also double as a host gift, something small and lightweight. Most of the books here are paperbacks.

And of course they can stuff an adult stocking.

Typical for food are:

Field Guide to Candy ; how to identify and make virtually every candy imaginable (Quirk Books, 2009, 318 pages, $19.95 CAD paper covers) is by Anita Chu, and it must be at the top of everybody’s gift list. It’s in a handbook format, and is one of a series of others devoted to cookies, cocktails, herbs and spices. The book is arranged by type, so all of the largely chocolate, nuts and fruits are together. Here are 100 recipes and variations (international in scope) covering caramel apples, lollipops, Turkish delight, French pralines, and more. Each product gets a general description, a history, and storage dos and don’ts.

Chop Sizzle & Stir (Ryland Peters & Small, 2009, 64 pages, $17.95 hardcover) is Nadia Arumugam, who had trained with the legendary Mosimann. She serves up 35 fresh and fast stir-fries, plus variations. All meats and vegetables are included, and of course, a wok is preferred.

Pesto, Tapenades & Spreads: 40 Simple Recipes for Delicious Toppings, Sauces, and Dips (Chronicle Books, 2009, 96 pages, $16.95 USD soft covers) is by Stacey Printz. She has 12 different pestos and 14 tapenades, plus some spreads. The idea is to increase flavour by adding just one teaspoon or so of pesto, etc. to almost any dish. I’m all for that, although it would add to the salt component. Some recipes here are nut-free and gluten-free. Try some edamame hummus, or some balsamic fig with caramelized onion and dried cherry.

Caffe Italia (Ryland Peters & Small, 2009, 64 pages, $17.95 hardcover) is by Liz Franklin, a one time finalist in the BBC Masterchef competition. Here she presents over 30 (plus variations) preps for cookies, cakes, savoury panini, and the like – to accompany the Italian coffee culture. There’s some quick info on how to brew coffee, but otherwise this is a fine short collection of food to go with coffee.

American Diabetes Association Guide to Healthy Fast Food Eating , 2nd ed (McGraw Hill Canada, 2009, 294 pages, $12.95 paper covers) is by Hope Warshaw, a medical expert who has written several books for the American Diabetes Association. Here she gives nutrition info for 13 of the most popular US fast food franchises, and most are in Canada, such as Baskin Robbins, Subway, Pizza Hut, Burger King, McDonald, and Wendy. A great way to control your weight when you eat in those joints: she gives healthy and light choices, and suggests skills and strategies to create healthy meals at these places. It’s a jungle out there; you’ll need all the help you can get.

I'm Dreaming Of a Green Christmas: Gifts, Decorations, and Recipes that Use Less and Mean More (Chronicle Books, 2009, 180 pages, $24.95 US soft covers) is above my price range, but it is the only book I’ve seen this year to promote gifts, decorations, and recipes that “use less” and “mean more”. It has been endorsed by a few environmental activists, and printed on 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper. It’s been written by activist Anna Getty. She carefully explains how to reduce your carbon footprint, minimize waste, and creatively reuse.  There are tips on nesting at home, entertaining, trimming the tree, giving donations.

100 Soups for $5 or Less (Gibbs Smith, 2009, $12.99 US paper covers) is by Gayle Pierce. It is an open and shut book with easy recipes (one per page plus variations). She emphasizes new things to do with veggies. Each prep has lists of calories and fats per serving, and comes with shopping tips, planning advice, and cooking tips. The arrangement is by theme: light soups, bean soups, cream soups, fruit soups, meat-poultry-seafood soups.

100 Desserts for $5 or Less (Gibbs Smith, 2009, 144 pages, $12.95 US paper covers) is by Angel Shannon. It is set up the same way as the Soup book above: easy recipes, one prep per page plus variations, and covers cakes, candy, cookies, frozen deserts, pies, tarts, sauces and frostings.

Other little books, for beverages, include:

Parker's Wine Bargains: The World's Best Wine Values Under $25 (Simon & Schuster, 2009, 498 pages, $24 CAD soft cover) is by Robert Parker, Jr., the world’s most recognizable wine writer. This has been an eagerly awaited book, since it would be a first for Parker. Previously, he had issued from time to time a listing of his best bargains as he wrote them in his “The Wine Advocate”. But this is the first full-blown attempt to list bargains. And, of course, it exceeds my $20 retail limit on gift book purchases. But you can get it for $17.52 through Amazon. It is organized by country, with 1500 producers and over 3000 wines.

He uses his contributor team of Jay Miller, Antonio Galloni, Mark Squires and others for notes, but he made the ultimate selection of labels. The downside is that no vintage years are given. Now, while the hallmark of a bargain wine is its consistency year in and year out, a $25 US wine will show flavour variation from year to year, and some vintages are better than others are. And the lack of dating keeps the book fresher on the shelf. Parker has a food and wine pairing guide, a vintage chart, and numerous top twenty lists. There are generic regional tasting notes and American details about importers and stores. Since we have the LCBO, this shouldn’t concern us. A terrific book for the Christmas season, and watch for more of these imports listed here to show up at the LCBO.

Spice & Ice: 70 Tongue-Tingling Cocktails (Chronicle Books, 2009, 160 pages, $16.95 US soft covers) is by Kara Newman, who writes the “High Spirits” column for Chile Pepper magazine. Here are 60 tongue-tingling cocktails, made with some component of fresh chile peppers, or ginger or horseradish. There are both fruity and savoury here, including the likes of “Wasabi-tinis” and “Jumpin’ Juleps”. Excellent photos, and as the man says, “put a little spice into your life”.

Cheers! A History Of Beer In Canada An intemperate history of Beer in Canada (Collins, 2009, 321 pages, $19.99 CAD soft covers) is by the irrepressible Nicholas Pashley, the celebrated writer of “Notes on a Beermat”. He’s written scads of humour material in columns, for Dave Broadfoot, and three governors general. Here he takes a light look at Canadian beer history.  It’s a wide-ranging book, but it is a history written with a deft hand. It even has an annotated bibliography and an index! I love the double-blurring of the Mountie on the front cover and a double-blurred Pashley himself (complete with red eye) on the back – beer doppelgangers all.

Hot Drinks ; indulgent hot chocolates, great coffees, soothing teas, spiced punches, and other warming treats for cold days (Ryland, Peters & Small, 2009 reissue, 96 pages, $16.95 US hard covers) is by Louise Pickford, an experienced cookbook writer from the UK now living in Australia. We’ll need these hot drinks in the coming cold months of 2018. 75 recipes include Swedish glogg, hot rum and cider punch, and a variety of milk drinks.

Tea Wisdom ; inspirational quotes and quips about the world’s most celebrated beverage (Tuttle Publishing, 2009, 240 pages, $18.95 CAD paper covers) has been collated by Aaron Fisher, who has written extensively about tea (“The Art of Tea” magazine). This is a rock solid collection of quotes and glosses from different time periods and different regions of the world. I think the idea is to savour a cuppa while reading parts of this book everyday. It should calm your nerves over this rushed and argumentative season. 

On to the wine annuals. The two leaders are Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book 2018: 33rd Edition (Mitchell Beazley, 2009, 320 pages, $19.99 CAD hard bound) and Oz Clarke's Pocket Wine Guide 2018 (Sterling Books, 2009, 352 pages, $19.50 CAD hardbound). Both are guides to wines from all around the world, not just to the “best” wines. Similarities: Johnson claims more than 6000 wines are listed, while Clarke says more than 7000, but then recommends 4000 producers. News, vintage charts and data, glossaries, best value wines, and what to drink now are in both books.  The major differences: Johnson has been at it longer – this is his 33rd edition -- and has more respect from erudite readers for his exactitude and scholarliness. His book is arranged by region; Clarke’s book is in dictionary, A – Z form (about 1600 main entries). It is really six of one, or half a dozen of another which one to use. Johnson’s entry for Canada is 1.2 pages (big deal). Oz has only one paragraph apiece on Inniskillin, Okanagan (recommending just red wines), and Niagara (recommending just icewines). Both books have notes on the 2008 vintage, along with a closer look at the 2007. It is fun to look at both books and find out where they diverge. As a sidelight, Johnson and Oz are moving into food: there is a 16 page section on food and wine matching in the former, while Oz has 6 pages. Johnson also has a listing of his personal 200 fave wines. Both books could profit from online accessibility or a CD-ROM production.

Other wine annuals – mostly paperbacks -- deal with “recommended” wines, not all of the wines in the world. They can afford the space for more in-depth tasting notes (TNs) of what they actually do cover (usually just wines available in their local marketplace).

Thus, Had A Glass: Top 100 Wines for 2018 Under $20, $25, and $30 (Whitecap, 2009, 168 pages, $19.95 CAD paper covers) is by Kenji Hodgson and James Nevison, the authors of 2003’s “Have a Glass; a modern guide to wine”. They are the British Columbia www.halfaglass.com. Had a Glass (now in its fifth edition) showcases top inexpensive wines available primarily in BC, although those labels with national distribution will also be found in other provinces. They try to pick wines available to match any occasion, and along the way they provide tips on food and wine pairing and stemware. The first fifty pages present all the basics, including food recipes. I am not sure why it is here since the book is really about the top 100 wines. Most readers/buyers will head straight for the listings which follow, one per page, for whites, roses, reds, aperitifs, dessert wines and sparklers. This year, in view of rising prices, they have enlarged their scope to cover wines at $25 and $30. Unfortunately, for Ontario, this is just at the very time that the LCBO is concentrating on the $15 to $19.95 spread, with few wines above $20. There are indexes by countries, by wine, and by food. Tasting notes are pretty bare bones, but each wine does have a label, a price, and some food matches. 

The Wine Trials 2018: 150 wines under 5 that beat $50-50 bottles in brown-bag blind tastings (Fearless Critic, 2009; distr. T.Allen, 225 pages, $14.95 US soft covers) is by Robin Goldstein, with Alexis Nerschkowitsch. Both have food and wine credentials, in addition to authoring restaurant review books and travel books. They have been assisted by 13 named contributing writers and 500 named blind tasters.  The object of the book is to come up with hidden wine values. The cover proclaims brown-bag blind tastings for wine values under $15. That’s $15 US, of course, and does not allow for discounts and sales so prevalent in the US marketplace. For example, top rated Segura Viudas Brut Reserva is $8 US national retail. It can be cheaper. In Ontario, it is $14.65, a firm price. So it is possible that a top rated US wine at $20, going on sale for under $15, could be well over $30 in Ontario.  

Most of the wines sold in Ontario are under $25 – the trick is to find the best ones. This book should give some guidance. They list 150 wines under $15 US that outscored $50 to $150 bottles, using hundreds of blind tasters who filled in a simple form. The authors have lots of material justifying their choices, and there are copious notes for each of the 150 wines. Only about half the wines are available in Ontario, and many are not value priced because of the exchange rate, the LCBO mark-up policy and lack of sales/discounts.

The 500 Best-Value Wines in the LCBO 2018 (Whitecap, 2009, 248 pages, $19.95 CAD paper back) takes a more determined run at the wines at the LCBO. This third edition, by Rod Phillips, has wines arranged by wine colour and then by region/country with price and CSPC number. Each value wine gets a rating (the basic is three stars out of five), with an indication of food pairings. A good guidebook, but I’m afraid most people will just look through it for the 5 star selections and leave it at that. Turnover in Ontario must be enormous because this update claims over 200 new wines for a book that deals with just 500. Coverage is limited to LCBO General Purchase wines and LCBO Vintages Essentials, the wines that are available (if only by special order) in every LCBO store.

Billy's Best Bottles 2018 (McArthur & Company, 2018, 240 pages, $19.95 CAD soft covers) by Billy Munnelly is back for another round (20th ed), creating more emphasis on wine and food pairing, party planning, and some social manners. There’s some info about country trends and frequently-asked questions about wine. Plus data on Ontario winery tours. His whole concept of wine is organized by Mood, with sections on wine colour and style/weight, and the wines are usually those available at the LCBO. Most should be available across the country. He has over 200 best international wine buys, with most under $20 and many under $12. And there is a wine index at the back where wines are listed by region. Check out www.billysbestbottles.com.

The Locavore Way: Discovering the Delicious Pleasures of Eating Fresh, Locally Grown Food (Storey Publishing, 2009; distr. T. Allen, 247 pages, $12.95 US soft covers) is a carry-along guide to shopping locally, authored by Amy Cotler, founding director of Berkshire Grown, a regional food initiative. She’s also a cookbook author and a major contributor to the revised “Joy of Cooking”. In broad outlines, the book tells us how to buy, to cook, and to eat close to home. She has hints, lists, tips, tricks, and strategies for doing all this. Luckily, there are not too many US references, just some specifics to expand on the general. Check out www.amycotler.com.

I Love Macarons (Chronicle Books, 2009, 80 pages, $14.95 US soft covers) is by Hisako Ogita, and it was originally published in Japanese in 2006. This is its first release in English. Macarons are almond paste and sugar, baked into a cookie that is crisp and a little chewy, and then sandwiched with (usually) cream fillings. There are full instructions on how to make petit macaron pastries, plus combining various puffs and creams (and decorating them). There is a whole section on making the batter, another section on making the creams, and a third section on putting them all together. Oh yes, there is also a fourth section on using up the surplus egg yolks (that’s not a problem, with crème caramel, Bavarian creams, ice cream, and more). There are several hundred pix here in this very entertaining book.

A non-book entry is the party kit. I have three – there’s the Cheese Tasting Party Kit: Selecting and Serving International Cheeses , subtitled “everything you need to host your own cheese-tasting party” [except the cheese, of course] from Chronicle Books, 2009, $16.95 US. There are 50 cheese profile cards for common cheeses such as Parmigiano Reggiano, Tomme, Camembert, Stilton, Cheddar, Manchego, and the like. The cards describe the milk used, some background, and wine matches. There are also 50 ID cards with toothpicks. And a fold-out informational card with a glossary and data on buying, storing, and pairing. Janet Fletcher wrote this part.

For games at parties, you could do no worse than get Wine Wars!: A Trivia Game for Wine Geeks and Wannabes ; a trivia game for wine geeks and wannabes (Chronicle Books, 2009, $19.95 US). It promises to be challenging to all and entertaining. Although it is American based (e.g. “which country leads in wine exports to US?”), it does cover common ground such as growing grapes, making wine, world production, selecting and storing wine, and wine tasting. There are also food matches to identify. 150 cards, 750 questions, 6 game boards, 1 die, and regional maps of the wine world. Watch out for the comparable Foodie Fight: A Trivia Game for Serious Food Lovers ; a trivia game for serious food lovers (Chronicle Books, 2009, $19.95 US). It’s similarly setup with Q & A on cards, but it is also more vicious.

Other non-book items include Desserts (Ten Speed Press, 2009, 120 pages, $16.95 CAD) in an easel edition. This is a spiral version of a cook book, and it is a collection of 50 dessert recipes. Preps come from her “Moosewood Cookbook” and “Enchanted Broccoli Forest”, but five of them are new. Another easel book (which are great, by the way, since they open up rather well on your kitchen counter) is Appetizers (Ten Speed Press, 2009, $17.95 CAD) which only has 40 recipes. Thirty of them come from her “Mustards Grill Napa Valley Cookbook” and “Big Small Plates” book, but there are 10 newer ones.

Yet another non-book is the virtually-blank journal. Eat Me: The Journal: The Ultimate Guide to Expressing Your Inner Foodie (Chronicle Books, 2009, $16.95 US) is meant for the food-obsessed. It is a book of pages to record your life in food, such as food pleasures and restaurant dining experiences. There are sidebars and lists. Specific blank chapters cover foods from our childhood, our current family foods, top restaurants, top books read on food, dining disasters, kitchen equipment, and wine and cocktails. Useful for creating a track record.

There is a category of foodbooks called “little cookbooks”; these are usually placed at POS (point-of-sales) spots. I’ve located a very good collection of quick and easy, from Ryland Peters and Small, all published in 2009. They are 64 or 96 pages each, and sell for $15.95 US, but they are also hard covers, so they look a bit more posh - especially with the photography and the metric conversion charts. There are about 50 recipes in each.

One is Cooking with Pumpkins and Squash (50 recipes) which is also timely since these are still locally available through the winter. Brian Glover is the author; he covers all courses and desserts. Try zucchini and ricotta fritters, roasted squash with leek and barley pilaf, chicken and butternut squash tagine, and spiced pumpkin and apple pie. Another of Glover’s books is Cooking with Lemons & Limes: Recipes for Appetizers, Entrees, and Desserts (29 recipes) which contains mostly classical Mediterranean dishes (pasta with clams, shrimp and lemons; grilled zucchini and feta salad; roast lemon chicken) plus Key Lime pie, lemon curd, and preserved lemons.

Cooking with Apples & Pears (33 recipes) is by Laura Washburn, and includes both sweets and savouries. There are more apple than pear recipes, which reflects popularity levels.  Surprisingly, there is only one recipe which includes both apples and pears: a ginger-apple-pear chutney. But, as in Europe, one can always substitute pears for almost every apple dish. Love Your Leftovers: Feed your friends & family for next to nothing (50 recipes) is a guide to feeding your friends and family for next to nothing. It is quite timely. 18 authors from the Ryland stable contributed such preps as cauliflower cheese, fruit crumble, banana bread, and a host of meat dishes. Italian Breads: From focaccia to grissini (28 recipes) is by Maxine Clark, and includes large loaves, ciabatta rolls, flatbreads, focaccia, grissini, pizza dough, and sweet breads.

There’s another collection from BBC Books (2009), all on the theme of 101 recipes from British magazines. They are 216 pages each, and retail for $12.95 CAD at a very convenient 5 inch by 6 inch size. Each recipe has a pix of the finished plate, and the style is quick and easy. By Janine Ratcliff there is Olive 101: Brilliant Bakes , from Olive Magazine in the UK, “classic dishes from around the world”. Olive: 101 Stylish Suppers is hyped as a stay-in supper book for foodies in the credit crunch. Jane Hornby wrote Good Food: 101 More One-Pot Dishes: Triple-tested Recipes from Good Food Magazine in the UK, as well as Good Food: 101 Speedy Suppers: Triple-tested Recipes. Sarah Cook did Good Food: 101 Best Ever Curries: Triple-tested Recipes for the same Good Food Magazine. A good bargain series.

Annual calendars are always monster hits and are often appreciated, both the wall and the desk type. The best of the desk are the three “page-a-day” (PAD) calendars from Workman. The Wine Lover's Page-A-Day Calendar 2018 (Workman, 2009, $16.99 CAD) has been put together by Karen MacNeil, author of “The Wine Bible”, with Brooke Cheshier. Saturday and Sunday have been combined on one page. There is a new varietal highlighted each month, tips galore for pouring and tasting, food and wine matching, bargains, pop quizzes, etc. etc. And 100 “must try” wines are highlighted (many can be found in Canada).

365 Bottles of Beer For the Year Page-A-Day Calendar 2018 (Workman, 2009, $16.99 CAD) is by Bob Klein, author of “The Beer Lover’s Rating Guide”. It too has a combined Saturday and Sunday page. Most of the beers appear as imports in Canada, but otherwise there are few Canadian brews included. Lights, lagers, ales, porters, stouts, and lambrics – they’re all here. Other material in the PAD includes beer festivals, beer facts, label lore and vocabulary. If you buy any of the PAD calendars, then you can go online to the website and pick up other stuff, usually free at www.pageaday.com.

For wall calendars, there is Go Vegan! 2018 Wall Calendar (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2009, $14.95 CAD) which has full-colours throughout and is the same size as an LP (remember those?). Susan Kramer has authored many vegan books for this publisher. She appears here in many re-creations of advertisements and movie posters, as an iconic image of the 1940s and 1950s, reworked for modern vegan audiences. There are facts, dates and trivia here. For example, you can celebrate World Vegan Day on November 1. The Vegan Society was started in Great Britain in 1944 (that’s the year they ran out of every food possible).

Happy Holidays! 



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