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Montreal restaurant Elena has raised more than $56,000 in support of the city’s hospitality workers through sales of a pair of digital mini cookbooks.
Carrot Burrata Carrot from Elena: Remember Skin Contact?
Tteokbokki, Hanjan’s Spicy Rice Cakes, from My Korea: Traditional Flavors, Modern Recipes.
Lacto cep mushrooms from The Noma Guide to Fermentation.
Kid Goat and Crayfish from Ana Ros: Sun and Rain.
Hainanese Chicken on Rice from Maenam: A Fresh Approach to Thai Cooking.
Chowpatty Chicken Pav from The Juhu Beach Club Cookbook: Indian Spice, Oakland Soul.
Braised Venison Shanks with Mossberry Black Garlic Glaze and Herbed Wheat Berries from Tawaw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine.
Pescado a la Talla, red and green grilled red snapper, from My Mexico City Kitchen: Recipes and Convictions.
Poached Cod Cheek, Mussel Broth, Potato and Shore Greens from Wildness: An Ode to Newfoundland and Labrador.
Spanish Meatballs from Smith & Daughters: A Cookbook (That Happens to be Vegan).
Restaurant cookbooks bring the experience of dining out to the page. The colours, the aromas, the flavours, the excitement — you don’t have to physically be there to let your imagination run wild. Inspiration, aspiration or document, the actual act of having eaten there is beside the point. Sure, they can serve as a memento of a remarkable meal, but more often than not, they provide pure culinary escapism. Whether they sit on your countertop or bedside table, these 10 cookbooks capture the essence of what makes restaurants so special.
1. Elena: Remember Skin Contact?
by Stephanie Mercier Voyer, Janice Tiefenbach and Marley Sniatowsky
A special breed of restaurant cookbook, Elena: Remember Skin Contact? was born of and for our times. Immediately following lockdown in March, when many were struggling to simply wrap their heads around the situation, Stephanie Mercier Voyer, Janice Tiefenbach and Marley Sniatowsky self-published the first in a pair of mini digital cookbooks to benefit the Montreal Restaurant Workers Relief Fund . (They have since raised more than $56,000 for the cause.) Elena: Remember Skin Contact? features 18 recipes from the Montreal restaurant, where Tiefenbach leads the kitchen. With fresh tagliatelle, pizza four ways and Elena’s legendary Kale! Caesar! (“the salad equivalent of getting catfished”), the book captures the effervescence of its namesake restaurant. As much as the recipes beg to be cooked, they also serve as a reminder: “I hope we can raise the visibility of how important restaurants are,” Tiefenbach said in an interview with National Post. “Not just as a place to eat, but as a place that engages your community.”
2. My Korea: Traditional Flavors, Modern Recipes
by Hooni Kim with Aki Kamozawa
“My food is what you might get from a Korean grandmother if she went to culinary school, interned at high-end Michelin restaurants, and settled in New York City (and perhaps had an addiction to White Castle sliders),” chef Hooni Kim writes in My Korea (W. W. Norton & Company, 2020). In his debut cookbook, Kim features the food of his New York restaurants Hanjan and Danji, which became the world’s first Michelin-starred Korean restaurant in 2012. With traditional flavours front and centre, whether in classic dishes or contemporary renditions, Kim’s food is as inspiring as his story. In charting his journey from Seoul to some of New York City’s most celebrated restaurants (Masa, Daniel), Kim shares how he found his footing as a chef. Through all that he does — his book and his restaurants — Kim says the ultimate goal is to inspire people to visit his homeland. “You have to have kimchi made from cabbage that was grown in Korean soil,” he said in an interview with National Post . “It’s like certain Burgundy grapes you just can’t copy. That’s what I feel about Korean terroir.”
3. The Noma Guide to Fermentation
by René Redzepi and David Zilber
When René Redzepi’s renowned Copenhagen restaurant Noma reopened in May with a new temporary concept — swapping $500-tasting menus for $25 cheeseburgers — fermentation was the foundation. They “spiced up” their cheddar cheeseburger with beef garum (“the larger family to which fish sauce belongs”), and inoculated their quinoa-tempeh veggie burger with oligosporus “to keep tempeh’s alkaline funk at bay,” said Toronto-born chef David Zilber, former director of the restaurant’s innovative fermentation lab and co-author of The Noma Guide to Fermentation (Artisan Books, 2018). While the rest of the books on this list reveal how to reproduce restaurant dishes, this resource explores the building blocks. “It is the DNA of who we are today. You won’t come to Noma in any season and eat a meal that doesn’t have fermented products in every single serving. We don’t know how to cook without it,” Redzepi said, laughing, in an interview with National Post in 2018. With methods for making and using lacto-fermented fruits and vegetables, kombucha, vinegar, koji, misos, shoyu, garum, and black fruits and vegetables, Redzepi and Zilber offer a springboard for endless experimentation.
4. Ana Roš: Sun and Rain
by Ana Roš with Kaja Sajovic
A star turn on Chef’s Table in 2015 thrust self-taught chef Ana Roš into the spotlight. Heading up the kitchen at Hiša Franko, a countryside inn set in Slovenia’s verdant Soča Valley — where turquoise rivers run through the rolling foothills and dramatic peaks loom — Roš draws on her natural environment. Since she took over the kitchen in 2002, “30 years old and pregnant,” Roš has crafted her own singular style. Working with a community of local cheesemakers, fishers, foragers, hunters and shepherds, her food mirrors the striking beauty of the restaurant’s surroundings. Whether or not you choose to attempt any of the 90 recipes in Roš’s debut cookbook, Sun and Rain (Phaidon, 2020), there’s plenty to devour. As with her work itself, the personal accounts, essays and atmospheric imagery of the land, food and people behind Hiša Franko create an indelible sense of place.
5. Maenam: A Fresh Approach to Thai Cooking
by Angus An
Chef Angus An, who has a background in fine arts and classical French cuisine, refers to himself as “a passionate student of Thai food.” He and his wife, Kate Auewattanakorn, founded Vancouver restaurant Maenam a decade ago, and have since gone on to open five other spots in the Lower Mainland (including Freebird Chicken Shack and Longtail Kitchen). In his forthcoming debut cookbook, Maenam (Appetite by Random House, August 4), An offers a glimpse into his creative process. Inspired by extensive travels with Auewattanakorn and their son in her native Thailand, An interweaves Thai flavours and techniques with local West Coast products such as oysters, sablefish and spot prawns. His Hot Sour Soup of Clams and Matsutake — a “Canadian take on a classic Thai soup” — is but one example of how this plays out on the plate. A combination of savoury clam nectar, citrus-scented holy basil and “the subtle pine notes of B.C. matsutake mushrooms,” the resulting dish “ends up being very Canadian, yet still very Thai in both spirit and flavour.”
6. The Juhu Beach Club Cookbook: Indian Spice, Oakland Soul
by Preeti MIstry with Sarah Henry
Restaurants may close, but their cookbooks live on. Chef and activist Preeti Mistry closed their first restaurant, the Juhu Beach Club in Oakland, Calif., in 2018 after a highly acclaimed five-year run. Thankfully, they documented more than 100 recipes in The Juhu Beach Club Cookbook (Running Press, 2017), “arranged in an intentionally eclectic fashion.” Rather than organizing the dishes by course, season or type, Mistry groups them around stories that extend into themes. There’s Street Eats, Comfort Food, Masala Mashups, Oaklandish and “Authentic? Hell, Yeah!” “My personal journey and my cooking career, those two things are pretty much tied together these days. It’s tough, maybe even impossible, to tease them apart,” they write. Scratch masalas, pavs (including pulled pork vindaloo, Bombay-style curried egg salad, and chowpatty chicken) and signature dishes such as their much sought-after Manchurian cauliflower are enticing whether you were lucky enough to pull up a chair at JBC or not.
7. Tawâw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine
by Shane M. Chartrand with Jennifer Cockrall-King
“What does it mean to be an Indigenous person who is an executive chef in charge of his own professional kitchen and staff?” writes Edmonton-based Cree chef Shane M. Chartrand. “How do I create — one dish, one menu, one dinner at a time — a progressive Indigenous cuisine?” In his debut cookbook, Tawâw (House of Anansi, 2019), he shares personal essays, snapshots of ingredients and techniques and more than 75 recipes intended for home cooks and chefs alike. Chartrand highlights menu items from his restaurant, SC Restaurant at River Cree Resort & Casino, competition dishes — such as the Gold Medal Plates award-winning “War Paint” (quail and wheat berries on red pepper sauce) depicted on the book’s cover — and favourites inspired by his experiences cooking with other First Nations peoples. Reflective of his restaurant work, Chartrand incorporates a variety of methods and products in creating his “progressive Indigenous cuisine.” “It’s always moving, whether that be … reinventing some old Indigenous dishes or taking what I’ve learned from (other) Nations and building dishes that I like,” he said in an interview with National Post last year. “There are so many ways of looking at things but, to me, progressive means ever-changing.”
8. My Mexico City Kitchen: Recipes and Convictions
by Gabriela Cámara with Malena Watrous
Chef Gabriela Cámara of the award-winning Contramar in Mexico City was adamant that My Mexico City Kitchen (Lorena Jones Books, 2019) not be a typical restaurant cookbook. “I was very sure that I did not want the restaurant to be portrayed in a fancy, inaccessible way for cooks,” she said in an interview with National Post last year. The more than 150 recipes in the book — a mix of foods she grew up eating, as well as staple dishes from Contramar and Cala in San Francisco — deliver on Cámara’s intent. The result of decades of experimentation, My Mexico City Kitchen serves as a master class in Cámara’s approach to food. Homey favourites like chilaquiles and flan are as achievable as her signature restaurant dishes tuna tostadas and pescado a la talla (red and green grilled red snapper).
9. Wildness: An Ode to Newfoundland and Labrador
by Jeremy Charles with Adam Leith Gollner
The rugged allure of Newfoundland and Labrador is on full display in chef Jeremy Charles’s Wildness (Phaidon, 2019). A document of his work at St. John’s restaurant Raymonds, it’s also a celebration of the landscape, products and people that make the food culture of Canada’s easternmost province so rich. Charles has been digging deep into Newfoundland’s foodways for a decade — cod and other seafood, small game, farm animals, moose and foraged foods feature prominently — and his thoughtful approach has drawn fans from far and wide. “For many years we were forgotten about: We were out there on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean,” Charles said in an interview with National Post last year. “It’s so amazing to finally let people know that we’re doing beautiful things, and we have so many amazing ingredients and so many amazing people and artists.”
10. Smith & Daughters: A Cookbook (That Happens to be Vegan)
by Shannon Martinez and Mo Wyse
Through their Melbourne restaurant Smith & Daughters, deli and cookbooks, Shannon Martinez and Mo Wyse set out to enable people to “experience plant-based food the way it should be: big, bold, flavourful, noteworthy, celebration-worthy and myth-dispelling.” Their first cookbook, Smith & Daughters (Hardie Grant Books, 2016), showcases the Latin-inspired vegan food that put them on the map (though Martinez has since swapped the menu for an Italian one). The food is fun and user-friendly with an emphasis on enjoyment rather than technique. “Our main gripe about typical vegan cooking and cookbooks is the unnecessary over-complication of EVERYTHING,” they write. Martinez, on the other hand, prioritizes full flavours over knife skills. There are small plates and big dishes — albóndigas con picada de almendra (Spanish meatballs), a fifth-generation paella recipe and juicy garbanzos estofados (chickpea stew) are a few standouts — and salads, sauces, sweets and drinks. You may never travel to Australia, let alone eat at Smith & Daughters, but you’ll still be able to partake in Martinez’s exciting, plant-based food.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020