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Author Archive: "Tracey T."

Best Cookbooks of 2014

As the cookbook buyer for Powell's Books, I am the lucky one who gets to choose every new cookbook that comes into our stores. This means I have a pretty sweet cookbook collection, but I try to keep my shelves under control by limiting myself to only one bookcase of cookbooks. When a new cookbook comes in, a lesser performer has to get kicked out.

No longer do I keep a cookbook because someday I might need to bake a wedding cake, or just because it has a pretty cover (I'm pretty much lying here; I have plenty of cookbooks just because I like the cover, but they are slowly getting thinned out). Most of my cookbooks are real workhorses, in all their food-splashed glory.

Below are the 2014 cookbooks that I cook from at home, and that I heartily recommend to my friends and Powell's customers. There were many other delicious, beautiful, and/or creative cookbooks released this year, but these are the ones that found a place on my shelves, in my heart, and, most importantly, in my belly! Here, in no specific order, are my favorite cookbooks from 2014:


New Cookbooks for October and November: Potluck Time!

October/November is a favorite time in our offices. These are the months when scads of cookbooks are released, a deluge of cookbooks, a tornado of cookbooks. To judge by my desk, it's a perfect (or, rather, imperfect) storm of cookbooks. I have over 50 newly released books piled up, with another pile of yet-to-be-released titles crammed into what little space remains. When better to have a grand work potluck than now? We pulled 10 books out of my desk mess to cook from, each of us bringing in at least one dish to share. We gleefully stuffed our faces and documented it all for you! Here are our potluck reviews, featuring some guest writers from our staff.

Brooks Headley's Fancy Desserts

The '80s rocker turned pastry chef, Brooks Headley, writes recipes the way a punk rocker writes poetry: intentionally wrong, in your face, meant to be played LOUD, and yet sometimes hitting the sublime. Brooks Headley's Fancy Desserts is a cookbook you want to read, not with a cup of tea in front of the fireplace; you'll want to read it wherever the F' you want, maybe while listening to some hardcore punk music. (Although, not me; I'd listen to the ...


A Sudden Light

Stein's timber-baron family saga is built upon, and torn apart by, the lush, woodsy nature of the Pacific Northwest. A teen's first visit to his ancestral home — a haunted old folly of a mansion — introduces him to new family and old ghosts with an angsty splash of young love and hero worship.


Falling from Horses

Falling from Horses is a story of the Westerns boom in old Hollywood, where cowboys reworked their cowpoke skills as stunt riders. Talkies are new, and everyone scrambles to find a foothold in the burgeoning film industry. Threaded throughout is a family mystery of a lost little girl. Gloss's tale is both heartbreaking and heartful.


Death and Co

NYC's premier craft cocktail bar, Death and Co, has a passion for building a fine drink — think complex flavors skillfully put together, elegance in a glass. The cocktail recipes in this book are sophisticated and creative. Death and Co includes extensive bartending techniques, so even an adventurous beginner can aim to be a master mixologist.


Huckleberry

Charmingly bound with polka-dotted edges, Huckleberry's sweet and savory recipes strike a welcome balance between comfort food and fine baking. Reminding us that "baking is supposed to be fun," Zoe Nathan, owner of Santa Monica-based Huckleberry Bakery and Café, encourages us to not be afraid of making mistakes in the kitchen.


New Cookbooks for September: Making the Most of the Harvest

September, when we are still working to preserve our summer fare amidst the first rains of fall, brings books on harvesting and preserving. Let's enjoy these last of the summer-oriented cookbooks and also: Cookbook Season! September, October, and November bring a bumper crop of new cookbook releases. Keep an eye out next month for a special edition of On the Table, where our marketing and order office crew are planning a potluck photo shoot featuring recipes from the October new releases. As befits such a big release month, there will be twice as many reviews for October.

These are the rain-filled sunshine days that find many people on their hands and knees in forest and meadow searching for mushrooms. It's also the perfect time to bring out Shroom. Shroom is a mouthwatering and sometimes funny book. Many mushroom cookbooks are serious and dry, but Seattle author and chef Becky Selengut is chatty, enthusiastic, and sometimes hilarious about her topic. You can tell she has actually cooked the recipes and really knows what she is talking about. She offers tips in the body of the recipe, in ...


Rooms

If ghosts are real, they are probably like these: cantankerous, prone to snits, and deeply curious about the warm bodies living in "their" rooms. Oliver's dysfunctional family reunites in a lost-and-found whirlwind of mystery and secrets, with the housebound spirits as unexpected guests.


New Cookbooks for August: Family Meals, Comfort Food, and Drunken Wisdom

As befits the beginning of the end of the hot summer days, and looking ahead to back-to-school, the August lineup of newly released cookbooks is a harvest combination of family rededication, comfort foods, and good old-fashioned drunken fun.

My goodness gracious. I don't know quite what to say about My Drunk Kitchen. To fully comprehend this cookbook, you should watch Hannah Hart's YouTube videos. If you've seen the videos, can you imagine them as a cookbook? Me neither. But somehow Hart has managed to condense her irreverent style into a highly readable book! I don't know that many will want to make her recipes, but reading about them is hilarious! Okay, maybe I'd like to eat her Pizza Cake, which is made of four or five pizzas stacked on top of each other. And I often have her String (Cheese Theory) recipe; the ingredients consist of just: (1) string cheese and (2) a plate. Each recipe comes with an inspirational cocktail suggestion to get drunk by, 'cause this is My Drunk Kitchen, yo. And each recipe comes with a life lesson because the stated intent ...


A History of the Paper Pattern Industry

A History of the Paper Pattern Industry is a joy for any follower of fashion history. I've often been fascinated by how the early days of modern fashion (starting around the 1850s) followed developments in technology. Whether it's the maturation of the sewing machine, the development of chemical dyes for superior color, or the increase of factory jobs for women, the late 1800s and early 1900s were an amazing time in clothing. What I hadn't taken into consideration was how much paper patterns also played into modern fashion history. A History of the Paper Pattern Industry is concerned primarily with U.S. paper pattern history, while filled with plenty of depictions of pattern envelopes. No doubt the designer/sewist will find inspiration here, but this is really more of a sociological study of the pattern business.


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