When it comes to gift-giving for food lovers, one plan always works: cookbooks. This year, Angelenos who want to share a taste of our great city with family and friends are in luck. A handful of local chefs, restaurants, mixologists and food writers released books this year about everything from ancient Japanese clay-pot cooking to elegant Provençal techniques to the ins and outs of mixing cocktails like the ones being poured in L.A.'s most sought-after bars.
We've made a list, and checked it twice. Here are our favorite local cookbooks from 2015.
Fire of Peru: Recipes and Stories From My Peruvian Kitchen
Lima-born chef Ricardo Zarate has been wowing Los Angeles with his modern Peruvian flavors since 2009, first at the lauded Mo-Chica downtown, then at West L.A.'s Picca. Most recently, he's been the subject of food buzz with his limited-run pop-up Once (a culinary tribute to his childhood in Peru). Zarate is a star chef worth following wherever he may go, but if the thrill of the chase has worn off and you just want to enjoy his food anytime, his new cookbook allows his fans to attempt his delectable recipes at home. Pisco sours, anyone?
Don't let the throngs of beautiful scenesters lingering on the Abbot Kinney sidewalk awaiting a coveted table fool you. This restaurant has serious substance, and waiting an hour to be seated at Gjelina is worth it. The food is good — so good that chef-author Travis Lett wrote a cookbook in its honor. Like many cookbooks these days, Gjelina's is vegetable-centric and doesn't shy away from the more complex ways the dishes are prepared in the restaurant. For that reason, it's a great gift for more ambitious home cooks. Perhaps the ones who live far from sunny Venice might benefit most from the rustic California-Mediterranean flavors.
Fig & Olive Cookbook: The Cuisine of the French Riviera
The Provençal menu at the elegant West Hollywood eatery has been popular for so many years that it's almost surprising Fig & Olive’s founder and owner Laurent Halasz waited this long to publish a cookbook in its name. But better late than never. The book is the perfect gift for Francophile friends. The recipes are inspired by Halasz's mother's cooking during his childhood in the South of France. It stresses fresh, seasonal, local ingredients from a sunny, warm, seaside climate. Sound familiar?
The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen: A Fresh Take on Tradition
In her newest cookbook, L.A.-based food writer and author of The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook, Amelia Saltsman brings together her passion and knowledge for local, seasonal, sustainable produce with the long-standing traditions of the Jewish kitchen. The book is ideal for all farmers market–obsessed friends or family. Make the gift even more special by picking one up at the Hollywood Farmers Market on Dec. 13 from 9 to 11 a.m., when Saltsman will be signing copies.
Tal Ronnen continues to draw crowds to West Hollywood's Crossroads with his plant-based menu. In his new cookbook, he shares the secrets of making sophisticated vegan food. You won't find any soybeans or seitan but, rather, tomato-sauced pappardelle, plates of spicy carrot salad and crunchy flatbreads with roasted vegetables. It's the best gift for a vegan friend.
Good Food, Good Life
Cross your fancy friends off the gift list with Curtis Stone's new cookbook. For the ones who go to Maude every chance they get, a collection of recipes by Stone will be awe-inspiring — and if said friends are inexperienced home cooks, it doesn't matter; Good Food, Good Life is filled with simple, everyday recipes.
Cooked Raw isn't a cookbook. It's a memoir about Matthew Kenney's journey from being a celebrity chef in New York City to a raw-food restauranteur in Los Angeles. Kenney's Plant Food and Wine on Abbot Kinney in Venice caters to a posh, health-conscious crowd with its organic, raw-food menu.
Naoko Takei Moore and chef Kyle Connaughton's new book teaches the centuries-old technique of Japanese donabe clay-pot cooking. Recipes for sizzling tofu and mushrooms in miso sauce and dashi-rich shabu-shabu will have you splurging on the $200 pot to go with it. And California-inspired recipes such as steam-fried black cod with crisp potatoes, leeks and walnut-nori pesto might even have you signing up for Moore's cooking classes in Echo Park. The book and the clay pot are excellent gifts for your food friend who claims to already have everything.
Chef Giada De Laurentiis doesn't have a restaurant in Los Angeles, but she is an L.A.-based television celebrity and thus deserves to be on this list. Her new cookbook, pleasantly named Happy Cooking, is a recipe-based lifestyle book with advice for how to live a healthy life. In the book, she shares 200 new recipes with her own tips on how she keeps her energy up as a busy mom and chef. The book is a no-brainer for any moms out there hoping to find more balance in the new year.
Famed cocktail bar Death & Co is in New York City, but the two geniuses behind it are here in L.A. Alex Day and David Kaplan raised the bar for mixology in 2006 when they opened their speakeasy-style cocktail bar in the East Village. Now Angelenos can sip their potions here at haunts such as Honeycut and Normandie Club. And once you've had a taste of what the duo can do, you'll want to go all out shaking and stirring these at home. Thankfully, the near decade-old Death & Co released a cookbook offering many of the tricks to getting buzzed in the most delicious way. You might want to just keep this one for yourself.