Food lovers are often maligned as being picky. And yes, there are those who would rather drive the extra 35 miles to The Donut Man than go to the Winchell's down the street. But now that it's the season of giving, we would like to point out that they are some of the easiest to shop for when it comes to buying gifts. For there is one thing that food lovers will almost never say no to: cookbooks. Well, most cookbooks anyway.
Yet our most recent trip to a chain mega-bookstore left us overwhelmed. The latest 'quick & easy' best sellers were piled in the front and in the actual cookbook section was overwhelmed by volumes from name-your-most-annoying-food-tv-star. Meanwhile, many of the books on our gift list were nowhere to be found. Luckily we know that cookbooks worth giving can be found in places that at first might be unexpected. Turn the page for our list of Top 5 Uncommon Places to Buy Cookbooks, Etc.
Iliad is one of the largest used bookshops in Los Angeles. But when buying cookbooks as gifts here, most in nearly new shape and some with protective jacket covers, don't think of it as second hand, instead think of it as vintage. And it does not get anymore vintage than the 1922 edition of Good Housekeeping's Book of Menus, Recipes and Household Discoveries we recently found there. Along with a battery of recipes and kitchen tips, it also had advice on ordering just the right amount of ice for delivery and darning black socks at night. Holidays are also a time of year to be thankful for what you have and a book like this points out the many reasons modern cooks have to be just that. 5400 Cahuenga Boulevard, North Hollywood, (818) 509-2665.
Simply by virtue of its name, this new Echo Park greengrocer is an obvious place to purchase cookbooks. But it is hard not to be distracted by the ever-changing stock of food items to remember to look at cookbooks underneath the counter. Carefully selected by owner Marta Teegen, the cookbooks running from The Zuni Café Cookbook to Oaxaca Al Gusto to complete sets of Canal House Cooking are hard to find in bookstores obsessed with the new and afraid of the niche. Also, Teegen just added a table for cookbooks and kitchenware. Guiding us through it, she mentioned standout recipes and answered cooking questions about the clay La Chamba pots. We took notes and have been fighting the temptation to cook with the gifts first before giving it away. 1549 Echo Park Avenue., Echo Park; (213) 250-1900.
There is perhaps no better judge of cookbooks, than someone who has written several cookbooks themselves. Every few months, Evan Kleiman selects a book for KCRW's Angel Cookbook Club and the past selections are listed on the blog of her Good Food radio show. Like a good guide, Kleiman has selected books that are informative like The Very Best Of Recipes for Health and highly interactive, like Sausage: Recipes for Making and Cooking with Homemade Sausage. The list includes links to buy online with a portion of the proceeds going to the non-profit radio station. And for food lovers that have been extra good this year, there is always a subscription to next year's Angel Cookbook Club, spreading the gift of a five new cookbooks all year around. https://blogs.kcrw.com/goodfood/cookbook_club.
Recently Anthony Bourdain uttered a salty phrase that will be repeated across the tables of Japanese restaurants for years to come. And it ended with, “it's an attention to detail.” And as aesthetically pleasing as Japanese cuisine is, the photography in Japanese cookbooks and magazines are breathtaking. Kinokuniya has a wide array of these books featuring shots of perfectly seared Kobe beef, dainty pickled vegetables and adorable rice cookers for every décor. And while we will be the first to admit to buying cookbooks just for the pictures, there are also books translated into English. So the beautiful photography of the Your Japanese Kitchen series can be admired and Harumi Kurihara's thoughtful instruction be put into practice. 123 Astronaut E S Onizuka #205, Little Tokyo, (213) 687-4480.
1. The Library Store at Central Library
And sometimes one has to go where the all books are. Tucked in on the first floor reception area, it is easy to forget to that one of the best gift shops in L.A. is at the Central Library. They have a small but fun cooking section with books on topics from bacon to vegan cookies. Interspersed between the books are items like a surprisingly sturdy kitchen timer in the shape of a hamburger and the spork redefined, double sided with a serrated edge. Further, they have several items for kids. Super bright sesame street market bags market bags and a complete collection of alphabet dinnerware including a matching 'kiddie apron'. Gifts that instill the love of food and writing at an early age, this is why the Library Store wins our highest endorsement. 630 West Fifth Street, Downtown, (213) 228-7550.