If there is a globe-trotting gourmet on your gift list or if you are ready for a far-flung culinary adventure – even a closer-to-home one – in the comfort of your own kitchen, this year’s collection of destination cookbooks offers a smorgasbord of ideas to taste the world, while vicariously travelling. More than just inspirational dishes, you’ll get personal stories, gorgeous photography, and an introduction to the rich traditions of other parts of the planet. Some are written by award-winning chefs, others by home cooks. The over-riding theme of each (as we continue to endure the COVID-19 pandemic) is that food is to enjoy with family and friends.
My Shanghai (Betty Liu)
China’s largest, most exciting city, home to 24 million inhabitants, boasts one of the oldest, most flavourful cuisines in the world. Betty Liu, Boston surgeon and, in her spare time, food photographer and blogger with deep Shanghai roots, brings her ancestral world to life in My Shanghai – Recipes and Stories from a City on the Water.
In this, her debut cookbook, Liu introduces readers to the traditional dishes that she was raised on – viewed through the eyes of a modern home cook born and raised in America.
Part cookbook, part travelogue, part family traditions, it’s a journey through a calendar year of recipes.
What is on a dinner table, says Liu, is dictated by what is available in the surrounding waters and fields. One hundred recipes and stories and more than 150 spectacular photographs provide an intimate look at the city and its cuisine. (Harper Collins, $43.50)
Cook Real Hawai’i (Sheldon Simeon)
As a two-time Top Chef finalist and Fam Fav in the American Top Chef competition, Maui’s Sheldon Simeon earned his reputation as a young, creative celebrity. The role he proudly plays here is that of storyteller of local Hawaii food.
A handful of cultures, including native Hawaiian traditions, Korean, Japanese, and Portuguese influences and dynamic Filipino flavours have created the cuisine of his beloved home.
These are the uncomplicated, flavour-forward foods that feed his “ohana” (his family and neighbours) along with the true taste of cookouts and the mom-and-pop shops of the island.
If you’re longing for a Hawaiian getaway, indulge your dream with Cook Real Hawai’i, co-written by Garrett Snyder. (Clarkson Potter, $47)
À Table (Rebekah Peppler)
Food is a huge part of travel to just about anywhere, but France is one of those destinations where people go just to indulge in its culinary delights.
Here is an alluring, delicious invitation to a modern French table. Recipes that are so fresh and delicious you can almost believe you are in France.
More than just a cookbook featuring 125 simple, elegant recipes and gorgeous photos, À Table is a joie de vivre guide to entertaining and getting together with friends — the French way.
Paris-based, American food writer Rebekah Peppler adds personal notes to each recipe. She understands that not everyone can live and entertain in Paris, the way she does.
But she believes anyone can share in that spark of French magic, no matter where they live. (Raincoast, $42.99)
Farm, Fire & Feast (Michael Smith)
Dipping into Prince Edward Island chef Michael Smith’s latest cookbook, you can almost smell the salty ocean air and feel the warmth of the wood smoke fire at FireWorks.
The five-star country Inn at Bay Fortune, owned by Smith and his wife, Chastity, overlooks the Fortune River near the eastern tip of PEI.
FireWorks, the property’s award-winning restaurant, features a live-fire culinary experience.
Island specialties such as Iron-Seared Island Scallops, Oven-Baked Salt-Crusted Halibut, and Beach Lobster are served family-style at long feast tables.
This is an impressive book from an impressive chef, inspired by the bounty of Canada’s playground island and his passion for farming and cooking with fire. Gorgeous location and food photography will make you either homesick or longing to visit. Or both.
Packed with ideas to cook over fire, wherever possible, with alternative cooking methods that work in an indoor kitchen. (Penguin Random House ,$40)
Truffle Hound (Rowan Jacobsen)
One whiff of a white truffle in Italy was all it took to seduce award-winning food writer Rowan Jacobsen, sending him off on a journey to learn everything there is to know about the world’s most expensive food and seductive scent.
His quest took him to Italy, Istria, Hungary, Spain, England, and throughout North America. Truffle Hound, the result, is a captivating glimpse into the secretive world of midnight hunts with sniffer dogs, black-market deals, obsessive chefs, and pricey meals.
As informative as it is fun to read, Jacobsen’s book includes a handful of effortless recipes.
“Many of the best ways to use truffles don’t require a recipe at all,” the Vermont-based author writes. “Just grate into your favourite pasta or risotto before serving.” (Raincoast, $38)
Bavel (Ori Menashe & Genevieve Gergis)
Bring a far-flung culinary journey into your own kitchen! Husband-and-wife chef team Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis (with contributions from Lesley Suter) show you how with personal stories and more than 80 recipes. Bavel is a celebration of the delicious diversity of Middle Eastern cuisines. Inspired by Menashe’s Israeli upbringing and Gergis’s Egyptian roots, the book focuses on cooking what they love without loyalty to any specific country.
It represents a world before the region was divided into separate nations. It’s cooking without borders. It’s a masterful tutorial on spice cooking, including choosing, grinding, roasting, and mixing blends. And it’s the book for anyone wanting to cook Middle Eastern delights. (Ten Speed Press, $54)
Treasures of the Mexican Table (Pati Jinich)
Every state in Mexico — there are 32 of them — has its own culinary treasures and just about every recipe has a story.
Pati Jinich, star of the award-winning PBS series “Pati’s Mexican Table” brings together the stories of more than 150 iconic dishes that define the country’s complex cuisine.
Growing up in the culinary mecca of Mexico City and now living in the U.S., she is dedicated to translating Mexico’s best recipes for North American cooks.
Included in Treasures of the Mexican Table are local specialties, heirlooms handed down from generation to generation, some unknown outside their original regions and others that are national sensations.
Anyone for Tinga de Pollo con Chiorzo y Papa? (Raincoast, $50)