’Tis the season when chefs start launching cookbooks for holiday gift-giving. Here are three new books by local San Francisco chefs that give you more than just recipes. They tell stories, share philosophies and are downright entertaining to read. You just might want to give these books to yourself!
Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food, by Sam Mogannam and Dabney Gough
From the chef-owner of Bi-Rite Market (and the oh, so addictive Bi-Rite Creamery), this is “a grocer’s guide to shopping, cooking and creating community through food.” That sounds a bit more touchy-feely than this information-packed book actually is.
It takes you through the various departments of a grocery, telling you how to buy, how to store and how to use various items. Even if you think you’re a good shopper-storer-user, you’ll learn a lot in these pages.
There are tips on how to put together a cheese plate, ways to use up stale bread, underdog wine regions, how to dispatch a live crab or lobster in the most humane way possible (start by putting them in the freezer for 20 minutes) and the world of charcuterie – explained.
You’ll also find short features about some of Mogannam’s favorite local suppliers – Soul Food Farms, Katz & Company and Devil’s Gulch Ranch, to name a few – and of course, plenty of recipes.
There are Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie with Gingeer Crumb Topping and Chocolate Pots de Crème from Bi-Rite Creamery and Moroccan Lamb Meatloaf from the grocery’s deli case. But the recipes range beyond the Bi-Rite businesses. The book also includes Delfina’s spaghetti sauce (the restaurant two doors down from Mogannam’s grocery) and a bounty of other dishes for cooks seeking the maximum of flavor with the minimum of fuss (Sautéed Figs with Prosciutto and Parmigiano, anyone?)
It’s a great handbook and guide that’s equally appealing for seasoned cooks and those just starting out. Kudos to Mogannam for sharing all he’s learned in such an appealing, readable book.
Cooking My Way Back Home: Recipes from San Francisco’s Town Hall, Anchor & Hope and Salt House, by Mitchell Rosenthal and John Pult
Along with his brother Steven and business partner Doug Washington, Mitch Rosenthal has opened Town Hall, Salt House and Anchor & Hope. His love of down-home favorites, cooked with exacting technique, is probably best reflected in the cooking at Town Hall – and many favorites from the menu appear in his new cookbook.
I sampled recipes from the book at a press event a few months back, and they definitely left me wanting more. I was especially intrigued when Rosenthal explained that his fried chicken is actually cooked at a lower temperature, for a longer time, than most fried chicken. It’s tricks like this that make his recipes just that much better than your mom’s home cooking.
I’ll let Rosenthal himself do the explaining in this better-than-average promotional video, which you’ll find on the upper left side of this page.
Mission Chinese Food: Recipes and Ideas from an Improbable Restaurant, by Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz
Man, I love this book – and I was prepared to dismiss it as another David Chang-style vanity project from McSweeney’s. Sure, it’s a mishmash of cartoons, anecdotes and he said/she said dialog between married couple Myint and Leibowitz, but the self-mocking attitude keeps it from being pretentious or precious.
From the ironic fake business plan to the step-by-step photo recipe for granulated burgers (which few would ever attempt at home), it’s a book that defies expectations. And diets.
Give it to all the underdogs you believe in – because Myint and his co-conspirators are inspiring, in their own quirky way. And they’ve managed to parlay a rented taco truck into, first, a pop-up shared restaurant – Mission Street Food, in Lung Shan – then a daily shared restaurant – Mission Chinese Food – and then expanding by adding a Kickstarter-funded restaurant – Commonwealth – just down the street.
Through it all, they’ve managed to focus on serving those in need, while also serving up acclaimed food. With each MCF entrée and every Commonwealth tasting menu, a donation is made to charity. The couple touches on this philosophy in the book, too.
Mission Street Food has been out for a few months, but considering the near-impossibility of getting a table at MCF – particularly since it was named to Bon Appetit’s 10 Best New Restaurant list – it’s a good alternative if you’re hungry for what Myint dishes up.