Cookbooks as Tour Guides | Destination Reading and Eating

The restaurant cookbook is a classic subgenre. This menu of titles is designed to highlight recent restaurant cookbooks that include a true sense of place and impressive recipes. The books evoke memories of restaurant visits past with their beautiful photography, and also share their locale, as they center the communities that influenced them. Steeped in the inspiration that chef-authors used to open their restaurants and create signature recipes, these books will motivate readers to recreate wonderful meals in their home kitchens.

The restaurant cookbook is a classic subgenre, but it can feel daunting to purchase because of fears a restaurant will close and worries a book will then become unwanted. But never fear, readers are even more eager to cook dishes when a beloved spot is lost to them and classics have clearly stood the test of time—and include examples of the best work the genre has to offer. The Zuni Café Cookbook has been charming patrons and flying off the shelves for 20 years with its personal stories and sensible recipes. The Moosewood Restaurant has produced a variety of vegetarian cookbooks that have continued to deliver over the years due to their practicality, sense of place, and delicious recipes. Cookbooks such as The French Laundry, NOMA, and Eleven Madison Park, which bring the culinary pleasures of fine dining into the home kitchen, are a delight to the eye and have long kept browsers happy.

Even for avid cooks, there is something special about a visit to a restaurant, whether it is a casual night at a favorite neighborhood joint, a meal to mark a special event, or a destination dinner as part of a long-planned trip. Dining out is an experience that creates so much enjoyment and so many memories. Over the past few years, food memories have been focused on the home kitchen as people turned to the comfort of baking bread and learning new recipes during COVID. Restaurant cookbooks sustained readers in this time, and continue to do so, giving all an opportunity to travel and dine out without leaving home.

This menu of titles is designed to highlight recent restaurant cookbooks that include a true sense of place and impressive recipes. The books evoke memories of restaurant visits past with their beautiful photography, and also share their locale, as they center the communities that influenced them. Steeped in the inspiration that chef-authors used to open their restaurants and create signature recipes, these books will motivate readers to recreate wonderful meals in their home kitchens. Those who dream of future culinary adventures or even a night out at a fine-dining restaurant will enjoy being transported by these titles to restaurants near and far.

Some of these titles are gritty, while others are fancy, charming, or precious. When selecting cookbooks, remember that cookbook readers are aspirational, and popularity may be triggered by nostalgia, whimsy, or other emotions. So, throw a noodle on the wall every once and a while, and see if it sticks. Librarians may find that patrons’ tastes or dreams are bigger than they may have thought.

Starred titles () are recommended for all library collections.

Bastianich, Lidia Mattchicchio & Tanya Bastianich Manuali et. al. Felidia: Recipes from My Flagship Restaurant. Knopf. 2019. 288p. 9781524733087. $35.

Since 1981, the flagship restaurant of celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich was a longtime favorite of New Yorkers, but it closed in 2021. The classic Italian fare that it featured and a nostalgia for what is lost can be found in its namesake cookbook. From cocktails to desserts, these recipes take readers to this former hot spot, whether they were regulars or had always dreamed of visiting.

Blustein, Shira & Brian Luptak. Acorn: Vegetables Re-Imagined: Seasonal Recipes from Root to Stem. Appetite by Random House. 2021. 304p. 9780525610267. $35.

Meet the purveyors, foragers, and farmers who provide the ingredients for the edible art that is created from all things vegetable at this Vancouver mainstay. Focused on seasonality with an emphasis on plating, the book will inspire readers to create a masterpiece for their next meal.

Cioffi, Mike & Chris Bradley et al. The Phoenicia Diner Cookbook: Dishes and Dispatches from the Catskill Mountains. Clarkson Potter. 2020. 272p. 9780525575139. $32.50.

Home cooks can pull up to the counter for all their favorite diner classics and refined takes on stick-to-the-ribs Sunday favorites. The work looks forward while being rooted in the past, and the recipes, history, and even the layout will have readers pining for a trip to the Catskills.

Fourmont, Camille & Kate Leahy. La Buvette: Recipes and Wine Notes from Paris. Ten Speed. 2020. 224p. 9781984856692. $24.99.

Cheese + wine + delicious small plates = Paris, and the authors deliver the 11th arrondissement to home cooks with simple, yet elegant recipes, sweet stories, and informative narratives from their cave à manger (wine shop for eating).

Hardcastle, Heather. The Flour Craft Bakery & Café Cookbook: Inspired Gluten-Free Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, Tea, and Celebrations. Welcome Bks. 2021. 224p. 9781599621593. $35.

From offerings at farmers markets across Marin County, CA, to brick-and-mortar storefronts, this gluten-free bakery has developed recipes that can satisfy the sweet and savory cravings of everyone. Master recipes allow readers to recreate Hardcastle’s classics, while developing their own treats.

Hawksworth, David & Jacob Richler et al. Hawksworth: The Cookbook. Appetite by Random House. 2020 336p. 9780525610090. $40.

U.S. readers don’t have to go to Canada to experience Hawksworth’s namesake fine-dining restaurant. They can just delve into this striking and sophisticated cookbook. Recipes are complex but deliver a full meal and showstopping results.

Hereford, Mason & JJ Goode. Turkey and the Wolf: Flavor Trippin’ in New Orleans. Ten Speed. 2022. 256p. 9781984858993. $30.

This New Orleans sandwich spot and all-around funky, good-time eatery provides details of the many unexpected mash-ups and flavor explosions that have graced the menu over the years. Readers can revisit favorites at home, while discovering new palate benders and kitchen tricks.

Jew, Brandon & Tienlon Ho. Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown: Recipes and Stories from the Birthplace of Chinese American Food. Ten Speed. 2021. 304p. 9781984856500. $40.

Occupying a historic location that has housed a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco since the 1850s, Jew embraces the history of Chinese American cooking with a distinct modernity. Before readers start cooking, they can learn about tea and lazy susans, as well as how to choose vegetables. The book is as fun to read as it is to cook from.

Kinch, David & Devin Fuller. At Home in the Kitchen: Simple Recipes from a Chef’s Night Off. Ten Speed. 2021. 304p. 9781984858504. $35.

What do world-famous chefs cook for themselves at home or after a long day in the kitchen? Kinch introduces readers to his philosophy for cooking for friends and colleagues: keep it simple and elegant. 

Manzke, Margarita and Betty Hallock. Baking at République: Masterful Techniques and Recipes. Lorena Jones. 2019. 272p. 9780399580598. $30.

Part dreamy baking inspiration and part practical instruction, this title entices bakers to get into the kitchen with clean design and bold photography—and a peek inside the inspiration behind some of L.A.’s celebrated pastries. The resulting home bakes will be so beautiful that readers may need a display case for their kitchen. 

Martin, Melissa. Mosquito Supper Club: Cajun Recipes from a Disappearing Bayou. Artisan. 2020. 368p. 9781579658472. $35.

True to the family-style meals served up in her Louisiana restaurant, Martin dishes up geography, history, and stories with a true sense of place. Recipes filled with regional specialties will make readers yearn to be in the bayou with plentiful seafood, a good band playing, and a cold beer.

Moby. The Little Pine Cookbook: Modern Plant-Based Comfort. Avery. 2021. 256p. 9780593087367. $35.

Hollywood vegan recipes presented by a musician may not scream practical, but give this glimpse inside Moby’s lauded restaurant a try. The cookbook includes plenty of can-do vegan dishes that will please any crowd. It is filled with personal notes, and Moby’s quirky personality really shines. Readers will feel as though they’re sharing a meal with this rock star. 

Prueitt, Elisabeth & Chad Robertson. Tartine: A Classic Revisited: 68 All-New Recipes + 55 Updated Favorites. 2019. Chronicle. 400p. 9781452178738. $40.

Tartine, a classic California bakery, delivers to-die-for home bakes that will make mouths water. Dramatic photography will likely have readers posting their photos of cakes and brownies on Instagram before their desserts are gobbled up.

Shedden, Flora. Aran: Recipes and Stories from a Bakery in the Heart of Scotland. Hardie Grant London. 2020. 240p. 9781784883102. $29.99.

Readers may know Shedden from her time on The Great British Bake Off. To really know her, however, readers need to delve into the companion cookbook to her bakery. Breathtaking photography highlights her Scotland-based shop filled with amazing bakes and charm.

Shepherd, Chris & Kaitlyn Goalen. Cook Like a Local: Flavors That Can Change How You Look and See the World. Clarkson Potter. 2019. 288p. 9781524761264. $35.

This cookbook is a tasting tour of Houston through essential ingredients, stores, restaurants, and the stories of the journeys that brought the chefs to the United States. With a distinctive Asian twist, these recipes and adaptations rank as some of Shepherd’s favorites.

Smith, Arlin & Andrew Taylor et al. Eventide: Recipes for Clambakes, Oysters, Lobster Rolls, and More from a Modern Maine Seafood Shack. Ten Speed. 2020. 272p. 9781984856326. $30.

Maine is synonymous with clambakes and lobster rolls, and Smith’s seafood shack, Eventide, proves the point with its commitment to the freshest seafood and innovation of the classics. Beautiful photography is accented by pictorial instructions for a variety of fish and seafood breakdowns and, of course, clambakes.

Tang, Wilson & Joshua David Stein. The Nom Wah Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from 100 Years at New York City’s Iconic Dim Sum Restaurant. Ecco. 2020. 272p. 9780062965998. $34.99.

This cookbook is dedicated to the Nom Wah Tea Parlor, started by Chinese immigrants more than 100 years ago in the bustling heart of New York’s Chinatown. It reveals the secrets to creating the restaurant’s best-loved dishes, while paying homage to the community that made (and continues to make) it possible.

Trejo, Danny. Trejo’s Tacos: Recipes and Stories from L.A. Clarkson Potter. 2020. 224p. 9781984826855. $26.

Hollywood’s tough guy brings his personal journey and brilliant recipes straight from his taco stands and donut shops into readers’ kitchens in this ode to the City of Angels. Plenty of veg options and vignettes mean this gem will likely be a hit with a wide variety of readers.

Turner, Aaron. The Hot Chicken Project: Words + Recipes | Obsession + Salvation | Spice + Fire. Hardie Grant. 2020. 240p. 9781743794845. $24.99.

Meet the people and travel the places behind the phenomenon of hot chicken through recipes, photos, and narratives that will likely leave a burn in home cooks’ throats and wanderlust in their hearts. Readers who cannot make it cover to cover without heading to the kitchen might also end up booking a flight for their own hot chicken tour.

Wang, Jason. Xi’an Famous Foods: The Cuisine of Western China, from New York’s Favorite Noodle Shop. Abrams. 2020. 304p. 9781419747526. $35.

Peek inside the journey Wang and his family took to open their restaurant to quick, astounding success. Wang’s unique voice, humor, and honesty reveals stories about their growth that are as fun to read as the noodles recipes in the book are to make and slurp. 

Wong, Cecily & Dylan Thuras et al. Gastro Obscura: A Food Adventurer’s Guide. Workman. 2021. 448p. 9781523502196. $42.50.

This foodie travel guide will deliver hours of pleasure to travelers, eaters, and readers alike. Wander the world to discover where and what to eat from obscure creations to odd foods, from hard-to-find restaurants to those just around the corner. In so doing, gain bushels of cultural and historical culinary knowledge.

Sarah Tansley, Branch Manager, Chicago Public Library, is the chair of the RUSA CODES Essential Cookbooks Committee, leads a cookbook book club at her library, is an avid home cook, and is LJ’s cookbook columnist.

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