2020 Gift Guide, Part III: “Best of California” Cookbooks

2020 Holiday Gift Guide Part III: Best of California Cookbooks graphic

Cookbooks are a go-to gift for the foodies in your life, but not all titles are gift-worthy. Don’t just grab any old recipe book! Read on for Part III of our holiday gift guide, in which we recommend some truly special books. They’re all packed with amazing recipes and gorgeous photographs, and all have a California connection. These cookbooks were written by the chefs behind some of the state’s most celebrated restaurants. Restaurant-going became a rare event this year, and the industry as a whole faces an epic struggle. Why not gift the opportunity to prepare some beloved dishes at home, discover new favorites, and support the chefs who created such remarkable recipes?

bäco: Vivid Recipes from the Heart of Los Angeles

Baco cookbook cover

Chef Josef Centeno is a James Beard-nominated chef and owner of the acclaimed bâco Mercat, plus four other restaurants in downtown Los Angeles. Centeno co-authored this fantastic cookbook with Betty Hallock, formed deputy editor for the Los Angeles Times food section. The book includes 130 recipes and as many photographs. It features best-selling restaurant dishes, sauces, soups, main dishes, salads and desserts. They range from simple to complex, and characteristically use bold spices and sauces to enliven simple assemblages of top-quality ingredients.

Kokarri: Contemporary Greek Flavors

Kokarri cookbook cover

San Francisco institution Kokarri is one of the most popular Greek restaurants in California. Dining there is unforgettable, given the restaurant’s centerpiece open fireplace in which whole lambs roast on a spit. The cookbook gives ambitious home cooks a recipe and adapted method for this succulent signature. Others exemplify Greek cuisine’s age-old appreciation for simply prepared fresh, seasonal and local produce, meats and seafood. Greek classics and restaurant specialties are all among its abundance of recipes.

Everyday Greens

Everyday Greens cookbook cover

Everyday Greens” is a collection of vegetarian recipes by Annie Somerville, executive chef at the iconic Greens Restaurant in San Francisco since 1985. It offers accessible versions of Somerville’s high-end creations, among them main course-size salads, hearty ragouts and stews, grilled vegetables, pizzas, tarts, pasta and grain dishes, pickles and beloved Greens desserts. Also included is advice on selecting the freshest ingredients, chef-y prep tips, wine pairings and suggestions for leftovers.

Gjelina Cookbook

Gjelina cookbook cover

The Gjelina restaurant group, based in Venice Beach, has expanded to two restaurants, a deli-bakery-café, a take-out spot and retail store. But it all started with Gjelina, which opened in 2008 to immediate and sustained buzz over chef (and author) Travis Lett’s rustic New American fare. The book includes 125 recipes for meat, fish and vegetable mains, dressed-up toasts, pizzas, grain-based creations and desserts. Featured photographs evoke the hip aesthetic of the restaurant and its beach-town setting.

Trader Vic’s Tiki Party!

Trader Vic's Tiki Party book cover

Know someone who’d love to plan a tiki party (when we can party again)? “Trader Vic’s Tiki Party” promises iconic cocktail recipes with a heady dose of kitschy nostalgia. The Polynesian-themed Trader Vic’s bar chain got its start in the Bay Area in 1934, became famous for its mai tais, and grew to a world-famous international establishment. “Trader Vic’s Tiki Party!” by Stephen Siegelman focuses on food and cocktails to share with friends. It includes 95 cocktail and after-dinner drink recipes, 35 party-inspired food recipes, a bartending guide and party planning tips.

The French Laundry Cookbook

French Laundry cookbook cover

From the esteemed, the venerable, the fanciest of the fancy French Laundry in Yountville, this 1999 cookbook by Thomas Keller, Michael Ruhlman and Susie Heller introduces readers to the techniques and recipes behind the world-famous restaurant. It’s a gift suitable for ambitious, adventurous home cooks with time on their hands to follow labor-intensive, step-by-step instructions. The results – if they’re anything close to their restaurant counterparts – are sure to be sublime.

Sweet Laurel: Recipes for Whole Food, Grain-Free Desserts

Sweet Laurel cookbook cover

For a sweet-toothed friend with food restrictions, or a baker who loves a challenge, buy a copy of “Sweet Laurel: Recipes for Whole Food, Grain-Free Desserts” by Laurel Gallucci and Claire Thomas. The duo are behind the popular Pacific Palisades cake shop Sweet Laurel, where all the delicious sweet treats are free of grains, gluten, dairy and refined sugar. So are the recipes in the book, most of which call for just five ingredients. Decorating tips are included too.

Looking for more holiday gift ideas? Check out Part I: Museum Gift Shops and Part II: Creative Kits.

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