BookPeople’s Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

We asked the literary experts at BookPeople to give their top cookbook
recommendations
for the foodie in your life. They not only pored over
the recipes—they tested out their favorites, too!

Nothing Says “Love” Like A Home-Cooked Meal.

“As Valentine’s Day approaches, we’ve been spending a lot of time in the Cooking section at BookPeople so we could recommend our favorite titles to you. Whether you want to cook a special meal for your Valentine or encourage your loved one’s own culinary experiments, a new cookbook is a thoughtful and romantic way to say ‘I love you.’

Fellow booksellers Grace, Stephanya, Matthew, Robyn, Brian and Meg crammed into my very small (and adorable) North Austin kitchen and proceeded to cover every square inch of table and counter space mixing, dicing, slicing, rolling, grating, and sampling our way to a delightful epicurean feast. The Limoncello Martinis definitely helped us keep our cool in the tight quarters.”
—Julie Wernersbach

The chefs at this year’s Austin FOOD & WINE Festival offer a terrific selection of cookbooks that are perfect for your Valentine. Here are some of BookPeople’s top recommendations…
Uchi: The Cookbook

by Tyson Cole & Jessica DuPuy

You meant to make the phone call. It was on your to-do list for months. It’s been on your to-do list since last Valentine’s Day. But somehow, you just never got around to making a reservation at Uchi for the most romantic day of the year. Fortunately, Chef Tyson Cole has you covered with Uchi: The Cookbook.

Melon Gazpacho, Polenta Custard, Shiitake Bacon, Foie Gras Nigiri, Uchiviche – the recipes in this cookbook will impress your Valentine not only with incredible original flavors, but also with your incredible skill in the kitchen. Salads, sushi rolls, Cashew Beer Butter, Bacon Candy; you can really go all out. If you’re giving Uchi as a gift, this is the perfect cookbook for the chef who likes to experiment with exotic ingredients and enjoys a good challenge in the kitchen. It’s also perfect for anyone who likes a little food porn – the photography in this book is gorgeous – and for fans of the restaurant. This book offers not only terrific recipes you won’t find anywhere else, but also the philosophy of Uchi and how the restaurant came to be.

Wine Bar Food: Mediterranean Flavors with Wine to Match

by Cathy & Tony Mantuano

This is hands down one of the most romantic cookbooks you can bring home. Cathy and Tony Mantuano visit a variety of romantic locales, from Seville to Barcelona to Lisbon to Rome, sharing delicious local recipes and the wines to go with them.

We dug way into this cookbook, starting with the Limoncello Martini. Bright and sharp, it was like a little hit of sunshine on our tongues. We sipped our sunny drinks while cooking up a wide array of recipes. The recipe for Moroccan Vegetables is out of this world. Coriander, fennel, cumin, honey – the Mantuanos combine flavors that are smoky, savory and sweet to create a dish that’s an absolute knockout for your vegetarian Valentine. The red pepper puree on top was also a popular dip for leftover bread. The Potato, Garlic and Rosemary Pizza was another big hit, and its sophisticated flavors dress up a simple dish. And who knew potato worked so well on pizza? The Goat Cheese Crostini was simple and delicious. We cooked down a head of endive (such a gorgeous vegetable!), toasted the bread, spread the goat cheese on and topped it with the sauteed endive. Voila! This is a perfect, no-stress way to kick off your Valentine’s evening. The savory creaminess of the goat’s cheese is a sublime base for the tangy endive.
Goat Cheese & Sautéed Endive Crostini. Courtesy of BookPeople Test Kitchen.
The recipe combinations are virtually limitless, while the wine pairings take the stress out of finding the best bottle to serve with dinner. If you’re giving this cookbook as a gift, it’s perfect for the chef who enjoys exploring international cuisine, or just for anyone who enjoys entertaining.
Momofuku Milk Bar

by Christina Tosi & David Chang

Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without two things: love and dessert. Christina Tosi‘s incredible (and incredibly famous) sweet treats at Momofuku Milk Bar in Manhattan are a perfect way to surprise your Valentine, and fortunately, thanks to this cookbook, you don’t have to book a flight to New York City to get them.

We knew we wanted to make one of the recipes in this cookbook, but which one? It was so hard to choose. Pretzel Ice Cream Pie! Chocolate-Chocolate Cookies! Chocolate Chip Layer Cake! We finally settled on the Cornflake-Chocolate-Chip-Marshmallow cookies. Step one was crunching up a few cups of cornflakes (which was totally fun, by the way) and then we baked them with butter, sugar and milk powder. The smell that came out of the oven – oh my! The rest of the recipe was surprisingly simple. We mixed the baked cornflakes with flour, sugar, butter, chocolate chips and marshmallows, chilled for an hour, and then baked them.

I wish I could deliver a batch of these cookies straight through the computer screen right now. They tasted like cookies you would pay top dollar to devour at a bakery in Manhattan, and we made them in our own kitchen with our own hands! Forget the box of chocolates – you simply must make a delectable batch of something awesome from this cookbook for your valentine. They’re sure to be impressed by these complex flavors. With recipes that seem like childhood dreams come true, the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook delivers unexpected delights to please the one you’re courting.

Christina Tosi’s Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookies. Courtesy of Hungry Eyes
This is the perfect cookbook for the chef with a sweet tooth, and for a baker who is not even a little bit afraid to use butter to all of its magnificent potential. It’s also perfect for anyone who loves cereal – Tosi does amazing things with Fruity Pebbles and has a recipe for Cinnamon Toast Crunch that will make you wonder why you ever bother going to the supermarket for it.

Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine

by Mark Oldman

Walking into a wine store, or even just the wine section at Central Market, can be intimidating on the average day, but Valentine’s Day? That’s a high pressure shopping situation. Which is why we love Mark Oldman‘s Brave New World of Wine. Each chapter examines a different wine, everything from Chardonnay to Aglianico to Bargain Bordeaux, with helpful charts and tips. Oldman breaks down the flavors, price, food pairings, his own picks, recommendations for similar wines, and more. Comprehensive and well organized, this book will guide you through what Oldman calls “The Golden Age of Wine Choice” and it will do it in layman’s terms without a sniff of pretension. This book is perfect for any wine connoisseur, from amateur to experienced. Oldman packs a lot of info into these pages. Amateurs will find a trustworthy guide in Oldman, while the more experienced set may likely learn a thing or two they didn’t already know.
Yes, Chef: A Memoir

by Marcus Samuelsson

This recommendation comes from Kathleen, one of our booksellers here who is a huge fan of Marcus Samuelsson:

“I’ll admit it: I love reading about people who have incredible life stories. So when I started to read Yes, Chef, I was hooked. He was born in Ethiopia, raise in Sweden, now he’s the owner and chef of a successful restaurant in Harlem! How did he make this happen? With burning ambition and hard work. Samuelsson trained in Sweden and in European restaurants, on cruise ships and finally ended up cooking in New York restaurants; he kept working until he owned his own restaurant. Always “chasing flavors” and striving to be the best, Samuelsson is very honest when writing about his life. He admits his mistakes and failures. But what comes through most clearly from Samuelsson’s story is his intense love of people and his belief that cooking amazing food from around the world can bring people together.” This memoir is the perfect gift for someone who, like Kathleen, has been following Samuelsson’s career. It’s also a terrific read for a foodie who enjoys the behind-the-scenes stories of how restaurants are made and how great chefs come into their talents. We recommend pairing it with one of Samuelsson’s cookbooks. We’re particularly fond of New American Table.
  *Cookbook reviews written by Julie Wernersbach and Grace Lawrie.