Books to Devour Gifts that'll give 'em something to sink their teeth into

December 09, 1998|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,Sun Food Editor

There is nothing like receiving a new cookbook - even if you never cook from it.

Full of tempting recipes, helpful how-to's and mouthwatering photos, new cookbooks offer countless ideas for new dishes to whip up in the kitchen. At other times, they take the reader on vicarious journeys into a world of cooking that might never show up on the dinner table.

Either way, cookbooks make wonderful holiday gifts. But choosing the right one can be daunting.

You could head straight for the best sellers, like "Emeril's TV Dinners," by Emeril Lagasse, Marcelle Bienvenue, Felicia Willett and Brian Smale; "The Pie and Pastry Bible," by Rose Levy Beranbaum; and "Ducasse: Flavors of France," by Alain Ducasse and Linda Dannenberg.

Or you could turn to a treasure-trove of tried-and-trues. You won't go wrong with the updated "The New Joy of Cooking" by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker, or Maida Heatter's "Great American Desserts."

Still, the possibilities are endless. We decided to ask several food folks around town which cookbooks or food sources they savor - and which, in turn, might please the cooks on your list.

Cindy Wolf, executive chef and owner of Charleston in the East Harbor area

"My thing on cookbooks is they have to have great pictures. It really expresses what the person is trying to tell you about," Wolf says. "My favorite is 'The Way to Cook' (Knopf, 1993) by Julia Child. She has a lot of instructions and pictures in it. It's a great source of reference for me."

The 34-year-old chef also recommends cookbooks by Joel Robuchon, whom some call one of the finest French chefs of the century. She particularly likes the recent "L'Atelier of Chef Robuchon" (Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1998). "It is beautiful," she says. "It has some of his classic recipes."

Mary Fox, owner of A Cook's Table, 717 Light St., Federal Hill

As proprietor of this eclectic kitchenwares shop that offers cooking classes, Fox says one of her top cookbooks is Deborah Madison's "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" (Broadway Books, 1997).

"I'm not even a vegetarian," she says. "But I love the variety of vegetable dishes."

She adds that if she were ever stranded on a desert island, though, she'd want to have Julia Child's "The Way to Cook" with her. "It's an everyday cookbook for advanced cooks."

She says that beginning cooks would appreciate "How to Cook Everything" (Macmillan, 1998) by Mark Bittman.

Michael Gettier, owner and chef of M. Gettier's Orchard Inn in Towson

Gettier is a fan of Joel Robuchon. He gushes over "Simply French: Patricia Wells Presents the Cuisine of Joel Robuchon" (William Morrow and Co., 1991).

"It's such a stunning book. He's arguably the best chef alive today," Gettier says. "It's probably within the top three of my favorite cookbooks. His love of food is so apparent."

He also speaks highly of the newest Robuchon book, "L'Atelier." "In terms of cookbooks, these are as good as it gets."

Monica Dorsey-Smith, president of the Maryland Dietetic Association

At last count, Dorsey-Smith, who has been a dietitian since 1975, has about two dozen cookbooks in her collection.

While the Pikesville resident said she doesn't have a particular favorite, she often relies on "Joy of Cooking" (Simon & Schuster, 1975) and two books published by Reader's Digest: "The How-to Book of Healthy Cooking" (1996) and "The Live Longer Cookbook" (1993, out of print but www.amazon.com will search used-book stores for it).

Boog Powell, former Oriole first baseman who has staged a major hit at the Camden Yards pit-beef operation that bears his name

When asked about his favorite cookbook, this griller-extraordinaire, who winters in Florida, hesitates for just a minute before deciding, "It all depends. My favorite cookbook depends on what mood I'm in. If I feel like New Orleans, then I pull out Paul Prudhomme's 'Louisiana Kitchen' " (William Morrow & Co., 1984).

But, on reflection, he concludes that the book he wouldn't want to cook without is an older James Beard tome, "Treasury of Outdoor Cooking" (1983, out of print but www.amazon.com will search used-book stores for it). "That is the bible as far as I'm concerned when it comes to barbecuing," he says.

Of course, there are those days he craves comfort food and heads to a familiar name. "Every now and then, I get cranked up for a chicken potpie and look to Betty Crocker for that."

Donna Crivello, co-owner of Donna's coffee bars who also teaches cooking classes

Julia Child ranks high on Crivello's cookbook list. "I learned to cook from some of the original Julia Child cookbooks," she says, citing "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" (Random House, 1979) in particular. Like many chefs, she is a fan of Child's "The Way to Cook."

But she also relies on various Italian cookbooks for technique and reference, including the "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" by Marcella Hazan (Knopf, 1992).

Gloria Gadsden, culinary student and caterer

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