amuse-bouche (uh-MYUZ-boosh) noun
Similar to but not to be confused with hors d’oeuvre. This is a tidbit, often tiny, served as a free extra to keep you happy while you are waiting for your first course to come. It gives you an idea of the chef’s approach to cooking and the restaurant’s attention to your appetite.
A few days ago, an article by Julia Moskin appeared in the NY Times with the title Are Cookbooks Obsolete? It delineates some very exciting developments in the world of culinary apps, which entice us with their interactive graphics and overall user-friendliness. But we still think that books, particularly those that go beyond the recipe compendium and do what Kristiana describes in When Cookbook Goes To College, will continue to occupy a special place in our homes, not necessarily as indispensable kitchen tools, but definitely as objects of affection or fascination.
Though in very different parts of the country, the following stores are exceptionally stocked in both out-of-print and contemporary culinary gems, including cookbooks by artists and other artful publications. In fact, these stores specialize in all matters of food: chef (and vegetable) biographies, fiction and poetry inspired by food, tracts by great food writers such as M.F.K. Fisher, University Press esoterica, and easy digestible recipe collections. In other words, these stores are a treasure trove not only for the chef but also for the writer, artist, or artisan who is seeking visual or olfactory inspiration.Their proprietors are often found on duty in their respective stores, with the occasional exception of KAAL,which has several employees who knowledgeably man the store-and they’ll gladly answer your questions or recommend good local eats.
Omnivore Books in San Fransisco has only been around since 2008 but its catalog of over 2500 books is worthy of its hometown cred as a food mecca. Its owner, Celia Sack, has become a beloved and trusted voice on food publishing and cookbook collecting in the Bay area and beyond. Last month, The Omnivore’s Recipe Keeper: A Treasury for Favorite Meals and Kitchen Resources, was released by Ten Speed press.
Kitchen Arts and Letters is New York City’s go-to bookstore for food professionals and home cooks alike. It’s been around for over 25 years and boasts a whopping 13,000 titles that range from glossy new releases by celebrity chefs to antique treatises on food chemistry. You can get a sense of the owner’s Nach Waxman’s knowledge -and love– of food writing through this CHOW interview.
Seattle’s first culinary bookstore just opened this month! The Book Larder describes itself as a community cookbook store and its calendar is already filled with an impressive list of events-Christina Tosi, Stephanie Izard and Lynn Rosetto Kaspar are all appearing in the month of Novermber alone. Not so suprising, considering that the woman behind the Book Larder is Lara Hamilton, also current owner of Kim Ricket’s Book Events and previously responsible for the same company’s Cooks and Books series.
Finally, if you find yourself in Portland, ME you must stop by Rabelais, the small but mighty bookstore that inspired Celia Sack to open Omnivore Books. Rabelais carries a large number of vintage and new books, and you can browse or search their catalogue online. Samantha and Don Lindgren, the owners, recently announced their plans to move from downtown Portland to nearby Biddeford so stay updated on moving dates and details through Rumblings, the bookstore blog. For now and at least through the holidays, you can find Rabelais at the address below.Omnivore Books on Food 3885a Cesar Chavez Street (at Church Street), San Francisco, CA 415.282.4712 Kitchen Arts and Letters 1435 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 212.876.5550 The Book Larder 4252 Fremont Avenue, Seattle, WA 206.397.4271 Rabelais 86 Middle Street, Portland, Maine 207.774.1044