Are you searching for a gift for the hostess in your life? Someone who loves to spend nearly as much time paging through cookbooks as she does cooking from them? Who enjoys hosting beautiful gatherings and often turns to lush, elegant, glossy cookbooks for inspiration?
Here are six pretty (yet useful!) new cookbooks that would make the perfect gift for the elegant hostess. They're the kind of books that are just as likely to be found on a coffee table as they are a kitchen counter.
Every fall there are a handful of cookbooks that combine the practicality of a how-to cooking manual with gorgeous packaging, complete with a luxe cover, saturated photos, and unique layouts. These books are often just as much about their design as they are about getting dinner on the table.
Many, like the ones featured here, both inspire — with their beautiful food and photography — and offer up some delicious recipes for those times when you want to get a little fancy.
- Eataly: Contemporary Italian Recipes by Eataly, $50: This publisher (Phaidon) rules the art book market, so it's no surprise that its cookbooks are just as lavishly produced. This one is a fat (567 pages!), enticing volume with many beautiful photographs and a clean, simple layout. The recipes cover everything from antipasti to dessert and range from classic (panzanella, risotto, focaccia) to more contemporary takes that contain some unexpected ingredients such as ginger and quinoa (Italian purists may be shocked!). My favorite section is the 40-page visual glossary in the back, which is a handy guide to Italian foods and ingredients.
- The Del Posto Cookbook by Mark Landner, $50: The Del Posto Cookbook comes to us with old-school-style packaging, one of the few books that I looked at that had a glossy jacket and only slightly less glossy satin-finished pages. The food is from the world of fine-dining: sophisticated, expensive, and, I'll not kid you, complicated. But, I would argue, also not impossible for an ambitious hostess, especially if she tackles one or two of the recipes and just adds a simple salad and a nice store-bought dessert.
- Ultimate Appetizer Ideabook by Keira and Cole Stipovich, $20: This is a pleasing little book to hold — fat and chubby and packed full of (225!) recipes for simple, achievable appetizers. There's a photo for nearly every recipe, so it's easy to page through and visualize a killer cocktail party. It's got recipes for simple things like roasted nuts, as well as more complicated bites like mini-fruit pies and tiny crab cakes. This book has some really terrific ideas that work for every occasion (think: an impromptu glass of wine or a throw-all-the-doors-open holiday bash).
- Far Afield by Shane Mitchell, $40: At first I approached this book more as a beautiful travelogue-slash-photo essay than I did as a cookbook. Every turn of the page presented a stunning photograph from such amazing places as India, Kenya, Mexico, Peru, and Japan. And the stories about the people and the food that was raised, foraged, hunted, and prepared were equally compelling. But soon I was just as lost in the recipes: Rhubarb and Prune Jam from remote Iceland; Spicy Goat Stew from India; a Bolivian soup made from a tough old stewing hen, potatoes, chiles, lime, and herbs. Bottom line: Come for the photography and stories, but stay for the recipes.
- French Country Cooking by Mimi Thorisson, $40: Mimi Thorisson is the hostess of our times. Beautiful, talented, and surrounded by a bustle of children, dogs, and the abundant French countryside, she could easily inspire envy amongst those of us less blessed. But somehow she doesn't. While her lifestyle may seem way out of reach, she still offers beautiful, delicious food that's quite attainable. I might not live in a chateau in the Medoc, but I can still cook up a satisfying Gratin Dauphinois or her simple Everyday Pear Cake.
- The Forest Feast Gatherings by Erin Gleeson, $35: Maybe your hostess friend is down to earth and relaxed — less French chateau and more A-Frame in the woods. Maybe she's even vegetarian! If so, any book by Erin Gleeson would be good, but her latest, which centers around meals for gatherings and parties, is a perfect fit. Each page is a lovely collage of richly hued photographs and hand-painted lettering, offering lots of inspiration and practical recipes for bringing friends and family together. Hang some sparkling lights, don a maxi-dress, and pass the Avocado-Tahini Crostini!