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Cook to Impress

In these five fresh cookbooks, Northern California culinary artists highlight unexpected ingredients and elevate old favorites.


Peden + Munk

A New Napa Cuisine

By Christopher Kostow

Christopher Kostow, the three-Michelin-starred chef at Napa’s The Restaurant at Meadowood, says his debut cookbook is, “a distillation of the challenges, triumphs, and discoveries that keep me running up to the steps of the kitchen every day.” This sleek volume with dramatic photographs turns regular foodstuff into artistic wonders. Kostow intersperses personal history with detailed instructions, unveiling the town’s hidden settings, artisans, and farmers along the way.

Quick fix: Brie set in flax with elderberry honey. Simple yet transcendent.

Work of art: Chocolate cherry tart. Don’t let the three-little-word description of this dessert fool you. It’s fine art.


Paige Green/Courtesy of Ten Speed Press

Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern Flavors Remixed

By Bryant Terry

Oakland chef-author Bryant Terry takes a zesty approach to healthy eating using traditional African and Caribbean ingredients, from okra to ambrosia. Chapter one turns up the heat with berbere seasoning and za’atar. Each fiery recipe features a soundtrack, plus a book or film to complement every farm-fresh mouthful. Make an evening out of each page.

Happy hour: Spicy red summer cocktails go with Herbie Hancock’s “Riot.”

Invite your friends: Summer vegetable and tofu kebabs with pomegranate-peach barbecue sauce.


Jody Horton/Courtesy of Chronicle Books

Brown Sugar Kitchen: New-Style, Down-Home Recipes From Sweet West Oakland

By Tanya Holland

Tanya Holland is reinvigorating both Southern cooking and West Oakland, home to her Brown Sugar Kitchen restaurant. She regales readers with modern versions of traditional soul food—comfort food with a kick. Holland may be best known for her chicken and waffles, but also try the fried oyster po’boy and bourbon-hazelnut truffles.

Meat-free surprise: B-Side BBQ braised smoked tofu with roasted eggplant.

Best-dressed dessert: Caramel layer cake with brown butter-caramel frosting. Simply decadent.



Sara Remington/courtesy of Andrews McMeel Publishing

Blue Chair Cooks With Jam and Marmalade

By Rachel Saunders

Blue Chair Fruit’s Rachel Saunders believes jams and marmalades have a place in any meal, anytime. Oakland-based Saunders presents dishes like beet soup with plums and coriander yogurt that celebrate the marriage of sweet and savory. Use her suggestions for morning, afternoon, and evening to plan your next gathering.

Impress your in-laws: Black fig and cacao nib Belgian waffle at brunch. Add the raspberry sloe gin fizz if you have fun in-laws.

Hidden ingredient: Sneak jam into dinner: Brandi’s ricotta gnocchi with kale and butternut squash features a puréed jam sauce.



Erin Gleeson

The Forest Feast: Simple Vegetarian Recipes From My Cabin in the Woods

By Erin Gleeson

Erin Gleeson brings us the sweetest, prettiest slices of life from her cabin in Woodside, where she works as a writer and illustrator. Inspired by Northern California’s fresh ingredients, Gleeson lays out dishes that catch the eye, make the mouth water, and turn prep work into a pleasure. Recipes such as vibrant watermelon radish salad and baked kale egg cups will have guests calling for an encore.

Quick fix: Asparagus pastry straws at your party will have everyone thinking you’re incredibly creative.

Best excuse for fancy glassware: Chocolate ricotta mousse cups. Make ahead, and serve in champagne glasses.

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