Give the Gift of Cookbooks

Whether your friends and family have been naughty or nice this year, everyone's gotta eat. Good food and drink is something that can bond us all, especially when said food and drink are derived from some of Chicago's top restaurants and bars. This year has been an especially good year for chef-driven cookbooks too, which make for stellar Christmas gift ideas. Here are some of the year's top cookbooks you should be giving to food-loving friends (and/or hoarding for yourself): 


FIG & OLIVE: The Cuisine of the French Riviera. Photos by Harald Gottschalk.

FIG & OLIVE: Famed for their French Riviera-inspired cuisine, FIG & OLIVE marked its 10th anniversary this year with the release of its own cookbook. FIG & OLIVE: The Cuisine of the French Riviera showcases recipes inspired by the cuisine from the founder's native town of Mougins, France,, in collaboration with Assouline publishing house. Renowned for their olive oils and seasonally inspired Mediterranean cookery, FIG & OLIVE's bill of fare is on display in all its lustrous glory in the book, which can be yours for $50. The restaurant first took shape in New York City before expanding successfully to Los Angeles, Chicago, and D.C. Beyond straightforward recipes, the book delves into the multifaceted and dynamic world of the South of France, exploring the colorful cuisine and the stories therein. Readers also get insider tips on olive oil pairing suggestions per dish. With more than 60 recipes features, examples include zucchini carpaccio, whole branzino with rosemary, and green apple and olive oil sorbet. The book is available for purchase here or at FIG & OLIVE locations. 

Southport Grocery & Cafe: Year after year, one of the coolest destinations in Chicago for fun, fresh foodie gifts is Southport Grocery & Cafe. This Lakeview stalwart always impresses with its dizzying online store and its packed pantry of locally sourced, artisanal provisions that run the gamut from bakery mixes and sauces to syrups, preserves, and much more. New this year is a piece of reading material you're going to want to add to your collection. The cafe's very first recipe book, the first edition Preserves Periodical, is a vibrant collection of recipes that utilize the kitchen's preserves. For diehard Southport fans or just those looking to get crafty in the kitchen by using preserves in new ways, the book is the perfect gift. Each recipe features ideas for preserve usage, and the periodical comes with either a three-pack of preserves or the full collection of 10. Items include pickled green tomatoes, preserved lemons, orange marmalade, ramp mustard, strawberry preserves, cranberry-grape sauce, smoked onion marmalade, and more. For more info, visit here

Big Jones: If you've ever dined at Big Jones, you know that this Andersonville staple is much more than a Southern restaurant. Rather, it's a deep, thoughtful dive into the wide, savorous world of Southern heirloom cookery, as presided over by a man who is as much a mindful chef as he is a Southern historian. Paul Fehribach does an impressive job sharing Southern lore and recipes in his first restaurant cookbook, The Big Jones Cookbook, which features a widespread array of recipes that range from sweet and savory to preserved, potable, and beyond. The book is arranged by region, going beyond the standard recipe call of duty with an ample dose of history and heritage with each tempting entry. There's a ton of content packed into this book, divvied into sections like Breads, Inspirations From the Lowcountry, South Louisiana, The Appalachian Highlands, and Kentuckiana. Recipes include chicken and dumplings ca. 1920, boiled peanuts, red velvet cake, Chatham Artillery Punch, five-pepper jelly, skillet cornbread, benne oyster stew, and so much more. To purchase the book, visit here

Tanta: One of the prettiest new cookbooks to hit shelves this year is Peru: The Cookbook by Gaston Acurio. The chef is a bit of a culinary demigod in South America, where he operates numerous restaurants. In the U.S. one of his few entries is Tanta here in Chicago. Anyone who has paid a visit to the River North Peruvian temple knows how vivid, bright, and uniquely flavorful it is, paying apt homage to the country's melting pot cuisine. The book captures that concept and boils it down for the home cook, delivered in one convenient and colorful tome. Acurio provides a nice foreword that dives into his upbringing and his earliest connections to food and cooking, followed by a thorough examination of Peruvian cuisine. Then comes the onslaught of recipes, with enough here to last you the whole year. Chapters include Ceviche; Street Food; Rice, Stir-fries & Taco Tacus; Stews, Chilies & Roasts; Drinks; Desserts & Sweets; and others. Order it here

Spiaggia: One cookbook that would be perfectly apropos for the holiday entertaining season is Wine Bar Food by Tony and Cathy Mantuano, the duo behind Spiaggia, Cafe Spiaggia, and Bar Toma, among others. This will be your bible for holiday parties, as the book features assorted Mediterranean recipes inspired by the likes of Venice, Florence, Milan, Barcelona, Nice, Athens, Lisbon, and beyond. It's all about the multifaceted world of small plates in this handy book, from tapas to cicchetti, featuring Tony Mantuano's masterful touch and tips. For more intel or to place an order, go here

Matt Kirouac