This series of anthologies is a perennial favorite at PopMatters. The 2009 editions of The Best American… Travel / Science / Short Stories / Mystery Stories / Science and Nature / Comics / Sports / Essays and the playfully titled Nonrequired Reading (excerpts from current works by authors such as Philip Connors, Nathan Englander, Denis Johnson and others, ed. by Dave Eggers and Marjane Satrapi) are brilliantly curated collections. The reputable series’ editors and guest editors (who are leading writers in the field) are sharp readers who cast their net widely then pull it in slowly to capture the finest representation of essays and stories for the pleasure and edification of the discerning generalist. Between these pages you’re likely to find an article from, say, The New Yorker that you were absorbed in earlier in the year, but you’ll be happy to find the quality pieces you missed—that the editors didn’t. See the list of the entire series here on Amazon.
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The shelves of Borders, Barnes and Noble, Waterstones, Chapters and the virtual ones of Amazon are stocked to the gills with cookbooks of every stripe and persuasion. Honestly, it can be quite overwhelming, even for the foodie. The greatest thing about Gourmet Today is the focus on pure fundamentals from drinks and appetizers through to main courses and desserts. This book doesn’t feature gimmicks or high tech wizardry, it focuses on the classics in a modern context. So you can learn to concoct the perfect Gin Rickey before serving up a beautiful Wiener Schnitzel (as I did recently) or crawfish etouffee for dinner and bangers and mash for breakfast. It has many world cuisine classics and it’s perfectly edited to provide the real cook with practical information about what she needs in her repertoire. These are all easily achievable recipes for the home cook with a good sense of flavor and taste. Better yet, buy the book and you can also get a free one-year subscription to the highly regarded Bon Appetit magazine. Now that makes for a good gift that’s quite unlike so many others.
Know someone who joined their local wine club and eagerly awaits their monthly wine? Someone who can’t leave Trader Joe’s / Costco / Wal-Mart you name it without at least three to four bottles that are right in their price range and tells you how this one will be perfect with tonight’s fish/pasta/roast? That’s who this game is for. That someone probably always enjoyed wine, but is really getting into it at this stage in their life, and geeks out on new discoveries and insists her/his guests swirl, inhale, sip, hold, swallow—then tell her if you don’t taste leather and tobacco in that zinfandel! Yes, leather! Isn’t that cool? This is trivial pursuit on all things vino; winemaking, grape variety, storage, cooking and pairing, and the business, as well as the pleasure, of the wine industry. Like the amateur athlete, your wine drinker’s passion for her sport will be challenged and rewarded. ‘What white wine grape excels in the cool climates of Germany and makes famous botrytized wines?’ Best answered after a swirl, inhale, sip, hold for a moment—let every tastebud have its chance—now swallow. It may be ‘Wine Wars’, but we can be quite friendly about it. More so as the evening wears on.
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