By Heston Blumenthal
Bloomsbury, 416 pages, $160
Heston Blumenthal, one of the world's most innovative and revered chefs, offers the year's handsomest cookbook, a bizarre and satisfying (and very difficult) tribute to the history of British food. Reinventing recipes from the medieval ages on, Historic Heston is as much cultural history as cookbook. And it's unforgettable as both, packed with fascinating facts and oddities, unusual and striking illustrations, and some of the most stunning food photography you've ever seen.
Schiller's Liquor Bar Cocktail Collection
By Keith McNally
Clarkson Potter, four volumes totalling 384 pages, $22.95
There's something to be said for simple. This season, you can buy countless cocktail books, at least one of which boasts recipes so needlessly elaborate that they sometimes require plates. But what if you just want to know how to make the perfect gin martini (or, as it should be called, "a martini")? What if you need to mull some wine for your co-workers? This pleasingly small and slipcased collection of four volumes – Classic Cocktails, Artisanal Updates, Seasonal Drinks and The Bartender's Handbook – has you covered in style.
Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand
By Andy Ricker
Ten Speed, 304 pages, $40
Andy Ricker's Pok Pok restaurants in Portland, Ore., (and now Brooklyn, naturally) are insanely popular for a reason: The food is brilliant. With this, his ebullient first book, Ricker manages to preserve the magic, elegantly translating his unexpected vision of Thai culinary traditions to the printed page. It's worth the price of admission for just one single recipe, which will produce the best chicken wings you've ever tasted. (The secret? Fish sauce.)
Manresa: An Edible Reflection
By David Kinch
Ten Speed, 336 pages, $57
For the philosophically-minded chef comes this much anticipated book by David Kinch, proprietor of the Northern California cult favourite restaurant Manresa. It's a moody and atmospheric tour of the restaurant's vegetable- and fruit-focused cuisine, laced with Kinch's charming frankness. "Writing recipes is no fun," he notes. But this book is.
Classico e Moderno: Essential Italian Cooking
By Michael White
Ballantine, 448 pages, $55
Michael White, one of the most respected non-Italian Italian chefs on Earth, delivers the year's essential guide to that country's food. It's pleasingly simple in structure: The Classico portion brings sturdy interpretations of the staples; the Moderno portion houses new ideas inspired by those same foundational principles. Featuring a foreword by Thomas Keller, he of The French Laundry and Ad Hoc, a man who knows how to cook, and how to make a cookbook.