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Let me say at the outset that it has been a very good year for cookbooks. Happily, I’ve been able to show off a number of them in the pages of H&H's Food News. But this one has stolen my heart and it would make a beautiful gift for the serious food lover on your list.

Photo Best Cookbook Of The Year Ad Hoc At Home

Ad Hoc At Home by Thomas Keller (2009 Artisan). Keller is somewhat of a cookbook hotshot, having produced one of the most demanding (but outstanding) cookbooks out there, The French Laundry Cookbook (1999 Artisan). Not to worry, this book is far more approachable. This is Keller’s version of home cooking (seen through the grease-stained rose-coloured glasses of a successful restaurant chef).

Photo Best Cookbook Of The Year Ad Hoc At Home Pages 1

In his captivating introduction, Keller writes that “when we eat together, when we set out to do so deliberately, life is better, no matter your circumstances.” (Sigh — I even welled up a bit!). Between this motivational pep talk, the book’s luscious images, clever graphics and clearly-written recipes, Ad Hoc At Home does everything but take you by the hand and lead you to the stove.

Photo Best Cookbook Of The Year Ad Hoc At Home Pages 3

And wowzers, it’s going to be delicious. I love his ideas for salads, his soups and his braises. I love the “lightbulb moments” offering really helpful tips and tricks. And I love the playfulness and personality of the book — you can just tell that this one really comes from the heart.

Thomas Keller will be in Toronto on Monday November 30th, 2009! Contact The Cookbook Store for details and tickets, (416) 920-2665.

Honourable Mentions

Photo Best Cookbook Of The Year A Year In Lucy's Kitchen

A Year in Lucy’s Kitchen by Lucy Waverman (2009 Random House Canada). It’s no secret that I’m a friend and fan of Lucy’s (as well as an alumna of her test kitchen), but this book is one of her best ever. Check the H&H website for a few of the recipes.

Photo Best Cookbook Of The Year Tender

Tender by Nigel Slater (2009 Harper Collins Canada). As much a read-in-bed book as a cookbook, Tender tells of British uber-chef Slater’s love affair with growing and cooking his own vegetables. Gorgeous and delicious and wise.

Photo Best Cookbook Of The Year Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart’s Dinner At Home (2009 Clarkson Potter). Say what you will about Martha, but while browsing through this new one, I must have flagged about 10 different menus that I wanted to try. It’s packed with great ideas for weeknight meals and gorgeous photos to boot.

Photo credits:
1. Ad Hoc At Home by Thomas Keller (2009 Artisan)
2-3. Eat Me Daily, photography by Paula Forbes
4. A Year in Lucy’s Kitchen by Lucy Waverman (2009 Random House Canada)
5. Tender by Nigel Slater (2009 Harper Collins Canada)
6. Martha Stewart’s Dinner At Home by Martha Stewart (2009 Clarkson Potter)

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