Anatomy of a Dinner Party: a day in the life of a hospitalityaholic

Cookbook Reviews!

Written by Patti on December 1st, 2011

Good Morning Darlings!

I get a lot of cookbooks. I love cookbooks. It is time to review all those cookbooks recently sent to me.

Starting with appetizers and moving down through desserts, let’s get started.

750 Best Appetizers by Judith Finalyson & Jordan Wagman is quite the paean to the small nibble. I think it is a great resource this holiday season when you are stumped with what to offer party guests. There are cocktail recipes and even first courses for dinner. Not as comprehensive as Martha’s Hors D’oeuvres Bible, but then again, you will not be up all night filling cucumber cups with who-knows-what. We need our beauty sleep, you know!

Moving on to main courses, we have 4 offerings.

The Bonne Femme Cookbook is a swanky hardcover filled with lovely french recipes that seem relatively easy and yummy. And all the French women are cooking these dishes. That’s enough for me! Poulet Bijoutiere, Bouillabaisse Ce Soir and Tartine Aux Tomates et au Fromage Bleu are some of the wonderful sounding recipes. Do I know what any of those mean? Well, no, but I sure like how they sound. My only wish for this book? Photographs – I like to look at lovely food pictures. But I think I will be using this book frequently.

Around The Table by Ellen Wright has lots of simple recipes that really appeal to me in this cold weather. And there are menus for occasions. I’m a sucker for a cookbook that has the menu all laid out for me. Less thinking that way. For instance, Ellen’s New Year’s Eve menu looks like this:

Galette with Gorgonzola and Cherry Tomatoes
Pam’s Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish Sauce
Marjoram Onions
Boston Lettuce with Asian Dressing
Crispy Baked Potatoes with Caviar
Crunchy Pecan Pie

Honey, get the car, we’re going to Ellen’s for New Year’s Eve! Wouldn’t she be surprised to see this total stranger at her door on December 31st? Of course, I would bring a hostess gift, but still…

Ellen also has lots of pretty pictures. Thanks, Ellen!

One of my favorites of this collection is The Italian Table by Ron Suhanosky. Hardcover books feel so luxurious and this is no exception. Plus, the recipes are divine. Filled with luscious recipes for Italian dishes mixed with family stories, this book totally charmed me. The book is divided into the amount of people you will be serving, from 4 to 6, all the way to recipes for galas of 18 to 20. This will be my go-to over and over again. My only problem – I hate to get sauce on the pages, it’s so pretty!

Love Korean food? Are you even familiar with Korean food besides kimchee? Me, either. Debbie Lee’s Seoultown Kitchen is a good looking publication with the emphasis on Korean Pub Grub. I don’t normally associate Korea with pubs, but I’m going with it. And Debbie talks pork – how can I not love that about her? There is a lot of great content here and come 2012 I could see myself experimenting with her exotic recipes. A trip to Super H is in order. I’ll let you know how it all works out. Or you could buy the book and tell me.

Time for dessert!

Paul.A.Young wrote Adventures With Chocolate and it seems to be a chef’s darling. Nigella Lawson calls it, “an inspiration.” And who the heck am I to argue with Nigella? But to be truthful, even though it has a lot of pretty pictures, the ingredients made this small town girl giggle. Javanese 40% chocolate? 64% dark chocolate from the Dominican Republic? Venezuelan 100% dark chocolate? Muscovado? What the heck is Muscavado? All these ‘where-do-I-find-that’ things made me feel intimidated. Who is Paul.A.Young writing this for? Not me. Although I have to admit that the recipes do sound so good that I would make them, but substitute Hershey’s bittersweet. Which may make Paul.A.Young hunt me down and wallop me with a spatula crafted from Ukrainian ore by imported nuns from Tibet. Or something. Buy this one for your highbrow friends who will be wildly impressed.

Everyone loves cookies. At least here in the USA. It would be un-American not to like cookies. The Art of the Cookie by Shelly Kaldunski is sleek, shiny fun for those with lots of time, or an interest in making detailed treats. Most of these cookies recipes are for people who love to create, as opposed to just baking. There are two whole pages dedicated to working with a paper cone. Um…ok. I sure love the photos, though. The Modern Classics section had me drooling, with a recipe for Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Clouds that I am sure to make after my Christmas Party (I have go to fit into that dress, y’all!) Will I give them as gifts? Oh, no – I plan to eat them all myself. I might share one with Eric. I said might. I love the last instruction for these treats: ‘Store the cookies, in a single layer, in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.’ Shelly, honey, these are not going to last 4 minutes at my house. Seriously.

Continuing the trend of cookies as art, Julia M. Usher’s Ultimate Cookies, is our last book. I was going to use this softcover book to bake with Morgan, my good friend Johnny P’s daughter, but dang, it’s all royal icing and cookies shaped like boats, purses and baskets filled with sugar roses. What? This was not written for me, or Morgan, for that matter. I envisioned her and I covered in flour, giggling while baking chocolate chip cookies or gingerbread men. You can tell I have no children. I’m sure the moms of the world are rolling their eyes at me right now. Do you have a friend or family member that has every one of those Wilton decorating gew gaws? This is for them. They will lose their mind over this book filled with the most intricate confections that everyone will ooh and aah over. I would be thrilled to receive any of these cookies. You just won’t see me baking them. But I sure love the pictures.

Buy some books for Christmas. Kids can practice their reading and might end up cooking dinner and baking some fancy cookies. That can’t be a bad thing.

xoxo, Patti

Today blogging to Lauryn Hill – Doo Wop (That Thing)


3 Comments so far ↓

  1. Patti says:


    Me, too! I love the Italian Table!


  2. Thank you so much for including my book on your list! I’m touched.

    True, my book doesn’t have photos, but it does have darling four-color drawings by the wonderful illustrator Nishan Akgulian.

    If you want to see some photos of my recipes to whet the appetite, go to

    And thank you again for including my book. I’m in good company on this list!

  3. Patti says:

    Hi Wini!

    Thanks for adding the link. I love your cookbook and will be using it frequently. Everything sounds so luscious and elegant.

    I love it!