With world-class restaurants on virtually every corner, it’s no surprise that Chicagoans like to dish up top-notch nosh at home too. Now there’s a new foodie bookstore to cater to their discerning palates. Located on the hip Halsted Street shopping corridor in Lincoln Park, Read It & Eat carries everything from well-known encyclopedic reference cookbooks to collections of regional specialties like southern soul food, to books on the latest dietary trends. With 4,000 titles, the selection is vast, yet it’s clear they’ve been carefully curated to include something for everyone. In addition, a stylish state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen hosts weekly cooking classes, author appearances and a monthly cookbook club.
Owner Esther Dairiam says books highlighting alternative dietary lifestyles, including gluten-free, paleo, raw food, kosher, and organic, are among the most popular. A former management consultant, opening the bookstore helped satisfy Dairiam’s appetite for a lifestyle shift from the corporate one she was living. “I went on a culinary tour to Paris in 2012 and one of the places that we visited on that tour was a culinary bookstore,” says Dairiam. “That store was the source of inspiration of this store.” Two years later, after extensive market research and financial planning, Read It & Eat opened its doors.
With the holiday season upon us, Dairiam savors the opportunity to help her customers find just the right book for every hostess or home cook on their list. Here are some of her top picks for everyone from the vegan to the barbecue master. Bon appétit!
“What to Bake and How to Bake It“
This quintessential step-by-step cookbook is perfect for beginner bakers. More than 500 photos accompany the recipes for everything from the classic Jelly Roll, to Christmas Stollen, Red Velvet Whoopie Pies and melt-in-your-mouth macaroons.
“The Vegetarian’s Bible”
Touting the benefits of a plant-based diet, this botanical beauty of a book features everything from quinoa salads to mushroom burgers, and a whole section on smoothies. Exotic recipes like zucchini pasta with seaweed make this a perfect pick for the adventurous vegetarian on your list.
“Betty Goes Vegan”
Annie & Dan Shannon
(Grand Central Life & Style)
About 6 percent of the country has gone vegan, whether for animal welfare concerns or just to reap the health benefits. “Betty Goes Vegan” puts a modern spin on the Betty Crocker cookbook, cranking out comfort food classics replicated for vegans. Corned Beefless Brisket, Tempeh Tacos, Vegan Bacon Cheese Meat Loaf … the mouth-watering recipes will leave you wondering if the dairy-free, meat-free labels are a mistake.
“The Swedish Christmas Table”
Jens Linder and Johanna Westman
Winter nights are long in Sweden. “The Swedish Christmas Table” is overflowing with ideas to make the most of staying inside. From glog parties to traditional Swedish crafts and recipes, you’ll be glad you have an excuse to curl up and enjoy this beautiful book.
“Mallmann On Fire”
Move over, hot dog … goodbye, burger. Make room for Split Lobster with Scallops, Coal-Roasted Zucchini and Swiss Chard, and Burnt Peaches and Figs with Amaretto, Lemon Zest and Mint. Got a griller on your holiday list? Light their fire with this extensive collection of grillable culinary.
(Ten Speed Press)
The James Beard Award-winning pastry chef and owner of Chicago’s Bucktown café Hot Chocolate is so passionate about cookies that she published a whole book about them. Her first cookbook, “Cookie Love,” features 60 irresistible cookie recipes.
“Thailand: The Cookbook”
Jean Pierre Gabriel
Read It & Eat’s food travel and ethnic specialty book section spans the globe from Spain to sushi to Soviet cooking. One of Dairiam’s favorites is “Thailand: the Cookbook,” which takes readers on a culinary tour of the country. It’s filled with full-page color photos of the people, flavors and sites that have made Thai cooking a new favorite with so many Westerners.
“The New Midwestern Table: 200 Heartland Recipes”
(Clarkson Potter Publishers)
Looking for a great hostess gift as you head out of town for the holidays? Bring along the flavors of the Heartland with this cookbook. Andrew Zimmern, three-time James Beard award-winning chef and host of the Travel Channel’s hit series “Bizarre Foods,” describes it as “über-cool grandma meets modernist-craftsman gastronaut, a book that dances on a wire with one foot in the twenty-first century and the other in the nineteenth.”
Read It & Eat has a whole section dedicated to the latest trend … the gluten-free diet. Flourless teaches you how to make decadent desserts using non-wheat flours like heavenly angel food cake made with corn starch and chocolate cookies that rely on egg whites. Who knew a dietary restriction could be so sweet?
Wine, Beer and Cocktails
(Barron’s Education Series)
McFarland’s “Boutique Beer” takes readers on a fascinating and funny world tour of beers and beer makers. McFarland may well be the king of beers. He’s been named Best Beer Writer of the Year three times by the British Beer Guild of Beer Writers — the first time in 2004, as the youngest ever recipient.
Read It & Eat
2142 N. Halsted St.
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