The Triangle is blessed with a plethora of bookstores, both independent and national chains, many of which have excellent cookbook selections.
But my favorite place to browse for cookbooks may surprise you: Parker and Otis, the combination restaurant, coffee house, wine store and gift shop in Durham.
Owner Jennings Brody previously worked for Williams-Sonoma and Fosters Market in Durham and later spent six years selling gourmet food and candy to retailers. In 2007, she opened Parker and Otis, in the former Fowlers Fine Wine and Food Store location on Duke Street.
Its my kind of place: I can get something good to eat and drink and then shop for tasty things to take home to eat and drink later. Of particular interest to me as a mother of a toddler, it also has childrens books, toys and clothes.
But the part of the store where I spend the most time is the cookbook section.
Its not as if I need any more cookbooks. I am overwhelmed by cookbooks; six arrived in the mail as I wrote this column. Right now, more than 100 new cookbooks are on or under my desk. I have cabinets at the office full of cookbooks, both classic tomes and a fairly complete collection of those by local authors. I also have a pretty big personal collection to my husbands dismay, since we live in a 1,236-square-foot house.
But I always find cookbooks at Parker and Otis that I havent seen, that I want to read while sipping a latte, that I want to buy and sneak into the house, hoping my husband wont notice. Brody has a keen eye for cookbooks and the selection reflects the stores philosophy. She explained: This is how I think about the store: me curating everything that I love.
Brody said her customers are looking for cookbooks all along the spectrum. There are shoppers looking for books for beginning cooks. Her suggestions: anything in the Leon series and Keys to the Kitchen: The Essential Reference for Becoming a More Accomplished, Adventurous Cook, by Aida Mollenkamp (Chronicle Books, 2012).
There are chefs and cookbook geeks looking for the latest books from the food worlds superstars, so Brody makes sure to have at least a few copies of Manresa: An Edible Reflection, by David Kinch (Ten Speed Press, 2013) and René Redzepi: A Work in Progress by René Redzepi (Phaidon Press, 2013).
What makes Brody so good at selecting cookbooks is that she so clearly loves them. Her own 1,400-square-foot home is full of them. Its bad, she said.
Instead of a book club, she belongs to a cookbook club with five girlfriends. About once every six weeks, they gather to drink wine and dine on the five or six dishes they have made from one cookbook. Recent selections have included Jamies Food Revolution, by Jamie Oliver (Hyperion, 2011) and Seasonal Recipes from the Garden, by P. Allen Smith (Clarkson Potter, 2011).
Brody doesnt even have to cook from a cookbook to enjoy it. When Chapel Hill chef Bill Smiths Seasoned in the South, was published, Brody said: I got into bed. I read the book. I love that.
Weigl: 919-829-4848 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @andreaweigl