Travel from Home: Best International Cookbooks

It’s hard to believe one year has passed since our last trip abroad.  Our last trip was to the Alsace region in France. In many ways it seems as if it’s been much longer. The slow vaccine rollout is not helping my wanderlust. Last week, I found myself reading a cookbook aloud to district myself from the bitter cold while we were without heat. At some point, I realized that Francois Perret, the lead pastry chef at the Ritz Paris had a book. And now? I am down the rabbit hole to find the best international cookbooks to satisfy my wanderlust.

NOTE:  This post is going to be a work in progress as I make way through cookbooks from destinations we love. It is not meant to be an all-encompassing list of all the best international cookbooks or destinations.  It’s meant to be an introduction to places where we’ve spent the most time. 

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links for tours and products I love at no additional cost to you.  You can read my full disclosure policy here.

We are constantly debating whether France or Italy offers the most delicious cuisine, so I’m starting with these two countries. Obviously, there is a wide world of chefs, cuisines, and countries that we will continue to explore. I just need a bit more bookshelf space to do it.

Food tours and cooking classes are two of my favorite things to do while traveling. Not only do you enjoy a memorable meal, but you also have a long-lasting souvenir. It’s a win-win situation. We regularly order from a Tuscan winery that we love. Every time we go to Paris, we stop in a gourmet food shop for olive oil and white balsamic vinegar to bring home. In 2020, I gifted food boxes from Coral at the Curious Appetite.

Food is a huge part of our travel experiences. How can you keep up with the culinary delights of travel when we’re mostly stuck at home and within our own borders?  For me, inspiration is coming from these beautiful cookbooks. 

I’m just a simple home cook but trying some of these recipes will be one of my 2021 projects.  I hope you’ll stick around or try some of these recipes with me.     

Journey of Doing - Click here for a few ideas & reviews on the best international cookbooks that will whet your appetite until we can travel again!
Florence Foods of the World // How to Eataly // Rome Foods of the World // French Pastry by the Ritz Paris // Pierre Herme Macarons

Best Cookbooks for Learning More about Italian Cuisine

How to Eataly

Eataly opened a location in Dallas in December 2020. Not only is a fully-stocked grocery store, but it also features multiple restaurants and a cooking school. After spending a few weeks on their mailing list, I purchased How to Eataly as a gift for Valentine’s Day.

This book is more than a guide to their store, though it offers insight to what you will find. It is a guide to better understanding the origins of different Italian foods. It offers great insight into different regions in Italy – and what foods to try. Moreover, the book provides recipes that can be adapted for home cooking with a focus on using local ingredients. This book is beautiful and makes a great gift for the Italophile in your life.  While I’m not advocating that you eat at Italy when in Rome or Florence, it is helpful to learn more about the regional cuisines while we are at home.  If you’re looking for tasty souvenirs to bring home, Eataly might be a great option.  

We are looking forward to having these cooking classes at our fingertips as the world heals. In the meantime, I recommend following along with Cagle Cooks, a food writer who also works at Eataly in Los Angeles. Sara also offers online pasta-making classes.

Florence: Authentic Recipes & Culinary Traditions

Thanks to Amazon, I can see that I purchased this Florence cookbook on June 22, 2006 – two years after I returned from studying abroad in Florence.  I actually have the entire Foods of the World series because they are so beautiful and so interesting to read. 

Similar to How to Eataly, this cookbook dives into the culinary traditions of Florence and Tuscany.  You’ll find the popular Tuscan recipes including pappa al pomodoro, and other traditional white beans and seasonal specialities.  You’re not just limited to bistecca Fiorentina though.  You’ll find recipes for homemade pasta, including a delicious ravioli that I prepared for Christmas.  (It was also helpful to have tips for improving my pasta dough, as well.)        

This cookbook offers travel tips for dining out in Florence, as well as an extensive glossary of terms that will help you decipher the delightful menus. And, as a bonus, all of this is set alongside beautiful photography in the timeless city of Florence. It makes a perfect coffee table book, if not an informative cookbook.

Make sure to check out Coral’s blog for more on seasonal Florentine dishes and online cooking classes.  When we can travel again, she offers food tours, as well as cocktail tours.  You know where we’ll be.      

Rome: Italian Dishes & Roman History

Similar to the Florence cookbook, I can see that I purchased this Rome cookbook a year later in July 2007. It’s been on my bookshelf ever since. This cookbook focuses on the cuisine of Rome, which is quite different from Florentine cuisine. In both books, you will find delicious recipes for everything from antipasti to primi & secondi courses, side dishes and, of course, dessert.

Some of the traditional Roman recipes include well-known favorites like carbonara, cacio e pepe, and saltimbocca. That said, you won’t find Americanized Italian recipes in these cookbooks. Everything is authentic, utilizing the meats of the region, the vegetables of the season, and the regional specialities, even down to the varietals of wine.

What I love about this cookbook is that it talks about the culinary history of various neighborhoods in Rome. It makes it easy to start planning your next itinerary for Rome, including where to eat or take a food tour on your next trip. It also has a lot of tips for handling foods that you may not know much about cooking at home.  It goes without saying that the photography is beautiful in this book, too.  

For more Rome itinerary ideas:

Christmas in Rome // Best Tours in Rome // Le Meridien Visconti Rome review // Honeymoon in Rome // First Time Guide to Rome // Vatican City Travel Tips // 3 Day Rome itinerary

Best Cookbooks for Learning about French Pastries

French Pastry with the Francois Perret & the Ritz Paris

Journey of Doing - Francois Perett Ritz Pastry cookbook

I’ll admit it.

I was late to the party on French pastries. Croissants in the United States pale in comparison to their French counterparts. While I love picnicking with a baguette, I had never tried a pain et chocolate.  You could say I was a bit skeptical.

That all changed when I took a croissant class in Paris.  I learned more about the art of Viennoiserie pastries, tried my hand at laminated dough, and experienced mouth-watering French pastries.  I’ve never met a boulangerie that didn’t warrant a closer look.

Right before Christmas, I reading about the tradition of the buche de Noel, the traditional French Christmas cake.  The magazine highlighted several of the best places in Paris for the buche de Noel, but Francois Perret’s work of art caught my eye.  A hazelnut sponge cake encased in  delicate chocolate that seemed to defy gravity? 

I was intrigued and took a photo of the page.        

We ended one evening with a nightcap at the Bar Vendome at the Ritz Paris.  Francois’s buche was not on the menu, so I timidly inquired about it to our kind waiter.  He smiled warmly, confirmed the choice, and re-emerged with the most beautiful dessert I’ve ever seen.

We ordered two. 

That evening is one of my fondest memories of that particular trip to Paris.  I started following Francois on instagram, enjoyed his creations in quarantine, and was stunned to learn that he released a cookbook in 2020Avez-vous un livre?! 

Sure enough, I found the English version of French Pastry.  I considered it for a few days and ordered it when I could no longer ignore my curiosity. With limited experience making pastries at home, I figured this could be an interesting projects for 2021. If not, it’s a beautiful book that dives into the pastry menu at the Ritz Paris.

It is not a cookbook for the amateur pastry chef, but is the perfect souvenir from a memorable trip to Paris. You’ll find recipes both sweet and savory for any occasion. Some are relatively simple and should be easy to replicate in a home kitchen.  Others require 24-hour resting period.  My first recipe will likely be the Ritz Paris signature marbled cake, not only because it looks delicious but also because it will be a confidence builder. If a cookbook can be aspirational, Francois Perret’s French Pastry is it.

Post 2020-2021, some of my most enjoyable moments have been in the classes I’ve taken at the Ritz Escoffier cooking school. I’ve written about the one day class in French pastry I’ve taken, but I still need to update you on the weeklong summer class and the Buche de Noel class I took in 2022! If you’re missing Paris as much as I am, pick up a copy of this book!  

Pierre Herme Macaron

I have a confession.  I find Laudree to be a bit overrated.  Don’t get me wrong – their macarons are better than most.  I love their colors and branding.  But, when it comes down to a superior macaron, I love Pierre Herme.  I had never heard of Pierre Herme until I took a food tour of the Marais in Paris.  Turns out, he is one of the best pastry chefs in the world and one of the most influential French people. 

Pierre’s cookbook is the ultimate gift for the baker or aspiring macaron-maker in your life.  One of my friends is a master macron baker and she refuses to give our her recipe because these pastries are incredibly difficult to make.  They are sensitive to humidity and external factors that vary by region.  This cookbook – exclusively for macarons – includes a step by step guide to making the perfect macaron.  More than that, however, it dives into the complex and delicate macaron flavors that Pierre is known for, from the basic Creme Brulee to the complex cucumber and tangerine.  The cookbook features dozens of recipes for these delicate, airy pastries with colorful photos to match.             

Journey of Doing - Pierre Herme macaron recipe

The Art of Traveling from Home

When all of this started in March 2020, I thought I would have more time for cooking. I also thought that it would be a temporary thing and we would be traveling by September, if not Thanksgiving and Christmas. As we pass a year without knowing when we will be reunited with our favorite restaurants and tour guides, I am looking for ways to satiate my wanderlust.

My creativity ebbs and flows.  As much as I want to write about travel, sometimes I feel stuck.  Travel guides and international cookbooks focused on specific regions or cuisines are a comfort to me. While it’s certainly not a perfect replacement for those magical memories from travel, it is a small way to recreate those experiences at home. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll have a partner to reminisce with. I wish you health, happiness and hopefully travel in 2021.

Follow along with Sara!

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