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THE COOKBOOK ISSUE

Shelves and shelves of delicious reads

Looking for the hottest new title from Japan or a first-edition Larousse? You're in luck.

November 02, 2005|Susan LaTempa and Charles Perry | Times Staff Writers

SOUTHERN California is paradise if you're a cookbook lover on the prowl, whether you're in the market for the latest bestseller, a European cookbook that hasn't been published in the U.S. yet, an out-of-print ethnic recipe collection or just a great all-around basic guide for the home cook. We're the country's biggest book market, after all, and cookbooks represent a hefty portion of that trade.

Every cook in town worth his or her sea salt knows the comprehensive new-cookbooks store Cook's Library in West Hollywood, but there's also an amazing warehouse in Pasadena devoted to used cookbooks, a terrific selection of cooking-with-kids books at a children's bookstore in West L.A. and sources for cutting-edge Japanese cookbooks or avant-garde and art cookbooks. And downtown's Central Library has one of the largest collections of materials on food and drink in the country, including more than 15,000 cookbooks, many of them circulating.

Janet Jarvits' Cook Books in Pasadena is a vast landscape of used books -- you go browsing in aisles like canyons between towering shelves that hold more than 30,000 volumes stacked so high that you're required to ask for assistance if you want to inspect books above a certain level, marked with a red line.

There are a lot of prizes in these aisles. Jarvits has bound volumes of Gourmet dating back to the 1940s and a complete set of the Time-Life "Foods of the World" series from the 1960s, not to mention several decades' worth of Betty Crocker cookbooks. The ethnic cookbooks represent a wide variety of nationalities, and some are in the original languages. Near the front desk are boxes of the prized old recipe booklets that food companies issued from the 1920s through the 1950s. "My greatest rarities," Jarvits says, "are probably the early fundraising cookbooks." The oldest volume in the store is a first edition of Colin MacKenzie's "5000 Receipts in All the Useful and Domestic Arts," 1825.

For Asian cookbooks, especially Japanese, check out Kinokuniya bookstores in Little Tokyo and Costa Mesa. They carry books in Japanese and English, with easily 100 cookbook titles in English. One of their bestsellers is the bilingual "100 Recipes From Japanese Cooking," and you'll find such titles as "The Mochi Lovers Cookbook."

Only vegetarian cookbooks are on the shelves at Bodhi Tree in West Hollywood, and the variety is staggering, with hundreds of macrobiotic and vegetarian titles such as "Real Vegetarian Thai" or "The Ayurvedic Cookbook." At Children's Book World in West L.A., kids' cookbooks rule, but that doesn't mean the recipes aren't top-notch. Famous chefs contributed to "The Magical Melting Pot," a multiethnic collection. And there's a paperback series by country that would be great for school reports.

At Latitude 33 in Laguna Beach, the emphasis is on beautiful books -- lavishly illustrated tomes and lots of entertaining books. The French Laundry cookbook does well there, as do book-club cookbooks. Le Sanctuaire, a high-end food and cookware boutique in Santa Monica, carries a select lineup of professional, avant-garde and art cookbooks, with such titles in stock as all three volumes of the El Bulli cookbooks, "Fusion Chocolate" by Frederic Bau and Marc Veryat's "Encyclopedia Culinaire du 21st Siecle."

You might stop in at Vroman's for the Pasadena Junior League cookbooks, but you'll end up browsing its hundreds of food and wine books. They have all the celebrity books (some signed), all the bestsellers and some good regional titles.

Folks at the museum store at the Autry National Center like to point out that saloons are an important part of Western history, so there's a good selection of books on bartending, drinks, spirits and beer -- with titles such as "Cowboy Cocktails." There are contemporary cookbooks on Southwestern cooking as well as semi-scholarly cookbooks including "Indian Nations -- Traditional and Contemporary Native American Recipes."

At 7,000 titles, the collection at Cook's Library is twice as large as it was when it opened in 1989, but somehow it doesn't seem crowded. Yet, anyway. "Someday we may have to build on another floor," proprietor Ellen Rose jests. Some browsers may be dressed in white -- chefs and caterers come here all the time, cruising for ideas. That's partly because the store offers a huge selection of imported books, especially from Europe but also from Asia and Australia.

It's one of just a few stores in the country doing direct importing. Here's where you can pick up that cutting-edge book from Spain, France, or Italy that has yet to be translated and issued in an American edition. You'll also find small-press books, community cookbooks, food history texts, professional baking manuals and the likes of Siri Lise Doub's "Taste of Latvia" or Penn Hongthong's "Simple Laotian Cooking."

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Books for all kinds of cooks

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Autry National Center, 4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles, (323) 667-2000; www.autrynationalcenter.org.

Bodhi Tree Bookstore, 8585 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (310) 659-1733, (800) 825-9798; www.bodhitree.com.

Children's Book World, 10580 1/2 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A., (310) 559-2665; www.childrensbookworld.com.

Cook Books by Janet Jarvits, Bookseller, 1388 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena (626) 296-1638; www.cookbkjj.com.

Cook's Library, 8373 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, (323) 655-3141.

Kinokuniya Bookstore, 123 Onizuka St. (Weller Court), L.A., (213) 687-4480; 3030 Harbor Blvd., G3, Costa Mesa, (714) 662-2319; www.kinokuniya.com.

Latitude 33, 311 Ocean Ave., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-5403.

Le Sanctuaire, 2710 Main St., Santa Monica, (310) 581-8999; www.le-sanctuaire.com.

Vroman's, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 449-5320; www.vromansbookstore.com.

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