I spent quite a lot of time over the holiday season digging into some of my favorite cookbooks. This was sparked on by several things:

  1. My son, Zach, and I started talking about what we want to accomplish with The Factory Café in 2016 and got side tracked talking (for a very, very long time) about our very, very all-time favorite cookbooks.
  2. We finally finished organizing our company library—including the growing cookbook section. (See the P.S. below about our organization system of choice.)
  3. I read La Mere Brazierwhich made me want to get out all my favorite cookbooks and start reading them all over again. (I adored Eugénie Brazier’s story of her childhood and rise to kitchen fame in the introduction.)
  4. I looked back on all the good work Alabama Chanin has been involved with in 2015. I’m super proud that I (and all of our team) got to work with great chefs like Angie Mosier, Lisa Donovan, Rob McDaniel, and Anne Quatrano (Queen Anne) at The Factory—and also with the likes of Cheetie Kumar, Anne Quatrano (again!), and Gabrielle Hamilton organized by Ashley Christenson for the Southern Foodways Alliance Femme Fatale Dinner at the 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville. (Yes, 2015 was a great year.)

With these delicious moments and meals in mind, we’re gearing up for our 2016 Friends of the Café Dinner Series. Some details are still being finalized, but there’s no doubt: it’s going to be another fantastic year.


We’re starting out of the gates on March 24th with Frank Stitt (Highlands Bar and Grill, Chez Fon Fon, Bottega, and Bottega Café in Birmingham, Alabama) and the famous (and infamous) barbecue pit master, Rodney Scott of Hemingway, South Carolina. This promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime event. Frank has already sent along some menu ideas that include not only the gorgeously roasted meats from Rodney, but also foraged specialties like dandelion, henbit, asparagus shoots, and chickweed.

After that we’re hosting our first-ever Spring Harvest Dinner on May 21st, featuring local and regional harvests from farmers and purveyors alike—curated by our chef (and my son) Zach and our amazing team at The Factory Café.

In August (date TBD—most likely the second or third Thursday), our (now annual) Shindig Dinner—in conjunction with Billy Reid’s Shindig—features Shoals-native, Atlanta-based chef Adam Evans (formerly of The Optimist, now with Brezza Cucina in the Ponce City Market). This dinner becomes more popular every year, so be on the lookout for the event announcement.


Sean Brock (McCrady’s in Charleston, Husk in Charleston and Nashville, and Minero in Atlanta and Charleston) will be joining us for a Fall dinner on October 8th. Details will unfold as the season rolls into focus.


See you here. See you there. Happy 2016 from all of us @ The Factory and Alabama Chanin

P.S.:  To organize our growing library, we wound up using Libib—one of the apps we originally investigated. It was one of the highlights of 2015 to see our library come to life, beautifully displayed in the design studio, organized perfectly by theme, with books standing straight and tall like little soldiers, ready to go out and change the world.


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Click to read 14 comments
  1. mindy

    I just made a quick count of my cookbooks, and the number is an astonishingly greedy 224. I love to just sit down and read a cookbook cover to cover, something that many find more than a little strange. (i just downloaded that libib app to help me gain control over the hordes!) you would think choosing favorites would be hard, but it’s really no contest…home cooking and more home cooking by the completely wonderful and perfect laurie colwin will always top my list (at least until natalie and zach pen a cookbook).

  2. Margaret Dukeman

    One of my favorite cookbooks right now is Irish Pantry. It has many many recipes that are down to earth along with an abundance of flavor….and it doesn’t hurt that they have a recipe for Irish Cream that is to just die for!

  3. Kelly

    ohhh cook books, you mean other than Joy of Cooking and Moosewood and Laurels Kitchen? I’m loving both the Pok Pok and also Jerusalem cookbook!!

    And the thought of another CA to AL roadtrip for a meal …heaven! On that note, Odette was one of the best meals I’ve had in a lifetime.
    thanks for the recommendation

  4. Danna

    My favorite is Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. It has been my favorite since I first bought it almost 15 years ago.

  5. Jennie

    I’ve had lots of favorites over the years, but my current go to is Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys. Every recipe I’ve made has been delicious, and I love that I never have to worry when I try a new recipe from that book.

  6. Beth Wise

    My daughter gave me Gwyneth Paltrow’s “It’s All Good.” Everything I have cooked from this has been fabulous.

  7. Shelly Batt

    My favorite cookbook is the one that I received from my sister when I was 15, back in 1969, the Margaret Rudkin Pepperidge Farm cookbook. We gave it to each other for Christmas that year. It didn’t get much attention for many years, then for some reason, it “bubbled up” out of my stuff recently. It is dedicated to the perpetuation of good American home cooking. The thing that I like about it now, is the story of the adventuresome woman that founded Pepperidge Farm, reminds me of someone we know. Every page has a charming illustration. Time to cook something.

  8. Julie B

    My favorite cookbook has to be the vintage Joy of Cooking that I inherited from my late maternal grandmother, Julia. It is an encyclopedia full of information from plucking chickens, to making mincemeat, and everything in between. Of course, the real reason it is my favorite is purely sentimental; it is stuffed with hand-written recipes from my grandmother. I’ve been working my way through the three different recipes for rolls in my own Julie & Julia project.

  9. Marisa

    Ooo! I’d love tickets to any of these!

    Favorite cookbooks include: Home Made by Yvette van Boven (makes my soul happy), Isa Does It (miraculously crave-able vegan food), Basic to Brilliant Y’all by Virginia Willis.

  10. Marisa

    Recipes viewed on a laptop still can’t compare to holding a cookbook… so I dive into my collection often. Sunday Suppers is a recent favorite, as well as the My New Roots cookbook- any excuse to cook up a storm!