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SMORGASBORD: Tales of the grape . . . Tim Tams return . . . 'The Iraqi Cookbook'

Tales of the grape Eclectic is the word to describe this year's crop of wine books. The diversity of approaches and degrees of sophistication speak to just how wide-ranging the wine world has become, including "Been Doon So Long: A Randall Grahm ...

"Been Doon So Long"
"Been Doon So Long," by Randall Grahm, is among the wine-related books available this holiday season. (McClatchy Tribune)

Tales of the grape

Eclectic is the word to describe this year's crop of wine books. The diversity of approaches and degrees of sophistication speak to just how wide-ranging the wine world has become, including "Been Doon So Long: A Randall Grahm Vinthology" (Randall Grahm, University of California Press, $34.95).

The founder of Bonny Doon Vineyard may always be better known for his wines (and the wildly creative way he markets them) than for his writing, but it won't be for lack of effort. Grahm loves the written word with almost the same degree of passion that he reserves for great wine. Put the two together along with a crusading conscience and sharp eye for irony and -- bang! -- you've got a collection of essays, epic poems and even a comic strip. Most of the titles are witty, reflecting Grahm's penchant for outrageous punning. Pour a big glass of wine and settle back to enjoy "A Clockwork Orange Muscat," "Born to Rhone: Selections from a Rock (and Gravel) Opera" and his famed tribute to Dante, "Da Vino Commedia: The Vinferno."

Tim Tams return

Last year, Pepperidge Farm brought two flavors of Tim Tams, the Australian milk-chocolate-covered sandwich cookies, to Target stores for several months. Well, they're back -- until March -- and this time Pepperidge Farm is making those flavors (chocolate creme or caramel filling) available to other supermarkets. And, only at Target this year, there's a third flavor: Classic Dark -- chocolate-creme filled, but covered in dark chocolate.

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'The Iraqi Cookbook'

An expatriate Iraqi living in London, Lamees Ibrahim takes us on an appetizer-to-beverage tour of Iraq's cuisine in "The Iraqi Cookbook" (Interlink Books, $35).

She learned to cook as a teen in Baghdad. Later, living in the West, she assembled these 200-plus recipes to pass traditional flavors and recipes on to her children as well as fellow expats.

So, in addition to dishes of eggplant, zucchini, chickpeas, white beans, lamb and fish, there are breads and tashreeb (saucy dishes spooned over dry bread) and kubba (rice, potato or cracked wheat shells that are stuffed). She provides a glimpse into Iraqi life in chapter intros and recipe notes.

The recipe variety is vast, ranging from simple to complex. Lovely photos by Terry McCormick serve as a guide to how a finished dish might look. A challenge for some may be tracking down less common ingredients such as ground dried limes for the spice mix. And if having a recipe that occasionally offers no measurements confounds, you may find the book problematic.

If you value a cookbook for its insight into another culture as much as for its recipes (and you're comfortable enough to know when to add an ingredient that might be listed but never mentioned in the directions), then you'll enjoy the book.

"The Iraqi Cookbook"
An expatriate Iraqi living in London, Lamees Ibrahim takes us on an appetizer-to-beverage tour of IraqÍs cuisine with "The Iraqi Cookbook." (McClatchy Tribune)

Related Topics: FOOD
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