The Amber Unicorn: All Hail the King and Queen of Books

By Ruth Reichl

Published on April 19, 2012

The last thing I expected to find in Las Vegas was a phrase of apples. Well, actually, the last thing I expected to find in Las Vegas was a store that had a book that had a recipe for a phrase of apples, a medieval English dessert that resembles a fruit pancake. In fact, I almost didn't.

Amber Unicorn Books is just another shabby-looking storefront in one of the shopping malls that parade endlessly through non-Strip Vegas. Sitting in the shadow of a Trader Joe's, it makes no attempt to lure you through the door.

Even inside, the shop is slow to reveal itself. I'd been told they had some vintage cookbooks, but walking through aisles of military books and science fiction, I was sure I'd stumbled into the wrong place. Then I noticed a first edition of The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book and pounced. Next, I spied another rare cookbook, Aunt Sammy's Radio Recipes (complete with transcripts from a program that was on the air from 1926 to 1934). But it was not until I picked up a signed copy of Louis Szathmary's American Gastronomy that I felt a little tap on my shoulder. I turned to find a pleasant-looking woman surveying me. "Did you ever meet him?" she asked, referring to the chef and author of the book I was holding. "He was a truly great man; a regular customer of ours."

Myrna Donato owns the shop with her husband, Lou, and she doesn't want you to just buy her cookbooks. She wants you to treasure them. She wants you to discuss them with her. She wants to tell you about the people who buy them and the meals that they make from them. Last year, when I found myself spending a few weeks in Las Vegas, Amber Unicorn became my lifeline to reality. Whenever the glitz of the Strip became too much, I fled to the bookshop, losing myself in reading and recipes. I spent a lot of money at Amber Unicorn, but I was getting much more than old cookbooks. For me, this modest little shop with its superb cookbook collection was the perfect antidote to neon Vegas. And unlike everything in that other Vegas, this one comes home; the shop ships.

Amber Unicorn Books
2101 S Decatur Blvd #14
Las Vegas, NV 89102

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