Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Gifts for your Favorite Foodie

Everyone has their Christmas gift recommendations up and many of you are still looking for last minute gift ideas. In the confusing consumer nightmare of today's food world, there are more ridiculous gifts out there than useful ones out there. Lots of blogs are recommending the myriad small appliances this year, but I, for one, don't have the space for more gadgets that require counterspace and an outlet. (Why get an electric panini press when a ridged grill pan is a much more useful item. A press can easily be fashioned from a weighted board and some grill pans even come with them.) Additionally, most cooks already have the wacky appliances they actually want. (I'm a little in love with my spice grinder which I bought for myself after I got tired of the old school mortar and pestle.) Either way, we here over at the Feed Me/Drink Me test kitchens have decided to sort through the dreck and make a few useful recommendations.

A bundle of silicon: In the past, I've touted those brilliant silicone hot pads, but now, I'll say it: I'm addicted. I don't know how I ever lived without silicon spatulas and turners before. Perfect for holiday cookie and cake batters. Give bright colors in a bundle tied in a bow. Perfect for stockings. (Widely available at gourmet shops and cooking stores. Opt to pay $1-2 more per piece since some of the inexpensive stuff melts with high heat.)

Chocolate Pot: If you've ever been to France, then you know the joy of real hot chocolate for breakfast in the morning. Even better, you know the importance of a chocolate pot -- a perfect shape and with a unique side handle to better mix and pour the perfect cup. (Sur La Table has one in the catalog that comes with its own frother.) Pair with fresh peppermint marshmallows although the ones from Trader Joe's are harshly strong. (They are the Altoids of peppermint marshmallows.)

Raclette Grill: if fondue was the trend the wouldn't die, raclette is its slightly older, slightly cooler brother. These grills (OK, it's a freestanding appliance) are perfect for the Alpine style table grilling of tidbits in gooey raclette cheese. This one includes dishes, spatulas, and dish holders for 8 people.

Steak Knives: Does your favorite host or hostess have steak knives? Now, before you answer this, think about it; steak knives are not part of a standard flatware set. And I'm not talking about small, wimpy, delicate things. I'm talking about big, hefty, steak-house style serrated knives for digging into serious pork chops or ribeyes. Most major knife companies including Henckle and Wustoff make sets for home at a variety of price ranges. Choosing quality over quantity will still give you some options (from Target to Sur La Table). Better yet, call your favorite steakhouse and they can set you up with our own set. (Mine are from Morton's and I'm a little bit in love.) They typically come in sets of four or six so you might have to buy two. Perfect for the grilling fan.

Wustoff Offset Deli Knife: A big shout out to chef Roger Hawkins who turned me on to this offset knife *years* ago. (If it wasn't you, Roger, then take the credit anyway and pass it on!) The unique "z" shape and serrated blade make it perfect for slicing bread and other hard to handle, tall, unwieldy foods. Once you go offset, you'll never go back!

Tea is Hot This Year! Whether it's a kettle, a glass pot, loose leaves, or even those cool tea blossoms (from the fabulous Teaposy that expand like a bloom in the pot, tea is an in gift this year. It's also an easy way to select everything from Japanese green varieties to European fruit teas for a fun gift basket for a hostess. Don't forget tea balls or infusers and even newfangled clear, insulated cups.

The Elements of Cooking: I'm a pretty big fan of all things Ruhlman, and while I think this odd little book is useful, it's certainly not the definitive reference volume. The foodie in your life most likely already has the Oxford Companion to Food and books by Harold McGee, so get them this book and show you know a little about food writers and the latest thing. The Elements of Cooking will still be one they'll decide is a must have if for the author alone. Ruhlman gives basic explanations for culinary terms and concepts along with a good overall primer on basic techniques and food chemistry. (It's a very approachable book for foodies and food fans who aren't huge cooks, too.)

1 comment:

Kate said...

Great suggestions!

A slightly off-topic question: Do you have any suggestions for the best place to take some cooking lessons or classes?

I'm an eager-to-learn novice.