2013 Gift Guide: Day Nine

December 3, 2013

Organic Seeds


There were a lot of impressive speakers at last September’s Seed Conference at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, including Ferran Adria, Dan Barber, Alex Attala, Sean Brock and Glenn Roberts.  But the person who impressed me the most was Frank Morton, who’s been raising salad for chefs since 1980 at Gathering Together Farm in Oregon.  He spoke so passionately about conventional seed breeding that I began surfing his website, reading the essays. 

But Morton doesn’t just raise salad for fancy restaurants; 15 years ago he and his wife created Wild Garden Seeds, and since then they've been selling their organic seeds all over the world.  The catalogue is amazing: they offer 82 kinds of lettuce, 9 kinds of kale, 18 kinds of mustard, 5 kinds of quinoa, huazontle… the list is very long.   

They’re constantly adding new vegetables to the list.  This year’s great find is this Pandero Lettuce:


 "With a single cut, these mini-head type romaines create instant salad mix."

If you know a passionate gardener, a gift certificate would make a wonderful present; they start at $12. Actually, just turning a good gardener onto the site would be a gift all by itself. 

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2013 Gift Guide: Day Eight

December 2, 2013

For the serious food photographer


Every time I pull out my IPhone to snap a picture of some dish I’m reminded of what a terrible photographer I am. My food always looks so pale, so unfocused. That’s why I’m counting on one of my friends to give me one of these for Christmas. 

According to everything I’ve read, this neat little Orbit Pro camera attachment can turn even clunky photographers like myself into instant wizards. It’s got a whole slew of lenses: fisheye, macro, telephoto, wide-angle.  It’s small.  It’s been very well reviewed. It’s only $239 – and if you buy it today, on cyber Monday, you get a $75 break and free shipping.  

Come to think of it, why am I waiting for someone else to buy me one?  


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2013 Gift Guide: Day Seven

December 1, 2013


Everyone who’s ever used sous-vide equipment understands the problem: the food comes out looking wan and rather sickly. The solution has always been a blow torch, which gives pale food a lovely tan. But there’s a problem:  torches were invented to weld metal, not cook food, and they impart an unpleasant flavor known as "torch taste".  Enter the Searzall.  It turns an ordinary blowtorch into a fine piece of cooking equipment. 

When Dave Arnold, founder of Booker and Dax, was teaching sous vide technique at the French Culinary Institute, he set out to solve the torch taste problem. His Searzall is still in the testing process, but prototypes have been tested by an impressive number of chefs, starting with David Chang and his team at Momofuku and going on to:

  • Wylie Dufresne of WD-50 and Alder
  • Nathan Myhrvold and the Modernist Gang
  • Paul Adams Online and Food Editor from Popular Science
  • Nils Noren from Red Rooster
  • Mark Ladner from Del Posto
  • Michael Natkin, popular vegetarian cookbook author
  • Daisuke Nakazawa of Nakazawa Sushi
  • Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern

Now there’s a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project.  Kick in $65 and you can offer your friends the very first Searzalls off the assembly line. The final product’s not due until June, but if you pledge  by December 15 you’ll get a special holiday card  to send your friends the good news. 

Of course, if you're looking to really impress somebody, you might want to up the ante. For $1000 your friends can jump the line with one of the hand-made pre-production prototypes that will go out in January. (That also gives them the privilege of becoming part of the feedback team.)  And for $5000? A day in the Booker and Dax lab with Mr. Searzall himself, Dave Arnold. 


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