2013 Gift Guide: Put This in Your Pipe

December 18, 2013


I’m kind of surprised they did not write “Ceci n’est pas une asiette,” across one of these Magritte plates, but on second thought it would have subverted the entire purpose.  

Because they are, of course plates. Brightly colored. Endlessly absurd. Entirely amusing. And at $16 apiece ($14.40  if you’re a member of MOMA), they take care of an entire range of people on your gift list. Smokers. Apple-fanciers. Peaceniks. Wearers of hats. Security freaks. Collectors of giraffes. Not to mention anyone who ever saw a Magritte painting and was stopped cold in his tracks. 

Not interested in plates?  You might want to consider this very appealing chalk board:


Order today and you're still in time for standard shipping ($6.95 flat rate) to get your gift there in time for Christmas. Wait til tomorrow, and shipping charges go up. 

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2013 Gift Guide: Cooking the Books

December 17, 2013

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Lots of people sell vintage cookbooks, and I spend too much time trolling through the sites. Favorites include Bonnie Slotnick (bonnieslotnikbooks@earthlink.net) in New York and Omnivore Books in San Francisco.

But The Cook's Bookcase was new to me, and I appreciate the quirkiness of the collection. And, I might add, the fairness of the prices.  I can think of at least a dozen people who’d be thrilled to get a signed first edition of a James Beard book – but I’ve rarely found one that I could afford.

 At $90, this signed first edition of Delights and Prejudices seems like a bargain. 

The collection is…. odd.  I’m sure I’ve got a friend who’d love this signed Shirley Bassey menu from Caesar’s Palace ($15).

Although what was the great Welsh singer (most famous for singing Goldfinger) doing on a menu?  

Plenty of great stuff here. (Issac Hayes had a cookbook? Who knew?) Even if you don’t find the perfect present, you’ll have great fun noodling through the site. 


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2013 Gift Guide: Day Twenty-Two

December 16, 2013


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Past Scents
Years ago, when you could still travel Europe on less than $5 a day, I always made a pilgrimage to the Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella as soon as I landed in Florence.  It’s one of the world's oldest drug stores – founded by Dominican Friars in 1221, it opened to the public in 1612.  They make all manner of herbal beauty products, but what I like best is their pot pouri. I’d buy bags of the dried herbs and flowers so I could stow them in my dresser when I got home. The potpouri is said to repel insects, but the truth is that I love the way it smells; each time I opened a drawer a wonderful fragrance came drifting out to remind me of Italy. 

I don’t know when the Santa Maria Novella people opened branches in America, but these days you don’t have to go to Florence to procure potpourri.  It makes me a little sad – the original  shop is so old, so quaint, so lovely.  But the products here are the same, and they arrive packed in these agreeably old-fashioned boxes.  


Lots of people make potpourri; most of it, frankly, makes me shudder. But this stuff is different. The company says this:

“Scrupulously handmade using ancient methods, this incredibly long-lasting, beautifully fragrant potpourri is a full-bodied blend of herbs and flowers (a secret formula), all grown without pesticides in the Florentine hills exclusively for Santa Maria Novella. Each batch is collected by hand, then soaked in essence in enormous, centuries-old earthenware jars, sealed with wax, then aged for several months, and carefully packaged as it has been for centuries.” 

That may or may not be true.  All I know is that the light fragrance wafting through the house always makes me so happy that I’d be deeply grateful to anyone who plunked down $35 and sent some as a present.

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Gift Guide: Pigging Out

December 15, 2013

 An Enchanting Pair of Porkers


A pig product of some kind has become de rigeur for my gift guide.  Goldpig480(2)

(In year one it was the gilt piglet bank, above, from Moss in New York. The late, much-lamented shop was as much museum as store.)

Although this year’s offering is not quite so grand, I can’t resist such an endearing pair of pigs. Filled with salt, pepper or sugar, they sit on your table adding an instant touch of whimsy.

I’ve found half a dozen on-line sources (including Ebay), ranging from $30 to $17 a pair; this Wisconsin shop is the least expensive of the lot.  If you have a friend who loves pigs – and who doesn’t?- this would make a perfect present. 


2013 Gift Guide: Day Twenty

December 14, 2013

Be A Better Bread-Baker


Ever since I discovered Jim Leahy’s no-knead bread recipe (in his book, My Bread), I’ve been turning out home-made bread on a regular basis.  Jim’s recipe takes all of about 3 minutes and produces a great, fat, crisp loaf.

I’ve been using my ancient cast iron Dutch oven to bake the bread, but now I’ve found something better. This beautiful bread dome lets the bread rise higher and rounder.  And it’s such a great looking stoneware pot that it works wonderfully as an oven-to-table casserole when used for stews and roasts. 

I should have mentioned this earlier; in order to get it there in time for Christmas (ground shipping is free), you need to order by tomorrow.  So what are you waiting for?  Any baker would be delighted with this $60 present.



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