Gift Guide 2015: Talbott & Arding

December 15, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 3.15.47 PMWhen Talbott & Arding opened (almost exactly a year ago), the food profile of the small town of Hudson, New York took a giant leap forward.  The owners of this little food shop – it sells everything from home-made jam and crackers to chicken pot pies and impeccable cheeses – have impressive pedigrees. Mona Talbott worked at Chez Panisse for five years. She impressed Alice Waters, who asked her to become the founding chef at the  Sustainable Food Project at the American Academy in Rome. The result: the organic garden and fabulous food at the Academy is now world famous. Mona’s partner, Kate Arding, is a leading cheese expert who worked at Neal’s Yard Dairy in London and was the head cheesemonger at Cowgirl Creamery before founding Culture Magazine. They moved to the Hudson Valley to be near family farmers, and they now have a network of local producers. One of the highlights of my week is stopping in to see what new cheese Kate has discovered, or what delicious new food Mona’s been cooking.   

But you don’t have to live nearby to take advantage of their talent. They’ve just launched the Talbott and Arding online store, which means you can send their house-made jams and crackers to your friends. I recommend the excellent crackers, the tomato relish improves every sandwich (it’s also great on deviled eggs), and the sour cherry preserve is truly special. 



Gift Guide: Vintage Cake Pans

December 14, 2015



I wrote about these pans last summer, here, but I think they’d make really cool gifts.  You can find them pretty easily – here’s one Ebay source. Every baker is eager for new and different pans – and this is one they’re unlikely to own. The pans date back to the middle of the last century, and they’re so sturdy they make really good pudding molds (when you tie a secure layer of foil on the top).

Another vintage tool you might consider is a pie server: These are serious pie times, and every cook can use a new server.  Here’s mine; I found it in a thrift store about forty years ago, and I’ve cherished it ever since.

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Gift Guide 2015: Herb Power

December 13, 2015


When I was at Food 52 in the fall – and what a cool place those offices are! – we sat down to breakfast for dinner.  It was a wonderful night – you can see it here – and then we all went our separate ways.

As I was leaving Amanda handed me a little bag, a parting gift.  At home I discovered this little vase.

I’ve kind of fallen in love with it.

They call it a bud vase, but I use it for herbs.  What I like so much is that it turns a single herb sprig into a floral arrangement.  I’ve always thought herbs were much to pretty so simply mince into a flurry of green; it’s nice to see them given a starring role.

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Gift Guide 2015: Where There’s Smoke

December 12, 2015


When binchotan charcoal first came on the market it had a cult following –  and cost a fortune.  The Asian charcoal is very popular with grill masters because it’s long burning and gives off very little ash. The Japanese credit it with all manner of beneficial characteristics: they even believe it filters the air that you breathe.

Andy Ricker, of PokPok, began importing Thaan charcoal last year. It’s the Thai version of binchotan, although it’s a lot less expensive. And also easier to find; at the moment you can buy a five pound box on Amazon for $15. An easy gift that would make any griller grateful.


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From My Kitchen Year: Potatoes au Gratin

December 11, 2015


There’s nothing more comforting to see (and eat) on a holiday table than potatoes au gratin. For still more recipes from My Kitchen Year, head here.



1½ cups cream

2½ pounds boiling potatoes (such as Yukon Gold)

½ pound Gruyère cheese (grated)


2 cups milk

2 cloves garlic (smashed)

1 teaspoon salt


whole nutmeg


Serves 6 to 8

The secret to these potatoes is that they’re cooked twice. First you plunk them into a big bath of milk and cream that’s been infused with just a touch of garlic and bring them gently to a boil. Then you dump them into a baking dish, grate a bit of fresh nutmeg over them, and sprinkle the entire top with Gruyère before putting them into the oven where they drink up all the liquid as the cheese turns into a crisp crust.

Pour cream and milk into a large pot. Peel the potatoes and slice them as thinly as you can, putting them into the pot as they are ready. Add the garlic, the salt, and a few good grinds of pepper and bring it all slowly to a boil.

Meanwhile, butter a gratin dish or a rectangular baking pan. When the milk comes to a boil, remove it from the heat and pour the contents into the buttered gratin dish. Grate a bit of fresh nutmeg over the top and cover with grated Gruyère cheese.

The baking is pretty forgiving; you can bake at anywhere from 300 to 400 degrees, depending on what else you have in the oven. The timing’s forgiving, too; at the lower temperature it will take about an hour to absorb the liquid and turn the top golden, at 400 degrees it will take about 35 minutes.

Let it rest for at least 15 minutes—but this, too, is forgiving. If the potatoes have to wait an hour, they will be absolutely fine.