December 23, 2015
Every year I try to feature a food publication in the annual gift guide. In the past I’ve suggested Lucky Peach, Cherry Bombe, Modern Farmer and Fool. I was searching for a new candidate when this issue of Sabor arrived.
I’ll admit that the cover reminded me of this:
It’s the restaurant issue from 2006 featuring the late Homaru Cantu eating the menu of his Chicago restaurant (it was printed on edible paper). I still love this cover, even though it turned out to have the worst newsstand sales in Gourmet’s history. But then, all my favorite covers did badly; if you want to really sell a lot of food magazines there are two ways to go:
- A cover line that trumpets: “Our new chocolate cake diet. Eat as much as you want and lose 30 pounds a week!” or
- A plate of pasta that’s been romanced by a fine photographer.
But that’s what I appreciate about the first print edition of the two-year-old ipad magazine (it’s published in The Netherlands): they haven’t played it safe. This issue’s theme is What’s Up in Paris, which tells you something about the magazine’s swagger.
It contains an interesting dialogue between Yale professor Paul Freedman and Aaron Ayscough on the Paris dining scene. It’s not easy to breathe new life into this conversation, but Sabor’s done it. The magazine is well written and edited, it’s got a sense of humor, and it’s beautifully produced. I can’t wait to see what they do next.
In the meantime, issue one would make a really good last-minute gift for a food-obsessed friend.
December 22, 2015
There is nothing reasonable about Christina Tosi’s cakes and cookies. They’re over the top – alarmingly sweet, very salty, pleasantly pliant – and totally irresistible. Not for nothing is her best-known creation called “Crack Pie.”
An alum of WD~50 and Momofuku, cookie-master Christina Tosi founded the Milk Bar empire. Her Milk Bar cookies have a kind of zany humor and sense of nostalgia that make them perfect holiday gifts. The ingredients for her Compost Cookie (my favorite) include, besides the usual, pretzels and potato chips – used coffee grounds. The corn cookie is as satisfying as the slightly cloying deli corn muffins of my youth. And the blueberries and cream version recalls the processed food aisles without tasting even a little “fake.”
Should you send these to your repressed puritan friends? Probably not; they’re rich cookies, and yes, very sweet. But they make a great gift for anyone who approaches food with a healthy levity.
As a bonus, if you order the Kookies, created in collaboration with Karlie Kloss, a percentage of your purchase will go to one of several charities. Order any of this all by midday today and your cookies will still arrive by Christmas.
December 21, 2015
I’ll admit I was skeptical when the Republic of Tea asked if I’d like them to develop a tea from one of the recipes in My Kitchen Year. It sounded gimmicky, but I was also intrigued. I suggested they try making either a Linzer Torte tea or an Apple Crisp tea.
They sent me two samples. The Linzer Torte didn’t quite make it; the flavor was sweet, but the raspberries and almonds seemed wimpy to me. The Apple Crisp Tea, on the other hand, was amazing. I took the tea out of the box and the aroma of apples came leaping into the air. I brewed up a pot, poured some out, and found myself sipping a cup of Autumn. Apples, cinnamon, brown sugar and a hint of butter; it’s a little bit sweet, but not at all cloying. I’ll admit that over time I’ve become addicted to this tea. It makes every morning better.
And at night… well, I’ve discovered Republic of Tea’s Get Some ZZZ’s tea. Does it really help me sleep better? Maybe it’s just the thought of the valerian in the mix, but somehow I find this tea extremely relaxing. If you have an insomniac friend, they’ll thank you.
Order before noon today, Central Time, and flat rate shipping will get your tea to your friend in time to surprise them for Christmas.
December 20, 2015
A mandoline? As a gift? To be honest, they terrify me; when we tested mandolines at Gourmet every single one of us got cut. The truth is that even nimble, experienced cooks find the super-slicers dangerous.
But my mind is changing, and here’s why: This cut-resistant glove. When you wear it while using a mandoline or benriner no vegetable is too small to be sliced into paper-thin slices. It’s the confidence boost we all need. And it’s a true time-saver. Throw in a glove, and a mandoline would make a great gift for people who really like eating their veggies.
December 19, 2015
Grinding your own coffee beans yields a richer, more vibrant cup of coffee. Grinding your own spices has the same effect. But for serious bakers, grinding your own wheat is even more important, because it allows you to use organic grains and save the bran.
Anybody’s who’s read Dan Barber’s wonderful book, The Third Plate, knows there’s a kind of madness in buying all your meat and produce from the farmers’ market – and then using commercial wheat for baking.
You can, of course, buy organic whole wheat. But just-milled wheat is sweeter, rounder and more expressive. Many commercial whole wheat flour producers skimp on bran content – which holds most of the nutrients- in order to prolong the flour’s shelf life. And because the bran also contains the fat, commercial whole wheat flour is less flavorful than what you mill yourself.
It’s hard to think of a better gift for an ambitious baker than a small grain mill. Not only will it help save money (bulk grain costs less) and bake bread with serious character, it also yields a more nutritious food.
Countertop mills aren’t cheap, but the cost keeps going down. King Arthur Flour recommends the Wondermill, and I’m inclined to follow suit. (FYI, this King Arthur article, comparing breads made from whole wheat flour and freshly-milled flour is pretty illuminating.)
After that comes the fun part. What kind of wheat to grind, and where to buy it? Maine Grains, Central Milling and the ever-stalwart Anson Mills are great places to start. At the moment I’m particularly partial to Anson Mill’s Red Fife whole wheat berries.