Gift Guide 2018: Go Cup

December 19, 2018

Got a constant traveler or a coffee addict on your list?  This is a perfect present.

The palmpress collapsible coffee press really does fit into the palm of your hand. And your purse or your pocket. So it’s just the thing to toss into a suitcase or keep on your desk when you’re craving a quick shot of caffeine.

The little coffee titan has all manner of other fine qualities: it eliminates waste by doing without paper filters, and it’s lined so your coffee never comes into contact with plastic.  It’s also relatively inexpensive ($39).

I’m suggesting that you buy it from the shop at Food52, because I love the site.  It’s filled with all manner of useful and interesting objects for cooks.  They can’t promise it will arrive before Christmas – but you could always wrap up a few great bags of coffee beans with the promise of the palmpress in the future.

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Gift Guide 2018: Better Balsamic

December 18, 2018

Unless your friend is extremely beloved, you’re probably not going to get her the very best balsamic vinegar for Christmas.  The great stuff, the kind that’s been aged for many many years, slowly evaporating as it moves to ever tinier barrels, costs the earth.

But there’s another option.

This dark cherry balsamic, created by Massimo Bottura, is a truly wonderful concoction that combines two of Modena’s proudest products: Vignola cherries and balsamic vinegar. The cherry flavor is definitely there, lurking behind the grapes.  It adds a natural sweetness to the tart vinegar that is never cloying.  It makes a great glaze for many birds, and it’s positively in love with pork. Fresh strawberries are enchanted by this vinegar.  And over ice cream?  Perfect.

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Gift Guide 2018: Super Seeds

December 17, 2018

Dan Barber has the most interesting food mind in the country.  At least in my opinion.  He’s always a few steps ahead of the rest of us. (If you haven’t read his The Third Plate, what are you waiting for?)

While others are fixated on the farm to table movement, Dan’s moved on.  According to him, we should be thinking seed to table. And that is why he, along with breeder Michael Mazourek and seedsman Matthew Goldfarb started Row 7 Seeds.They’ve also collected an impressive community of collaborators; think famous chefs and growers across the world.

These seeds are breed for one thing: flavor.  They’re also organic, American, non-GMO and – importantly – unpatented. They’re also unusual.

Take, for example, the habanada pepper.  It has that elusive fruitiness of the habanero, without the heat.  It’s the perfect pepper for someone more focused on flavor than pain.

And these purple snowpeas?  Beauregardes keep their color when cooked.  (They’re not yet available, but stay tuned.)

If you know a gardener, a few packets of seeds would make a wonderful – and extremely inexpensive – gift. The company sells unusual squashes, beets, cucumbers, potatoes… But the real gift here is simply introducing your friends to Row 7 Seeds; great food, after all, starts in the garden.



Roasted Clementines!

December 17, 2018

You know how sad clementines can be when you bring them home?  You’re looking for something juicy, bright, fresh –  but they’re just kind of hard and miserable?

Contemplating an entire bag of the things, it hit me that I should try roasting them.  All fruits and vegetables get better when they’re blasted with heat.  So I peeled the clementines, separated them into  sections and took off as much of the white strings as I could.  I slicked a cast iron pan with olive oil, cranked up the heat and roasted the sections for a couple minutes a side until they were slightly charred.

But then what?  It wasn’t quite enough.  So I heated a bit of olive oil, tossed in some red pepper flakes and a few sprigs of the rosemary plant that lives in my kitchen.  I added a couple drops of cider syrup (anything sweet would do), and a splash of vinegar, and let that sit on the stove for a few minutes. Then I poured it over the tangerine slices and let them marinate all day.

I served them, sprinkled with salt and a few grindings of  kampot pepper, on crackers spread with ricotta.  They’re also great with sliced  prosciutto. But I can think of lots of other ways to use these little bites of citrus.  Think of them kind of like marmalade in the rough- and let your imagination run wild.

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Gift Guide 2018: Last Call

December 16, 2018

I was really sad to read that Shed, the great Healdsburg emporium, restaurant and cooking school is closing its doors.  It’s one of the great food institutions of the West, a gorgeous and impeccably curated collection of everything having to do with food. I never fail to stop in when I’m in Sonoma County, and I’ve discovered many of my favorite products there. But alas, the Sonoma fires took a toll on tourism – and thus on this seminal shop.

Happily Shed will continue as an online emporium.

Although they have a slew of wonderful products, what I particularly appreciate is their selection of Japanese goods.  The donabe up above is a pretty perfect pot that any cook would be happy to receive. But they’ve also got spectacular organic black sesame oil, made by the same Japanese company for 130 years,

furikake powder, which adds a teasing sweet and savory touch to all manner of dishes

and this lovely stoneware hot pot that goes easily from oven to table.

But don’t take my word for it: go to the site and take a look.  I’ll be very surprised if you don’t find something fascinating that you’ve never seen before.

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