Gift Guide 2019: The Coolest Tool

December 14, 2019

Buying anything on Indiegogo is always a gamble. The last item I purchased was almost a year late. Still, when it finally arrived, it was worth the wait.

This one is late too. The Chopbox Cutting Board was promised for Christmas but like almost everything I’ve contributed to on the site, it’s not quite on time. Still, I’ve bought these for a few of my cleanfreak friends, and I don’t think they’ll mind waiting.

The Chopbox is a smart cutting board that has a built-in scale, a built-in timer and two knife sharpeners. It hides a second board beneath it. But its main selling point is that it sterilizes itself with a built-in disinfecting UVC light. Can you think of anything more reassuring?

Mine hasn’t arrived yet, so I have no idea if it will actually live up to its promise. But if it does, it will make many people very happy.

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Gift Guide 2019: Silver Spears

December 13, 2019

If you’ve never seen asparagus tongs before – and really, who has? – this is what they look like. You slip your fingers into the loops and pick up the spears, one by one.

As utensils go, these are pure Victoriana. But they’d make a perfect gift for someone who has everything. Or a cutlery freak. Or simply someone who loves strangely beautiful objects.

This particular tong is an antique – and you can find examples on the web. Try here or here.

This one, on the other hand, is a contemporary version made by Vagabond House; you can find it here. (They also make other interesting objects for asparagus freaks.)

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Gift Guide 2019: Hold the Soy Sauce

December 12, 2019

The first time I tasted Bonji – at Majordomo in L.A. – I was tempted to pick the bottle up and drink it.

It’s like soy sauce, but subtler. Fermented and cold-pressed, it’s made the same way traditional soy sauce is – only not with soy beans. The Momofuku Culinary Lab is reimagining Asian basics – they also make a miso subsitute called Hozon- for an American audience. Bonji is made from rye, and it’s lighter and less salty than most soy sauces, with a sweet, almost fruity backtaste.

I’ve got a whole range of soy sauces in my pantry, from very expensive aged Japanese brands to a smoked version, one aged in cherry wood, another from Korea that’s absolutely funky. But these days I find myself reaching for the Bonji: I just love the way it tastes.

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Gift Guide 2019: We All Need Another Cookbook.

December 11, 2019

Sea Urchin Lumpias. Takoyaki Hush Puppies. Coffee-Braised Brisket. Shrimp and Okra Pancakes. Cilantro Rice Chicken Congee.

What do these recipe have in common? They’re all featured in a wonderful new cookbook put out by the Vilcek Foundation, A Place at the Table.

If you don’t know about the Vilcek Foundation, you should. Their mission is to honor the contributions made by immigrants in all fields. In 2010 they gave their first culinary award to Jose Andres. (Full disclosure: I was on the jury.) Jose wrote the foreword to this book; Padma Lakshmi wrote the introduction.

“The forty immigrant chefs profiled in this cookbook,” writes Jose, “and the hundreds of thousand of immigrants who work in the restaurant industry around the country are key to making America – and American food – great.”

The chefs hail from everywhere; you’ll meet Corey Lee, Alon Shaya, Pichet Ong, Daniela Soto-Innes, Dominque Crenn and Emma Bengtsson. And many others. As for the recipes- they all sound really wonderful.

And did I mention that the book is beautiful?

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Gift Guide 2019: Open Up

December 10, 2019

This is my favorite wine opener.

I bought it for $2 at a thrift shop in Berkeley in 1974, and I’ve used it almost every day since.

It has no bells and no whistles: it just works.  And it wasn’t even designed to open wine.  It’s an antique beer opener. 

If you’re looking for a really thoughtful gift for someone who likes wine (or artisanal beer brews with corks instead of caps), you could not do better than a vintage beer corkscrew.  You can find them in many antique stores, rummage shops and the like.  And there are dozens of online sources at wildly varying prices.  Try this one – or this one

And while you’re at, you might consider getting one for yourself. 

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