Gift Guide 2019: Bottarga, But Better

December 22, 2019

Bottarga (cured mullet roe), was once an obscure ingredient, but lately it seems to be popping up on menus everywhere. I couldn’t be happier: it’s wonderful stuff.

It’s often referred to as “poor man’s caviar” because it is, after all, fish roe. But recently a few caviar producers are making “rich man’s bottarga.” They’re taking pricey sturgeon roe and curing it until it is a solid block that you can grate as you would bottarga. It’s wonderful simply grated over buttered pasta or omelets (the heat releases the flavor). And sliced into thin little sheets it’s the perfect addition to this canape season.

I particularly like the Calvisius Lingotto caviar, which is produced in Italy. Aged in oak molds, it comes swathed in gold – a perfectly pre-wrapped present.


Gift Guide 2019: Promises, Promises

December 21, 2019

It’s not quite on the market yet.

Still, if you know someone who dreams of becoming a barbecue pitmaster, and you happen to have a few spare thousands on your hands, here’s an incredibly cool gift. Your friend could be one of the first people to own one of Aaron Franklin’s new backyard smokers.

As everyone who cares about true barbecue knows, Aaron Franklin is the man. People line up at his Austin place for hours just for a taste of his ‘cue. (I’ve done it myself, and yes, it’s worth the wait.)

But what if you could achieve that same quality in your very own backyard? Could you do it if you had one of the handmade smokers the Franklin people are working on right now?

Only time will tell.

You don’t have to buy one now. In fact, you can’t. What you can do is sign up for the newsletter – so you’ll be at the head of the line when the new Franklin Smoker is available. In the meantime, just to get ready, you could sign your friend up for Franklin’s master class on smoking meat.

Cool tidbit: Aaron told me that his grandfather was one of the original Texas Playboys.

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Gift Guide 2019: How Much Do You Love Me?

December 20, 2019

I don’t have one of these – but I really want one. I know lots of people who have them – and none of them can stop talking about the amazing Roccbox.

A few years ago I got a steel for my oven – and I love it. But it has serious drawbacks. It takes an hour to get hot enough, and then it’s basically only good for a single pizza, or maybe two, before you have to heat the thing up again.

But the Roccbox? It gets up to temperature – an amazing 950 degrees- in a matter of minutes. And it stays hot, so you can turn out a whole party of pizzas. Best of all, you can heat it with wood.

I’ve always wanted a woodburning oven. And now, apparently, it’s almost in reach. This may even be the present I buy myself this year.

My nephew sent me this picture. He’s extremely proud of the leoparding on his pizza….

So what do they cost? About $700. You can buy them in many places, including of course Amazon. But why not go right to the source?

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Gift Guide 2019: Light My Fire

December 19, 2019

Of all the hostess presents I received this year, this was my favorite.

Like most people who cook on gas, I’ve got a burner that no longer lights by itself. I can’t tell you how often I’ve scorched my fingers putting a match to the recalcitrant one.

Not anymore.

As you can see, these fabulous matches are very long. They are also easy to light – and easy to reuse. So this is a gift that will last.

Their original purpose is for fireplaces, and they work very well for grills. So it’s a very versatile present.

The matches look very nice sitting on the counter, and when they’re gone, you’ve got a very nice canister for pasta, sugar or beans.

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Gift Guide 2019: Bread Bakers Dream

December 18, 2019

It’s too late to get this in time for Christmas: I should have posted it earlier. Still, any passionate baker will be willing to wait.

Every bread baker I know swears by the Ankasrum Stand Mixer, which has been made in Sweden since 1940 and comes with a seven year guarantee.

This is a serious workhorse whose 600 watt motor is capable of mixing the 11 pounds of dough the bowl holds. It also comes with a wide range of attachments that will extrude pasta, juice lemons, grind meat and make sausage.

This isn’t a minor gift: the Ankasrum costs almost $700 and the attachments are extra. But it’s made to last a lifetime, and in this time of planned obsolescence, that’s extremely reassuring.