Recipes for Gift Guide

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.



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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Gift Guide 2018: Drink it Up

December 15, 2018

The new Aviary Cocktail Book may be the most beautiful book I’ve ever seen.  The book is huge and weighs more than 8 pounds, but once you start leafing through it, you’re hooked.  Grant Achatz and his team doe nothing by half measure, and everything about the book is compelling. The writing is concise, the recipes meticulous and the photography gorgeous; anyone who cares about cocktails would be thrilled to receive a copy.

And while you’re at it….

you might want to include this beautiful Porthole Infuser, which was originally designed for The Aviary.

Does anybody need this?  Probably not.  On the other hand that probably means that your friends don’t already have one.  And it’s certainly the most beautiful way to make a do-it-yourself project into something lovely.  Make flavored vodkas, flavored oils, lemonade…. Or simply fill it up, set it on the counter and let your friends admire it. 

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Gift Guide 2018: Picky, Picky

December 14, 2018

I love my Blanc Creatives steel pan- it’s the workhorse of my kitchen – but I suggested that last year. (You can read that here.)  So this year I thought their lovely cocktail picks would make a very cool gift.

But they were sold out.

But I’ve just learned that the Virginia company has produced a brand new batch.  Hand forged of steel, with a little copper holder, they’d make a perfect present.  Attractive, useful and unique; this is one gift you can be sure your friends do not already possess.

Order by Sunday, and it will arrive in time for Christmas.  (The site still says they’re sold out, but the Blanc people say that will change before the day is out.)


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