If ever there was a moment when people wanted to grow their own herbs, this is it. And everyone I know who has one of these Aerogarden hydroponic black light kits absolutely loves it.
Which is why I’m planning on buying these for all my friends who don’t. It’s looking like a difficult winter; we’re all going to be doing a lot of cooking. And what could be more encouraging than a few fresh herbs?
A notice just landed in my inbox – and I immediately ordered Momofuku Soy Sauce. If you have friends who love Asian food, you might want to act with equal alacrity. Momofuku products tend to sell out quickly.
Have I tried it yet? I have not. But I love this Bonji they made a few years ago, and the Bonjis they serve at a few of their restaurants, and I’m hoping that this is just as good. As far as I’m concerned, you can’t have too many varieties of soy sauce.
A few years ago Francis Lam brought me back a tiny bottle of the legendary Yuan’s Royal soy sauce from Hong Kong. It was, hands down, the best I’ve ever had. Sadly, you can’t buy it here, but I keep looking for another one with equal depth.
I remember the first time I encountered kokum. It was at Lespinasse, where the late great Gray Kunz was using a whole range of spices found in no other French restaurant in New York. “What is that haunting flavor in this dish?” I asked the waiter. “I’ll find out,” he said.
He returned with the information that it was kokum. I’d never heard of it, and immediately went out to Jackson Heights to purchase the dried fruit.
I’ve been using it ever since. But now I’m discovering a whole host of new spices, thanks to this wonderful set of Tarot Cards produced by Tadaka Tarot. It’s an ingenious system for learning to use Indian spices: each card connects you to compatible spices and offers recipes. If you have friends who love Indian food but are intimidated by the range of spices, they’ll be thrilled with this gift.
And since I began by mentioning the late Chef Kunz, I might remind you that the famous Kunz spoon, which is found in great kitchens across the country. It too would make a wonderful gift. I wrote about it here in the Gift Guide of 2012.
In my house, capers are an essential ingredient. So I was overjoyed to discover the giant salt-packed capers imported by Gustiamo. They are, hands down, the best capers I’ve found in America.
But the truth is that my pantry is always filled with the superb products Gustiamo imports from Italy. If you have an Italian food-lover on your list, they’ll be thrilled with almost everything on the site. Gustiamo imports this fantastic apricot jam from Sicily; it’s not a preserve, but a thin and extremely flavorful jam that makes a great glaze for fruit tarts. (It’s also perfect in a Sacher torte.)
This cherry tomato sauce makes an almost instant dinner on top of some of their terrific pasta
And the panettone they import every year at this time is legitimately legendary.
I’m still using the Dansk pots my mother bought in the sixties, and I love every one of them. Still, when my son gave me this Dansk Kobenstyle butter warmer for Christmas last year, I was underwhelmed. I said “Thank you very much,” put it in the drawer and expected to forget about it.
To my surprise, I find myself reaching for this surprisingly useful little pot almost every day. It’s the perfect vessel for a single soft-boiled egg. It reheats that half cup of coffee you forgot to drink. Need to produce a quick hit of gravy? Just the thing. Miso soup perhaps? And, of course, it does very well at its intended purpose. You don’t even need a potholder.