Gift Guide 2018: So Many Good Things…

December 11, 2018

When I have a few free moments nothing gives me more pleasure than trolling through the online catalog of Corti Brothers in Sacramento. The site is always filled with new and wonderful things to eat.

In the early seventies, when I moved to California, people in need of truffles, great olive oil, or the best Parmigiano, invariably called Darrell Corti who would send it off to them on a Greyhound bus. Darell was selling balsamic vinegar before anyone else in America had ever heard of it, and collecting California wines before most people understood how good they could be.  I still think he knows more about food and wine than anyone else in the country.  And the store is still importing foods you can’t find anywhere else.

These Italian candied black cherries are a case in point. If you like real maraschino cherries, you’ll like these wild cherries from the Adriatic coast even better. Any mixologist would be grateful to be introduced to this easy way of making an Old Fashioned something really special.

This sour cherry syrup would be a fantastic gift for someone who wants to dabble in Persian cuisine.

And if you know a soy sauce freak, they’ll want to know about the line of fascinating variations Corti Brothers imports from Japan.  I’m particularly partial to this:

Mitsuboshi Saishikome Shoyu double fermented soy sauce, which has a smooth umami richness that sets it apart from other soy sauces.

But don’t take my word for it: go to the website and look around. I’m willing to bet that you’ll encounter a few products you’ve never seen before.

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Gift Guide 2018: Is This the Future?

December 10, 2018

In their review The Daily Meal called this an “easy bake oven for adults.” C-Net liked it a lot. So did Wired. I certainly don’t want one of these space-age ovens, and most people I know wouldn’t want to spend more than a thousand dollars for an appliance that takes up too much space on your kitchen counter. 

But if you have a loved one who insists on being the first to own the latest technology, then he (and it probably is a man) will definitely want the Brava pure light technology oven.  

Apparently the oven can go from 0°F to 500°F in less than a second while cooking different foods to apparent perfection at the same time on a single tray.  

It’s probably an early clue to a new direction. It cooks food faster.  It heats the food, not the air around it.  And it’s certainly a way to be the hippest cook on the block.

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Gift Guide 2018: Perfect Christmas Cookies

December 9, 2018

My father moved to New York from Berlin in 1926.  He was twenty-six years old and fairly set in his food ways.  Which is to say that he didn’t really consider anything that wasn’t German could possibly be real food.

He thought cereal was a strange American invention, had very little use for salad (or anything green, to be completely honest), and wouldn’t dream of eating dinner if a basket of bread was not on the table.  And when I wanted to make him happy, all I had to do was bake a Sacher Torte.

The one thing I never could figure out was Lebkuchen. Partly because I didn’t know where to buy the strangely innocent wafers that are on the bottom (I always imagined they were large communion wafers).  It didn’t matter, because Dad knew someone who kept us supplied with the classic German Christmas cookies.

For years I dreamed about finding another great source for Lebkuchen; there are plenty of commercial brands, but none taste right to me.  And then I discovered Leckerlee. And it was like being a child again.

These are the real thing. Chewy, gingery, spicy, nutty – with that completely tasteless but compelling wafer on the bottom. It is, for me at least, Christmas in a single bite.

 

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Gift Guide 2018: Serious Heat

December 8, 2018

Okay, I know you’re over hot sauce.  These days everybody seems to be making it, and there are entire stores exclusively devoted to the stuff.

But I just discovered a line of hot sauces that have real character.  Hot Fire Hot Sauces are made by Nate Courtland, a chef who was raised in Nogales, Arizona (where they definitely know their peppers), these are more than merely hot.  They have balance and soul.

Made with organic ingredients sourced from local farmers, they’re fermented in charred oak whisky barrels, which gives them real character.. 

They’re all delicious, bu the one that moves me the most is Ghost Pepper Cran-Apple, the hottest of the lot.   The heat of those Carolina Reapers is tempered with roasted garlic, diced apple cider and the sneaky tang of fresh cranberries.  It’s kind of addictive.  

And hey – at $7 a bottle it makes a truly lasting impression. A little of this goes a very long way.

 

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Gift Guide 2018: Goose Feathers!

December 7, 2018

One of the reasons I live in the Hudson Valley is because I’m surrounded by wonderful farmers.  I just bought my Christmas goose from Kinderhook Farm, which is a kind of dream of a place that raises all manner of animals in a humane fashion.

The place is run by artists – and in her spare time Georgia Ranney, makes art out of goose feathers.  I can’t think of a lovelier present for a cook than one of her feather monoprints.

Lovely and unique, they cost $25 apiece or 5 for $100. And while you’re on the site, take a look at their farmstay cottage.  Open from May to October, reservations sell out fast because this too is kind of a dream.

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