Gift Guide 2018: Snack Time

December 21, 2018

It’s getting to be very late for shipping, so now you have to be more creative.  This is the time I usually suggest that you promise your friends some fantastic fruit later in the year, when it comes into season.  I’ve suggested the fabulous pixie tangerines from Tangerine Man in Ojai, the peaches from Frog Hollow Farm, dried apricots, and even, one year, that you buy an olive tree for a friend so they can have the oil come harvest time.

This year, however, I’m going in a more frivolous direction.  How about snacks from Japan?  Bokksu sends a monthly selection of treats – some sweet, some salty – from the nation that worships snacks. Not sure I approve, but in this absurd political moment, with everything going completely crazy, a monthly box of junk from halfway across the world seems somehow appropriate. 

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It’s Not too Late for Oysters

December 20, 2018

If you’re still trying to buy a Christmas tree, at least in my neck of the woods, you’re too late.  They’re gone. And if you’re trying to ship gifts, you’re running out of time. Fast.

But you can still send your friends a few dozen oysters.  Island Creek Oysters are my favorite east coast oysters, and I’ve been ordering them for years.  They harvest the oysters today, put them in the mail, and you’ll have them tomorrow.  And here’s the best part: shipping is free. (Although you have to pay for Saturday delivery; and since there are no deliveries on Christmas Eve or Christmas, time is of the essence.)

I can’t think of a better gift than 100 oysters – unless it’s 200.  Add a little caviar and the gift gets even better.

But don’t wait too long.  Even oystermen take Christmas off.

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Gift Guide 2018: Go Cup

December 19, 2018

Got a constant traveler or a coffee addict on your list?  This is a perfect present.

The palmpress collapsible coffee press really does fit into the palm of your hand. And your purse or your pocket. So it’s just the thing to toss into a suitcase or keep on your desk when you’re craving a quick shot of caffeine.

The little coffee titan has all manner of other fine qualities: it eliminates waste by doing without paper filters, and it’s lined so your coffee never comes into contact with plastic.  It’s also relatively inexpensive ($39).

I’m suggesting that you buy it from the shop at Food52, because I love the site.  It’s filled with all manner of useful and interesting objects for cooks.  They can’t promise it will arrive before Christmas – but you could always wrap up a few great bags of coffee beans with the promise of the palmpress in the future.

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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.


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