Gift Guide 2019: Okay, Now I’m Embarrassed

December 7, 2019

This is, without any doubt, the stupidest gift suggestion I’ve ever posted.

On the other hand, if you’re like me you probably know someone who’s obsessed with certain fast food chains. Yes, I do know a White Castle fanatic. And this ugly sweater is probably the perfect present for him.

Turns out that almost every fast food chain has an online store. I promise you that every object they sell is pretty cringe-inducing. At KFC you can buy fireplace logs that will make your house smell like fried chicken. MacDonald’s, of course, has an entire line of products, including a jolly holiday sweater.

They’re selling out fast: if you want Red Lobster’s Ugly Sweater you’re already too late (it’s probably that insulated pocket that made it so popular). Sad though it may be, you undoubtedly know someone who would get a good laugh from one of these gifts.

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Gift Guide 2019: Keep it Clean

December 6, 2019

Okay, I’ll admit that this is a bit odd. But this cold water wash, Soak, has pretty much changed my life. It’s definitely cut back on my dry cleaning bills. Lately I find that I’m ordering extra and pressing bottles on my friends.

What’s so great about this laundry soap? For one thing, it smells delicious. For another, you don’t have to rinse it out, which means that the lovely scent of Yuzu lingers in your clothes. And not having to rinse your clothes means that hand-washing is a breeze.

If you have friends who travel frequently, Soak offers all manner of travel-sizes options, and this would make a wonderful gift. Knitters, it turns out, are also crazy for Soak. As for stay-at-home friends, they might look at you a bit strangely when they tear open the wrapping to find laundry soap, but they’ll thank you once they use it.

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Gift Guide 2019: Wrap it Up

December 5, 2019

When environmentally friendly, reusable food wraps hit the market a couple of years ago, we all cheered. At last an end to the endless plastic clutter we were imposing on the oceans.

The new food wraps were virtuous. But they were also, for the most part, depressingly unattractive.

Of course somebody had to make a better, more beautiful version. Enter ZWraps. Washable, reusable, and made with organic ingredients, they’re also extremely lovely to look at. I appreciate the way they warm up in your hands, becoming soft and pliable. And I love the way they seem to curl up around lemons and make every bowl look more beautiful. They don’t cost much, and they’d make perfect presents for all your friends who want to feel they’re being part of the solution.

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Gift Guide 2019: Very Hot

December 4, 2019

For the past few years I’ve included at least one favorite and unusual hot sauce (I’m still very fond of last year’s selection), but this year the hot sauce craze has gone – well, crazy. There are so many on the market that there are now dozens of hot sauce of the month clubs.

So this year I’m recommending a slight alternative. If you like Sichuan peppercorns you rejoiced when they came back on the market a few years ago. (If you want to read about the ban, you can do it here.) But you also know how fugitive that ma la flavor can be. You just can’t keep the peppercorns very long before the distinctive tingly burn begins to fade.

This Blankslate Szechuan Chili Oil, with its intriguing, slightly gingery zip, is the answer. I keep it in my refrigerator to perk up just about everything from Ma Po Tofu to steamed spinach. It’s made in Brooklyn, and if you live in New York State it’s pretty easy to find. It’s also easily available online.

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Gift Guide 2019: Searchin’ for Urchins

December 3, 2019

Stephanie Mutz may be the coolest woman in America. When I met her a few months ago in Ojai her hands were stained purple, which makes sense since she is the only female sea urchin diver in the state of California.

The sea urchins she and her partner harvest for their company, Sea Stephanie Fish, are, in my opinion, the best in the world. (Some people prefer sea urchins from Hokkaido, but I’ll take those from Santa Barbara any day of the week.) If you’re lucky enough to live in Southern California, you can eat Stephanie’s astonishingly good uni in many restaurants. Even better, real sea urchin fanatics can purchase them in many places (they’re listed on the website).

If you’re buying whole sea urchins, you’re going to need to open them. Given their sharp spines and prickly exteriors, that’s not easy. Which is where this extremely functional tool comes in. Its only purpose is opening the little creatures up.

Stephanie sold me my sea urchin opener, but it turns out you can buy them on Amazon. And what sea urchin lover wouldn’t be happy to possess one of her very own?

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