Gift Guide 2019: A Truly Great Pestle

December 8, 2019

Nigel Slater has one. Nigella Lawson has one too. And they both swear by their flat mortar and pestles. Now I want one too.

Think about it: doesn’t it make sense to work on a flat surface when you’re making pesto or guacamole? And doesn’t it make sense to have a pestle that nestles into your hand?

They’re beautiful. They’re expensive. And as far as I can tell, the only way to get the gorgeous one they have is to order it from English ceramicist John Julian, who makes them by hand. (Here’s an American source.….)

And while we’re on the subject of pestles – if you’ve never seen this hilarious clip from The Court Jester, you have a real treat in store. The vessel with the pestle….

Okay, can’t help myself. Speaking of Danny Kaye (the great actor was one of the best cooks I’ve ever met), here he is with Louis Armstrong: When the Saints...

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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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