Gift Guide 2020: Big Red

December 14, 2020

In my family, lobster was always a Christmas treat. My mother liked to order ready-to-cook Clam Bakes from Damariscotta, Maine, and it became something we looked forward to all year long. (The ad below is from a vintage issue of Gourmet.

Prices have gone up, but I still consider lobster a perfect holiday food. These days I tend to order mine from Graffam Brothers, and they’ve never let me down. They know how to pack the creatures so they arrive deep black, kicking and ready to cook.

Lobstermen, as you probably know, are not having an easy time just now. Lobsters tend to be luxury restaurant food, and with restaurants closed, demand is down. So if you’re ever going to order lobster, now would be a good time to do it. Personally, I have a hard time thinking of a more delicious gift.

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Gift Guide 2020: Sauce from the Sea

December 13, 2020

Anybody who tries to cook Chinese food at home knows the magic of oyster sauce. A small spoonful adds richness, umami and depth to just about any stir-fry dish.

The problem is that most of the commercially available oyster sauces have never seen anything resembling an oyster. Look at the label; you’re buying sweeteners and thickeners.

But the minute you taste Megachef Oyster Sauce, you know you’ve got the real thing. I buy mine from Mala Market, and if you send this to a friend with a wok they’ll thank you every time they reach for the bottle. Which I promise, will be extremely often.

The sauce is made in Thailand , where fresh oysters are smoked over hardwood before being cooked with sugar salt and cornstarch. The result is this suave, savory sauce.

Buy it today and it will still arrive in time for Christmas. But the truth is, whenever it arrives, this oyster sauce will be extremely welcome.

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Gift Guide 2020: Cutting Edge

December 12, 2020

There are lots of good knives. There are very few good bread knives. And that is why, when the cookware company Made In introduced a new bread knife designed by Nancy Silverton, it sold out almost instantly.

I waited a day and then had to beg. But it was worth it: the knife is heavier than any other bread knife I’ve encountered, and it slices right through any loaf. The handle feels good in your hand. It also comes in a very pretty ribbon-bound box. And if you’re willing to wait, there’s a list.

But yesterday I received news of a brand new version of the Nancy Silverton breadknife. It costs less – and it has a beautiful red handle. Haven’t tried it myself, but if you’ve got someone who’s spent the last 9 months baking bread, I can’t imagine there’s a better gift.

But if I were you, I’d act fast.

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Gift Guide 2020: Secret Sauce

December 11, 2020

When Harborview House Special XO Chili Sauce arrived, I opened the jar and took a taste. Then I took another. And another. It was all I could do not to slurp up the entire bottle.

Now I find myself putting this amazing elixir on everything. I use it on Chinese food of course – it’s wonderful on noodles and stir-fried vegetables – but yesterday I slathered it onto a steak sandwich with spectacular results.

XO sauce is the essence of umami. It’s made with a variety of dried seafoods and meats – dried scallops, dried shrimp, Virginia ham, shallots, garlic, chiles and a variety of spices.

Every chef makes his own version of XO Sauce, but this one from the renowned San Francisco restaurant is especially delicious. I’ll admit that I’m a condiment slut – I have a refrigerator filled with exotic bottles – but this is one condiment I never want to be without. If you know someone like me, they’ll definitely thank you.

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Gift Guide 2020: A Bit Seedy

December 10, 2020

I’ve made a seed suggestion every year since I first began these Gift Guides. And I still think that anything from Hudson Valley Seed Company, with its beautiful packaging, makes a truly great gift.

But this year is different; seed sales are soaring, home gardens are burgeoning, and people who’ve never put their hands in the dirt before are getting in on the fun.

This year I’m suggesting seeds from Row Seven, a company whose organic seeds were developed, in the United States, simply for flavor. You won’t find more delicious vegetables anywhere.

The company offers a wide range of beautiful produce, like the purple peas at the top and the amazing beets just above. There is also this koginut squash and lovely potatoes (a very rewarding home crop).

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