Gift Guide 2020: Menu Mania

December 9, 2020

I’ve written about Vintage Menus before – but never have they seemed more relevant than at this moment, when restaurants are so terribly threatened.

If you have a restaurant lover on your list, you’ll surely find something among the hundreds of vintage offerings to make them smile. And if you don’t, simply treat yourself to a walk down memory lane as you peruse these paeans to the past.

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Gift Guide 2020: Warming Trend

December 7, 2020

What restaurants are going through is truly dire, and it’s up to those of us who love them to help them survive.

With that in mind, I found myself eating dinner outside with a few friends last week. It was a balmy 38 degrees on the closed off street, but we bundled up and snuggled under the heaters.

We had a very pleasant time. Still, I wished I’d brought a blanket. In fact, I wished I’d brought this blanket from King Restaurant. That way I would have been helping two restaurants at the same time.

There are plenty of beautiful, portable blankets on the market, and any one of them would make a great gift for a dedicated restaurant-goer. But buying one from a restaurant makes the gift that much more meaningful.

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Gift Guide 2020: Bring Home the Bacon

December 6, 2020

What is it about bacon? Americans go so crazy for the stuff that we bought more than 861 pounds this year. (That’s almost five billion dollars in bacon sales.) If you’ve got someone who contributed to that number, there are dozens of silly gifts you can offer them. Let’s begin with these bacon flavored toothpicks. A perfect stocking stuffer.

Then there’s bacon-scented soap. There are many different brands to choose from, and they’re selling out fast. My favorite, which looks just like bacon and comes packaged so realistically you’re tempted to toss it into a skillet, has already sold out.

But don’t worry; there are plenty of other possibities. You might want to consider this bacon-scented lipgloss.

The truth is, there are dozens of other bacon options, from face masks that let you breathe in the scent of bacon all day long to candles, bacon pillows, bacon scarves, bacon beard oil…. And that barely scratches the surface; if you want to bring home the bacon, there are plenty of ways to do it.

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Gift Guide 2020: Chipping In

December 5, 2020

If you have a friend who loves chocolate – and who doesn’t – this would be the perfect present. Dandelion Chocolate Chips make the world’s best chocolate chip cookies. It’s not just that the chocolate – single origin, beautifully crafted – is so superb. It’s that the shape of these giant chips was engineered by a Tesla engineer to provide the optimal tasting experience. The facets allow the chocolate to melt on your tongue.

I’m suggesting the largest size – five and a half pounds – because anyone who loves chocolate will find themself eating half the bag before they ever get around to baking. It’s Christmas, after all, and five pounds of chocolate makes quite a splash. But you don’t have to splurge; the chocolate chips are also available in 500 gram bags.

I love reading the descriptions of the various Dandelion chocolates. If you’re a chocolate lover, you’ll find that simply perusing the site is pure pleasure.

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Gift Guide 2020: Super Salt

December 4, 2020

It looks like brown sugar, but it’s the most amazing salt. On the theory that you can’t have too many kinds of salt, I suggest a different one every year as a small but thoughtful Christmas gift.

But I’ve never encountered anything quite like Red Boat salt. Open the package and the most extraordinarily funky aroma comes leaping out. As the package says, “Caution, use sparingly”. But like the fish sauce that it’s made from, the flavor is quite different from the smell. Sprinkle a bit on anything you cook – vegetables, stews, steaks, chowder – and the umami does wonders, giving even the simplest dish depth and complexity.

This is not sea salt. (If you’re looking for great sea salt, I’m still a fan of Bitterman.) This is made from the great Red Boat fish sauce that’s been fermented in mango wood barrels and then dried. You wouldn’t want to put it on the table, but if you have an adventurous cook on your list, they’ll be very happy to have this incredible salt sitting by the side of the stove.

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