Winter Solstice is just around the corner (that's right, roll your eyes), and I love the excuse to give presents. Not all of my friends care that much about food (ahem, french fry aficionado, you know who you are), but for the ones who do, food-themed presents are an easy way to give a unique, stand-out gift to your inner circle. And hopefully they'll serve it when you're around. Here are some very clever products I have been checking out:
These mixers (and one very special bourbon) will make you into an alcoholic. But a happy one.
Owl's Brew Coco-Lada: a beverage mixer with pineapple, coconut, and chai spices (whaaat?!) with a black tea base makes vodka, rum, and just about anything else magical.
Quince & Apple Honey Lemon Syrup: pour it into whiskey
White Whale Filthy Liar: lychee-rosemary-clove mixer tastes great with gin or just club soda.
Wyoming Whiskey: in true cowboy fashion, these guys have had a slow and disorganized start, but if you can place an order early enough (or just make it a mid-winter surprise when it finally shows up), their small-batch whiskey and newly released bourbon really are worth the wait.
Stuff Your Face:
It's fun to do all of your own cooking and baking, but it's also fun to sample amazing talent from around the country while you sit on the couch watching t.v. and drinking fancy cocktails
Caramels from Fran's Chocolates: handmade in Washington state, the smoked salt caramels are my favorite.
French macarons from the iconic Macaron Cafe in NYC: I love the caramel "fleur de sel", cassisviolette, and jasmin, but you do what you want.
Looseleaf tea from englishteastore.com: the packaging is far from luxurious, but these guys have the best tea, hands down, and at a very low price. I first discovered them when I had their Monk's Blend (black tea with vanilla, caramel, and grenadine) at an organic shop, but have since become hooked on their chocolate orange and Earl Grey cream, as well. Oh, who am I kidding? I get all my tea here.
It may seem a little old-fashioned, but I just don't believe that cookbooks translate well to e-reader, especially with the beautiful artwork modern books all seem to have. Consider some beautiful, and practical, food porn for your favorite curmudgeon this year.
Yvette van Boven: Homemade
I loved her Homemade Summer, and this is the one that started it all. She's Irish and runs a restaurant in the Netherlands, and her recipes combine traditions from the two cultures in a carefree, relaxed way. You know these people for whom hosting parties, making cocktails, looking perfect, etc., is just natural? This is how her recipes will make you feel about your cooking.
Christopher Blain: In the Kitchen with Alain Passard: Inside the World (and Mind) of a Master Chef
Super fun graphic novel with clean, spare artwork.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall: River Cottage Veg
I mentioned this cookbook here in this blog last summer, and it's still one of my new favorites. F-W is pragmatic in his love of vegetables; this is a no-fuss collection of recipes which will sometimes surprise you in the combinations and textures he manages to create. Plus, he's the only guy who consistently put Gordon Ramsay in his place on the F-Word, so he's earned some serious street cred, as far as I'm concerned!
Michael Hudman and Anthony Ticer: Collards & Carbonara: Southern Cooking, Italian Roots
These recipes highlight the best of both Italian and Southern cooking, from the use of fresh, local produce in season to simple preparations that retain the character of the original foods.
Aki Kamozawa and Alexander Talbot: Maximum Flavor: Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook
From the bloggers who created Ideas in Food, this book takes a very scientific approach to solving standard challenges in the kitchen. These guys are geniuses, and you will learn more about your food so that you can be a more intelligent cook.
Edward Lee: Smoke and Pickles: Recipes and Stories from a New Southern Kitchen
For the meat lover; this guy was a real douchebag on Top Chef, but his recipes are brilliant, and I love the pairing of Asian and Southern elements--it works surprisingly well!
Ivan Orkin: Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes from Tokyo's Most Unlikely Noodle Joint
I think you all know how much I love ramen, but even if you are not as into it as I am, this will teach you a new appreciation for the art of excellent ramen making and give you some great recipes to try. This book is total geekery.