If you’re like me, you haven’t done a lick of Christmas shopping yet. If you’re not like me, and have already done most, if not all, of your shopping, then kudos to you (overachiever). I’ve always meant to be that kind of person who slowly stockpiles gifties so I don’t have to run around like a lunatic come December. But I have to admit, I kind of like running around like a lunatic. And of course, there is now the blessed interweb, where you can make purchases while in your underwear (not that I do that). So this list—Part 1 of 2—is for those of you still looking for that special something (s). Most of these will be food-related, for obvious reasons, with a bias towards books because books are cool and there are so many good ones out this season. Starting with the one above!
1. The Edible Selby by Todd Selby
Selby is an intrepid photographer and illustrator who travels the globe to profile interesting people for his blog and also The New York Times: T Magazine. The people he gravitates towards are odd, creative, devoted craftsman and free-spirits. In his new book, they are also food makers: From a Nordic salmon smoker to a Punk Japanese sushi chef, a Sicilian winemaker and Brooklyn taco-making surfer. He captures them all doing their thing in colorful, beautiful, but not too perfect, day-in the life vignettes. I wish I was Todd Selby sometimes.
Just trust me that the McClure’s Bloody Mary Mixer will lead you to the cocktail promiseland. I was introduced to this magical concoction on a mom-only weekend getaway (it was a lot crazier then it sounds!) where it was combined with orange-flavored Stoli once the daytime imbibing began. This of course sounds odd, who would do such a thing (not moms drinking during the day but combining orange vodka with bloody mary mix)? But somehow it completely works. I have since found myself craving one of these bloody marys in the middle of the day, my mouth will start to salivate while I think about it. I think the key-ingredient is the pickle juice McClure’s adds, which makes sense since they are a pickle company and probably have barrels of the stuff lying around. But really, get this. A jar for you and a jar for them. You’ll thank me.
Am I suggesting you buy someone you love a plastic wrap cutter for the holidays? Yes, I am. Because this one is BRILLIANT. The Wrapcutter was introduced to me by Rhoda, the food stylist on our cookbook shoot. Everyone fell in love with it, almost to the point of obsessive dorkery. “Oooh, do it again! Can I cut a sheet! Hey, it’s my turn!”. I am telling you it actually makes the task of slicing the perfect sheet of plastic wrap not only foolproof (no more tangled balls) but fun. A perfect stocking stuffer.
This idea comes from my cousin Jennifer, who asked me to recommend a gift for her husband (I hope he doesn’t read this blog…I’m pretty sure he doesn’t). He’s a masterful Friday night pizza maker and she was looking for a handsome wooden board for him to serve pizza on. I have always loved everything from the Vermont-based Simon Pearce, but most people think of them as glassmakers, whereas they do wonderful things with wood as well, like this Maple board. There’s also one in cherry.
5. Tea from Mariage Freres
When I’m dreaming of Paris but can’t actually go there, one thing that I love to do is make a cup of tea from my secret stash of Mariage Freres Marco Polo loose leaves. Nothing can exactly duplicate the dark mystique of their shop on the Left Bank lined with massive black tins. But at least you can buy a little tin on-line for your favorite tea lover, give it as a gift, and then invite yourself over for tea. The most popular varieties you can find on-line, but they also have gorgeous holiday tea tins; unfortunately it looks like they may only ship to France or the UK. Or you can call the store direct and charm them into shipping it for you. See HERE.
I have written before about Trillium, which is a simple gem of shop in Rockland, Maine where we spend a few weeks every summer. Although this is not exactly a food-related item, the soaps make a wonderful gift, and I keep mine at the kitchen sink to wash my hands when I’m preparing a meal (they are gentle on the hands, particularly in the winter, and one block lasts forever). Trillium uses all natural and organic ingredients, 100% plant essences and rain water (!) in their handmade products. They also have varieties that smell good enough to eat, like grapefruit, cinnamon oatmeal, ginger spice, lemon fennel, and spearmint.
7. Jeni’s Holiday Ice Cream Box
I would recommend anything from Jeni’s—an artisanal ice cream maker based in Ohio that, arguably, makes some of the best ice cream in the country—but since they offer a holiday assortment why not start there. It includes 1 pint of all the above (sweet potato with torched marshmallow! dear Lord). Or, you can pick and choose and match the flavor to the person. I like brown butter almond brittle, brambleberry crisp, goat cheese with red cherries, and mango lassi frozen yogurt. They also make ice cream sandwiches! You know where to find me.
8. Maldon Smoked Sea Salt
Maldon’s sea salt flakes have always been one luxury that I think every pantry should not be without. Because just a little bit of this harvested salt can transform practically any ingredient, from a sliced tomato to a piece of dark chocolate, and make it sing. Now they have come out with a smoked version, which I can’t wait to sprinkle on mushroom bisque or a bowl of fettucine carbonara. Also, here’s an interesting article on the harvesting of fleur de sel which ran this year in the NY Times.
I wrote about the Moleskin Recipe Journal for the Arsenal section of Martha Stewart Living last February and it remains one of my fave things for the person who loves both stationary and cooking in equal measure. It comes with many clever little pockets and stickers and think of what a keepsake it might make for future generations? Did I mention there are stickers?
10. Benton Country Ham
I’ve only been the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee once (yes, I went to Dollyworld), but the memory of eating that state’s smoked country ham for the first time lingers…Luckily you and I can mail order one of the best from Benton’s, who’ve been curing their signature hams since the 1940s. The result is smoky with hickory, tender, a bit sweet (they are cured with brown sugar) and delicious like nothing else. Sliced thick and placed on a buttermilk biscuit with soft butter or apricot jam, and you have a holiday breakfast better then any other. Did I mention they also make bacon? To learn more here’s a nice profile on the Blackberry Farm website.
Stay tuned for part deux of the gift guide!