Posts tagged gift guide
Saturday, December 13, 2014

gift guide 2014

33 weeks. Getting real.

Hello friends, i’m sad to report it’s been over a month since I’ve last visited this space. I was quite keen on writing sooner, but between work, editing books, Thanksgiving, and my baby shower, it’s been on the busy end. On weeknights I get home around seven thirty, and by the time we make dinner, eat it, and clean up, I’m so tired that even reading a few pages in bed seems like a Herculean task. Personal errands pile up until the weekend – and I think it’s safe to say we’ve become those boring adults we always thought we’d never be. The joke’s on us.

Still, we’re in the midst of the holidays, and while I know there are some grumbles about how commercial the holiday season can be, I like to think of it as perhaps an opportunity to support you favorite small shops: mortar-and-brick as well as online. I don’t like to think of this season as obligatory, I think it’s far more important that we spend time together.

For the record, this picture has nothing to do with food or holidays, but this pregnancy thing is getting real. 33 weeks. Wow.

If you are feeling like you want to (and can) treat your loved ones (or yourself), here are some of my favorite things these days.

Continue reading gift guide 2014.

Friday, December 16, 2011

2011 holiday gift guide – cookbooks (and an app!!)

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I wanted to include cookbooks before, but I got distracted and forgot. Still, many lovely books have come out this year and I wanted to include a handful of my favorites. Cookbooks make excellent gifts, but the trouble is with so many cookbooks out there, how do you know what is a good cookbook? You have to leaf through enough of the book and read the recipes, visualize them, understand the mechanics behind it, to really, truly judge a book. I know that some folks prefer books without photographs or illustrations (they seem like books geared towards serious cooks), others won’t even touch a book unless each recipe comes with a glossy picture. Both, I think, are misleading. Each book merits its own analysis. What is the goal of the book? Does the book meet the goal? Do you want to cook from it, and if not, is this something you want for inspiration, for ideas, for a future project? Or does the recipient in question want any of those things…

A few of these books are books I have put on my Wish List and Wedding Registry. This is by no means a subtle request that people gift them to me. I have, simply, not gotten around to getting each book, because, as you might suspect, being a freelancer, I have limited funds. Andrew will also remind me that being in a New York apartment, we have limited shelf space, but while he does that, I’ll put my palms over my ears and hum “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to myself and miss the whole thing. What? Space? Who?

So without further ado, here is my list.

Lisa Fain’s The Homesick Texan Cookbook
I’ve known Lisa for a number of years now and have been an avid reader of her blog. I love her turn of phrase, love her unfussy language, love the fact that every time I read something of hers it immediately makes me hungry for the very thing she talks about. I’ve had the book on my hands for a number of months and have made the pulled pork tacos as well as her incredible chili. Both I failed to photograph, hence there’s yet to be a blog post on it. But my ambitious plan next week is to make her kolaches! They remind me of something similar my grandmother used to make – I suppose it all makes sense, since kolaches stem from Eastern Europe, and so do I! Lisa also is a masterful photographer with an eye for not just the small, minute, beautiful details, but also for the sweeping splendor of the Texan open space. It’s a gorgeous, mouthwatering book, beautifully written, photographed, and bound to make a homesick Texan (even if you hail from somewhere else) out of you.

Michael Ruhlman’s Twenty
This is one of my Wish List mains (hint, hint!) but a book that I’ve leafed through enough to (almost) memorize by heart. Here, Michael Ruhlman gives you the building blocks of thinking like a cook, which is something we all could use, no matter the skill level.

Melissa Clark’s Cook This Now

I know, blah blah blah, I know Melissa Clark, blah blah, I can’t possibly be unbiased in my review of her book. And yet. I can be. I cook from it on an almost weekly basis. Not because I know her, but because the recipes are attainable for a weeknight dinner, are delicious, and huge on flavor. I’ve gifted this book to many a friend now, and I hear the same feedback every time, “This book is amazing! Thank you thank you thank you!” It is. And in the day and age when you are promised “30 minute meals”, and you and I both know it’s bollocks, these might not be 30 minutes, but you can make these dishes tonight, or any weeknight of your choosing. Melissa is a busy writer with a toddler – she’s not making this up. And the stories are sweet and heartwarming too!

Jacob Kenedy’s Bocca
This is another wish list favorite. But man, oh man, this book is A-MAZING! Admittedly, I’m going through a bit of an Italian food phase where I really can eat pasta and contorni pretty much all day long. There’s an ocassional Thai or sushi craving. And as of this morning, I’m nursing a fierce dim sum yen, but that’s neither here nor there. This book is so beautifully written and photographed that I kind of just want to tell everyone that I’ll talk to them in a week, turn my phone off, go into the kitchen and just cook everything out of that book. Also, I want to be in those pictures – they are, in a word, evocative.

Nigel Slater’s Tender
I plan on gifting this myself this holiday season. I know that some ladies dream of massages and sparklies, but I humbly dream of Nigel Slater’s Tender. Again, the photography, the writing, the simple, loving approach to vegetables from his garden, are all beautiful. I don’t remember last time I’ve been so smitten with a book like this. Again, I’ve leafed through it so much in our neighborhood book store, that the store clerks are giving me strange looks, “Go and just BUY it already!” I think I shall.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty
My favorite place to eat in London last fall when we went, was Ottolenghi, and we ate some amazing meals on that trip (minus the grouse – that we didn’t like!). Upon returning to the States, I immediately ordered “Plenty”. Even though Ottolenghi himself isn’t a vegetarian, his vegetarian recipes are so delicious, one wouldn’t miss meat in the slightest eating his food, which is boldly spiced with Middle Eastern / Israeli spices that he grew up with. I’ve cooked so many things from the book (every one stellar!), and one of my favorites: Salt and Pepper Tofu is not to be missed.

Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day
Heidi doesn’t tell you to eat health food. Heidi wants you to eat good, clean, delicious food that happens to also be healthy – and to be good to your soul, body, and spirit. Her vegetarian recipes are a marking of a truly resourceful, inventive, flavor-driven cook. One of my favorite things that I’ve been making with leftover quinoa, the quinoa patties, are delicious and healthy. Reading Heidi’s book makes you want to be in the kitchen with her, see the world through her lens, and be nourished.

Food52 Holiday App
I just spent two hours leafing through (leafing, as in an iPad, get it?) the holiday recipes on Food52 Holiday App and can I say something? This is truly wonderful stuff! Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, the site’s creators, have really outdone themselves here! There are cocktails for drinking, cookies for indulging, snacks for your guests, gifts you can make, and main courses that make the season even more festive. I’m going to be using it so much, Andrew might not get access to his (did I mention the iPad isn’t even mine? Ha!) iPad until after the New Year!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

edible gifts

Before I start with the onslaught of cookies, I wanted to share with you my suggestions for edible gifts. This will be a list that will keep growing and eventually will become its own page (once I figure out the coding details). But personally, I love nothing more, than a token of someone’s craft be it candy, cookies, or preserves. It’s a delightful way to spoil someone. Should you be watching your wallet as well, it’s a way to give a gift, without breaking a bank. Happy cooking and eating!

salty cashew brittle Fleur de Sel Caramels
Salty Cashew Brittle
Fleur de Sel Caramels
orangettes pepita brittle
Orangettes
Pepita Brittle
spicy marshmallow gingebread men sweet & spicy nuts
Spicy Marshmallows
Sugar & Spice Candied Nuts
temptation with cayenne homemade oreos
Truffles with Cayenne
Homemade Oreos
Thursday, December 9, 2010

2010 gift guide – kitchen items

Who wouldn’t want this Upside Down Apron for their kitchen? Not only does it protect your clothes from stains brought on by cooking, it also gives you cooking times and measurements printed upside down, so when you are wearing the apron the print is right-side up for you! It’s a win-win for everyone. Don’t you want one for yourself and one to give as a gift?

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For a friend of family member who has the everlasting crush on Brooklyn (o hai), this pair of Fishs Eddy Brooklyn Mugs just might be the ticket. Morning coffee will never taste better. Also, they have just the right amount of aesthetic – I think coffee mugs should strike a nice balance between restraint and design.

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Do you have a baker in the family? Does she (or he!) make stunning layer cakes for every festive occasion (or just because?)? This milk cake stand might be the most beautiful way to display those cakes – what an entrance would they make? The minty green has just the right amount of retro, but the clean lines around the edges spell modern.

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Simon Pearce Pie Dishes – I’ve fallen in love with Simon Pearce glass. We visited the store and studio while in Vermont over Thanksgiving – and Andrew’s parents generously gifted us with a this stunning Barre serving bowl. I can’t stop staring at it. On our way out, I saw these pie dishes and decided that my next Simon Pearce splurge will involve one of these – just look at them – aren’t they works of art?

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I know some cooks might be apprehensive about using a cast iron pan. You can’t put it in the dishwasher, you can’t soak it, you can’t use harsh ingredients, you have to dry it after cleaning, you have to periodically reseason it. Sounds like a pain in the butt! But trust me, this will be your workhorse, your go-to pan, and if you take care of it, it’ll last a lifetime, and might be something you pass onto your children. It goes from stove-top to oven, you can make latkes, roast a chicken, or bake a tarte tatin, just to name a few. It’ll be indispensable and well-loved, and since we could all use more room in our kitchens, aren’t items that can multi-task the best? Besides, no one can argue with this price tag, especially when knowing that this can be a lifetime investment.

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Pricy – yes. Insanely useful and can last forever – also yes. Staub enjoys an almost fanatical following from its users and with good reason: the quality and versatility are incredible. This 5-quart cocotte above is a great size that will allow you to make soup, chili, braise a chicken, bake a loaf of that no-knead bread. In stores, when I was doing research and was asking about Le Creuset vs Staub, everyone kept voting for Staub. “But Le Creuset photographs better,” I whined. The ardent Staub loyalists pointed out to me, however, that Staub has more enamel coatings and is thus more resistant to chipping; the dark interior has ground up quartz in it which make for better heat resistance and a rougher surface (which gives better browning); and those strategically placed spikes on the lid help with the braising process. Plus, they were slightly cheaper, being a younger brand that has more to prove. In short – I’m now an owner of 3! Though to be fair, I paid only for one of them and it was on sale for $50 at TJMaxx. I know – life just isn’t fair. But $50 or $200 – this might be a really lovely and thoughtful splurge on someone near and dear to you: a boyfriend who loves to make chili for a Sunday football game, or a mother-in-law who loves to braise. Besides, when not being used for cooking, this cocotte doubles rather excellently as a free weight you use in lieu of going to the gym.

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Those who’ve lived this long without an immersion blender, upon being given one will thank you endlessly for opening their world to a better life. I mean it – these are indispensable! Imagine not having to use dirty a blender to puree your soup – it can be done in the very pot your soup is cooking. Fewer dishes to wash – sign me up! This is a perfect give for someone who seriously lacks kitchen space – I am dearly attached to mine.

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And let’s not forget cookbooks. This has been a great year for cookbooks – with some wonderful ones coming out. I tried to keep myself on a budget and not buy every cook book I wanted, but I did treat myself to a few and a few were generously sent to me for review. Here’s a sampling of the ones that have charmed me: Around My French Table, In the Kitchen With a Good Appetite, The Essential New York Times Cookbook, Gluten-Free Girl & The Chef, Ready for Dessert, Baked: Explorations, Sticky Gooey Crispy Crunchy, Good To the Grain, and The Perfect Finish. My requirement to make the cut was simple – each one I set aside at least six recipes to make. If I’m missing a few, please forgive me – I’ll be back in the apartment tomorrow night and double check to make sure I didn’t miss any books. Me – what cookbook(s) do I want this holiday season? Plenty and Ottolenghi: The Cookbook – by Yotam Ottolenghi. Ever since our trip to London and the most amazing meal there, I’ve been dreaming of those cookbooks, which I’m hoping to make mine sometime soon. Is self-gifting too self-indulgent?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

2010 gift guide: non-kitchen items

This is that time of the year when we are all searching for the perfect gift for our friends and family, but find ourselves constrained by time, the weather, and if, like me, you live in a city, having to carry everything by yourself running from one store to the other. Me – I’m not a schlepper of things. I am an online orderer, though I do like to browse some shops from time to time.

As far as gifts go, there are many considerations to make, nevermind minding your budget as these things add up quickly. Each year I get excited for the guides from Design*Sponge among many others. This year, I absolutely loved Luisa’s guide which turned me onto the Amco lemon squeezer. Anyway, here are a few of my favorite non-kitchen related things that you might like. I’ll have the kitchen one ready for you in the next few days. Until then – enjoy these!

Red Flower Candles – I first fell in love with Red Flower products over six years ago when a friend gifted me a candle. It was Moroccan Rose and to this day it remains my favorite candle fragrance. I randomly wound up sitting next to the founder, the beautiful and elegant Yael Alkalay, on a train one day and told her just how much I loved her products. Red Flower candles use sustainably sourced, natural ingredients, and burn for 50 (!) hours (that’s a bang for your buck!), filling your home with a very pure, natural scent. I’ve tried just about every luxury candle brand out there and this is my favorite one hands down. And while candles are sort of a “general” gift given out to hostesses and such, these candles are different – not a single scent that smells overwhelming or overly perfumey. Each is lovely. Whoever receives this will thank you for introducing them to the brand.

High Street Market – I love the vintage products such as this milk glass bowl from High Street Market, one of my favorite Etsy shops. Each item is beautiful, striking, unique. Last year, I shopped here for a bunch of holiday gifts. I found an antique horse-head letter opener for my friend Brita and a beautiful silver fruit bowl for Jennie. This bowl, among so many things in this store, would make a wonderful and thoughtful gift. Just imagine how beautiful citrus will look in it!

Dear Fieldbinder, – Sigh. I want everything from this boutique. Each. And. Every. Thing. Every item that makes it into the store is carefully curated and selected with a keen eye and precision. Not only is the stuff great, but consistent in their feel from one piece to the next. My most coveted items, besides their Madison Marcus dresses, are their stunning jewelry items such as the earrings above. And while many of the items at the store aren’t exactly a bargain, this is a place for a thoughtful splurge-worthy kind of a gift.

Shlomit Ofir – So here is another Etsy favorite of mine – Israeli jewelry designer, Shlomit Ofir. Last year besides High Street Market, I was besotted with her entire line. So much so that pretty much many of the ladies in my life got necklaces and earrings from her fabulous line. And I’ve picked up a few items this year – the bird necklace above is simple, elegant and while offering a vintage feel, does it in a modern, clean style.

I think these bowls from Heath Ceramics are lovely. As is everything else they offer in their store from tableware to houseware. I’m always blown away by people’s ability to “curate” their stores, and not just sell objects, but works of art that are consistent with their vision of aesthetic. These bowls are not just items for your home – they’re handmade with expertise and meticulous attention to quality. If you give one to your mom – she’ll proudly display it at every family gathering!

Brooklyn Tailors Shirt – is what I’d give my boyfriend as a gift had I not gone and splurged already for him on an iPad and a cloud and airplane themed tie (two things he loves!). But I’m keeping an eye on this amazing Brooklyn-based husband and wife team that makes stunning bespoke shirts for men (and ladies) using crisp, classic fabrics. I know Andrew would look stunning in one!