Thursday, December 14, 2006

last-minute gifts for cooks

I realize it's a little late to post a list of suggestions but some people spent early December buying themselves holiday presents and are just now getting around to shopping for others. Besides, there is too much else to do at this time of year. How often does one have the opportunity to see Rufus Wainwright and Lou Reed sing "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" at Carnegie Hall? I am not going to feel bad about putting off my shopping; expedited shipping is a marvel, and I am more than happy to cough up a few more pennies for it if it means that I don't have to fight my way through unsightly and slow-moving hordes of tourists in Christmas sweaters.

So, the gifts. Trust me, the cook on your shopping list most likely does not need or want an electric pepper mill, a talking pepper mill, a two-foot-high pepper mill, or any combination thereof. You should probably also stay away from anything labeled "gourmet," unless it is actually the Gourmet magazine cookbook; the word is thoughtlessly bandied about by the same incompetent crowd who can't figure out quotation marks, and they haven't got good taste.

  1. For the urban farmers' market obsessive who is prone to blathering on and on about free range-this and organic-that and clomps around Manhattan in Scottish wellies and is pining for rare-breed chickens of her own — do you know someone like this? — a photograph from the Double Rabbit Farm store ($25) would be a memorable gift. These are giclee prints of photographs by Courie Bishop and James Fitzgerald, young, conscientious, creative farmers doing something I admire in southwest Minnesota.

    Farmland by Courie Bishop and Dreaming Field by James Fitzgerald

  2. For the person who makes you soup: a beautiful Marc Newson stock pot with bakelite handles ($199, but it is jewelry for the kitchen)

    stock pot.jpg

    and a copy of Patricia Solley's An Exaltation of Soup ($12.80 at Jessica's Biscuit). This is not a cookbook that I own but I've wanted it ever since I stumbled across Solley's website,, which is filled with well-researched soup history and appealing, unusual recipes.

  3. For anyone and everyone, a gorgeous Japanese ginger grater in the shape of a tortise or a crane ($20 each) from L.A. shop Tortise. These are hand-made using Edo-period techniques.

  4. For the cutie design-snob who lives on salads but offers her guests good cheese, a salad tool set ($49) and cheese knives ($49) by Aarikka Finland. Both sets are available at Saga Living (St. Paul, MN); they'll wrap 'em up in Marimekko paper at no additional cost but you have to order by Dec. 15th.

    aarikka salad.jpg aarikka cheese slicer.jpg

  5. For a giver of dinner parties, an adorable salt & pepper cellar from Salt Traders ($36).

    It would probably fit in a stocking, as would a couple small jars of their remarkably good salt. Did you try the Danish viking-smoked salt a couple years ago when everyone went bonkers over it? The rosy-pink Flor de Sal Hibiscus ($19.95 for a 5 oz. tin) is a more recent addition to their store; the Sarawak creamy white peppercorns ($4 for a sampler bottle) sound lovely too.

  6. For the design-snob with tree-hugging tendencies, a cast iron "stream" plate from NYC's Moss ($55). It's a beauty, and the ridges mean that deviled eggs and endive leaves and other roly-polies will not wobble away.

  7. For the person who makes you tea, a cast iron Staub tea pot ($108) from Brooklyn shop Bark.

    I have been wanting a Staub mussel pot for ages but this teapot has a sort of Russian-constructivist thing going on that I just love. Note, Manhattanites, that Sur la Table has only the black teapot on their site and it's out of stock, but I think I've seen the colorful ones at their Prince St. store. I think Broadway Panhandler has them too.

  8. For your friend who is still drinking out of the same hideous scratched-up plastic tumblers they've had since college, a set of "lollipop" glasses ($8 each) from Anthropologie, or girl glasses from Fish's Eddy ($20 for a set of 4).

    Is this a Hanukkah gift? Then get the Heroes of the Torah glasses! These are $16 for a set of 4 at Fish's Eddy.

  9. For your foodie friends' baby: "development of a bean" and "honeybear" onesies from Portland, Maine shop Ferdinand ($15 each)

    and a veggie rattle by Bla Bla ($29) from San Francisco's Rose and Radish. Ridiculously cute!

  10. For the cook who is happy to make breakfast at any hour, a sturdy glass cutting board in a cheerful breakfast print ($29) or in the shape of an orange slice ($19.99), both from Monterey Park, California shop Loft Party.

  11. More for the cook's stocking:

    A bottle of Stonehouse California olive oil ($12-16). Lisbon lemon sounds particularly delicious.

    A bottle of Tocca dish soap ($13.50) from The Paris Market (Savannah, Georgia), which smells good enough to dab behind your ears.

    A clever little spaghetti book ($22) to measure servings of dried pasta, from Scandinavian Design Center. They're in Sweden but will ship anwhere.

    A bottle of hard-to-find Fee Bros. orange bitters ($6.95) from The Grateful Palate, which can immediately be put to use in post-present-opening cocktails.


  1. I would love to get any of those things. Sigh.

  2. were you following me around kalustyan's yesterday?
    i bought those orange bitters for my brother-in-law!
    i'm going to give him some nice rye too, and hope he makes me a manhattan ;-)

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