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.
- 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
- For the person who makes you soup: a beautiful Marc Newson stock pot with bakelite handles ($199, but it is jewelry for the kitchen)
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, Soupsong.com, which is filled with well-researched soup history and appealing, unusual recipes.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.