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2011 Holiday Gifts for Food Lovers

Aahhh, the peaceful bliss of a radiator decorated for the holidays.  What could be more in spirit with the keeping of the season?  Actually, I didn’t want to fiddle with the whole tree thing this year and was able to pick up the branch trimmings from one of the street tree vendors, so I decided on more of a free form display than the traditional set-up with tree and ornaments.  This gave me plenty of time to go through my notes of all the amazing things that I tasted this year and to create this 2011 Holiday Gift List to give you some ideas for the food lovers and cooks among your loved ones.  Many of these items would also make wonderful hostess/host gifts throughout the year as well, so you might want to keep it handy for those last-minute treats to pick up at any time.

Cookbooks

After purging my collection a number of years ago, I’m really careful to introduce new volumes to my bookshelves.  This year, however, there were several I wanted to pick up even before they hit the stores.  One of these was Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi.  I’ve also had the pleasure of eating his food when I’ve had the opportunity to visit London and have been able to stop in at one of his restaurants.  There you can choose among all the gorgeous, delicious salads and sweets that are freshly made each day to build your meal, as I did in the photo above.

A cooking and food history book I was delighted to purchase this year was The Food of Spain by Claudia Roden, who is one of my culinary heros.  In conjunction with the book, she gave a talk at the Culinary Historians of New York about her research, the people whom she met the course of her travels, and the recipes that they were willing to share with her to keep their cultural history alive.

The Food of Morocco is an incredible recipe and culinary resource that I also added to my collection this year.  Paula Wolfert created a beautiful work that captures the range and bounty of the cuisine of this fascinating country.  She also spoke at the Culinary Historians of New York this year where we were treated to some the dishes she mentions (click on the link to see those photos).

For a trip to the other side of the world complete with mouth-watering photos and recipes designed for the American kitchen, pick up a copy of Marja Vongerichten‘s The Kimchi Chronicles.  I had the pleasure of meeting Marja and of trying her food at a couple of different promotional events for the book.  The accompanying PBS series is one of the most gorgeously shot shows I have ever watched and makes you just want to jump through the screen to join them in their eating adventure.

Cookware

Hands down, some of the most fun and lively handcrafted linens that I’ve seen in a while come from Claudia Pearson.  I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her at the Brooklyn Flea.  Each of her designs, whether in tea towel, calendar, or tote bag form would brighten up anyone’s home.

I splurged a bit and treated myself to one of these display boards by Brooklyn Slate.  The reclaimed materials make ideal platforms for cheese, hors d’oeuvres or whatever you would like.  They are attractive enough to be artworks in their own right.  For one of my family members, I also picked up their Cheese Survival Kit, which I think will make a perfectly appropriate gift for the person who keeps a separate all-cheese section in her refrigerator.

My dream gift (well, one of them anyway), would be one of these fabulous cutting boards from Brooklyn Butcher Blocks.  Built from reclaimed wood, each one is handmade and unique.  Maybe if I’m very, very, very, very good next year, Santa will bring me one of them.

Food Items

Honestly, I ate so many terrific things this year that it is hard to narrow this list down to just a few items.  After consuming mounds of sweets, piles of chocolates, meats, pickles, sauces, jams, preserves, syrups, and lots of other things in between, I don’t even know where to start.  Check out my Product Spotlight and Local Products tabs for posts about many of these things.  Not by way of biasing anyone, but here are the items that made the cut to get crammed into my luggage to go to traveling for the holidays plus the items that I’d squeeze in there if I could.

I have really enjoyed consuming all of P & H Soda Co.s soda creations during the course of this year, but Anton completely wowed me with the Chocolate Soda he made at the Grub Street/Hester Street event this fall.  He also create special, seasonal flavors like the Spicebrite with the aromas of the holidays.

As a fan of both the delicate meaty cashews of Nuts Plus Nuts and the crunchy sweet toffee of Lush Candy, it was a pleasure to introduce Cyrilla and Laurie, the respective company owners, to each other.  I sort of thought that there might be a collaboration that could develop, but I had no idea how incredible it would be.  The cashews, sugar, butter, and spices all blended perfectly together in Lush Candy‘s Indonesian Brittle which debuted at Smorgasburg this summer and made this one of the most delicious things that I ate all year.

If you had looked in my fridge at any point this year, you would have seen several flavors of Anarchy in A Jar‘s delicious and unique jams.  My favorites have been the summertime Blackberry & Lavender and the current contender for shelf space, the Wild Blueberry, but I’m leaving myself open to her new seasonal combinations.  These spreads with their deep fruit profiles blended with spices, herbs, and other seasonings make it worth it to get out of bed in the morning to tackle a new day, toast and jam in hand.

Many years ago, I was introduced to Stroopwafels by a Dutch friend.  It was love at first sight.  Only years after that did I discover that I have a strong Dutch lineage that I had never known about, so that might explain it.  Whatever the reason, The Good Batch‘s version in plain or cocoa flavor are close to my heart.  I picked up a package of each to take with me on my travels.  Check them out for other sweet treats as well, especially their big chewy, fragrant Ginger-Molasses cookies.

One of the other delicious delicacies that is going on my holiday voyage are the addictive spiced, candied orange peels from La Newyorkina.  Their sweet, tangy taste with a little kick of heat led me to devour the first pack I bought in record time.  Her summertime paletas (Mexican ice pops) are refreshing and make your tastebuds dance up and down for joy with their bright flavors.  She has released pumpkin seed brittle, chocolate truffles, and other goodies in time for the holiday season.

It was love at first bite when I tried Danny Macaroons earlier this year.  One taste of the Salted Caramel with its soft, moist, chewy mound of coconut drizzled with sweet, buttery caramel and a pop of salt, and I was hooked.  He has other creations that are delicious as well, but the original version remains my favorite.

Macaron Parlour makes the other kind of macarons which are also wonderful edible gifts.  These colorful 3-bite treats come in a range of flavors, not all of them traditional.  I introduced a fellow food blogger to their Candied Bacon with Maple Cream Cheese one, and she raved about it.  What is there not to enjoy about biting into a sweet that has a pillowy interior with a smooth filling filled with amazing flavors.

Hopefully, this list will help you find something for the food lovers on your holiday gift list.  There’s no way this short post can do justice to all the wonderful artisans and vendors out there who have created amazing products and delicious treats.  For additional items that would also make great presents, please check out my posts about the Brooklyn Flea, the Union Square Holiday Market, and the Columbus Circle Holiday Market or pop on by the Bryant Park Market (photo above).  You can also see my gift list from last year, as those items also remain on my “to have” list.  I have pictures from the Bust Craftacular last weekend, as well.  Many of the vendors I’ve mentioned sell on-line and in markets in the area, so please consult their websites to find out where to find them and for ordering information.  With gifts like these, it is sure to be a very happy holiday season, no matter how you celebrate it!

Buon appetito!