Friday, December 19, 2014

Ho, Ho, Ho! The Kitchen Goddess’s 2014 Gift Guide for Foodies
What’s cooking? Are you kidding? Who has time to cook?

Only 6 more shopping days until Christmas, and five days of Hanukkah remain. So if you’re running out of great ideas for your cook-wise, food-centric friend or lover, here are a few you may have missed.

And in case you’re wondering, the Kitchen Goddess has not received as much as a sugar plum for these recommendations. She is a wonder of ethical virtue.

Stocking Stuffers

■ Sharp-eyed readers of this blog will recognize this mezzaluna chopping knife as having made an appearance on my list last year. Well, Santa must have been reading Spoon & Ink, because the Kitchen Goddess got one in her stocking, and it’s such fun to use, I decided it deserved an encore. You’re using both hands to chop as you rock the blade back and forth, so it’s a lot easier than using a chef’s knife, and it does a great job of mincing small-scale stuff that you often have to chase around the chopping board: garlic, spring onions, shallots, and any kind of herb. And the handles flip around to guard against an accidental attack in the kitchen drawer. It’s $15.00 at the Museum of Modern Art; sells the green-handled version for the same price, or the same product with light gray handles for only $12.88. Go figure.

■ When your kitchen is about 90 percent stainless steel, you can spend your life trying to get rid of the fingerprints, smudges, and smears of daily life. But all that changed when I found the Casabella Microfiber Stainless Steel Magnet Cloth. I wipe up food with a sponge, then a quick swipe with a damp green Casabella cloth polishes my counters and appliances to a sheen without chemicals or abrasives. Glass, too. If your friend or loved one doesn’t have this cloth, he/she will adore you forever when you add this to their stocking. It’s only $5.99 at the Container Store, $6.15 at

■ As you know, the Kitchen Goddess has a love of candles that borders on the fanatical. Here are two of her favorites. These Wine Cork Candles ($9.95 at Sur La Table for a set of 4) offer – at last! – a use for all those empty wine bottles. In fact, you can even consider the candles as providing a great reason to drink another bottle of wine. The more candles, the merrier...

The artichoke candles are a more serious option, at a more serious price ($30.00 for a set of 4 at or But I’ve found that once they’ve burned about halfway down, you can stick a tea light in the middle and reuse them practically forever.

■ Here’s something you never knew you or your local home chef needed. A bread wrap. Yes, you read that right: a bread wrap. From a company called Bee’s Wrap. Organic cotton muslin that’s been dipped or somehow saturated with beeswax, jojoba oil, and tree resin. Sounds weird, I know, but you wrap a loaf of bread in this cloth, then use the warmth of your hands to mold the wrap around the bread. It’s antibacterial, seals perfectly, and keeps the bread fresh. You can wash the wrap in cool water and use it over and over. And it works. Take it from the Kitchen Goddess.

■ I wouldn’t really suggest that you stuff a plant into a stocking, but an aloe vera plant is a great gift for a home chef. The Kitchen Goddess is no stranger to kitchen burns. So she keeps an aloe vera plant as a permanent fixture. Snap off the tip of a leaf, squeeze out the gel onto the burn, and feel better immediately. These little plants are easy to grow – in fact, hard to kill – and are effective in relieving all sorts of minor skin irritations. Pick one up at your local garden store. According to, they also do great work in purifying the air. Who knew?

Actual Food

■ While it’s probably not a great idea to stick cheese under your tree, a gift certificate to a local cheese store is always welcomed with joy by any foodie on your list. Find a good local cheese shop – like Antonelli’s Cheese Shop in Austin or The Summit Cheese Shop in New Jersey – or fall back on a place like the famous and fabulous Murray’s Cheese Shop in New York City, which sells gift cards and gift boxes that will have your friend or loved one melting with gratitude.

■ Did you know that olive oil is at its best when consumed within six months of bottling? Which means it’s a great idea to get to know the offerings of your local olive oil manufacturer. They’ll make great gifts for anyone who likes to cook. According to the American Olive Oil Producers Association, you can get locally produced olive oil from California, Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Florida, Oregon and Hawaii. So if you live in one of those states, check out a local producer and try their products. They’re likely to be fresher and of reliably higher quality than much of what makes it here from Europe. And if you don’t live in one of those states, try getting oil from the nearest producing state.

■ Here’s an idea that intrigued the Kitchen Goddess so much that she had to order some: Chili Granola by Bad Seed ($16 for 8 oz). It’s made in Queens, New York, and it’s a “Food & Wine Selects” choice by that magazine’s editors. Don’t take my word for it – I haven’t even tasted the stuff – but F&W’s Executive Food Editor says, “Popping with flavor and crunch, this savory condiment is a happy mashup of hot chile oil and the crisp and crunchy grains and seeds you associate with granola. It's great on everything from eggs, avocado, hummus or yogurt to salads and sliced roast chicken or pork.” So what’s in it? Seeds and nuts and ginger and miso and brown sugar... just for starters. Doesn’t that sound like a food lover’s treat?


Three books have tweaked the Kitchen Goddess’s imagination this year – and, after all, that’s what a good cookbook does, isn’t it? Beyond instructing us on a particular preparation, it inspires us to think in new ways. So with that thought in mind, I present these:

■ The publisher Little, Brown, should be congratulated on the really elegant presentation of Michael Ruhlman’s new book, Egg. Ruhlman, who has co-authored cookbooks with culinary kingpins Thomas Keller, Eric Ripert, and Anthony Bourdain, started his cooking/writing life with The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America. Egg includes an ingenious pullout flowchart of egg-inspired dishes gives you a nicely global understanding of the relationships among egg dishes. The subtitle, “A Culinary Exploration of the World’s Most Versatile Ingredient,” says it all.

■ Once you’ve eaten at one of Jean-George Vongerichten’s 25+ restaurants, it’s not hard to spot the sometimes playful, always flavorful hints of Southeast Asia in many of his dishes. I thought I’d only been to two of his eateries – Spice Market and ABC Kitchen in NYC – but when I looked at the full list, I noticed Mercer Kitchen in NYC’s SoHo district, and immediately said to myself, “Of course.” So I was thrilled to find a book of his making that at least purported to be for us mortals: Home Cooking with Jean-Georges: My Favorite Simple Recipes. Turns out it actually is. There’s the occasional odd ingredient (unsalted yuzu juice?), but I expect they’re not hard to find at a decent Asian market. So,... gorgeous photography, simple and straightforward instruction, and those dishes I’ve tried delivered on the promise.

■ I’m a complete sucker for Italy’s Amalfi Coast, and so is my hubby. Last year, when he gave me this book – by the owners of the A16 restaurant in San Francisco – I was skeptical that it could produce anything remotely like the tastes available in Positano, Ravello, Salerno, Amalfi,... But while there’s still nothing like sitting in an outdoor café overlooking the Mediterranean, eating fish just pulled from the sea, the vibe is still there in this book, A16: Food + Wine. And a feature you don’t often find is the wine section, which gives an excellent and totally readable discussion of what comes from the grapes of the region.

If He/She Has Been Particularly Nice This Year,...

■ You may want to splurge on the best espresso maker I’ve ever experienced. Lattes, capuccinos, and straight espressos are easy and so authentic tasting, I thought maybe I’d just been transported to an espresso bar in the heart of Rome. Nespresso’s Citiz & Milk is $299.00 at every place I looked, including Crate & Barrel, Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table, and I know – that’s a lot of Starbucks, but you don’t have to get dressed for this one.

* * *

P.S. It's not too late to leave a comment – here or on the Spoon & Ink Facebook page – to be entered in the drawing to win a Hamilton Beach Snap & Stack Food Processor. See my previous post for details.

Happy Holidays to you all!

1 comment:

  1. Fabulous blog! It made develop a new case of the "I wanties".
    Merry Christmas...
    Eileen in Atlanta