Photo by James Dickinson
Christmas shopping is hard. Should you buy something you would love to share with that important person in your life because you just know they'll adore your gift as much you do, once the wrapping paper comes off? Isn't it really the thought that counts? NO. If they love food and you love them, take a look at these holiday gift ideas and make sure things in the kitchen remain shiny and bright all the way into the New Year.
California hogs the spotlight, but some of the best American olive oil is made in Georgia. Olive trees were brought to the United States by the Spanish, but the fragile industry had failed by the end of the 19th century. Georgia Olive Farms, started in 2009, wants to bring it back. Food lovers have been lapping it up since 2011, when they harvested the first commercial East Coast crop. $32 (Georgia Olive Farms, georgiaolivefarms.com ).
It's a lot of bang for your buck, this little bottle of Piment d' Espelette Hot Sauce. It's made from the Basque spice of the same name by France's La Maison du Piment, and with a big, round pepper flavor, it bursts on the tongue without scalding. I dare you to find a dish that it doesn't enhance. $15 (Zingerman's, zingermans.com ).
A good cookbook is both a safe choice and one that gives back the most. James Beard-award winner John Currence, chef/owner of City Grocery (plus four other restaurants) in Oxford, Miss., has a new book, Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey, and it's filled with flat-out mouth-waterers. $40 ( Andrews McMeel Publishing, andrewsmcmeel.com ). Check out Currence's recipe for Steen's syrup-braised pork belly here.
Food lovers are always looking for that next big discovery. Once you get your first whiff of La Boîte's smoked cinnamon, you'll wonder why no one ever thought of it before. Equally at home in the savory as well as the sweet, this enigmatic spice will both deepen the flavor of your dish and wreathe it in mystery. $15 (La Boîte Biscuits & Spices, laboiteny.com ).
How can you improve the already perfect slow cooker? Crock-Pot thought about it and added a stirring attachment to its new model. Along with a digital thermostat to keep the temperature rock-steady, the iStir also makes clean-up easier, because food never gets a chance to stick to the sides of the pot. $70 (Crock-Pot, crock-pot.com ).
Was I attracted by the restrained yet striking graphic design of this toffee's packaging? Why yes, but with a buttery snap, Dottie's Toffee — handmade in South Carolina by Nick Belmont, using his grandmother's recipe — shattered into a million chocolatey pieces and made me forget all about the perfect aubergine or verdigris label. $7.50 each (Dottie's Toffee, dottiestoffee.com ).
The iPad is the cook's newest friend, but kitchen counters are a minefield. Protect that investment with the Plexiglas Original Kitchen iPad Rack, which screws securely under an overhead cabinet. Plus, 50 percent of the company's profits go to charity. $26 (Original Kitchen iPad Rack, kitchenipadrack.com ).
Get those vegetables ultra-thin with the perfect stocking-stuffer, Microplane's adjustable slicer with an etched julienne blade . $30 ( microplane.com ).
Starbucks has leaped into the tea market with Teavana tea shops, and that's a sure sign that next year everyone will be talking about the "bloom," the "flush" and the "agony of the leaves." Get a head start with Krups' Personal Tea Maker. The pot gently circulates the heated water, which helps infuse your tea to achieve the perfect cup. $50 (Krups, krups.com ).
Ramps are a culinary obsession that just won't die. And why should it? Ramps are here in the spring and gone in a flash. Blackberry Farm preserves them as jam or pickles to hold you over until the season rolls around again. $30 for the pair (Provisions by Food 52, food52.com/provisions ).
The Bourdeaux-style blends of Virginia's RdV Vineyards have found a place at the table with the best of California and France's wines, with little elbowing necessary to get there. Give your sweetheart a subscription to RdV's Ambassador program and receive a mixed case of the vineyard's Lost Mountain and Rendezvous wines, plus invites to events held at their gorgeous winery in Delaplane. $245 to $980 (RdV Vineyards, rdvvineyards.com )
Note: Many of these products can be found at Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma, Macy's or Amazon, or can be ordered online from each company