The best thing about giving gifts to your favorite foodies is that the range of options is wide. One of the best gifts I ever got was from my best friend's mother, who gave me one of those little cylinders you roll garlic cloves in to remove their skins easily. I use that practical, low-tech little gadget almost every time I cook. (Yes, I use a lot of garlic. Not only is it good for you, it keeps vampires at bay.)
New World Spices company. The authentic Indian blends include a variety of heats (I am in love with their Madras Tamarind Hot Curry blend), packaged in attractive canisters. Individual spices are priced at $3.99 (which is cheaper than those large containers of chrome yellow, generic curry) and sets are available.
Once you go beyond vanilla and almond extracts, it's almost impossible to get pure flavor essences in even the best-stocked grocery store. If you want coconut, for example, you have to make do with artificial coconut flavoring. Unless... you know about a site called Avanti Savoia. This is a place where good foodies go when they die. Their goal is to provide "the world's best food from the world's smallest producers" and the items available are one of a kind and all of them sound droolingly delicious. (Low Country Sweet Potato Butter? I am SOOO there, at less than $8 for a jar.) But they also carry a full line of natural extracts including coconut, cherry and peach (all available for $10.50 a bottle, which is about what Madagascar vanilla costs.)
The riddle of steel--the worst cuts I ever got while cooking weren't from sharp knives but from dull ones (and one incredibly sharp tuna fish can lid). Most of the knives in my drawer are the kind you buy at supermarkets, which is to say, pretty low quality. Any serious cook would be thrilled to get a really good knife--the kind of knife you register for when you get married. You've got your choice of German or Japanese here, and one place where you'll find pretty much anything you want is at Cutlery & More.
|Gourmet Bacon Assortment from Nueskes|
Harry and David were great options for sending festive fruit gifts to friends and clients. (My parents always got pears from one far-flung relative.) These days, though, food of the month clubs have gone way, way beyond fruit. There's even a gateway site, Amazing Clubs, that has links to a bazillion "gift of the month" clubs that include cigar of the month, dog treat of the month, and beer of the month. There's the Jam and Jelly Club ($19.95 a month) and Ice Cream Club of the Month; Hot Sauce of the Month Club ($18.95 a month).
Cooking by the book--I basically just use a couple of cookbooks (including my mother's favorite, Joy of Cooking), but I love reading cookbooks and they always make terrific gifts for cooks because they're often kind of expensive and these days, when every dime has to stretch to a dollar, it's hard for cooks to justify the indulgence of yet another cookbook purchase. So maybe instead of buying a lot of little stuff, buy a book like Julie Richardson's Vintage Cakes (one of Epicurious' best cookbooks for 2012 and available on their site for only $115.11. Diane Morgan's Roots made a number of "best cookbook" lists this year, and while not cheap (around $27) it is billed as "the definitive
compendium" of recipes featuring root vegetables. Plus, it's a truly beautiful book.