Cooking, Holidays, Photography

2013 Holiday Gift Guide, Part I: Mammon

Chanukah is — alas — just about over. But the season of gift-giving has only just begun. As I gaze down into my crystal ball, the shape of the rest of December comes sharply into focus. I see cheerful holiday parties at work. I hear the clinking sounds of champagne toasts, shared with good friends. I smell the boozy spiciness of eggnog, sipped around the fire with family from far and near.

And above all — at all of these gatherings — I see gifts.

So let me make this simple for you: what I’ve done here is drafted a list of gifts, mostly food related, that will be sure to please the people you hold most dear. If you have loved ones who relish afternoons in the kitchen, or who snap pictures in restaurants, or who like to read, take a look. I’m sure you’ll find something here that’s right for them.

And remember, by clicking through here to, your shopping helps keep Twice Cooked going in the year to come. So even if none of these particular gifts catch your fancy, consider using this link to do your shopping. Anything you buy today will fund the recipes (and stuff) I post tomorrow.

Holiday Gift Guide

Kitchen Gewgaws:

Wusthof Classic Ikon Two-Piece Starter Set I do not own these particular knives, but I got to spend some time playing with them earlier this year at a popular kitchen store. And if I were not already beset by beloved cutlery, they would be mine. Their steel and construction is Wusthof great. They come razor-like out of the box, keep an edge, and are trifling to re-sharpen. But what sets them apart, in my opinion, is their ergonomics. They’re by far the most comfortable knives I’ve ever held. And the cooks in your family will love them.

Shun Classic Hollow Ground Santoku Knife Of course, some people prefer Japanese knives. I have a seven-inch Santoku just like this from Shun, and I love it dearly. The damask pattern on the blade is beautiful. The shape of the knife is perfect for slicing vegetables. And the Japanese steel is, if anything, even sharper than its German counterparts.

Encore Coffee Grinder by Baratza Buy this burr grinder. Seriously. Just buy it. There are lots of blade grinders out there that will crush your coffee beans up for cheaper. But none will do it as well. Burr-ground coffee tastes better because the process doesn’t heat up your beans and distort their flavor. It makes smoother brew because it yields an even grind that doesn’t leave powdery sludge at the bottom of your cup. And Baratza’s customer service is fabulous, making this an investment in caffeine that will be sure to last.

Cuisinart Smart Stick 2-Speed Immersion Blender This is an indispensable kitchen tool in my house. I use it to make everything from mashed potatoes to pasta sauce. Sarah uses it for soups and salad dressings. And between us, it almost never has time to get put away. If you’re looking for a gift for a foodie that will see a lot of use — or the sort of gift that will bring an understocked kitchen up to spec — this is the one for you.

Bodum Kenya 12-Ounce Coffee Press And last but not least: more coffee! I have larger French presses floating around in my house, but I have none that are as useful. This little guy yields one perfect cup in the morning, gets rinsed, and then almost immediately refilled. Why not just use a bigger press, you ask? Because with this one, the coffee has no time to loiter upon its grounds, and therefore no time to get bitter. And combined with the Baratza Encore, it makes the best morning coffee I’ve ever had. Hands down.

A Couple of Books:

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, by Mary Roach — Ever wondered what happens to food between your teeth and — well — the other end? This books tells you. In lots of fascinating, funny, slightly gross detail. Earlier this year, I got to see my friend Anna, curator at Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum, interview Mary Roach about this book. And let me tell you: for the amount of — um — stuff she had to do to write it, picking up a couple of copies to give as gifts is the least you could do in return.

Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, by Tom Mueller — Maybe you’ve occasionally wondered where your olive oil comes from? Or what the “Extra Virgin” moniker means? Or whether that greenish liquid lubricant has ever actually even seen an olive? This book answers those questions. As with the Mary Roach book, this one is interesting and compelling. But this one — well — you might think twice the next time you go shopping for a bottle at the grocery.

Cameras for Cooks:

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GM1 Camera with 12-32mm Lens Kit This may be the perfect camera for taking out to dinner. It is small enough to fit in a pocket — extraordinarily small, in fact — but with a big enough sensor that when you crank it up to ISO 3200 to get a shot of your romantically atmospheric, candlelit cocktail, it will give you gorgeous results. If you’re feeling splurgy, I’d recommend pairing it with this fast, tiny 20mm pancake lens. With that kit in tow, there’s nothing you won’t be able to capture.

Nikon D3200 24.2 MP Digital SLR with 18-55mm Zoom Lens If the GM1 is the right camera for taking out to dinner, this guy is perfect for hanging out at home. It’s small, tough, and not too expensive; it has a large sensor for isolating your subject, whether it’s a bowl of strawberries or the lattice on a pie. And it takes Nikkor lenses, which are numerous, offering optics appropriate to every occasion and circumstance.

Nikon 40mm f/2.8G AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR Lens And speaking of Nikkor lenses for every circumstance, this is the right one for most kitchen tasks. It is normal-length on an APS-C sensor like the d3200’s. All the lens tests say it’s super sharp. And being a macro, it gives you the option to get very close — like very close — to whatever it is you’re photographing. The garlic says: I’m ready for my close-up, Mister Kitchen-guy.