Consider a GIFT SUBSCRIPTION to one of many magazines dedicated to home cooking, including Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Cooks Illustrated, Food & Wine, Eating Well, Cooking Light, Southern Living and Vegetarian Times. Stop by your local bookstore and buy a copy of your choice for its subscription order form, giving the copy to your cook as evidence of a year's worth of ideas to come. From about $30.
And don't overlook giving a gift certificate to a COOKING CLASS. Local culinary supply stores sometimes offer them, as do the more upscale grocery stores and restaurants. $50 and up.
For today's cyberchef, SOFTWARE will be very much appreciated. You can find a large variety of cooking software anywhere software is sold. Prices start at about $30
Full of color and imagination, these BEAUTIFUL FOOD POSTERS, from Ten Speed Press, feature Chiles, Indian Corn, Tomatoes, American and European Breads, Seasonal Greens, Exotic Fruits, Asian Ingredients, Hot Sauces, American Microbrewery Beers, and many other enticing flavors. Developed with great chefs like Mark Miller, Alice Waters, Norman Van Aken, Joe Ortiz, Ken Hom, and star food personalities such as Jennifer Trainer Thompson, these posters look good enough to eat, plus they're educational and loaded with fascinating information. Prices start at $15. 800 841-2665
I saw the greatest FOOD CALENDARS for 1998 at Borders Music and Gifts. Prices started at $5.
CHANTAL'S 2/1/2 qt. enamel-on-steel kettle has a comfortable, stay-cool handle and features an authentic Hohner Harmonica Whistle. Choose from the newest "retro" colors: Mint Green, Honey Yellow, or Powder Blue. $110. Kitchen and Home Catalog 800 414-5544
A bread machine and a mini oven in one! The TOASTMASTER AUTOMATIC BREADMAKER AND OVEN. It's also a 6-slice toaster, broiler and dough maker too. You can't believe what this little oven can do. I saw it at my local Linens and Things for $149.99 and thought it was a very good deal.
Does this sound familiar? Shop for ingredients, break up into teams, and working without a recipe, see who comes up with the tastiest dish? Sounds kind of like the show READY SET COOK, on TVFN. Well now you can play this game at home with STIR CRAZY, the game where the guests cook dinner. Here's how it works; shop for ingredients, invite 6-12 guest, then divide into 2 teams. The team that creates the best-tasting dishes--without recipes--in 90 minutes wins. And you get to eat the results! STIR CRAZY game includes aprons, chefs' hats, ingredient lists, invitations, instructional cassette and music to cook by. You can specify Italian, Mexican, or Oriental. $28. Kitchen and Home Catalog 800 414-5544
Remember last year's Buster the Cat aprons? This year the folks at TWISTED APRON IDEAS have a new crop of silly, funny aprons that are sure to start a conversation. Included are the vegetarian cow, "Let Them Eat Tofu" and "Help! My soufflé's fallen…and it can't get up." Imagination Assn., 800 835-5802 $16.95
Perfect as a gift to bring the host of your next holiday party, or any beer-lover, SEASONAL BREWS are inexpensive and easy to find. Larger liquor outlets and specialty stores, as well as larger supermarkets and retail chains, offer a good selection of these spicy, flavored beers. Rated among the best this year: Anchor Christmas Ale, Pete's Wicked Winter, Bert Grant's Winter Ale, and Jack Frost Winter Doppelbock. About $8 for a six-pack.
Now this is original! JUNK FOOD FROM AROUND THE WORLD offers a monthly selection of goodies from all over the world--Dutch syrup wafers, Italian chocolate rolled cakes, Japanese chocolate-covered whatsits, etc. International Junk Food of the Month, 888 762-2584 $19.99-$39.99 per month
All the following items can be found in the Christmas edition of the WILLIAMS-SONOMA CATALOG--800 541-2233
Flavored with cognac, these FRENCH COGNAC CHESTNUTS are so delicious, you'll be tempted to enjoy them straight from the jar. 8.5 oz. $12.
Crafted from gleaming silver-plated brass, any cooking enthusiast will be charmed by the detail on these SILVER COOKWARE ORNAMENTS. The set includes a tiny teakettle, colander and frying pan. The set sells for $15. (Tip: These make really great key chains!)
The ecologically responsible, non-aerosol OLIVE OIL SPRAYER produces a fine mist of oil for filming a skillet or lightly flavoring sliced tomatoes. Simply fill the brushed-aluminum canister half-full with your favorite olive oil, then pump the cap a few times to build up sufficient pressure before spraying. $15.
Perfect for caramelizing sugar on a tart or crème brulee, the KITCHEN TORCH is a small version of the torches used by professional pastry chefs. Give the torch with a set of beautiful ramekins now, and then in February, you can add ELEGANTLY EASY CRÈME BRÛLÉE by Debbie Puente as a Valentine's Day gift. (I know, I know, pretty shameless plug and I apologize for it.)
Most, if not all, of the following items can be found at Williams-Sonoma, as well as better department stores, cookware and kitchen shops, and most anywhere else that sells cookware.
An elegant gift that good cooks know they need but rarely purchase for themselves is classic FRENCH COPPER. Copper bowls are the best thing for beating egg whites -- nothing does the job as well. Copper soufflé molds are not only beautiful, but the rise of the soufflé baked in it is spectacular because the tin-lined copper mold conducts heat so well. Copper bowls start at $59 and the soufflé mold is $20.
There is nothing wrong with buying something very basic as a holiday gift. One of the most basic items everyone should have is surely the GRILL PAN -- a frying pan with raised ribs that simulates outdoor grilling while keeping fat content lower. These can be round or square, and prices range from as little as $10 to $75.
Roasting is another very popular cooking style today because it can be done with less fat. Choose a pan with a rack in a generous size. Expect to pay $20 to $80.
Another great basic is the DUTCH OVEN. Actually, no cook should be without one. A Dutch oven is a wide, deep pot, with a tight-fitting lid, used to cook stews, soups, bean dishes, just about anything needing long steady moist heat. Prices range from about $45 (for the ultra-heavy, needs seasoning, cast-iron pot) to $187 (stainless, top-of-the-line All-Clad).
Round out your cook's knife collection with an all-purpose 8-inch COOK'S KNIFE or a handy 6-inch cleaver. Good knives are meant to last a lifetime, so they can be costly. You could pay as much as $100. No cook likes working with dull knives and yet most don't like taking out that sharpening steel. So give an electric knife sharpener. ($55 to $85.) The best knives on the market today are said to be Henckels and Wusthof and are available at better retail stores.
ELECTRICS still top many cooks' wish lists and food processors are probably the most popular. Cuisinart's original classic food processor that holds 7 cups sells for about $139. Other popular gifts would include espresso machines, "retro" toasters, especially the made-in-England, used-by-the-Queen Dualit, (From $269.) Belgian waffle maker, hand mixer, blender, juicer, ice cream machine, bread baking machine, electric deep fryer, immersion (hand) blender, hot-air corn popper and pasta machine.
The coffee craze shows no signs of decreasing, so give your favorite coffee aficionado an 8-cup FRENCH PRESS coffee maker, still one of the best ways to brew, costs about $30.
If you're in charge of STOCKING STUFFERS for a cook, you're in luck. For $2 to $15, you can put together a fine selection: mushroom brush, egg timer, honey dipper, grapefruit knife, oyster knife, nutmeg grinder, large pizza rolling slicer, lime and lemon presses shrimp deveiner, corkscrew, pastry blender, swivel peeler, citrus zester, melon baller and a garlic press.
The following items are available through DEAN & DELUCA (New York) 800 221-7714
When Dean & Deluca say ultimate, they mean ultimate. The best. The most. The finest. The tastiest. This stunning GOURMET HAMPER is filled with a sumptuous selection of delicacies that includes Beluga caviar, Urbani truffles, a truffle shaver, Cipriani pasta and pasta sauce, Italian artichokes, a pound of Scottish salmon, generous amounts of two different imported chocolates, Aureole dessert sauce, jams, imported olive oils, imported vinegars, Dean & DeLuca spices, three different coffees, imported tea, capers, mustards and more. A truly spectacular gift. The Ultimate Gift Basket is order #171070-50 and will set you back a cool $1,000.00
FOIE GRAS WITH TRUFFLES is a pure goose liver block enhanced with black truffles from Rougie of Perigord, France's most prestigious producer. 5.1 oz. Order #702000-2, $56.00
The Cavalli family honors this central Italian province's 1000-year old BALSAMIC VINEGAR tradition by producing some of Italy's best. Rare Trebbiano and Spergola grapes, the ideal climate and soil, the winemaker's artistry in blending, barrel selection and aging come together to produce the flavor and fragrance of perfection. Like a fine wine, Cavalli balsamics are produced in different vintages, the older vinegars offering deeper, richer and rarer tastes. Each bottle is numbered and packed in its own box, with a seal authenticating its age. 3.4 ounces each. Limited supply. Red Seal (25+ years old) Order #411016-2 $70.00 Silver Seal (50+ years old) Order #411017-2, $99.00
PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD by Joost Elfeers With special guest reviewer, David Feldman
If you need a fun book for a hard-to-figure-out-what-to-give friend for Christmas or Chanukah, I don't think you can do better than "Play With Your Food," a charming picture book in which the creator, Joost Elfeers, makes all sorts of faces and animals using nothing but fruits and vegetables. This is the runaway hit novelty picture book of the year, and for good reason. It's charming and witty. I can't remember the last time I bought a picture book for myself, but this was worth it. The publisher, Stewart, Taboori & Chang brought it out at an extremely reasonable price. With discounting, this fabulously photographed book can be yours for under $15 at many stores.
MARCELLA CUCINA by Marcella Hazan
There's something about those hands. Photos of Marcella's hands that is. So soft and grandma-like. This cookbook is different than most in the way Marcella (one of today's most influential and important Italian cookbook authors) speaks of taste, flavors, cooking, and her hometown. The instructions are precise, and the full-color photographs are a fine complement to Hazan's writing, which is both clear and charming. Along with recipes, tested to perfection, Hazan shares warm, personal stories along with snapshots of Italian life and her usual caring advice. The diversity of dishes in Marcella Cucina runs from Zucchini and Thyme Pasta Sauce to Fish in Crazy Water, and Yogurt and Sambuca Cake. I made the chicken fricasses and my kids were licking the plate!
MARK STARK'S AMAZING JEWISH COOKBOOK FOR THE ENTIRE FAMILY by Mark Stark
What a marvelous and original idea to combine simple easy-to-follow recipes with a coloring book! The illustrations are just begging to be colored in by the children, making the book a memento that you'll want to keep forever. Mark is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy and is the master pastry chef at the Getty Museum. To get more information on this book, go to www.alefdesign.com.
THE ALL NEW ALL PURPOSE JOY OF COOKING by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker
Long-awaited and causing quite a stir in the culinary world, this newest version is very inclusive, highly readable, and very complete. Perfect for almost anybody. $30.
I'm very excited to announce that anyone on the Internet can access my Foodstuff Message Board! Go to: forums.prodigy.net and choose "Foodstuff" to post a message on the Food Community Message Board. There's a subject called "Please Introduce Yourself" which would be a good place to start. This message board is very informal by the way. Subjects range from recipes to kitchen tips to a posting of Adam Sandler's Chanukah Song! I hope you will check it out.