The Last Minute, Don’t Panic, Holiday Gift Guide

by Irvin on December 20, 2011 · 24 comments

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Holy Crap! Christmas is in FIVE days. I haven’t bought any gifts yet. NOT. A. SINGLE. THING. Which has me in a bit of a tizzy. I know you feel my pain. So, even though I should be actually shopping, instead I’ve been staring at other people’s holiday gift guides and it got me thinking, maybe I should make one for you all. Because I can’t be the ONLY person out there that hasn’t finished their shopping. Or maybe I am. Maybe I’m the only person on the planet that hasn’t already bought their presents, beautifully displayed under their tree, wrapped with their bows and ribbons. If so, that’s OK. You all can just look at this Last Minute, Don’t Panic, Holiday Gift Guide as a guide for buying things when they go on sale post-Christmas, with all your newfound cash and gift cards that people gave you because they were too late to actually buy you a real present. Which, ahem, is probably what I’ll most likely be giving out….

Sonoma Syrups Co


Sonoma Syrup Co.

My friend Sean handed me a few of these Sonoma Syrup Co products earlier this year and it turns out that they are pretty amazing. I’m personally obsessed with the Meyer Lemon Simple Syrup and I don’t think I’m the only one. Apparently they were featured in Oprah’s O Magazine last year. Go figure I’d be behind the curve. Note in the picture it loks like the almond extract and meyer lemon bottles are empty. They aren’t – they have a precious sliver left at the bottom of each that I am saving for that special occasion! Really.

Artisan Jams: Sunchowder, Inna Jam, Blue Chair Fruit


Blue Chair, Sunchowder, INNA Jam

Yeah, we’re all food bloggers and we all make our own jams and preserves. Well, sure, I do on occasion, but I rarely take the time to sterilize and can my preserves, I just don’t have the time or the shelf room. So when I’m in a jam (pun intended), and don’t have anything homemade to spread on my toast, I reach for the next best thing. Wendy over at Sunchowder Emporia is fabulous, she’s down in Florida and makes the niftiest preserves. I’m partial to her Raspberry Pepper jam which starts off sweet, but ends with a kick  but everything she does is golden. Inna Jam is located across the bay from me in Berkeley, where they source and make their jams from single varietal fruits. No mixing, no fancy flavors, just the shiny sunny fruit in every spread. Finally Blue Chair Fruit Co is a neighbor, one city over in Oakland, and they’re blends and jams are brilliant combinations. I made their strawberry blood orange rosemary marmalade awhile back from their beautiful cookbook but pretty much everything they make toastworthy.



Toast, available here in the US on DVD finally

Speaking of toast, the recently released Toast on DVD just came out for the holidays and if you’ve read the book it’s based on by Nigel Slater, you know what to expect. Helene Bonham Carter shines in the movie as does Freddie Highmore but the real star is all the food that they parade throughout practically every scene.

Kings of Pastry


Kings of Pastry DVD

Of course no food movie list of 2011 is complete without the documentary Kings of Pastry which takes food competitions to a whole new level as it documents a French Pastry Chef living in Chicago who trains and competes in the Olympics of the French Culinary World. Reportedly Rose Levy Beranbaum (yep, that’s me in the picture on Rose’s blog) cried when she saw the movie and it’s no wonder, as the stress and gasp-inducing scenes are plenty throughout. After watching the movie, every episode of Top Chef felt fake and petty.

Weck Jars


Weck Jars

It seems like the entire food blogging world is obsessed with Weck jars and it’s no wonder, as they are cute, affordable and completely practical as well. I came across my first Weck jar when my friend Anita snuck me out a jar of Milk Jam from the dearly departed Tell Tale Preserves Company that was in a Weck jar. I’ve never looked back. FYI, I buy my Weck jars from Heath Ceramics in the San Francisco Ferry Building. They sell them in sets on their website – only because they are so inexpensive. But if you call the store directly, they’ll totally sell you an individual jar – just be forewarned that the shipping might be expensive for the jar itself (probably more than the jar itself as each jar is only about $3).



Aeropress Coffee Maker

My friend Rita stopped drinking coffee because she didn’t like the effect it had on her, but then she acquired an Aeropress drip machine, and she reverted back to her coffee drinking ways. I was skeptical, but the Aeropress makes some pretty nice coffee. A little denser than the regular drip coffee, more akin to an espresso but without the signature crema top, the best thing about the Aeropress is you can make a single cup of coffee – without having to waste any more beans…

Extra KitchenAid Mixer Bowl


That extra KitchenAid Mixer Bowl makes all the difference.

It’s amazing how an extra KitchenAid mixer bowl comes in handy. No longer am I beating my butter and cream, transferring it to another bowl, cleaning the bowl thoroughly making sure there’s no fat residue left on the bowl so I can whip the eggs properly… I’m using two bowls. I don’t know how I survived with just one bowl. Really.

Kitchen Scale


This might not be the absolute best kitchen scale out there, but it's pretty.

Every single professional pastry chef and baker will tell you to BUY A KITCHEN SCALE as the first thing to improving your baking. Heck, Stella over at Brave Tart gave one away because she believes it’s that important in baking. People, you need one. Go and buy it. I love my Salter kitchen scale, not because it’s digital, or accurate to 1 gram or tares easily. Nope, I love it because it’s pretty and looks nice on my counter. Because I’m completely shallow that way.

An adorable cake Christmas tree ornament


Look at that adorable Christmas Tree Ornament!

OK. I fully admit that I went into Sur la Table to look for a present for AJ (which is ridiculous because AJ doesn’t really bake or cook, that’s me – but you never know when you might find something there…). Of course, I walked out with this adorable cake Christmas tree ornament. Damn you Sur la Table! I shake my fist at you!

Balaclava Tea Pot


This bank robber will steal all your earl grey so you better watch out!

I don’t know why I’m taken with this ridiculous teapot but I am. It’s a ski mask tea pot and basically it reminds me of a bank robber, but you know, for your kitchen table instead. The balaclava acts as an insulation cozy as well, so you tea stays warm, while you puzzle at who is under that mask. Found at a local store called Aldea Home but sadly the tea pot isn’t on their website. You can call or email them to order it though (priced $50).

The Foodzie December Cooking Box


Foodzie December Cooking Box

I’m friends with Emily of Foodzie and so when she pinged me and asked if I wanted to check out their December Cooking Box, how could I say no? Turns out, it’s pretty sweet (pun intended). Stone ground chocolate, hazelnut butter, locally ground wheat, dried Michigan cherries, Saigon Cinnamon, and almond brittle as well as a bunch of recipes include one from my friend Shauna over at Piece of Cake, I was sold. This is the gift box to get for your those friends who love to bake.

Theo Chocolates


Theo Chocolates

I like chocolate, but AJ LOVES chocolate. In fact, I’ll bring home some new chocolate that I’ve found at the store, or someone will have sent me some sample chocolate, and I will take a nibble of it just to taste and then leave it alone. But AJ will go back for more if it’s good. He’s picky about his chocolate, so I know that Theo chocolates, out of Seattle, are excellent – as AJ kept on going back to the bag, sneaking a square at a time, hoping I wouldn’t notice.

Tcho Tasting Box


Tcho Chocolate tasting box, perfect for the stocking.

San Francisco chocolatier Tcho has the cutest little tasting boxes, perfect for stocking stuffers. Instead of listing the varietals of chocolate, they list the type of chocolate that each square is, along with tasting notes: Chocolatey, Fruity, Nutty, Citrus. AJ likes the Chocolatey one while I’m partial to the Fruity one myself (yeah, joke away).



MarieBelle Frangelico truffles

If you want something fancy though, check out MarieBelle’s new Frangelico truffles. I ran into MarieBelle’s chocolates years ago at Neiman Marcus and I always thought they were quite beautiful. These hazelnut liquer truffles are equally tasty. Think Nutella, but you know, for grownups. And better.

Snowman Salt & Pepper Set


Snowman salt and pepper set


So darn cute!

Okay, how friggin cute is this set? I’m not one to buy seasonal giftware, but really, a salt and pepper set that is in the shape of the snowman? I’m in love. I found it at Aldea Home – and it’s available on their website.

Happy holiday folks. I hope you guys get all your shopping done. Now excuse me while I go panic at the mall…

[Full disclosure: I received a sample of the following items from the companies to review: Sonoma Syrup Co., Sunchowder Emporium, Inna Jam, Blue Chair Fruit, Toast, Aeropress, Foodzie, Theo Chocolate, MarieBelle. However, all opinions are my own, I was not compensated for anything I wrote and I would actually buy (and in some cases have bought) the items again. Otherwise I would not have included them in on this gift guide.]

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Aly December 20, 2011 at 6:02 am

totally loved Kings of Pastry!!


Nicole @ GFShoestring December 20, 2011 at 7:34 am

Two things.
1. Thank you for allowing me to feel superior about how I have, indeed, bought at least a few holiday gifts already.
2. Thank you for suggesting the second kitchenaid mixer bowl! Why had I never ever thought of that before even one moment in my entire life? That’s genius.



Irina G (Fit Flexitarian) December 20, 2011 at 7:40 am

Totally wrote down the two movie recs (Toast and Kings of Pastry) as ones I will, ahem, buy for myself.. Love all the great ideas, though! Except, honestly, nobody in my family is that much of a foodie so I’ll just have to send this post around in an email gently hinting. Maybe I’ll write something like “grandma, isn’t it so interesting that extra kitchenaid mixing bowls are in style these days? They’re so useful…”


Jay @ December 20, 2011 at 9:34 am

Weck jars!! I’m in love.


Deanna B December 20, 2011 at 9:52 am

Kings of Pastry is next up in my Netflix. I’m so excited to watch it now, even though I’ve never been a huge pastry person. I’m getting ready to go brave the stores in search of a couple of gifts right now. Thank you for the inspiration!


merri December 20, 2011 at 1:15 pm

yippee, i actually HAVE finished my shopping, and got them all mailed out yesterday!! when you live far away you can’t be late on shopping, because the gifts won’t get there in time. this made me hungry, but maybe just cuz it’s lunchtime. the jams look good, even though i almost NEVER eat jams or jellies.


Maggie @ A Bitchin' Kitchen December 20, 2011 at 1:28 pm

I’ve never heard of Toast before reading this, but I just watched the trailer and am now obsessed with seeing it. For some reason it’s not available to download on iTunes yet, and the side of me that needs instant gratification is very upset. I’ll probably give in and buy it off Amazon after I’m done buying everyone else presents. Thanks for the recommendation!


Jeena December 20, 2011 at 1:29 pm

I totally agree about Weck Jars. LOVE them. I was at the Ferry Building when I ran into them and I bought (almost) one of every kind. Great list. Thanks for sharing.


Sumayya Jamil December 20, 2011 at 1:56 pm

oh wow – wish you could get that stuff in London, yeah you get great stuff here but the things u can pick up in the US are so much more exiting!


Mariko December 20, 2011 at 2:01 pm

I hadn’t heard of Toast, but I can tell that this is my kind of movie. I wonder if I can put it on my netflix queue right NOW. 🙂

You’re so right about the kitchenaid extra bowl. Someone should totally get one for me.


Sonja December 20, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Perfect suggestions! I just ordered the extra KitchenAid bowl for my mom. Kind of a jackknife gift, since her mixer lives at my house half time.


Lisa @ GF Canteen December 20, 2011 at 2:12 pm

I’m hiring you to be my personal shopper. That’s all. And happy holidays, Irvin, to you and AJ.


Emily @ NewlyWife December 20, 2011 at 4:39 pm

I just bought my first Weck jar, well carafe actually, from the ferry building. I was shocked that they were so inexpensive. Hardly anything in that building is inexpensive.


Janet Rudolph @ DyingforChocolate December 20, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Fabulous suggestions. Some I have, and now some I NEED.. Happy Holidays!


Elizabeth Burns December 20, 2011 at 7:55 pm

I must be bleary-eyed from last minute shopping- is there a link for the Snowman Salt and Pepper set? I actually know a perfect someone who NEEDS that!


Irvin December 20, 2011 at 8:05 pm

Gah! Apologizes. I have added the link above. It was from Aldea Home, and it’s available on their website, or you can call their store to have them ship directly.


Elizabeth Burns December 20, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Thank you so much for the reply! I have one giftee who is going to be so so happy!


Megan December 21, 2011 at 8:49 am

I LOVE Theo’s chocolate. Seriously, amazing. I bought a crapload when I visited Seattle earlier this year and toured the factory. haha

Also, I never thought to buy an extra bowl for my Kitchen Aid. Genious!


Sparrow Grace December 21, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Where has that bank robber teapot been my entire life? Okay, so my entire life has been fifteen years, but still. Great gift ideas and thank you for helping all of us last minute people figure out how to finish our gift planning just in the nick of time.
Happy Holidays!


JulieD December 21, 2011 at 10:25 pm

Love this!! Now I just need the gift guide for the Star Wars lover (my husband). I’m addicted to Sonoma Syrup’s vanilla extract ‘Crush’. Have you tried it? I need to look out for that Meyer lemon simple syrup. Thanks!

I would add just one thing to your stand mixer bowl, get the glass bowl. It’s been on my wish list and I recently got it, LOVE IT. Much better than the stainless steel bowl. I kind of want a second one.


Angela Rosoff December 23, 2011 at 10:06 pm

I love the snowman salt and pepper shaker! Nice list! Extra Kitchenaid bowl is brilliant!


Rita December 29, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Man, I wish I’d come across this list before Christmas. I most definitely was not done with shopping when you posted. Though I have to say that most of these items, I want for myself. (Theo chocolate . . . Tcho chocolate . . . ) But maybe that Foodzie Cooking Box or second Kitchen Aid Mixer Bowl for a foodie friend. And the jars. It’s never too late . . .

I do get the crema top when I use the Aeropress! So happy that made your list. I’ve unintentionally handsold the item to at least one satisfied customer . . .

Happy Holidays, Irvin!!


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