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
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
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.
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
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.
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).
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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).
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
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.]