Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday gift ideas. Or, kitchen items I can't live without.

In matters of gift-giving, I have learned over the seasons to not look for the thing that my fellow food lovers do not have, like a triple-speed, dual-direction immersion blender with 64 attachments, but to update the standbys in their kitchens with heavy-duty stylish pieces.   Below are some workhorses, must-haves and multitaskers, a few of whose price tags I justify by believing that they become someone's faithful kitchen companions for decades. 

Staub tea kettle. Okay fine, this is one that I am living without.  I've wanted it for years, but the German in me already has a Le Creuset tea kettle that works fine, so it goes against my grain to buy another tea kettle.  This hefty cast iron thing of beauty does not whistle, but its design alone makes it an impressive kitchen addition. About $120 at Sur la Table

Emile Henry tagine.  My Le Creuset tagine with a cast iron bottom and ceramic conical top broke when I shipped it so I used that as a reason to throw open the tagine-buying doors and switched to a heat-safe clay tagine by Emile Henry.  Both are fantastic tagines and transfer from cook top to oven seamlessly.  I do notice the clay tagine tends towards hot spots more than the cast iron base, but they are both trustworthy and inspiring (because you will want to find ways to use it) kitchen-to-tabletop pieces. About $125 at Sur la Table
All-Clad 1.5 quart straight-walled saucepan.  I love this thing for reheating, reducing and creating anything.  I'm no scientist, but its narrow diameter and straight-walled design is efficient at sending heat up evenly through the contents. As a by-the-piece type cookware purchaser, this is one of my most-used pieces next to its sister, the 8" fry pan.  A splurge at $150, but I found the brushed stainless version on sale at Williams-Sonoma for $100.

I have given this Global 5.5" vegetable knife a couple of times as gifts.  This is small, light knife can almost entirely stand in for a chef's knife.  It keeps a better edge than any of my other knives and I like the pointy tip so I can get into things if I need to. It has a nice, controlled, slight rocking motion to it. It is great as a starter knife or as an addition to a larger kit. About $70 at Amazon.

Acorn Coffee Roasters coffee. Big words, but I would put them up against Stumptown's roasts.  Buy any of it at their shop on Etsy.  I love them not only because they are friends, but I trust Anne's palate implicitly.  They roast some fine small-batch coffee that I have given as gifts many times, all with rave reviews. About $15 at their Etsy shop.

Blue Chair Jams.  Divine.  These marmalades and jams whimsically but expertly pair fruits and herbs like Blood Orange and Rosewater and Strawberry-Meyer Lemon, all made in small batches. Rachel is devoted to the craft of preserving and her love of flavors and textures shows in everything she touches. She also recently released a cookbook, available on her site.  About $12 at

I hope you find this list useful for your holiday shopping, and leave some of your gift ideas in the comments below!


  1. Holy cow, thanks for the plug! We're in great company with Le Crueset and All-Clad :)

    (Acorn Coffee Roasters)

  2. i remember that knife. it is pretty awesome!

  3. You have amazing taste! We dig the idea of giving coffee for gifts, too. We featured Intelligentsia, Stumptown, and Blue Bottle in our holiday gift guide ( ) but we'll def. be giving Acorn a whirl.

    Poor Taste


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