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wasabigelatine’s 2007 holiday gift guide

Last Christmas a friend of mine received a Starbucks gift card from his boss. Not a very original gift, but it’s the thought that counts. And that thought must’ve been “I don’t want to offend you by not getting anything but I really couldn’t care less, so let’s see what’s in the lobby. Oh hey, a Starbucks!”

Whether you’re a budget or extravagant gift giver, wasabigelatine’s 2007 holiday gift guide offers a cornucopia of spectacular food-related gift ideas thoughtfully selected for a wide range of folks on your list. Maybe even your boss.

For the caffeine junkie:

Send only the best with Intelligentsia Coffee‘s Espresso Enthusiast Box which includes two pounds of Black Cat espresso blend, a Black Cat dark chocolate espresso bar by Vosges, a package of dark chocolate covered espresso beans, and two espresso demitasse cup and saucer sets with the stylish Intelligentsia winged cup logo.

$63, available at Intelligentsia shops and www.intelligentsiacoffee.com.

For your cool best friend:

Reminisce about the wild house parties you used to throw in college (or last weekend) with these clever crinkle cups. They look like plastic but are made of porcelain, so it’s recommended to keep these in the cupboard during your next kegger.

Available in small (2.5 inches) for $12 or large (4.5 inches) for $20 each from www.clio-home.com.

Serve your drinks on this flora-and-fauna-chic owl tray. This sturdy, lightweight tray is made of laminate over pressed wood and paper board and is even more gorgeous in real life. It also makes a lovely wall hanging thanks to the hole drilled near the top.

$59 from www.velocityartanddesign.com and includes free shipping.

If your BFF would prefer something manlier, there’s the hammer bottle opener. It’s a full-sized tool — one end hammers, the other opens bottles. Not to be presented with the porcelain crinkle cups.

$12 at Willow (901 N. Damen, Chicago) or www.shopwillow.net.

For your sweetie:
This beautiful honey gift set consists of nine single-varietal honeys including blueberry, star thistle, and orange blossom. The glass vials are corked, sealed with beeswax, and displayed in a handcrafted oak block. An enclosed guide describes the origins and flavors of each honey.

$78 for the 9 varietal flight shown; also available in 4 varietal flights for $45. From www.bee-raw.com.

Vosges wows us again with the Exotic Caramel Collection Hatbox. Delicious caramels are lavishly displayed in a lovely 2- or 4-tier miniature hatbox. Untie the violet grosgrain ribbon and it swivels out to reveal the layers of succulent caramels including tart (blood orange, Campari, dark chocolate, hibiscus powder) and blush (Hawaiian red sea salt, milk chocolate, li hing powder). It comes with an equally adventurous pairing guide for the nine different flavors. Once the caramels are a blissful memory, the container doubles as a jewelry box.

$37 for the 2-tier hatbox (two each of nine flavors) and $74 for the 4-tier. Available at Vosges boutiques and www.vosgeschocolate.com.

For the budget oenophile:

Que Syrah, one of my favorite Chicago wine shops, offers an excellent wine of the month club. For only $35 a month, your lucky wine enthusiast will receive two bottles of red, two bottles of white, or one of each. A really nice thing about this wine club is that there’s no minimum order — you can purchase for just one month or all year round. Each shipment is gift boxed and includes tasting, cellar, and food pairing notes, and shipping is an easy $10. If you live in the Chicago area, they’ll even cellar your wine until you’re ready to pick it up. This is truly one of the best wine club values out there. Contact Que Syrah (3726 N. Southport, 773-871-8888, www.quesyrahwine.com) for more info and to order.

Complete the gift set with these charming “Vin” wine tumblers, shown above, $9 each at www.clio-home.com.

For the coffee table book collector:

According to Anthony Bourdain, chefs and cooks enjoy playing a game about their last supper, i.e., what they’d like to eat for their final meal on earth, what kind of music would be playing, who would be there, etc. Photographer Melanie Dunea ran with this concept and interviewed and photographed a crew of famous chefs in her book My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals. Bourdain, who wrote the forward, makes a characteristic appearance. Other featured chefs include Gordon Ramsay and Mario Batali. It’s an entertaining book and the photos are superb, often humorous, and sometimes stunningly beautiful: Gabrielle Hamilton is shown sitting on the ground nursing her baby and wearing nothing but an open chef’s coat.

Available from Amazon.com for $26.37.

If you can’t get a reservation to Alinea, Chicago’s preeminent temple of molecular gastronomy, let your special someone experience it vicariously through the Alinea book . Okay, it won’t be available till fall 2008, but prepaid orders will receive a limited-edition copy signed by chef Grant Achatz and members of his staff and early access to Alinea Mosaic, an interactive website featuring bonus recipes, demo videos, and more. Maybe by then you’ll be able to snag a table.

Pre-order it for $50 at www.alinea-book.com.

For the culinary challenged:

Chicagoans — do you have a friend or significant other who’s completely useless in the kitchen, someone who manages to burn water yet can’t tell when a pan is hot? Register him or her in Cooking Fools’ Kitchen 101 class. This is a three-class hands-on crash course that covers the most basic of cooking skills: chopping, slicing, dicing, mincing, sauteing, frying, grilling, boiling, and simmering are some of the topics covered. Students learn to cook meat, fish, vegetable, and starch dishes using these techniques and receive a packet of easy recipes to take home.

Classes meet on Thursdays, January 10, 17, and 24, 2008. The cost is $210 for all three sessions. Contact Cooking Fools (1916 W. North Ave., 773-276-5565, www.cookingfools.net) to register or for more info.

Once your friend graduates from Kitchen 101, a nice cookbook will come in handy. Jamie Oliver’s Cook With Jamie: My Guide to Making You a Better Cook contains simple, easy-to-follow recipes that won’t intimidate a cooking newbie.

$24.75 from Amazon.com.

For the tea connoisseur:

Like their wine counterparts, tea enthusiasts are adventurous, urbane, and have sophisticated palates. Or maybe that’s just how like I like to think of my friends and me after a bit of the first beverage. Impress a tea lover with a custom tea blend from Blends for Friends. Fill out an online form describing your recipient’s tea preferences and personal characteristics and master tea taster (kind of like a tea sommelier) Alex Probyn will create a personalized tea blend along with a witty label describing the tea and the recipient. The tea is packaged in an elegant tin and gift box and includes origin notes and steeping instructions. In case you’re wondering, the tea is loose leaf, of course.

A custom tea blend costs £27 — approximately $56 — for 125 g. That’s about 4.4 ounces which is a lot of tea and worth every penny. I’ve been enjoying my wasabigelatine blend and this generously sized tin seems to be a bottomless pit of tea, happily for me. And reorders are only £7. Blends for Friends is based in the UK, so order yours soon at www.blendsforfriends.com to allow for enough shipping time.

I like to steep and serve my tea in a Bee House teapot. They’re stylish and functional — inside is a removable stainless steel mesh strainer and the hinged lid is also removable for easy cleaning. These are handmade in Japan, hold 15 ounces, and come in a rainbow of colors.

Available at www.intelligentsiacoffee.com for $23.50 each.

For the meat lover:

Satisfy your carnivorous pals with Zingerman’s Powered by Pork Gift Tote which contains a bacon feast — Wisconsin Applewood, Arkansas Long Pepper, Kentucky Dry-Cured and Benton’s from Tennessee — all tucked inside a canvas tote, perfect for hauling cuts of meat from their next visit to the butcher. I wish the tote was emblazoned with the evocative phrase “Powered by Pork” but alas, it just reads “Zingerman’s”.

$79 from www.zingermans.com.

If your friend is truly hardcore and has a passion for game and organs as well, Beyond Nose to Tail: More Omnivorous Recipes for the Adventurous Cook by Fergus Henderson and Justin Piers Gellatly is an indispensible cookbook. Henderson is chef of St. John in London and has built his reputation on elevating offal and spare parts into fine British cuisine. This book includes recipes for deep-fried tripe, prune and suet pudding, and braised squirrel.

$23.10 from Amazon.com.

For the socially conscious:

The holidays are an especially welcome time to give thanks, give to those in need, and give back to the earth. Through Oxfam‘s Unwrapped program, you can donate $45 in your giftee’s name towards the purchase of a goat, which supports sustainability by providing fertilizer and food. Other animal options are available such as sheep and chickens, as well as plenty of other non-animal gifts.

For more information about the program and to donate, visit www.oxfamamericanunwrapped.com.

It’s great to see more people carrying reusable totes at the grocery store, but plastic bags seem to be unavoidable when you’re buying produce. What to do? Enter the resuable net bag, which have been used in other countries for decades. The certified organic cotton string bag from Eco-Bags expands to hold up to 40 pounds and folds compactly for storage. I once saw a Russian film from the 70′s in which a woman dumps an entire watermelon into one of these net bags, so they really do work.

Available from www.ecobags.com for $8 each.

Happy holiday shopping!

4 Comments

  1. Cat wrote:

    :O

    Monday, November 26, 2007 at 4:38 pm | Permalink
  2. budget babe wrote:

    Wowza! Now THIS is what I call a gift guide! Only problem is that I want all the items for myself…

    Tuesday, November 27, 2007 at 2:54 pm | Permalink
  3. Cat wrote:

    Seriously.

    BTW, I’ve been eating some of those Vosges chocolates you’ve mentioned on your blog, and they’re wonderful.

    Wednesday, November 28, 2007 at 12:34 pm | Permalink
  4. BB, same here! :D

    Wednesday, November 28, 2007 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Original post by wasabigelatine [...]

  2. The Budget Babe on Thursday, December 6, 2007 at 12:58 am

    Great Affordable Gifts for Guys…

    Dear Budget Babe,
    Where can I find cool holiday gifts for my man that won’t break the bank?
    Sincerely,
    Peaches

    TBB: Men may not covet the latest shoe or handbag like us girls, but their costly hobbies (think electronics, cars, photography or spo…

  3. wasabigelatine › wasabigelatine’s 2008 holiday gift guide on Thursday, December 4, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    [...] up is Grant Achatz’s Alinea book (above left), which was also featured in my 2007 holiday gift guide as a special pre-order. The limited-edition autographed and slipcovered books are sold out, but [...]

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