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wasabigelatine’s 2011 holiday gift guide

Bright stars on coasters and boxes of toffee
Soap for your mittens and booze for your coffee
Cookbooks with cuisine so mindboggling
These are a few of my favorite things
this year!


Isn’t it more fun to give out handwritten recipe cards rather than clicking the “send to a friend” button? Rifle Paper Co. offers several styles of recipe cards with adorable illustrations. $10-$12 for a pack of 12. Also available at Greer (1657 N. Wells).

Paul McGee of The Whistler has been bartending for more than twenty years, well before the craft cocktail revival, and this guy really knows his stuff. He’ll teach you the basics in The Whistler’s Cocktails 101 class, which covers topics including major spirits, drink categories, and stocking a home bar. Space is limited to eight per class, so you’re guaranteed an in-depth, hands-on experience. And you’ll take home a handy reference booklet as shown here. $95 at The Whistler (2421 N. Milwaukee).

Did you miss out on Next Restaurant‘s Paris 1906 menu? Never fear, intrepid home cook: the Next Restaurant — Paris: 1906 iBook contains recipes, procedures, and detailed photographs for each dish on its menu, including those presented only to the coveted kitchen table. $4.99 at the iTunes store.


These red star letterpress coasters by Hammerpress will class up any drink and are especially festive for Christmas celebrations. Also available in turquoise and black. $8 for a set of 12. You can buy them locally at Greer (1657 N. Wells).

The folks at generously sent me a Toffee Trifecta with Bacon, a beautiful violet hatbox stuffed with three types of toffee: sweet, buttery Bapchi’s, encrusted with roasted walnuts and pecans; savory Red Fire, replete with dark chocolate, chiles, and spices; and drool-inducing bacon, coated in nothing but a layer of milk chocolate, all the better to complement the toffee’s salt and smoke. There’s a half pound of each variety, perfect for a large holiday gathering. $58 at and Vosges Chocolate boutiques (951 W. Armitage, 520 N. Michigan).

Bonus! For wasabigelatine readers, take 15% off your orders until December 31, 2011 with code VosgesFriend. Thank you, Vosges!

In my sizable collection of restaurant books, Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine stands out as one of my favorites. The Copenhagen restaurant has been named the world’s best for two years running, lauded for chef René Redzepi’s creativity in using hyperlocal ingredients and innovative technique, and the book transports me to an otherworldly realm where sea buckthorn berries dance with shoots of wild sorrel on a bed of verdant Danish moss. The very unfamiliarity of the gorgeously shot Nordic tableaus is simply mesmerizing. $32.97 at


I’m pretty cynical about New York imports — we’re Chicago and our trendy bakery scene is doing just fine, thanks — but Magnolia Bakery totally won me over with their sweet retro decor and matching accessories like vintage cake stands, aprons, and Easter egg-hued sprinkles, a lovely embellishment for cookies, cupcakes, and sundaes. $6 a jar, $24 for a gift boxed set of 4 different colors at Magnolia Bakery (Block 37, 108 N. State).


Did I just say something negative about trendy New York something or other? Okay, I take it back. I’m obsessed with painfully hipster, woefully pricey Mast Brothers Chocolate from — where else? — Brooklyn. If you’re not one of those people inclined to purchase a chocolate bar that coasts more than $2, you can stop reading now. But if you’re a connoisseur of artisanal, single-origin chocolate wrapped in exquisite papers, Mast Brothers is worth the splurge. My favorite is their dark chocolate with cocoa nibs, roasted to nutty perfection. $40 for a box of 5 bars at, $10 a bar at Fox & Obel (401 E. Illinois).


Here’s the story behind eco-friendly Further hand soap and lotion: the owners take depleted vegetable oil from L.A.-area restaurants, turn it into biofuel, and use the purified glycerin by-product as an ingredient for their cleansing and moisturizing products. How cool is that? $12.50 each.

I love Kaufmann Mercantile’s quirky selection of household goods. From handmade beeswax candles to Weck canning jars to Blackwing pencils, everything’s well designed, sturdy, and practical. The Hermetus bottle opener & resealer (front and back shown) is no exception. It’s pocket-sized and handy for preserving the contents of large format beer and cider bottles. $8.

Owl butter dish: ridiculously cute. That’s all. $16 at and West Elm (1000 W. North Ave.).


  1. Josh S wrote:

    You really need to post more often. But it sure is a joy when you do!

    Monday, December 12, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink
  2. Thanks Josh! Glad you enjoyed :)

    Monday, December 12, 2011 at 11:28 am | Permalink
  3. Cathy Tang wrote:

    This is awesome Cathy. Wow I want everything!

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 10:49 pm | Permalink
  4. Yeena wrote:

    cathy, i think you are so neat. love the Further soap/lotion item. and it’s great that vosges chocolate gives your readers that discount!

    Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at 11:54 am | Permalink

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