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wasabigelatine’s 2013 holiday gift guide

My husband likes to amuse himself by sending me clickbait-style texts on his way home from work: “This Cabbie Knows How To Save the Day — But Will It Cost Him His Life?” I’m a bit behind updating this blog, so in the spirit of playing catch up and because my favorite finds this year are totally sensational, I present to you:


Middlewest is a new food publication founded by two former Time Out Chicago staffers. Self-described as “a modern food magazine, deconstructed”, Middlewest sets itself apart from the current abundance of indie gastronomic periodicals by printing its content on oversized recipe cards, making it easy and convenient to use in the kitchen. The innovative yet practical design and bold photography is a delight to look at and play with. As a big enthusiast of food journals, Middlewest offers something truly original and is one of my very favorites. $18 for issue 1, $20 for issue 2 at


I’m a sucker for tea in pretty packages and this gift set includes two crowd-pleasing blends, Earl Grey and Royal Air Force English Breakfast teas, as well as an over-the-cup strainer which I greatly prefer to giant sloshing mesh tea balls. $45 at Provisions by Food52

photo credit: Food52


Paula Haney, owner of Hoosier Mama Pie Company, has real culinary street cred — she was the pastry chef at Grant Achatz’s former restaurant Trio — yet she admits that years ago (before starting her business, of course) she’d sometimes resort to store-bought pie crusts because they were difficult to make. This disarming anecdote, along with detailed step-by-step pie crust instructions and troubleshooting tips, is one of the many reasons The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie is a must-have reference for any baker and/or fan of the Chicago pie shop. And naturally, there are lots of pie recipes. $29.95 at Hoosier Mama Pie Shop, 1618 1/2 Chicago Ave. or $22.54 at


Paul McGee’s underground (literally, it’s in a basement) tiki lounge Three Dots and a Dash is the kind of magical place that’s so thoroughly relaxing and transformative you want to take a piece of it back with you into the real world. And you can by purchasing any of the tiki mugs you see there. Following the tradition of other long-ago tiki lounges, Three Dots releases exclusive, limited-edition mugs several times a year, a wonderful gift for the avid collector or a jolly knickknack to brighten up your cube at work. $15-$20 each at Three Dots and a Dash, 435 N. Clark St.

photo credit: Three Dots and a Dash


The problem with macarons is they’re so light and airy and tasty they disappear almost instantly. Lucky for us, Chambre de Sucre offers these adorable macaron trinket boxes made of Limoges porcelain, perfect for storing little treasures. $13.95 each at

photo credit: Chambre de Sucre


When my three year old complained that grown up forks were too big and I grumbled that kids’ utensils were too plastic, I grabbed a set of these lovely gold cocktail forks as soon as I saw them at West Elm despite the slightly steep price tag. Then I learned they’re 24 karat gold electroplated, so they’ll be fancy enough for oysters at your New Year’s Eve parties. $28 for a set of 4 at West Elm stores (1000 W. North Ave.), sold out online

photo credit: West Elm


Another example of great object, great packaging: this Letherbee spirits gift pack includes a bottle of limited edition Autumnal Gin made with Lapsang Souchong tea and mace, a flask of the original label gin, and another one with their rendition of the bracingly bitter Chicago hipster favorite Malört, all done up in a handy wooden crate with leather strap. $65 at Provenance Food & Wine, 2528 N. California Ave. and 2312 W. Leland Ave.


Moose bottle stopper. $13 at

photo credit: Pottery Barn


I don’t usually care for chocolate and caramel sauces because they’re typically too sweet or too heavy, but this year I discovered Fran’s Chocolate & Caramel sauces and always keep a jar of each in the fridge now. The chocolate is smooth, bittersweet and not too thick — nice melted for dipping strawberries, drizzling on ice cream, or even straight out of the jar. I’ve used the caramel on apple pie and oatmeal, and it’s just the right amount of buttery and salty. $20 at

photo credit: Fran’s Chocolates


It seems that every year I include some sort of dish towel in my gift guide because, well, you can never have too many. Nourishing Notes, based here in Chicago, creates Food Philosophy kitchen towels screenprinted with witty and inspirational phrases such as “Trust your gut, not the recipe” and my personal favorite “When life gives you lemons, make limoncello”. They’re sturdy enough for every day use and pretty enough to put on display. $15 each at


These clever Icelandic sea salt flasks by The Reluctant Trading Experiment remind me of one of my first foodie obsessions years ago — Dean and Deluca’s iconic test tube spice rack. What I love about this design is that the flask serves as a salt cellar but you can easily grasp it and shake a few grains into whatever you’re cooking. Speaking of, the website says they’re Walter White approved. $13.50 for 3.5 oz, $20 for 9.17 oz at

photo credit: The Reluctant Trading Experiment


Short Stack editions are wonderful stocking stuffers for people who love to cook. Each booklet focuses on one ingredient and provides a wide variety of recipes, emphasizing the versatility of that particular food. They’re authored by well-known food writers and professionals so the directions are easy to follow and enjoyable to read. $12 each, $35 for a trio, or $75 for a 6-edition subscription (includes free shipping and additional goodies) at

photo credit: Short Stack



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