Now that I've covered books, gadgets and gear, I turn my attention to a variety of fine comestibles that would make wonderful gifts for people who like to cook and eat. Hope you enjoy this final installment of the Garden of Eating's 2010 Holiday Gift Guide For Foodies.
Roasted Walnut Oil
Walnut oil lends a delicious, rich flavor to vinaigrettes (it's especially great with sharper, peppery greens like arugala), pesto, and is delicious on its own as a dipping sauce for fresh bread, in marinades for meat, fish or veggies, or to add an extra nuttiness to waffles, scones, biscotti, carrot cake and other sweets. Good for you, too, as it's very high in Omega 3's. I also like that La Tourangelle seems to take making oil very seriously. They make a number of other delicious, high quality oils, too -- sesame, hazelnut, grapeseed, avocado, sunflower, etc.
Fleur De Sel
True to its name, which means "flower of salt" en Français, this hand-harvested salt is very fine, even delicate. To make fleur de sel, saltworkers harvest the top layer of sea salt in the salt pans in specific towns of France. You'll often see it labeled with the region where it was harvested -- Fleur de Sel de Camarge or de Guerande, etc. It's best sprinkled on food (including certain desserts) right before serving since its fine crystals dissolve quickly. It often has either a slight gray or pink cast to it - a result of the sand where it was harvested. Although not technically the same, it is similar to Maldon Sea Salt Flakes from Essex in the UK which is another very nice finishing salt.
GuS (Grown Up Soda)
Anyone who's read my blog for a while knows that I have a weakness for Mexican Coke. But I'm kicking my Coke habit in favor of a new, slightly healthier addiction, GuS's Dry Cola. I spotted these at my local healthfood store and decided to try the cola and the ginger ale (my husband's favorite) on a whim. I was blown away by how good the cola was--better by far than la coca mexicana... I think the fact that it contains less sugar prevents sheer sweetness from overpowering the flavor of the actual drink. I've tried the rest of the flavors and am equally impressed with them. These are unique and tasty enough to enjoy on their own as a pairing with any meal or, if you know someone who is into making cocktails, the possibilities would be endless. You can include a printout of these cocktail recipes with your gift of a four-pack or two. In addition to the Dry Cola, their flavors include: Dry Pomegranate, Dry Meyer Lemon, Star Ruby Grapefruit, Extra Dry Ginger Ale, Grape Black Currant, Dry Valencia Orange and Dry Cranberry Lime. They're sweetened with cane sugar and have no preservatives and no caffeine. You can buy them at Wholefoods or check here to find a store in your area that carries them.
Dark or Milk Chocolate Bacon Bars
My friend, Marc, treated me to a bite of one of these heavenly chocolate bars a year or two ago. Once I got over my initial surprise at seeing bacon paired with chocolate, my only question was "why didn't I think of that?!" After all, I love chocolate and I love bacon... Luckily, it did occur to the good folks at Vosges Haut-Chocolat, so we can now choose from either their milk or dark chocolate bars which combine the savory, smokey flavor of bacon with the sweet, rich flavor of chocolate and topped it off with a bit of salt to balance all the flavors. To quote their product descriptions: "Applewood smoked bacon pieces with alderwood smoked salt, and 45% creamy milk, or 62% deep dark chocolate." They're heart-stoppingly good... (and, yes, pun intended.)
Sweet and just a little spicy, ginger syrup is delicious in tea, desserts, baked goods, drinks, you name it. I like the kind made by The Ginger People (I've bought it at Whole Foods in the past) but you can also easily make your own by boiling down a syrup of sugar and grated or sliced ginger and give it as a gift. It's kind of like liquid gold...
NoMU Spice Rubs & Blends
If you know someone who likes to grill, roast or marinate, you should check out NoMU, a South African company that makes the best spice rubs in a lot of really interesting flavors. My friend Ben introduced me to these when I finally thought to ask why everything he grills is always so amazing. I recommend their Moroccan, African and Indian rubs but they also make lots of more "normal" sounding rubs like Provençal, Cajun, lamb, barbeque, poultry, beef, veggies, etc. I've bought several of their rubs via Amazon (they come in packs of three or four so you can divide one pack to make presents for several people!)
This is such a wonderful thing -- sweet, tart, rich and complex. Pomegranate molasses is made by boiling down the juice of a particular type of tart pomegranate along with some cane sugar and lemon juice. The result is a dark, thick syrup that adds a wonderful zing and sweetness to lots of dishes, dressings, and drinks. Pomegranate molasses is widely available in many supermarkets and smaller ethnic markets nowadays, often for just $3-$5 a bottle. If you can’t find it in a market near you, you can always find it on Amazon which sells a bunch of different brands.
Spiced Roasted Nuts from Olomomo Nut Company
I'm nuts about roasted nuts, particularly when spices are involved. My friend Justin started roasting nuts as a hobby a few years ago, after he got inspired by a nut guy at a farmers market in Washington, DC. He's since turned his hobby into a bonafide business -- Olomomo Nut Company. As a frequent eater, I can vouch for both the amazing (and addictive) flavors and the high quality of these hand-spiced nuts. Some of my favorites include the Cosmic Maple Masala Pecans and the Mango Chipotle Zinger Almonds. If someone likes nuts, they will like these.
Fresh Chopped Herbs, Frozen!
I first tried these a couple of years ago (when a guy from DaRegal emailed me to see if I wanted a free sample) and now I'm not quite sure how I managed without them. Inevitably, one needs some basil or parsley or cilantro at some point in the cooking process -- for dressing, to add a little more flavor to a marinade, etc. But there may not be any in the fridge (or the garden) or it may not justify buying a whole bunch of the herb. In those situations, these chopped frozen herbs are a life-saver. And once you start using them, you can never go back. Although there may be other companies out there, the one I buy my herbs from is DaRegal, the same place that sent me the free sample a few years ago. If you do mail order, I suggest that you buy 2 of each herb -- they've got better and better deals if you get more than 4 at a time (and the shipping costs are really high since they have to send them in dry ice). Keep a set for yourself and give one to someone you really like. Or check to see if your local chain grocery store carries them (mine does not, sadly).
Browse the rest of The Garden of Eating's 2010 Holiday Gift Guide:
Part I: Books for Food-Lovers
Part I: Books for Food-Lovers