Japanese bread knife
Bakers and anyone with a serious bread addiction will appreciate this Japanese bread knife from renowned blade maker Gesshin. Extremely thin, it moves through bread easily, resulting in minimal crumbs. With hard-crusted breads, the trick is to apply as little pressure as possible in order to get an even slice. $45 at www.japaneseknifeimports.com.
There is one Kickstarter-funded product every year that seems to capture the culinary madness of the season. This year's is probably the Searzall, a blowtorch attachment that lets you apply a perfect sear to sous-vide meat or fish in a few seconds, without the weird hydrocarbon off-taste. (If you've had blowtorch-toasted toro in a sushi bar, you know the taste.) Designed by Dave Arnold, the mad scientist behind many of WD-50's oddest creations. $75, at Amazon.com.
Brass pie and cake server
British designer Tom Dixon is responsible for the turban-shaped brass hanging lamps at Orsa & Winston restaurant in downtown L.A. But he also makes some extraordinarily handsome tableware that includes bowls, platters, tea caddies — and a bright, shiny pie and cake server. Garde in Los Angeles also carries his lustrous copper-plated cocktail shaker. $85 and $135 at www.gardeshop.com.
Subscription to the Feiring Line newsletter
Wine writer and natural wine advocate Alice Feiring puts out a newsletter focused on natural, organic and biodynamic wines. Ten issues a year of Feiring's adventures in wine country, mostly in Europe, with passionate small-scale producers. It's a great read. This is one wine maven who can write. $65 for a subscription at www.alicefeiring.com.
Coravin wine access system
A game-changing gadget for preserving wine that allows you to pour a glass of wine without removing the cork— and without oxygen touching the wine. A thin, hollow needle is inserted through the cork to extract the wine. As the wine is poured out, its volume is replaced with inert argon gas from a small canister. Remove the needle and the cork reseals itself. Nifty — and much used by master of wine and master sommelier candidates. $299 at www.coravin.com.
Yakitori charcoal grill
Make like Yakitori-Ya with this stainless steel charcoal grill from Japan. Available from Hitachiya, the Japanese cookware store in Torrance, it comes in two sizes. You'll want some Japanese hardwood charcoal too. And throw in a pack of bamboo skewers, so whoever's lucky enough to receive this gift can get to work right away grilling chicken skin, chicken meatballs, chicken wings and shiitake and vegetables over that fierce binchotan charcoal. $274 and $379 at www.hitachiya.com. (310) 534-3136.
All-Clad Weeknight Pan
Look at this as an investment — you'll use this pan three or four times a week for many years. It's good for sautéing fish, making pasta sauces and risottos, or braising chicken thighs. It's a workhorse that you'll find yourself turning to again and again. $179.96 at www.surlatable.com.
Felt wine carrier
You won't be embarrassed to walk into a restaurant toting this sleek, minimalist wine carrier. It's made right here in Los Angeles from thick merino felt in either red or charcoal. The two-bottle Duo model folds flat in your luggage. Handsome and discreet, it is trimmed in Italian leather. A single-bottle model is available too. $129 at www.graf-lantz.com.
One of the most useful pots you can own, this widely manufactured set includes a big soup pot, an insert for steaming and a colander for draining pasta. Every kitchen should have one. Even better, because you only use the base for boiling water, you don't need to spend a lot for a perfectly useful one. From various sources, $50 to $100.
Timbuk2 x Blue Bottle Travel Kit
Everything you need to brew coffee on the go, whether it's in your office, the Sierras or a borrowed cabin in Joshua Tree. The luxe kit includes hand grinder, ceramic dripper, two Falcon enamelware tumblers with felt cozies, filters and coffee in a canvas and leather Timbuk2 travel case. Just add water. $179 at bluebottlecoffee.com.
Charcoal grill ornament
What would your favorite grill-meister like under the tree? How about something for on the tree? Sur la Table is selling these really cool cooking-themed colored glass ornaments, including one that looks just like a Weber charcoal grill, complete with ash-pan. If that doesn't float their boat, how about one shaped like a cannoli, a package of bacon or a six-pack of beer? $15 at www.surlatable.com.
Still not using a kitchen scale for measuring? What are you waiting for? Particularly when it comes to baking, measuring ingredients by weight is not only more accurate, it's also more revealing. When you understand the importance of the ratios of ingredients, a whole new level of experimentation is opened up to you. Widely available from $25.
If you stop by Salt & Straw these days, you can get a scoop of ice cream flavored with La Nogalera walnut oil from Rancho La Viña, a walnut farm in the Santa Rita Hills on the Central Coast. The ice cream is potent stuff, with a flavor as complex and beguiling as vanilla. But patrons of local farmers markets have known about La Nogalera for years. A bit of the oil adds toasty depth to salad dressings, sliced pears and even grilled country bread. Expensive at $20 for a quarter liter (a bit more than a cup), but a little goes a long way. $20 for ¼ liter at the Wednesday and Saturday Santa Monica farmers markets, the Sunday Hollywood farmers market and from lanogalera.com.
Hario siphon coffee maker
If you love coffee, you've doubtless gone through your share of Chemexes and French presses — as have your friends. So why not give your favorite coffee geek a siphon next? These aren't new as much as rediscovered — they were invented in Berlin in the 1830s — but you can find them in swank coffee shops and in half the stores in Tokyo. They'll make your kitchen look like a meth lab too. $77.87 for 5-cup size at Amazon.com.
Graticola stovetop toaster
Fettunta is one of the world's great foods: a hunk of grilled bread drizzled with a few drops of olive oil. You'll find it as part of half the dishes at places like Tasting Kitchen and Alimento. The secret, at least at those times you don't happen to have a charcoal grill going in your kitchen, is a graticola, a perforated, mesh-topped wisp of steel that serves as a stovetop toaster. (Gas stoves only, alas.) In Italy, you can pick up a graticola at any hardware store. Here, you have to order one online. $15.99 at fantes.com.
Mastrad macaron baking set
If you love macarons, why not try making them yourself? And with a kit that includes a pastry bag and tips and a mold for the cookies, plus a recipe book, they're pretty foolproof — or more than you'd think for the exquisite French sandwich cookies. This is an especially great gift for the teenage girl in your life. (Bonus: Get her ingredients and food dyes too.) $49.99 at www.kitchenkapers.com.
Martone Cycling Co. Gramercy bike
New York-based Martone designs colorful bikes with an urban commute in mind. Features a double-wall aluminum body and a red chain for drama. Men's bike, $1,100; women's bike, $1,200. martonecycling.com; www.saksfifthavenue.com.
Chocolate tempering machine
For the home pastry chef on your list, how about this chocolate tempering machine from ChocoVision? Tempering, or heating and cooling chocolate to keep it smooth and glossy and give it snap, is absolutely necessary to make great candies but is a drag to do by hand. With this machine, you don't have to. $393.30 at Amazon.com.
You, of course, have a brilliantly appointed spice cabinet, stocked with all the mastic, fennel pollen and Iranian saffron you need. Your friends, on the other hand, may not be quite so lucky, and who wouldn't be happy to receive a set of spices customized to enhance the perfumes of Tunisian cooking, or a small collection of chiles — raisiny Turkish urfa, fiery Thai bird peppers, smoky chipotle — to sprinkle on grilling meat. There is no better place in Los Angeles to assemble a collection of spices than Spice Station in Silver Lake. Various prices at www.spicestationsilverlake.com.
If you know a coffee fanatic, he or she may like this hand-held espresso machine. Instead of having to leave the office for coffee, your giftee will think of you lovingly when using the Handpresso to make an espresso, cappuccino, Americano or latte at his or her desk. The machine just requires ground coffee or E.S.E. pods, hot water and a few hand pumps. $129.95 at www.thegrommet.com.
Ice shot glasses
Now that you're an adult, you need to take shots of liquor the proper way. There's no more shooting back room-temperature shots of vodka out of a Dixie cup in someone's dorm room. Show your friends you've grown up, even if it's just a little, with these shot glass ice molds for icy cold shots every time. They're the perfect gift for the recent college grad or for the lifelong shot-taker in all of us. $8.20 for four at Amazon.com.
Kate Spade sushi iPad Air case
Ask Angelenos what their favorite food is, and nine times out of 10, they'll say sushi. This iPad case is perfect for sushi fans who will appreciate a little sushi porn on the regular. Plus, sushi is expensive. So maybe your friends will appreciate this sushi-covered case in place of a $200 gift certificate to that new omakase place they've been dying to try. $59 at www.katespade.com.
Pastry mat with measures
Keep your countertop clean with this non-skid silicone mat. At 24-by-16-inches, it's generous in size, including measure marks and measurement rings so you can tell right away if the pie dough you're rolling is the proper size. Perfect for cookie and pastry dough, it's even great for candy. Best of all? It's dishwasher safe. $32 at www.pamperedchef.com.
Stainless steel bench scraper
A great multi-purpose tool in the kitchen, a bench scraper is a simple thing, really. True to its name, the bench scraper is perfect for scraping your work surface clean. Whether you're cleaning up after kneading a batch of dough, shaving tempered chocolate or collecting all your freshly minced carrots, a scraper's wide edge makes quick work of it. It also works well when you're portioning dough for rolls or cutting cookie logs. This stainless steel version is heavy-duty with a nice grip at the top and a handy measure at the bottom. $6.95 from Amazon.com.
OXO Good Grips angled measuring cup set
OXO has made a name for itself revolutionizing a number of classic kitchen tools, and these angled measuring cups are a favorite with our Test Kitchen staff. A patented angled surface allows you to conveniently read measurement markings by looking straight down into the cup, eliminating the need to fill, check and repeatedly adjust the amount of liquid you are measuring. The set includes 1-cup, 2-cup and 4-cup measures, each fitted with a comfortable non-slip grip handle. $19.99 at www.oxo.com.
Taylor compact waterproof digital thermometer
This handy pen-style thermometer includes a thin probe for measuring the temperature and a large LCD display for easy reading. The thermometer registers temperatures ranging from -40 degrees to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (-40 to 232 Celsius) and comes with a metal clip on the back and lanyard so you can keep it close by at all times whether cooking, baking or grilling. Easy to clean, the thermometer is made of waterproof plastic with Safe-T-Guard anti-microbial protection on the sleeve and housing. $14.41 at Amazon.com.
ThermaCell Heated Insoles
No need for cold toes. These pads remove one of the biggest downsides of being outdoors in cold weather. The temperature is controlled by a wireless remote up to 111 degrees for up to five hours with the battery. The insoles come in five sizes and can be trimmed to fit perfectly in boots or shoes. $130 at REI or Wal-Mart, or at www.heat.thermacell.com.
Deckopedia Raw Food Beginner Pack
It's nearly time for those resolutions to ramp up healthful diets, among other admirable behaviors. For some people, that might mean giving raw food a try — and not just grabbing an apple. So for loved ones who might want to take it slow, this deck of cards is a guide through the world of raw food, a world that's still pretty strange for most people. The cards include recipes (kale chips, almond milk, vegan cheese), shopping lists, techniques and more from Emilie McBride, a raw food chef. $19.95 at www.deckopedia.com.
Nite Ize Gear Ties
Holding gear together can be a challenge, but you can attach a light to a tent ceiling or a water bottle to a backpack or your lunch to your bike with these ties made of rubber-coated wires. Gear Ties come in sizes all the way up to 64 inches, but the variety pack of eight includes sizes from 3 to 18 inches. They can be twisted or tied, and they're reusable. They also make you look organized. $13, with other sizes and prices available, at camping and sports stores and on Amazon.
Muse meditation headband
Have someone on your list who might benefit from a nudge to keep calm while meditating? Or perhaps one of those people who believes everything is a little better with technology? A mind version of all those fitness trackers on the market, the Muse headband aims to help users improve their meditation sessions by giving them an awareness of when their mind is calm and when the monkeys are taking over. It works through an app to provide real-time feedback during a series of guided exercises, tracking electrical impulses from the brain via seven sensors. Meditation is surely having its moment in our culture, so it's no surprise there's something wearable to accompany the trend. $299 at www.choosemuse.com.
Sometimes it's the old-fashioned solution that's the most elegant. This Los Angeles company recycles fabrics and makes pillows by hand, filling them with old-style remedies. We felt partial to one filled with eucalyptus leaves and oil and rice for texture. Use it to relieve congestion or stress or to ease headaches. Depending on your preference, it can be frozen or warmed in a microwave. Each one is unique. $35 at Mother's Markets, Whole Foods and boutiques including DeTox Market, 8380 Beverly Blvd., L.A., or find stores at www.wellnessbags.com.
Snow Peak spork
When you're backpacking, every ounce counts, and this 1/2-ounce multipurpose utensil is a useful addition to any trek. The spork, from the Oregon-based company that makes lots of outdoor gear, is titanium and comes in four anodized colors, including silver. It will discolor if place directly in the campfire flame, though in the drought, campfires are less common. About $10 at REI and other outdoors stores and at snowpeak.com.
Fatboy Picnic Lounge
Picnic in style at Shakespeare in the park or on the beach with the Fatboy Picnic Lounge, an oversized water-repellent picnic blanket that rolls up like a duffel bag. It comes with four pins, a brush and an attached pocket for keys or phone. $249 at www.fatboyusa.com.
Wine and cheese tote
For the stylish outdoorsman or frequent Hollywood Bowl concertgoer, this tote bag is fully insulated with thermal foil and comes with a divided compartment designed to hold two bottles of wine. There's also a wooden cutting board, cheese knife, two acrylic goblets, coordinating cotton napkins and a wooden-handle corkscrew bottle opener. $38.50 at www.thewinebag.com.
Thousand Buddha Leggings
Black? Gray? Hit the road. Leggings for yoga and other workouts have exploded in wild prints and colors. We love these leggings, appropriately covered with Buddhas seated on thrones of enlightenment, from an image found on a Tibetan wall hanging. $128 at store.aziam.com.
Vim & Vigr socks
Compression socks can ease leg pain from hours of standing, but they're often far from fashionable. These black-and-white striped cuties make healthful living more appealing. $32.95, Landis Labyrinth, 140 N. Larchmont Blvd., Los Angeles, or at www.vimvigr.com.
Giant Mason jar cocktail shaker
Regular Mason jars are for amateurs. Why not shake up four drinks at a time instead of one? This giant jar will help your favorite cocktail maven whip up a batch of mint juleps fit for a crowd in no time. The embossed glass Mason jar comes with a custom screw-on collar, strainer cap and lid. $29.95 at www.cooking.com.
The Pee Pocket
This is a really inexpensive gender equalizer. Men have it easy out in the wild when nature calls, and now this product makes things better for women. It's a small, single-use folded cardboard funnel that can be stored in its plastic cover and disposed of after use. Comes with a tissue too. $1.75, www.thepeepocket.com.
Laurel skin care
Many of us are in search of more natural ingredients in our skin care products. Laurel, a Sausalito company, uses ingredients that are organic and often from California farms. The Laurel Whole Plant Organics Body Oil, with rose, cedar and rosemary, smells like a luxury spa. There also are facial products and a gift set. $80 at www.laurelskin.com and some spas.
Tory Burch Fitbit
Be glamorous and be strong. The designer Tory Burch and the tracker Fitbit got together and came up with a fretwork pendant necklace (and a bracelet) that disguise the Fitbit Flex. No more of those rubber bracelets or clip-ons to make sure you're getting in your 10,000 steps. $175 at Tory Burch boutiques, including Westfield Century City and toryburch.com.
Disq workout system
The problem? Finding a way to have a serious strength workout on the road. The solution comes from a company with a Dutch Olympic speedskater as a partner. The Disq comes in a small bag and provides a resistance workout using your body weight via a belt and ankle straps that attach with pulleys. It's being used in Crunch gyms too. $199 at thedisq.com/usa/shop.
Creative Galina dumbbell jewelry
Adornment for the committed fitness buff: Earrings, bracelets and necklaces sport one or more dumbbells, from Creative Galina & Co.. We love the silver bracelet that's a string of dumbbells because it's pretty and perhaps a reminder to keep fit. $13 to about $500 at www.creativegalina.com/collections/all.
For group and family adventures, camping and other events, this 64-ounce container keeps liquids hot or cold for impressively long periods, thanks to its double-walled insulation. Hot chocolate after cross-country skiing? Cold lemonade after a game of touch football? Of course, being a growler, it's also perfect for beer. It's lead-free and comes in brown, black and stainless steel. There are other sizes too, in lots of colors with a variety of lids. $55 at Urban Outfitters, REI and many other stores; hydroflask.com.
All That Glitters candle
The Los Angeles-inspired All That Glitters candle from Sisters of Los Angeles shines whether you light it or not. $15 at www.sistersoflosangeles.com.
LED Marset Follow Me table lamp
For the planner who already has a well-stocked up-to-date earthquake kit, the LED Marset Follow Me table lamp is portable and rechargeable and works both indoors and out. It comes with a dimmer and has a USB port for recharging. $245 at www.ylighting.com.
The portable piece of workout equipment weighs almost nothing, takes up no space and goes everywhere. It's a smart stretchy band that comes in three resistance levels. Use it for exercises from head to toe. It comes with a poster that illustrates exercises. The band is doubled and stitched to create hand- and footholds along its length for more precise resistance. $23 to $27 at uspromed.com/spoband.html.
Yogasmoga attire for men
Men's yoga paraphernalia is exploding, and this company founded by two siblings from the "mystical" part of India called Rishikesh sells smart, attractive pieces. We especially like the Dharma Jacket, but there also are shorts, long pants and a shirt in long and short sleeves. The pieces in elegant charcoal gray and orange will carry anyone from the yoga studio to lunch. The women's line is also lovely, with lots of attention to detail and fabrics with a great feel. $140 at Yogasmoga, 11911 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles, and at yogasmoga.com.
Smeg mini fridge
For fans of retro design, the 1950s-style Smeg mini fridge is small enough to fit in a tight space, and its bold red, black, orange and cream hues might very well enliven your home. While it may be small, it still has room for an ice cube tray. $999 at www.appliancesconnection.com.
Pottery fans will enjoy Bauer's new spool candlesticks, which come in three sizes and resemble spools of thread. Available in 15 colors, the candlesticks are yet another way to mix and match Bauer's colorful ringware dishes and accessories. $14 to $18 apiece at bauerpottery.com.
Aplat tote bag
This organic cotton canvas tote is just the thing for the person who is always bringing a dish to the potluck. Washable and reusable. $44 at www.aplatsf.com.
Jonathan Adler ring holder
For anyone who has ever misplaced their rings or keys, Jonathan Adler's adorable brass elephant ring holder is the perfect accessory for stashing jewelry or other small items. $88. The polished brass series, which over time will develop a rich natural patina, also includes a dachshund ($118) and horse ($88) at www.jonathanadler.com.
Trophies You Deserve
So you've never won a blue ribbon? Chicago-based design studio I am Home has created a line of Trophies You Deserve. Everyday rewards include "You should have won," "At least you tried" and "Good enough." $65 at www.iamhome.us.
You Live Once cushion
Flip the humorous cushion over and you'll find "so, think twice …" $39 at Bo Concept Los Angeles, 434 N. La Brea Ave. and Santa Monica, 328 Santa Monica Blvd. All retail stores listed at www.boconcept.com/en-us/stores/find-your-local-store.
Brooklyn-based artist Adam Frank's mirror is an ambient light source, mirror and artwork. Press a button and a 3-D image of clouds appears to float in front of the reflection within. The framed Lucid Mirror can be hung on a wall or placed on a mantle or shelf. And, when turned off, the image disappears and leaves only the reflection visible. $880 at www.aplusrstore.com.
A distinctive collection of six espresso cups from Danish design firm Bo Concept features illustrations by David Galvan Sopena, Eugenia Mosteiro Villaverde and Hatice Seda Mit, among others. $39 at www.boconcept.com.
Coasters from Post Studio offer an irrepressibly cheerful piece of Pop Art for your tabletop. Made from birch, they are available in four designs and are coated with waterproof resin. $30 at www.postispost.com.
Jay Street Ashti pillow cover
West Elm collaborated with the Brooklyn-based Jay Street Block Print Company to design the soft velvet Ashti pillow cover, which is handcrafted by Craftmark-certified artisans in India and features hand-stitched pom pom trim. Available in four colors. $43 (pillow insert, $9) at www.westelm.com.
Coral Wind Farm patterned throw
The 100% cotton knitted throw from Crane and Canopy is a warm and cozy alternative to itchy wool blankets. The throws come in 15 brightly colored Mod graphic prints and measure 50-by-60 inches. $85 at www.craneandcanopy.com.