Gifts for food lovers: Baking classes, seed collections, upscale bacon
Yes, it’s holiday shopping time again. You only have about two weeks left to get all this done, and you know how fast those days will disappear. So we’ve done some legwork for you, at least if you have people on your gift list who are food-minded. Maybe you’ve already scored reservations to Trois Mec or Maude (if so, you win this game), but if you still need ideas here are eight pretty good ones, including something for the caffeine addict or under-age gardener on your list.
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. Around $80 for 5-cup size at Amazon.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.
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. About $380 at Amazon.com.
La Quercia Guanciale: Straight from Iowa, La Quercia’s guanciale is like seriously upscale bacon made from Berkshire cross pigs. Not only don’t you have to worry about the stuff spoiling (it won’t last that long anyway), but you can put it in almost anything: pasta, pizza, omelets, or just shaved with bread and cornichons. $17.50 for half a pound at www.zingermans.com, or you can upgrade to their “Acorn Edition” Tamworth for an extra 50 cents.
Rancho Gordo gift box: There are dried beans and then there are Steve Sando’s Rancho Gordo beans, heirloom legumes that Sando has found, often in Mexico and Central America. This box combines five 1-pound bags of various beans, plus a cloth tote bag and an autographed copy of Sando’s cookbook (full of soups, stews, posoles, etc.). $57.27 at www.ranchogordo.com.
McConnell’s ice cream: Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean that your friends don’t crave ice cream. The Santa Barbara-based, family-owned ice cream company makes custom gift packs (they ship with dry ice), so choose your favorite flavors (salted caramel chip, Eureka lemon and marionberry, Turkish coffee or holiday peppermint stick) and add a free customized message. $40 for a four-pack, $60 for a six-pack (shipping not included) www.mcconnells.com.
San Francisco Baking Institute workshop: The highly regarded baking school offers two-day workshops in bread making or patisserie. It’s a terrific, though perhaps self-interested, gift, true, but why not have your friends learn how to make boule, rye bread and pain au chocolate? $398 at www.sfbi.com.
Baker’s Creek seed collections: An heirloom seed collection is a great gift idea for home gardeners — and especially for kids who want to become gardeners. Growing food from heirloom seeds is a great way to watch the growing process, then to experiment with cooking and eating your produce, and it’s also a great way to learn about issues of biodiversity and sustainability. Baker’s Creek, a Missouri company that specializes in non-GMO and rare seeds, has seed collections that are inexpensive starter kits or collections that run up to $1,295 for 1,000 seeds for those interested in seed preservation. $40 at www.rareseeds.com.
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