Unless you are one of those weird people who do their Christmas shopping in July, you are probably still putting off that dreaded chore of making a list and checking it twice. And as far as actual shopping goes, well, you still have three weeks.
We are only qualified to offer some assistance on matters relating to food and its preparation; so after intensive research, we have come up with the following suggestions for those foodie fanatic friends on your list.
For your very, very, very best friend may we suggest the Evaporator. It sounds like the newest member of the Fantastic Four but is actually a tabletop distillery that extracts intensely flavored syrup from almost any food. For instance, put in strawberries and black pepper and out comes a clear strawberry and black pepper flavored liquid that can then be added to impart taste into anything you can imagine without changing its color or texture. All this for a mere $3,000 at brinkman.com.
Too steep for your budget? How about the Anti-Griddle? This, for a mere $1,060, can freeze any liquids, creams or gels in 30 to 90 seconds on a flat surface that looks like a griddle, creating a frozen crust with a creamy inside, providing you with those much-needed items like crÃ¨me Anglaise lollipops and whipped cream pancakes. Get it from cuisinetechnology.com.
For those on your list who have been dreaming of sushi grade chicken or are paranoid about food borne illness, the Culinary Prep at $400 will rapidly marinate and tenderize your meat, seafood or poultry while killing 99.5% of those pesky microbes that cause E coli, listeria and salmonella. Go to culinaryprep.com.
For the most serious foodie-scientist in your crowd, there is the new, must-have chemical spice rack that includes methyl cellulose, which congeals into a thick syrup or gel when mixed with hot water and becomes liquid again as it cools so that one can make reverse chocolate ice cream that is hot and solid on your plate and then dissolves into liquid in your mouth. Some other items include sodium alginate and calcium lactate. The former becomes a gel when exposed to the latter. Add raspberry puree and get caviar sized raspberry drops with a gel-like exterior.
Soy lecithin keeps molecules together that otherwise wouldn’t stick, such as oil and water. On the menu: squash foam soup or carrot juice “air," a super-light foam. Order from le-sanctuaire.com
Here’s a real guy thing called the Smoking Gun and it’s only 50 bucks. It looks like a gun with a pipe on top but most of the barrel is a long tube. Put hardwood sawdust into the pipe and light it and smoke comes out of the tube to infuse into your roast or salmon. Order for your he-man at cuisinetechnology.com.
Finally, something a bit more realistic: The InfraWave Speed Cooking Countertop Oven from Black and Decker ($150). Infrared waves, which are not nuclear radiation but work like the sun, cook about twice as fast as a conventional oven and results in meat with a crispy outside and a juicy interior. It is large enough to roast a whole chicken. Infrared cooking requires no pre-heating or defrosting and since the cooking time is faster, the energy use is less.
It is really the next generation in cookery, used currently in many restaurants. The oven may be pre-ordered from Coast Hardware but they do not have it in stock, so allow extra time for shipping.
How about some super paper? What? You don’t know what super paper is? Perhaps, you know it better by the name Fata paper. No? Well, this translucent paper can withstand temperatures up to 445° F (but not direct flame). It looks like cellophane but you can wrap up a roast with veggies, cinch it at the top and toss it in the oven to cook in its own juice. Cut the top off the bundle at the table and serve it in the bag no pots to clean and it’s self-basting. Order online from jbprince.com, $27 for a small roll.
Here’s a great stocking stuffer "” a glove! It’s the new big thing in oven mitts called Kitchen Grips and they are super hot and cold resistant as well as swathed in an ultra-grippy material. With this mitt, you could pull a lobster out of a pot of boiling water. It is water and stain repellent and dishwasher safe and costs $15: available from kitchengrips.com.
The most fun place to shop for foodies is right here in the neighborhood at Crystal Cove. Williams-Sonoma has a lot of everything, including free samples. The other day, they were serving hot cider along with oven-roasted veggies, sausage stuffing, turkey gravy and cranberry relish.
At Williams-Sonoma, keeping up with the Jones "” culinarily speaking "” means that this season’s “must haves" are Riedel’s stemless wine glasses, called the “O" wine tumblers. They are lead-free, dishwasher safe and, best of all actually do fit into the dishwasher. Lots of wineries are using them and many restaurants are shifting over to them as well.
The interesting thing about these glasses (besides the fact that they have no stem) is that there is a specific shape of glass for each variety of wine. On hand, they have glasses for Burgundy, Bordeaux and Chardonnay. Cheers!
Last but not least is the very useful Breville cordless immersion blender. You’ve seen these all over the food network and if you’ve never used one, we can tell you that it’s a very handy tool. You can puree hot stuff in the pot on the stovetop without transferring anything to a blender or Cuisinart. It’s great for making mashed potatoes or soups and a lot less messy. A smoothie attachment mixes batters, beats eggs and blends milkshakes. It’s at Williams Sonoma for $99.95.
We wish you all Happy Holidays and hope you are on the receiving end of one of these gifts. Call us if you get the Evaporator. We’ll come over and play.
ELLE HARROW and TERRY MARKOWITZ owned a la Carte for 20 years and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.