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2010 Christmas / Hanukkah Gift Guide

Gift Guide for People Who Like to Eat, Drink and Cook

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Here is a list of gift ideas for the person in your life who appreciates fine food and drink, and the tools amd cookbooks to make it. I've tested, tasted and experimented with these products and they get my unequivocal stamp of approval.

1. Chopin Vodka

Chopin Potato Vodka
© 2010 Chopin Potato Vodka, used with permission.
Chopin Vodka is made from Stobrawa Polish potatoes, and distilled four times at the Krzesk distillery, which I visited on my Poland Culinary Vacations tour of the Mazovia region. The centuries-old process produces a vodka that has a hint of apple in the nose and a full, round, smooth character with a clean finish. Chopin is made in small batches and it's evident in every sip. This is one vodka you don't want to knock back. It needs to be savored. It even has legs like fine wine!

2. Curious Chef Products

Curious Chef Pizza Kit
© Curious Chef Products, used with permission.
The entire line of Curious Chef products is a winner in my book. Geared toward kids, these tools REALLY work. No toys here. The easy-grip handles, skid-proof bowl bottoms, snub-nosed shears, plastic knives and more are all made for kids' hands (and grownups' hands) and designed to last. Best of all, the company has come out with kits for pizza-, cupcake- and sundae-making, and holiday-themed kits for Halloween, Christmas and Easter.
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3. Wedel Chocolate

Wedel Chocolate Products
© 2010 Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc.
I fell in love with Wedel chocolate products when I was in Warsaw recently. I had some of the chocolate bars in the United States and knew the product was of high quality, but I wasn't prepared for the rich, thick hot chocolate I was served in a demitasse cup at the original chocolate lounge on Szpitalna Street. It's to die for.
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4. Wilton Classes

Wilton Cookie Basket
© Wilton Products, used with permission.
Touted as "Wilton Cake Decorating Classes," the curriculum has expanded to include mini cakes and petit four making, fondant and gum paste modeling, holiday-themed desserts and so much more. There's even a class on starting your own cake business, and a special kids baking class. The school is located in Darien, Ill., just outside of Chicago, and the trip is well worth it. The teachers are excellent and the knowledge one takes away is invaluable. Combined with a hotel stay, this would make quite a gift for the foodie in your life! Classes are available in three-hour workshops, one-day workshops, three-day workshops and master courses lasting a week or longer.

5. Borowiki Mushrooms

Polish Mushrooms
© 2010 Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc.
If you've never had Polish borowiki mushrooms, you haven't lived. Whether dried or fresh, the flavor is incomparable and memorable. When I visited my relatives in Turek, Poland, it seemed everyone in the family from teenager to senior citizen went mushroom hunting. They grow with abandon in the woods and I saw many a car parked along busy highways, while their owners harvested the precious jewels. Borowiki mushrooms from Poland don't come cheap, but they would indeed be a wonderful gift for someone who knows their worth or for those you want to wow.

6. Otto's Hungarian Import Store & Deli

Otto's Hungarian Import Store & Deli is a true treasure. Packed into its 3,000 square feet of store are Hungarian and Eastern European products you've only dreamed of. The brick-and-mortar store is located in Burbank, Calif., but all of the products can be ordered online. Best of all, if they don't have it, Tom Huber, the late Otto Huber's son, will do his best to get it for you. They have everything from packaged goods to hard-to-find Pick salami, nut and poppyseed rolls, poppyseed grinders, chestnut paste, noodles galore. It's a great company to do business with.

7. The Chefs Tool Box Silicone Gingerbread House Mold

Chefs Tool Box Gingerbread House Mold
© Chefs Tool Box, used with permission.
I make gingerbread houses for every season of the year and I've never been fond of cast-iron gingerbread house molds. And I've never been a fan of silicone baking molds in general. Until now, that is. The Chefs Tool Box gingerbread house mold really delivers. It takes the drudgery out of house baking and, if you use a gingerbread mix, it's a cinch. No rolling, no templates, no cutting. Just push the dough into the mold and run a rolling pin over to flatten it out. Here is a photo of a gingerbread beach shack I made with the mold.

8. POURfect Whisk-A-Bowl Stand Mixer Attachment

POURfect's Whisk-A-Bowl KitchenAid Stand Mixer Attachment
© Pricegrabber
Meringues figure prominently in Eastern European cuisine and egg whites are essential in the royal icing for gingerbread-house building, so I'm constantly whipping them or heavy cream for one project or another. It can take quite a bit of time with a hand-held mixer and even with a stand mixer. The Pourfect Whisk-A-Bowl does it in record time and creates a more stable product. Try it on these egg-white recipes.

9. "Hungarian Cookery Book" by Karoly Gundel

Cover of "Hungarian Cookery Cookbook" by Karoly Gundel
© 2010 Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc.
This sweet little book (a mere 103 pages) written by Károly Gundel is out of print, but still available. Károly Gundel was the son of János Gundel, the famed restaurateur who founded Gundel in Budapest, Hungary, in 1910. The restaurant still exists today and is considered one of the best in the world. The edition I recommend is in English and was published in Budapest in 1964 by Athenaeum Printing House. Recipes range from chicken paprikash to layered cabbage to the famous Gundel pancake. Some of the recipes are vague and give directions like "roll to the thickness of a crown piece," making the book all the more charming.
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10. Poland Culinary Vacation

Polish Folk Dancer in Krakow, Poland
© 2009 Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc.
Here's a once-in-a-lifetime gift for the person who has never been to Poland or for those who have and long to return. The trip is pricey if you go first-class with stays at four- and five-star hotels, villas and palaces. But, Sarna Rose, president of the company, offers a half-price tour with accommodations in three-star hotels and all meals included except one night. Currently she offers three tours -- Silesia and Wroclaw, Krakow and Zakopane, and Warsaw and Mazovia. She is adding a wine tour in the Gdansk region soon.
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