Here is my 2012 list of gift ideas for the person in your life who appreciates fine food and drink, and the tools and cookbooks to make them. I've tested, tasted and experimented with these products and they get my unequivocal stamp of approval. Here are my gift guides from previous seasons and years with products I still recommend:
I'm in love with this rolling pin. With all the cut-out cookies and gingerbread houses I make, it's great to have them all one thickness -- no more thin burnt edges on one side because my rolling skills were off. Now, with the rings that screw on in increments of 10mm / 3/8", 6mm / 1/4", 4mm / 1/6", and 2mm / 1/16", I get perfect thicknesses every time. I do with there was a 1/8" ring for fondant work, however. The plastic rings are dishwasher safe but, as with any wooden rolling pin, it must be handwashed and oiled occasionally.
Susie Fishbein makes cooking like a professional look easy in her "Kosher by Design Cooking Coach" (Mesorah Publications, Ltd., 2012). And you don't have to be Jewish or keep kosher to appreciate these globally inspired recipes. Consider these:
3. Beer Candy
Beer Candy -- the first candy for beer lovers! Dad and even Mom should love this one. The candy has a slight bitterness from the beer that is altogether pleasant. Take your pick of chocolate-covered caramels, Hopdrops (hard candies), Beertaffy and IPA Beer Jelly and Stout Beer Jelly! The caramels are made with India Pale Ale (coated with white chocolate), stout (coated with dark chocolate), lager (coated with milk chocolate) and lambic (a sour beer saturated with raspberries made in Belgium) is coated with dark chocolate and pink stripes. Talk about using classy suds! While the candy contains only trace amounts of alcohol, it is still considered an adults-only treat, so keep this away from the kiddies.
"Tatra Highlander Folk Culture in Poland and America" by Thaddeus Gromada (Tatra Eagle Press, 2012) will introduce you to the culture of the Polish people of the Tatra Highlands -- the Górals. These people are considered the hillbillies of Poland. My own paternal grandparents were górale and they were often considered uncouth, uneducated, and unwashed by other Poles. Gromada, a retired professor of European History and one of the great authorities on Tatra Highlander culture, has written a book that sets the record straight on these mountain folks.
Early in my professional culinary career, I coveted a mandoline for home use to make quick work of thick and thin julienne slices, crinkle and waffle cuts, and thick and thin straight slices, but I just couldn't afford the price tag. Now OXO Good Grips makes a professional-quality mandoline for the home cook that is well within the reach of most people. But I can't stress enough how very dangerous this tool can be because it is so sharp. Please, always use the food holder when operating this equipment and store it away from the hands of curious children.
Reco and its Romertopf clay bread baker is capable of making delicious, moist, Old-World-style bread by using a porous clay pan. The Reco Bread Baker is constructed from a special unglazed but very porous clay that easily absorbs water when soaked before cooking. During baking this clay releases the water as steam producing a perfectly cooked delicious loaf of bread. Nice results with this one.
I can't tell you how many times the bowl or container I'm weighing something in obstructs the display window, so I have to opt for a smaller bowl or container and weigh several times. Not anymore! the OXO Food Scale with Pull-Out Display is a dream come true. The display pulls away from the base to prevent shadowing from large containers. It operates the same way any other digital scale with metric and U.S. measurements does, with this fabulous difference. But there's more -- it measures volume in cups and ml for water-bsed ingredients, includes a conveersion chart to measure volume of other common ingredients, has easy-to-read, large display numbers and the stainless0steel platform can be removed for cleaning. I am so sold!
My two favorite Architec Housewares products are the Recipe Rock and the Polyflax Polypaper Serving Bowl and Serving Spoons. The Recipe Rock is perfect for recipes printed from the Internet, magazines and even note-cards. A metal ball holds the papers in place because the rock is magnetic. And it is small enough to fit in a drawer or recipe box. The Polyflax Polypaper Serving Bowl and Serving Spoons combine 100% recycled food-grade plastic with flax husk or cellulose to give each bowl or spoon its own surface. Just one of these items is made with 10 or more food-grade plastic containers cluttering up our landfills. These eco-friendly utensils will leave you feeling green all over!
If you're into making gorgeous desserts adorned with beautiful wide chocolate curls and ruffles, this gadget is for you. Professional chocolate curlers of this type run into the hundreds, but this at-home model is affordable and also does double duty as a cheese curler/ruffler. The set includes a wooden base, a sturdy shaft and grating knife, a chocolate mold with a centering arm and a plastic dome to keep chocolate fresh. You have to create your own wheel of chocolate by melting and tempering couverture chocolate, pouring it into the mold provided and letting it set. Alternatively, wheels of chocolate can be purchased from places like Albert Uster.
If you have a dedicated baker on your gift list, this Deco Icing Drizzler is a boon. Forget about forks or whisks hubbie has kindly cut the tips off to make a drizzler. Do it the professional way for a fraction of the cost. I, for one, am fond of drizzling chocolate on biscotti, icing on coffee cakes and babkas, and caramel to make sugar cages for things like croquembouche. This tool makes things a lot easier.