As is always the case, one holiday ends and another is launched into our consciousness almost instantly. Those crumbs from the pumpkin pies are just being swept away, but The Holiday Season is officially here and Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa shopping has begun. What to get? Where to get it? It’s the annual quest. We’d like to make things a wee bit easier for you, as we’ve found some great items for the food lovers on your list. Buy one, buy several! Either way, you will seen as one of those “good gift givers”!
Mount Etna, I’m Glad I Met Ya
Pistachio Cream. This cream makes Nutella seem like amateur hour. The color alone is worth a look at this product that has recently won a Sofi Award in the Best Jam, Spread, Butternut and Preserve category. The pistachios hail from Sicily and the taste is from the clouds above. Spread it on a lovely cookie for dessert, a piece of good bread or just eat it at your kitchen counter from a spoon. If you had a bad day, it will have just gotten better. Fior Di Pistacchio (pistachio cream, Sabatino and Co., $19.99 at Olivette, 1084 Boston Post Road, Darien)
A Place for Everything
Great product, sort of silly name-Cheese Bags. Pair these with a delightful cheese and some good nuts for a hostess or hang them by the chimney as a little stocking stuffer, Cheese Bags by Formaticum, Brooklyn ($7.99, 15 bags. Fairfield Cheese Company, 2090 Post Road, Fairfield) are THE accessory for a cheese lover. These handy little bags will wrap your cheese perfectly (no more weird plastic wrap-parchment combos) and extend their luscious little lives. Don’t be without.
Pinkie’s Up! Naaahh...
Davids Tea in Westport (135 Main St.) is anything but stuffy and you can kiss the lace doilies goodbye. This tea is hip, the packaging colorful and the assortment and names of teas are copious and amusing. In addition to such teas as Pink Flamingo, Mother’s Little Helper (alcohol free, sorry), Jumpy Monkey and Salted Caramel, it’s hard to resist a sip. Or four. Packaged singly or in fabulous variety packs, there’s truly something for everyone. They even have great tea accessories done in graphic, modern color palettes. Declare it tea time and enjoy a cup!
Serve it up, Home Slice
You’ve made a mouth-watering tart for a holiday get together, so why are you reaching for an old, less-than-gorgeous pie knife to serve up these slices? Use a Silver Glitter Tarte Slicer straight from Paris ($18.00, Couleur Provence, Darien) and your guests will be ooo-ing and ah-ing before a bite even hits a mouth. It’s a one-two punch at dessert time. Buy one for yourself and for a baker-friend this season.
One for You, Two for Me...
The Holiday Cookie Exchange. We all love the idea of them but have no idea how to pull one off that’s successful. Pick up the cookbook Very Merry Cookie Party: How to Plan and Host a Christmas Cookie Exchange by Barbara Grunes and Virginia Van Vynckt ($19.95 at Good Food Good Things in Darien). With pointers about themes, cookies to share and copious recipes, you will be on your way to a soon-to-be annual event.
Try one and you will want to eat ten. These shortbread-like cookies from Savor offer a fabulous range of unusual flavors, such as lavender, smoked red onion and “Nicasia” which is a mix of rosemary, lemon and smoked sea salt. Purely addictive. Pair with tea, coffee or wine, these cookies will have you...Savoring. $8-10 a bag Find these @savorfinefoods.com or at Terrain (561 Post Road East, Westport).
Kick It Up
Add these gorgeously delicious syrups to cocktails, teas, over yogurt and in salad dressings. Ginger, Spiced Apple and Preserved Lemon will bring them all up a notch. Handmade and bottled in good ol’ Brooklyn, New York by Morris Kitchen Syrups (and found at Fairfield Cheese Company, 2090 Post Road, Fairfield, $14.99 each). A sip from the very chic ‘hood.
South of the Border Sweets
Chocolate fiend on your list? Go for the Taza Chocolate, Mexican sampler ($19.99, Fairfield Cheese Company, 2090 Post Road, Fairfield). Small disks of uniquely wrapped chocolate come in flavors as cinnamon, chipotle chili, ginger, cacao puro, guajillo chili, salt and pepper, and orange. The next snowy day will be truly enjoyable. They can simply be nibbled too, but expect a different texture than you are used to. Worth the try!
A New and Better Bubbly
Kiss the orange labels goodbye and give some “grower” champagne this season. This flock of libations are artisanal sparkling wines made in the Champagne region on estates that produce grapes for champagnes. Smaller estates, better flavors, more unusual. Some exceptional bottles to bring to your next fete...H. Biliot Fils, Laherte Freres, Corbon, Bereche and Laval (Fountainhead Wines, 12 Knight Street, Norwalk. $48-90 a bottle). Perfect for toasting the New Year!
Organic To Your Door
Mike’s Organic Delivery is the creative gift-giving answer now that most of the CSAs have closed for the season. Winter is somewhat sparse, but your fridge won’t be. Give a gift certificate for local, organic produce, beef, pork, honey and eggs to be delivered to your doorstep during the winter months. There’s no excuse to not eat your veggies now (prices vary. www.mikesorganicdelivery.com Ask for Mike)!
Channel Your Iron Chef
What could be better than to learn something new in the New Year? Go behind the scenes in the Sugar and Olives prep school kitchen (21 Lois Street, Norwalk) to saute, bake, drink and eat for an evening. School has never been so much fun! Price ($75 unless otherwise noted) includes libations, the food that you cooked and some smokin’ hot new culinary skills. A great way to spend a cold, winter evening and a unique gift for a kitchen hound. Click here for MORE FAIRFIELD COUNTY COOKING CLASSES.
At Saugatuck Craft Butchery, which specializes in pasture-raised, organic meats, nose-to-tail is the philosophy and education is King. Sign up for one of their two-hour Butchery 101 classes to learn your way around some beef or swine. Knife skills, butchering, cooking and more will round out your unique experience. Saugatuck Craft Butchery, $100 per person.
I have never wanted to drink Balsamic vinegar (taste on a salad, sure), but with these I come pretty darned close. Olivette’s (prices vary based on bottle size, 1084 Boston Post Road, Darien) Cranberry Pear Balsamic, Peach Balsamic and Grapefruit Balsamic vinegars with such clear, refreshing flavors it will knock your socks off. You’ll want a Big Salad. The hostess you give these to will love you forever and invite you back for sure.
Olive-You! and You!
Need to mend a bridge this season or simply appear with a unique gift? Gilbertie’s Herbs in Westport has little olive trees! A leafy piece of Tuscany in a rustic terra cotta pot! For about $28, this beautiful tree will transport the recipient to lush groves during the harsh days of winter. Who wouldn’t want that sitting on their window sill?
More Happy HoliTeas!
For a tea drinker, Pu-erh tea is the Maserati of teas. It is the only tea that actually gets better with age and functions the way a wine would. Grown on estates and noted for vintages, these tea disks (about 7” across. Priced $80-250) of fermented leaves are a truly special gift for someone who loves to explore the world of tea. Even the packaging is to be appreciated (Arogya, 131 Post Road East, Westport). On another note, Dr. Oz gives Pu-erh tea a thumbs up for weight loss, which is never a bad thing around the holidays.
00-Yeah! Foodie Gadget
Become James Bond of the cocktail hour and the kitchen...you know you want to. Not shaken or stirred this time, but carbonated, foamed and frothed. All gadgets come packaged in a steely, sleek briefcase. Bond girl not included. More information here.
Yes, cooking is a good thing. A great thing. But sometimes there just isn’t time or even the will. We also all have folks on our list who use the phone to make meals appear (a lot), so let’s help them at least be organized about it. Gilbertie’s Herbs in Westport has chic Take Out Menus organizers for $24.95. Fabulously orange and hip-looking enough to adorn a kitchen counter, pair this fab folder with a gift certificate to the recipient’s favorite go-to place and you have a great gift. Full bellies are happy bellies.
Teach a Man to Fish...
...or in this case, bake at Wave Hill Breads (30 High Street, Norwalk www.wavehillbreads.com). Learn to bake breads and pastries in the New Year. How marvelous does that sound? Take one of their classes (price approx. $100 per person. New schedule out soon. Call now for gift certificates) and bake yourself silly. You KNEED to do this, wink wink.
April Guilbault is a graphic artist and illustrator turned freelance writer and blogger. After studying Communication Design at Syracuse University, she went on to work at NBC in Chicago and New York as a broadcast designer, where she snapped up a few Emmy awards for her work on the Rosie O’Donnell Show. Now, she’s blogging (www.dailyfrosting.com) and writing for local websites and publications. And let’s not forget trying to master the art of making the perfect french macaron before it ends up on a 2013 culinary list of foods that are “out”.
April has lived in Fairfield County with her husband and two daughters (and fish, cat and rabbit) for the past 13 years.