It’s never too early to start brain storming creative gift ideas for that foodie friend in your life. If you don’t, you can be assured on the alternative, trust me . Before you know it, it’s gonna be December 24th, you’ll have a bottle of nog in one hand and completing an Amazon gift card purchase with the other.
So to avoid the Amazon gift card – I thought of you for a whole 30 seconds – trap, here are some items that might be a perfect fit for your foodie friend, or at least give you a head start on something more inspired this year.
Real Food/Fake Food – Easily the most interesting book I’ve read this year, and a must for any food fanatic. Or anyone who cares about just being ripped off right and left frankly. Go ahead and buy one for yourself and your friend. And I don’t say that just because the links on this page to Amazon etc. are affiliate links – this book is equal parts fascinating and disturbing. A completely riveting read.
From olive oil to cheese, seafood to meat, the products you’re buying literally aren’t what you think. You might think you’re a savvy shopper and know whats what but you don’t. You probably know there’s not actually lobster in that chain restaurant dish that just cost you $12, you’re smart enough to know they substituted langoustine to meet that price point right? But did you even know about the entire business of langoustine import fraud, that fake lobster meat isn’t even real fake lobster meat. Scary.
Author Larry Olmstead leads the reader through product after product. You’re not buying real olive oil if you’re in a grocery store, you’re not really eating Kobe beef in that hot dog (99.9% in the states is fake don’t you know) and you might not even be eating real parmesan cheese (two words, wood pulp) – even in a Michelin starred restaurant in NYC. Seriously.
The book is endlessly eye opening, and you’ll fly through it – “oh god, really, this is made of lies and sadness too?”. Thankfully Olmsted ends each section with savvy advice on how to avoid being duped and how to hedge your bets and shop smart. Buy Real Food/Fake Food on Amazon.
Sea Robins, Triggerfish & Overlooked Seafood – As stocks of staple fish collapse globally, now is the time to start thinking about the seafood you buy and cook. The premise of this cookbook riffs on this with glee: all too often, unfamiliar species are pulled up when commercial fishermen are looking for something else, and called bycatch. These are often dumped back into the ocean, dead or barely alive. What if we didn’t discard these perfectly edible fish.
No doubt this is tricky in land locked, land lubbing Utah; but the book could be a great gift for a coastal based friend out of state. For every “Pickle brined lion fish with cornbread puree and fried pickles” theres a ‘scallop aquachile’, so its not thoroughly impractical in fairness. It’s one of the more beautiful recipe books I’ve seen of late too. And if you need further inspiration that to cook up something new, the foreword by Fabien Cousteau explains how once upon a time lobster was junk, fed only to prisoners, who knew? Buy Sea Robins, Triggerfish & Overlooked Seafood on Amazon
The Really Quite Good British Cookbook – An English cookbook you ask? Before falling off your chair, laughing in hysterics about gourmet boiled beef, wait one second. While I do concede as an expat, to not being entirely unbiased, this collection from Britain’s finest actually impresses.
Covering plenty of well known names like Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Raymond Blanc, Gordon Ramsay, Delia Smith, James Martin, Nigel Slater, Marco Pierre White and more – not least plenty of lesser known names – the cookbook simply asks each to list their favorite recipe. The resulting combined 100 recipes are more than just different renditions of fish and chips and are mouth-wateringly presented. They represent the melting pot of British culture and cuisine and run the gamut of impossibly ridiculous to run to the kitchen right now and get cooking.
Dishes like Nigella Lawson’s chocolate guinness Cake or Atul Kutcher’s masala pie (a curry in a pot pie, yes!) will have you headed to the kitchen and cancelling your January 2018 diet plans now, why bother. Whereas dishes like Marco Pierre White’s tempura duck hearts are unlikely to ever leave print for most readers; fancy removing a woodcock’s intestines, heart, livers and gizzard with a teaspoon? No me neither. The book is big, bright and a ton of fun. Buy The Really Quite Good British Cookbook on Amazon.
Secrets Of Skinny Cooking – I’m not sure it’s particularly fine form to buy a friend a skinny cookbook. Not if you want to be friends all that much longer. Still, there’s some fine recipes in here and lots to recommend. This is a book I’ve leaned on time and again this year.
January resolution jokes aside, I guarantee come the start of the new year guilt will have set in; the health (and pareve) focused recipes here are more than just the “replace mayonnaise with dust” and feel smug variety, and actually deliver a heft of flavor. Buy Secrets Of Skinny Cooking on Amazon.com
Can It & Ferment It – The name says it all, 75 recipes for canning and fermenting; not least the detailed know how to master both techniques. The book is effectively split into the four seasons, so as those dandelions rear their head come March and April, you’ll now have another option other than muttering and eyeing the roundup while no one watches. Now you’ll be able to consider dandelion jelly and pickled dandelion buds as choices instead.
I’ve yet to muster the bravery to attempt anything head on in the book, but concoctions like watermelon rind pickle, curried cauliflower and spring onion kimchi means my 2018 is likely to be probiotically powered to the extreme. Buy Can It & Ferment It on Amazon.com
Simply Fish – A fairly no nonsense book. Chef Matthew Dolan offers his own personal collection of seafood recipes for every occasion, course and occasion – and again ordered by season. Utah doesn’t lend itself perfectly to such a book, but for every recipe requiring local sand dabs there are three more like grilled halibut with sweet pea tendrils and corn stew. Nothing you couldn’t easily procure from say Aquarius Fish Company downtown, or Harmons on a good day.
I particularly like the unfussiness of this book, Dolan seems genuinely more interested in imparting useful info that dazzling with unicorn tears. The dishes are solid and easily understandable. Smoked trout salad, salmon burgers, ginger and asparagus soup with shrimp – robust and reasonable and every one beautifully presented. Buy Simply Fish on Amazon.com
Switch It Up – This compact recipe book by Corrinne Trang has two main goals. First and foremost the dishes are geared around healthy eating (indeed the book is partnered with, and proceeds go to, the American Diabetes Association) but more than that everything is presented in a no nonsense, simple fashion. Most of the prep and cook times combined for the dishes listed take less than 45 minutes, so also represent a great choice for those in a rush not wanting to fall back on unhealthy easy cheats.
Each recipe also handily includes the relevant ADA diabetic exchange list info, for those meticulously managing both their diet and health. Buy Switch It Up on Amazon.com
Fruit – From the Mississippi Delta to the Gulf Coast, author Nancie McDermott’s recipe book focuses on the fruit (duh) forward dishes of the South. While around 50% of the recipes rely on fruit found mostly in the South – there’s still fun and education value to be had here. Despite ingredients like pawpaws, mayhaws and scuppernongs being fairly quixotic in these parts – who didn’t just Google scuppernong and learn something.
Dishes like pawpaw custard pie and mayhaw jelly might be thoroughly impractical and out of reach but there’s plenty to get to grips with using more readily available local product; you’ll be able to brag to your friends about the Ocracoke island fig cake or Surry County peach sonker on the dinner table before them in no time at all. And all the while telling them about scuppernongs. Buy Fruit on Amazon.com
Products and gear
Fuego Box – These days, if you can buy it, chances are you can also signup to a subscription service and have it landed on your doorstep too. Enter stage right then, Fuego Box and their hot sauce subscription service. For spice lovers like myself this is an awesome gift. Hint hint hint. Each month, the service sends out three curated hot sauces to the lucky recipient. These are small batch, low production volume hot sauces from like minded spice fanatics. The chances you’ll find these on any shelf in Utah are probably marginal to laughable.
Fuego Box offers subscriptions of varying lengths and formats, one off purchases and also more elaborate gift sets. The most popular option is basically a years subscription for $111.80, which mails out three sauces each quarter; which works out to less than ten bucks a bottle over the year which isn’t insane. Especially for the quality of the sauces, the few I’ve sampled have been remarkable and distinct. This isn’t all about smashing you over the head with the latest, craziest hybrid pepper, this is about nuanced flavor. I’ve sampled everything from sharp citrus biting sauces through rich, round and smoky varieties.
Opinel Cheese And Wine Knife – Put a little flair into your picnic basket, with this classy number from Opinel. Whip this out during a Red Butte or Deer Valley concert next Summer and you’ll be fielding tons of admiring queries. Wherein you can start waxing lyrical about Opinel, and their storied history in the knife-biz dating back to 1890.
This particular product from the French based company includes a stainless steel blade with added chrome to reduce maintenance; a quality handle sourced from French beech and a cool safety ring feature that locks the blade in place both in the open (for cutting) and closed (when transporting) states. Practical, chic and affordable. Buy Opinel Cheese And Wine Knife on Amazon.com
Uncommon Green Barware – I mentioned these earlier in the year, they deserve another shout for sure. Showcase your city pride with this strikingly etched line of bar ware. Pint glasses, wine glasses, whisky glasses and more – all etched with local maps and often colored with local team colors. Bonus points, these guys offer a range of cool copper mugs for Moscow mules. For more details visit the Uncommon Green barware shop where you can purchase direct.Seven Fifty wine growler – Have a wine loving friend who also happens to love the outdoors? Honestly they do exist. If so, what about this stylish 750ml growler, a perfect fit for an entire bottle of wine. Moreover, there’s nary a shard of glass in sight which makes it perfect for a range of outdoor activities such as:
Casual day hikes
Trip to the beach
Anywhere you might not tote a glass bottle basically, and it does so in impeccably fashionable style. And there’s nothing to say you have to store wine. Mix up some sangria or your favorite cocktail – the growler will keep your coronation perfectly temperature controlled in the stainless steel double walled container just as happily. Buy Seven Fifty wine growler on Amazon.com.
Straight From The Root – I’m unsure how practical these would be as gifts per se, but the samples I received in the mail claimed to last 45 days, refrigerated in their vacuum sealed bags. No matter, they ended up devoured long before they ever reached the, “hmmm, do I dare myself” stage. The concept here is sous vide veggies good to go, right from the grocery aisle.
While at first glance you might sniff at another lazifiication of home cooking, I found these incredibly valuable to have on hand in a time crunch. Want to make a quick beet salad but don’t have an hour to roast fresh beets, no problem. Fancy cooking up a Moroccan inspired tagine dish but equally don’t have time to roast carrots and squash after a hard day in the office, ping! That’s the sound of the microwave and the 90 seconds these take to reheat in their vacuum sealed packs.
I’ve never home sous-vide’d myself but in my mind the practical application here is both as a time saver and something you can keep on hand for quite some time too, and the quality is good to boot; I think you can grab them locally at Smiths and Whole Foods.
KeySmart Pro – O.k. so this last one might be completely tenuous as far as foodies go, but it does have a bottle opener integrated, so I’m calling it good. Mainly though, this thing has been so handy for me since I picked up one at the final Outdoor Retailer show this Summer (*weeps*) it deserves an honorable mention
The KeySmart Pro lets you ditch your traditional key holder rings, which weigh far more than you might imagine. KeySmart’s replacement system takes seconds to pull apart, install your keys and rebuild. It’s lightweight, fits in pockets and purses more conveniently – and less pointy things sticking everywhere – I don’t think there’s a word for that.
As a winning feature the KeySmart Pro also integrates an LED light and the ultra handy tile system. Lose your keys in the house and your smart phone can activate an alarm to hunt them down in seconds (yes they’re in your pockets, they always are). Lose them out in the world and Tile lets you use crowd sourced data form other users on the network to find them too. Crazy cool.
And yes, there’s a bottle opener component as standard, so it’s totally fine to include this in a food piece, honestly. Buy KeySmart Pro on Amazon.com
Disclosure: The items listed above were sent to me gratis to check out over the last few months. Many of the links above are affiliate links. If you go ahead and buy something by clicking the links, you’ll be indirectly donating to the coffers of GSLC, cheers!
Founder, writer and wrangler at Gastronomic SLC and The Utah Review. Former restaurant critic at the Salt Lake Tribune. Stuart is largely fueled by Uinta Cutthroat, alliteration and the use of too many big words he doesn’t understand. Ate all the pies.