With the gifting season in full swing (Happy Hanukkah to those who celebrate!), one of the most frustrating things I tend to encounter in shopping for gifts is finding things that stick to a certain budget. My team at work, for example, tends to stick to a $20 limit for its gift exchange, and it’s difficult to think of things that satisfy the following gift criteria that I have in my head:
- Unexpectedness (as in, it should satisfy the above two and also be a genuine surprise, if possible.)
So I’m going to share some of the things I really like and/or purchased and some of the things I think would make awesome presents for those who you want to provide something nice, but something useful.
We’ll start with tea towels (see images 1 and 4, both from Crate & Barrel). I’ll be frank and say that while my favorite tea towels tend to be from artisans (such as these), as beautiful as they are, they tend to not be terribly cost-effective unless you want to gift one tea towel and maybe a pound of coffee. (That, and it’s hard to justify something that will just get dirty.) Admittedly, that combo would also make a good gift, but you’d need to make sure that both the towel and the coffee would be welcome and that alone is too stressful. In any case, I love C&B’s minimalistic designs–the floursack Merry Christmas towel reminds me very much of the utilitarian “This Is Your Birthday.” banner from The Office–and so many of them could easily be used year-round, or at least well beyond the next month.
Next are the gifts provided by the Barcelona Wine Bar marketplace (2): not only can you get gift cards to the restaurant if you are in the vicinity of one, but if that’s not as readily available they have a variety of products available, ranging from their house olive oil (which is delicious, and at $18 makes a lovely hostess gift), to truffle oil, to the paella kit which is pictured. As an added bonus, the sangria and paella kits come with the house recipes, so you’re not left at a loss of what to do.
Of all of the cookbooks I could recommend, Polpo (3) is the prettiest while also offering many very accessible, very delicious recipes. The food is largely very simplistic, but also well-composed and not what you find in many Italian recipe cookbooks, even other restaurant-based tomes. I personally cannot get over the gorgeous exposed binding of this book to this day, and if you want to offer someone the gift of easy cooking in the most beautiful package possible, this is the book to use. (Note: it has many flour-based recipes for pizzas and piadini, so proceed accordingly.)
I found this Wusthof set (5) randomly at Sur La Table last year on Black Friday, and it was $20 and it was by far the best gift I had asked someone to get one of us, because one of us will use the shears, or the knife, or both, on a fairly regular basis. If you can, try to get the utility knife that is serrated for the ease of using it with citrus; otherwise, the straight paring knife is awesome, but dangerously sharp. Proceed with caution.
And finally, this tote (6) just delighted me to no end. I am always on the look for a cute tote to bring with me when I go to New York in the spring and summer and want to go to the Union Square Greenmarket; this tote may be the perfect reminder to pick up a little goat cheese when I get my produce, and I definitely asked my mother-in-law to get it for me as a gift when we were shopping on Black Friday.
Feel free to let me know of any other great, reasonable gifts you’ve encountered!