The notion of writing a gift guide this year feels kind of, well, superfluous given that everything that’s happened, but at the same time, I fully endorse finding items that give you and your loved ones joy, and I think that we need to arm ourselves with equipment that will help us cook great food in the next four years, and in my humble opinion, it totally calls for fabulous serveware too.
ThermoWorks ChefAlarm: Honestly, I can’t believe I haven’t sung the praises of this device sooner. I bought one of these a few years ago for Michael for Valentine’s Day, and it’s been worth its weight in gold and then some ever since. This is the same company that makes the ThermaPen–a product avid watchers of Good Eats would recognize easily–and Alton Brown likes to tweet about how great this thermometer is as well. (Full disclosure: he is NOT endorsed by them and therefore isn’t paid to sing ThermoWorks’ praises. He simply believes in their products that much.) This is the thermometer you can insert into a piece of meat, set the desired temperature accordingly, and then set an alarm for when it gets to that precise cooking time, thus saving you a metric ton of worry on whether something is cooked to the proper temperature, and it also comes with a timer because I find you can never have enough of those in a kitchen.
Square End Grain Cutting Board from Crate and Barrel: Everyone needs a good wooden cutting board in their kitchen, and we love this one so much that we ended up getting a second one when we realized we had the room for us to both work side-by-side in our new kitchen. It’s easy to clean, is solid and stable, and looks fantastic; for the price, you really can’t go wrong with this one, and it’s an ideal gift for anyone who is looking to outfit their first kitchen.
French Kitchen Marble Two-Tier Server from Crate and Barrel: (seen earlier in this post) This was another gift I picked out for myself on Black Friday just as we were preparing to move to Baltimore, and so it made its debut nearly two years ago at our first New Year’s Eve party in our new place. It beautifully combines form and function, because the marble itself can help keep cooler items cool, while adding a distinct, luxurious touch to any spread. It’s also helpful in that you can save yourself a little space on the table and use it to serve two or more dishes at once. I’m a big fan of marble in general, but its delicateness makes me wary of using it as a counter top material; this and the rest of the French Kitchen Marble collection at Crate and Barrel is a nice compromise in offering the look without having to worry about something happening to it constantly.
Ceramic bowls, plates and mugs from Domenic Frunzi: My brother-in-law is a ceramics teacher in the exurbs in Philadelphia, but he lives in the city proper and recently banded together with some friends to open up their own little studio space. Our apartments over the years have served as an unofficial gallery of his work, and as he’s become more accomplished and experienced in his ceramic work, our shelves have become home to all kinds of gorgeous vases, bowls, plates, mugs, and the like. He recently launched an online shop of his wares, so if you want to #shopsmall and support a young artist on the way up, I urge you to check out what he has to offer.
And now, a roundup of cookbooks I urge you to consider if you want your 2017 filled with good food (because it looks like we’ll need it):
Num Pang: Bold Recipes from New York’s Favorite Sandwich Shop: The title may seem a bit heady, but Num Pang has long been on our list of recommended New York restaurants for one simple reason: the sandwiches are seriously, ridiculously good. They have opened six more locations outside of their original on 12th between 5th and University, but what’s great is if you can’t make it into the city to enjoy one of their expertly crafted Cambodian sandwiches, they make it very easy to replicate them at home. This book is filled with classics from their hoisin meatballs to their five-spice pork belly to their classic accouterments like pickled carrots and spicy mayo. The recipes do go beyond sandwiches, too: salads, soups, and even some intriguing side dishes like sambal-glazed chicken wings all serve to provide a full spread of dishes inspired by Cambodia and beyond.
Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail by Dave Arnold: I’ve sung the praises of the creative mind of Dave Arnold, and this book is a really fun entry into his process. For him, a cocktail should be as carefully crafted as anything else you would eat or drink, and his meticulousness to detail (as well his embracing of modernist and other unconventional techniques) makes you really want to savor the cocktail that is poured in front of you. With the recent closure of his bar Booker and Dax due to Momofuku Ssam’s renovations, this is the easiest way to get a taste of that experience, and while I doubt you’ll be buying dewars of nitrogen anytime soon, I guarantee you’ll start adding pinches of salt to your cocktails in order to enhance their flavor.
Tuscany by The Silver Spoon: Truthfully, I’ve always kind of avoided Tuscan food because of all of the Italian regions, it felt the most overdone here in America because it’s such a popular area of the country to visit. But I was such a fan of the Puglia cookbook from The Silver Spoon last year that I flipped through the Amazon preview of this book and it sufficiently piqued my interest enough to ask for it for my birthday, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how it went far beyond the typical Florentine steaks I was so used to seeing. (There is a recipe for one, of course, but there is also so much more to discover here too.) I’m hoping that the team behind The Silver Spoon eventually releases a Piemonte cookbook, but in the meantime I’m probably going to be tempted to add yet another Sicilian cookbook to my shelf because I’ve enjoyed the first two so much.
If current events have left you feeling pretty meh about the act of buying stuff, there’s always the opportunity to support some great causes that could really use your help ahead of the incoming administration, ranging from your local food bank (always a good idea) to a myriad of organizations looking to defend and support anyone who might be vulnerable in this crappy new world.