The Manhattan Food Project’s gift guide for 2019.

Some of my favorite cookbooks I’ve used this year.

As I’m writing this gift guide, I’m listening to a live-stream of the impeachment hearings, which is possibly the most 2019 thing I could be doing, but here we are. This year has been one filled with trials and tribulations, but I could offset at least some of that with travels to new-to-me cities, excellent food, and the occasional run to H Mart and Wegmans. This was also the year that I got into watching original content on YouTube, and in the spirit of the season, I’ll share some of my favorite channels so you can check them out for yourself and (hopefully) subscribe to them.

(As always, there are no affiliate links.)

Anova Precision Cooker (aka an immersion circulator)

Anova Immersion Circulator: I’ve only had this for a couple of months yet, but so far I’ve really enjoyed it–I love the slow-poached eggs and cordials that I’ve already made with it, and next year I’m looking forward to trying my hand at roasts and burgers as well. You don’t have to have a Food Saver or similar vacuum-sealer to work with it, but it is helpful once you start cooking various items at higher temperatures. (For reference, this is the Nano model, which is a great entry-level version but doesn’t require you to download the app in order to operate it.)

Dominoes: When we decided to go back to Miami, Michael mentioned that he really wanted to learn how to play dominoes and play a round or two in Domino Park in Little Havana. I found this set on Amazon and we taught ourselves how to play rather quickly, and on a warm Tuesday morning, we staked out a table on our own and played dominoes for a few hours. Now, technically you’re not supposed to play there unless you’re 55+ and a local, but no one bothered us (and had we been asked to leave, we would have), likely because we were there on a Tuesday morning and not, say, Saturday afternoon. We even squeezed in one last round with more people around later in the day. Either way, this is a fun game to play and if you find a set that travels easily, makes for a fun way to while away the time while sitting in an airport or similar.

Jefferson’s Ocean Bourbon: First tried in Louisville, once we got back we kept seeing this whiskey seemingly everywhere in Baltimore. Placed in oak barrels that are aged in ships, this bourbon is delicate and perfect for leisurely sipping. We’d never use this to make cocktails, but if you’re interested in getting into good bourbons, this is a great place to start.

And here are some of the more recent additions to my cookbook collection that I’ve really enjoyed:

  • Catalan Food by Daniel Olivella: While you’ll find classic Catalan dishes in this book, there are definitely some fresher takes, like pairing escalivada and raw tuna, or making gazpacho with canned tomatoes when they are out of season. One thing I’m still waiting to make for myself is the fried squid with fennel which looks absolutely incredible.
  • Basque Country by Marti Buckley: If Alex Raj’s book on Basque cooking is more San Sebastian via New York City, Marti Buckley’s is much more traditional and classic. If you’ve been to the area it’s a way to have part of it in your own kitchen, and if you haven’t, it serves as an excellent primer on how the Basques approach food.
  • The Gaijin Cookbook by Ivan Orkin: In this day and age when we’re rightfully discussing the ethics of cultural appropriation, Brooklyn-born ramen mastermind Ivan Orkin delivers a thoughtful take on cooking Japanese food in Japan as a lifelong cultural outsider. It’s a fascinating look into Japanese home cooking and how much Japanese cooks will take from other cuisines and make them their own. I’ve only barely scratched the surface of this tome and I can’t wait to dive into it all winter long.
  • Vegetables Unleashed by José Andrés: I’ve written about this book at length before, so I’ll just reiterate that it’s fantastic and leave it at that.
  • Israeli Soul by Michael Solomonov: This book in conjunction with its predecessor Zahav inspired a lot of our summertime dinners, and while it’s more casual in its feel than the former book, the dishes are just as fantastic. Want a whole bunch of suggestions on what to serve on hummus? Solomonov has you covered. Want to try making your own shawarma at home? There are a few different ways to do so in these pages. 

As for the YouTube channels I’ve gotten into, none of them are food-related so it may seem odd to include them on a food blog, but they’re so good that I wanted to share them regardless:

  • Defunctland: I may not have been to an amusement park since I was in college, but damn if I don’t enjoy following the backstories of either former rides and amusements or the failures of entire parks themselves. In addition to amusement park history, you can also watch their DefunctTV series in which they highlight various shows, with a special nod going out to the miniseries they did this summer on the life and career of Jim Henson. (Warning: you will get teary during the final episode.)
  • Lindsay Ellis: Media critic Lindsay Ellis rose to notoriety via Channel Awesome, but has since branched out on her own to talk about everything from why the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast sucks to the rise and fall of the Hollywood movie musical to the queering of Michael Bay. More Michael Eisner snark can be found here, mainly around the film division rather than the amusement parks. 
  • Maggie Mae Fish: My favorite videos on this channel can be found in Fish’s relatively new series in which she dives into the world of evangelical Christian movies. So far she’s done Kirk Cameron’s Fireproof as well as the movie I’m In Love with a Church Girl, and she’s working on a video for Cameron’s Saving Christmas which will hopefully come out soon. Seeing how these films look to manipulate their audiences will have you fuming with anger more likely than not, and she does it in a very entertaining way!
  • Pop Arena: Though this channel covers a few pop culture topics, the one I’m here to promote is the series Nick Knacks, which is a history of Nickelodeon by doing an analysis of nearly every show they ever aired on the network. While the series is over forty episodes long, they have only made it to 1985 as of this writing, so if you’re dying for the history of Ren and Stimpy or Rugrats, well, there’s still quite a ways to go there. Either way, it’s fun hearing about the history of so many shows that aired on the network before they focused on producing their own content.

Well, that’s probably enough from me–may your holiday season be merry, restful, and enjoyable!

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