Last year in her excellent gift guide, Helen Rosner urged her readers to consider giving someone the gift of caviar and lightly-salted Lay’s potato chips as a wonderful indulgence. While I can certainly get on board with the caviar and chips suggestion, as someone who grew up right by the Pretzel Belt I cannot endorse Lay’s potato chips; if you can get them, get yourself a bag of Herr’s or Utz or whatever local brand is best where you live. You could also make your own as I did recently, and for that the gift of a Japanese-style mandoline and a no-cut chainmail glove make that process both easier and safer.
That no-cut glove is also useful for safely shucking oysters at home. I have New Haven-style and Galveston-style oyster knives depending on the oysters I’m trying to pry open, and my glove has prevented me from stabbing my hands more often than I would like to admit. Still, it makes for a nice mid-week treat or weekend indulgence when paired with a well-made cocktail at home.
2022 has been the busiest year of travel for me, and I’ve grown to depend on some products that would make any travelers in your life profoundly grateful. While I depend on them less since I finally upgraded my phone, this pair of USB portable chargers have saved my hide in giving everything from my phone to wireless headphones to my tablet some juice. As I wait for Southwest to finally install seat-chargers in their planes, these will do for now. While I’m inclined to go to hotel gyms again, especially if the weather does not allow for swimming, I still love a good long swim in a hotel pool. My old swimming headphones died right before we went to Mexico, but their replacements are so much better because they actually remember where you left off in listening to a song or, more pressingly, a podcast.
Though I try not to buy too much stuff on my trips, mainly because space in my carryon is usually at a premium, I do love to get merch from my favorite spots, especially as gifts. When we were in New York last December I covertly picked up a Katz’s Deli T-shirt from the deli itself, and since then I’ve added this sweet Laser Wolf tee to his collection. The Katz’s shirt especially gets attention becuause it’s the same shirt the staff wear, so I’m pretty sure they think he works or worked there. There’s another one coming this year, but I don’t want to share it for obvious reasons. I regretted not getting anything at Pike Place Market during my short visit there, but a few weeks later I ordered a tote bag from Pike Place Fish Market on Goldbely and it’s become one of my favorite bags to carry around both at home and traveling when I go make a run to pick up room snacks or to carry around my water bottle and umbrella.
Finally, here are some cookbooks that I am happy to recommend this year to add to your collection or to give to someone you love:
- The River Cafe 30 by Ruth Rogers: The River Cafe is a legendary London restaurant, and this is a fun book to take you there in your own kitchen. The recipes are largely really simple, and while some call for specialty ingredients, so many of them are just straightforward Italian classics that are easy to execute. The tomato and eggplant side dish is one that strikes me as something that is so delicious and yet not something I’ve found in any other Italian cookbook.
- Sunday Best by Adrienne Cheatham: runner-up on Top Chef’s 15th season, Adrienne Cheatham was one of my favorite cheftestants from the season and her first cookbook is an absolute banger of creative food. She shares lots of stories of for Eric Ripert at Le Bernadin and the various dishes and components that would make their way onto the restaurant’s menu, but also dishes from her childhood as well as dishes she’d work on when working with Marcus Samuelsson. It’s a delightful book to cook from, and will definitely add some variety to your meal rotation.
- À Table by Rebekah Peppler: I’ve written about the recipes in this cookbook several times this year, and honestly, you should get this book if you have an interest in making Cool Girl French Food that’s approachable and delicious.
- Cook Real Hawai’i by Sheldon Simeon: I’ve sung the praises of this cookbook as well in this space, and his lomi has become one of my favorite ways to enjoy salmon on a regular basis. If you have any interest in Hawaiian cooking, this is a great way to jump into it with a chef whose warmth that comes off so readily on his multiple appearances on Top Chef translates flawlessly to the page.
- Good Eats 4: The Final Years by Alton Brown: I’m including this for a few reasons, namely in that in addition to all of the new and reloaded episodes from the two seasons of Good Eats The Return and Good Eats Reloaded, he included reworking the recipes for what would have been the third season of Good Eats; Reloaded. This batch includes him finally addressing the disaster that was his slow-cooker lasagna from late in Good Eats’s initial run. I just wish we had an episode where he could properly shame it, but this helps. (Also, his homemade ricotta recipe is solid for lasagna.)
Happy holidays, everyone!