Delicious gifts for the foodie
Kitchen toys for the wannabe Top Chef
By Linda A. Thompson-Odum firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s easy to recognize a foodie. His cookbooks fill an entire bookcase. He understands terms like chiffonade, demi-glace and mirepoix. His TV is always tuned to the Food Network, except for Saturdays (PBS cooking shows) and Wednesdays (Bravo’s Top Chef). Perhaps he even has a photo of Julia Child in the kitchen. (I’m guilty on all counts.)
For the foodie on your gift list, there are plenty of items to make the holiday a joy.
Foodie newbie — Is your food-lover new to the kitchen? If he already owns the classic Joy of Cooking (if not, buy it for him!), then consider Mark Bittman’s revised How to Cook Everything. Known for his weekly The Minimalist column in the New York Times, Bittman keeps his recipes simple and is a master at explaining the techniques necessary to prepare a wonderful dish. This cookbook contains more than 2,000 of his best recipes with close to 400 how-to illustrations.
Next, check out the foodie’s kitchen to be sure he owns all the basics, such as the essential knives (chef, paring, and serrated), pans (medium skillet; large deep-sided skillet; large stockpot; large Dutch oven, and a medium saucepan), baking pans (cookie sheet, pie plate, loaf pan, roasting pan, square pan, two 9-inch cake pans and a muffin tin) and utensils (mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons, whisk, instant-read thermometer, colander, tongs, cutting board, etc.). If he is short a few items, fill in the gaps. Or, give him a gift certificate to your favorite kitchen supply store so he can choose exactly what he wants. Things Are Cooking, 74 N. Main St., Concord, is a good place to start, as is Viking House, 19 N. Main St., just across the street.
Old-fashioned cook — Does your foodie enjoy Grandma’s old recipes or just simple, down-home food (think Paula Deen)? Then perhaps you’ll want to give him The Old Farmer’s Almanac Everyday Cookbook. It is full of traditional recipes (seafood chowder, turkey pot pie, apple-glazed corned beef brisket, seafood casserole, and Grape Nut pudding) — it’s as if someone raided Grandma’s recipe file. Or, since few people know simple home food like the Amish, give your foodie The Amish Cook at Home. This cookbook is full of beautiful country images and simple Amish recipes and antidotes for every season.
Make sure your foodie has a recipe file to pass on to the next generation. Also, to follow the old-fashioned theme, buy a couple of beautiful and functional aprons, oven mitts and dish towels. Or scope out a local antique shop for a glass or ceramic cake stand or pie plate. And, though they’re a bit hard to find this time of year, see if you can come across all the items necessary for canning so your foodie can make his own jellies and canned goods next harvest season (the local Agway or cooking store would be a good place to start).
Food geek — Is your food lover a bit like Alton Brown? Does he feel the need to know the chemistry behind an airy angel food cake? Then he might enjoy The Science of Good Food by David Joachim and Andrew Schloss. Set up dictionary-style, this book will allow your foodie to scope out any food term and learn in detail what it is and how it works. For example, he can discover the roll pectin plays in making jelly, how microwave and induction cooking works, and why xanthan gum is all the rage.
Another good gift for this foodie type is a subscription to Cook’s Illustrated magazine. In a large Massachusetts test kitchen (where the America’s Test Kitchen cooking show is also filmed), the authors of this publication try numerous versions of a recipe to find the best one. Then they break down the recipe step by step to make it easy for the home cook to recreate.
As for a gadget to get your food geek, how about a kitchen scale — the most accurate one you can find. These are particularly handy when baking, since the best way to measure flour is by weight.
Asian aficionado — If you have a foodie friend who loves anything with an Asian flair, then give him Secrets of the Red Lantern: Stories and Vietnamese Recipes from the Heart by Pauline Nguyen. This beautiful cookbook tells the author’s story of how her family escaped from war-ravaged Vietnam and established the Red Lantern restaurant in Sydney, Australia. It not only contains hundreds of delicious but simple recipes (illustrated in color photographs); it’s also full of family photos that illustrate their traditions and journey.
Chances are this type of foodie owns his own wok, chopsticks, bamboo steamer and sushi-making supplies. If not, then you know what to buy, and add a gift certificate to one of the local Asian markets, such as Asian Market Center, 550 Elm St., or Saigon Asian Market, 93 S. Maple St., in Manchester; or Merlion Asian Market, 433 Amherst St., or Saigon Asian Market, 33 Pine St., in Nashua.
Foodie on the go — Do you know a food-lover whose job or family keeps him too busy to indulge in his culinary passions? Barbara Fairchild, editor-in-chief of Bon Appetit magazine, has put together The Bon Appetit Fast Easy Fresh Cookbook based on the magazine’s section with the same name. It contains 1,100 recipes that are quick and easy to cook at home but miles away from Hamburger Helper. The book also contains do-ahead tips, a helpful shopping guide so the pantry is always stocked with necessary items, and easy entertaining techniques, all to help that busy friend enjoy the wonderful food he loves.
Of course, perhaps the best gift for the busy foodie is a gift certificate to his favorite restaurant. If you haven’t done it already, check out Goodeatsnh.com, where you can buy gift certificates to some of the state’s most popular restaurants at 50 percent off! For example, if you want to get your friend a $50 gift certificate to Z Food and Drink, it will only cost you $25. The Web site also features lodging, shopping and event discounts as well.
Gift certificates to food shops are also a good idea. Check out Cooking Matters, 97 Main St., Nashua, Angela’s Pasta and Cheese, 815 Chestnut St., Manchester, and Butter’s Fine Food and Wine, 70 N. Main St., Concord.
Future pro — Perhaps your favorite foodie wants to turn his passion into a career. Then wrap up a copy of Food Jobs by Irean Chalmers. This book not only talks about restaurant positions and culinary schools, it covers food careers in retail, art and design, the food media, public relations, history, science, and farming. It will allow your foodie to explore all available options. If your foodie dreams of being the next Anthony Bourdain, Emeril Lagasse or Rachael Ray, then get him started with a copy of The Culinary Institute of America Cookbook. This book has recipes and preparation instructions from the most famous culinary school in the U.S., which makes it good for the home-cook foodie as well.
For a young chef-wannabe, consider classes at For Kids Who Cook in Derry. Owner Lisa Dion offers classes for all age groups — preschool through teen. She also sells kid-sized cooking stuff, including a great glove that will keep young ones from cutting their hands while they learn to slice and chop.
If your special foodie is serious about a culinary career, then maybe you should buy him a set of knives in a professional-style case. (All culinary students want a knife set, but sometimes it can be cost-prohibitive.) Stores like Things are Cooking have both the cases and a large selection of knives from which to choose.
Certificates for area cooking classes are also a good idea. Look into ones offered by Chez Boucher French Cooking School in Hampton (www.chezboucher.com), Chef Liz Barbour’s Creative Feast (www.thecreativefeast.com), and Chef/Instructor Oonagh Williams’s Royal Temptations (www.royaltepmtations.com). Or take a road trip to the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vt. (www.neci.com), or the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. (www.ciachef.edu), which both offer classes and demonstrations for non-students.