Sunday, November 30, 2014

Holiday Bites: Top 10 Edible Gift Ideas for Your Fav Foodie 2014

What to get that hard-to-please foodie?

Here are a few ways to do that, many of which support local small businesses, for budgets up to $200 ;) Some of these ideas are for curated themed items that you can pick and choose from within the set, to suit your limit!

Where deals or discounts are available, I have noted them below each product description.

You can see this year's non-edibles gift guide here.

1. Ultimate Artisanal Ice Cream Bar Stash

Put together a custom basket of handcrafted toppings that will take their ice cream game to another level. Include as many or as little of the below as you like to fit your budget.  Maybe even throw in a DIY ice cream maker so they can experiment with their own flavors at home!
  • Quenelle caramelized rice + bourbon caramel
Chef Park's caramelized rice are like the best, most refined version of rice crispies you've ever  had, glazed with caramelized sugar but still super crunchy, light and each piece distinct, not   clumped together.  I don't normally even like toppings on my ice cream, but these are my favorite.  And, bourbon caramel will make anything taste better.
  • Middlebar bourbon poached cherries 
Local farm to glass ambassadors Middlebar takes farm fresh produce and turns them into delicious cocktail mixes and fixings, from pickled veggies to bourbon poached cherries.  The Bulleit bourbon poached cherries are my favorite: the humdrum vanilla ice cream in your freezer won't even have any idea what hit it (and why it will suddenly become the hottest commodity).

  • Zoku DIY ice cream maker bowl
Photo: Williams Sonoma
This bowl lets them make their own ice cream in minutes, and serve it right in the bowl.   Just keep the inside stainless steel liner in the freezer, and when ready for a frozen treat, just place the liner into the insulated sleeve, the ice cream mix into the liner, and keep stirring til the desired consistency is reached.  Easy?!

Buy from:

2. For the Foie Fan Stuck in California

Photo: Dartagnan
Just because they live in a draconian state doesn't mean that you can't be their enabler by getting their favorite food shipped in from elsewhere (to be clear, the ban only applies to selling of foie within the state of California - it's totally legal to purchase from outside the state for personal consumption in CA).

Dartagnan offers a fantastic selection from medallions of duck foie with truffles, to sliced foie (for searing), to foie in prepared formats from torchon to terrine. 

Buy from: Dartagnan medallion of foie with truffles: 6 oz $14.99 / 1lb $33.99; torchon 1lb $96.99 / case of 4x 5oz $170.99

[Deal Alert: Spend $125 get 10% off, Spend $225 get 15% off through Cyber Monday 12/1. AND stack the deal: get 3.5% cash back when you go through eBates first, no minimum spend required (free to sign up!)]]

3. For the Momofuku Milk Bar / Banana + Chocolate Fan

Photo: Goldbely
Know someone who is obsessed with Momofuku?  Chef Christina Tossi's brilliant treats?

Do that have that episode of Mind of a Chef on repeat, about rotting food on purpose to impact flavor, and consider it genius?

Well now you can gift one of chef Tossi's creations, probably using that nifty rotting banana trick to get the cake tasting, well, more banana-ey.

Buy from: Goldbely $44

[Deal Alert: get $15 off your first order with this link]

4. Try the World - like Birchbox for Foodies

Photo: Try the World
There's something about coming home to a waiting package that make people happy - you've seen this turned into a successful business idea with Birch Box in the beauty space.  Now you can give food loving friends / family that same sense of surprise and delight with a gift that doesn't end with the unwrapping this holiday, with a Try the World subscription.  They will get shipped one box from a different country every 2 months, that contains 7-10 artisanal delicacies w/ card describing each product + cultural guide and recipes. 
The current box is Paris themed, and from the photos looks like it contains some classic staples from Mere Poulard cookies to fleur de sel, caramels, to Bon Maman jam, dijon mustard as well as packets of tea from one of my favorite tea brands, Les Palais des Thes. 

Yes, you can get some of these items at your local grocery or gourmet food stores if you know where to look, and I'd like to see future boxes include more items that you can't actually buy in the US - but this idea of themed boxes arriving at your door on a regular basis, filled with possible culinary surprises, is a fun one.

Buy from:  $39 per month on month-to-month subscription basis

5. For True Tea Lovers

While vacationing in Taiwan one year, we discovered a love for the Red Formosa Assam (aka 'Taiwan #18' that blends different Assam leaves) from the Sun Moon Lake region, a black tea that is so fragrant, sweet and smooth that it tastes in flavor as if cream and sugar were already added in.

As with wine, terroir and climate matters with the flavors that develop in tea leaves, and Sun Moon Lake is apparently ideal for cultivating Assam tea.
Photo: Red Blossom Tea

When we returned from the trip, we were disappointed that we were not able to get the tea easily from even well known tea purveyors.

So when we found that Red Blossom Tea, a family owned shop in San Francisco's Chinatown (who also coincidentally supplies Sons & Daughters with their teas) carries Taiwan #18, I definitely stocked up.

Photo: Ten Ren Tea
And now you can access it for tea loving friends too: Red Blossom tea also sells this incredible tea via their online store.

Check out their other more unusual offerings too, like elderflower tea!

To plus up this gift, consider adding a traditional clay tea pot and gaiwan set as well.

Buy from:

Red Formosa Assam: 2 oz: $20 / 4 oz: $37 
Elderflower:  4 oz: $10.50 / 8 oz: $21
Canister: $6
(slate / red)

Tea pot / gaiwan: Ten Ren Tea $129

6. For the Truffle Hound: Truffles to Make Everything Better

Photo: Ditalia
The Casina Rossa Truffle Trio Gift Pack is a perfect way to sample the famous Truffle & Salt, along side Casina Rossa's own 100% black truffle carpaccio and elegant truffle Acacia honey.

This is a perfect set to give, share or indulge in the elegant and aromatic flavor of truffles.

Photo: Williams Sonoma
White truffles, the prized gems of Italy, imbue this sea salt with exquisitely complex flavor and fragrance. Gray salt is hand harvested from the Guérande salt pan of France's Atlantic coast and blended with bits of Italian white truffles. The result is a coarse salt accented with the characteristic soft garlicky notes of white truffle--just a small pinch is all it takes to impart flavor. Sprinkle over egg dishes, corn on the cob, grilled meat or popcorn.

Buy from: 
Truffle trio: Ditalia $19.99
White truffle & grey salt: Williams Sonoma $14.95

7. For the Cheese Lover

Photo: Murray's Cheese
If they think the stinkier the cheese, the better: than spread the holiday cheer for them with this lovely Stilton crock set that includes a classic 6 oz stilton cheese in a very English styled ceramic jar, and 9 oz  pickled plums.

Buy from: Murray's Cheese $40

[Deal Alert: get 15% off with promo code: CYBER14 at check out, on Cyber Monday only.  After that, sign up for their free e-newletter to get 10% off your first order]

8. For the Nuts About Marrons Glaces

Photo: Mire Poix USA
Forget chestnuts roasting on an open fire.  The candied and glazed version (through slow immersion into hot sugar syrup to retain moisture and flavor), which dates back to 17th century France / Italy (the earliest known recorded recipe originated from Louis XIV's Versailles court), is a decadent yet refined treat that will elevate any holiday celebration.  They can be served with dessert, or alone with port or other dessert wines.

Buy from: 
Mire Poix $65
Teuscher 6 pcs $36  / 10 pcs $60 / 16 pcs $96

[Deal Alert: sign up for Mire Poix's free e-newletter to get 10% off your first order]

9. Sweets for the Sweet: Macarons

Photo: Jin Patisserie
If you are so fortunate as to live in a city with a Laduree store, let me say that you will make a sweet-toothed foodie's life if you send them a box of the insanely delicious treats.

Unfortunately as far as I know, you can't order Laduree online.  So, if you don't live on a city blessed with a Laduree store (i.e. Los Angeles), then the next best thing IMHO is Jin Patisserie's version.

Rose, jasmine, pistachio, yuzu...I haven't had a flavor I didn't like from them yet.  And, the macarons are made the Parisian way, nice and airy inside, with a crisp shell that doesn't crumble down to a sticky mess with the first bite.

Macarons are by nature delicate treats - so Jin, like Laduree, does not ship either.  But you can order for pick up from their facilities in Culver City.

Buy from: Jin Patisserie 7 pcs $14 / 14 pcs. $28 / 16 pcs. $32

10. For When the Weather Outside is Frightful

That is to say, for Californians, when it reaches the 60s, the sun is only out for a few hours at a time, and some wet stuff starts falling from the sky...(hey, everything is relative, ok?)

There's nothing more comforting and cheery than hot chocolate (whether while in your snuggie, or wrapped up in a book by the each their own).  And no easier, no mess way to do it then with Chocomize's hot chocolate on a stick spoon.  This version even has marshmallows already built in.  All you have to do is get a mug of hot milk or water, place the Chocomize into the mug, and keep stirring: and voila, hot chocolate, with marshmallows.

Pair these with a nice gold monogrammed mug for a fun and tasteful gift set that's ready to be put to use!

To plus it up even more, try pulling a set of two mugs with hot chocolate spoons into a gift basket, with a tin of Moravian Ginger Spice cookies for extra holiday flavor.

Buy from: 
Chocomize OpenSky 3 pcs starting from $11.99-$75.99
Gold monogrammed mug Williams Sonoma $9.95
Cookies Williams Sonoma $28.95

[Deal alert: for Chocomize: get 7.5% cash back when shopping at OpenSky, when you go through eBates first (free to sign up!)]

Ok I had to go 11 this year...too much good stuff.

11. For the Totally Not Bitter DIY Cocktailer / Traveling Craft Cocktailer

Photo: Hella Bitters
An example of a GREAT crowd-funded passion project, Hella Bitters' DIY products let your budding cocktail aficionado take it to the next level, and make their own custom bitters for their next stroke of brilliance creations.

The Craft Your Own Bitters Kit is a curated collection of the essential tools and starter blends for bitters-making.

Kit includes:
• Custom Machined Funnel
• Custom Fine Mesh Strainer
• 2 Infusing Jars
• 4 Dropper Bottles
• Aromatic Bitters Herb and Spice Blend
• Citrus Bitters Herb and Spice Blend

Buy from: Hella Bitters $64.95

Another awesome option for jetsetters weary of airport / in flight mixology: the Carry On Cocktail Kit.

Photo: PSFK
The travel friendly kit includes almost everything you need to mix up a good Old Fashioned.  All you need is for the stewardess (or duty free) to bring you a mini bottle of bourbon and a glass - and voila: a tasty cocktail classic while airborne.

Kit includes:
  • Aromatic bitters
  • Muddler/spoon
  • Cane sugar packets 
  • Linen coaster
  • Tin
  • Recipe card

Buy from: Carry On Cocktail Kit $24.00


For the Socially / Environmentally Responsible Foodie: Edible Greeting Cards

Do they hate waste, and live to reduce carbon footprint?

In lieu of a paper greeting card, get them one of these edible cards printed with food grade ink - they start off as eye candy, then your recipient can literally enjoy the card and leave no trace behind!

Buy from: Eat the Fine Print $9


Happy gifting!!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Holiday Bites: Top 10 Gift Ideas for Your Fav Foodie 2014

It's that time of the year again - the season to show that your favorite food lovers are in your thoughts...

Here are a few ways to do that, even for hard-to-shop-for foodies, for budgets up to $300. Where deals or discounts are available, I have noted them below each product description.

Edibles version to come!

1. Cooking Tool for Gourmands Who Don't Have Time to Cook - Nomiku

Photo from Nomiku
Sous vide cooking is slow cooking by immersing food in a low temperature water bath to achieve even flavor and texture (for example, sous vide steak for even cooking, or poach eggs using this method to get them just to the edge of being cooked).  A few years ago, sous vide equipment was cost prohibitive for most home cooks, but Nomiku introduced its technology - an easy to use tool that you clip on to the side of any stock pot - and made it more affordable.

Buy from:
Original: $299
Wifi version (ships March 2015, so delayed gratification gift): $199

[Deal Alert: Black Friday - Cyber Monday only deal: $100 off original Nomiku with code: CYBERNOMDAY] 

2. For the Cocktail / DIY Enthusiast - Gin / Bitters Makers Kits
Photo from Williams Sonoma site
Take craft cocktails to the next level - let them make it uniquely their own with high-quality small-batch DIY kits (and if it works out well, you could reap the benefits of this gift too :)). Transform a bottle of vodka into a custom blend of gin (two 375ml bottles!) with the requisite juniper berries, and bright notes of citrus, botanicals, aromatics and spices in 36 hours with the included recipe and instructions.

(Alcohol not included: requires one bottle of vodka.)

Buy from:
Gin Making Kit $54.95
Bitters DIY Kit $24.95
Bitters Bottle  $44.95

3. Julie's Kitchen Food Collages

Photo by Julie's Kitchen
Of all the food enthusiasts I follow on Instagram, Julie Lee never fails to impress with her beautiful, delicate collages made with real produce discovered at local markets (and sometimes seafood / marine findings).  

Her fine art photo prints would elevate any kitchen or dining room, especially for fans of food as an art form.  Available in sizes: 8×8, 8×10, and 12×12,

Buy from:  Julie's Kitchen $38-$58 each (custom sizes also available to order)

4. For the Sweet-toothed Cook: La Mere de Famille Parisian Confections Cookbook

Ever wondered how to make a Berlingot? (Or, even what it is?)  For those obsessed with sweets, and the Parisian: À la Mère de Famille, after 250 years in business, had released a gorgeous cookbook that is as much a delight to the eyes as to the tastebuds. 

Photo from book listing on Amazon
Transport your favorite foodie back in time and place with a old-world-made-new #foodart piece for their kitchen or even just to sweeten their bookshelf or coffee table.

Buy from: Amazon $25.30 hardcover

5. Camp Style Cooking at Home: Jaffle Iron

Photo from Food52
Do they love the feeling of cooking over an open flame?  Give them one tool that lets them toast or bake many different comfort foods at home on the fireplace or gas range: waffles + s'mores + paninis + pies = jaffle iron.

The long handle makes it easier to cook from a safe distance, or just set and leave to cook, while the round top of the iron seals and crimps the edges of whatever is baking inside (fresh pies anyone?). Made of cast iron, chrome-plated steel and wood: measures 28" long with 4.25" wide cooking head.

Buy from: $25

6. Handcrafted Personalized Cutting Board

Photo from Uncommon Goods
Send your favorite cook something with a personal touch.

This lovely wood cutting board can be customized with name(s) of your selection hand cut into the top.
The unique and lovely design makes it great for both prepping a meal, and using it as a presentation piece (e.g. for hors d'oeuvres etc.)

Measures 16" L x 12.5" W x 1.125" H

Buy from: Uncommon Goods $155

7. For the Super Serious Wine Lover - Coravin 1000 Wine Access System

Know a wine collector who would scour the earth to find that rare bottle?  And who doesn't want to share it?  Now they can taste from pricey bottles, without removing the cork - and reseal it as if never opened to allow it to preserve...indefinitely.  

This expensive but brilliant piece of tech, invented by a medical device inventor, uses a patented non-coring, medical grade needle and precision pressure system to extract wine, allowing your favorite wine enthusiast to enjoy as much or as little as they like from the bottle, and leave the rest as if untouched, in its original bottle.  No danger of oxidation.

Buy from: Wine Enthusiast $299.95 + free shipping

[Deal Alert: with your purchase, get 4 free capsules from Wine Enthusiast until 12/20]

8. The Smarter Cereal Bowl

Everything seems to need to be 'smart' these days, even fashion.  But, this low-tech bowl still delivers a clever way to avoid soggy cereal: with a slotted divider, just the right angle of tilt that allows the milk to stay in its place, while cereal can be slow-spooned into it as needed to preserve that first bite crunch. 

Photo from Obol listing on Amazon
Plus, the bottom of the bowl is custom molded to be ergonomic and easy to hold while the snacker is in their usual comfy cereal feasting spot on the couch, over the computer desk or in bed.

Can also be used creatively for other food pairings like yogurt and granola (and for me I would say rice porridge and pork floss: Cantonese food lovers, you know what I'm talking about!)!

More product info: 

Buy from:  Amazon $12.95, various colors
Can also get special edition set (easy grip spoon included) for $12.99

9. Wear the Heart / Stomach On...Scented Christmas Cookie / Sweet Treats Necklaces
Photo from Tiny Hands

Love the smells of comfort and cheer emanating from the kitchen this time of year?  Let your fav baker / foodie carry that with them wherever they go with kitschy kitchen fun hand-sculpted scented food-icon necklaces including this Scented Christmas Cookie charm.

Comes with 18" sterling silver ball-chain necklace.  

Buy from: Tiny Hands $23

10. Culinary Tees - Flavour Gallery 

Photo from Flavour Gallery
Culinary expressions on everything from tees to totes to aprons and more, is what foodie fashion house Flavour Gallery is known for.

Fun / cheeky designs include "Mise en Place", "Touche Pas Mon Foie Gras", and "Surf all day, Shuck all night".

Buy from: Flavour Gallery $30


Stocking Stuffer for the Foodie Who Loves to Eat, Not So Much to Cook

For your favorite snarky foodie.

Buy from: Amazon $12.75

Look out for my edibles list soon! In the meantime, happy gift hunting and stay safe out there!

Hershey's 3D printer
Travelers: 10 foot power cord

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thanksgiving for Procrastinators / People Who Don't Cook (e.g. Yours Truly)

I confess: at work, I'm OCD on schedule for projects.  Outside of work:  a complete mess.

If you're like me and completely lost track of the countdown to Thanksgiving, and cooking is not part of those plans...

Keep reading to see where you can pick up some tasty desserts that will score you points with hosts, and generate buzz at the dinner table for your baking shopping skills...with your fellow diners...

(Commitment-phobes take note: Some even have single serving sized pies so that you can taste before you commit to a full pie!)

Farmshop - order by Tues 11/25 5pm 

pick up on Tues 11/25, Wed 11/26 and Thanksgiving Day until 11am

I've been obsessed with bourbon-glazed pecans lately, and Farmshop has a beautiful pie made with them for the holidays!  AND they have single-serve sized one that you can get to get a taste of it before deciding whether that's the one you want to bring to dinner.

Other delicious sounding pies to choose from:
  • Pumpkin Pie 10" serves up to 10 people $42
  • Chocolate Cream Pie 10" serves up to 10 people $40
  • Heirloom Apple Pie 10" serves up to 10 people $38
  • Bourbon-Pecan Pie 10" serves up to 10 people $42
  • Flourless Chocolate Cake 9" serves up to 8 people $32 
  (Add whipped cream: vanilla or fall spice, pint 5)

See menu here


225 26th Street Ste 25 (Brentwood Country Mart), Santa Monica, CA 90402
Ph: 310.566.2400

Jin Patisserie - order by Wednesday 11/19  
pickup 11/24 to 11/26 (by 4pm)

Photo credit: Jin Patisserie
Fans of Chef Kristy Choo's exquisite pastries need not despair that her Abbot Kinney location has closed, you can still access the loveliness of her masterfully light, #foodart creations from her production facility in Culver City.

And she has two tarts for Thanksgiving that would be as gorgeous as a centerpiece as it is expected to be delicious as a 'dessert entree' (i.e. for people with an incurable sweet tooth like me, this could supercede turkey / actual savory dinner courses and sides in importance):
  • Autumn ($48, serves 12 people): a crunchy Breton crust filled with alternating layers of 64%  chocolate cream, orange mascarpone, and hazelnut praline chantilly
  • Citron ($38, serves 8): lemon cream with lemon curd on sweet meringue shell


Jin Patisserie
(Production facility, in office park)
5741 Buckingham Parkway, Suite D, Culver City, CA 90230
Ph: 310.399.8801

Sweet Rose Creamery - order by Sunday 11/23  closing - see hours at each location
pickup by Wednesday 11/26 regular store hours at each location

Photo credit: Sweet Rose Creamery
Happiness = pie + ice cream.  Sweet Rose Creamery is offering again fun ice cream versions of classic flavor combos.  AND, they've just started offering select ice cream pies by the slice ($6.50) so you can again try it before splurging on a full pie!
  • Spiced Pumpkin with Ginger cookie crust
  • Brown Sugar Butter Pecan with Chocolate crust
  • Apple Pie topped with Walnut crumble and Caramel in a Graham crust
All pies are $40 each, and serve 8-10 people

See menu here

Sweet Rose Creamery
225 26th Avenue, Suite 51 Santa Monica, CA 90402
Ph: 310.260.2663

Craft - order by Monday 11/24 close

pick up 11/26 after 5pm or Thanksgiving Day 9am-noon

Photo credit: Craft LA

If nothing but Top Chef quality will do for you, hit up one of the show's judges Tom Colicchio's reliably good restaurant in Century City, and pick up one of Chef Shannon Swindle's amazing desserts:
  • Pumpkin Pie $45
  • Pecan Pie $55
  • Apple Cranberry Crisp With Oat Streusel $55
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter S’mores Tart $65
This info is not on their website!

To order, email:

Craft LA
10100 Constellation Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90067

Pi Bakeshop - farmers market fresh! Pick up at Studio City Farmers Market Sunday 11/23

Photo credit: Pi Bakeshop
Artisanal bakers - they don't have a shop yet but you can find them Sundays at Studio City Farmers Market!  And the great thing is that they offer handcrafted pies at various sizes, with some creative flavor combinations
  • Cranberry Hibiscus ($27)
  • Bourbon Maple Pecan ($27)
  • Pumpkin($27)
  • Sweet potato with ginger crust and toasted homemade marshmallow ($27)
  • BBQ pie - house smoked pork shoulder, with slow braised greens, and spicy bbq sauce. Topped with creamy mac & cheese ($35)

They can also hand deliver your pie within 20 miles of Sherman Oaks, CA for a flat rate of $10. Distances beyond 20 miles will incur an additional charge.

See menu here


Pi Bakeshop
Studio City Farmers Market: Sundays 8am-2pm at Laurel Canyon Blvd across from Vons

Du-par's - pre-order or walk-in! 

If you pulled an Indiana Jones and are literally trying to slide under the descending rock door of holiday closures: Du-par's will be your life-saver:  while the most popular pies are sold out via
 pre-orders (I was told they moved literally thousands of pies the day before Thanksgiving!), they know how it goes and always have a batch of extra pies handy for walk-ins on turkey day.  I've been able to pick up my 'spare' pies last minute at the Studio City location.

Choose from classic to seasonal flavors:

  • Pecan 
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet potato 
  • Minced meat
  • Orange cranberry walnut
  • Cherry

See menu here

12036 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, CA 91602

Happy PIE Day everyone!!


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