Friday, December 23, 2011

On the Twelfth day of Christmas... Twelve Amazing Cookbooks!

The last day of my 12 Days of Christmas gift guide is full of my favorite things- cookbooks! Like the 11th Day, you should be able to run out to the book store and pick up most of these great books, making them perfect last minute gift ideas. Again, I recommend a gift receipt if you are giving these books to friends and family with plentiful cookbook libraries. Enjoy! 

Cooking in the Moment by Andrea Reusing. During the Kitchen Arts & Letters book sale this spring, I scooped up this first book from Andrea Reusing. It is visually beautiful and filled with drool-worthy recipes. She gently takes her reader through the seasons with simple yet innovative ways for using whats available. This is for your friends who love amazing recipes and food photography. 

Cook This Now by Melissa Clark. I've come to sing the praises of Melissa Clark plenty of times this year. She's a delight as is her newest book Cook This Now. Like Reusing's book Clark's is full of seasonal recipes focused on local food that really make you want to make all the recipes ASAP. Read about why I love her and then get this book for the people on your list who do most of their shopping at the farmer's market or co-op. 

French Women Don't Get Fat Cookbook by Mireille Guiliano. It is disheartening to me that this book is classified as "diet" or "weight loss" because it is one of the greatest cookbooks I own. Guiliano's outlook is just to eat really good food, in simple ways with moderation and above all joie de vivre. This is not a diet book! It is full of fabulous recipes that make you feel good about yourself just reading over them, while making you hungry as well. I really recommend this book for any Francophiles, lovers of simple food and fans of Mireille's other books. Check it out for yourself- its one of the best.

Tante Marie's Cooking School Cookbook by Mary Risley. Tante Marie's made my list of cooking schools on the Sixth day of Christmas and the Tante Marie cookbook would make a great gift paired with a gift certificate for the school. I liken this book to a sort of Julia Child's cookbook with a Californian flair. It is highly instruction with lots of notes on the given recipes. She includes plenty of basics along side original recipes. A perfect book for someone who cooks a lot but wants to learn more techniques. 

In the Small Kitchen by Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine. I think I came upon the Big Girls, Small Kitchen blog via a giveaway. Their book is a tasty volume of recipes perfect for college student and recent graduates getting into their own kitchens for the first time. Not to be misleading by that, these are full fledged recipes perfect for everything from feeding a party of 8 to oneself. This gift will keep on giving, too, for once they discover the book they will then have the blog to keep up with that has fresh recipes, cooking tips, entertaining ideas and giveaways. Wrap this up for your favorite 20-somethings who are home for the holidays. 

The Pleasures of Cooking for One by Judith Jones. Written by the woman who got Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking published, this book has recipes perfect for the single chef who believes in a little indulgence. This book has been pretty revolutionary for me, the constantly solo cook. There are so many recipes I want to try but always hesitate to pare down from 6 or 8 servings to 1 or 2 just to have something like bœuf bourguignon. Jones gives perfect recipes for one, many French inspired and all delicious. An excellent option for your dear friends who live alone but absolutely love to cook. And not to be morbid at all, but the reason Jones is left cooking for one is due to the lateness of her husband-- this book could uplift someone who has lost their loved one and get them back into the habit of cooking.

Twenty by Michael Ruhlman. Oh Michael Ruhlman, how do I love thee? Let me count the techniques.... This is one of two Ruhlman books on this list because he is just that amazing. I found out about Ruhlman watching Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations Christmas special last year. I thought, who is this handsome man with such amazing hair? I immediately Googled him and found his wonderful blog and the opening recipe for home made English muffins. He's so smart and logical and makes great food even more amazing. This book discusses twenty techniques- methods and ways of using key ingredients like salt and water. The photos are descriptive and stunning (taken by his wife Donna). Give this book to everyone! Even if they don't cook out of it (try not to though) it would be a fabulous coffee table book. (I got this for someone on my gift list and its also on my wish list- Twenty for everyone!)

In the Green Kitchen by Alice Waters. Staying in the vein of technique, In The Green Kitchen gets the best chefs and friends of Alice Waters together to create this volume of simple recipes for making everyday food. Recipes for things like pesto, simple tomato sauce and how to make and dress a salad from the masters of each. It is a basic yet luxurious volume of recipes, again, perfect for anyone but especially lovers of local and organic ingredients.

Ratio by Michael Ruhlman. I heart Michael Ruhlman part two. I picked up Ratio in late spring after reading so many blog posts about making your own bread. Shortly after I bought my kitchen scale for macarons and trying some of Ruhlman's recipes out with the extreme precision a scale allows. Amazing! This slim paperback is misleading, thinking it might be a funny little work on how things equate when it comes to food. What you get is a book bursting with recipes simplified to their most basic that come together quickly and perfect every time. A nice one for new and experienced cooks alike.

Crave by Ludo Lefebvre. I couldn't very well get through a proper cookbook list without Chef Ludo, could I? I've sung the praises of Crave a few times in the past, but this is an especially special present because it is out of print. Luckily, if you can't find it you can just look forward to the forthcoming LudoBites Cookbook (I know I can't wait!). This book is an inspiration that encourages me to play with flavor combinations and techniques in my own cooking. Superb for any Chef Ludo lovers (or, as we're called "Ludo Bitches") or people who like big colorful cookbooks with creative recipes. [I know Kitchen Arts & Letters had a copy of the book, which may have sold, but I'd try there first!]

The Food of Morocco by Paula Wolfert. My birthday is right around the corner (New Years' Day!) and I'm throwing myself a Moroccan themed party. I gifted myself her brand new book on Morocco and have been raving about it ever since. It is a complete look at Moroccan food and an examination of how people dine in Morocco, what spices they use and more. I can't wait to cook from it next week. For any Moroccan food/culture enthusiast in your life, this is the book for them. Also great for travelers and lovers of North African food. 

Ideas in Food by Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot. This book is full of crazy ideas for amazing things to do with food. I don't have the book but I follow the Ideas In Food blog and they always have ways of stretching the way we normally think of ingredients. A really great idea for any chef stuck in a rut and totally perfect for your friends working the line in restaurant kitchens to keep them inspired and on their toes.

As I finish writing this "Auld Lang Syne" has come on my iTunes. I hope you've enjoyed all 12 days of Christmas here on The Culinary Librarian and that you got some great ideas for gifts to friends, family and probably yourself. Thank you for reading!

Wishing all of you the happiest of holidays, 
the merriest of Christmases and 
the most magical of New Years!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas... Eleven Memoirs & Books on Food Writing

Now we finally get to the motherload of the gift lists- the two days dedicated solely to books! We begin with writing about food and memoirs and anthologies. Tomorrow we will be talking traditional cookbooks-- I say traditional because all of these books below include at least one recipe. These are mostly books I've read and loved, a few I'm reading, and one I use for reference. Any would make a super last minute gift to your food loving pals. With things like books, CDs and DVDs it is always a good idea to give a gift receipt with them in case they already own your gift (and remember if they do its just because great minds think alike!). Some of these pair nicely with each other or with other books by the same author or on the same subject- gift multiple books wrapped and placed in a nice tote bag. And remember: a bibliophile can never have too many books! All links are given to IndieBound, check out yesterday's post for a list of cookbook stores across the country and otherwise please try to patronize your local bookstore this holiday and throughout the year!

Beaten, Seared, and Sauced by Jonathan Dixon. Not only is my review of this book the most viewed post on The Culinary Librarian, it was also one of my favorite books from this year. Join Jonathan Dixon on his adventure attending the Culinary Institute of America. Learn as he learns and gain confidence as he does in the kitchen. Anyone who cooks will enjoy this read but it makes an excellent present for anyone considering culinary school or who is set to attend. 

Four Kitchens by Lauren Shockey. Another favorite of 2011, Lauren Shockey's journey through four restaurant kitchens is entertaining, thoughtful and mouthwatering. Give your giftee an insider's view of working the line at top restaurants in NYC, Tel Aviv, Hanoi and Paris. There are a ton of recipes in this memoir, too, all that you will want to make straight way. Perfect for your food lovers with a penchant for wanderlust. 

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kat Flinn. After loving The Sharper Your Knife The Less You Cry I couldn't wait to get my hands on Kathleen Flinn's new book which came out in October. Her project to help teach 9 women how to become better home cooks and fearless cooks, at that, is enlightening and uplifting. This book is also full of recipes and creative ideas for eating through the week with ease and flair. Read my full review. Great choice for new or inexperienced home cooks who wish they were more comfortable in the kitchen. 

My Life in France by Julia Child. Kathleen Flinn, like so many of us, is very inspired by Julia Child and mentions her multiple times in The Kitchen Counter Cooking School. I read My Life In France just before seeing Julie & Julia and a few months after getting back from my Paris semester. The book is all about Paris and living in France and follows Julia's path to becoming the encouraging instructor we know and love. Francophiles and Julia worshipers alike will find joy in this book. Pair it with As Always, Julia, the book of letters between Julia and her pen pal Avis DeVoto (this one is on my wish list). 

Eating for Beginners by Melanie Rehak. A favorite from 2010 that had a nice showing on the blog this year thanks to a giveaway of two paperbacks of the book- Eating for Beginners is one of those books I hope to re-read soon. Rehak's discoveries of how to balance working, feeding your child and focusing on what's best when it comes to local and organic are ones we can all relate to in this hyper-conscious age. Get this one for the new parents and local food lovers on your list.  

Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. This is one of the best books on food I have ever read. Kingsolver and her family take the notion of eating local completely seriously for the course of one year and show that is it not only possible but enjoyable. The book is divided by month and includes seasonal recipes at the end of each chapter. The text is rich with commentary on how to eat, what is happening in the US food system and overall what it means when we eat local. Buy this book for everyone you know! 

An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler. For the past few months I've been hearing about Tamar Adler's first book- a modern take on MFK Fisher's How to Cook a Wolf. For some reason she started following me on Twitter a few weeks ago and I took it as a sign that I should get her book ASAP, so I did. In the realm of today's food books, Adler's is unique and wonderfully so. It is bursting with recipes- every line is advice on how something could be prepared, how to cook through the week and for me little pats on the back to say "this food you eat and think is kind of weird is good and good for you- keep it up." She sings the praises of water, eggs, and precooking vegetables. I can't wait to read more of the book and cook more from it. Another one I recommend for everyone on your list.

The Art of Eating by MFK Fisher. You may want to give The Art of Eating when you give An Everlasting Meal because after your gift recipient starts reading Adler's book s/he will want to get into more MFK Fisher. I have two of the slim little MFK Fisher volumes they sell, but this book brings all five of them together in one place in addition to some other writings of Fisher's. Truly a must have for any food writing enthusiast. (This one is also on my wish list).

The Table Comes First by Adam Gopnik. For that food lover who was an English, History, French literature or Philosophy major-- this is the book for them. This is a very intellectual look on all aspects of the meal and how we've come to employ our dining traditions, how to write and talk about food and where it all stems from-- Paris. Gopnik includes recipes in a non-tradtional format, largely via his unsent emails to the late Elizabeth Pennell. I'm head over heels for his pesto with lime juice. Definitely the book for the "intellectual foodie" as Padma Lakshmi is quoted saying on the back of the book-- pair it with some Elizabeth Pennell books (if you can find them!).

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler. I picked up this book over the summer and have been sporadically working through it. As someone who cooks for 1 and eats alone 95% of the time I find this book to be great company. It's a joy to read about how others feed themselves when no one is looking. Plenty of recipes and delicious ideas for making the most of simple meals for one here. Think of this for friends and family living in small towns attending grad school or working or for those who live alone or with rarely seen roommates. This will pair divinely with Judith Jones The Pleasures of Cooking for One, which I will tell you more about tomorrow. 

American Food Writing edited by Molly O'Neill. This library of America volume crosses all the t's and dots all the i's of American food writing. Including excerpts from the food writing greats as well as food related passages from literature and poetry, this book will lead to a hefty reading list. There are also tons of recipes here- including ones dating as far back as the 1700s. It would be kind to include a gift card to The Strand with it for the purpose of getting those additional books which will be desired.
[Wanted to note also that Molly's Cook 'n' Scribble virtual workshops were offered as a gift suggestion on day twenty of Ruth Riechl's gift guide. Another great idea. Also, note that Ruth's books aren't included here because they had their very own day on the Third Day of Christmas.]

So there you have the memoirs and prose. Pick them up last minute at your local book store. Tomorrow, our last day of Christmas will be the day I had to save for the most items... cookbooks!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

On the Tenth day of Christmas... Ten Amazing Gift Certificates

As Hanukkah begins and Christmas day nears, it is time to focus on realistic last minute gifts. Today we will be talking all about gift certificates! Here is a list of 10 of my favorite places to shop/browse for kitchen goods and cook/food books. If the timing is too tight have the store send the certificates directly to your gift recipient while letting them know to expect one in the mail on your holiday or ask about online delivery options for some stores. I'm giving you the number or link for how to order these, but if you are local to the shops certainly get there to buy your gifts and look around, too! Let's jump right in. 

Kitchen Arts & Letters. One of my favorite spaces in NYC, if you haven't heard me gush about them before let me tell you how great this shop is now. Chock full of cookbooks, food memoirs, wine books, recipe files, vintage, out of print and even food-related greeting cards this is the source for culinary literature in New York. The staff is always willing to help you find that obscure book or recipe you've been thinking about or just to chat about things you've made from a cookbook. Superb for the food loving New Yorker but also any serious culinary bibliophile as they take phone orders. They have gift certificates available in any amount (How about $20.12 for a fun late Christmas/New Years gift?) and they never expire or lose value- the ultimate gift for the cookery book enthusiast. 
Call to order: 212-876-5550.

Omnivore Books. While Kitchen Arts and Letters is my mecca in New York, I also love Omnivore Books in San Francisco. I haven't been to the store yet, but will be visiting in February on a west coast trip. Celia Sack holds tons of great events every month- I'm always sad not to be in attendance. She is my go-to for signed copies of new releases from authors I love with no New York events lined up. I cherish the Chez Panisse 40th Anniversary book I ordered this summer from her-- signed, to me, by Alice Waters herself. If you're not lucky enough to live near the shop sign up for her newsletter and keep an eye out for events then call to order signed copies. Omnivore also carries many vintage titles. I made sure to ask Celia if the gift certificate could be used for her Cookbook Club and that answer is no but if you are still looking for a slightly more personal gift idea than a gift certificate this is it. The Cookbook Club will send your recipient a signed cookbook four times a year, hand picked by Celia.  
Call to order: 415-282-4712.

Pot + Pantry. Pot + Pantry will be another stop on my SF tour. This little shop is full of vintage and unique kitchen and home goods. Donna Suh Wageman is the shop owner. She posts a number of things in the online shop but has lots more in the store than online. She comes up with really amazing items and I regularly lose a bit of time looking over the items online. I had my eye on these impossibly chic glass bowls with gold trim over the summer and am still kicking myself over the fact that I waited too long and someone else scooped them up. I can't wait to visit the shop. 
Call to order: 415-206-1134.

Fishs Eddy. Okay so after yesterday's written worship of all Fishs Eddy products you are probably hankering to get some of their goods into your kitchen! If you are, tell someone to score you a gift certificate for the shop for the holidays. This should only be gifted to someone in the area or who visits a lot because their gift cards may only be used in the store. Stop in here to pick one up, or call to have it sent to your giftees if you are not in the area. 
Call to order: 877-347-4733.

Book Larder. Book Larder is the new kid on the block when it comes to cookbook shops. It has me wanting to plan a trip to Seattle just to spend the week there. It is a dynamic place with classes, book signings, and demos in addition to also selling culinary books. I have no doubt it will be a runaway success. Like Kitchen Arts & Letters and Omnivore Books, they do not sell online but you can call to order books- but its a really great idea for Seattle locals so they can attend the shop events.
Email info[at]booklarder[dot]com or call or order 206-397-4271.

The Cookbook Store (Toronto). This is the Canadian contingent of North American cookbook shops. Alison Fryer's shop has events and vintage books, as well. Browse her collection online and email or call with your order. Like Kitchen Arts & Letters, their gift certificates come in any denomination. When ordering from the US be mindful that the shop's prices are in Canadaian dollars (and so too will be your gift recipient's gift certificate). Check out the prices online to gauge a good amount to gift.
Call to order 800-268-6018.

GiltTaste. Throughout the 12 days so far I've mentioned GiltTaste a few times. It's growing on me more and more everyday. Especially after making my first purchase this past month, I am impressed with their offerings and their delivery style. There are lots of uniquely curated foods and kitchen wares on GiltTaste and now books, too. It is an epicurean's haven for certain. These gift cards are electronic and can be used on any Gilt Groupe site, not just for GiltTaste. So if you have one friend left on the list who loves food, fashion and exclusivity- this is the gift, get it now!
Log in with your Gilt account or sign-up and order online here

The Strand. Oh The Strand. I've spent a lot of time in this NYC landmark used bookstore. They have a deliciously stocked culinary section and even carry quirky kitchen knickknacks.   They sell their books online, but be wary, for occasionally items listed online will not be available if they were purchased just before you ordered since their online stock is also what is on the shelves. There are plenty of unique editions, can't miss deals and even signed copies that run the full gamut of books at The Strand. They will mail your gift card free of charge and offer a variety of designs to suit your giftees personality.
Order online.

Rabelais Books. During my little jaunt to Maine last year I was fortunate enough to have time to stop by Rabelais Books. They will be closing in January for their move to a new , larger location to reopen in April. As they said it will be "bigger and better!"They have plenty of culinary books to offer- lots of vintage American food books, too. A nice option for your New England friends and family or those who summer in Maine. 
Call to order 207-774-1055

Bowery Kitchen. I also didn't confirm with Bowery Kitchen in Chelsea Market that they offer gift certificates, but again, I don't see why they wouldn't. I strongly encourage you to gift this one to your favorites in NYC because a cook can always find something they need (whether or not they knew it) at Bowery Kitchen! Plus any excuse to be in Chelsea Market is a good one. 
Call to inquire/order 212-242-7360

Just looking at this list makes me happy and excited. I could spend plenty of time in all of these shops. I hope they will bring a bright smile and a tinge of thrill to your gift recipients. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

On the Ninth day of Christmas... Serving & Entertaining

My future kitchen is something I fantasize about on a daily basis. To build up the collection of all the plates, cups, special bowls, little spoons, big dinner platters and cloth napkins that create one's own entertaining larder it requires time and care. Favorite pieces end up having a bit of a story or a special person behind them. For example, I have plastic measuring spoons by Tupperware that my parents have had for as long as I can remember. When I moved out on my own I negotiated taking them with me and look at them with a little smile every time. If you have things you want to share with someone special, the holidays are a great time to make your gift giving more memorable. Here are some suggestions of dishes and things I love for both entertaining and everyday use. (Yes there is a lot of Fishs Eddy represented- don't worry you can order from them online!)

Platters. I grew up in a home with about 6 different platters. Some thin, some thick, some blue, some white and on. From this I've developed the outlook that one can never really have too many platters. They're perfect for serving up dinner all on one dish, all your meats and pieces or for breads and corn on the cob but they also come in handy as plates for meals that require more surface area than the average plate provides- like when enjoying whole lobsters. Just before Thanksgiving I was poking around Fishs Eddy and found a nice 13" platter for about $3 and scooped it up. A platter is always a good gift- make it a special one.

Cake Stands. There's something sort of romantic about a cake stand. Makes me think of the 1950s and a wife having a yellow cake frosted with chocolate icing out on the kitchen table. They do their intended purpose well but also function to display other treats, prop up trays or hold glasses on a drink table or next to a punch bowl. Some with domed lids even can become a punch bowl! A lovely gift for your favorite baker or party host. Fishs Eddy has colorful and unique stands

Small Prep Bowls. We learned back in February how helpful mise en place is from Kelsey Nixon. Having prep bowls around contributes greatly to having an effective mise en place set up. These fun colorful "nut bowls" from Fishs Eddy are great for your spices, chopped garlic and herbs and those tablespoons of oils, juices and vinegars.   When I was studying in Paris I found little bowls just like this that were silicone, I use them every time I cook. I also have a variety of HIC and Pyrex ramekins I use for prep. These are a nice add on to the gift of a cookbook or that KitchenAid stand mixer.

Pitchers & Carafes. A few years ago my brother gave my mom a pitcher with margarita glasses. I'm smitten with the idea of big pitchers of margaritas, sangria, lemonade, iced tea and even water. When space allows I plan to always have a gorgeous glass pitcher like this one in my fridge filled with something refreshing. I also love carafes like those used in restaurants world wide, and will keep one or two with water in the refrigerator also. Think of this for the eternal summer entertainer.

Good Crystal Wine Glasses. At the New York City Wine & Food Festival you are given a wine glass on a lanyard holder to go around tasting all the many wines and liquors being offered. Last year when I attended the glass was a Waterford Marquis wine glass. These are extremely lightweight and graciously inexpensive. Score a set of 8  for only $50 for someone who is just starting out their wine glass collection. 

Cheese Board. For friends who love to entertain, for fromage loving Francophiles and for those who never wine without their cheese, a cheese board is a gift they will  use again and again. I think this Brooklyn Slate Cheese Board is quite chic and if you are in the NYC area it is also locally sourced. The Brooklyn Slate boards come with chalk to write directly on the board the types of cheese presented. If you want to make a cheese board even more useful to someone just beginning to build up their kitchen go for a Boos Cutting Board like this one from Williams-Sonoma which you can have monogrammed. Pair the Boos board with conditioning mineral oil and a set of cheese markers (love these cute fork tine markers). 

Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Dishes with Sundae Spoons. Shopping last year with my mom at Bowery Kitchen she picked up a metal sundae dish to keep special at her house for when my niece (her granddaughter) came over and wanted a sweet cold treat. After watching It's A Wonderful Life this year I was reminded of these style dishes when George gives Mary her chocolate ice cream sprinkled with coconut ("Don't you know where coconuts come from? From Tahiti"). I think they add a nice flair to a little post dinner snack, perfect year round. Here are glass dishes and long handled spoons you can buy both per piece. Pair with maraschino cherries and homemade sprinkles

Tagine. Sometime this year I became properly enchanted with the idea of Morocco. Maybe it was when the Real Housewives of NYC went or from reading Big Girls Small Kitchen's blog. I also always keep that image from the remake of Sabrina in my mind when Julia Ormond and Harrison Ford go out for Moroccan in New York and eat with their hands. This attraction  lead me to decide to throw a Moroccan New Year's Eve party this year and to get Paula Wolfert's definitive book The Food of Morocco. The signature cookware/serving ware that goes with a Moroccan affinity is the tagine. I like this one from Clay Coyote for stovetop cooking and available in bright colors for serving. The book and tagine together would make for a fun exotic gift for someone looking to try new flavors and new ways of cooking. Get some harissa paste and preserved lemons to go with it. 

Padma's teapot. A while back Padma tweeted she'd be selling her teapots and things on HSN so I decided to check out what she was offering. What I found were these stunning glass teapots with blooming teas to brew within. These would make quite the entrance on your tea time or after dinner table. Totally perfect for the serious tea drinkers in your life (don't we all have a number of them?). I like the Aladdin Jewel Teapot but she has others on the HSN site as well. 

So these are nine things I think would make for welcome additions to any home fond of entertaining. I know we are now into Hanukkah and coming right up on Christmas so if you love these ideas but won't receive them in time for the holidays wrap up a photo of the item and then have it delivered to the recipients house. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

On the Eighth day of Christmas... Eight Ingredients

Now we've talked about things to read, things to make and places to make them, now its time to talk about some great ingredients. These are things I've come to love and use regularly in my own kitchen and a few that I'd like to try. As someone who cooks as often as possible in the week, I still hesitate to try new things from time to time. I don't usually want to spend the money to order something I can't find in stores or a spice that is a bit more expensive for something I have yet to try, that's why these items can make great gifts. They're special and but always welcome.

Madras Curry Powder. This is a simple one, but very versatile. I bought madras curry powder a sometime last summer and started mixing it with all sorts of things and love the complete flavor it gives. Great tossed with chicken, squash, potatoes and more. Try this version from Whole Spice

Mike's Hot Honey. I had the pleasure of receiving Mike's (amazing) Hot Honey sometime after watching food.curated's video about it. Pizza will never be the same without it. I love it (and am out and need to order more). It will make a delectable gift for anyone who loves their sweet spicy and their spicy sweet. Order enough as gifts and one for yourself. 

Avocado Oil. Since I read this feature on Avocado oil in Saveur I've been keeping an eye out for it in Fairway. The fact that the oil comes from the flesh from the avocado, not the pit seems so cool to me. This is one to order

Tazo Rest (rose) Tea. My floral love stems in part from my macaron love, but I found this Tazo rose tea and completely love it. A great find for the tea lover in your life. Look for it at the grocery store, friends have had luck finding it at Target as well. Give it with a lovely teacup.

Chipotle Olive Oil from the Filling Station. This olive oil is infused with chipotle and adds a warm spice to anything you use it with. I like to heat a little up in a pan and cook some chicken in it for spicy dishes like nachos and quesadillas. Delicious as is with bread for dipping. Be generous enough when ordering and get the 150ml so they can make sure they like it without running out within a week.

Nutella. Overrated? Underrated? Nutella is magical. I think every Nutella lover deserves an emergency jar as a Christmas present. If they go through it slow, but steady a regular sized jar is good. If they are fanataic consider the big to monster sized jars that they use at creperies. Fun. Simple. Versatile. Delicious. 

Chez Pim jams. Jeffrey Steingarten recently gave Pim a serious Vogue shoutout which has her working overtime jamming it up. I'd love to try some of the unique flavors she has and think a little combination back paired with some gourmet crackers would make an excellent gift. Check them out and order from her recently upgraded online shop (she used to sell them on etsy). 

Saffron. That beautiful threadlike stamen of the crocus flower is one of the most treasured of spices. This is one of those things that a cook might not buy for their own kitchen but which adds a lot of luxury and beauty to cooking. The bright red threads will turn any dish a golden yellow with a subtle floral hint that is difficult to describe. A good way to stretch you saffron is to make saffron water with it, see Paula Wolfert's recipe here and send/print the link to your saffron receiving friends. Pick up a some from the spice aisle of the super market or ramp it up with this Moroccan saffron from Mustapha's.

On the Seventh day of Christmas... Seven Stocking Stuffers

My family never puts too much emphasis on stocking stuffers. "Santa" is usually fond of mini candy bars and things like replacement razor cartridges and packs of gum. Occasionally there will be fun gift certificates but rarely. I want to offer some ideas that would make really great stocking stuffers for the cooks and bakers in your life. Simple tools that can make a big difference in the kitchen. These are all things I've come to appreciate in my kitchen in the past year. 

Microplane. This rasp/grater is magically multi-functional. The perfect tool for zesting citrus, grating chocolate or coconut, grating parmesean or softer cheeses into a feathery pile. No cook should be without this tool. 

Tongs. There are more uses for tongs than anyone could ever imagine. Whenever I'm handing raw meat I always depend on my tongs to keep my hands clean while seasoning and cooking. Use them to toss and serve salads and pastas, for use them to test the doneness of cannelloni pasta and even to reach things up too high in the cabinets. Every cook will do well to have three or four pairs of tongs. 

Silicone/Rubber spatulas. After starting my macaron making madness, these flexible spatulas have become an extension of my own arm. They are a necessity for mixing any batters, folding meringues, and scraping the last bits of any flowing mixtures to ensure you get every last bit. Spatulas like this are also a must for making eggs. I use them to stir my scrambled eggs, flip my omelettes and turn my over-easy fried eggs. They come in a variety of colors and sometimes even with fun little pictures. I've had my eye on this pink Princess one for a bit.

Scale. Another result of my macaronning, the kitchen scale. Michael Ruhlman's high praises of them lead me to finally get one and it will change the way anyone works in the kitchen. I use it all the time to speed up making pizza dough and fresh pasta. Though this one won't fit in the stocking, its one of those perfect ones to perch above it on the mantle. 

Oven Thermometer. Having an oven thermometer has shown me how inconsistent my own oven heats up, but also lets me know what the dial should really be set to for the temperature I need. They are very inexpensive and will help improve the outcome of anything that gets cooked/baked in the oven. I just bought my sister one and it has helped to her to stop burning her chocolate chip cookies.

Candy/Probe Thermometer. After I started trying out Italian style macarons I decided I might as well invest in a candy thermometer. I went to my copy of America's Test Kitchen Cookbook 2001-2011 to find out what they recommend. What I found was this probe/candy kitchen thermometer and timer. So far I think it is totally great and combines 3 tools into one which is helpful in my slender kitchen. 

Ice Cream Scoop. A spring release ice cream scoop is good for getting ice cream into extra attractive sundaes, but also great for scooping cookie dough, meatballs and muffin batter. Consider this the cherry on top. 

Any or all of these would make great stocking stuffers or extra gifts for your kitchen-loving friends and family. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

On the Sixth day of Christmas... Six Cooking Classes

Education and hands-on learning have always been serious loves of mine. This is no different when we get in the kitchen. I remember taking a cooking class at my elementary school as an after school program. One of my best friends mom's was the teacher and I think we made little apple crumbles. Cooking classes teach us something about ourselves, help show us our abilities and give us confidence that we can then share with others. There are so many great cooking schools and instructors giving small private classes. The gift of a cooking class will be a present that will stretch far beyond Christmas day and further beyond the day of the class. A gift certificate for classes is the perfect gift for the gourmand who has everything. Here are six places/instructors I like, but look into cooking schools locally - think gourmet food shops, kitchen supply stores, and your community colleges, too.

Alejandra Ramos (New York, NY) - the author of the blog Always Order Dessert has been offering some great cooking classes over the past year. I have yet to attend one, but hope to in the New Year. She offers really fun ideas like 1960s cocktail parties, couples cooking (around Valentine's day) and "Cook Once - Feast All Week." She has a great flair and the photos after her classes always show a great time was had. She is offering gift certificates online with a special running through December 20th: NYC cooking class gift certificates.

Tante Marie's (San Francisco, CA) - I'm really not sure how I learned about Tante Marie's but I know I was attracted to the name, especially after my niece was born and I became an aunt Mary myself. I'm hoping I will have the opportunity to check out the school when I am in the Bay Area and maybe even take a 1-day class. They offer evening, one day, and even weekend long courses in addition to their professional culinary programs. Gift certificates here would be great for friends in San Fran who want to brush up on their skills or learn something new. Call to order a gift certificate: 415-788-6699.

Institute of Culinary Education (New York, NY) - In the past year I've found myself at ICE for a number of reasons. The cooking school offers the largest selection of recreational classes in NYC ranging from basic cooking to how to make macarons (with Les Petits Macarons author Kathryn Gordon), classes on food media/writing, and even wine courses and city food tours. Gift certificates here are a great idea for anyone in the NYC area (or anyone who visits regularly and finds themselves with free time) who love to cook and learn. Order your gift cards here

Silver Whisk (Austin, TX) - I learned about Silver Whisk thanks to a bit of a crush on Brad Sorensen, one of the contestants on the sixth season of Next Food Network Star. I haven't had the chance to visit Austin or the school yet but their classes are always appealing. They offer both hands-on and demonstration classes, perfect for suiting the needs of any food lover. Order gift certificates online here.

The Brooklyn Kitchen
The Brooklyn Kitchen (Brooklyn, NY) - Melissa Clark had her pre-release book party at The Brooklyn Kitchen at the end of September. I don't get to Brooklyn much because it is a bit of a trek, I always get lost and my little adventures are usually solo. The Brooklyn Kitchen, however, is a really excellent reason to visit. They have a stunning open kitchen perfect for demonstrations and teaching classes (and private parties, too). I plan on getting back here a few times in 2012. They offer some unique classes and have both a grocery and kitchen supply store all in the same spot- so after your "Pickling with McClure's" class you can get your pickling supplies and raw ingredients! Call 718-389-2982 to order gift certificates and also consider their Frequent Flyer program if you think your giftee would love taking multiple classes.

Sur la Table (Nationwide) - I wanted to offer an idea for a store offering cooking classes nationwide. If you have a local Sur La Table look into the classes and demos they offer. The offerings will vary store to store. Get your gift cards here. Williams-Sonoma also offers cooking classes but I called to ask if their regular store gift cards can be used for cooking classes and was told it depends on the store- so if you have a local Williams-Sonoma stop in and ask if a gift card would be good for their classes. 

These are just some cooking schools I know of and like, definitely look into local options. Some of stores listed in my Shopping resource offer classes, so check them out if they are near you. If you give the gift of cooking classes this year be sure to give the class schedule (or link to it) to your gift recipient as well to get them excited about the possibilities! 

Friday, December 16, 2011

On the Fifth day of Christmas... Five Food Magazines

The fifth day of Christmas brings glad tidings you can share with your loved ones the whole year through: the gift of subscriptions. Magazines have always been a pretty magical thing for me. They are bright, colorful, glossy and yet disposable. Food magazines in particular are a special breed for me. For the price of a magazine- or better yet the low price of a year long subscription to one- you basically receive a new cookbook once a month. Complete with photos, tips, and an index each magazine can be saved and become a part of your cookbook library to be cooked from for years to come. All that being said, I love gifting food magazine subscriptions and always renew my sister's in December. If you live far from your loved ones magazines are an especially great gift, they will come year round and you can send notice of their gift in your holiday card for the mere price of a stamp. Order a subscription for yourself and look over the new issue each month over the phone or Skype. Many now come with free iPad applications of their issues, so remember these when your friend who is constantly reading off hers/his comes up on your list. 

When ordering I always suggest looking first online, second in the magazines (for those primarily wasteful subscription cards) and thirdly pick up the phone and ask customer service for the best rate they can give you. If you are thinking of getting more than one subscription ask about the cost of multiples, it is usually less. Here are my favorites:

Saveur. Saveur may very well remain at the top of my food magazines list forever. They have the best writing, wonderful photographs, great tips, calendars for each month with events world wide and the best sense of adventure. The cover is always delicious and a little surprising- like those green beans this past November. This is the magazine for the food lover who is a traveler and a wandered and who believes in the best food writing. 

Martha Stewart's Everyday Food. Everyday Food is this little volume that can fit in a coat pocket or easily in a small purse for taking to the grocery store. I always enjoy going through this one for recipes and end up marking every other page for things I want to make. There are so many great ideas and tips throughout every issue. I often cook from back issues of EDF. This is the perfect mag for your favorite home cook who is always looking for fresh, quick and fun new ideas. I give this to my sister every year, we love looking at it together, and this year I gave it to one of my good friends who I never get to see but who I talk to everyday online- perfect for that friend far from home.

Food Network. The next three are sort of the pillars of the more standard food magazines out there. Lately I've been really loving Food Network Magazine. These issues are literally chock full with recipes. They always feature one dish or drink done 50 ways in a little pull out insert. It is truly the magazine for the Food Network and Cooking Channel fanatics in your life. One of the best things about it is how they whet your appetite with a visual recipe index at the beginning of each issue. Food Network is always the heaviest of the five magazines I get (yes, with plenty of ads) and it always satisfies. This is the second magazine I always give my sister.

Food & Wine. Sometime after hitting my first NYC Wine and Food Festival I decided I needed to subscribe to Food & Wine. Of the five mentioned here it is by and large the most restaurant oriented magazine and also the only one with a heavy focus on wine. There is always something that surprises me in each issue that I'm never expecting. This is the gift for your friends who work the line, the ones who never pass up a wine tasting at the liquor store and for your favorite Top Chef fans. 

Bon Appetit. For one, thank god for Adam Rapoport. Meaning no disrespect directed towards Barbara Fairchild, but BA pre-Rapoport was getting to be so stodgy with such dreary photography. The redesigns have invigorated each issue with plenty more color, new graphics and much better photos. There have been some bold moves on the cover, Gwyneth in June, in addition to some bad calls like that pink and red meringue eyesore this December. Overall, this is a fun magazine for any food lover. They make good lists summarizing cool, current things and trends and always have a number of desirable recipes. It will also be fun to see what Adam and his NYC crew will be up to in the New Year.

In addition to any of these subscriptions I suggest you send your newly gifted friends to check out The Bitten Word. This blog aspires to do what most of us don't do enough- cook from these great food mags!  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

On the Fourth day of Christmas... For the Macaron Lover

Macarons have been such a huge part of my life the past two years. I have developed a small library of books on the subject, any of which would make superb holiday gifts to the macaron enthusiast. All these books are a joy to look through, so even if your macaron lover never plans to make them, they will still enjoy reading about the process and possibilities. 

First is the new Les Petits Macarons which I was so impressed with I have already given out a copy to a lucky Culinary Librarian reader! This is a very "giftable" book, as well. An inch thick and about 6" square this book would look great open with macaron batter smears on it or kept pristine as a coffee table book. You can read more on why I love this book in my posts about it here and here

Next up is Mad About Macarons! by Jill Colonna. I won this book from Jill from her blog- I found out I had won while I was IN Paris! I really like how straightforward Jill's recipes are. This would be an excellent book for a baker who really wants to get to baking macarons right away, it is the least fussy with plenty of mouthwatering photos. Pair this with a simple kitchen scale like this

One of my favorite macaronneries in Manhattan is MacarOn Cafe. Both locations of this little cafe are chic and welcoming. I especially enjoy spending a little time at the 59th/Madison Avenue location before heading to events at FIAF. Anyway, Cecile Cannone has a book for how to make macarons her way titled Macarons: Authentic French Cookie Recipes from Macaron Cafe. I've only attempted her recipe once in my early macaron-making days but it is a good little volume covering all their favorite flavors. This holiday season they are offering this clever little macaron kit that includes a copy of the book, piping outlines, almond flour and powdered sugar, pastry bags and a tip and food colorings. The perfect gift set for anyone ready to make macarons at home! 

And finally I offer to you my first macaron book that I received last year with my food processor (most recipes will recommend processing the almond flour and powered sugar together): I Love (Heart) Macarons. This is also a good starter volume with especially helpful troubleshooting and then decorating/presentation ideas. This book along with Macarons and Mad About Macarons! all include recipes for using up those endlessly leftover egg yolks- an absolutely necessity! This is the least expensive of all the books and wouldn't be a bad idea to pair with any of the above books. 

I own all of these books and consult each of them for different things during my macaron making processes. You can mix and match different shells with fillings from other books and combine decoration ideas, etc. I'm glad to have each in my library and any true macaron lover would certainly be overwhelmed to receive all at once as a gift, but would truly be grateful to have all of them over time. I also happened upon these cute macaron ornaments yesterday while shopping at Sur La Table- so wrap up these four books in paper, tie them together with ribbon and slip one of these ornaments into the bow-- Parfait! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

On the Third day of Christmas... Ruth Reichl

For the third day of Christmas I want to share a gift I already have and cherish entirely, the gift of Ruth. 

Within the time frame of the past year I've become a serious fan of Ruth Reichl. Sure, I love her ethereal tweets and I think Gilt Taste is great, but its her trilogy of memoirs that has made me a proper fan of Ruth. I devoured Tender at the Bone while on vacation in Cape Cod, I gobbled up Comfort Me With Apples shortly after and now I'm onto Garlic and Sapphires, hesitating to move too quickly through it for I know there is no immediate book to follow (I will probably get to For You Mom, Finally at some point, though). When I read in the recent WSJ interview with her that there are three more books on the way I was overjoyed.

She is an inspiration to me, to the possibilities of my own life - in my career, in my love life, in my geographical location. Her three memoirs follow her journey from childhood through to the offer to be editor of Gourmet. Reichl is one of the true greats we are lucky enough to have among us in our lifetime. Her three books together will make an excellent present (whether they know it or not) to any food lover or aspiring writer. Start by getting Tender at the Bone from Gilt Taste that comes with a bookplate signed by Reichl herself (half wishing I didn't already own a copy so I could get this!). 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On the Second day of Christmas... Ultimate Ice Creams

The second day of Christmas adds two more items to my wishlist: an Ice Cream maker and the Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams cookbook.

Among some combination of an unair-conditioned apartment and reading a slew of tweets over the summer about everyone running their ice cream machines I decided I will require one of my own someday soon. I've had my eye on the Cuisinart one which goes for around $50 on Amazon and which I've heard good things about from others who have it. It would be highly impractical for me to acquire one now since I lack even counter space for my beloved Cuisinart Food Processor(last year's major present) in that same steamy apartment. Someday.

If you are thinking of getting an ice cream maker for someone this season, be sure to pair it with the Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams book. The joy of tasting Jeni's ice creams has yet to be mine, but the best way to try these raved about treats if you don't want to order them is to make them at home using the cookbook (coolbook?). (Sidenote: mailing these ice creams would make a really excellent gift, less so around the holidays and more so on birthdays, Valentine's day, special occasions, when someone you love is under the weather etc.). I first heard about Jeni's after seeing a tweet from Suvir Saran about a macaron ice cream sandwich. Jeni's isn't the only one slipping ice cream between those maddeningly wonderful French cookies, but she was the first person I heard of who was (You can also have the sandwiches shipped!).

A few other things that would pair well with these two: plastic quart containers (for storing the ice cream when its made), a great scoop, sundae toppings, cones and maraschino cherries.

Monday, December 12, 2011

On the First day of Christmas... *The* Kitchen Appliance

For the first day of Christmas I want to talk about the kitchen appliance. The one that makes a kitchen feel more complete, more whole, more invincible: The KitchenAid Stand Mixer.

It seems like I've wanted a KitchenAid Mixer of my very own for as long as I can remember. Sometime while I was living with my parents my mother replaced her old Oster mixer after a few parts had started breaking (after years and years of being well worn in her kitchen) with a grey KitchenAid stand mixer. It seemed like everyone was excited about it, but especially my mother and I. I used it every chance I got. I made cookies and cakes and when she got some attachments I used it to speed up mundane tasks like grating cheese for macaroni and cheese. Many people get a KitchenAid when they get engaged or married. A friend who was recently married in November remarked to me that she's so happy when she looks at her KitchenAid on the counter because its symbolizes her new life as a married lady. Odds are I won't get one until I myself marry (which seems like light years from now), but maybe Santa is a reader of The Culinary Librarian and I will find one under the tree this year. If you are looking for a super special gift for someone who is in the kitchen all the time, especially a baker and especially if they currently use a hand mixer for all their mixing needs (or an egg beater!) this would be a great option for them. 

My desire for a KitchenAid mixer increased exponentially when the new Raspberry Ice products were released. Pink is my favorite color, and this bright punchy shade is one of my preferred hues. Hopefully when a KitchenAid comes into my life, it will be in this gorgeous color! 

Photo courtesy of KitchenAid USA

The 12 Days of Christmas

I've been wanting to come up with a gift guide/wish list for the past few weeks. There are a mix of things I want to recommend you as great gifts or ways to use up your holiday gift cards but then there are a fair amount of things that I love and hope Santa will be bringing me. So I am presenting you will the 12 days of Christmas. Each day starting today and ending December 23rd I will give you a list of great gifts and just like the song the number of gifts each day will depend on which day of Christmas it is. Enjoy!

Happy Holidays from The Culinary Librarian!

Monday, December 5, 2011

"Les Petits Macarons" signed copy WINNER!

Bonjour my macaron lovers! I am happy to announce I have selected the winner of the signed copy of the Les Petits Macarons book. Thank you to everyone who entered and who shared the giveaway with friends and followers. There were a handful of entries by email in addition to those left as comments on the giveaway post. I used a random number generator to pick a number between 1 and 25, 25 being the total number of entries. Here are the results: 

Entry #25 is....