2015 Holiday Gift Guide (i.e. Some Fun Stuff To Buy This Year)


Illustration: Tram Nguyen


Ho ho ho! It’s that time of year when you’re supposed to buy people gifts for vaguely religious reasons! I have mixed feelings about Christmas and the present-mania that surrounds it (I can’t comment on any other religious holiday traditions during this season, given my lack of experience with them), but my love for expensive, more or less unnecessary things is pure and unadulterated. Here I present to you a somewhat random list of items that would make good presents for a person who likes to eat, bake, cook, or decorate his or her house with the trappings of a person who likes those things.

Clockwise, from top left:

The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt:  I usually try not to buy many cookbooks, because inevitably they end up sitting on my shelf unused, taking up precious space in my tiny apartment and reminding me that I am too lazy and unambitious to ever attempt any of the crazy recipes that today’s amazing chefs and cookbook authors conjure up. This year, however, I couldn’t help myself; I bought two. This is the first. Kenji Lopez-Alt has a miraculous talent for writing about the science behind cooking while not being totally boring. In fact, he is an incredibly entertaining and charming writer, and he’s great at explaining not just how to make food, but why you are making it the way that you are—so even though the book is a bit on the pricey side, I consider it a worthy investment into my everlasting journey to not be a total disaster in the kitchen.

The Herringbone Walnut Cheese Box from AHeirloom: This company is mostly known for its cake stands, which are ubiquitous on Instagram and which are indeed very beautiful. But it also makes incredible cutting boards like this herringbone walnut one, and in this case the cutting board also comes with cheese, sausage, a little spread, and some crackers. Snacks + cutting board is a great gift. Cutting boards are wonderfully multifunctional and everyone loves snacks.

Porcelain Bryce Bowl from Of a Kind: I have an embarrassing weakness for cute bowls. No one needs a fancy bowl. As far as kitchen necessities go, serving bowls are purely decorative. For years I did not have a single serving dish and everything was fine. But then I received one as a gift and I realized that deep in my soul I am a person who will always harbor a bourgeois love for pretty pottery. Look at this bowl!! It was inspired by a Utah Canyon sunset. If you put it on your table, the table will immediately become 80% more attractive. Also, if you buy this bowl you will be supporting not only a cool artisan but also a cool website that supports cool artisans.

Fancy olive oil: This is a great present for moms who like to cook. I think. All moms like the same things, right? My mom definitely likes this as a present. Olive oil, unlike most items on this list, actually is essential for any cook, but it can be expensive. I frequently find myself standing in the grocery store debating whether to buy a $12.99 bottle or a $14.99 bottle, not even looking at the $19.99 bottle, and always going for the cheaper one. Having fancy olive oil on hand feels like pure luxury. Eataly sells many options in a wide range of prices, and it also provides the origin story behind each bottle, which is another fun detail for your mom, who is probably into that kind of thing.

Zahav by Michael Solomonov: This is the second cookbook I bought this year, and I am obsessed with it. As I write, I have a bowl of chickpeas soaking in the other room. In a few hours, I will make hummus with those chickpeas. Then I will eat all of the hummus in one sitting and there will not be a trace of it left. Later I will make some more. This book makes me want to take a sabbatical from my life for the sole purpose of cooking through it over and over and over again. If you like Israeli food, you should buy it.

A beautiful, handmade, one-of-a-kind knife from Cut Brooklyn: This is a splurge gift for that special person in your life who really, really loves fancy knives. I have never even seen one of these knives IRL because they are out of my price range and also I believe they sell out super quickly. The guy behind Cut Brooklyn (shout-out to my former coworker Julia’s husband! Also, buy Julia’s books!) handmakes the pieces out of his workshop in Gowanus, Brooklyn, and each one is basically a work of art.

A set of GLITTER MINI BOWLS from Food52: These tiny bowls will be perfect for the hummus party you are planning to throw after buying the Zahav cookbook. (Let’s just drop the facade and assume you are buying all these presents for yourself, okay???) Also they are called glitter mini bowls.

Porcelain Cake Plate from Herriott Grace: My cat recently knocked a gorgeous vintage milk glass cake stand off a high shelf, shattering it to a million pieces, which means I definitely should have learned my lesson about buying delicate cake stands by now. But I never will. If you, like me, love to bake, you already know that putting a baked good on a cake stand effortlessly makes it look infinitely classier. Added bonus: Herriott Grace is a very cool company comprised of a Canadian woman and her dad, who definitely seems like the amiable woodsman type, and together they make and sell beautiful things out of wood. (They don’t make the porcelain items themselves, but they have such good taste that you will want to buy basically everything in their shop regardless.)

PS: Looking for more gift ideas? Check out last year’s guide.

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