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It’s that time of year again: The month where you get to stress out over what present could possibly please your wine-snob sister or your cocktail-chic cousin. But you shouldn’t let gift-giving insecurities take all the ho-ho out of your holidays. Check out these epicurean ideas to please even your pickiest present receivers.
For the Wine Geek: Wines of the Southern Hemisphere by Mike Desimone and Jeff Jenssen (Sterling Epicure, $24.95). Wine-savvy sippers know that the last two decades in the New World have been nothing less than mind-blowing with the incredible kicked-up quality in places like Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay in South America, the coming of age of South Africa, and antipodean oenophile antics in New Zealand and Australia. And yet, while there’s more ink devoted to the wines of France then you can shake a vine at, no one has attempted to thoroughly zero in on these important wine-making spots of the southern hemisphere before this great, comprehensive tome by Disimone and Jenssen. A must-have for any good wine geek’s library.
For the Caffeine Hound: Madcap Coffee. Started in 2008 by seasoned coffee pros Trevor Corlett and Ryan Knapp, this retail/wholesale roaster in Grand Rapids, Michigan know their beans from the ground to the grind, having spent significant time working with the farmers who supply them. Corlett and Knapp believe every coffee has a story, and that fine-tuned attention to detail shows in the intense high-quality of their beans and the careful way they adjust the roast for each new batch. The stuff is so good, you can let a cup go cold and it still tastes and smells spectacular. A good December bet: a pound of their Holiday Fusion blend ($18), with its decadent notes of dried fruit and caramel.
For the Hostess with the Mostest: Dahlia tablecloth from Couleur Nature. Every good hostess knows that setting the scene is as important as pleasing the palate. For the party planner in your life, why not set the scene with show-stopper table linens, like this dahlia-print Art Nouveau French-made tablecloth (starting at $72).
For the Sweets Snob: The Humbug Bar from Liddabit Sweets. Candy connoisseurs won’t be able to resist the hand-dipped creations from French Culinary Institute alums Liz Gutman and Jen King. The carefully crafted wares from these treat mavens can even make the most jaded holiday scrooge smile – especially when biting into creations like the Humbug, a cocoa sablé cookie topped with creamy, peppermint-tinged dark chocolate ganache and sprinkled with crushed, crunchy organic candy canes.
For the Cocktail Guru: Hella Bitters Salt and Pepper Pack. Maybe no one saw the artisanal bitters craze coming, but now that’s here it’s a veritable liquidy smorgasbord of those aromatic droplets that are the can’t-do-without salt and pepper seasoning of many a delicious tipple. These days, the flavors go far and beyond the standard herby mix of Angostura and no self-respecting cocktail geek can resist tinkering with the latest flavors and finds. Fittingly, Hella Bitters offer their Salt and Pepper Two-Pack – a bottle each of their citrus and aromatic bitters in a 1.7 oz size ($19.99). And for the martini lover in your life, the second edition of the classic Shaken Not Stirred: A Celebration of the Martini by Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown (William Morrow, $13.99) stirs up a mix of this drink’s fascinating history and a bevy of great recipe riffs on it. It hits shelves just in time for the New Year – a great gift for Little Christmas on January 6th.
For the Spice Sleuth: La Boite Biscuits & Spices Any good cook knows a little spice can turn a dish from forgettable to fawned-over, and if you want to send the secrets of touted toques to your most cherished culinary friends, check out La Boite Biscuits & Spices for spice maestro Lior Lev Sercaz’s custom spice blends, which are used by the likes of chef Daniel Boulud and Eric Ripert, like the Southeast Asia Collection, a three-jar offering of Chinese star anise, Vietnamese cinnamon, and Indonesian cubeb pepper ($23.99). And if your Julia Child wannabe buddy likes to make personal mixes? Check out Kalustyan’s for a world’s worth of fresh, exotic, can’t-get-it-on-the-McCormack-rack spices, herbs, and seasonings, as well as host of other treats to pack into the pantry.