Raindrops, roses, whiskers, kittens -- all lovely items to be sure, but perhaps not the gifts that will make the holidays glow as brightly as you'd like. Certainly not* if they're for the food lover in your life.
With that in mind, as a person who lives, breathes and, yes, eats food for a living, I'm sharing my personal list of beloved foods, drinks, gadgets, books and save-the-world gifts to fill the hearts and mouths of your favorite food freaks. And yes, they're all available online.
- Gifts for growing -
Earlier in 2012, we declared "This is the year you garden!" Whether or not that actually came to pass, you can up your chances in 2013 with this collection of 12 varieties of heirloom seeds like Crookneck Summer Squash, Old Virginia Tomato, Sugar Cherry Tomato, and Yellow Moon and Stars Watermelon. Not only will you be keeping the legacy of these treasured vegetables alive - the company donates 30% of your purchase to directly support the Piedmont Environmental Council's "Buy Fresh Buy Local" Food Guide to ensure clean food for future generations. -- Southern Exposure ($25)
Why did the man give his girlfriend a mushroom growing kit for the holidays? Because he was a fun guy. (I'll be here all week. Try the shiitakes.)
Once you have grown mushrooms like Hen of the Woods, Lion's Mane or Blue Oyster inside your own home, you'll never settle for those sad, old supermarket buttons again. -- Fungi Perfecti ($15-$29)
- Gifts for cooking -
Smoked paprika trio
Smoke is my favorite food flavor, and I'm hard-pressed to think of any dish that wouldn't be improved by a gentle kiss of woodsy heat from this trio of smoked paprikas. I've put them in oatmeal, salad dressings, cookies and even cocktails and they have won hearts, minds and palates each and every time. -- Tienda ($16)
Bluegrass soy sauce
Rob Newton, chef/owner of Seersucker Brooklyn restaurant, will only allow American-grown ingredients in his restaurant. He hunted high and low to find this Kentucky-brewed soy sauce, aged in re-purposed bourbon barrels, and when he served it to me, it made my head explode. It's pleasantly pungent, slightly sweet and quite potentially your new obsession. -- Bourbon Barrel Foods (5oz for $6, 32oz for $34)
Georgia olive oil
Italy and Greece, we have nothing but respect for you, but the South has come to eat your lunch. Georgia Olive Farms is an agricultural cooperative formed in 2009, and they're working to create systems for successful olive farming in the southeastern United States. The oil itself is rich and deeply spicy, and with my own eyes I have witnessed people sipping it like it was brandy. This might say something about the kids of people with whom I spend my time, but it's darned good olive oil. -- Georgia Olive Oil Farms (500ml for $32)
Stone-ground Christmas grits
If anyone knows grits, it's Virginia Willis. Not only is the recent "Chopped" contestant a killer chef in her own right, she's also the author of a couple of our favorite and most-used cookbooks, "Bon Appétit, Y'all! Recipes and Stories from Three Generations of Southern" and "Basic to Brilliant, Y'all," as well as a classic Eatocracy 5@5 about how Southern is a state of mind.
When she tells us some grits are good - those grits are good. -- Virginia Willis ($10.99)
Heart measuring spoons
Full disclosure: I went to grad school for metalsmithing with Jim Dowd and watched him fall in love with his now-wife and business partner Sandra Bonazoli. I could make all sorts of jokes about a love being forged, but really, we're just here for their extraordinarily lovely heart-shaped pewter measuring spoons. They introduced this design as the company's very first product back in 1999, and it remains one of their best sellers to date. -- Beehive Kitchenware ($48)
Indoor turkey fryer
Give the gift of a great-smelling house AND not having said house burn down in the making of holiday dinners. One warning, though - once that puppy is fired up, it is nearly impossible not fry every potentially edible item in your home. -- Masterbuilt ($139.99)
- Gifts for serving -