By Doc Lawrence.
Perhaps this season’s most intriguing gift possibility comes from Samuel Adams’ founder Jim Koch with his new beer, Utopias. Strong, rich, dark, uncarbonated and served room temperature in a snifter glass, it weighs in at 27 percent alcohol and runs $150 dollars per bottle. The jug is a work of art.
Beyond the Shaker, www.beyondtheshaker.com, specializes in unrefined sea salts and hand made, salt blends crafted by a chef who uses naturally occurring, unrefined sea salts as a base for a superior flavor and salinity.
Flavors range from Himalayan Pink to Bolivian Rose.
The finest chocolates have liquid centers of noble wines, legendary spirits and liqueurs. Explore Lecia Duke’s one of a kind holiday creations at www.chocolat-tx.us. Ms. Duke’s handcrafted organic chocolates and her gift boxes are produced in her landmark store in Fredericksburg, Texas. Customized boxes are a specialty.
And what would home entertaining be without cheese? Log shape Brie is a gourmet variation that works magic for guests with a variety of flavors.
Meyer Natural Angus provides top restaurants with signature steaks from all natural cattle free from antibiotics or growth hormones grown from a vegetarian diet, garnering the Certified Humane designation for their animal welfare practices. They offer 25 percent-off plus free shipping special for the holidays. www.MeyerNaturalAngus.com.
Spray misters are welcomed by the home chef and tend to be low in calories, perfect for salads, topping foods, baking or sautéing.
My kitchen gizmo this year is the Ninja Master Prep, a new food processor/blender combo that explodes ice into snow in seconds, chops with precision, blends, minces, dices or purees and is compact, a fraction of the cost and size of high-powered machines.
Imagine cooking a recipe not by reading instructions but by watching a chef actually prepare it. A new device, miBook expands the eBook beyond text. Created as a portable device for playing how-to videos, the miBook also supports PDF, all music files and even suggest recipes based on a home cook’s preferences. miBook is available at Best Buy.
Another wonderful gift is the handmade Spouted Lazy Ladle that reduces messy drips while serving soups or other luscious liquids. Notched to rest on the edge of your pot, this wild cherry essential will always be handy and the handle won’t get hot. Ladles for both right and left-handers are available at –
Cookbooks to Savor
I collect cookbooks and I love to give them to ambitious home chefs and self-taught cooks. All of these are available at Amazon.com. Fiesta Latina: Fabulous Food for Sizzling Parties, by Rafael Palomino and Arlen Gargagliano offers fusion treats like chipotle crabmeat and sweet plantain empanadas, and sugar cane shrimp skewers, ceviche and more.
Heralded New Orleans Chef Alain Braux just released How to Lower your Cholesterol with French Gourmet Food. It combines delicious recipes with a path to a healthier lifestyle. The American Lighthouse Cookbook by Becky Sue Epstein and Ed Jackson is a masterful collection of primarily seafood recipes and the production is first-rate. Allison Hooper’s beautiful and useful In a Cheesemaker’s Kitchen, mixes history, insights, pairings, and recipes.
The Veselka Cookbook produced by the East Village’s restaurant includes over 120 recipes. Veselka’s Ukrainian favorites include its famous borscht, sweet potato pierogi, and grilled kielbasa. Clara Cannucciari is a 94-year-old kitchen wizard and her spellbinding Clara’s Kitchen: Wisdom, Memories, and Recipes from the Great Depression is more than just a cookbook: it’s a history lesson and a crash course in budgeting. Using lessons she learned during the Great Depression, she takes today’s cooks back to a simpler and more difficult time.
Komali Nunna was born in Southern India and is known as the “Indian Martha Stewart.” Her new coffee-table cookbook, Entertaining from an Ethnic Indian Kitchen, is 300 plus pages of gorgeous color photographs, featuring hundreds of delicious and unusual recipes along with fascinating commentary from Nunna about the Indian people. Most beautiful book I’ve seen this year.
Classic Lebanese Cuisine by Chef Kamal Al-Faith introduced me to exotic flavors and kabob magic. Savory, heart-healthy Lebanese recipes epitomize the best of the Mediterranean diet, highly regarded for its positive health benefits. Abounding in vegetables, grains, fresh herbs and spices, poultry, and lamb, it yields meals replete with robust, earthy flavors. Likewise, Laura Kelley’s brilliant stories and recipes in The Silk Road Gourmet offers the fusion cuisines of Central Asia, the Himalayas and the Indo-Pacific, countries that combine distinctly western Asian and Eastern Asian elements. A useful gift any cook will treasure.
The Culinary Institute of America produced A TAVOLA! Recipes and Reflections on Traditional Italian Home Cooking, by Gianni Scappin and Vincenzo Lauria, a lovely effort loaded with both treasured family recipes and new dishes inspired by the great food the authors have enjoyed on their travels.
Charles Darwin’s wife, Emma Wedgwood Darwin, like many women of her time, kept a notebook filled with recipes and personal anecdotes about everyday life. Authors Dusha Bateson and Weslie Janeway have recreated and tested every one of Mrs. Darwin’s 55 recipes and put them in an enjoyable new cookbook, Mrs. Charles Darwin’s Recipe Book: Revived and Illustrated. This collectible cookbook offers a rare glimpse behind the dining room doors of one of the Victorian era’s most eminent families.
Wines to Impress:
Wine is bedrock of the holiday celebrations. Although it’s omnipresent today, finding the right wines for dinner or gifts works better with planning. This is the perfect time to be creative. Chambertin, a vigorous and powerful of red Burgundy, was Napoleon’s favorite wine he had handy on all campaigns. Legend has it that, burdened with a killer hangover from too much of this wonderful wine the night before, Napoleon fell off his horse during the Battle of Waterloo, an event that changed history. The wine is robust and strong, dark, heavy and uncompromisingly red.
Cru Beaujolais is near perfect for anything during the holidays. These wines do not usually show the word Beaujolais on the label which separates them from undistinguished mass-produced Nouveau. The Beaujolais crus are fullbodied, dark in color, and have some aging potential and include Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly. Think about giving two or three bottles. The effect is joyous.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a majestic red wine made near the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Rhône wine region in southeastern France. It is the most renowned appellation of the southern part of the Rhône Valley.
More wine is made in this one area of southern Rhône than in the entirety of the northern Rhône region and the history of this wine dates back to the time when Avignon was the epicenter of the Roman Catholic Church.
More adventure: A South African Pinotage blend; from Portugal, a white wine from the Vinhos Verdes region or a red wine from the Douro Valley. Think about a bottle of Grüner Veltliner from Austria or any of the white wine wonders from Alsace.
Remember, Champagne remains the regal celebratory wine.
Flavors and More Magazine – December 2009