By Chef Judi Gallagher –
I’m a television cook, food writer, teacher and culinary traveler, But, I’m also a deft and enthusiastic shopper. At holiday time, I’m more than ready with a list of what to give to friends and family. When possible, I shop locally to support area merchants and growers and to celebrate and promote regional specialties that are available in farmers’ markets and retail stores.
My online shopping is limited but always includes Garrett’s Popcorn from Chicago. I order the Chicago mix which is CaramelCrisp and CheeseCorn. For people who know gourmet popcorn, Garrett’s is the ultimate and buying it for certain friends is a tradition with me. You can order some at: Garrettspopcorn.com. College students and friends with small apartments will love jars of cookie mix from the Mason Jar Cookie Company. The jar comes ready with the dry ingredients and chips. Just add butter, oil and eggs and follow the recipe. The jar makes perfect storage later for tea bags or ground coffee. Find these jars at masonjarcookiecompany.com.
My friends who are professional chefs or just love to spend hours in the kitchen usually get spices that I order from the Sarasota Spice and Tea Exchange. One year I filled stockings early with truffle salt and hid them in my closet. Within days, my clothes smelled like truffle potpourri! The Spice Exchange will ship anywhere and can make special blends and special labels. www.spiceandtea.com/florida-sarasota-st-armands.
The Kitchen Curry Master Set comes with an authentic spice box with individual spice pots for perfect storing and a cookbook to make dishes like Chicken Korma and lamb madras. www.kitchencurrymaster.com
For very special friends I make my nana’s recipe for sour cream coffee cake. I used to serve this indulgent cake in my restaurant in Gloucester, Massachusetts. This cake also went to Legal Seafood and to Delucca’s in Boston before I moved to Florida. I generally pair the cake with two French coffee mugs that I might buy online or at a Sur La Table. In fact, Sur la Table is a favorite for baskets filled with peelers, wine openers and even silicone matting for baking sheets. Fresh Market stocks plastic bottles of balsamic glazes and plenty of chocolate Santas for stocking stuffers.
My husband always gives themed gifts and has taught me to build on a specific idea. One year he gave me a vacation by myself at a beach cottage. One box had beach towels, the next suntan lotion and peanut M&M’s, the next a reservation for a rental car and the smallest package was the airline ticket and a map with my destination. I even make themed gifts for our little grandnephews with easy bake ovens and pot holders and chef hats.
To create a very, very big impression Le Creuset is an ideal choice. These pots are pricey but they last forever and truly inspire home chefs. The mini-cocot set with cookbook is perfect for those wanting to make individual soufflés, mini pot pies and individual flans.
Juicers for active ones who eat healthy are a nice choice but cleaning them can be a pain. I prefer gift cards to their favorite juice bar or chip in with other family members and go for the Vitamix. You can make a four-course dinner out of one machine and think of it as the Rolls Royce of smoothie making.
Wine lovers usually have their own cellars or brands that they love. If you aren’t sure what wine to buy them, an alternative gift is the rabbit wine chilling carafe. The carafe comes with an ice chamber that you chill and place back in the carafe provided. Now your Sancere will be at proper temperature until the last drop. www.MetroKane.com. Big or small, farmers’ market or kitchen store, there are hundreds of gifts for those that love food. Find your theme and have fun.