Wednesday, December 15, 2010

2010 Foodie Holiday Gift Guide

Every year I fuss and fret over whether or not I should do a holiday shopping post. This year it seems people have saved more, paid off their debts and are ready to spend.

As a food writer and blogger I regularly receive unsolicited samples and review units. Some things I send back, others I give away. Not much really makes the cut. If you are one of those people who is ready to splurge, here are the items I treasure most. Buy something special for someone you love, or better yet, for yourself.

Villeroy & Boch
I got a variety of plates when I got married. While I love my vintage Wedgwood, I was disappointed in my everyday china from Crate & Barrel. After a couple of years it was discontinued and after 9 years my set was chipped, faded and ugly, so I got rid of it. What I replaced it with is lovely Villeroy & Boch porcelain dinnerware that I can use in the microwave, dishwasher (if only I had a dishwasher!) and at low temperatures in the oven. It is sturdy, beautiful and I love how well the two patterns mix and match. It has a classic yet contemporary style that I find very appealing. It has also been a joy to use in photography.

The patterns I have are part of the "modern toile" Audun line, Audun Promenade and Audun Fleur. On Amazon the dinner plates are $26 soup bowls are $33 or $35 depending upon which pattern you choose.

Breville SmartOven
Since I have to world's worst bottom-of-the-line oven, I am a toaster oven power user! I just received the Breville SmartOven and I love it already. Why? Because it takes the place of my toaster oven AND my toaster. It is the Cadillac of toaster ovens. It's a toaster oven, that actually toasts bread perfectly every time. No other toaster oven I have owned has ever been able to accomplish that feat!

I wish it was big enough to fit my 12-cup muffin pan, but my mini-muffin pan fits in it easily. I have yet to roast a whole chicken, but because it has a convection feature, I think it will be great. It's perfect for broiling and baking casseroles. The heating elements operate independently giving you a lot more versatility not to mention energy savings. It costs about $250 and the vast majority of reviews on Amazon are overwhelmingly positive.

I have had a Vita-Mix blender. for two years and I still adore it! I use it constantly to make smoothies, blend sauces and soups and puree vegetables. It is simply the best blender I have ever owned. Insanely expensive and yet, I absolutely love it. The least expensive model is about $400.

Damascus knives
Speaking of making the cut, these Damascus steak knives from New West KnifeWorks are the nicest steak knives I have ever seen. I have two of them and they are just a pleasure to use. They are elegant, forge-welded blades with 32 layers of Damascus steel resulting in a very fine yet sturdy edge. At $99 a piece they are definitely pricey, but something you will enjoy for years to come.

Bialetti pans
I lucked out and got a set of Bialetti Aeternum non-stick pans, which are now out of stock. But I would still recommend buying these pans separately (the set only saved you about $10). These are the best non-stick pans I've ever used and I've tried a lot. The pans are environmentally friendly, free of PFOA ( pertluorooctanoic acid) PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) and cadmium. The surface of the pans have a "nano-ceramic" coating that is a water-based coating made of titanium and suspended silicate micro-particles (the main component of glass). It resists scratches, abrasions and offers a smooth, compact and uniform surface that is very easy to clean. There is no flaking and the surface does not stain. They are attractive and the only downside is they need to be handled with care. DO NOT stack them, the coating can chip if you do. The pans cost between $20 and $40 each.