Friday, December 12, 2014

Holiday Foodie Gift Guide for 2014

Chocolates, cookies, bottles of wine or liquor are all just dandy for holiday gift giving, but this year I thought I’d share some more unusual picks. These are things that are completely out of the ordinary!
Umami is that savory flavor that comes from things like aged cheese, tomatoes, fish sauce and soy products. Laura Santini has created a whole line called Taste #5 Umami that are all fantastic flavor enhancers, think of them as modern day, completely natural msg.

One of my favorite products is Bomba! XXX, a brilliant combination in a tube of tomato paste, wine and soffito (carrot, onion and celery) that can be tossed with pasta, used in sauces, slathered on canapés, pizza or bruschetta or used in a myriad of recipes. It’s completely vegetarian. You can get a 4-pack of Bomba for $29 or get in in the full collection which includes tubes of Bomba, original and vegetarian as well as both umami rush and umami pepper plus 10 recipe cards for $49. 

The original umami paste is a combination of lots of Italian umami rich ingredients such as tomatoes, black olives, anchovies, porcini mushrooms and Parmigiano Reggiano. It’s great added to sauces or stews, rubs, marinades and gravy, to boost their flavor. A 3-pack for $18 or available in the collection. 

The Vegetarian Far Eastern Recipe was created with Nobu Matsuhisa, and it uses all Japanese ingredients like miso, yuzu, matcha, garlic, ginger, soy sauce and shiitake mushrooms to also amp up the volume. It’s can be used with noodles or rice, sushi or sashimi, as a rub, in sauces, etc. Available in the collection or in a 3-pack for $18

There are two table condiments—umami rush, a sort of a dry version of the original umami paste, and umami pepper, a pepper that is completely vegetarian and has dried vegetables, miso, spices, seaweed and citrus peel. Available in the collection or together in a set for $18 

A big trend right now is “alternative sweeteners.” If you have enjoyed cooking with honey and agave, Maguey Sweet Sap from Villa de Patos should be on your radar. It is made from the nectar of the agave plant, rather than the cooked piña which is used for agave syrup and tequila. It’s less refined and unprocessed and has a unique, earthy flavor with a rather funky finish.

Try it in baking or to use in sauces and marinades. Try it on vegetables before roasting. I used a splash of it in chili recently. It’s got an assertive flavor, but it’s fun for creative cooks and bakers who enjoy experimenting. Check out the location finder to see who carries it near you. It’s organic and costs about $13 for a 23.65 ounce bottle. 
I think we’d all like a way to reduce the use of plastic, enter Bee’s Wrap. It’s beeswax coated muslin that can be use over and over again. Obviously not on things like meat, but for wrapping bread, vegetables or fruit it works really well. The heat of your hands causes it soften so it molds to the shape of what you want to wrap. It’s particularly good for wrapping cheese! 

Bee's Wrap is actually a pleasure to use, something you will never be able to say about plastic wrap. It’s not cheap but it’s also not disposable. It will last a whole year and is easy to wash. A set of 3 is under $20 and one small wrap is just $5.50.

GFF Cover Lena KwakI generally recommend a lot of cookbooks this time of year, but today I'm suggesting a couple of new magazines. The first is  a quarterly magazine, GFF for Gluten Free Forever launched by a colleague of mine. Erika Lenkert has been writing for magazines for ages and put together a really crack team to create something beautiful. If you've seen it on the newsstand, you know what I mean. 

The reason I'm so excited about this magazine, which feels more like a journal that you will want to keep, is that it's about embracing and enjoying life instead of coming from a place of denial. The photographs are gorgeous and there are recipes from chefs, cookbook authors and bloggers, tutorials for mastering gluten free cooking and baking, trends, products, people and places worth a visit. 

The first issue has a Bay Area focus with recipes from Craig Stoll and Michael Recchiuti and a guide to local restaurants that are particularly good choices for those who are gluten free.

You can get 40% off the first issue which is $15, with the code holiday40. Another option is the a GFF full subscription, which is $50 for print or $40 for pdf (print includes pdf) get 35% off with the code gff35.

ISSUE Nº 4The second magazine I'm recommending is published biannually and also more like a journal. I picked up the girl crush issue this past Summer and am still reading it. I appreciate that Cherry Bombe chooses to "celebrate women and food" and to focus on stories written mostly by or about women, because let's face it, food journalism can be a very masculine world. Just look at Lucky Peach to see what I mean. I've enjoyed some issues of that magazine too, but it often has the feel of a frat party. 

Though I've only read one issue of Cherry Bombe, I think it's worth supporting. Single issues are $20 and a year subscription of 2 issues is $38.

Have you read GFF or Cherry Bombe? If so, let me know what you think!

Disclaimer: My thanks to Taste5, Villa de Patos and Bee's Wrap for providing me with review samples. There is no guarantee I will review every product I try, and very few products that I do try end up in reviews. I am not compensated monetarily for any review, ever. There are a few affiliate links in this post.