Christmas Gifts for Foodies
Christmas Gifts for Foodies
If anyone on your holiday gift list is seriously into food, you know how intimidating it can be to shop for them. These are the people who know that a blind monk on a remote Japanese island makes the only cured eel worth eating, who are totally up on the food of the moment, and who only use the snazziest cookware. But you're a frugal shopper, so what Christmas gifts for foodies can be had for $20 or less?
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Start the search by deciding whether the foodie delights in eating or in cooking.
For the cook, there is always some ingredient that's too expensive for their everyday budget but perfect as a gift. One practical but special Christmas gift for foodies is sea salt. What cook wouldn't coo over a package of Bamboo Jade Sea Salt from Hawaii (starting at $14.99/6 ounces) or Hand-harvested Grey Sea Salt from France (starting at $14.95/8.8 ounces). These are not salts that get sprinkled into eggs or dumped into pasta water. They are special salts that add crunch and a brilliant pop of flavor atop the gourmet dishes your foodie friend prepares.
Alternatively, peppercorns in a little jar with a ribbon around it will spice up any meal. Tellicherry black pepper presents a deep and complex flavor with a nice bite, according to Cook's Illustrated, while a blend of four peppers (starting at $11.39/2.1 ounces) additionally adds a spot of color on the kitchen counter. A full pound of pepper (starting at $17) should last about a year, or you can divide it into four Christmas gifts for foodies.
Hot-button words for foodies are artisanal, local, and small-batch. Mustard may seem like a prosaic condiment, but specialty mustard adds more zip to vinaigrettes and sauces, not to mention sandwiches. A pair of artisanal mustards -- Champagne Garlic and Hong Kong Habanero (starting at $16), for example -- hit both the delicate and spicy ends of the taste spectrum. Present the whole to one foodie friend or give a jar each to two.
Go local with a twist on a supermarket staple that will please cooks and food lovers with a sweet tooth. A pint of Grade B maple syrup (starting at $19.95) is deeper and darker than Grade A amber syrup and also cheaper. This Christmas gift for foodies is a top-shelf ingredient for baking, glazes, and marinades, and serves equally well atop pancakes or bacon.
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Speaking of bacon, meat hounds have turned this epitome of fat and salt into a reverential thing. Some vegetarians even cross the line for it, and bacon now enhances every type of food, from burgers to candy. Cooks often use pancetta or pork belly, as well as the standard smoked variety, but guanciale, cured meat from the jowl of a pig, would make a singular Christmas gift for foodies. Popular in central Italy but little known in the U.S., guanciale is leaner and boasts a more pronounced flavor than bacon. Little bits or a lot start at $3.25/four ounces, and add lots to spaghetti carbonara or even a BLT sandwich.
Dessert is always a winning gift, be the recipient cook or eater. Chocolate makes it doubly so. A touch of spice in hot chocolate does the trick when coming in from the cold, and Jacques Torres' Wicked hot chocolate mix (starting at $18/18 ounces) adds enough cinnamon, allspice, and chili to rouse the taste buds of the most jaded foodie. Chocolate aficionados will delight in bean-to-bar artisanal chocolate, which often goes for less than $10 a piece.
We didn't add any secret ingredients in this list – just a dash of budget-savvy imagination that goes a long way toward satisfying sophisticated palates. And you'll be pleased to know that these Christmas gifts for foodies won't be relegated to the back of a cupboard – or re-gifted, either.