Pound cake with real vanilla beans, fondue drizzled with truffle oil, a pasta with slivers of Parma ham...It's such a treat to get to cook with the real deal, isn't it? This year why not give your favorite cook a few of these small luxuries - and ask for one or two yourself!So many of these treats are too expensive and rare for everyday cooking, but they make great gifts for someone who you know will appreciate them! Most of these kinds of products can be found at gourmet food stores, local co-ops and farmer's markets, or in a quick search online.
1. Fleur de Sel - This flaky, crunchy salt is great for sprinkling on top of dishes right before serving. It adds the perfect gourmet touch. (Image: Emma Christensen)
2. Saffron - This is one of the most expensive spices in the world. Cooking with it is definitely a rare treat. (Image: iGourmet)
3. Flavored Extracts - It's so much fun to play around with flavored oils and extracts, especially with candy-making. We usually limit ourselves to practical flavors like vanilla and almond, but check out the selection at King Arthur Flour! (Image: King Arthur Flour)
4. Artisan Honey - Check out your farmer's market for locally produced honey. It's so very different than what you buy in the store! (Image: Emma Christensen)
5. Cured Meats - Some fine prosciutto or a few sausages like these from Gene's Sausage Shop would be an unexpected and very welcome gift to someone who loves cured meats. Be sure to label this package "Open Immediately"! (Image: Joanna Miller)
6. Artisan Chocolates - Whether you like to cook with it or nibble it next to the fire, artisan chocolates are a fun luxury to enjoy. Taza Chocolates were our biggest find this year. (Image: Emma Christensen)
7. Vanilla Beans - Real vanilla beans are like culinary gold. Your favorite baker will thank you! (Image: Vanilla Importers)
8. Artisan Jams and Jellies - Trying someone else's homemade jam is always a treat, especially if it's brought from somewhere else in the country. (Image: Flickr member di_the_huntress licensed under Creative Commons)
9. Truffle Oil - Even for a holiday present, we don't think we could afford real truffles, but we can certainly give the next best thing! (Image: iGourmet)
10. Craft Beers - Beer lovers always appreciate a new brew to try! Look for local or unusual beers that your friend may not have seen before. (Image: Emma Christensen)
11. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil - It's hard to justify special olive oil just for drizzling on top of salads or dipping our bread sticks into. But when it's a gift, no such justification is needed! (Image: Gregory Han)
12. Marcona Almonds - You can't imagine how good these almonds are until you try them! The rosemary marcona almonds from Trader Joe's would make a great stocking stuffer. (Image: Flickr member SauceSupreme licensed under Creative Commons)
13. Artisan Pickles - This is another one of those products that our practical selves tell us we don't need...but secretly we want a whole bottle to ourselves. You can't go wrong with Rick's Picks. (Image: Rick's Picks)
14. Really Good Liquor - For both baking and cocktails, the top shelf stuff can't be beat. (Images: Nora Maynard and St. Germain)
15. Artisan Cheeses - Getting to try a whole spread of artisan cheeses at one time is definitely a luxury! A cheese store like Formaggio Kitchen in Boston and New York has a huge selection to choose from and knowledgeable staff to help you pick out a few special ones. (Image: Formaggio Kitchen)
What other small food luxuries would you like to give or receive this year?
Related: When to Splurge and When to Save?