When it comes to holiday gifts, I freely admit that I'm a tough get. Not because I'm picky, no — I have an unapologetic love of pretty things! — but because, as someone who clearly loves to cook and does so for a living, I've amassed over time just about every necessity (and plenty more that's downright unnecessary). Short of a white truffle, what do I really need? Nada.
Maybe you know a person or two like me? I challenged myself to put together a list of things that I find just unabashedly wonderful, beautiful, and welcome any time — not because I am nudging anyone to buy anything for me, but just in case you have a person or two you'd like to delight but feel a little perplexed over.
1. Shallow Salad Bowl, $135 at Heath Ceramics
Let's start with the ultimate salad bowl, this classic beauty. It looks so unassuming and even boring on the screen (I think Heath could do to update their photography of this one!) but its simplicity is perfection. The ultimate $100+ gift for basically anyone. So classy, especially in black or gray.
2. Alfi Thermal Carafe, $159 at Williams Sonoma
The absolute best in carafes. Alfi is a German brand that makes carafes for all the swanky hotels, and boy does their stuff work. I have a much cheaper version of this carafe, but this one is luxurious and oh-so-creamy in color. Its price tag comes with a long-lasting guarantee, however; even my inexpensive version has lasted nearly 10 years.
3. Chubo Inox Petty Knife, $75
Everyone talks about chef's knives, but even someone with a fab collection of chef's knives could use a smaller, handier petty knife. I love this light, Japanese line of knives, which are reasonably priced for their quality and just gorgeous to look at and use.
4. Linen Napkins, $62 for six at Gjusta Goods
We've written many times about linen napkins and how worthwhile it is to have a set. Linen lasts a long time, wears and washes well, and makes every meal feel a little more special. Even at this price tag, these casual-yet-elevated napkins from the cult Los Angeles deli Gjusta, will work out to pennies a meal for all the use they'll get.
5. Duotone Shot Glasses, $20 each at Pigeon Toe Ceramics
For an unexpected gift, may I suggest little shot glasses? Most cooks have the daily glassware they need but would love one or two special little pieces. These gorgeous ceramic glasses are good for a post-dinner grappa or to hold a spray or two of greenery on a kitchen window.
Can't get through a list like this without a Dutch oven, no?! I adore Staub and while I have a couple of Dutch ovens, this particular size and shape I think are less usual. Most people seem to either go first for the smaller, more affordable Dutch ovens, or else for the enormous ones that can cook everything. This size and shape is more accessible and great for weeknight meals. And Staub's gray color is so classy. It elevates every meal you put in it — even mac and cheese out of a box. (Don't ask me how I know that.)
7. Christine Ferber Jam, $19 for 220 grams at Goldbelly
So many cult food and drink products are over-hyped or not worth the price tag. Ferber jam is not one of those. Made in small batches in Alsace by an absolute wizard of confiture, these jams explode with flavor and unexpected combinations. I bring back jars from France and hoard them. (I am still thinking about a violet-cassis situation from a couple of years ago.) I always gravitate towards her flavors with flowers, so the White Cherries and Rose version has my attention at the moment. It's a luxury for any food-lover.
8. Cider Cask Finished Virginia-Highland Whisky, $65 from Virginia Distillery
I don't pretend to know much about whisky; I just like to drink it. I've been tasting whiskies from American distillers this year, and this line from Virginia (carrying an extra advantage of a bit of sentimentality, as my husband is from the same region in this state) is delightful — locally driven with a mix of Scottish mash and Virginian. I very much enjoyed their port cask-finished whisky and now am keen to try this one, which is even more locally driven, using Virginia cider barrels to age the whisky.
9. Marco Polo Mariage Frères Tea, $26 for 100 grams at Market Hall Foods
Another luxury for the cook who has (nearly) everything: Mariage Frères, the French tea with quite the following. This tea is rich and spicy, and the tin makes it feel extra-special. An easy gift for any food-lover.
10. Pink Porcelain Pasta Bowl, $36 at Etsy
Last but not least, a beautiful ceramic always suits most food-lovers, and like the Heath bowl that started this list, it's all in finding just the right shape and size. My husband and I seem to eat 85 percent of our meals at home out of wide, flat pasta bowls (so good for sitting on the floor or couch with kids) and we have just two we love and I'm on the hunt for one or two more. This Etsy find has been on my wishlist for quite a while.
Charitable Holiday Gift Ideas
Beyond all these sweet, sometimes frivolous gifts, I think that the best gift for someone who is already privileged (as I am) with all I need (and more) — is a gift of giving back. If you are inclined to give a gift to someone who is privileged and even wealthy in good things, would you consider one of these gifts instead, given in their name?
The United States' third-largest charity, maintaining a large network of food banks and pantries and feeding over 46 million people. They are especially on my mind with their work in California, helping support so many people displaced by fires. (See their score on Charity Navigator.)
My husband and I have lent money through Kiva for many years. It lends out to small entrepreneurs and business-founders all over the world, many of which are food- and farm-based businesses. It's an extremely easy way to actually make a difference. (See their score on Charity Navigator.)
What's your favorite gift for a hard-to-buy-for fellow food-lover? Would love to hear!