Tag Archives: holiday gift guide

Holidays gift books about food and drink

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The Food Substitutions Bible, by David Joachim. Don’t have any XO sauce to make that cool Asian recipe? How about agave nectar for that delicious-sounding dessert? This book is full of practical ideas for coming up with things you have around the house that can take the place of both food ingredients and cooking materials and equipment. Don’t have a pastry bag? Try a plastic resealable bag or rolled parchment paper. Don’t have any dry mustard (sound familiar to you, too)? For 1 teaspoon of powdered, substitute 1 tablespoon prepared mustard minus 1 tsp liquid from the recipe. How about this surprise—if you don’t have coriander root (who does?), for 1 tablespoon, substitute 2 tablespoons of thick cilantro stems!

Whether you need a substitute for a key ingredient or utensil, want to vary the flavor or texture of a recipe or even just figure out a healthier version of an old favorite, this book has some great ideas for improvising with confidence. The first edition of this book won the prestigious International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) award. Now Joachim, author, editor and collaborator on more than 30 cookbooks, includes 50 new recipes in this revised edition. Just reading the pages—all information is clearly laid out in neat, easy-to-read boxes—may inspire you to new culinary efforts. Fun to read.

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The Field Guide to Bitters & Amari, by Mark Bitterman. This book addresses the mysterious substances known as bitters. The book contains photos of some of the 500 different bitters it lists, along with flavor profiles and tasting notes for each—it’s a genuine field guide (p 137). You’ll learn that bitters come in categories: aromatic, citrus, fruit, spice, spicy, herbal-floral, and nut. In addition to the extensive information on bitters, the book also talks about 50 different amari, the popular after-dinner digestif drinks considered the kindred spirits of bitters because they’re based on roots and herbs, and gives instructions on how to build a well-balanced cocktail with an amaro (p 87).

Plus the book contains dozens of recipes for sophisticated drinks and cool food items like Bittered Fried Chicken and Fried Olive-stuffed Olives with Bitter Lemon Olive Oil-Parsley dipping sauce. How about a Bittersweet Chocolate Torte that uses black walnut bitters in the cake and spiced bitters in the glaze? Aren’t you just ready to run out and buy a dozen bottles of bitters right now? The author clearly knows whereof he speaks—he actually runs a store called The Meadow that sells the largest selection of bitters in the world at all three of its locations. He even gives instructions in the book on how to make bitters and amari at home.

The book comes with a heavy, rich-looking, leather-like cover with orange/gold debossed printing and would make a wonderful gift for any food and/or drink aficionado looking for some excitement.

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Own work
Own work (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Spice & Herb Bible, by Ian Hemphill with recipes by Kate Hemphill. What is the difference between a spice and an herb? How did people use spices in 1700 BCE? How about a recipe for Chocolate and Wattleseed Truffle (p. 674) to crown your dinner party? Think about making Indian Butter Chicken (p. 156)—with a homemade 11-spice blend and chicken breasts marinated in a yogurt curry accented with tomato paste, brown sugar, almonds, tomato chutney, grated onion, garlic and more spices. Num.

This revised edition is a heavy, massive paperback book with glossy photos and lots of white space, boxed information, easy-to-read lists, and good ideas for how to buy and store, along with creative uses and recipes for everything from allspice to zedoary (white turmeric). Be aware that all recipe ingredients are given in milliliters and grams rather than ounces—an opportunity to polish up your knowledge of converting to and from the metric system. This book is great for a wannabe chef or someone who just wants to spread her wings and try new things in the kitchen.

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New ways to enliven your cooking--or just read food history
New ways to enliven your cooking–or just read food history

The Cook’s Essential Kitchen Dictionary, by Jacques L. Rolland. Sure, we can look up anything we want online. And that’s great, but there’s really no substitute for a book when you want to explore something at your leisure. Here you’ll find food history, anecdotes, and information about origins and cultures along with 5000 definitions for familiar and not-so-familiar food and ingredient terms like distillation empanada, jicama, kohlrabi leavening, nam pia, orgeat, ratatouille sake, zabaglione and more. Use this for practical assistance when making a recipe with strange ingredients, or just read it for the joy of learning more about the amazing things people eat and season their food with.

The author of this book is a Frenchman with a degree in culinary arts and hotel management and also a certified sommelier (a very tough exam to pass). In this book (he also wrote The Food Encyclopedia) he shares his extensive knowledge of current realities of the world’s culinary landscape and intersperses it with his experiences teaching classes in etiquette, service and wine.

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Eat Mediterranean for health, longevity and FLAVOR!
Eat Mediterranean for health, longevity and FLAVOR!

The Ultimate Mediterranean Diet Cookbook, by Amy Riolo, chef, television personality, cuisine and culture expert, is an Italian American of Calabrian descent. The focus here is on the health benefits—living longer and better—of the delicious dishes that characterize the Mediterranean diet—said to lower your chance of developing heart disease by nearly 50%. Author Riolo talks about what you should eat and why, as well as when you should eat it.

You’ll find, for example, a thorough explanation of how and why vegetables are part of the foundation of Mediterranean eating (often the basis for entire meals) just before recipes for asparagus soup, spaghetti squash “pasta,” and a Moroccon Vegetable Tajine. Read a write-up on the nutritional benefits of fish and seafood, just before recipes like Greek-style Roasted Fish and Vegetables, and a boxed tip explaining that marinating seafood, meat or chicken before grilling it doesn’t just taste great. It also “reduces the harmful cancer-causing substances” that open-flame cooking can produce.

Riolo groups meats with sweets in the book because, as she says, both are rich in fat and eaten quite sparingly in the typical Mediterranean diet. The book contains 100 recipes from 25 different countries around the Mediterranean Sea. Riolo is also the author of The Mediterranean Diabetes Cookbook, Nile Style: Egyptian Cuisine and Culture, Recipes & Princely Entertaining Ideas from the Arabian Peninsula, and several others.

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Discover the joys of pairing beer with cookies!
Discover the joys of pairing beer with cookies!

Cookies & Beer: Bake, Pair, Enjoy, by Jonathan Bender. Yes, you read it right: Cookies and beer. While this may seem like heresy, the more you read about it, the more sense it makes. Both things have important ingredients in common: grains, spices and fruits. The book points out how the perfect beer can bring out unexpected flavors in a cookie, and how the right cookie can awaken flavors hardly noticed before in a beer.

The cookie recipes are fascinating—some of them even include beer as an ingredient as in, for example, Rye IPA Apricot Crumble Bars, which are made up of an apricot-beer-lemon-maple-sugar compote, a rye-flour-sugar-butter shortbread, and a caraway-black walnut crumble. Isn’t your mouth watering just thinking about that? The chef’s notes say: “Rye beers (IPA or otherwise) will amplify the rye and caraway seeds in the bar cookie and tease out a bit of sweetness from the apricot filling.”

You can tell this guy’s a food writer. This book is fun to read and dream about—even if you never make any of the recipes.

 

 

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Holiday gift guide for baby boomers – 4 edible ideas

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As Baby Boomers, we mostly feel like we don’t need any more “stuff,” yet we still might like to buy presents for friends or relatives who are in the same boat. What to do if you simply must buy something?

For people who have everything, or simply don’t want or need anything else, giving a food-related gift is just the ticket to express your gratitude, appreciation or love. Truly, you can’t go wrong with food. It’s dear to the hearts of every one of us – especially at this time of year… “ ) Here are a few ideas to consider.

OpenTable Gift Card

Let 'em dine and think of you!
Let ’em dine and think of you!

No, you don’t eat it, but this instant-gratification gift gets your giftee into a place she’d will want to eat. OpenTable Gift cards let you or the recipient personalize the gift precisely to taste – you pick her favorite restaurant or let her make the choice. Ideal for foodie friends and relatives who love new dining experiences. When you purchase an OpenTable gift card (available in denominations starting at $10), pick from the list of 180 restaurants in and around Chicago – or if she lives elsewhere, pick from more than 2,000 restaurants in 30-plus cities. The gift arrives via e-mail, and your giftee can either print it out and redeem it at the restaurant (good any hours the place is open), Or she can just show it to the server on her mobile device. The full amount of the gift is deducted from her final bill (remember to tip on the original amount!). Talk about convenience, and no fees – every penny of your gift counts.

Choose from several nice designs and put in a short or long personalized message. Then either send it right away – I love that it comes instantly into her inbox – or set the specific date you want it to arrive. And the fact that you can just carry it on your cell phone or tablet makes it super convenient – no coupons to forget or misplace. Every year OpenTable is becoming a bigger and better player in the food/restaurant space; this gift card idea beats the generic gift card all to heck.

Mrs. Prindable’s chocolate and caramel confections

Crisp apples, gooey chocolate and caramel
Crisp apples, gooey chocolate and caramel

If you love caramel apples, try one of these beauties. Mrs. Prindable’s uses deliciously crisp fresh apples and coats them with thick, softly chewy caramel and nuts, or stripes them with caramel and dark and milk chocolate, and decorates them to fit the season – e.g., beautiful Christmas or Hannukah trimmings. Their Chicago-style nut-and-chocolate-covered toffee makes a timeless, seasonless gift. You can order basketsful of Mrs. Prindable’s chocolate and caramel goodies of any size, starting at $29.99. Even if you’re watching the budget this year, you can still surprise your giftee with a box of four chocolate-covered caramels for $5.99 or a pack of three chocolate-and-caramel-covered pretzels for $7.99 – though if you don’t want to pay shipping [$10.99 for that $5.99 item), you can pick up your order in Mrs. Prindable’s Factory Store, 7425 Croname Rd in Niles. While you’re there, check out the dark or milk chocolate Nut Clusters, the Truffles and the endless combinations of boxed delights. These goodies are beautifully packaged in beribboned packets and boxes. The apples I tried arrive still cold from refrigeration, so don’t worry they won’t hold up with shipping.

GODIVA chocolates

GODIVA - synonymous with luxury
GODIVA – synonymous with luxury

The name speaks for itself. Visit one of the Chicago-area GODIVA boutiques (three in downtown alone) or order online. Below are a few to consider for a sublime holiday indulgence:

  • Holiday Ballotin ($50 – 36 pcs) – The GODIVA signature assortment of classic Belgian chocolates (caramels, ganaches and pralines) presented in the gold box tied with a red ribbon.
  • Limited Edition Holiday Chocolates & Truffles Collection ($50 – 12 pcs) – All-time favorites mixed with limited edition holiday chocolates and truffles like Gingerbread, Eggnog and Raspberry Linzer Torte.
  • Signature Truffle Gift Box ($50 – 24 pcs) – Select from the full truffle line, adorned with a red ribbon.
  • Hot Cocoa Gift Set ($20 – 12 pkts) – GODIVA cocoa packets (three milk, three dark and three caramel).

Amy’s Candy Bar – Candy made by a trained French pastry chef

Bly a pastry-maker turned candy artist
By a pastry-maker turned candy artist

Just in time for the holidays, Hyde Park welcomes a pop-up Amy’s Candy Bar store, 1546 E. 55th St., to go with the original Lincoln Square location, 4704 N. Damen Ave. Hand-crafted confections at the new store include Orangettes (dark-chocolate dipped orange peel), almond toffee covered in dark chocolate and sea salt, meringues, and signature caramels dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with a new variety of gourmet salts.

Storeowner Amy Hansen graduated from the French Pastry School and trained under renowned chocolatiers Regis Bouet and Lionel Clement. Her handmade treats are made with premium ingredients including European-style butter, organic cream, Madagascar vanilla, Belgium chocolate, and fresh fruit purees. The OMG Bar – hazelnut praline sandwiched between salted caramel and milk chocolate ganache – had Food & Wine Magazine hailing Hansen as a “candy making genius,” and named hers one of the five best candy stores in the country.

Amy’s Candy Bar in the Hyde Park Shopping Center (612.269.0970) is open Tuesday-Sunday from 11-7. Lincoln Square is open Monday, 3-7, Tuesday-Saturday, 11-8 and Sunday, 11-6. For more info, visit amyscandybar.com.

 

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