by guest blogger Martine Bertin-Peterson,
With Thanksgiving fast approaching, and Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) emails flooding your inbox, it’s time to start getting serious about gifts.
Fortunately, if there are cooks and food-lovers on your list, you’ve got lots of options in price points that range from a few dollars to a few thousand dollars and most of these gifts can be obtained from small, local merchants allowing you to “shop local.” This list doesn’t pretend to be exhaustive but should help you check off a number of deserving friends and family members.
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love cheese. Personally, I love runny cheese, stinky cheese, hard cheese, blue cheese, French cheese, Italian cheese, American cheese (not the yellow processed stuff), all cheese!
A collection of cheese, an attractive cheese tool set and a beautiful wooden cheese board (if you are feeling particularly generous) combine to form the ideal gift. The cheese can be enjoyed during the holidays and the accessories will be a reminder of your thoughtfulness all year long.
Some interesting cheese choices to consider: a sheep’s milk cheese like P’tit Basque or Brigante with Rosemary, a creamy goat cheese such as Bucheron or Humboldt Fog, a hefty chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano, a blue cheese such as Roquefort, Gorgonzola or Cambozola Triple Creme with Blue.
Wegmans, McCaffrey’s and Altomonte’s offer a wide variety of domestic and imported cheese. Also, check out Casa Casale (Lahaska), and Savour (Lambertville). Flint Hill Farms (Coopersburg) produces delicious fresh goat cheese.
Want local artisanal cheese? See our guide, Local Cheesemakers, for a listing of farms in Bucks, Lehigh, Hunterdon and Mercer Counties.
Kitchen necessities…and then some
I used to tell my friends and family, “No kitchen appliances or utensils as gifts!” I then recognized the folly of my ways.
Why not ask for those kitchen indulgences you know you want but won’t let yourself buy. For that matter, why not include everyday kitchen utensils on your wish list? Baking trays turn brown, spatulas develop ragged edges, wooden spoons eventually break. If it’s my wallet, I always think “Oh, they’re fine for now.” If it’s your wallet, I say “Bring it on.”
Here are some kitchen tools every foodie needs…or desires.
Wooden Spoons: Your everyday variety is available at kitchen supply stores, houseware departments and online but for a special gift, consider the handmade beauties by Chester P. Basil. Local caterer Max Hansen manages to find time in his busy life to make beautiful wooden utensils. See his creations at MaxHansenFirewood.
Mandoline: Once you master the use of a kitchen mandoline, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without one. A mandoline allows you to make very precise, very thin slices or julienne cuts. The mandoline is incredibly sharp allowing for the creation of professional looking slices of fruit, vegetables, meats, etc. Mandolines vary greatly in price so consider how often the gift will be used.
Baking Trays: One can never have too many. Available everywhere. Baking trays, in my humble opinion, are not “splurge-worthy” unless you are a very serious baker, in which case, go for the heavy-duty, full-gauge aluminum or stainless versions available from the kitchen supply sources. For the casual/everyday baker, go for the basics in several sizes. They will get banged up and if you use cooking sprays, they will get brown and unattractive.
Add An Edible: Elevate your gift and make it a bit more elegant with the addition of something edible and delicious. A tin of pate from D’Artagnan, some dried wild mushrooms or a jar of award-winning preserves from Gregory Benjamin. Gregory makes delicious, creative preserves from local Bucks County ingredients. Check out his website for some great pre-season offers (buy 3, get the fourth for free). Gregory will also be at the Holiday Festival of Food at the Carversville UCC on Saturday, December 2 and Sunday, December 3.
Spice it up!
The first time I prepared a meal in my mother-in-law’s kitchen, I understood that many home cooks don’t use or think about using herbs and spices. I was planning to prepare the coating for a roasted leg of lamb. I opened the pantry hoping to find the necessary ingredients – olive oil, fresh garlic, rosemary, Dijon mustard and soy sauce. All I could find was a tin of dried rosemary that had expired 6 years earlier!
A quick trip to the market saved the day but the realization that seasoning doesn’t come naturally stayed with me. These days it is easy to find fresh herbs at the market or supermarket all year round. Fresh sage, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, tarragon and oregano are readily available in the produce section and obviate the need for drying the herbs at home. Dried and ground herbs and spices are also readily available but need to be tossed out when they lose their flavor and scent.
It is a good practice to go through the spice rack in January and replace those herbs that have lost their potency. Good quality dried and ground spices are not cheap and therefore make a welcome gift or stocking stuffer (depending upon your generosity) for novice and experienced cooks. The Larder offers an extensive variety of loose, dried herbs so you can purchase the exact quantity you desire.
A foodie film festival!
There is nothing like curling up on the couch and watching movies on a cold winter weekend. For a novel foodie holiday gift, why not wrap up five food-themed DVDs for a weekend of delicious movies? Packaging the movies with a box of small batch chocolates from Pierre’s Chocolates in New Hope or Sciascia Confections at the Stockton Market will make the weekend even sweeter! Here are some of my favorite food related films: “Chef” (2014), “Like Water for Chocolate” (1993), “Ratatouille” (2007), “Big Night” (1996) and “Chocolat” (2000).
Where’s the meat?
At the holidays, everyone welcomes good food and a splurge on high quality meats. Don’t even think about that box of tasteless steaks from that faraway brand. Instead, Indian Ridge Provisions in Telford will put together a mouth-watering selection of fresh steaks and beef for the meat-lover on your gift list.
How about Tenderloin Filet Mignons, Black Angus Boneless Striploin Steaks, and Grass-Fed Chuck/ Brisket Blend Burger Patties? Steaks are shipped via FedEx 2-Day delivery ensuring on-time arrival and freshness. Every order comes packed in a Styrofoam cooler with either dry ice or gel packs. Steaks are sealed in Cryovac packaging to seal in juices. Click here to see the three gift package options.
Learn more about Indian Ridge Provisions and their local sourcing in our post, Indian Ridge Provisions: A cut above.
Books for cooks!
Like clockwork, lavishly illustrated cookbooks come out in the Fall. This year’s crop includes some notables from near and far.
- From London’s ever popular Yotam Ottolenghi comes a fifth tome, Sweet: Desserts from London’s Ottolenghi, a collaboration with Helen Goh.
- Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen Every Day is filled with approachable recipes even the novice cook can prepare successfully.
- Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table serves as frequent inspiration for my cooking class menus.
- Philly native Lindsay Tramuta has just written The New Paris: The People, Places & Ideas Fueling a Movement.
- Kate Winslow and Guy Ambrosino love onions so much they’ve made a whole cookbook about them. The Lambertville couple published Onions Etcetera this past spring. it may seem a bit extreme but in fact they have drawn recipes from around the world, using a wide variety of alliums.
Know someone who loves interesting and delicious meals? Likes hanging with old friends — and new ones — over a glass of wine? Give them a gift certificate for the Bucks County Taste Dinner Club.
Since 2014, the Bucks County Taste Dinner Club (you don’t need to be a member) has been eating at some of the best restaurants in Bucks County and nearby — the Golden Pheasant Inn, Hamilton’s Grill Room, the Inn at Barley Sheaf Farm, Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey Distillery with Jamie Hollander Gourmet, Liberty Hall Pizza, Maize Restaurant and many more. Give the gift of fun in any denomination. Email us here to purchase.
For a fun foodie experience, consider a Sister Cities Food and Shop tour for a curated and guided food, beverage and shopping tour of New Hope and Lambertville.
A cooking class is an excellent way to learn new recipes and polish culinary skills. Carlow Cookery, Goût et Voyage, and Chef Jean Pierre offer scheduled and customized classes for groups and individuals.
Is there a cheese-lover on your list? We’re fortunate to have several local farms that offer cheesemaking classes: Flint Hill Farm (Coopersburg), Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse (Milford) and Cherry Grove Farm (Lawrenceville).
If you haven’t yet come up with that grand present or you want to truly wow your favorite foodie, there is nothing better than a trip to Provence, France. Goût et Voyage offers 8 day/7 night, small-group (no more than 6 guests), escorted travel to Provence. The trips are designed for those who love fine food, fine wine, culture and history. Unlike so many “packaged” tours, Goût et Voyage offers an authentic, un-touristy taste of Provence filled with magical one-of-a-kind experiences.
Martine Bertin-Peterson is the owner of Doylestown-based Goût et Voyage, LLC, a boutique travel and cooking class business. Small group cooking classes feature hands-on instruction in Mediterranean cooking.
In addition to the popular “Taste of Provence” small group gourmet vacations, Goût et Voyage will offer a “Taste of Tuscany & Italy” trip in 2018. For more information about the classes and trips visit: www.goutetvoyage.com