To the recipients of holiday gifts I gave from 1984 to 1999, I’m sorry. I apologize that after hours of wandering the department stores at Beachwood Place mall, I couldn’t do better than that candy cane striped tie, clearance-rack sweater, severely strong cologne or kitten desk calendar. I believe you appreciated the thought though I doubt you appreciated the gift. The good news is that I can now be trusted with gift exchanges and secret Santa swaps because I have discovered the key to holiday happiness – food!
Here is a roundup of gifts under $20 for chowhounds, foodies, gourmands or simply, anyone who likes good food. These make thoughtful gifts for hostesses and teachers, too. The best part is that you can get your shopping done in one place – Whole Foods Market®. This should cover nearly all your bases and if it doesn’t, head to the mall and buy the first piggybank in the shape of a high heel you see.
OIL AND VINEGARS Pair an oil and vinegar; include a bottle in a gift basket; or gift individually wrapped in a brightly colored dishtowel. Here are a few bottles that impress:
Truffle Oil – A small drizzle in eggs, sauces or potatoes elevate a dish in an instant. Works wonders on popcorn too!
Aged Balsamic Vinegar – Perfect on roasted meats, vegetables, berries and ice cream. You can even make sorbet with it! Reach for 365 Everyday Value® Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (imported from Italy).
Good Quality Olive Oil – Single-varietal olive oils are great for dipping bread, drizzling over pasta, veggies and salads or homemade pesto. Our 365 Everyday Value® Organic Varietal Olive Oil collection of Koroneiki, Hojiblanca and Arbequina was created to showcase the olive’s flavor. Try Arbequina with vegetables, Koroneiki for seafood and Hojiblanca for baking.
SUGAR, SPICE AND EVERYTHING NICE
Help your friends and family stock their pantries with something extra special that’ll please their palates all year long.
Flavored Sugars – These sweets are a treat to have on hand for a finishing touch on desserts. Add unexpected flavor by sugaring the rim of cocktail glasses.
Flavored Salts – Boost the flavor of roasted meats, fishes or vegetables with flavored salts. For example, citrus salt is a great way to finish shrimp skewers, vegetables, grilled chicken breasts and grilled salmon.
Saffron – Flavorful, colorful and valued for hundreds of years, saffron is one of the world's most expensive spices by weight but luckily a little goes a long way. So just give a bit to enhance rice dishes such as risottos, stews and sauces and seafood dishes like paella. (Look for Whole Pantry™ Spanish Saffron.)
Preserved Lemons – These make a welcome addition to any roasted meats and livens up stews, Mediterranean dishes and cocktails too.
Truffles, Clusters and Marshmallows – No assembly is required with Whole Foods Market™ Organic Truffles (Chocolate, Caramel, Cappuccino, and Cookie Crumble), Whole Foods Market™ Truffled Walnuts, Espresso Clusters, Hazelnut Truffles dipped in dark chocolate and Whole Foods Market™ Dark or Milk Chocolate Covered Marshmallows.
Holiday gifts are a great way to introduce friends and family to new flavors – just remember to share the best way to enjoy them or include pairings. Of course, as you add pairings, you may exceed $20; to keep it simple, just give the bottle or jar and a recipe card tied on with a pretty ribbon. Here are a few other ideas.
Show and Tell – Gift a jar of your famous homemade pesto with the recipe, potted basil, single-varietal olive oil, a chunk of Parmesan Reggiano (our cheesemongers can cut you just the amount you need) and walnuts or pine nuts (from the bulk bins!). That way they can make it too.
Think Thematically – Put together a themed basket like an Italian dinner (with the colander as a basket) or a baker’s basket with 365 Everyday Value® Organic Vanilla Extract and a bag of 365 Everyday Value® nuts, a couple different sizes of silicon spatulas (they don’t melt!) or a silicone baking mat.
Perfect Pairs – Match a high quality peppermill with Whole Pantry™ Tellicherry Peppercorns. (Tellicherry peppercorns are generally considered to be the world's finest pepper.) Or a gather the makings for guacamole, salsa, or a pesto and a mortar and pestle.
Kitchen Essentials – A few of my go-to stocking stuffers are microplanes (makes zesting and grating a snap), good silicone oven mitts, cooking twine, kitchen shears and handheld mandolins.
Are you giving the gift of food this year? Tell me more in the comments below.