2019 holiday gift guide: spices, wines, books, coffee!

Happy holidays, everyone! Another year has nearly passed – a year of eating, drinking, creating, enjoying. Now is the time to put my feet up for once, lol – but not until I finish my holiday shopping 😉

Are you excited about shopping for gifts for friends and family? I love spending hours in small shops, looking for the next big artisan foodie discovery – but sometimes time just passes me by, or I’m way too tired, or I just have to be somewhere else. This is why I have found gift guides to be of great help, and the perfect time-saver. Having experienced their usefulness first-hand, I have decided to put together my own gift guide, in an effort to streamline information on excellent products I’ve come across this past year, and to help passionate foodies in need of gift giving advice.

Here it is below: my gift guide, hot off the press and brimming with thorough reviews and scrumptious pics. Have fun – and happy shopping! πŸ™‚

  • A gift for the spice aficionado/a

You know I’m a big fan of Nielsen-Massey products, so it should come as no surprise that I’m starting off this guide with an overview of their products. Every year Nielsen Massey puts together a holiday bundle of delightful products, and this year makes no exception. The 2019 Holiday Flavors Bundle includes some of their most popular extracts: Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract (which boasts a full, sweet, creamy and mellow flavor with velvety after-tones); Pure Peppermint ExtractΒ (which sports a refreshing vibrant flavor, and is great in both sweet and savory applications); Pure Almond Extract (which provides a sweet, nutty flavor, and is a perfect complement to chocolate, maple and butterscotch).

I recently got the chance to add fresh new bottles of Nielsen Massey’s vanilla and almond extracts to my spice cabinet:

With Nielsen Massey products on hand, making a flawless dessert cannot be easier. Take for example this pumpkin cheesecake, which benefited from the addition of Nielsen Massey’s premium vanilla extract to become the best cheesecake I’ve ever made!

Stay tuned for my full review – and also for a Nielsen Massey giveawayΒ 😉

  • Gifts for the wine connoisseur

Finding quality wines can be a hassle, especially around the holidays. If you’re interested in exploring an impressive display of French and Argentine signature grapes and a melange of tradition and innovation, look no further than to the exquisite wines produced by Bodegas CARO.

Situated in the heart of Argentina’s Mendoza region, Bodegas CARO is a partnership between Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) and the Catena family. The former contributed its centuries-old skills in growing, vinifying and ageing great Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as its know-how in blending different grape varieties. Meanwhile, the Catena family (a four-generation wine producer) was able to draw on its knowledge of the high altitude terroirs of the Mendoza region as well as its passion for Malbec to find the best vineyards in the area.

I tried two of Bodegas CARO’s 2017 wines, and was amazed with their quality. AMANCAYA is based on a harmonious balance between Argentinian identity and Bordeaux style. With its deep ruby color and intense aromas, this wine is an elegant expression of a blend of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon which transcends historical settings and continents.

Meanwhile, Bodegas CARO’s ARUMA is a deep ruby pure Malbec with red fruit aromas. On the palate it is vibrant and slightly spicy, showing a unique balance between acidity, tannins and alcohol, and a long and delicate finish.

The perfect gift this holiday season!

  • Gift for the forever on-the-go coffee lover

If you’re looking for a trendy gift for the coffee lover in your life, I think I have the perfect recommendation for you: the recently launched AeroPress Go from AeroPress. Created by Alan Adler, a renowned inventor and retired Stanford University engineering instructor, the AeroPress coffee maker is a household name and a worldwide phenomenon, encompassing an army of devoted fans and glorious reviews galore. Who here is a fan? I know I am!

The new AeroPress Go produces up to three cups of American-style coffee/cold brew coffee that isΒ  richer, smoother, and lower in acidity than coffee brewed by conventional coffee makers. Indeed, AeroPress yields coffee with only one fifth the acid level of ordinary drip brew, making it not just richer and smoother, but also friendlier to your stomach. Isn’t that great?

The AeroPress Go is optimized for traveling, camping, or just going to work. It is compact, light weight, and durable, and it brews in about a minute for hot coffee and around two minutes for cold brew. After brewing into the included 15 oz. mug, eject the spent coffee grounds into the trash or a compost bin, rinse the plunger for a few seconds, and you are done!

  • Gifts for the book worm and/or resident cook

With cookbook publishing being such a booming business nowadays, I think no foodie gift guide can be complete without cookbook recommendations. The first book I’d like to bring up is Chicago-based Executive Chef Paul Kahan’s Cooking for Good Times. Chef Kahan was awarded the Outstanding Chef title by the James Beard Foundation in 2013, and has received international acclaim for his work in restaurants such as Blackbird, avec, The Publican, Big Star, Publican Quality Meats, Nico Osteria, and Publican Quality Bread, among others.

I got the chance to see Chef Kahan at work recently, when I attended the opening of BlueStar‘s showroom at AbtΒ in Glenview.

Cooking for Good Times shares Chef Kahan’s best secrets for low-stress cooking for friends and family. In every chapter, Kahan provides exciting suggestions to make dishes seem new and innovative. Straightforward recommendations for wine and beer and more than 125 mouth-watering photographs make this cookbook simply irresistible.

I made several of the recipes featured in Cooking for Good Times, including the olive oil cake pictured below, and I highly recommend Chef Kahan’s book. Exciting, vibrant, innovative, visually stunning – what more could a foodie ever want from a cookbook?

If you’re looking for a cookbook to satisfy history buffs, then look no further than to Veronica Hinke’s The Last Night on the Titanic: Unsinkable Drinking, Dining, and Style. I got the chance to attend a reception to celebrate the launch of this book at the sumptuous The Gage a few months back.

In addition to accounts of individual tragedy and survival and captivating stories about select passengers (from millionaires to third class travelers),Β The Last Night on the Titanic offers tried-and-true recipes, and classic cocktails to reproduce the everlasting magical world of dining on the iconic ship.

The book features a rare printed menu from the last first class dinner on the Titanic, drink recipes from John Jacob Astor IV’s luxury hotels (including the original Martini), as well as recipes for Oysters a la Russe, Chicken and Wild Mushroom Vol-au-Vents, and dozens of other dishes for readers to recreate at home.

Scotch eggs is one of the dishes featured in the book which I enjoyed at the book launch, recipe courtesy of The Gage’s Executive Chef Chris Gawronski.

I recreated this recipe at home using delicious Amish duck eggs. The cooking process had many steps and was rather long…

… but the end result was so worth it!

I highly recommend Veronica Hinke’s The Last Night on the Titanic for its depth of research, captivating style, and last but not least delicious recipes. A blast from the past – and what a joy of a textbook!

Last but not least on my gift guide is Bon Appetit magazine’s resident astrologer Catherine Urban‘s Your Astrological Cookbook: the Perfect Recipe for Every Sign.

In Your Astrological Cookbook Catherine Urban walks readers through every sign’s makeup and explains how to cook for both element (qualities of the sign) and modality (the pace of the sign). The book then breaks down 200+ recipes across astrological signs. I was very interested to see what the author had to say about my astrological sign (Leo aka “The Luminous Chef” according to Catherine Urban) and its culinary preferences. Suffice to say, now I know why I’m such a big fan of farro: it’s all written in the stars 😉

Farro with rainbow chard, recipe featured in Catherine Urban’s Your Astrological Cookbook

Reading this book I also understood why my husband (a Virgo aka “The Logical Chef” according to Catherine Urban) is such a lover of cheese-based desserts: these sweets cater to Virgos’ value of simple elegance. Interesting, right? I made the ricotta tart below using raspberries instead of blueberries (we just like raspberries more), and my husband loved it!

I can see how such a cookbook can be a hit especially around the holidays. Author Catherine Urban advises her readers to cook for their own astrological sign, or to use the book judiciously to throw an astrological dinner party and to cater a dish to every guest. What a great idea!

I hope you give some of the items in this gift guide a try. Happy holidays, everyone πŸ™‚

*Disclaimer: While I received complimentary products to facilitate this review, all opinions expressed here are my own.


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