The best holiday gifts, we’d like to think, are food gifts. Not just gifts you could eat or drink, but gifts that improve your life through food in some tangible way. This year, The Takeout has assembled a roster of gift ideas that we think will improve the well-being of the recipient: Spicier, sillier, classier, smarter, even stinkier (in the best kind of culinary way). Remember, it’s better to give than to receive. Gift generously, friends.
How can a bottle of Tabasco be worth $34.95? Trust us. When Tabasco created its special Diamond Reserve Pepper Sauce for the company’s 150th anniversary, it pulled out all the stops, selecting from “the finest tabasco peppers on Avery Island,” and aged for as much as 15 years. The luxurious sauce received an A grade from us when it was first released, then sold out and wound up going for as much as $2,500 on eBay. This second release has just over 5,000 bottles left at this writing. So you can give this to your favorite hot sauce fan as an investment opportunity at the very least.
How to get: $34.95 from the Country Store section on Tabasco’s website
For the Oreo lover in your life (so, everyone), Oreo has released a teeny-tiny little record player that plays Oreos. Actually, it’s really a music box, equipped with White Fudge Oreos and Oreo Thins in a fancy holiday tin, that plays different songs with different cookies, all for
a mere $99 on Amazon whatever a third-party wants to sell it to you for. The tunes even change once you take a bite out of one of the cookies. You can also record a cheerful message for that dormrat cousin, like, “Put down the bong and start studying for finals.”
How to get: $99 from Amazon
Toast is usually a rather bland affair. No longer! Spice up your mornings with the Selfie Toaster from Burnt Impressions. Just send the company whatever image file you choose, and Burnt Impressions will send you back a plate to insert into the special toaster of your lucky gift recipient (maybe with a picture of yourself to inspire that special someone?). As the website itself says, “any face on your toast… or your bread back,” starting at $75. Hey, it’s personalized toast, and there are only about 200 left for this holiday season, so get on it, vain breakfast lovers! Toaster with the face of Jesus also available.
How to get: $75 and up from Burnt Impressions
I’ll let you in on a beer secret: You really only need one, simple bottle opener in your life. All those complicated, gadget-y versions don’t look half as good or function nearly as well as a well-constructed classic does. So, ditch the half-drawer full of plastic and replace it with the Manual Bar Blade, made of stainless steel and leather from Chicago-based Horween Leather, and produced entirely in the U.S.A. The handle is designed to wear into a soft patina over time, making it the rare practical gift that gets better with age. Pair it with your favorite beer for maximum gift-giving effect.
How to get: $35 from Manual Goods
The “Champagne Of Beers” finally gets its proper package this season, as MillerCoors expanded distribution of the wine-style bottles nationwide. Lest you think this is a just a silly white elephant gift, allow me to counter: Every holiday party needs some yellow, fizzy beer. Count on the other guests to bring homemade eggnog or vintage cabernets, while as the holiday party rages on, you emerge as the hero who brought the light, bubbly beer everyone wants as a refresher. And just try and find a better hostess gift for a New Year’s Eve party.
How to get: $3.49, available at national retailers while supplies last
The Cook’s Illustrated cookbook, from the team behind America’s Test Kitchen, is the one cookbook I turn to most often, its pages splattered and batter-smudged with loving use. I would expect the kids’ cookbook from ATK to have the same effect on aspiring cooks: Inspiring not just a confidence in executing delicious recipes but encouraging them to build foundational kitchen skills. With more than 100 recipes and 300 photos, this primer promises to get kids interested in cooking the foods they like to eat: Pesto Flatbread Pizza, Monkey Bread, Fudgy Chocolate Mug Cakes.
How to get: $13.99 from America’s Test Kitchen or from your favorite bookstore.
After some initial skepticism because we’re luddites, we’ve become full-throated proselytizers of the Instant Pot—one of the rare kitchen gizmos that deserves making space on our counter. Instant Pot’s Aura Pro model isn’t a pressure cooker, but trades in the rapid-cooking functionality for something we’re excited to see in a sub-$150 appliance: a sous vide function. The 8-quart stainless steel cooking vessel can be set to hold water at a specific temperature, which allows for food in vacuum-sealed bags to be cooked through to your exact doneness. Unlike the more popular stick immersion circulators, the Aura Pro can’t be set to a fraction of a degree (only to whole numbers), but this is of no concern unless you’re cooking like J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. For the rest of us mere kitchen mortals, this is a terrific and affordable foray into sous vide cooking—and oh, it also slow-cooks stews, makes yogurt, roasts meats, and whips up some beautifully fluffy rice, too.
How to get: $149.95 from Amazon or anywhere that sells better appliances.
Books about fermenting stuff
Our relationship with food has only become more granular, and we mean this literally. The last few year saw the release of a number of fantastic books for the home cook about improving food through chemistry—namely the exploration of fermentation via vinegars, kombuchas, sourdoughs, or salt-cures. What makes these books great gift is they’re not just a collection of daunting recipes. These books are chock full of practicality—spend a Sunday afternoon making your own vinegars or leavened starters and they’ll yield dividends for weeks, maybe even years. We particularly loved The Noma Guide to Fermentation, a book authoritative enough for the professional chef and gorgeous enough for your coffee table.
How to get: Ferment: A Guide to the Ancient Art of Culturing Foods, from Kombucha to Sourdough, The Noma Guide to Fermentation, and House of Vinegar: The Power of Sour are available from your favorite bookstore.