I just took a glance back at my very first post (Gift Guide Numero Uno), almost a year ago to the day. It unsurprisingly confirmed one thing for me -my enthusiasm for all things tasty hasn’t wavered much in the last year . I still want to force feed my favorite foods to friends, and a gift guide is still a much kinder and palatable way of doing so (pun intended, of course). The fact is, I spent a good bulk of this last year trying to have as many new food experiences as possible, discovering along the way all the great edible items out there that people are putting hard work into making. It makes me so happy to share the “fruits” of my labor with you, and for you to share them with other people (or hoard them for yourself – I won’t judge). The holidays are a perfect time for this to happen. So, if you have someone (or two) on your list that loves delicious food, be happy….your holiday shopping just got a heck of a lot easier. I’ve compiled a list (and snapped beauty shots) of my tastiest discoveries of 2014….click on the names for links. Happy shopping!
Okay, so….I freakin’ LOVE Baia pasta. These guys are fighting the good fight in reminding the world that gluten consumption is a damn good thing. Based out of the Bay area, they have crafted some of the tastiest noodles I have had the pleasure of eating. What really sets them apart is their beautiful varieties of cuts – accordions, spinners, and mohawks, oh my! They are 100% organic, and they offer flavored pastas that will really take your homemade pasta dish up a notch or two. I tried their new Ajo & Olio(aka garlic & habanero) flavored pasta for the first time a few months ago, and it was a spicy, garlicky party in my mouth. That pretty much cemented them in the #1 spot as my top pasta provider. It’s worth mentioning that the folks at Baia are super nice….so nice, in fact, that they want to give you guys 15% off your online purchase! Enter CHEWNTELL at checkout, and try not to feel smug you got the best pasta money can buy at a discount.
If there was such a thing as a Chocolate Bar Beauty Contest, Compartes would shut the whole thing down and send the other bars home crying. With some of the prettiest wrappers you’ll ever lay eyes on and an array of uniquely exotic flavors , these bars have both style and substance. Handcrafted in small batches here in the City of Angels, each of these bars feels like you are unwrapping a present sent down from the gods of chocolate. So, your shopping for that choco-lover in your life is pretty much done-zo, and you don’t even have to bother putting a bow on it. With flavors like Donuts and Coffee milk chocolate, Cereal Bowl white chocolate, and Thailand (Ginger & Lemongrass) Dark Chocolate, your biggest problem will be keeping these bars under the tree and out of your mouth.
The fact that I only discovered the magic of smoked salt this year is something I’m almost ashamed to admit publicly. It is, without question, a serious pantry game-changer. Salt is already the #1 most important ingredient in your kitchen, but smoked salt is an awesome and dynamic way to change up your cooking. Avocado toast was the “it” girl of the food world this year, but have you tried it with a sprinkle of smoked salt? Better. Scrambled eggs? Better with smoked salt. Roasted veggies? Better with smoked salt. Hell, I even put it on chocolate chip cookies. There are a ton of different smoked salts out there, varying by which types of wood they are smoked with. After trying extensive “research” my favorite is Summer Smoke salt from Laguna Salt company. It is smoked with pecan, red oak, alder, cherry, hickory, maple, and mesquite woods. Apparently that’s a truly winning combo – so you can put that in your dish and smoke it!
Here’s one I highly doubt you will find on any other gift guide out there….dates. Not just any dates, though – the BEST dates you will EVER have in your life. Yeah, I know that’s a bold statement, but I have witnessed these particular dates convert date-haters into date-lovers. For those who don’t know, I spend a lot of time scouring farmer’s markets in the LA area, sampling every possible bit of produce I can. One Wednesday I came across an unassuming stand in Santa Monica, and what happened took me by surprise . What looked like an average, everyday date crossed my lips and changed my life. It was lovingly grown by the folks at Flying Disc Ranch in the Coachella Valley, who use eco-dynamic farming practices. Don’t know what that means? That will have to be a whole ‘nother post (and it’s worth knowing!). They carry several amazing varieties, but the ones I have in mind are the Zahidi and Barhi dates. They are pillowy, buttery bites of sun-fed happiness. If you don’t want to just take my word for it, Martha Stewart and Alain Ducasse (a fancy French chef) are both fans. The little sweet buttery babes are just $5 & $8 a pound. The important thing to believe is that I want to be your foodie matchmaker, and this is one blind date you can count on ending well.
I have a LOT of cookbooks, and I love each one of them so much it practically warrants a DSM-IV diagnosis (that’s some mental health humor for those of you unfamiliar ). This cookbook came out two months ago, and I have barely been able to stay out of the kitchen since. I dare say no other cookbook has ever been as inspiring to me….the photos are absolutely beautiful, and recipes are filled with gorgeous flavors and ingredients. The fact that it is vegetarian is a minor detail overshadowed by the beauty of the dishes (and let’s face it, we ALL need to be eating more vegetables). This is truly a wonderful gift for that person in your life who loves to cook (and hopefully they have an Amazon prime account or a Whole Foods nearby….there are some amazing exotic ingredients involved). So order away, and plan on “randomly” dropping by around dinner time, all the time.
Happy and delicious holidays to you all!