Thursday, December 9, 2010

Gimme, Gimme, Gimme

Blue Christmas – Miles Davis & Bob Dorough

            It’s about 2 weeks before Christmas.  By now, many of you have had it with the crowded malls, the whiny children, the angry mom and the exasperated dad.  Well, Omnieater is going to make it easy for you.  I have compiled a gift list for those foodies with an environmental conscience – all available via the Internet.  Some are foodie gifts.  Some are environmentally conscious gifts.  Some are both. Mainly, these are gifts that I would want, and didn’t someone say that the gifts that you would want make the best gifts for others?  Or did I just make that up?  Either way, they are all great gifts regardless of the occasion. (And yes, I do apologize for being too late for the Hanukkah revelers.  I won’t do that next year.  I promise.)   Happy virtual window-shopping!

For the Wannabe Molecular Gastronomist:
            Did you ever want to make liquid olives?  Foaming to make caramel foam? Spaghetti strands from soup?  For the Dr. Frankenstein in your kitchen, this stuff has the basic equipment and chemicals to amaze your kids and possibly horrify your parents for Christmas or New Year’s dinner.  I’ve already ordered one.  I can’t wait to play! 
Molecular Gastronomy Pack - $69.99 (it’s on sale right now for $59.99)

For the Foodie Voyeur That Doesn’t Cook:
            Or the coffee table book.  This year has some fantastic cooking books.  With the exception of Modernist Cuisine (which won’t even be delivered for the Holidays – preorder for shipping in March - 2011), all are affordable and easily ordered through Amazon.  Just because you can’t cook, doesn’t mean you can’t look.

Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking.  By Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young and Maxime Bilet - $475.00 (Your eyes are not deceiving you.)
            This book promises to set THE standard regarding new cooking techniques from food superstars such as Heston Blumenthal, Ferran Adrià, David Chang, Grant Achatz and Wylie Dufresne.  Five volumes of food geekiness, this book should be the 21st century version of Escoffier.  All the answers to the who, what, when, where and why of cooking are deconstructed and explained.  You will win every round of Foodie Trivial Pursuit.

NOMA: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine.  By René Redzepi - $32.97
            On the relatively “cheap end” is the NOMA cookbook.  Named the #1 restaurant by San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurant, NOMA Bulli’ed (get it?) its way to the top.  The food is outstanding.  The pictures are pure food porn.  Can’t get to Copenhagen?  Make a vicarious trip with this book.  Caveat Emptor – Unless you have a chemistry lab in your house, you won’t be able to make most of these dishes.  But if you don’t cook, it doesn’t matter anyway.

Momofuku.  By David Chang and Peter Meehan – $26.40
            This book was published late last year, but I don’t care.  I heart David Chang.  Chef/owner of several eponymously named restaurants as well as Momofuku Milk, a dessert bar (e.g. Crack Pie and Compost Cookies), Chang has re-written the rules of Asian fusion cuisine.  Kim-chi butter? Heritage pork buns? Chicken wings fried in duck fat with Korean chili paste?  Oh, there’s also a ramen recipe.  But it’s not just the food – Chang is a character.  He doesn’t have the belle letters quality of an Anthony Bourdain, but he is definitely entertaining.  Peter Meehan of the New York Times makes sure it stays clean enough for the kids.

For the Person That Actually Does Cook:
In the Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn By Heart.  By Alice Waters – $18.48
            If you don’t know Alice Waters by now, you should.  She is the chef/owner of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California and one of the seminal founders of the Slow Food movement in the USA. Through her restaurant, foundation and “Edible Schoolyard” program, she has advocated for a food system and economy that is “good, clean, and fair.”  And as if she wasn’t virtuous enough, she is a 3-star Michelin worthy chef.  If Jesus were a chef, she’d be it.  
This book is adapted from a Slow Food Nation even in which national chefs (Thomas Keller, Lidia Bastianich, etc.) demonstrated basic cooking techniques and recipes using local and seasonal ingredients.  In other words, you can make every single recipe in this book, learn something and feel good:  all the profits of this book go to her “Edible Schoolyard” program at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Berkeley.  Go buy it already!

Mastering the Art of French Cooking (2 Volumes).  By Julia Child - $51.48
            Another one of those books that every serious cook should own.  If you are merely acquainted with the Meryl Streep “Julia Child,” you need to get clued in.  Child, the wife of a French diplomat post-WWII, took classes at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, and never looked back. While many know her from the acclaimed public television series, The French Cook (1963-1973), her first experience with cooking fame with the first volume of the Mastering of the Art of French Cooking in 1961.  Before Child, French cooking was a mystery.  With careful attention to detail and a certain joie de vivre, Child demystified the culinary techniques of French cooking for non-professional cooks. The two volume series is nearly 50 years old, and it still remains relevant.  From croissants to saucisse, it’s all there. A must have for ANY cook.

The New Best Recipe: All New Edition.  By Cook’s Illustrated Magazine - $23.10
            Want to know what cooking 50 pounds of salmon is like?  Welcome to the world of Cook’s Illustrated.  Cook’s Illustrated magazine is one of the only periodicals that accept NO advertisements.  The premise is that ads compromise the editorial objectivity of the cooking staff, thus any of their product or recipe reviews can be trusted over their commercial counterparts. They attack each recipe as if it was a science project and the results speak for themselves.   I mean who else has the patience to go through 300 pounds of cookie-dough batter to find the perfect combination?  I don’t and cooks everywhere should be glad that they did.  Even if you disagree with their assessment, they at least have given you a leg up.  As Newton said, “ I have seen further standing on the shoulder of giants.”  With well over 1,000 tested recipes, be glad that your giants are Cook’s Illustrated.

For Gadget Royalty:
            I love toys.  Here are some of the ones on the market right now that are worth your trouble.

Bruleeing it?  You need a torch.  It also is handy for toasting marshmallows and making that nice cheesy crust on a bowl of French onion soup.  Just make sure someone responsible is around…

            Whip-It.  Whip-it-good.  Get a cream whipper and some N2O (Nitrous Oxide) and you are ready for foam-o-rific action.  If you’re aiming for a shaving cream fight, this is your Uzi.

            Everyone needs a kitchen thermometer.  From roasts to candy, a thermometer is crucial in determining the readiness of foods, especially if you are deep-frying, roasting or candy making.  It’s cheap and it will be more helpful than you realize.  You will never screw up tempering chocolate again.

            This is the best hand-held grater there is out there.  Originally used for carpentry, some genius figured out it was also good for the kitchen too.  Garlic, nutmeg, cheese – no match for this little guy.  The box grater is best for multi-purpose use.

            Just because it’s cool.  This takes any hard candy and spins it into cotton candy.  Tamarind-chili cotton candy?  Here I come.

            Can’t measure your pastry dough thickness?  I can’t, but this roller takes out the guesswork.  It has removable disks on the side ensuring that you will always have a uniform thickness.  No more lumpy dough.

For the Green at Heart:

CSA Memberships – CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  It’s as local and green as it gets.  You pay in a certain sum and you get fresh produce.  It’s that simple.  To find your local CSA, go to

            Approximately 2.9 million tons of plastic are used for bottled water.  Just ditch the damn thing and get a reusable container.  This bottle is BPA (Bisphenol-A, an estrogenic compound) – Free, and even better, 100% of the profits go to, and organization providing clean water access around the globe. 

            OK – Not exactly a stocking stuffer, but this is completely worth it.  Out of the 4.85 billion tons of trash we earthlings throw out each day, approximately 70% of it can be composted.  Get a composter, and you will start giving back to the earth what it gave you.  This composter is great because the spherical shape allows for minimum heat loss and faster decomposition rates, meaning you won’t have to wait around all year for your compost.  Another bonus – your neighbors will swear aliens have landed in your yard.

            Packaged fresh herbs.  A waste on all levels, considering how easy it is to grow your own.  With this little pot, you don’t even have to water.  Black thumbs rejoice.

For the Dude:

Beef Jerky – $9.00 for a 2 oz. bag.
            Have your beef and eat it too.  The Korean-style jerky is made with grass fed beef.  Why didn’t I think of that?

For the Ones That Are Too Cheap to Buy Decent Knives:

Kyocera Ceramic Knives - $24.95 - $299.95 (Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma, and other dealers)
            They don’t need to be sharpened – ‘nuff said. (Helps that Oprah loves them.)

Victorinox 8-inch Chef’s Knife - $29.99 (Same sources as above)
            This knife is a workhorse.  It has been consistently rated a best buy by Cook’s Illustrated, Consumer Reports, and a gazillion other cooking magazines.  It does all the things the fancy German knives do at a fraction of the price.   If you really want to go upscale, move up to the professional knives, because the mid-range are not just worth it. (For the record, I use Shun knives.  I love them, but they are pricey.  Mine will be buried with me when I die.)

Because I’m Worth It:

Utlravac 250 Vacuum Chamber Packing Machine - $4600.00 
            Food Saver just got schooled.
Polyscience Sous Vide Professional - $799.95
            What’s the point of having a kick-ass vacuum sealer if you can’t sous vide?
Freeze-Dryer - $2,000 to $20,000
            I won’t have to go to the Air and Space museum anymore for astronaut food.
Pacojet - $3,450
            Because I like the name and I really like ice cream.

There you have it.  Now if I only could win the lottery….

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