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TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Shpickles Pickled Vegetables, Shmolives Pickled Olives

Last summer, when scouting a Brooklyn food festival, we came across Shpickles, Shmolives and Shnuts. They’re made by hand by a mom-and-son company called Brooklyn Whatever.

Mom, a social worker and son, a chef, started a family business to add more flavor to pickles, olives and nuts. The result: unique, assertively spiced, better-for-you snacks, garnishes, or for a relish tray.

Or for gifts. We can’t think of a better house gift for hosts, combining flavor and fun. Shpickles and Shmolives will be our go-to house gifts for the forseable future.

The line is all natural and certified kosher by Rabbi Dovid Chaoi. Shpickles and Shmolives are free of dairy, gluten, soy, sugar and wheat, making them vegan as well.
 
SHPICKLES: PICKLED VEGETABLES

Other companies make great pickle cucumbers. Brooklyn Whatever has started out with other pickled vegetables:

  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower & Beets
  • Jalapeño Peppers
  • Kale Slaw
  • Okra
  • String Beans
  •  
    We can’t choose favorites here: We like them all. And we feel so good about eating them: So much flavor, so few calories.
     
    SHMOLIVES: SPICED OLIVES

    Shmolives is a blend of seven different olives, marinated in a “secret mix” of herbs and spices that adhere to the olives, giving you a mouthful of zing with each bite.

    Made by hand in small batches “the old way”—stirring to coat the olives with wood spoons—they are a must for any olive lover.
     
    SHNUTS: SPICED NUTS

    Shnuts are a mix of almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans and walnuts—no peanuts.

    They’re sweet and savory: herbs and spices with a touch of brown sugar. Made with all natural ingredients, filled with “good fat,” a handful is a healthful snack.

    HEALTH NOTES: The USDA-approved heart-healthy nuts are almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts. These nuts contain less than 4g of saturated fats per 50g. Walnuts have the highest amount of the heart-healthy alpha linolenic acid, which many studies show lowers total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) levels.

    As with Shpickles and Shmolives, Shnuts are prepared by hand, roasted twice and flavored to perfection: the perfect “shnack.”

     

    Shpickles Brussels Sprouts

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    A sampling of Shpickles: Brussels Sprouts, Carrots and Cauliflower & Beets.

     
    Shpickles are $10 per 15-ounce jar, Shmolives are $15 per 15-ounce jar. Shnuts are not yet on the website, but should be there soon.

    Get yours at BrooklynWhatever.com.

    Plan ahead for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gifting.

    Not to mention green gifting for St. Patrick’s Day, with Shpickles Brussels Sprouts, Jalapeños, Kale Slaw, Okra and String Beans.

      

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    VALENTINE’S DAY: Sweets We’d Like To Receive

    If you’re on the hunt for Valentine chocolate, you probably don’t have to hunt too hard. Even our drugstore looks like a chocolate shop.

    But here are some yummy items we enjoy, year after year.

    CHOCOLATE CHERRIES FROM CHOCLATIQUE

    Most of us grew up hoping to get the chocolate covered cherry in the box of mixed chocolates. At Choclatique, you can get an entire box of cherries!

    These are not the overly-sweet chocolate cherries of our youth. They are Grade A maraschino cherries that are marinated and then wrapped in a white chocolate-butter ganache. Next, they’re enrobed in premium dark chocolate shells (64% cacao).

    The bonbons are allowed to to cure, so that the ganache centers liquefy. The result is a delicate liquid center with just a touch of white chocolate ganache—and a memorable chocolate cherry.

    The chocolates are all natural and you can pick either a bright red ribbon for Valentine’s Day.

  • 12 Piece Box, $30.00
  • 24 Piece Box, $50.00
  •  
    CHOCOLATE CARAMEL CRISP FROM GARRETT POPCORN

    Garrett Popcorn, known for its high quality popcorn gift tins, has two suggestions for Valenetine’s Day:

  • Lover’s Mix, a combination of Dark Chocolate Covered Caramel Crisp and regular Caramel Crisp. Note to caramel corn lovers: This regular Caramel Crisp is the best caramel corn you can buy, with a “burnt caramel” flavor that’s so much better than the ubiquitous one-dimensional sweet corns out there.
  • Spicy CheeseCorn, for those who prefer spicy to sweet. We’ve also recommended this corn for the Super Bowl. It’s a perfect blend of cheese and spice.
  •  
    Tins start at $39 for a one gallon and $69 for 2 gallons. The one gallon pink tin of Lover’s Mix is $47.

    Order yours at GarrettPopcorn.com.
     
    CLASSIC CHOCOLATES FROM LI-LAC

    Li-Lac Chocolates is one of our favorite munching grounds. This chocolate shop specializes in old-fashioned chocolates of top quality—the kind it’s become hard to find.

    Take a look at the choices at Li-LacChocolates.com.

       
    Chocolate Covered Cherries

    Chocolate Caramel Popcorn

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    Top: Gourmet chocolate cherries from Choclatique. Middle and bottom: Lover’s Mix and the Valentine tin from Garrett Popcorn.

     
    Whether a mixed box of chocolates or an entire box of our favorite chocolate-covered marzipan rolls, we hope our Valentine reads this message. (Please send both!)

    The chocolates are certified kosher.
     
    For those looking for kosher chocolate, LakeChamplainChocolates.com is another favorite chocolatier. Let us emphasize that, kosher or not, these to companies make excellent chocolates.
     
    MORE FAVORITE CHOCOLATES

    We’re happy with anything from John & Kira’s or Burdick Chocolate, two of America’s great artisan chocolatiers.

     

    Gimbal's Chocolate Cherry Chews

    Cherry Chews from Gimbal’s are available in
    several sizes, and are very affordable if you
    like to give something to many friends.

     

    CHERRY CHEWS FROM GIMBAL’S

    For something fun, affordable and not chocolate, try Gimbal’s Cherry Chews. They’re all natural and made with real cherry juice. They were created to have a cherry shape, but as you can see in the photo, they also resemble Valentine hearts.

    And they also double as celebratory sweets for George Washington’s Birthday.

    Bags in several sizes start at $1.39 to give out to friends and colleagues. A 38-ounce jar is just $13.99.

    Get them at GimbalsCandy.com.

     

      

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    VALENTINE’S DAY: Low Calorie & No Calorie Gifts

    Keurig Pantone Red Brewer

    Rick's Picks Assortment

    Top: The Keurig 2.0 H200, which makes single cups as well as carafes. Bottom: Rick’s Picks: Great flavor, few calories.

     

    As you eye the sea of Valentine chocolates, what can you get for loved ones who can’t have (or don’t care for) chocolate?

    Some people don’t want the calories, others can’t have the caffeine or the sugar, and rarely, a few are allergic to chocolate.

    For those who avoid caffeine and chocolate, there are scrumptious macarons, artisan (“gourmet”) marshmallows, creamy fudge, fine red licorice and other confections. But they’re still packed with sugar.

    But what if you need to avoid the sugar entirely?

    There’s sugar-free candy, but it’s pretty unexciting. Here are what we’d like to get for Valentine’s Day.
     
    FOR COFFEE LOVERS: KEURIG 2.0 K200 SINGLE CUP BREWER

    This new model comes in seven colors, including red for your Valentine. It not only brews a single cup, but a 4-cup carafe, with a single touch.

    There’s a separate setting for specialty beverages such as chai, hot cocoa and mochas. And with more than 500 varieties of coffee, tea, specialty beverages and iced beverages, your Valentine has lots of choices.

    The carafe is sold separately; you can also add a Valentine mug (something with hearts?) to express your affection.

    Get yours at Keurig.com. The list price is $109.99.

    If you don’t want to spend that much, head to the nearest housewares department and get a red water bottle or red implements—spatulas, slotted spoons, etc.—to fill a Valentine mug.

     
    FOR PICKLE LOVERS: RICK’S PICKS PICKLE CLUB

    Good pickles are on our list of yummy foods with few calories.

    One of America’s great pickle makers offers a club that delivers four varieties, four times a year. The club is $ 199.95, including shipping.

    There’s also a Top-Seller Pack, $ 48.95, and a Rick’s Picks Sampler for $64.95.

    Order yours at RicksPicks.com.

    For a less expensive gift, head to your nearest fine market or specialty food store, pick up a single jar of Rick’s Picks, and tie a red ribbon around the neck.
     
    NOT INTO PICKLES? TRY STRAWBERRIES

    If your Valentine prefers sweet to tangy, consider Edible Arrangements or create your own strawberry basket. Look for the biggest, freshest strawberries, find a lovely small basket, and don’t forget the red bow!

     

    FOR SODA DRINKERS: SODASTREAM SPLASH PLAY

    There are red SodaStream machines that make calorie-free sodas and flavored waters. The brand has recently released a new machine, the Sodastream Splash Play, designed by Yves Béhar, a Swiss designer and sustainability expert.

    It carbonates water with touch button activation as well as quick snap-lock bottle insertion. It requires no electricity. It has a small footprint.

    Not only is it fun; it saves you from hauling home bottles of soda, and from tossing the empties into the landfill.

    For calorie counters and water enthusiasts, SodaStream also has a new line of waters, made with all natural sweeteners and colors, called Sparkling Gourmet. It has chef-inspired flavors, including Green Apple Cucumber, Blackcurrant Lime, Coriander Apple Blossom, and Lime Basil. All with 45 calories per 8-ounce serving.

     

    Sodastream Play

    Give a Sodastream in Valentine Red.

     
    There are also calorie-free flavored water options, and plenty of diet sodas.

    AND, if you own a Sodastream, you know that there are two different sizes of carbon dioxide tanks for different models, and they aren’t interchangeable. The Splash Play can use either of them! Bravo, Sodastream.

    Get yours at Sodastream.com. It’s $79.99.

      

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    VALENTINE’S DAY: Chocolate Stout, Sriracha Stout & Moonstruck Beer Chocolates

    Rogue Chocolate Stout

    Special chocolate craft brews for your
    Valentine. Photo courtesy Rogue Ales.

     

    Here’s what to get a beer-loving Valentine: two stouts created specifically for the occasion and some hot stuff.

  • Rogue Chocolate Stout, with a special Valentine-red label on a 750 ml bottle, is Rogue’s platinum award-winning Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout (one of the highest rated stouts in the world), infused with Dutch chocolate.
  • Rogue Double Chocolate Stout is an amplification of its Chocolate Stout, with big, rich flavors of chocolate, rolled oats, and honey. The 750ml bright red bottle is only available through the end of February.
  • Sriracha Hot Stout. If your Valentine prefers heat to chocolate, look for Rogue Sriracha Hot Stout. The only beer officially sanctioned by Huy Fong Foods (makers of the original Sriracha “Rooster” Hot Sauce) the heat is back for a limited time. Ebony-hued, with rich notes of caramelized malts and warm, slow burn on the finish, it’s also in a bright red bottle.
  • Special Stout Glass. To enhance the stout experience, Rogue collaborated with Spiegelau to create a special stout glass. Expertly crafted, it was designed to accentuate the roasted malt and rich coffee and chocolate notes of Rogue stouts.
  •  

    There’s more information at Rogue.com.

     

    CHOCOLATE BEER TRUFFLES

    Oregon’s Moonstruck Chocolate collaborated with top Oregon craft brewers to develop a superb beer truffle collection.

    The chocolate truffles are rich, nutty sweet, dark and intense, and fresh and hoppy, depending on the beer. Each 12-pack collection features three each of:

  • Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter Truffle
  • Full Sail Brewing Co. IPA Truffle
  • Rogue Ales Hazelnut Brown Nectar Truffle
  • Widmer Brother’s Brewing Hefeweizen Truffle
  •  
    Get yours at MoonstruckChocolate.com.

     

    Beer Truffles

    Beer truffles from Moonstruck Chocolate. Yes, they’re shaped like corks.

     

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Soulfully Sweet Great Gluten-Free Cookies

    If you’re looking for a great gluten-free cookie, look no further than Soulfully Sweet.

    You can tell that many, many test batches were baked to find the magic mixture that makes these cookies taste so good.

    With the right mix of ingredients and technique, you can’t tell that baked goods are gluten free. Soulfully Sweet has pulled this off, creating crunchy, very flavorful cookies that easily pass for conventional gourmet cookies.

    The best ingredients are not inexpensive, so don’t be dismayed that a box of eight cookies (2-1/2 inches in diameter) is $10.99, and you’ll want all eight flavors. They are a find for the cookie-lover on a gluten-free diet. Once you taste them, you’ll be happy to give up something else to fit them into your budget.

    We loved every one of the eight flavors:

  • Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Chocolate Chip Toasted Pecan Cookies
  • Double Chocolate Cookies For Chocoholics
  • Molasses Ginger Cookies With Spice Infusion
  • Oatmeal Cookies With Cherries & Chocolate Chips
  • Oatmeal Raisin Cookies With Toasted Walnuts
  • Orange Cookies With Pistachio & Cranberry Chunks & Orange Essence
  • Peanut Butter Cookies With A Peanut Avalanche
  •  
    In addition to gluten-free, the ingredients are non-GMO, mostly organic* and “virtually” soy-free. The cookies are preservative free and all natural.
     
    A taste is worth a thousand words, so head to SoulfullySweet.com and indulge your cookie passion.
    __________________________________
    *The combination of gluten-free and organic ingredients is often hard to find and very pricey when you do find it. The cookies range from 84% to 90% organic ingredients. This brand doesn’t cut back on the absolute best-tasting gluten-free ingredients, and that, plus the small batch artisanal production, is why the cookies are so expensive.

     

    Gluten Free Cookies

    Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Gluten Free Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Soulfully Sweet cookies in three of the eight flavors: Molasses Ginger, Chocolate Chip and Double Chocolate Chip. Photos courtesy Soulfully Sweet.

     

      

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    GIFTS: Last Minute Gifts

    Still in need of a holiday gift? Here are three for food lovers, in the form of electronic gift certificates (e-gift cards), quickly emailed from the companies’ websites.

    GOURMET CHOCOLATE GIFT CERTIFICATE

    We love to give Chocomize gift certificates. They enable the recipient to customize their own chocolate bars with a choice of scores of different add-ons.

    There are also boxes of bonbons, macarons and hot-chocolate-on-a-spoon, that that makes hot chocolate when swirled into milk.

    Gift certificates are available from $10 to $500 at Chocomize.com.

     
    GOURMET HOUSEWARES

    At Sur La Table, e-gift cards are available from $10 to $500. Head to SurLaTable.com. E-cards are emailed five times daily. If you want to send a conventional card, it takes 5-7 days.

    You can do the same at Williams-Sonoma.

    At both stores, e-gift cards can be used for purchases online, in-store or by phone.

    Plan ahead and you can add your own custom photo to a conventional gift card at Williams-Sonoma.

     

    Gift Card Sur La Table

    Chocomize Gift Card

    Go online and send e-gift cards (typically, a photo of a gift card gets e-mailed). Top photo: SurLaTable. Bottom photo: Chocomize.

     
    GOURMET RECIPE COLLECTION

    For someone who loves to cook, AllMyChefs.com is a new gastronomy site with recipes from more than 50 renowned French chefs. Alain Ducasse, Pierre Hermé, Paul Bocuse, Daniel Boulud and Eric Ripert are just some of the top toques represented.

    The chefs share their secret recipes, tips and personal favorites.

    Subscriptions are $4.95/month; you can give a gift subscription, 1 year $59.90 or 6 months for $34.90. There’s also a 15-day free trial if you want to try it yourself.

    Head to AllMyChefs.com; the gift subscription tab is at the top right.

      

    Comments

    GIFTS: Food Books

    For hard-to-buy-for people, a book in an area of their interest is something we fall back upon. Sometimes it’s a combination gift: a book about Champagne, for example, along with a bottle of it, a book on Cognac with a set of snifters, and so on.

    Here we highlight books that would be welcome to people with specific food passions.

    CHEESE

    A Year In Cheese, A Seasonal Cheese Cookbook applies the seasonal eating approach to cheese. It was written by Alex and Léo Guarneri, the team behind the renowned Parisian artisan cheese shop and cheese restaurant, Androuet (established in Paris in 1909 and now in the Old Spitalfields Market in London).

    What’s seasonal depends on the grazing cycle of the animal and what they graze on at which time of year. The recipes from chef Alessandro Grano are tantalizing.

     
    CHOCOLATE

    Tracy Zabar celebrates the chocolate chip cookie in Chocolate Chip Sweets: Celebrated Chefs Share Favorite Recipes. Chefs such as Dominique Ansel, Lidia Bastianich, Florian Bellanger, Daniel Boulud, Maida Heatter, Thomas Keller, Pichet Ong, Jacques Torres, Sherry Yard and other top chefs share their favorite recipes. Brownies, cakes, doughnuts, ice cream sandwiches, marshmallows, pies, puddings, waffles and more get the chocolate chip treatment.

    Who could resist this book?

    For people who appreciate fine chocolate, cookbooks from chocolatiers are always very interesting. No one knows chocolate more intimately, or can envision new ways to use it. This year’s chocolatier-authored cookbook is Theo Chocolate Recipes and Sweet Secrets From Seattle’s Favorite Chocolate Maker.

    The authors, Debra Music and Joe Whinney, principals of Theo, worked with leading chefs to develop the more than 75 recipes in this book. They encompass chocolate for breakfast, cookies, cakes, confections, drinking chocolate, frozen desserts and dessert sauces, savory dishes, pies, puddings and tarts. Where to begin? We started with the Chocolate Bread Pudding.

     
    SPECIAL INGREDIENTS

    The next book is for cooks who seek out different ingredients. For anyone who’s bought a bottle of fish sauce for a particular Asian recipe, the challenge is what else to do with it. Open condiments decline over time, so you don’t want to tuck it out of sight. There are also plenty of home cooks who have decided not to buy a bottle for the same reasons.

       

    A Year In Cheese Book

    Chocolate Chip Sweets Book

    Fish Sauce Cookbook

     
    In The Fish Sauce Cookbook, 50 Umami-Packed Recipes From Around The Globe, Veronica Meewes has consulted with prominent chefs on using fish sauce as a key seasoning with popular American ingredients. This is the first cookbook to focus on fish sauce, and you can package it with a other fish sauces: naam plaa from Thailand, nuoc mam from Vietnam and numerous others.

    Among those others is colatura di alici, a modern representation of garum, the fish sauce favored by the ancient Romans. Worcestershire sauce is is made with anchovy, a recipe brought back to England by a ship’s captain Captain and first sold commercially in 1837.

    GENERAL COOKING

    For the aspirational home cook, Mastering Sauces: The Home Cook’s Guide to New Techniques for Fresh Flavors will be a welcome addition to the cookbook shelf.

    Taking a different approach from classic French and other sauce cookbooks, Susan Volland demonstrates how great cooks all over the world make sauces with impromptu drizzling and splashing. She provides the fundamental principles of great sauces: maximize flavor, manipulate texture and season confidently. Thus armed, you can add your own flair to any sauce.

    There are more than 150 recipes that focus on seasonal produce, international ingredients and alternative dietary choices. She goes over the how’s and why’s of making great sauces. And at the end of it all, she provides a list of remedies for those attempts that don’t come out to your expectations.

    Then there’s The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science. Kenji Lopez-Alt focuses on the science behind popular American dishes, providing easy-to-understand explanations of the interactions between heat, energy, and molecules that create great food. He shows that often, conventional methods don’t work that well, and home cooks can achieve far better results using simple new techniques.

    But it’s also a cookbook, with hundreds of easy-to-make recipes and 1,000 full-color images. you will find out how to make foolproof Hollandaise sauce in just two minutes, how to transform one simple tomato sauce into a half dozen dishes, how to make the crispiest, creamiest potato casserole ever conceived, and much more.

     

    Mastering Sauces Cookbook

    The United States Of Pizza

    Complete Guide To Sushi & Sashimi

       
    FRIES

    For people who love really good French Fries, Anne de la Forest’s handsome if slender volume, Frites, spans traditional, trendy, creative and yes, sweet fries recipes. The more than 30 recipes are half potato recipes, and half “other.” The other includes fries made from asparagus, beet, black radish, butternut squash, carrot, celeriac, Comté cheese, eggplant, feta, kohlrabi, panisse (chickpea paste), parsnip, polenta, pumpkin, salsify, sweet potato, turnip, and zucchini.

    The sweet fries include apple, banana, pain perdu (French toast), pear and sweet potato. Savory or sweet, there are recommendations for dipping sauces and recipes for them, too. For those with reaching palates, this book is an inspiration.
     
    PIZZA

    Award-winning Executive Chef & Pizza Connoisseur, Craig Priebe, brings us The United States of Pizza: America’s Favorite Pizzas, from Thin Crust to Deep Dish, Sourdough to Gluten-Free. Chef Craig Priebe has scoured the country to present recipes forthe tastiest pies, from classics to semi-modern (smoked ham and cheddar) to of-the-moment (roasted cauliflower and salsa verde).

    With beautiful photography, it gives the pizza lover a perspective on what’s happening nationwide, and the recipes to make those pies!

    For people who love pizza and have a barbecue grill, there’s Grilled Pizza The Right Way: The Best Technique for Cooking Incredible Tasting Pizza & Flatbread on Your Barbecue Perfectly Chewy & Crispy Every Time. It was written by John Delpha, a 10-time award winner of the Jack Daniel’s BBQ Championship Grilling and BBQing Awards. He’s been grilling pizzas for 20 years.

    Although a paperback, all the recipient will notice are the beautiful photos of grilled pizza. Each recipe includes the technique required to master it. Every type of pizza is represented: brunch, classic, cross-border, dessert, fish and seafood, flatbreads, meat, veggie and “the masqueraders,” favorite sandwiches converted to pizza.

    We want to eat every one of them.
     
    SUSHI & SASHIMI

    We’ve eaten sushi and sashimi all of our life, at least twice a week. We’ve taken classes, hoping to make our own at home. If only we’d had The Complete Guide To Sushi & Sashimi, a compendium with step-by-step color photographs. It imparts hundreds of tips and techniques, that, in all of our sushi years, is still new information (and now we can finally cut squid properly!!).

     
    This user-friendly book, for both novice and experienced sushi makers, has concealed wiro-bound hardcover binding, 500 photos and a whopping 625 recipes, this book is sure now our go-to guide.

     
    BUT THAT’S NOT THE END

    There are more, of course. So many food books, so little time to try recipes from each!

    We just may get around to writing Food Books, Part 2.

      

    Comments

    GIFTS: New For Coffee Lovers

    We were recently asked about what gift to give a college student who lives in a dorm. Our thoughts immediately went to the new Keurig 2.0 K200/K250 Brewing System.

    KEURIG 2.0 K200/K250 SINGLE SERVE BREWER

    Designed with a smaller, more compact footprint, the K200/K250 (the difference is extra accessories) is sized right for small kitchens, dorm rooms, small office spaces (we have one on our desk).

    The best small footprint single-serve machine we’ve tried, it takes up half the space of our Keurig 2.0 K450. The Keurig 2.0 series brews a single-serve cup or 4-cup carafe (the carafe is an extra purchase and uses a larger pod).

    It’s also good for homes that don’t brew a lot of single-serve coffee. If you just brew one or two cups in the morning and/or evening, why take up the space with a 70-ounce water reservoir?

    The SRP is $109.99. Learn more at Keurig.com.

     
    K-CUPS FOR THE HOLIDAYS

       

    Keurig K200 Single Serve

    Small footprint, big convenience: the Keurig 2.0 K200 series. Photo courtesy Keurig.

     
    Keurig offers an astounding 500 K-Cup varieties from more than 75 brands. For the holidays, you can give some of these to anyone who has a compatible brewer:

  • Green Mountain Coffee Holiday Blend
  • Green Mountain Coffee Gingerbread
  • Green Mountain Coffee Wicked Winter Blend
  • The Original Donut Shop Holiday Buzz
  • The Original Donut Shop Peppermint Bark
  • The Original Donut Shop Sweet & Creamy Maple Crème
  •  

    Kyocera Slim Adjustable Coffee Mill

    The ceramic grinder is better than a metal
    blade. Photo courtesy Kyocera.

     

    KYOCERA SLIM ADJUSTABLE COFFEE MILL

    Coffee purists won’t use K-cups. They want their beans freshly ground.

    There have long been single-cup coffee makers, but this is the first grinder we’ve personally that’s great for small brews. It’s sized to grind the beans for one or two cups, instead of an entire pot.

    It’s the right gift for the coffee lover who wants to brew freshly ground beans.

    The grinder has a highly durable ceramic grinding mechanism; the adjustable dial enables fine to coarse grinds. A nice addition is the non-slip silicon base that provides stability when grinding.

    It’s $44.95 at KyoceraAdvancedCeramics.com

     

      

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    GIFTS: Wine & Spirits

    Liquor stores are filled with gift sets and specials for holiday gifting. Champagnes packaged with flutes, Cognacs with snifters, tasting kits (a box of smaller bottles of different expressions), “keeper” bottles with holiday designs and limited editions (Absolut Electrik, anyone?) all vie for your attention.

    We received scores of pitches, but here’s what caught our eye (in alphabetical order).

    DeLEÓN TEQUILA: CUSTOM-ENGRAVED BOTTLES

    You may or may not know that Sean “Diddy” Combs is the co-owner of the DeLeón tequila brand, which he acquired along with Diageo, his partner in Ciroc vodka.

    His part is to give DeLeón a similar sheen, making it the luxury vodka (he drinks it on the rocks). The packaging is gorgeous, the empty bottles demand to be repurposed. But that’s not all:

    Bottles of DeLeón Platinum ($55) and DeLeón Reposado ($65) can be custom-engraved with your personal message. It is engraved on the back of the bottle facing the front, so it can be seen whenever the giftee looks at the bottle. You have 10-25 characters on two lines in 14 point type, or 10-30 characters on 3 lines in 10 point type.

    Each bottle comes beautifully wrapped and accompanied with custom drink stirrers and a personal note from Mr. Combs. Start composing those messages, then head to ReserveBar.com.
     
     
    DIY: HOMEMADE GIN KIT

       

    DeLeon Tequila Bottles

    DIY Gin Kit

    TOP PHOTO: Engrave a message on the back of the DeLeón tequila bottle. BOTTOM PHOTO: Make homemade gin with this kit from DIY. And homemade tonic water, too.

     

    How much fun is this? The Homemade Gin Kit (photo above) lets you transform a generic bottle of vodka into your very own home-blend of gin in 36 hours. The kit contains everything you need—except the vodka—to make a like craft distillery-like gin in just 36 hours.

    It’s $54.95 at Williams-Sonoma.com (online only). You can combine it with a DIY Tonic Water Kit, $24.95.

     

    Chandon 2015 Limited Edition Bottle

    Jose Cuervo Rolling Stones Bottles

    Sam-Adams-Utopias-230

    TOP PHOTO: Pop the cork of limited edition
    Chandon Champagne. MIDDLE PHOTO:
    Rolling Stones fans will want these
    commemorative tequila bottles from Jose
    Cuervo. BOTTOM PHOTO: Samuel Adams
    Utopias, beer aged to a cognac-like state.

     

    MOET ET CHANDON: CHANDON LIMITED EDITION HOLIDAY BOTTLE

    Celebrating its third year of limited-edition holiday bottles, the 2015 bottle is white with gold script phrases like “Nonstop Fun” and Bestie Wishes.” It’s available at retailers nationwide, or online from Chandon.com.

    The suggested retail price is $24 for a 750-ml. bottle, $288 for a case.

    Not grand enough? For $449 you can give a Dom Pérignon 3-Pack: three bottles of the The King of Champagne’s 2005 vintage, with an engraved glass ice bucket.
     
     
    JOSE CUERVO TEQUILA: ROLLING STONES LIMITED EDITION BOTTLE

    Jose Cuervo has released two limited edition tequila bottlings of Especial and Reserva de la Familia. They commemorate “the pivotal role that Jose Cuervo played in fueling The Rolling Stones notorious 1972 North American tour” (dubbed the “Tequila Sunrise Tour”).

    For those who don’t know their Stones legends, the tour kicked off with a party at The Trident bar in San Francisco. According to an article in National Geographic, Mick came up to the bar and asked Bobby Lozoff, inventor of the Tequila Sunrise,for a Margarita. Bobby suggested a Tequila Sunrise instead and the rest, as they say, is history.

    Both bottles feature the iconic Stones “lapping tongue” logo and a limited-edition label. The Special Edition Rolling Stones Jose Cuervo Especial has a suggested retail price of $16.99.

    The Ultra Premium Rolling Stones Reserva de la Familia Collectors Edition—the private Extra Añejo tequila reserve of the Cuervo Family—has a suggested retail price of $149.99.
     
     
    BOSTON BEER COMPANY: SAMUEL ADAMS UTOPIAS

    What’s a $200 Samuel Adams like?

     
    It’s a rich, uncarbonated beer aged in wood barrels, known for its extraordinary flavor profile.

    Like cognac, it’s is a blend of previous vintages. The complex aroma has notes of wood, toffee, cocoa, raisin and maple; on the palate there’s molasses, earthy wood, dates, and toffee.

    Utopias a limited edition, limited release brew. Only 15,000 bottles are made each year. It’s packaged in a ceramic brew-kettle-style decanter.

    This year’s batch is 28% ABV, and is best enjoyed at room temperature, as a two ounce pour in a snifter.

    At a suggested retail price of $199, you probably can’t give it as a gift to all your beer-loving friends; but connoisseurs of craft beer will really appreciate a taste. Buy a bottle and invite them for a sip.

    Here’s where you can find it.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Christmas Tree Ornaments From Dehydrated Citrus

    dehydrated-grapefruit-tree-ornament-specialtyproduce-230

    Ruby Red Grapefruit

    Dehydrate lemons, limes oranges and grapefruit to make tree ornaments. TOP PHOTO: An orange slice ornament. Photo courtesy Specialty Produce. BOTTOM PHOTO: Red or pink grapefruit make pretty slices. Photo courtesy Good Eggs.

     

    You—or your kids—can make these dehydrated citrus ornaments in your oven. You don’t need an electric dehydrator, but if you have one, great.

    The fruit slices become translucent after drying, adding color and textural interest to any display.

    A convection oven is better than a conventional oven, but the latter works, too.

    In addition to tree ornaments:

  • Use the dehydrated citrus in garlands or wreaths.
  • Add them to potpourri.
  • Give them as stocking stuffers.
  • Use them for party favors.
  •  
    MAKE YOUR OWN CITRUS CHRISTMAS ORNAMENTS

    Ingredients

  • Your choice of citrus (we especially like blood oranges and red grapefruits)
  • Optional: cloves for the citrus rims
  • Metallic gift wrap string or other decorative tie
  • Optional: gift tags (for stocking stuffers)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT Preheat the oven to its lowest temperature setting, usually 140°F. (To use a food dehydrator, set the temperature to between 125°F and 135°F and dry for 2-12 hours. Remember to rotate your dehydrator trays for even drying.)

    2. CLEAN the skins of the citrus with a damp towel.

    3. CUT the citrus into slices from 1/4″ to 3/8″ thick. If using the cloves, use an ice pick to punch holes for them in the surface skin (not in the white pith). TIP: Pressing in cloves can create a sore spot on your finger. Use a thimble.
     
    *If you need a lot of cloves, it’s best to buy them in bulk (e.g., a one-pound bag).

     

    4. PLACE a wire rack atop a baking sheet(s), and arrange the slices on the rack. Place the sheet(s) in the oven, but leave the door open 2 to 4 inches. This enables the air to circulate and the moisture to escape, dehydrating the fruit. If you are preparing more than one tray, rotate the trays halfway through for even drying.

    TIP: You can set a fan just outside of the oven to supply further air circulation, and to help speed drying.

    5. DRY the orange slices in the oven for 6 to 12 hours, or until the peel is hard and the fruit is brittle. Allow the slices to cool completely; then store in an airtight container until ready to create the hanging loops or otherwise use them.

    6. USE an ice pick or other sharp implement to puncture a hole for hanging through the flesh of each piece. Use string (the metallic wrapping string is great here) to create a loop for hanging on tree branches. If you’re using a gift card, place it on the string before tying the knot.

     
      

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