Cooks and kitchen hounds can never have enough gadgets, tools and cookware. The key, however, to shopping for your favorite cook is to purchase something that’s actually useful and desired, and not just another trinket to take up space in a cabinet, on a counter or in a kitchen drawer. Of course, we all have differing needs and levels of proficiency in the kitchen. So, in light of this year’s City Weekly Gift Guide, I’ve assembled a list of can’t-miss kitchen goodies—gifts that anyone who spends time at a stove would love to own.
Cooks know the importance of good knives, and most already own some. But many of us lust for a dedicated sushi-type knife—those long, thin, razor-sharp blades that your favorite sushi chefs wield. Well, they can cost a fortune. But, at Spoons ’n Spice a while back, I found a Kai Wasabi brand yanagi knife with a 9 1/2 inch blade for under $30, and I love it so much I’ll only use it for cutting sashimi or paper-thin meats for carpaccio and such. Or, if you’d like to go whole hog (or, whole fish), splurge for a Masamoto brand sashimi knife.
To keep my blades sharp, I picked up a very useful King brand combination Japanese whetstone for $24.95. However, if your personal chef is averse to using a whetstone, this might be just the ticket: Wusthof recently released two simple-to-use handheld knife sharpeners. One is a four-stage sharpener ($39.95), which includes standard sharpeners as well as sharpeners for Asian style knives. If you don’t own or plan to buy any sushi knives or Asian cleavers, the Wusthof two-stage sharpener ($19.95) will help keep your knives honed sharp enough for major mayhem.
I can’t really imagine cooking without my favorite all-around piece of cookware: my Le Creuset oval-shaped French oven ($129.95). I make everything from beef daube and choucroute to chile verde in this wonderful utensil, which I imagine will sometime be used by my grandkids. If Le Creuset is too rich for your blood, I also really love my Tramontina cast-iron Dutch oven that I picked up at Walmart for a mere $49.97. Another good Walmart purchase was a Hamilton Beach panini press ($49.99), which I find myself using frequently, especially for quick, late-night panini sammiches.
At Sur la Table, you can let the world know that you love to eat, drink and cook by decorating your Christmas tree with food and wine ornaments ($5.95-$19.95) such as handmade liqueur and wine bottles, chef’s hats and coats, cupcakes, miniature fruits, or German-made artisan-crafted cheese ornaments, which include Camembert, Chevre, Bleu, and a mouse with cheese.
Just about everyone these days seems to have his own cooking show or cookbook. Now, your favorite cook can get in on the action. Tastebook.com allows you to create a customized cookbook with your own cover and dedication, and then fill it with professional recipes selected from Epicurious, Cooking Light, RecipeZaar and other sources. Or, you can give a gift certificate to allow your cook to choose his/her own recipes for the book.
Here’s one more: Our kids love sushi but have a difficult time with chopsticks. The solution, and a terrific stocking stuffer, is Chimpsticks ($6.99): washable, silicone chopsticks, attached at the top with rubber chimps, making it simple for the little ones (and adults, too) to snag sushi.