If you're holiday shopping for a food lover, you're in luck. Food lovers are among the easiest people in the world to satisfy with a gift. First, consider a gift certificate to one of the finest restaurants in the country. New York's Per Se is happy to sell you a gift certificate at a minimum of $550 (after all, a tasting, prior to wine, is $275 per person). Or, purchase a gift certificate to Per Se's sister restaurant in Napa Valley, The French Laundry, starting at $250. Chicago's Alinea offers gift certificates starting at $100, but if you'd like to give a complete, all-inclusive dinner, tastings for two begin at $700 and a tour is $1,050. Or forego the restaurant experience in favor of something that can be used again and again. Take a trip to one of the two top kitchen shops in the country, Sur La Table, or Williams-Sonoma. They're both offering huge sales. The most obvious and desirable kitchen gift is electronic. The several-thousand-dollar Jura-Capresso coffee center machines, or several-hundred-dollar KitchenAid professional standing mixer are coveted, while blenders and food processors feel as unsexy as vacuum cleaners. We might be in a recession, but during the holidays, be sure to give a gift, not merely a functional appliance. Consider a classic collection of pots and pans, partnered with a few sassy cookbooks. All-Clad is the good, dependable brand, used on many cooking shows. Sure, there's nonstick varieties from brands like Calphalon, and Anolon, but that borders or functional again. Choose something sexy instead, like Mauviel, which makes elegant French copper cookware.
If you're taking a trip to France, consider enamel-coated cast iron. You have two choices: Le Creuset and Staub. They both make a statement, though Staub's statement is a bit louder, and almost twice the price. If you'd like to give a knife as a gift, remember to give it with a penny. Superstition considers it bad luck to give a knife as a gift, so by partnering it with a penny, your gift recipient can "purchase" the knife from you, avoiding any spells. These days, the santoku-style knife, which looks like a European/Asian hybrid is the teacher's pet. Wusthof and Henckels make well-respected European knives, while Shun makes excellent Japanese knives. For stocking-stuffers, select a few kitchen utensils. Microplane graters, spatulas, tongs and wooden spoons are always appreciated. Avoid uni-taskers like avocado slicers, bean slicers, tomato slicers or vinaigrette emulsifiers. These tools are for people who don't like cooking; not for those who do. But don't stop at cooking equipment; your food lover needs a beautiful backdrop for their creations. Look for French porcelain from Revol or Apilco, or stunning cookware and bakeware from Emile Henry. Though food is temporary, the implements that create the most memorable meals of your life are not. They will become family heirlooms, treasured by people who have yet to be born. Choose wisely for your food lover, and this holiday gift will be treasured for generations.