Monday, December 14, 2015

Gift Ideas for Food and Drink Lovers

There are 11 days until Christmas. In the age of Amazon Prime 2-day free delivery, there's still plenty of time to choose a present for that special someone who loves to eat and drink. Stumped as to what to get them? Here are some ideas.


For the wine lover, the obvious choice is a bottle of wine, but this can be a fairly tricky purchase. You want something special that will appeal to their refined palate. You want something interesting that isn't what you find at the grocery store. You want to spend enough to get something good but not break the bank. Dracaena Wines 2013 Cabernet Franc meets all of these requirements in addition to being a really delicious red wine. Not familiar with cabernet franc? It's one of the "parent" grapes (along with sauvignon blanc) of cabernet sauvignon, that ruby jewel beloved by many as the most popular red wine. Cabernet franc is generally lighter than sauvignon (especially as Chinon, which I discussed as a good Thanksgiving wine) and earthier. It's wonderful as a blending with with cabernet sauvignon--many of the best bottles I've had have 5 to 15 percent cab franc added to them. But it's also delicious on its own.

Dracaena Wines' cab franc is exactly how I like my cab franc to be: on the bigger side with subtly earthy flavors but not that "barnyard" quality of some cab francs. It's the kind of red you can sip by itself or enjoy with food (we had ours with pizza, which was a pretty perfect match). This wine is actually 85 percent cab franc and 15 percent petite sirah, another lesser known but really wonderful red wine. Dracaena Wines owners Lori and Mike Budd are active on Twitter (@dracaenawines) and MangiaTV's Monday night "vamps" (video chats), where I've gotten to know them. You can order Dracaena Wines 2013 Cabernet France directly from their website for $28 per bottle or by the case at a 15% discount.

Spice Rub

Speaking of Mangia, a bag (or more) of their Cajun-style dry rub would make a perfect stocking stuffer. These versatile spice blends--available in hot and sweet versions--are wonderful with meat, fish and vegetables of all kinds (read about how I like to use their rubs here). Mangia's Bob Heffernan hosts a weekly online video chat (most every Monday night at 7:30 p.m. eastern), a wonderful place to chat with like-minded foodies and discuss Bob's perspectives on food, community and fun. Mangia rub is available from the company's website for $6 per bag or $9 per two-pack. Become friends with Bob online  (Twitter: @mangiaTV) and you may discover ways to get occasional discounts too.


My husband always does a nice job of buying me Christmas gifts, but last year, he got extra points for a particularly thoughtful surprise: 4 pounds of bacon. Now, we're not just talking any bacon but my favorite bacon: Benton's Hickory-Smoked Country Bacon. Bacon has been "a thing" for years now, and Benton's thick bacon has been a favorite for its wonderful meaty flavor and intensely smoky aroma--your kitchen will smell like someone has a campfire burning when you're cooking it. You can order Benton's bacon in 4-lb packs (four separately wrapped 1-pound packs) for $30 from the company's website. Also, check out my recipes from this year where I used Benton's bacon, including Cauliflower-Bacon Clam Chowder, Smoky Bacon Macaroni & CheesePunchier Potato-Leek Soup and Three-Peas Farro Risotto with Bacon.


Cocktail lovers can always use new and interesting barware. Arctic Chill has set itself apart as a manufacturer of innovative barware. Last year, I talked about their metal muddler. This year, I enjoyed using their ice sphere trays, which each make four 2-inch spherical ice cubes (two cubes fit nicely into a standard-size rocks glass), and their wine aerator. I'm not always sold on whether aerating is necessary or works well, but I have noticed that this aerator "softens" wines a bit, and it's very easy to use: simply put it in the top of an opened wine bottle and pour. Perhaps best of all, the spout makes wine-pouring a no-mess experience. Arctic Chill's products are available from Amazon, the wine aerator for $9 and the ice molds as a set of two for $12. [Note: Arctic Chill provided the products mentioned in this review.]

Cocktail Bitters

Lots of people have a bottle of Angostura bitters kicking around their home bar, but that's just a start to the wonderful world of cocktail bitters, which come in so many amazing flavors. Last year, I did a series of posts about bitters, which many consider to be the "salt and pepper" of good cocktails. Bitters make a nice gift because they don't require refrigeration and they last indefinitely. Some of my favorites: Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters, which add wintery-cinnamon-and-spice notes to drinks like an Old-Fashioned or a Winter Manhattan ($18 at Amazon); Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters, the spicy Mole-inspired bitters that launched the Bittermens line, which are wonderful in an Improved Tequila Cocktail or Oaxaca Old Fashioned ($21 at Amazon); and Regan's Orange Bitters No. 6, developed by cocktail legend Gary "Gaz" Regan, which are perfect for adding a hint of citrus to drinks like the Barrel-Aged Berlioni ($8 at Amazon, also generally available in most good liquor stores). Not ready to commit to a full bottle? Scrappy's sells two bitters samplers, which each contain four small bottles of bitters. Set 1 has lavender, chocolate, cardamom and grapefruit ($24 at Amazon); set 2 has orange, celery, Orleans and aromatic ($24 at Amazon, get both from Amazon for $40).


I have a lot of books to recommend this year, so head on over to my related post on food and drink book gift ideas.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much! We are thrilled you enjoyed our wine. We appreciate your support!