Gift Ideas

I am embarrassed to admit it, but I had a pretty lame wok.  It was non-stick and was breaking down (the handle was falling off).  Not good, so I decided to get a new one. 

As always, I did research to determine what product I should get.  I found this story that was quite informative — and gave me the name of the store where I’d end up buying my wok.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to go back to the non-stick, or try carbon steel or cast iron. 

When I went to shop at The Wok Shop (located in San Francisco’s Chinatown) and saw they made their own wok, I knew I wanted it.  When I saw you had to season it yourself, it definitely made me hesitate.  But my friends, it shouldn’t have — seasoning is ridiculously easy.  More on that later.

Anyway, I ordered the hand-hammered wok ($14.95) as well as a bunch of accessories.  When the order came, I opened the box like a child would open her toys on Christmas morning. 

I pulled out all the newspapers and the wok was a beautiful silver color.  I forgot to take a picture of the before, but if you look at the handle on the photo below, you’ll see the color.  Then I got the instructions for seasoning.  After heating the oven, oiling the wok, and repeating three times — I accomplished the beautiful seasoned look below.  As they suggested, I then cut up an onion and garlic and cooked until they were black to continue the seasoning process.

Seasoned Wok

I am in love with this wok now.  I think it’s a combination of knowing that someone hand-hammered it and my seasoning that makes it special.  Yeah, you can tell it’s not hand-hammered.  But that’s OK.  The wok is still good in my eyes!

I cannot wait to use it!  Oh, and The Wok Shop put in a simple cookbook so it’s going to be fun to test out some of those recipes. 

Ahh, yes.  You are the procrastinator who thought, “I’ll buy the gifts tomorrow.”  But then you kept going to the nightly holiday parties…yet never could quite make it to a store.

And now you’re leaving to go home but haven’t bought your presents.

So for you, I have created a “cheat list” of easy holiday gifts that people will like — and it’s not a gift card! 

  • Magazine subscriptions — This is quite possibly one of the most brilliant tactics.  Buy the magazine that you think your family/friend would like (perhaps Food & Wine, Wine Spectator, etc), then go online and order a subscription for them.  Wrap December’s magazine up with a note that says they are getting a year’s subscription. 
  • Netflix — I’ve been an on-and-off member for about 8 years and I love it.  I briefly switched to Blockbuster’s plan thinking it’d be better, but it wasn’t.  With Netflix, I got my movies faster and they offered many more independent movies (and yes, I’m a “heavy” user).  So, why not get your loved one a subscription to Netflix?  You can print off the certificate and wrap it under the tree.
  • Movie package/spa package/wine basket/etc — Go to your local movie theater or store and buy 2-3 DVDs that you know would be a hit, get some microwaved popcorn, candy, etc and put into a cute bag or basket.  You can do the same with a “spa” package by getting some scented candles, bubble bath, etc.  Or what about a wine basket?  Go and buy a few bottles, a wine opener, crackers, etc. 
  • With most food banks facing empty shelves this year, $20 will go a long way.  Make a donation in a person’s honor to feed a hungry family.  Here are a few worthy food-related organizations based in the DC-metro area.
  • Just tell everyone you’re making an effort to go carbon neutral.  So in lieu of gifts, you’ve off-set everyone’s carbon footprint.  You would have printed out the certificates, but then that would have defeated the carbon neutral thing.  Instead, you’ll email everyone their certificate. 
  • For those who have money remaining in your FSA, here are some approved items you can pick up (that could make for a good present):
    • New Year’s Recovery Kit — Include ice pack (or heat packs), Advil, eye drops, and bottle of water
    • The smoker who needs to quit?  How about some of that quit smoking patches or gum?
    • First Aid kit for the new apartment, house, car.
    • Anti-get sick kit — DayQuil and NyQuil, Vicks rubbing cream, and Halls Defense.
    • Skin care product Dr Burt’s Res-Q Ointment
    • Heart Defibrillator if you have $800 in your FSA? 

Drum roll please for the last suggestion that you can try…but you had better be a good actor/liar! 

When you arrive home (or call), ask what they thought of your gift.  When they say, “I haven’t gotten it yet.”  Act surprised and annoyed.  Tell them that you ordered it a few weeks ago (so it seems like you were planning in advance) and then say say you’re going to see what happened.  You could blame shipping or the “holiday craziness” or whatever.  Then order their gift and have it shipped normally — it’ll appear a couple of days post-Christmas, but at least it gets there.   

I just got this email from Vosges Chocolate and had to share with you.

In the event you’re thinking about buying people chocolates for the holidays, you can get free shipping on orders over $100.  Orders must be placed between December 12th – December 15th.

While it’s a short time frame, it can save you some money!  Use the code 2712EM2. 

Who wouldn’t want Vosges Chocolate?  And if you’re looking for gift ideas, visit here, here, and here.

If you’re in a panic trying to remember who you should tip, here’s a guide.

I’ve written posts here and here on food/beverage related gift ideas.  Here are some more!

  • Almond champagne — If you’ve never had it, you should order a bottle for yourself.  It’s so refreshing and tasty!  Plus, it’s a unique gift.
  • Uncommon Goods store — They offer fun dining gifts which includes glassware, mugs, utensils, etc. 
  • Lucky Bamboo — Located in California, this company has great prices on lucky bamboo sticks.  They also have Bonsai trees, Orchids, money trees, etc. 
  • Cheeky t-shirts — I love them and own a lot of funny t-shirts.  I loved this one with a Hungry Hungry Hippo that said, “I was never that hungy hungry” but wish it wasn’t a horrible yellow color.  Oh well, perhaps you know someone who can pull off the yellow t-shirt.

Local options: 

  • Kramer Bookstore — Buy the food lover in your life a cookbook or The Food Snob’s Dictionary at my favorite bookstore.
  • Claude Taylor Photography — I love his photography.  In fact, I own one!  His prices are reasonable and he’s a nice guy.  I realize it’s not food related, but he does have a photo of Waverly restaurant.
  • Paper Source — For the person in your life who loves paper, this is one of the best stores.  They offer everything from beautiful stationary to gift wrapping to journals — all so you can write thank you notes for your cooking related gifts or wrap your food gifts or write about your food experiences.  If you can’t make it, they’re offering free shipping off orders more than $100.
  • Teaism — With 3 locations in DC and tea becoming a popular beverage du jour, why not buy local?  Unless of course you’re looking for that chocolate tea (which I’ve tried and it is great). 
  • BestCellars — Their wine costs less than $15 and they always have free tastings. 
  • Mayorga Coffee — Locally roasted and brewed, they have locations around the DC-metro area.
  • Eastern Market — Any of the local vendors would make perfect gifts. 

If you’re like me, you’re in a mad rush to buy gifts now for people.  I offered a few ideas here and here.  While I’d love to buy everyone the flat screen TV (and myself included), I can’t.  So I usually bake. 

And apparently, I’m not alone. 

According to this AP story, sale of food items as gifts increased 50% from 2004-2006.   I agree that food gifts are great — and as the story says, it always fits!

Finally, since it seems to always cause confusion and panic, here is a guide on what and who you should tip this holiday season.

I’ve already offered a few gift ideas and a few more here.   But who doesn’t want a few more? 

  • Culinary Institute of America offers a “Chef for a Day” experience at their two campuses — St. Helena and Hyde Park.  If you go to St. Helena, then you could go to Taylor’s Refresher
  • It seems tea is uber popular again and what better than to give the tea lover in your life something unique.  Adagio offers a wide variety — including chocolate teas!  Their sampler teas are in these cute little metal canisters and would be a great little stocking stuffer for someone.
  • Breadman TR2200C — I own it and love it.  It does take up a bit of counterspace, but bakes a great loaf. 
  • Make a donation in honor of someone.  For those people you know who have it all, instead of giving them something that they may or may not like/use or may not use, why not make a donation to a worthwhile cause?
  • Penzy’s Spices — These are no ordinary spices.  They are, quite possibly, the best spices.  They also offer gift boxes.
  • Remember when?  If you know someone who loved 70s candy or a grocery store item that’s hard to find, try this place out.  They offer themed gift baskets too.
  • Make cookies and wrap them up in cute packaging.  Or for the friend who doesn’t bake — assemble the dry cookie mix (minus eggs, milk, vanilla, etc), put in a cute jar with the rest of the baking instructions. 

** Additional ideas can be found here and here **  

With the holidays, comes the fear (or at least for me) on whether you’re buying people good stuff.   I don’t like buying people gift cards, so I’ve come up with the following suggestions.

I think though that these ideas don’t just work for the winter holidays, but for all gift-giving occasions. 

  • Vosges Chocolates — With their unique pairings, Vosges provides a guaranteed hit with their varieties and beautifully wrapped packages.  Prices variety, but don’t forget to add their shipping charges when you’re purchasing (it can add up)!
  • Authentic Costa Rica Coffee — Yum.  And I’ve actually been to this coffee shop in Quepos, Costa Rica.  They are real and you can feel safe ordering from them.
  • O & Company — When I was in Seattle, I had the great fortune of being able to stop in.  Wow, what a taste explosion!  They offer a wide variety of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, olive tapenade, etc.  And a little tip — don’t order online, but order from a store.  Stores have a flat $9 shipping rate! 
  • Cast Iron Skillet — I own it and love it (also have the lid).  Definitely make sure you buy the one that’s pre-seasoned. 
  • The Wine Buyer — Have a couple of bottles of wine or champagne shipped directly for a reasonable fee.
  • DeLonghi Solo Convection Oven — Seriously, are you surprised?  They also offer free shipping.  I love mine.
  • KitchenAid Mixer — I don’t think you can find this any cheaper than $199 plus free shipping.  Wow.  I love mine (was a hand-me-down from  my grandma). 
  • Week of Gourmet & Healthy Meals — I haven’t tried it, but it seems like a good idea.  I think this would be great for the person who doesn’t cook!