Chefs’ Picks: Holiday Gifts

Now that holiday shopping is in full swing, we asked chefs across the country to tell us what foodcentric gifts they love to give and get.
By: Guest Blogger
By Kelly DiNardo

Chefs’ Picks tracks down what the pros are eating and cooking from coast to coast.

The way to someone’s heart is through his or her stomach, particularly if that someone is the aspiring culinary superstar in your life. Now that holiday shopping is in full swing, we asked chefs across the country to tell us what foodcentric gifts they love to give and get.

Baked Goods            

Hillside Supper Club Chef Tony Ferrari gets the same thing from his mother every year: a care package with panettone and schnecken from their hometown bakery, Busken Bakery in Cincinnati. “I can smell the schnecken before I even open the box,” says Ferrari. “It’s a cinnamon bun that’s drenched in caramelized butter glaze and studded with raisins. When it would snow, we used to pick up a bunch [and] warm them up over a fire pit in the park before riding sleds down the hill. It reminds me of home and family.”

Homemade Cocktails

Efrain Roman, the executive pastry chef of Brick & Mortar Kitchen prefers to gift edible concoctions, including coquito, an eggnog-like beverage that’s a traditional gift in Puerto Rico. “It’s part of my heritage and always makes me think of home,” says Roman, who mixes the cocktail in Mason jars with a note that reads “Feliz Navidad.”

Amarena Cherries

Aliya LeeKong, a Food Network judge and the author of Exotic Table, loves giving a gift “that inspires someone to try something new or different,” she says. The Amarena cherry is a sour cherry from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy; when Amarena cherries are preserved in a tart sugar syrup, they are an easy host-gift favorite because you can spoon them over ice cream, include them in a champagne cocktail or even top breakfast waffles with them the morning after an event.

For bigger gifts, LeeKong goes for the Le Creuset Moroccan tagine. “What I love about this modern version of the tagine is that it’s cast iron,” says LeeKong. “It has great heat retention and is excellent for braises, but you can also sear right on the stovetop and then transfer to the oven. Braised short ribs, lamb shanks, stewed chicken all would be incredible in here.”

Hot Sauce

Naomi Gallego, the executive pastry chef for several restaurants in the Washington, D.C., area, including Birch & Barley, Iron Gate and GBD (Golden, Brown, Delicious), often gives Rare Bird Preserves and Sriracha keychains. “I grew up in Texas,” says Gallego. “When I go out to eat, a little squeeze of Sriracha can really spice things up.” Gallego also makes homemade Mexican hot chocolate for her sister-in-law, who describes the gift as “love in a mug.”

Favorite Cookbooks

Travelle Chef Tim Graham’s favorite holiday gift is a copy of Le Repertoire de La Cuisine . “I love to give this brilliant little book,” he says. “It is a great little reference for the much larger Escoffier book. It lists dishes in short, succinct description with no recipes. This requires the cook to then create them with minimal guidance, referring to a number of different sources for direction. There is a beautiful simplicity in this.”

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