Admit it. You are in trouble. With less than a week to go, you’ve yet to complete your holiday shopping. You think you’ve got everyone covered. But you’re wrong. There’s a cook, a wine lover, a foodie or perhaps a food writer you’ve forgotten. Don’t fret. I am here to help. That’s what I do. I’m a giver.
Malls drive me mad and shopping gives me shingles. Thank goodness, then, for the Information Highway at Christmastime. Shopping on the Internet from the safety of your home is practical and easy—and you can do it in the nude. In fact, you should shop in the nude if you’re browsing for luxuirous food and cooking items. You might want to touch yourself while gazing at gift items like Beluga caviar, Belgian chocolates and free-range foie gras. Who needs porn when you’ve got sinful sites like Martine’s Chocolates to browse.
Literally thousands of Web shopping sites are aimed at cooks and food nuts. What follows is a handful of my tried and true Santa’s helper favorites. Most offer overnight shipping via Federal Express or UPS, so there’s still hope for the perennial procrastinator this holiday season.
Since Sur La Table opened in The Gateway, I don’t do as much shopping at www.surlatable.com as I used to. But it’s still a good choice if you want to avoid the last-minute frenzy of Christmas shopping crowds. If Sur La Table doesn’t have it, you probably don’t need it. From stocking stuffers like instant-read thermometers for the holiday goose or turkey to blenders, bread machines, rice cookers and waffle makers, Sur La Table has something for every cook on your shopping list. An especially good deal right now is the newly introduced line of Sur La Table Cookware. An eight-piece set of Sur La Table Cookware with an open stock value of $369 is currently selling for $199.99 through Dec. 31. On Jan. 1, the price for the set goes up to $249.95.
Another of my favorite mail-order companies for both cooking supplies and ingredients is The Spanish Table. Based in Seattle, The Spanish Table is a Mecca for all things relating to Spanish cuisine. At www.thespanishtable.com you can shop for paella pans, “cataplanas,” and “cazuelas,” as well as for foodstuffs like white anchovy filets, Serrano ham, and the Catalan-style sausages called “butifarra” to cook in them. The Spanish Table is also a good source for Spanish saffron, paella rice and my secret paella weapon: smoked paprika.
What would the holidays be without the gift of chocolate? For truly mind-blowing gourmet chocolates, check out www.jacquestorres.com, the Website of renowned chocolatier Jacques Torres. The gift of his dark chocolate assortment for Christmas—50 pieces for $43.00—would, well, not hurt your chances of getting laid for the holidays. Ditto for anything that Martine Leventer Pechenik sells on her www.martineschocolates.com site. But if you really want to get lucky, may I suggest her decadent blend of five Belgian chocolates, called “Oysters” ($1.98 each).
I’d be lost in the kitchen without D’Artagnan. The New Jersey-based company supplies many of the country’s top chefs with items like fresh foie gras, truffles, and caviar. You, as well, can order directly from D’Artagnan at www.dartagnan.com. I’d be screwed trying to make cassoulet at home without D’Artagnan’s ready-to-use duck confit legs, and their smoked Magret duck breast is a real holiday party stopper.
Another good source for holiday caviar (let’s not forget New Year’s Eve) is Caviaria. Need a sterling-silver caviar server? You can pick one up for $35 at www.caviaria.com, which is less than the caviar to fill it will cost. Caviaria prices for caviar range from $10 for 4 ounces of Alaska red salmon roe to $70 for 1 ounce of Tzar Imperial Beluga Caviar. Caviaria also sells important caviar accoutrements like Russian-style blinis, crÃ¨me fraiche and mother-of-pearl caviar spoons.
To spice up the holiday season, log onto www.penzeys.com. Brookfield, Wis.-based Penzey’s Spices is the mother lode of spice purveyors, offering everything from adobo and allspice to sausage seasonings and vanilla. Penzey’s sells four different varieties of whole black peppercorns alone: “Extra Bold,” Sarawak, Tellicherry and Malabar. Penzey’s sells hundreds of different spices and spice blends, most at lower prices than you could find in supermarkets. Gumbo filÃ©, for example, sells at Penzey’s for $1.39 for a small plastic jar or $12.90 for a 1-pound bag. One-hundred percent Kashmir Mogra Cream Indian Saffron costs a mere $10.95 for a 1-gram jar at Penzey’s.
The wino in the family will appreciate a gift from The Wine Enthusiast, a company selling wineglasses, wine racks, wine cellars and everything in between. Some of the country’s best prices on Riedel stemware can be found at www.wineenthusiast.com. You can pick up a four-piece Riedel Vinum sampler set of glasses (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc) for $84.95—the set typically sells for close to $100 elsewhere. And if you’re tired of picking up chards of broken glass from the carpet on New Year’s Day, you might be interested in The Wine Enthusiast’s line of high-quality, shatter-resistant Tritan series of wine stemware and decanters. A set of six Tritan Champagne glasses sells at www.wineenthusiast.com for $57.95.
Happy holidays and happy shopping!