Under the Christmas Tree | Restaurant Reviews | Salt Lake City Weekly

Under the Christmas Tree 

Holiday gifts for cooks, foodies and winos

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  • Courtesy Chefsteps

If your holiday gift shopping is stuck in a rut, we're here to help—especially if you're looking for interesting and useful presents for cooks, foodie friends or wine lovers. The possibilities are endless, with great gifts ranging from inexpensive to extravagant, and from practical to frivolous.

In the December issue of our sister publication, Devour, writer Merry Harrison suggests personalizing gift-giving by creating themed gift baskets. For example, if you're giving to someone with a passion for grilling, put together a gift box or basket containing some interesting barbecue sauces and rubs, tools like instant-read thermometers or insulated cooking mitts, a useful grilling cookbook or two and the all-important grilling apron. Other ideas for themed gift baskets include ones brimming with local artisan chocolates, cheese, jellies and jams, honey and other locally made craft foods.

The gift that's made the biggest impression on me this year, is a device called Joule by ChefSteps ($179-$199). It's a smart and sexy sous vide tool that fits into a kitchen drawer. In the past, I've been frustrated by huge sous vide machines that take up half my kitchen counter space. Not so with this one, which is about the size of an immersion blender. Simply place it into a pot of water, set the cooking time and temperature via Wi-Fi/Bluetooth from a smartphone, tablet, etc., place the food you're cooking into a Ziploc bag in the temperature-controlled water, and go do something fun while Joule perfectly sous vides your food. It's even capable of being voice-controlled. It's an amazing kitchen device, and one that I use at least weekly.

If you're shopping for a wine lover, look no further than SLC-based Ruth Lewandowski Wines. These unique, natural wines are lovingly created by Evan Lewandowski and are easily identified by their eye-catching Utah state-shaped labels. But, it's what's inside the bottle that counts.

How about a stocking stuffer or two? I scoured a half-dozen different grocery spice aisles looking for sumac—a Middle Eastern seasoning—before I discovered Utah's own Usimply Season sumac ($5.99) at Harmons. SLC's "Life Boldly Flavored" company also sells berbere, piri piri, baharat, dukkah, garam masala, mitmita, zaatar, togarashi and more. At Saffron Valley locations and online (saffronvalley.com), you'll find an array of pre-mixed Indian spice blends that cooks will love. Owner Lavanya Mahate's creations include tandoori masala, korma masala, Punjabi masala, whole spices like star anise, cardamom and pure saffron, tea blends, flatbread mix and more.

Meat lovers would appreciate finding charcuterie under the tree from Creminelli Meats and Beltex Meats. And why not throw in the best book on charcuterie that I've come across yet? Pure Charcuterie: The Craft & Poetry of Curing Meats at Home ($29.99) by Meredith Leigh—a former vegan—is an extremely practical, visual guide that walks readers through the processes of making charcuterie at home. Leigh's recipe and technique for preparing buttermilk boudin blanc is worth the price of the book alone.

Who wouldn't love finding the new cookbook from the ladies of Hell's Backbone Grill wrapped up on Christmas Day? Written by Blake Spalding and Jennifer Castle with Lavinia Spalding, plus beautiful photography from Ace Kvale, it's titled This Immeasurable Place: Food and Farming from the Edge of Wilderness; Recipes from Hell's Backbone Grill ($35).

But maybe the best way to give this holiday season is with a charitable contribution to, or volunteering for, local organizations that help feed the hungry in our communities all year-round: Utah Food Bank, Utahns Against Hunger, Food Not Bombs, Crossroads Urban Center, Kids Eat Utah and others do just that.

Happy holidays!

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More by Ted Scheffler

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