holiday gift guide 2012

Friends, thank you for that outpouring of support. Your comments and emails were so generous and moving. Thank you for the encouragement and being here – I am so, indeed, speechless, that my gratitude sounds disingenuous, and I assure you — nothing could further from the truth. If I could, I’d hug each and every one of you. To the folks in the Bay Area who offered sympathies (and cookies!) I promise, ping me next time I am in the area and we’ll do tea or coffee or share a bottle of something stronger. But I’ve promised myself to friends and colleagues this time, and I apologize.

Once again, December has snuck up on me. I swear, this year just blew by. Book one, book two, a wedding, some not-so-celebratory stuff, a few whirlwind trips, and now I find myself in San Francisco in 60-degree weather. It wouldn’t feel real were it not for Christmas music everywhere I go. So it’s happening, the holidays that is — they are upon us. And with the holidays comes the pressure (and the frenzy) of getting the right gift for our loved ones. I will say this to you: don’t worry about the pressure of it all. Give what you can if you can. Or make a homemade gift, which will be just as special as the one you purchase.

Here, I’m trying to make your job a little bit easier. I could, if time permitted, spend a whole month compiling gift ideas, and have kept this entry for a few months now, gathering suggestions. In the interest of information overload (or not doing just that), I’ve pared this list down to my all-time favorites this year. I hope this little list helps.


Ideal Bookshelf

Much has been written about this project already, but I’d like to add to the choir of voices singing praises to this customized piece of art that you can hang in your kitchen, living room, study, or give as a thoughtful gift to the cook or reader in your life. It’s lovely and affordable, and will make your gift recipient treasure it forever.


Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

It’s been awhile since I’ve picked up a book and had analysis paralysis: Which of these amazing things am I going to cook first? How can I choose? I literally had to write down a schedule of when I’ll be trying new dishes, none of which I’ve yet blogged as I want to cook through the book enough to get its rhythm, but suffice to say that this is a delicious, delicious book. When Andrew and I went to London a couple of years ago, Ottolenghi was, by far, my favorite culinary experience. I kind of wanted to just quietly move into a corner there and just keep on eating. On our way out, Andrew purchased a bag of lemon sandwich cookies which we rationed for the next few days of our trip. I could’ve have eaten that entire bag in one sitting. Ottolenghi, whose original goal in life was to pursue academia (and how lucky for us that he didn’t), has a way with flavors and makes everything he cooks sing with brightness and a certain kind of joy.


Japanese Farm Food by Nancy Singleton Hachisu

One morning, over a late breakfast with Melissa Clark, we started to talk about meaningful cookbooks, and she pointed me in the direction of this one. I had already devoured it in bookstores, but for some reason, hadn’t purchased it at the time. “It has changed the way I cook,” Melissa said, “It has made me look at flavors in a whole different way.” On my way back home, I stopped by our local book store and snagged a copy. That night, I kept interrupting Andrew’s reading. “Look at these photos!” “Have you ever seen anything like this soup?” This book is as much of a story, a life captured as it is a cookbook. A product of many years, this wasn’t something that was hastily put together, and in an age where cookbook writers have mere months (!) to put together a book, this is a testament to the fact that if you take your time and put your heart into it (something you can’t rush), it’ll be a gorgeous, gorgeous work.


Peter Hofmeister Black Mother of Pearl Earrings

I’ve been quietly (read: Andrew’s hearing of this for the first time!) obsessing over these earrings for about a year now. But then again I could just buy one of everything at Catbird, a lovely jewelry shop in Williamsburg, which I discovered purely by accident while wandering the streets. The earrings are a big pricey, though gents, these things last forever; but these ampersand earrings are also darling and make a great gift for anyone who is a typography geek, writer, or a book lover.


Dandelion Votive Holders

I found these on Etsy a little while ago and thought they were darling! We’re in that seasonal slump, folks, when the sun might peek out for a few hours (if we’re lucky) and then we’re left to sit in the darkness. I think these will cheer up any room and a wintry mood, and will make the room glow in warmth and comfort.


Dansk 6-quart Enameled Casserole

I adore everything about this pot: the color, the reminder or cooking in enameled pots in Russia, its gorgeous, timeless design. This would be a great addition to anyone’s kitchen, especially this time of year when making soup is not an option — but a necessity.


Tealuxe Teas

While I exclusively drink coffee in the morning (don’t even try talking to me before I take my first sip), tea will, forever, have my heart. During the day, it’s cups of black tea with a drop of milk, no sugar. And having grown up in Boston, Tealuxe has been my favorite place for tea since I can remember. This time of year in particular, I find that I often turn to Lapsang Souchong and their Copley Vanilla Black Tea (which is just about the best thing ever). They have seemingly endless varieties of tea and it’s fun to try new ones from time to time. But I always return to the two above and my everyday favorite: Assam Organic.

2011 Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks
2010 Holiday Gift Guide – non kitchen items
2010 Holiday Gift Guide – kitchen items


  • Jayne

    I love this list you’ve compiled! I want everything from off that list. haha. And reg your new book, I wanted to comment on the previous post but figuredI may as well do it here. I LOVE kimchi, for starters. And that sounds like a great book! Some people here go crazy for it. I’m making kimchi fried rice tomorrow :-)

  • Lori Fredrich (@Burp_Blog)

    Really great suggestions. I could happily buy one of each of these things … for myself… er, the people on my gift list :)

    I can’t imagine how anyone could find you disingenous… we’ve all been there, when the support has been outrageous and unexpected and wonderful. It’s a great reminder that humanity is really pretty OK :)

  • Sarah R.

    Thanks Olga! I love gift guides, and this one especially! I hopped right on Etsy and scooped up one of the porcelain candleholders. I’m a sucker for anything with a dandelion motif, and I had just the person in mind to give it to. The seller on Etsy was super quick to respond too and is making arrangements so I’ll get it in time to gift for Christmas. Yay!

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