Cooks are easy to buy for. They sort of like everything. First there's food, and that includes fancy olive oils and mail-order treats. Then comes the vast cooking equipment category plus serving pieces and linens. Some of them even love aprons. And you can hardly go wrong with cookbooks, old or new. We bet the foodies in your life would appreciate a present or two from this hot holiday gift list, too. — Janet K. Keeler and Laura Reiley, tbt*
Toast your loved ones
Pop Art Toasters come with stencil sets that toast words or images onto to the front of each slice of toast (the back side gets a homogeneous toasting) — birthday cakes, sweet love messages or silly faces brighten the breakfast table. We're sort of partial to "Drama Queen." The toasters themselves are retro style with seven heat settings and a slide-out crumb tray. They are available in a chrome model or plastic housings of black, white, red, pink or aqua, and can be purchased from Target or Amazon.com for $35 to $50. To get a look, go to poparttoaster.com.
Organics to your door
Tampa Bay has just started embracing local CSAs (community supported agriculture), buying shares in the organic goodies of nearby organic farms. A limitation, obviously, is seasonality — the Florida climate renders some parts of the year slim pickings. FruitShare is a new business that ships organic seasonal fruits from wherever they are ripe in the country. For example, in the fall, you can purchase a box of mixed pears grown by fourth-generation orchardists in the Okanagan Valley of Washington for $39. For the holidays, it will offer a citrus medley of oranges, grapefruits, clementines and Satsuma mandarins among others. Prices range from $29 for a one-time 12-piece order to $995 for a full year of 27 seasonal fruit deliveries to your doorstep. Visit fruitshare.com for details.
The silicon chef
Make like a Food Network star and show off your chops in your own living room with the Cook or Be Cooked video game for the Nintendo Wii. Food Network chefs show you how to slice and dice your way through a handful of recipes. Then they critique how you've done. It's like you're on a reality show but don't have to risk the bad press. Cost is $39.99 at electronics stores or amazon.com.
A French connection
We loved the movie Julie & Julia, which was out on DVD Tuesday. The movie would make a good present and we like the idea of a French cookbook. Of course, Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Knopf, $40) is a must for any serious cookbook shelf, but two new massive French cookbooks would be good additions, too. I Know How to Cook by Ginette Mathiot (Phaidon, $40) has been the bible for home cooking in France since 1932. Now, Parisian food writer Clotilde Dusoulier has updated and translated it into English. No small feat considering there are more than 1,400 recipes. Stéphane Reynaud's French Feasts (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, $40) will get your inner French flowing in the kitchen, too. The photos from both books are the definition of food porn.
Gifts that keep giving
Google search your way to an appropriate food-of-the-month. There's fruit from Harry & David (harryanddavid.com); bread and cheese from Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor, Mich. (zingermans.com), and bacon from several porky places (thepignextdoor.com or gratefulpalate.com), This year, we're stuck on Wolferman's English muffin collection (wolfermans.com). These are burly, thick muffins are able to hold whatever you slather on. The three-month breakfast club starts at $79.95 and heads on up for additional deliveries.
Olive our favorites
Some women want expensive perfumes, but we pine for pricey extra-virgin olive oil. Our favorites are Nicolas Alziari from Provence, France, and L'Estornell organic oil from Spain. There is nothing better than a drizzle of Alziari on juicy, ripe tomatoes; the perfect flavor match for caprese salad, too. L'Estornell has a buttery smoothness that brightens anything it's paired with. Both are finishing oils, too precious and special for cooking. Look for L'Estornell at Whole Foods and both oils at Williams-Sonoma or online at zingermans.com. The Spanish olive oil is about $25 and the French an ooh-la-la $50.