Special Fork’s Holiday Gift Guide

By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

As a family of food lovers, specialty food and kitchen tools often make their way into our Christmas stockings or under the tree.

Steve and I already have a well-equipped kitchen but Steve is a serious amateur cook. So the boys and I give him cookbooks or high-end kitchen tools for Christmas.

Dave and his wife Lynn are fairly recently married and are still building their “batterie de cuisine.” Last year one of the presents we gave Dave was a Le Creuset Dutch oven – the larger ones are so expensive, it’s nice to get one for a gift.

Chris lives in a tiny apartment in Queens in New York. He’d rather figure work-arounds than stock the appropriate tools, so even the pop-up colander was returned after Christmas. He’d as soon drain his pasta using a pot cover. Still, Chris is the most likely one to slip foodstuffs into our stockings. Traveling for work or vacation, he brings back treasures, such as canned French foie gras or Hungarian paprika.

If you’re shopping for someone who loves cooking, here are some gift ideas from Dave and me, and also from Andrew and Marilyn Hunter, our Family Table bloggers for Special Fork. You can catch their posts every Thursday.

For more ideas for cooks, check out our complete holiday gift guide on our Pinterest page. Prices for the featured items on Pinterest and my post are guidelines only, what we could gather from Web searches.

Also, don’t forget: You could win cool kitchen tools to keep or give as gifts. Go to our Facebook page to learn about the Special Fork holiday sweepstakes (retail value: $122).

Kitchen Tools:

  • OXO Good Grips Food Scale $49.99. When recipes call for weights, you don’t have to guess. This scale has an 11-pound capacity a display that pulls away from the base so you can read the scale even with large plates or bowls on top, and a convenient indicator to tell you how much capacity is left on the scale. There's a zero function that allows for zeroing the scale before adding additional ingredients and an optional backlight that makes the display easier to read.
  • BonJour Brushed Aluminum Chef's Torch with Fuel Gauge $34.99. A must for any pastry chef wanna-be. Use for crème brûlée, meringues or to melt the cheese on French onion soup.
  • ThermoWorks Splash-Proof Thermapen Thermometer $89. This is a top-performing meat thermometer that takes the internal temperature super-fast, with readings that are super-accurate. Dave got this one for Steve one Christmas – it’s rather pricey, but something Steve wanted and would never have bought for himself. A real winner for the serious cook!
  • Shun knives (various prices, expensive). Andrew, as a professional chef says, “Shun is my chefs’ knives of choice, known for expert design of blade, weight and grip. Shun means ‘peak of perfection’ in Japanese. The ‘Premier’ line has symmetrical handles, good for righties or lefties.” This is a popular gift in the Hu family, too, and both Dave and Chris have given their dad Shun knives – a gift that lasts a lifetime.
  • Tovolo King Cube Ice Trays $7.95 to $8.95. Andrew likes these silicone trays that make six large ice cubes. “Ideal for serving whiskey, scotch and any other liquor served on ice. These cubes will outlast traditional ice cubes and not dilute the liquor,” he says.
  • Zojirushi 5.5 cup Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer $192. Full disclosure: Zojirushi gave us a rice cooker for our Special Fork Sweepstakes prize and a demo model to test for the Special Fork Kitchen. I’ve had a cheap one-button rice cooker all my life and I thought the only difference between it and a more expensive model was settings I didn’t need. Boy, was I surprised! This rice cooker actually cooks better rice – even basic white rice. It’s moister, fluffier and the grains just taste better. In fact, one of our Special Fork video bloggers is buying this model for her parents for Christmas, after she tasted the rice we cooked for her demo. The rice cooker has many settings that I haven’t had a chance to try yet, but just making really good rice is worth the price to me.
Books for Cooks:
  • Fäviken $32.97 on Amazon. “My favorite book of the moment is the cookbook, Fäviken, by Magnus Nillson,” says Andrew. This book is both intriguing and inspirational. The restaurant “called ‘The World’s Most Daring Restaurant’ by Bon Appetit magazine is in the mountains of northern Sweden. It redefines the meaning of eating local … ‘food that is foraged, sourced locally and quite often raw rather than cooked – in other words, virtuous food.’”
  • Timing Is Everything: The Complete Timing Guide to Cooking $39. I don’t know if you’re interested in giving a 12-year-old book, but this one by Jack Piccolo, remains an excellent reference guide that we turn to frequently at Special Fork. The book provides cook times for grains, fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, sausage and nuts. We find it so invaluable as a quick resource that Steve bought Dave his own copy one Christmas.
  • Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts, Quicker Smarter Recipes $25.95. This book by Alice Medrich, queen of baking and desserts, is focused on making delicious and sophisticated desserts with minimal time and effort. Alice packs in a lot of variations and tips for success in the book so you feel like she’s right beside you, guiding you through the recipes.
  • Let’s Cook Japanese Food! I have a lot of Japanese cookbooks in my library – some scholarly, some trendy – but this book, by Amy Kaneko, is my go-to cookbook for day-to-day Japanese cooking. Although published five years ago, it’s still in print. The recipes are simple, straightforward, practical and authentic.
For the Kitchen:
  • Royal Copenhagen tea mug $32.50. Marilyn says, “A Danish design of form + function, these porcelain mugs have a silicone sleeve that helps prevent slippage and protects fingers from the heat. Perfect for everyday.”
  • Emile Henry Ovenware $39.99 to $155.85. Ceramic ovenware diffuses heat slowly and evenly, allowing the flavors and aromas to develop. I have pie dishes in several sizes, a lasagna pan and square baking pan – you see us using them on Special Fork videos. They look good enough (they come in great colors) to go from oven to table, and they clean beautifully. If you just soak for a half hour, crusted bits will release easily.
For Kids:
  • Speculoos Spread (called Speculoos Cooking Butter) $3.69 for 11 ounces at Trader Joe’s. Marilyn says, “The new Nutella. Europe’s alternative to peanut butter is a delicious gingerbread or graham cracker-like spread inspired by Belgium’s biscoff cookie. Great on bread, toast, pancakes, waffles, apples or by the spoonful.”
  • Make your Own Ice Cream Mugs $13.98. Marilyn says, “On Benny’s Santa List – make ice cream in minutes. Add ice and salt to the lower part of the mug; fresh ingredients to the top. Shake and serve.”
  • Snoopy Sno Cone Machine $9.99. “On Nicky’s Santa List,” Marilyn says. “Add sugar, water and ice to make sno-cones at home.”
  • Tovolo Sandwich Shapers $4.99 to $8.20. More from Marilyn: “Fast and easy to use, these sandwich cutters eliminate the crust and create fun shapes for kids.”
Special Fork is a recipe website for your smartphone and PC that solves the daily dinnertime dilemma: what to cook now! Our bloggers blog Monday through Friday to give you cooking inspiration. Check out our recipe database for quick ideas that take no more than 30 minutes of prep time. Follow us on Facebook , Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.



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  4. Inside Special Fork – and Beyond
  5. Inside Special Fork: Taking a Look at our Free Cookbook

Posted: Dec 2nd by Sandy_Hu