Culinary Cadeaux

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A gift guide for the foodie in your life

culinaryI love giving gifts. Not just at the holidays, but all the time. However, ’tis the season, and I’m charged up about pulling together this year’s crop of cool presents. With all the food fanatics living (and dining) in New Orleans, this year I offer “Lorin’s Foodie Gift Guide”– edibles, gadgets and all manner of culinary cadeaux (that’s French for “gift”) that I would not only give but love to receive too. Happy Christmahannakwanzakah!
Putting together baskets is one way to go, but I like ramping things up with a reusable, insulated tote to take shopping or to family dinners. Cost Plus World Market’s bright red, collapsible insulated tote ($20) is pure genius for its eco value as well as for keeping foods warm or cool. Next, head over to your favorite farmers’ market and fill the tote with local love. I tend to hit the Crescent City Farmers’ Market for area citrus (grapefruit, oranges, satsumas and kumquats) or meaty bits liked Schexnaydre’s individual bags of killer beef jerky and definitely an Andouille Loaf or another of their beautiful smoked meats. While at the markets, also look for Cajun Grains, a locally grown and harvested red rice that’s got big flavor and heft, or Cheryl Scripter’s Bittersweet Confections, whose extraordinary creamy truffles come in straight-up chocolate and kicky flavors too (praline, bananas Foster, etc.). She also dips marshmallows and pretzels, whips up fudge and concocts clusters of nutty, caramel-laced turtles. Some combination of sweets always winds up in my tote, along with a jar of jam, Briarwood Farms Bloody Mary Mix and some “market bucks” for future use.
Another fun way to fill a tote is to load it up with restaurant or chef-centric foodstuffs like a pound of Cochon Butcher Kurobutabacon, some of the shop’s barbecue sauce, pickles and other jarred goodies. Chef John Besh’s sauces and dressings are available from local groceries, and while you’re there, pick up smooth and properly salted Smith Creamery butter.
Nowadays, it is perfectly normal to see diners snapping photos of their food, fellow diners’ dishes, plates at other tables … okay, that’s me. For the budding food photographer, a $75 gift certificate to Lakeside Camera Photoworks for a class will ensure fuzz-free photography and droolworthy images. There are also traditional and digital frames to showcase the final “art.”
Not exactly a cook, but you love to read about cooking and support the written word? Give a subscription to one of the cool locally generated or national magazines. Some of my national favorites include Jamie Oliver’s smart and sexy Jamie Magazine, prettily printed on matte paper and loaded with meaty articles, not a load of fluff; the über-fluffy but excellently produced Food Network Magazine; or Eating Clean, a magazine that surprises with gobs of good food information and great recipes along with not-too-preachy health information.
For that adventurous foodie with a green thumb or a knack for tackling projects, buy a mushroom-growing kit, complete with instructions for “spanking” the substrate growing block to encourage mushroom production (love it), which comes from Mississippi Natural Products (www. naturalmushrooms.com). One year, I got a local chef pal a cheese-making kit from www. cheesemakers.com and a gift certificate to St. James Cheese Company … just in case of “fail.” This year, if you have a friend feeling particularly cheesy, get them a fondue kit, a pot with forks, book, bottle of Kirsch and St. James’ own house mix of grated cheeses.
I’m a bit of an “As Seen on TV” and informercial products geek, having amassed a quirky (and large) collection of functional and fun food gadgets like an Inside the Eggshell Egg Scrambler, Salad Shooter, Slap Chop, Topsy Turvy Tomato grower, Green Bags, Cotton Candy Maker and more. I also love, love, love Chia Pets (that’s alfalfa that grows) and my favorite secret tool for making dressings and smoothies (with local yogurts and fruits, of course): the Magic Bullet. Both make fabulous gifts that most people might not buy for themselves. The best places to find all these great gadgets are Bed, Bath & Beyond, Walgreens and Walmart.
How about a food gift that gives back? If you’re heading to a friend or family holiday party and want to bring a dish and gift, check out Toulouse Gourmet Catering (www.toulousegourmet.com). Their gift to us is a “stress-free holiday” that takes care of cooking up beloved sides with their “Everything but the Bird” program. Dressings, potatoes, green beans, bisque, gumbo, desserts and much more are lovingly prepared and packed for you to pick up and go. The bonus? A portion of sale proceeds goes to Second Harvest Food Bank. Another feel-good foodie gift is the adorable Culinary Canine 2010 calendar, which features 12 top local chefs and their pooch companions, beautifully photographed by Stephanie Hierholzer. Each chef contributed a tasty recipe, and 100 percent of the proceeds go to Southern Animal Foundation.
It’s no big secret that I’m a fan of locally made art jewelry, especially if there’s a food connection. My favorite food jewelry, the pieces I not only give as gifts but wear myself: po’boy pendant/pins by Paulette Lizano of Lizano’s Glass Haus. Created totally from glass, Paulette’s work is sold at art markets or from her shop-studio (3400 Cleary Ave. in Metairie; 454-1144) and come as whole or half po’boys: ham, shrimp or roast beef. These po’boys are attention getters and easy on the waistline. Along with the po’boy, Paulette has recently added a muffuletta to her menu, and there are sandwich tree ornaments too.
Here’s hoping your holidays are peaceful and positively delicious.