Our first-ever BGSK gift guide highlights eight days of presents we know you want to give and receive. To cut through the cluttered shelves of kitchen-oriented goodies, we’re spending eight days showing you the best of the best of the kitchen goodies to wrap up for or unwrap on Hanukkah and Christmas.
Today is Day #1—The Best Small Kitchen Stocking Stuffers Under $30
The thing about the stocking stuffer is that it doesn’t actually have to emerge from anybody’s stocking. The same kinds of gifts that work as little I’m-thinking-of-you-but-not-spending-too-much-cash surprises also double as sixth night of Hanukkah (aka smack dab in the apt-to-be-forgotten middle) presents as well as tokens for the beloved acquaintances in your life–food-loving co-workers, college friends, and boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriends…
The problem with stocking stuffers is that too often they’re junk. Complete and utter, cabinet-clogging junk.
Yet junk is not what you’d call any of these small kitchen stocking stuffers under $30. Since we fear kitchen clutter about as much as Cara hates strange mushrooms and Phoebe recoils from fruit, nothing here will inundate your favorite small kitchen cook with unnecessary appliances. As long as you do your research (see #2), what you’ll be doing is saving another dresser from drawer-crushing overflow thanks to the stocking stuff classic: socks.
**The Best Small Kitchen Stocking Stuffers Under $30**
1. Cookbook book weight. We’re pretty happy that people still love to buy cookbooks, despite an increasing devotion to all things virtual. Flipping through pages of beautiful pictures and brilliant recipe never gets old. (And we’ll have more on cookbook gifts next Wednesday.) When you actually go to cook from them, books tend to snap shut, hiding your recipe so you have to search through when you were trying to cook. Enter the book weight: Levenger’s brown leather bookstop ($29) is a classic; alternatively, you can DIY with duct tape and pennies (would you ever gift this?). If you need a book to go with it, may we suggest In the Small Kitchen?
2. The absolute best [enter needed small kitchen utensil here]. When quarter-lifers stock their kitchens, we’ll often skimp from start to finish. No matter that the good vegetable peeler costs $8, there’s a dull, useless one that goes for $1, and that’s what we buy. Upgrade your favorite quarter-lifer’s utensil stock, one stocking stuffer at a time. Tie a ribbon around an OXO peeler or durable silicon spatula, wrap up a super sturdy cheese grater or Microplane, or go with a never-fail can opener. Just be wary of overcrowding an already small kitchen with duplicate gadgets–check surreptitiously with roommates or significant others to see what’s lacking.
3. Super high-quality chocolate chunks. You know what makes awesome chocolate chip cookies even more divine? The best-ever chocolate chunks. Those, friends, are expensive. Give the baking aficianados their cacao fix in the form of to-die-for bittersweet chocolate chips from Jacques Torres ($9.50 for a one-pound bag of 72% chips), chocolate wafers from E. Guittard ($12 for one pound of 61% or 72%), or go slightly over budget with “nuanciers,” from Michel Cluziel ($38)–chocolate rounds arranged from milkiest (37%) to darkest (99%).
4. Bodum electric kettle. Lots of us didn’t abandon our hot pots when we graduated from college and left ramen and all-nighters behind. An electric kettle a great gift for those who’ve recently moved into apartments, provided they like quick pots of tea or coffee, or getting a head start on boiling water for pasta. This Bodum one ($29.99), which comes in red, lime green, and orange in addition to black, gets the water boiling fast and means you don’t even have to turn on the stove. Plus, owning one makes you seem efficient and Euro-chic to everyone who comes over.
5. Ceramic farmers’ market basket. In summer, when the berries are ripe and gorgeous, this basket ($20) from Anthropologie (a great place to shop for kitchen gifts in general) makes them look mouthwateringly good. It’s a brilliant and photogenic way to display your berries in summer and your shallots and garlic come winter. If you look closely, you’ll see a beloved version Cara gave to her mom pictured in the background here.
6. Spices. If you cook as much as we do, spices run out fast. And the ones that we don’t use up have likely lost their flavor punch in the back of our pantry shelves. Gourmet spice shops like Penzeys (our fave) have tons of affordable, interesting spices to choose from. You can stuff your loved one’s stocking with something new and exciting like the Bangkok Blend, or with a gift set of the old standbys. We like the idea of giving someone a set for a particular cuisine. Zamouri has all the Moroccan specialties like Chermoula, as well as spice blends perfect for flavoring Merguez and tagines. La Cocina in San Francisco sells an array of artisan food products from the local community, including a Nigerian Suya spice mix from Chiefo’s Kitchen which is good sprinkled on everything from chicken to potato chips. Buy it online as part of their gift set, or at one of their local stores.
7. Make-your-own treats calendar. We’re obsessed with the understated design of customized photo products over at Pinhole Press. Rather than do the usual friends-and-family pix for a make-your-own calendar like this lovely blue one ($29.99), choose well-lit food shots that make you drool to frame each 2012 month. Try to be seasonal–think strawberries in June, gingerbread houses for December–and intersperse festive group shots that revolve around food for the 4th of July or Thanksgiving.
8. Floursack or linen dish towels. Cara’s mom is a champion gift giver, and she’s the one who gave her two superlative StudioPatro dish towels ($24 each, pictured above) last summer. They’re gorgeously designed, look great hanging from the oven door, and really do get absorbent and soft after a few washes. We’re partial to the ones that say “Cook” and “Bake.” We’ve also loved Claudia Pearson’s food-themed flour sack towels since we first saw them at the Brooklyn Flea; this “2012 Buy Local Calendar” towel ($16), is awesome for the farmers’ market fanatic in your life. (For guidance on aprons, which we receive as gifts about as often as dish towels, wait for Saturday’s post.)
9. Virtual kitchen entertainment. Even the most centered cook can hit a mental wall during a long haul in the kitchen, while caramelizing onions, stirring risotto, or washing sinkfuls of dishes. An online-only subscription to Netflix ($7.99 per month) opens up tons of great reruns and new movies; three months of books on Audible.com is $22.47. Perhaps best of all, 35 hours of the engaging, entertaining This American Life is stored (with bonus video) on this 2gb usb drive ($29).
10. Homemade hot fudge. Santa Claus may hope for milk and cookies, but when any mere mortal reaches into her stocking and feels for a food product, you can bet she prays it’s hot fudge. Versatile and useful, rich yet gluten-free, a jar of good hot fudge (it’ll cost you a few bucks per jar) will win hearts and minds, even in the weeks after the holidays. See our recipe here, and be sure to dress up your jars with fabric and ribbon.