Christmas Gift Guide 2018: Gifts Food Lovers Actually Want

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There’s still time to get a great gift for the food lover in your life. Don’t succumb to a store’s pressure of crazy gadgets (strawberry huller or olive pit remover anyone?) or lame oven mitts. You can do better. Waaay better.

Here are my top picks: 

For the Home Cook Part 1 – Stellar Kitchen Tools

Kitchen tools are a fabulous idea - as long as you stay away from gadgets (no one needs a egg yolk separator or fruit/veg specific slicer - i.e. banana, avocado, etc.) and anything covered in brightly-coloured silicone. 

Top-Knotch Knife

When I first visited KNIFE shortly after its opening back in 2010, it was in a tiny attic-type space that you had to climb t terrifyingly steep steps to get to. It was just a guy (owner Eugene Ong) and his exquisite knives. I felt like I’d found the best kept secret in the city.

Now he has a lush storefront on Dundas West, a stunning showcase for a range of Japanese knives. One of these and trust - your present will be the best of the bunch this year. 

p.s. Also available: sharpening, whetstones, cutting boards, cast iron, Konro barbeques, and knife skills class. 

p.p.s. We’re lucky to have a number of knife shops in the city, so be sure to check out Tosho Knife Arts and Hacher & Krain.

Fish Spatula

Last month, Cook’s Illustrated did its usual deep dive, this time into metal spatulas - a tool so overlooked and underrated. But once you have a good one, it becomes a serious gamechanger. It was a much-needed reminder to get your fish spatula game sorted if it wasn’t already.

A quality fish spatula is a thing of beauty. And it doesn’t have to cost a fortune either. I found one by a renowned Japanese company with a mother-of-pearl-esque handle and limited lifetime warranty. For just four bucks. 

For the Home Cook Part 2 – Next Level Pantry Items

People who cook tend to get gifted the same type of ingredients –various salts, tomato sauce, gourmet popcorn, chocolate, vinegar, pasta... the list goes on.

Here are some out of the ordinary ingredients that are sure to make your home cook swoon:

Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemons elevate a dish like nothing else. Once you try this fragrant beauts, you’ll wonder how you ever went without them. They also happen to be a staple for iconic chef/author Yottam Ottolenghi.

Black Pepper

Stores and the press always focus on salt, but a black pepper outside of the usual grocery store suspects is truly a gift that keeps giving.

You’ll see.

Two words

Duck. Fat.


For the Wine Lover

Please no more wine charms!

Pro Wine Opener

Sure you could get those who are serious about wine another decanter or bottle stopper, but a double-hinged waiter’s corkscrew with foil cutter is the way to go. 

It’s what the pros use, and will have you popping bottles with aplomb for decades to come. 

Happy holidays guaranteed. 

p.s. If your oenophile is into vintage vino, an Ah-So corkscrew - a two-pronged cork puller – is the way to go.

p.p.s. If you’ve got money to burn, there’s always the Code38 Wine Knife. Oomph.

Wine Subscription

Wine delivered straight to your door that’s not available in the LCBO, Vintages or any wine store? Sign me up.

There a number wine-of-the-month clubs available in the city. I’m got my fingers crossed for The Charlie’s Burgers Wine Program.

For the Art Lover

Tea towels, oven mitts and aprons are all well and good, but food art lasts forever. And there’s so much great talent right here in the city:

- Gotamago - whimsical, hand-illustrated stationery and gifts by Toronto’s own Lichia Liu.

- Unique food illustrations by contemporary Toronto artist Laura Heaney.

- Hungry Eyes Studio by Toronto-based illustrator Flo Leung.

- Toronto resident Roderik Mayne has a collection of still lifes and BOH works in oil paint.

- Hyperrealist paintings by Erin Rothstein who lives and works in Toronto.

- Local artist Shelley Savor does paintings, illustrations and linocuts, many with a food focus.

- Contemporary still life artist Marsha Strycharz offers works in both small and large sizes.

For the Book Lover 

While a cookbook is obviously a great gift, there’s more to books about food and drink than just a collection of recipes, such as the deluxe edition of Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain or Meehan’s Bartender Manual by Jim Meehan, bartender, journalist, and author of The PDT Cocktail Book.

And let’s not forget about subscription to a fab food magazine including The Cleaver Quarterly, Whetstone, and so good, for example.

For the Restaurant-Goer 

A gift card/certificate to a restaurant is never a bad idea. Here’s why:

1. Choose their favourite restaurant and you’re good as gold because they’ll be looking forward to going for weeks.

2. Choose a place they’ve never been to. Hopefully they’ll love it, but if not, they won’t feel like it was a waste of money.