Gift Guide: What the Serious Eaters Love

Our gift-guide marathon continues. Still looking for that special something? Try our full complement of lists. —Ed.

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After putting together 17 holiday gift guides this year (for everyone from the peanut butter lover to the coffee drinker to the food t-shirt wearer), we decided to ask the Serious Eats crew to share their favorite kitchen gadgets, pans, books, and other food items they already have, love, and believe others would be pleased to receive too. Our picks, after the jump.

Far Flung and Well Fed, recommended by Ed Levine

20091218-giftguide-ed.jpgMy friend Johnny Apple of the New York Times died a little more than three years ago, and periodically I still find myself having an imaginary animated food-and-life-related conversation with him. Now, with the publication of a collection of his food writing, Far Flung and Well Fed, serious eaters everywhere can eavesdrop on these imaginary conversations.

Johnny loved food, life, and his wife Betsey in equal measure, and you can read about all of his passions in this book. As my friend Corby Kummer, who wrote the book's foreword said, "Johnny was by nature and temperament an enthusiast. He loved good food, as you could tell from looking at him, and he loved good company just as much. His constant, big, bearish generosity and delight in people came through everything he wrote." Well said, Corby.

For the last few weeks Johnny's book has been my constant bedside companion, and I'm confident that any serious eaters on your holiday shopping list would also find Far Flung and Well Fed to be most agreeable night table company this Christmas season. Far Flung and Well Fed, from $17.81, at amazon.com

Silpat Mats and a Digital Scale, recommended by Alaina Browne

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I've never been much of a baker but that's going to change now that I have Silpat mats and a digital scale. I wasn't convinced that these were must-haves until I baked my first batch of cookies with them. Holy non-stick action and perfectly proportioned cookies, Batman! Silpat Baking Mats, $21.95, at cooking.com; Digital Scale, $39.95, at cooking.com

The Butter Bell, recommended by Adam Kuban

20091130-butter-bell.jpgI'm a little embarrassed about my love for the Butter Bell. I can't figure out if it's a gimmicky, almost-unnecessary, overly fussy, unitaskery way to store butter or the greatest thing since sliced bread.*

But I guess it's no worse than a butter dish—and, in theory, much better. See, you fill the "bell" with softened butter, fill the crock that houses the bell with some cold water, and voilà! The water makes an airtight seal, and, best part, keeps the butter at a perfectly spreadable temperature.

Sure, you could probably go with a butter dish, but the whole water thing and bright color makes it much more fun and lends butter storage the sort of majesty previously reserved for wine cellars or cheese caves. OK, maybe that's laying it on a little thick. The Original Butter Bell Crock, from $19.95, at butterbell.com

*Actually, buttered bread is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Patisseries of Paris, recommended by Robyn Lee

20091218-giftguide-robyn.jpgThis is the book I should've had when I studied abroad in Paris at the end of 2006. Alas, it hadn't been published yet.

If you want a beautiful guide to 92 of Paris's best patisseries, chocolatiers, sweet shops, and more accompanied by lots of food porn, get this book. The only other book you'll need is a Plan de Paris (map of the city). Patisseries of Paris, $11.53, at amazon.com

Sporks, recommended by Erin Zimmer

20091218-giftguide-sporks-erin.jpgThis is not the first time I've endorsed sporks. At some point I decided to do pro-bono grassroots outreach for the perfect utensil. This particular plastic model by Scandinavian spork designer Joachim Nordwall is pretty nifty because it's actually a spoon-fork-and-knife combo (don't worry, the serrated edge won't saw off your mouth, yet can still cut your average tomato wedge or chicken breast). It comes in 19 colors. Light My Fire brand sporks, $2.79 each, at amazon.com

Silicone Egg Poacher, recommended by Carey Jones

20091218-giftguide-carey.jpgI have nothing but respect for those who can perfectly poach an egg. But to me, "poached egg" translates to "easy dinner"—and I'd rather not bother with vinegar, big spoons, delicate swirling, or anything else that my tired self could screw up. Which is why I love these silicone egg poachers.

Coat with a little oil or spray, crack an egg inside, drop the whole thing in a pot of gently boiling water, and in 3 to 4 minutes, you get a perfect poached egg. And since the egg never touches the water it boils in, you don't even have to wash the pot. I use these poachers more often than I use my chef's knife. Silicone Egg Poacher, $6.99 for a set of two, at laprimashops.com

Citrus Zester, recommended by Caroline Russock

20091218-giftguide-caroline.jpgThis citrus zester might be a bit of a one-trick pony but it's the one tool in my kitchen that makes me smile every time I break it out.

This particular one peels the skins off oranges and lemons into perfect little curlicues that can be chopped into tiny pieces for cooking and baking, or left whole as an attractive garnish for cocktails. This zester makes a wonderful gift for the avid home cook, baker, or mixologist on your list. Citrus Zester, $16 at williams-sonoma.com

Zojirushi Water Boiler, recommended by Chichi Wang

20091218-giftguide-chichi.jpgSo the first time Tam told me about her Zojirushi Water Boiler, my response was, "I'll tell you how to boil water! You put it in a pot and turn on the stove." But having used her water boiler for a weekend, I am a convert.

Maybe it's just my constant need for warm beverages, coupled with my coffee addiction, but the intense happiness I derive from being able to refill my mug with hot water set precisely for coffee or tea is priceless.

Like its rice cookers, the Zojirushi water boilers use Micom (Micro computerized) technology to dispense with water at temperature settings of 175, 195, and 208°F. Unlike an electric kettle that reaches boiling point and shuts off, this machine keeps the water hot for as long as it's plugged in. Zojirushi Water Boiler, $114.95, at cooking.com

Emile Henry Pie Plates, recommended by Jessie 'Cakespy' Oleson

20091218-giftguide-cakespy.jpgI adore these pie plates. Not only do they have a pleasing weight and come in a plethora of pretty colors, but the thick plates are sturdy as all get-out and can go directly from the freezer to the oven to the tabletop without cracking under the temperature change. Emile Henry Pie Plates, $19.95 to $44.95, at surlatable.com

Immersion Blender, recommended by Maggie Hoffman

20091218-giftguide-maggieblender.jpgI really believe everyone needs an immersion blender. No more pouring hot liquids: just blend until creamy right in the pot! I use mine for hummus and other dips as well. I bought one for my sister-in-law for making baby food. I love that you can just take the top off and chuck it in the dishwasher. KitchenAid Immersion Blender, $99.95, at cooking.com

Smoked Paprika, recommended by Michael Natkin

20091218-giftguide-michaelnatkin.jpgIf there is one spice that has the potential to improve a wide range of dishes, I'd pick smoked paprika. The smoky flavor adds that just-grilled taste and a speck of heat. Artisan Spanish Smoked Sweet Paprika, $5.50, at amazon.com

Bar Garnish Tray, recommended by Hawk Krall

20091218-giftguide-hawk.jpgWhen I was a line cook, every station had one of these. (I ordered one the second I quit.) It's perfect for holding a few kinds of salt (fine, kosher, sea salt) along with black and white pepper and other dry spices you use often. The tray allows you to keep the stuff out on the counter so you don't have to keep opening the cabinet while cooking. It's also fairly easy to clean—the containers come out and go right into the dishwasher. Bar Garnish Tray, $21.50, at kegworks.com

More Gift Guides: Find Something for...

for the Baking Mix Maven »
for the T-shirt Fan »
for the Healthy Eater »
for the Asian Food Junkie »
for Beer and Wine People »
for the Cocktail Aficionado»
for the Plush-Toy Lover»
the Sweet Tooth »
the Coffee Lover »
the Meat Lover »
the Hot Dog Lover »
the Cookbook Reader »
the Chocolate Lover »
New Yorkers Actual and Expatriate »
Gluten-Free Cooks and Eaters »
an Officemate or Casual Acquaintance »

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