I don't often recommend single-function items, but for the cocktail enthusiast, a couple of julep cups really are fun to have. There's nothing like holding that metal cup frosted with ice on a blisteringly hot summer day—glass just doesn't pull the effect off in the same way. If the recipient doesn't have an ice crusher, check out my Lewis bag suggestion as well.
I've used many, many oyster knives in my life, and the R. Murphy Duxbury knife is my hands-down favorite. It has a fat, grippy handle that's easy to wield, and a short blade that tapers to a point and always manages to find the sweet spot on an oyster's hinge. Pop! The slightly sharpened blade edges make slicing through the muscle and removing the top shell as smooth as butter.
Race relations, religion, the New South versus the Old: These are just a smattering of the heavy issues Rien Fertel writes about through the lens of—well—smoked meat in this new book. And, while you might be thinking, "Oh, man, another book about barbecue?", this one stands out from the crowd thanks to Fertel's superb writing and storytelling skills. In a book that's part culinary history, part personal narrative, and part tale of an American road trip, Fertel travels throughout the South, documenting the men who have long stood behind the fires practicing the time-consuming pursuit of whole hog barbecue—the ones who have been keeping alive the embers of what once seemed like a dying art, and the ones who are inspiring a new generation of pitmasters today.
Thanks to a few simple innovations in the filter and beaker design, this French press fixes a few of the brewing device's biggest drawbacks. The result is a cleaner batch of coffee that won't accidentally over-steep.
If your dad likes to be on the cutting edge of what's cool, impress him with a whole type of spirits he may not have tried. Raicilla is distilled from agave, like tequila and mezcal, but few people have heard of it, since it only entered American markets in 2014. Sierra de Jalisco has a vibrant acidity, with earthy-fruity-vegetal elements playing around it. If Dad's a fan of funky mezcals, he'll enjoy raicilla's incredible complexity.
Homemade ice cream tastes better than almost anything you can buy in a store, and it's a snap to make. This ice cream maker, from Cuisinart, is all the gear you need: an easy-to-use workhorse that makes delicious ice cream every time. The simple construction means that there are few moving parts to break, and the wide mouth at the top makes it simple to add mix-ins and scoop out your ice cream when it's at its fresh, creamy best.
Friends have toted bottles of this fantastic gin back from Barcelona, but now you can buy it in the US. Macerated with Arbequina olives, thyme, rosemary, and basil, along with cardamom and coriander, it's remarkably creamy, savory, and spicy. It makes for a wonderfully aromatic Martini and a super-complex, earthy G&T.
I've never been to Zahav, the Philadelphia restaurant where Michael Solomonov serves his Israeli cuisine, but its namesake book has nevertheless changed the way I cook. If Dad still cooks the occasional meal for you, you might point him toward the hummus tahini recipe, which includes a novel technique for incorporating garlic and lemon that alone is worth the price of admission. I've loved the Yemenite beef soup (and the accompanying hot sauce), his wide focus on vegetarian-friendly dishes, and a host of homemade condiments that will elevate almost any meal, even if you don't follow the full recipes from the book.
This is the electric kettle of my coffee-delayed dreams. It has an elegant gooseneck spout that makes pouring a thin, controlled stream easy (very helpful for Chemex and other pourover coffee methods) and a base with controls that allow you to set a specific temperature and hold it there.
It's hard to find a better curated food selection than Zingerman's. They are righteous folks, they know seriously delicious food when they come across it, and they sell it at a fair price. Nothing in the catalog is cheap, but then again, good food rarely is. So whether you order cheese or olive oil or bread from Zingerman's, you can be confident you're going to be very happy when it arrives at your house.
At drink o'clock, wefind myself turning to this app. Enter all the bottles you have at home when you start, and the app will tell you all of the drinks you can make, with recipes straight from New York's famous PDT cocktail lounge. You can also search for drinks of a certain type or cocktails created by a favorite bartender, and save favorites for making again. (To give an app as a gift, look for the arrow to the right of the "buy" icon.)
Burrough's Reserve is a rare thing indeed: a gin you can enjoy neat. It's distilled in founder James Burrough's original copper pot still, then rested in barrels that once held the aromatic aperitif wine Lillet, picking up a light straw color and a touch of oak. The barrel-aging mellows the familiar juniper-citrus character of Beefeater just a bit, for a spirit that's smooth and satisfying. It makes a superior Martini or Vesper, but it may be at its most appealing served solo in a chilled glass.
Sorghum syrup is made from the pressed juice of sorghum grass, which grows prominently throughout the American South. This amber-colored syrup has a unique nutty flavor that's both sweet and savory. And since the 1960s, the Guenther family of Muddy Pond, Tennessee, has been making some of the best.
Dave Arnold (you might know of his bar, Booker and Dax in NYC) won't just accept the common assumptions about cocktail technique—his mission in this excellent book is to dig into the science of how the very best drinks are made. If your dad is the inquisitive type, and likes to host cocktail hour at home, this is a must-read for him.
If you like your whiskey with a giant ice cube, then you'll really be into Mammoth Cubes—unlike ice cube trays from current competitor brands, these make eight cubes (not six) and are actually stackable, so they don't require a section unto themselves in your freezer.
I can't tell you how many times I burn bread crumbs or forget about the nuts I'm toasting in the oven. At least, I used to. That was all before I got myself a couple of these easy-to-use, loud kitchen timers that I can hang around my neck, so I never forget about something in the kitchen, even if I leave the room.
In the inexpensive-thermometer department, the ThermoPop is the new kid on the block, but he comes in an impressive package. An easy-to-read display rotates at the touch of a button, so you don't have to twist your head to read it. It takes a few seconds longer to read temperatures than its big brother, the Thermapen, but it's every bit as accurate.
It may sound nuts to mail-order cornmeal and grits, given that they're found on any supermarket shelf. But I'd argue that you haven't experienced the best cornbread, grits, or other classic Southern dishes until you've had them made with the kind of high-quality stuff Anson Mills is selling. It'll change how you understand those foods and what they can be.
Coffee and tea just feel more luxurious in this pretty handmade mug from Portland's Mazama Wares. We love the satiny, soft-colored glazes and find the handle particularly comfortable. They also stack nicely thanks to an unfinished tapered section at the base of each mug.
I'll admit it: I'm a pepper mill snob. I need my mill to produce a shower of evenly crushed peppercorns. I want to be able to control the size of those grains, from a rough crush to a fine powder. Not only that, I want my pepper mill to last. With a solid metal burr and a unique, easy-to-load design, this is my favorite pepper mill of all time.
Having The Cocktail Chronicles at your side is like having a friend who always knows a good drink recipe for whatever you've got on hand. It doesn't talk your ear off or suggest something with a dozen ingredients. Instead, it shares classics, recent spins on classics, and drinks you've never heard of but can easily mix up and enjoy, and the introductions are never preachy or boring. This book will appeal to full-on cocktail fanatics and newbies alike; there's something delicious on every page.
Brisket is Texas's best-known contribution to barbecue culture, and though you can now get slow-smoked brisket in just about every major American city, you still need to go to the source to get brisket so good it will make you cry. But if you can't make it to Texas, ordering Louie Mueller's is the next best thing. The Muellers have been smoking the stuff since 1949. The key here? They ship the whole brisket, which means you get plenty of the critically important fatty half. Why is it critically important? Because we all know that fat IS flavor. Phone orders only: (512) 352-6206.
The Spirit E330 was introduced last year to replace the E320. The two models are identical except that the 330 adds a 7,500-BTU sear burner between the left and middle main burners. Sear burners are one of our favorite extras for gas grills. You'll love turning this baby up to 11 when searing steaks and burgers.
There are a lot of custom-designed pizza ovens out there in various price ranges. I reviewed a bunch of them, and one of my favorites was the Uuni 3. It consists of a small stainless steel box with a pizza stone set inside it. You load up a hopper on the rear of the unit with wood pellets, light it up with a torch or lighter fluid, and let it preheat. About 15 minutes later, you're ready to cook. This little powerhouse hits temperatures in excess of 900°F and bakes up Neapolitan-sized pizzas in just 60 to 90 seconds.
Snow Leopard stands out among vodkas for its texture—distilled from spelt, it's fuller-bodied and richer-tasting than most vodkas. It makes for a pleasantly weighty martini.
High-quality Swedish steel and Japanese design, along with great features like a perfectly balanced handle and blade and an ergonomic bolster, make the Misono UX10 Santoku the most used knife in my arsenal.
The Roccbox is an incredible little oven with simple, reliable operation, whether you're using gas, wood, or charcoal to fire it. It consistently hits wood-fired-oven temperatures and maintains them for as long as you are cooking, with no fussing or babysitting, which means Dad can spend more time enjoying pizza with his friends and family and less time coddling a temperamental flame.
When it comes to portioning pizza, a knife simply won't cut it. At least, not if you don't want to drag cheese and toppings all over the place. For my money, nothing beats a traditional pizza wheel.
This is hands down the KitchenAid attachment I use most often. It takes all of the frustration and fussiness out of making fresh pasta, and, unlike the manual alternatives out there, it's incredibly easy and efficient to operate on your own. Hello, homemade ravioli!
A good steak knife should cut steak well, and it should look good while doing it. French-made Laguiole knives are the gold standard in performance, with extra-sharp edges for easy cutting, a long life, and gorgeous handles with distinctive bee-shaped bolsters. (Beware of inexpensive knockoffs!)
Wooden pizza peels are too thick to easily slide under a pie once it's hit the oven; for that, you'll want a thin-bladed metal peel. A thin-gauge aluminum peel is just fine for the occasional baker, but it'll bend and warp eventually. If you're going to be making pizza multiple times a year for many years to come, you might want to spring for something heavy-duty. I use the KettlePizza Pro Peel, which has a thick-gauge aluminum body that extends fully past the solid teakwood handle.
Few things get me as excited as a good raw bar, but most of the time, I eat far fewer than I want because, after the first couple dozen oysters or so, it just gets to be too expensive. That's even truer when the oysters are top-notch, like the briny little suckers from Island Creek up in Massachusetts. But here's the good news: You can order Island Creek's oysters online by the 50- or 100-count for much less than they cost at most restaurants and have them in your hands the next day for an at-home shucking extravaganza. (Obviously, it helps to learn to shuck first.)
A pressure cooker is a cooking vessel that just keeps on giving: Once you discover the time-saving feats it's capable of, you'll never look back. The good ones aren't cheap, but man, is it ever worth having one. A countertop electric model gives you set-it-and-forget-it convenience. With the Breville Fast Slow Pro Cooker, not only do you have complete control over your pressure cooking (including any pressure level from 1.5 to 12 psi), you also have a slow cooker and a rice cooker built right in. It'll even sear meat for stews.
A good digital scale is an essential tool for bakers or home charcuterie makers. The OXO Food Scale comes with an easy-to-clean removable stainless steel weighing surface, great accuracy and precision, and a pullout backlit display to make measuring simple, even for large or unwieldy items.
A good pair of kitchen shears is one of those things that are hard to appreciate until you have them. Sure, there are all the obvious uses, like opening food packages with a snip and cutting up poultry, but that's just the start. Take another look at those things. Yes, that's right, they're also a nutcracker. Aha, yup, and a bottle opener. Did you see the flathead screwdriver built into them? Handy, right? Oh, they can also be used to unscrew stubborn jar tops. They're way more than just a pair of scissors. Plus, the two blades come fully apart, so you can wash them really well—no icky chicken juice hiding in the recesses. Isn't avoiding salmonella poisoning a gift worth giving?
A premixed 2:1 rye-vermouth Manhattan with a few dashes of bitters, this stuff spends three months aging in used rye barrels, which integrates the flavors and adds a touch of woody character to the drink. Give it a quick stir over ice for chill and dilution, spray an orange twist on top, and you've got a drink worthy of any cocktail bar—no barrel required.
If your dad has a taste for a well-made cocktail, but isn't that likely to take off on a bar crawl in Brooklyn, this book is the perfect solution. It features 300 innovative and classic drink recipes from the best bars of the borough; every cocktail I've made so far has been killer. The drinks Carey Jones has selected aren't dumbed down at all, but, for the most part, you're not looking at mile-long ingredient lists, either.
Anyone who appreciates Scotch (or good spirits in general) will embrace Nikka's exquisite whiskies. The Taketsuru Pure Malt is named for the company's founder, who studied in Scotland before bringing whisky distilling back to Japan. This bottling has a slight fruity character, with lingering sherry on the finish.
Why give your dad one Scotch when you can give him three? This gift set includes three 100-milliliter bottles. A combination of 10 vintages from 1989 through 2007, the Vintage Reserve is mellow and fruity, the range of young and older whiskies contributing both bright, fresh citrus on the one hand and rich, oaky elements on the other. Sherry Cask (aged, as the name might suggest, in used sherry butts) leans toward dried fruit, and the Bourbon Cask (aged in bourbon barrels) toward creamy vanilla.
My good friend Jordana Rothman cowrote this thoughtful ode to tacos with chef Alex Stupak, and it's a must-have for anyone ready to take a deep dive into corn, masa, tortillas, and everything—modern and traditional—you can stuff into them.
Warning: Reading this book might lead to the purchase of some very expensive plane tickets. The Roads & Kingdoms crew will get you hungry for a journey to Japan: for onigiri basted with chicken fat, juicy one-bite gyoza, milky-white tonkotsu ramen broth, and briny sea urchin. Is Japan the best place on earth to eat? This book will convince you that it is.
Time was, you had to build an actual wood-fired stone oven to get Neapolitan-style pizza in your backyard. With the Serious Eats–edition KettlePizza and Baking Steel combo, you can convert your Weber kettle grill into an honest-to-goodness wood-fired pizza oven that'll bake Neapolitan-style pizzas in minutes.
If Dad finds Scotch too smoky, bourbon too sweet, and rye too spicy, Irish whiskey is the ideal gift. Redbreast emerges from the barrels complex and substantial; some of the whiskey is aged in sherry casks, lending it a weight and dark hue, while some is aged in bourbon casks, imparting characteristic vanilla flavors. There's a hint of fruit up front and spice on the finish.
Know someone who's interested in sous vide cooking? They're gonna want this. And it's handy for way more than just sous vide cooking. A vacuum sealer makes it really easy to save meats or other foods in the freezer, and it keeps air (read: freezer burn) off it all. The Oliso sealer uses a unique resealable-bag system, which means far less wasted plastic than a conventional cut-and-seal vacuum sealer.
A bean is a bean is a bean. Or is it? Once you go down the rabbit hole of eating quality dried beans (after they're cooked, of course—raw dried beans aren't so great), you'll fall in love with their variety of flavors, textures, and colors. Some are starchy, some are nutty, some are earthy, and some are slightly sweet. Rancho Gordo is one company that sells some really cool ones to try. You won't look at dried beans the same way again.
Cynar (pronounced chee-NAHR) is often identified by the artichoke on the label, but that's just one of the many flavors you'll find in this complex liqueur. And, while we're fans of the rich, sweet, and vegetal 1950s original, we're really excited about the new Cynar on the block. Cynar 70 is 35% alcohol instead of 16.5%, and the extra booze makes a marked difference, rendering the liqueur a bit less sweet and accentuating its bold, spicy flavors. If Dad likes Negronis or other bitter drinks, this is a great choice for a gift.
Wooden peels absorb excess moisture and have a rougher surface than metal, which means that your stretched and topped pizza dough will remain loose and easy to launch far longer, saving you from potential pizza-spilled-all-over-the-oven accidents. Though there are cheaper options around, I love my Perfect Peel Baker's Board, handcrafted to last a lifetime from gorgeous solid cherrywood. They'll even put your initials or logo on it if you'd like!
Warning: Reading this book might lead to the purchase of some very expensive plane tickets. The Roads & Kingdoms crew will get you hungry for a journey to Japan, for onigiri basted with chicken fat, juicy one-bite gyoza, milky-white tonkotsu ramen broth, and briny sea urchin. Is Japan the best place on earth to eat? This book will convince you that it is.
Sous vide cooking—cooking foods in vacuum-sealed pouches in precisely controlled water baths—is no longer relegated to fancy restaurant kitchens. The Anova Precision Cooker is the best home water-bath controller on the market, with an easy-to-use interface, Bluetooth support, rock-solid construction, a sleek look, and an affordable price tag to boot.
Made from whiskeys averaging 10 to 12 years in age, this bottling is all vanilla and toffee in the aroma but spice and char on the finish. It's sophisticated and eminently drinkable.
This hand-blown and -etched mixing glass from Japan looks stunning on a bar cart and even better in action, whether you're stirring a Negroni, a Martini, or a Manhattan. Mixing glasses made from two parts joined together sometimes split at the seam, but this version, made in one piece with a beaker-like spout, can stand up to heavy use.
This isn't just a chili cookbook. Robb Walsh digs deep into the beloved dish's ancestry, tracing threads through Mexico City, San Antonio, and Santa Fe—as you might expect—but also Hungary, Greece, and the Canary Islands (off the coast of North Africa). Walsh is one of food writing's best storytellers, so the book is satisfying even if you never whip out your Dutch oven and get cooking. You should, though: The fascinating tale is best enjoyed with a big bowl of chili con carne. (Walsh's recipe from El Real in Houston is killer.)
I never knew how much I'd appreciate having a soda-maker at home until I got one. I'm a fizz fiend, and that used to mean sugary sodas. Now it means sparkling water at the touch of a button. If you're willing to spend up, you can upgrade to the Power Source, which allows you to choose your carbonation level at the touch of a button.
If you're following my advice to buy someone julep cups, you might as well go all the way and grab a canvas Lewis bag, too: It's used to smash ice into a fine powder with a mallet. Unless, of course, the person you're buying for already has an ice crusher.
In this book, Meathead Goldwyn, the founder of AmazingRibs.com, distills decades of research on the art and science of barbecue and grilling into a single volume that shows not just the best ways to take food to live fire, but why the techniques work. Far more than a recipe book alone (though there are tons of bulletproof recipes), this text will teach Dad the hard-tested fundamentals of outdoor cooking, giving him the confidence to cook anything, even without a recipe. The myth-busting and equipment tips alone were enough to get me hooked.
I tested dozens of stovetop pressure cookers before settling on Kuhn Rikon's Duromatic. It has a heavy sandwiched-aluminum-and-steel base that gives you even heat and a pressure gauge that makes telling exactly how much pressure has built up inside visual and intuitive.
Old cast iron has a perfectly smooth nonstick surface that's surprisingly easy to maintain. You can sear, bake, roast, braise, stew, and deep-fry in it, and there's nothing more thoughtful than a gift that you have to expend a bit of effort to find (check out eBay, yard sales, and flea markets). Of course, these modern Lodge pans will do in a pinch if vintage isn't in the cards.
These days, I keep this solid slab of steel permanently atop one of the burners of my stove. One side has a pebbled surface—ideal for getting extra-crisp, better-than-a-baking-stone crust on homemade pizzas. And, unlike a baking stone, this thing is going to last forever. The griddle arrives as shiny steel, but with just a few uses, it seasons up into a dark, slick nonstick surface that Dad can use for pancakes, eggs, hamburgers, grilled cheese, and more.
There are some kitchen tools that make the difference between amateur-looking food and pro-level stuff. A small mandoline is one of them. This one, from OXO, is compact, easy to use, and very sharp. It only has three thickness settings, but in my experience, that more than covers most home slicing needs.
The Cadillac of kitchen thermometers is indispensable when roasting meat, cooking steaks, making candy, deep-frying, or at any other time precise temperature control is needed. With a big display and a blazing-fast measuring time of under two seconds, you won't find a better, easier-to-use thermometer out there.
I have a problem with wooden spoons. I collect them like nobody's business. But there are a few I always turn back to, and this one, from Le Creuset, is one of them. It's gorgeous to look at; it has a flat front, which makes it great for scraping up fond or stirring vegetables; and it's got a smooth, ergonomic grip that makes using it a joy.
There's form, and then there's function. The aprons from Tilit are great on both fronts. Made from waxed cotton, they offer breathability along with water resistance, but they're also damned handsome. Several NYC restaurants have commissioned custom apron designs from the company for their chefs and cooks, and I'm pretty psyched to wear one of these bad boys at home, too.