Gift Guide 2016

The best holiday gifts for serious food lovers.

SHOP GIFTS FOR THE:

Lightweight and virtually unbreakable, melamine can be super convenient for outdoor entertaining or big parties. Unfortunately, it's not always super attractive. That's why I'm so in love with these plates, which look like hand-painted ceramic, with the weight and heft of, well, plastic. Plus, I get complimented on them all the time.

I can't fathom decorating a birthday cake without this sturdy, heavy-bottomed stand. It speeds the process of crumb coating and decoration, while allowing for a whole new array of finishing techniques. It can also double as a lazy susan, so it's often on my dinner table, piled with condiments and toppings, even when there's no cake in sight.

Coffee and tea just feel more luxurious in this pretty handmade mug from Portland, Oregon's Mazama Wares. We love the satiny, soft-colored glazes and find the handle particularly comfortable. These mugs also stack nicely, thanks to an unfinished tapered section at the base of each mug.

Whether you're baking cakes from scratch or from a mix, giving the batter more room to grow will minimize doming, for thicker, more level layers. Light, reflective metal also minimizes browning to keep the cake crust delicate and pale. Because the pans are nonreactive, they can also be used with poke cakes that involve acidic liquids, like lemon juice.

They may not come in the most festive or glamorous packaging, but you can't go wrong with Effie's Oatcakes. Buttery, crumbly, nutty, and salty-sweet, they're insanely addictive. Case in point: I've eaten three in the last 10 minutes. My advice? Purchase them in bulk so you can stuff a stocking or two and hoard the rest for yourself.

Cooks who do a lot of preserving, or keep several types of flour, rice, or other dangerously similar-looking ingredients around the kitchen in plastic or glass jars, need a practical way to identify the contents of all those vessels. The Brother P-Touch label maker—which prints and slices off labels quickly, in your choice of 14 fonts, and even on multiple lines—does the job admirably. But that's not the only reason, or even the most important reason, this device should be on your gift list. The real reason is that, for a certain type of organization freak whom you probably know (or are), labeling everything, from bottles of homemade syrups and dressings to recipe files to kitchen cabinets, is a particularly habit-forming kind of fun. Of course, a label maker is handy for all sorts of non-kitchen-related tasks, too, so there's no need to be prescriptive—just let the fastidious recipient's imagination run wild.

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. His recipe for tahini sauce, which includes a novel technique for incorporating garlic and lemon, is alone 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 full recipes from the book.

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.