Local gift ideas for the cook in your life

It's not hard at all to find great gifts for cooks this holiday season
Le Creuset storage containers
Le Creuset storage containers

It’s not hard to find a great gift for someone who likes to spend time in the kitchen.

Spices and seasonings make welcome gifts. There are lots of ways to economize and still make great food, but you really can’t do that without seasonings and expect the same results.

Good vanilla, from Mexico or Madagascar, has gotten very expensive, so several years ago I started giving bottles of vanilla as Christmas gifts and now I buy them every year for my two friends who expect them.

Penzey’s, the spice-selling store, has departed from Crossgates Mall, but will open again after the new year in Stuyvesant Plaza. This is good news for those who like to browse and compare three kinds of cinnamon, or oregano, or curry side-by-side. Their gift boxes range from a $10 four-jar basic set of two kinds of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. You can buy their products online at penzys.com.

If you want to cross off your Christmas list by shopping locally, you must stop at the well-stocked Spoon & Whisk in Halfmoon. Owner Cheryl Zinni said spiralizers are very popular for gifts right now, and she also sells books to go with them. There are several models, starting at $39.95. Cooks who want to make healthier meals after the holidays will appreciate this. Popcorn poppers designed for the microwave — for those who want to get away from those microwave bags — are good sellers, too.

A stylish, sturdy knife sharpener by Brod & Taylor ($119) would be appreciated by anyone who has good knives and wants to take care of them properly. Spoon & Whisk also stocks colorful and useful Le Creuset storage jars in colors accompanying your own Le Creuset pots, starting at $25, which make good all-purpose gifts.

Gift cards can be used for cooking classes at Spoon & Whisk, too. The classes, taught by well-known local chefs on a variety of topics from knife skills to ethnic cuisine, are open to everyone from novice to expert.

Different Drummer’s Kitchen in Stuyvesant Plaza has beautiful Wusthof knives on sale until Christmas, while supplies last. They’re sure to be welcomed by anyone who likes to cook, and they will last a lifetime. If I didn’t already have my own knives, these would be at the top of my Christmas list. Owner Michele Weiser suggests thin and light Epicurean cutting boards, which are made to last and won’t hold odors like wooden ones.

The roasting pan by Mauviel is a thing of beauty, simply designed and well-made. It’s made of three-ply highly polished stainless steel and comes with a roaster rack and Rosle marinade injector for $159.99. The lucky recipient won’t want to keep it in the kitchen. I’d show it off.

You can buy gorgeous butcher block products by Alexander Butcher Block of Troy at Different Drummer, a locally made product bought at a locally owned business. That’s good for everyone.

Different Drummer is also featuring the latest book by Jim Rua, proprietor of Cafe Capriccio in Albany. He chronicles his 30 years as owner of Cafe Capriccio in Albany, and all copies of his books at the store are signed. His simple take on Italian cuisine makes the restaurant a perennial favorite and Rua shares some of his signature recipes so you to make them at home. The title is Cafe Capriccio’s Chef’s Table.

It’s not hard at all to find great gifts for cooks this holiday season. So stuff a stocking with some spices and shop at our excellent local stores, where someone will help you find what’s perfect.

Categories: Life and Arts

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