Everyone knows a “food person” – they’re the one you ask for restaurant recommendations, who spends hours in the kitchen whipping up fabulous meals and baked treats, who reads cookbooks like novels, who knows their Honeycrisps from their Galas and their flan from their crème caramel. We’ve rounded up ten tasty and useful gifts we bet they’d love to find under their tree this Christmas.
Long-time local food blogger Jodi Samis runs this online spice shop, where she creates custom spice blends as well as offering top-quality dried herbs, spices, seeds, chilies, and salts to enhance your cooking. Home chefs will love hard-to-find blends like Moroccan ras-el-hanout, two kinds of Baharat (Syrian or African!), and Indonesian rendang curry powder. If you can’t decide, sign your loved one up for a monthly spice subscription and make the gift last all year long. Each month’s new spice comes with recipes for its use.
For that one friend who loves to throw a cocktail party, Split Tree’s fruity syrups and tonics make it easy to put together an elegant, delicious drink in seconds. With a bottle or two of these concoctions on hand, all you need is ice, soda water, and liquor (if you like) – no spending time squeezing fresh juices or buying up the soft drink aisle. Split Tree syrups contain no high-fructose corn syrup, no artificial flavours or colours, and no preservatives. You can shop online or find them at Whole Foods in Lansdowne, Metro in the Glebe, and a range of other local shops. The sample pack with 60 ml bottles of their five best-sellers is our pick at $25 (online only).
This Canadian company infuses their hand-harvested salt with delicious flavours such as balsamic vinegar, Danish blue cheese, roasted garlic and Spanish paprika. They’re ideal for adding a taste boost to salad dressings, sauces, dry rubs, or perking up roasted vegetables.
Nielsen-Massey extracts ($13.90 each) at Pot & Pantry
For the adventurous baker who wants to go beyond vanilla, Nielsen-Massey makes genuine extracts of almond, lemon, coffee, and peppermint to flavour homemade cookies, muffins, cakes, and candies. These make lovely stocking stuffers and a little goes a long way!
Paderno citrus squeezer ($5.99) at The Glebe Emporium
If you’re tired of squeezing citrus fruits by hand, this cheerful yellow tool will help you get the most juice out of a lemon or lime when you need it for a cocktail or recipe. Particularly handy for those who like to make their own lemonade in the summer.
8-inch tortilla press ($58) at Pot & Pantry
Tacos are so hot right now (but when are they not?) and hard-core cooks might want to try making their own corn tortillas to wrap around the filling of their choice. Sure, you can use a rolling pin, but this heavy, metal press doesn’t take up much space when stored upright, and turns out perfectly flattened circles of dough ready to be fried and consumed. (Maseca corn flour, available in the Mexican food section at most Loblaws stores, makes a great tortilla, by the way, and it’s $5 for a huge bag.) Check out our article on Pot & Pantry’s opening here.
Modglass casserole dishes (starting at $19.50) at The Glebe Emporium
If you remember your mom or grandmother pulling a casserole out of the oven in one of those old-school Corningware baking dishes with the funky ‘70s designs on the sides, you’ll love these modern versions (some with slightly tongue-in-cheek animal prints for your Etsy-loving friend). They come in three sizes, all with clear glass lids so you can check the dish’s progress without losing the heat. An excellent potluck conversation-starter!
If you’ve got a friend who spends half the summer and fall standing over a boiling pot in the kitchen making jams and pickles and chutneys to put away for the winter, here are two useful additions to their arsenal: a non-slip mat to replace the metal canning rack in the bottom of their canning pot, and a set of water-soluble labels to avoid the awful task of scraping old labels off their Mason jars once what’s inside has been used. The mat is a great space saver and won’t ever rust, rattle, or warp, unlike a rack.
Famille Nomade Tunisian tea towels ($16 each) at Pot & Pantry
These large, thick, colourful kitchen towels are both gorgeous and useful in a busy kitchen, working perfectly as dish dryers, hand towels, and even draped over a tray or table to prevent spills and add style.
Laguiole bread knife ($26.99) at Pot & Pantry
French company Laguiole is well-known around the world for its lovely knives and corkscrews, and this serrated beauty’s handle comes in several colours including red, ivory, and black. There’s always a baguette to be sliced – why not do it in proper French style?
Paderno cookie scoop ($13.99) at The Glebe Emporium
It’s just a tiny ice-cream scoop, I know, but this thing will change your life. You know those perfect, round, uniformly-sized cookies you see at bakeries and in cookbook photos? This tool will let you make those at home. Scoop out your dough, pat gently into discs before sliding into the oven, and voila! Picture-perfect baked goods worthy of Instagram. (You can also use it for scooping ice cream, if you hate your friends enough to only give them tiny scoops.)
Legendary local food critic asked 41 of Ottawa’s best cooks to share their favourite and most popular recipes, and then she built a gorgeous book out of it. Ottawa Cooks is available at numerous restaurants around the capital region as well as at Chapters. Some restaurants are donating the proceeds of books bought on their premises to local food banks and other charities, so if you see it while dining out, ask them about it. Read Apt613’s interview with Anne DesBrisay about the book here.
Do you have other ideas for great local gifts for Ottawa foodies? Let us know in the comments below!