Nosh Box: Saddle Up Your Holiday Gift-Horse


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Vegan, vegetarian, carnivore, piscivore, or omnivore: You can have your druthers when ordering a food box delivered to your recipient’s door.

poppet with a camera

Pondering what to buy for the foodie or gourmand on you holiday list? Check out the selections below that seek to avoid the trite and true, and include suggestions for every taste and budget.

Books – Don’t think cookbooks. Instead, study the nonfiction offerings within this genre. Included would be any book by Ruth Reichl, a talented writer, formerly with Gourmet Magazine.

Two specific titles by other authors warrant pondering, one well-know, another not much so. Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential was a national best seller that blew the doors off the white-tablecloth restaurants long before he became a television personality. While the title is well-known, both inside and outside the food community, the pages have not been so well-read. Consider it appropriate for those who would appreciate its take-no-prisoners approach.

For an equally revealing—but not so harsh—look inside the wine hospitality trade from the first-hand experiences of a woman, be sure to check out Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker. Follow as she sets her journalism career aside to pursue certification as a master sommelier, starting at the very bottom, and against an impossible timeline.

Food Boxes – Vegan, vegetarian, carnivore, piscivore, or omnivore: You can have your druthers when ordering a food box delivered to your recipient’s door. The selections are numerous, and the East Bay’s organic suppliers are plentiful. Try this convenient way to provide fresh, field-to-fork eats on a regularly scheduled basis.

Decide the type of box your want: home, commercial, or office? Then decide the contents: vegetables, fruit, meat, dairy, or combo? Finally decide the delivery frequency: one time, daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly? Then place your gift order.

Some outstanding local resources include, Albert & Eve, in Orinda,  HYPERLINK "mailto:info@alberteve.com" info@alberteve.com; Golden Gate Organics, in Oakland care@goldengateorganics.com; or the home delivery option at Dan’s Fresh Produce, in Alameda  HYPERLINK "https://www.mercato.com/shop/dans-fresh-produce" www.mercato.com/shop/dans-fresh-produce.

Wines and Spirits – Wine selection and packaging during this season is pretty much business as usual—with the exception of holiday gift baskets, discussed below. But the spirits selections abound with special blister pack gift packages that include free beverage bling. The freebies take the form of glassware or barware, like shakers or mixers, making the combination eye appealing and practical.

Limited selections may be found at the warehouse stores. But a wide array would be available at both BevMo and Total Wine and More. Also consider Craft Beer and Wine in Alameda for a tasteful smaller selection.

Viva la France – Despite California’s wine heritage and production, in the minds of consumers, French wines hold a special cachet. Although sometimes misjudged as pricy or too young, such is far from truthful. Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux are ready to drink, and sport a second-tier price, with no compromise in quality. Besides geographic proximity, these wines share a familial similarity, uniformly enjoyable, with retail prices that hover comfortably between $15–$20. Naming a favorite is difficult as choosing a puppy, because there’s no slacker among this litter. Ask for them at Total Wine, BevMo, or at your favorite wine specialty store. And while you’re at it, grab a 750 for your own enjoyment

Gift Packs – While “location, location, location….” may apply to restaurants and real estate, with gift packs and gift baskets, the trilogy becomes, “packaging, packaging, packaging….” Their glitzy eye-appeal entices. But finding quality and quantity foodstuffs within, present real challenges. Buying online, or from a catalogue, increases the odds in favor of the seller.

Two well-known sources offer quality gift packs. First, the professional buyers from Kirkland, Washington perform the legwork for you, screening supplier for Costco’s gift boxes. Additionally, inspecting them hands-on at the warehouse lets you read the brand and label information inside, as well as the contents weight, which helps in evaluating a winner. Costco’s “no questions asked” return policy, and low everyday prices, sweeten the deal even further.

The second is Harry & David, a premium food and gift seller from Oregon. Their products are available by direct mail, in retail outlets, and online—including some selections on Amazon. For 80 years its addictively confected Moose Munch has been a flagship product, combining candied ball popcorn with assorted nuts, chocolate, coconut, or peppermint bark. Harry & David’s fruit selections are choice, and delicious. Its retail prices, while rated premium, are consummate with their quality. Visit www.harryanddavid.com.

Cooking Appliances – Technology updates how we cook. Microwave ovens and portable induction cook-tops have demonstrated reliability. On the other hand, air-fryers remain in the juvenile stage, with diverse performances among manufacturers in terms of capacity, versatility, effective cooking, ease of cleaning, and longevity with daily use.

One recent cooking development that has shown some legs is sous vide. Food is usually first sealed in a plastic pouch, most times under vacuum. The pouch is immersed in circulating, low temperature water for a long time, producing slow, temperature-controlled cooking. Once removed from the bag, the contents’ surface is browned or finished on a grill, hot pan, or under a broiler or salamander.

Temperature controlled water circulator/heaters retail between $40 and several hundred dollars. Decent ones can be had for $75–$150 from retail cooking stores and on-line sources, including Amazon and <www.William-Sonoma.com>.

But be sure a competent vacuum-sealer is available. A leaking pouch ruins the show.

 

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