HowChow has gift ideas -- some great cookbooks and some local spots for cooking items. Start off with some cookbooks. I pull tons of cookbooks from the library, but there are three that worked their way down to my first shelf this year.
- Andrea Nguyen's Asian Dumplings. The most-thoughtful cookbook that I have ever seen. Delicious dumplings -- from simple to complex. The flavors are delicious. The techniques are explained clearly, and you can cheat with some store-bought dumpling skins -- although Nguyen's handmade dumplings are worth the effort.
- Steven Raichlen's Planet Barbecue. I bought a hardcover copy because I knew that I'd wear out the paperback review copy. Imaginative additions to your repertoire -- ground lamb, whole chickens, vegetables, and more. It's the perfect gift to someone who would want to explore the local ethnic markets -- as I blogged about using the recipes to check out Nazar, Lily's Mexican, and the Asian supermarkets.
- Kimiko Barber's The Japanese Kitchen. I keep returning to this book and Barber's The Chopstick Diet. It's light food, simple recipes. It's a great guide to checking out the Asian supermarkets.
Beyond the ideas, you need some stuff to turn out great food. Williams Sonoma exists for kitchen splurges. We love the brittles, the cool vinegars, and the gadgets. Even in a cold season, the Zoku popsicle maker is a terrific gift. Easy, delicious and kid-friendly. But you can leave the mall for some offbeat ideas:
- Buy a chef's jacket at Sysco Discount Food Center in Elkridge. They sell white, black and red. They also sell basics like measuring cups, knives, bowls, etc. Mark Bittman says these supply stores can outfit a kitchen for $200.
- Buy some Asian items at Hanoori Home Plaza in Catonsville. They sell knives, chopsticks and other kitchen items. Consider pairing a two-level steamer with the Asian Dumpling book or a sushi-rolling mat with The Japanese Kitchen. But they also sell some cool Asian stuff -- bento boxes to pack a lunch, molds to turn hard-boiled eggs into cow faces, etc.
- Cool chocolate bars. You can browse for sweets at a bunch of places -- Salazon salted chocolate at the organic markets, sea salt Lindt at Target, or several brands at i.m. Wine in Fulton. You can even get Old Bay chocolates at Sweet Cascades in Ellicott City.
Think about your own little basket. A book, some gadgets, some chocolate or a Williams Sonoma vinegar. Remember that I get a cut if you buy from Amazon -- either the items above or the other cookbooks that I recommend.