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Eater Gift Guide, Part I

We're all dolled up in holiday spirit this week -- not that we're going to be less hard on Bullfrog and Baum -- and as such thought we might throw around some Eater gift ideas for you and your culinarily-inclined yours. Do pace your generosity: with tomorrow comes Part II.

2005_12_ilbuco.jpg1) Il Buco: Its legendary status with both the dating and cognoscenti-tourist sets means that this is not the season to be popping in. But chef Ed has a website where you can find, among other items, a trio of his flavored 10-year-old balsamicos ($185) from Modena (actually, just south, to be precise). The one made with myrtle berries pairs well with wild boar and other game, or cheese; the orange variety works best with shellfish & pork, or even duck & salad greens; and the fig is optimal for dessert, pairing perfectly with gelati, cheese, even figs and marscapone. Or, if $185 isn't a thought that counts enough, you could drop $550 for the trio of aged vinegars (10-, 15, and 20-year old). Buy.

2) Bouley Bakery & Market: Since NOBODY likes a fruitcake, but the non-Yids especially have an affinity for trading them back and forth this time of year, perhaps it time you went against the grain and put a lemon tea cake into play. Unlike a fruit cake, it's a perfectly lovely dessert and can't be beat when toasted up with some quality raspberry jam for breakfast. If you're going to a Tribeca holiday party, stop in at the Bouley source and ask the kind people there to help you put together a basket of treats. (Be sure they also include a handful of the passion fruit with milk chocolate macaroons, the closest you're going to get to the Pierre Herme experience this side of the Atlantic.) Or, buy.

3) Bellavitae: As a recent spate of media coverage has been quick to repeat, the folks at Bellavitae got their start importing Italian specialties: Mostarda di cremona; chestnut honey from Lake Cuomo; olio verde & olive oil in the style of Cibreo in Florence; 20-year-old balasmico. (Wonder no more why their food is so damn good.) Stop in for a frittata and stock up for your Ital-obsessed loved ones. Also, given the authenticity of these goods, they also work well for when you've come back from Italy having forgotten your officemate. Browse online, but you'll have to pull the trigger in person or by phone: (212) 473-5121.

2005_12_public.jpg4) Public: If you're wondering what those bronze mailboxes that line the resto's interior entrance are for, now you know: the NoLIta mainstay has a very stylized wine of the month club. Each month, members pick up a bottle of carefully selected wine from AvroKo-designed PO boites of their very own. Though space is limited, memberships are available for that special culinary scenester someone in your life. They'll run you $50/month for a minimum of 12 months, which isn't such a bad deal if you consider that club status comes with perks, such as access to last minute primetime reservations. Buy.

5) Otto: If the Nobel Foundation ever comes to us for nomination inspiration, we're throwing Meredith Kurtzman's name out there. She of Mario Batali's maestro of gelati fame. Her Olive Oil gelati is the tip of the iceberg. Pumpkin, roasted cinnamon & caramel might make a festive triumvirate; but, if you're a traditionalist, go for the riso (like rice pudding, gelato style--hard to find outside of Italy), hazelnut stracciatella and the coffee. The magic is all available by the pint. It's the perfect treat to take to someone's home for a holiday meal, if for no other reason than to ensure a minimum of one supremely enjoyable course. Buy.

C. Druckman