The Ultimate Food Lover's Gift Guide Slideshow
Tickets to Cochon 555
Five chefs, five pigs, five wineries — they all come together in a cooking contest where the chefs are each given a whole pig before the event and given about a week to prepare them. Cochon 555 starts in January, kicking off a 10-city culinary competition and tasting tour for which "50 chefs are selected to prepare a 'snout-to-tail' menu created from heritage breed pigs." The 10 local winners then battle at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen at Grand Cochon.
You can gift tickets to events in any of the participating cities: New York, Napa Valley, Memphis, Portland, Boston, Miami, Washington D.C., Chicago, L.A., and San Francisco. They range in price for general or VIP admission, from around $125 to $250.
Gift a Restaurant Experience
For the ultimate, cutting-edge restaurant experience, you could give a dinner at Next, but the way the ticketing system works, you'd most likely have to get the reservation and take your giftee with you. Alternately, you could purchase gift certificates for two seven-course tastings at The Aviary, chef Grant Achatz's restaurant and cocktail bar experience in Chicago. Can't swing it, but looking for something similarly exclusive? Try reservations at minibar ($150 per person, not including wine, tax, and tip). Feeling generous? For $450 per person you could gift one of New York's premier sushi experiences: Masa. (Hey, it could happen. One of last year's guide wish items, flautas from Chico's Tacos, was gifted to a Daily Meal editor in 2011.)
Obviously, you can call almost any good restaurant across the U.S. to have a gift certificate sent out. Or you could use the new gift restaurant web site Treatful.com to find restaurant experiences in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago.
Pat LaFrieda Meats
Pat LaFrieda has become one of the biggest names in high-end meat. Send some burgers (original, organic, short rib, brisket, or lamb blends), sausages, or assorted cuts to your beloved discerning carnivore.
"Big Jug" of Pure Organic Maple Syrup
Have a loved one with a sweet tooth? This New Hampshire-based, family-owned business harvests their syrup using renewable energy, biodiesel, and sustainably harvested firewood. This certified organic medium amber maple syrup was made exclusively for Best Made.
1001 Foods You Must Taste Before You Die
From single press extra-virgin olive oils and artisanal cheeses to more exotic fare such as zebra jerky, this compilation is a cornucopia of culinary delicacies from every cuisine around the globe.
Hancock Gourmet Lobster Co.'s Lobster Rolls & Whoopie Pies
Who doesn't love a lobster roll? And anyone worth their salt knows the best ones come from Maine. With this gift, lobster rolls are presented with a pound of fresh Maine lobster salad (lobster, mayo, salt, and pepper) and six New England split-top rolls. They toss in six freshly made Maine whoopie pies for dessert, too.
Can you go wrong with the gift of caviar? The only question is: How much do you love... er, are you willing to spend on great caviar from Petrossian?
Tickets to the 30th Anniversary of the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen
Food festivals seem to be sprouting up in every city across the country (Hey, when's Chicago getting a Food & Wine event?), but there's only one Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. And with next year's event being the 30th anniversary, you can bet it will be a memorable one. What a gift.
Tickets for the festival (June 15-17) go on sale on December 5. It's not cheap (tickets range from $250 to $3,100), and unless you're feeling spectacularly generous, your loved one is going to have to take care of travel and lodging, but the gift of tickets goes a long way.
Armandino Batali's Culatello
These days, there's more and more great charcuterie made in the United States. But you still can't find culatello everywhere, one of Italy's most prized salumi. The rear part of the back leg of the pig is spiced, tied into a pear shape, and cured for about six to eight months. It's similar to prosciutto, but with a creamier texture and with more intense flavor.
One of the high-quality places doing culatello is Salumi Artisan Cured Meats, where Armandino Batali (father of the famed chef Mario) has set up shop and garnered praise. The earliest you can order the culatellos is Jan. 4 (but it's worth the delayed holiday gratification), but in the meantime, you can special order a selection of other great charcuterie from the store, starting at $49. (Orders will ship via FedEx Ground and will arrive in time for Christmas if order and credit card info is received by Dec. 13.)
Modernist Cuisine/Molecular Cuisine Starter Kit
A six-volume, 2,400-page set by Nathan Myhrvold, the former chief technology officer at Microsoft, that some believe could quite possibly completely revolutionize cooking as we know it. The photos are gorgeous; there are recipes, ingredient, and cooking tables; and even an abridged cleanable kitchen guide containing recipes. What's not to want about this? If you know a budding chef interested in modernist cuisine, this is the gift. If the $451.83 price tag is a bit steep, the Molecular Cuisine Starter Kit ($79.99) is a great way to get someone started.
The Ghost Pepper
Have friends or family members who love spicy food, or the challenge of eating hot peppers? Send them Bhut Jolokia, the ghost pepper, which in 2007, was certified as the hottest chile pepper on the planet in the Guinness Book of World Records. Or gift them a variety of candies, powders, and other ghost pepper-related products.
Murray's Cheese/Meat/Pairing of the Month Club
Having recently expanded, and been featured prominently in The New York Times for their cheese caves below Bleecker Street in New York City, Murray's only seems poised for more success. Have their Murray's signature cheeses; charcuterie; or cheese, chocolate, and chutney pairings sent to your favorite turophile in installments of four, six, or 12 months.