Midrange gifts for the foodie

Send your friends to culinary heaven with some artisanal cheese and avant-garde cookery.

By Alex Koppelman
Published November 28, 2008 4:52PM (UTC)
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We, of course, would never dream of doing anything like this, but from what we understand, some people buy gifts for others that are really meant for themselves. In order to satisfy that demographic, we offer up your standard turkey frying kit ($79.99), just in time for the holiday season. Yes, you may need to throw in a couple of months' worth of insurance co-pays for any trips to the burn unit your loved one has to make after frying a turkey for you. But try one turkey made this way and you'll never want to go back to that poor old roasted bird again.

Cheese cheese cheese: Mmmmm. Cheese. Even better, cheese from the Cowgirl Creamery, the renowned artisanal curds and whey station located in Point Reyes, Calif. Visiting San Francisco for work a few years ago, I fell for the ultimate breakfast of fresh fruit and the Creamery's clabbered cottage cheese. Mmmmm. Clabbered cottage cheese. Since then, I've become familiar with some of its more refined offerings, like the triple-cream wonder Mt. Tam. You can purchase Mt. Tam (along with a blue cheese, a cheddar-style called Matos St. George, a "hand ladled" goat cheese, and buttery Carmody) as part of Cowgirls' Tomales Bay collection ($65). Or you can go all out with one of the Cowgirls' Artisan Cheese clubs ($200-$575) so that your house will be lactose rich all year round.

We all know someone for whom practicality is at best a secondary concern, especially when there are flights of fancy out there for the taking. For that person, there's a deluge of recent cookbooks from some of the culinary world's biggest names. Grant Achatz, who is leading the wave of avant-garde chefs in the U.S., has a new book named after his Chicago restaurant, "Alinea" ($31.50). So what if you'll never be able to make the recipes contained in it, never mind afford the necessary equipment? That's not why you buy a book like this; its overall quality more than makes up for what it lacks in utility. Along the same lines, Achatz's mentor, Thomas Keller, has a new book, "Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide" ($47.25). The cooking method that gives the book its title remains all but out of reach for the home cook, true, but Keller's books are things for the ordinary mortal to aspire to. Even those books pale behind the behemoth that is British chef Heston Blumenthal's latest, "The Big Fat Duck Cookbook" ($157.50). It's more art than it is cookbook -- but it's beautiful art, and Blumenthal is a great teacher, even when he's explaining things few of his readers will ever attempt.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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