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Catalogjam! Sorting Out a Few of My Favorite Things

Editor’s Perspective

The Catalog season is upon us. With it comes lots of tempting pictures, lots of luscious food, and lots of gift ideas – enough to make you feel like there is a Catalogjam! To help you break through, we’ve been compiling a few of our favorites at The Food Channel and bring you these recommendations from the Editor.

Appliances. Yes, you heard right.

If you have the chance to wander through a Williams-Sonoma store, do. Second best is wandering through the catalog. It’s one of the best food catalogs, interspersing recipes with great photography and full descriptions of the products that will help you make those recipes. They also offer packaged foods, such as handcrafted toffee and chocolate-covered figs. This catalog sets aside the perception that you shouldn’t get your spouse an appliance as a gift. The filled-pancake pan will turn your kitchen into an innovation center (try the recipe for Pecan Pumpkin Filled Pancakes or Chocolate Filled Pancakes). The cordless immersion blender will free you to try new sauces and soups. The deluxe slow cooker speaks to the trend toward cooking at home, using better equipment to make it easier. These gifts are all about bringing a bit of sophistication into our homes.

(OK, I confess. I bought the filled-pancake pan for myself. My present to my husband will be when he tastes those pancakes with his favorite cherry filling.)

Bread

Boudin Bakery in San Francisco offers a great bread that is just difficult to replicate at home. The Rustic Stuffing Bread is a full 2-pound loaf. Serve it with any meal or make your leftover turkey sandwiches with it – even dunk it in homemade soup. Or, as the name implies, make your stuffing using Boudin’s Rustic Stuffing Bread. It is made with dried cranberries, sage, parsley and rosemary – all the favorite ingredients for a traditional Holiday stuffing. Or, try the sourdough. This bread comes with a bit of history, since the Bakery was established in 1849 and is the oldest continuous operating business in San Francisco. This is where the Original San Francisco Sourdough French Bread came from. Boudin bakers use a portion of the original ‘Mother Dough’ and Boudin’s original recipe from 1849 to create Boudin’s distinctively flavorful bread. Boudin’s original ‘Mother Dough’ has been replenished with flour and water every day for over 150 years. Bet you can’t make that claim at home!

Breakfast

Here’s a gift that we’ve ordered for long distance relatives with great success – a gift basket from the Loveless Café. This is a location you should definitely visit if you are ever are in Nashville, because you can experience the hot biscuits and country ham first hand. But any of the gift baskets are a good second best. This is a small catalog – just 15 pages, but there’s plenty from which to choose. Preserves, smokehouse meats, and more. A great gift idea for the growing population of people who don’t want a gift unless they can eat it!

Cookies

Speaking of eating, we took a break at The Food Channel after a shoot recently to open a box that came from Paquins Sweet Harmony. Inside was a beautiful cookie bouquet with fun shapes and great taste. For Christmas it comes in designs including poinsettias, a nativy scene (pictured), and a great snowman winter wonderland. Surprise someone with pure fun, delivered with great care – not a cookie was broken.

Chocolate

Then, there is chocolate. As you can see in our foodie gift series, we made truffles this year. But if you don’t want to make them yourself, you can’t go wrong with Godiva. I’ll never forget the year my nephew got me two luscious dark chocolate Godiva truffles. He was in college and hard up for money, but wanted to do something to say thanks for the use of my laundry room, the periodic home-cooked meal, and lots of free advice. Just looking at the Godiva catalog now makes me think of him and that little gold box.

Another good chocolate choice is to shop by occasion at Lindt. In addition to their Snowflake Mug Filled with Truffles, you can get mini-pralines or a reindeer in white, dark or milk chocolate.

For chocolate that is off the beaten path, there is a place called the Candy House, with Christmas baskets chock full of chocolate, cheese and nuts. You can build your own basket, too.

Meat

Ready for some protein? We got a copy of Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue and got some new ideas. How about sending someone you love ribs for Christmas? Or try any of the specialty add ons (I recommend the Cheesy Corn Bake), cakes or cheesecakes. If you are in the mood for meat, you can always rely on Honeybaked for hams, pork loin, and more.

Specialty Items

For several years in a row my office received a corporate gift that was ooh’d and ah’d over like no other. It was a giant apple covered in caramel, chocolate and nuts from Mrs. Prindable’s, and it is truly memorable. There’s nothing like biting into the crunch of an apple offset by creamy caramel and chocolate. You can get it in versions specific to your own tastes – the Plush Snowman, the Reindeer, the Holiday Bouquet and the Hanukkah Dreidel, just for starters.

For the inner foodie, there are dozens of specialty catalogs that will give you ideas for gift-giving. Stashtea is one that I’ve enjoyed ever since a neighbor invited me for tea years ago. Or, try Bigelow Tea with its great gift recommendations – I like the holiday bucket!

Buckets reminds me – a riend of mine is addicted to caramel popcorn. I recently sent a tin of Garrett’s Popcorn to her while she was studying for exams and she claims it was the best pick-me-up possible. Garrett’s is a Chicago icon, and is really the best popcorn I’ve found. I’m partial to the cheese – if you are undecided, go for the Mix. (It’s also an Oprah favorite).

In addition to food . . .

Of course, love of food can take many forms, and we particularly like the idea of a gift certificate for a culinary class. The Culinary Institute of America offers a variety of choices, or find one in your area.

No matter what you choose, the catalogs alone can bring the true foodie hours of enjoyment, just thinking about the possibilities! Feel free to send us your tips or best experiences with catalog orders.