**WARNING** DO NOT ATTEMPT to make homemade food gifts if you have never cooked before–sex or back-rub coupons might be a better choice.
First of all, packaging is critical. You can’t hand someone a food gift packed into a used Cool Whip tub. Remember: You are better than that. What you need to do is go down to the Container Store, or IKEA, or even your local hardware store, and pick up some of those airtight jars with removable rubber gaskets. There is a rumor that they sell such things at Michael’s, but I have never been able to penetrate farther than 10 feet into the craft megastore without breaking out into painful hives all over my tender body.
Next, think about your skill level. Let’s say that you’re a bit backward in the kitchen—you dust your stovetop to clean it and use your oven for storage. Here are three perfect food gifts for you to make.
Confiture de lait. Dulce de leche in Spanish, milk jam at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, it’s basically caramel made by reducing milk. Sound fancy? Sound swank? Get this: It’s so easy you won’t believe it. Just buy a can of sweetened condensed milk (I get the organic kind) and submerge it a pot of water. Cover the pot, bring it to a boil, and simmer for a couple of hours, making sure that the can remains under water the whole time. Turn off the heat, and, when cool, open the can. You have a thick, glossy, brown confiture de lait—perfect as a dessert sauce, on a morning croissant, or by the spoon in the middle of the night. It also works well as a gift in one of those jars, tied with a ribbon.
Lemon curd: Again, so simple you won’t believe it. In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together ½ cup of sugar, 1 egg, and the juice and zest of one lemon; cook, whisking constantly, until thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and whisk in two tablespoons of unsalted butter, letting each cube incorporate before adding the next. Strain curd through a fine sieve set over a small bowl; press plastic wrap against the surface of curd and refrigerate until well chilled. Slap this beautiful, sunny-looking curd into a pretty jar and you have a swell gift for about $0.75—and save some for yourself (it’s divine on buttered toast in the morning).
Infused liquors: This one is so easy that even if you are an orangutan, you can still accomplish a success. Take a giant bottle of neutral, inexpensive vodka—like Svedka, which is half the price of Absolut. Find several pretty smaller bottles at any of the sources discussed above and shove dried spices down the necks of the bottles. Try to put a little style into your shoving (smell each group of spices together to anticipate their flavors): choose from whole vanilla beans, juniper berries, cloves, dried chilis, Sichuan peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, allspice, coriander, nutmeg. Slap a ribbon on and you’re dunzo!
Or, if you have a bit more skill, try either of these two:
: I used to think that spiced nuts were like upscale Chex party mix, but now I kind of like their unobtrusive presence during drinks at my house (and they’re easier to clean up than my usual cheese, pâté, and chorizo carnage). They make a fine gift, especially these
with maple and bacon.
: Does anyone remember those giant canisters of caramel popcorn from Bloomingdale’s that people would hand out at Christmas, and then you’d be stuck with that massive can forever? Here’s a better idea. Get some pretty colored plastic bags from the Container store and fill them with this tasty, very adult, spicy caramel popcorn from Smitten Kitchen
. It’s the perfect offering when invited to a dinner party.
Any help? Let me know what handmade treats you plan to give out over the holidays, and, someone, please tell me what the inside of Michael’s looks like.
December Events at The Study in Banksville
We love this sweet, wine-geek haven in pretty, scenic Banksville for its owners, Noah and Katherine C. Goldberg, who is a Certified Wine Specialist, wine educator, and former sommelier of a Michelin Star-awarded restaurant in New York City. The Goldbergs offer a focused selection of spirits, beer, and artisanal wines from around the globe.
1066 North St, Greenwich, CT
Thank You Thursday at The Study
December 13, 2 – 6 pm
From the site: “The Businesses of Banksville offer an afternoon of gift giveaways, hors d’oeuvres, and wine tasting. Special guest appearance by the ‘one and only’ Santa Claus! We are giving our wonderful supporters our favorite double-hinged corkscrew.“ For a full list of other freebies available during Banksville’s Thank You Thursday, click here
Holiday Open House at The Study
December 15, 2 – 6 pm:
Shop while you bop with live music, free gift-wrapping, and lots of good cheer. Look for The Study’s Wine of the Month Club, holiday gift certificates, personalized cases, and “tastefully festive wine baskets.”
Feast of the Seven Dogfishes at Growlers Beer Bistro
December 12, 7 – 11 pm
From the release: “Come join us for a true craft beer tradition: our second annual Feast of the 7 Dogfishes. On Wednesday, December 12th from 7 to 11 pm at Growlers Beer Bistro in Tuckahoe, enjoy 7 of your favorite, rare, and hand-selected Dogfish beers.
Dogfish Head Brewery is best known for their extreme and experimental beers that include ingredients such as raisons, grapes, or chicory. The brewery is based in Milton, Delaware, founded by Sam Calagione. It opened in 1995 and produces 75,000 barrels of beer annually. Dogfish Head has been a rapidly growing brewery—it grew nearly 400% between 2003 and 2006. The brewery was featured prominently in the documentary Beer Wars, and is the subject of the Discovery Channel series Brew Masters, which premiered Sunday, November 21, 2010. The brewery takes its name from Dogfish Head, Maine, where founder Sam Calagione spent summers as a child. Growlers will be pouring the following Dogfish Head beers: 60 Minute, 90 Minute, Chicory Stout, Palo Santo Marron, Burton Baton, Hellhound On My Ale, Birra Etrusca Bronze.”
Growlers Beer Bistro
25 Main St, Tuckahoe
Farro with Autumn Vegetables and Balsamico at Tarry Lodge
Here’s the thing about farro: It’s like a Great White shark. It is a primitive grain (also known as “two row emmer”) that was so perfect, it didn’t need to evolve. It’s a nutritionist’s dream—a whole grain that tastes delicious and has become rather trendy. And, why not? Farro has a richly nutty, wheaten flavor and a miraculous chew, soft but pleasantly resilient to pressure. We love farro in simple, healthy dishes like this, where it’s paired with roasted butternut squash, olive oil, and a good balsamic.