As we rapidly approach the holiday, a great idea for a gift or for your own cocktail library is a copy of “Spice & Ice” by Kara Newman, my guest on Episode 20. This is a great book if you like your cocktails a little on the spicy side – author of the High Spirits column for Chile Pepper magazine, Kara is the perfect coach for crafting beverages that bite. With suggestions for food pairings, facts about chile peppers, and tips on building a spicy liquor cabinet, Spice & Ice is a must-have for cocktail enthusiasts and chileheads! $11.45 on Amazon.
Find out more at www.karanewman.wordpress.com
Add to this a bottle of Cabana Cachaca…founder Matti Anttila was a guest on Episode 16. Cachaca is Brazil’s national spirit…Cabana has a delicate nose and a smooth finish, perfect in a caipirinha. It retails for approximately $35.
Find out more at www.cabanacachaca.com
Lastly, add a few flavors of The Perfect Puree’s Beverage Artistry line of mixers to the bag. Corporate Mixologist Dana Bruner was my guest on Episode 23.
The Perfect Purée of Napa Valley’s Beverage Artistry® capitalizes on the current trends in the beverage world, enabling even the most discerning beverage artist to exceed the limits of their palate imagination. Unique, balanced and iconic flavors provide a platform upon which creativity has no boundaries – every glass is a liquid canvas. Some of the flavors to try are El Corazon, Mojito, Rum Runner and White Sangria. $25.
Find out more at www.perfectpuree.com.
Day 20 takes us to one of my favorite Boston restaurants, L’Espalier…I was so happy to have Sommelier Kate Moore (a fellow BC grad) as a guest on Episode 24. L’Espalier is in the heart of the Back Bay, adjacent to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Under Chef, Proprietor, Author and now Farmer Frank McClelland’s stewardship, L’Espalier has consistently been rated at the top of national and local best restaurant lists (Zagat, Boston Magazine, Frommer’s Travel Guide, Wine Spectator, among them), serving sophisticated and modern New England-French cuisine, with an emphasis on artisanal and New England ingredients.
A great gift would be a gift card to L’Espalier (prices vary), so that the giftee can go to lunch, dinner or to one of Kate’s “Top Shelf” Cocktail classes…add to that a copy of Chef McClelland’s “Wine Mondays”, which features 130 recipes organized into four-course pairing menus by season, with accompanying wine notes and suggestions. All of the recipes come from the popular Wine Mondays program at L’Espalier—a weekly event created to make food and wine pairing accessible, fun, and affordable. ($24.95)
To that, add a gift set of wine from Jordan Vineyards. I’ve long been a Jordan fan, and was thrilled to have CEO John Jordan as my guest on Episode 26. Since their inaugural 1976 vintage, Jordan wines have been renowned for their consistency and elegance. Tucked into the hills in Alexander Valley, just north of Healdsburg in Sonoma County, they are dedicated to winemaking, hospitality and the joys of the table.
A beautiful wooden box set of the 2008 Jordan Chardonnay & 2006 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon would delight any wine lover on your list ($90). Include a beautiful Riedel Vinum Engraved Chardonnay ($24) or Bordeaux ($29) wine glass, so they can enjoy their gift in style.
Find out more at www.jordanwinery.com
I have long been a fan of Chef Ming Tsai and his fabulous restaurant Blue Ginger, so I was thrilled when he was my guest on Episode 21 in October. A great gift idea for the home chef in your life is a copy of Ming’s latest book “Simply Ming One-Pot Meals“. As someone who loves to cook, but not clean up, this is ideal! The book has 80 one-pot recipes that can be created quickly and healthfully, with relatively inexpensive ingredients….many recipes can serve 4 people for under $20. Ming focuses on seven cooking methods: braise, wok, sauté, roast, high temp–which includes steaming and flash frying–soup, and toss. He offers preparation tips and drink suggestions, and each recipe is accompanied by a full-color photo.
List price is $29.95 ($19.77 on Amazon).
To this, add a gift card to Blue Ginger, his beautiful restaurant in Wellesley MA. Ming and his team create award-winning cuisine that harmoniously blends ingredients and techniques from the East and the West. The menu offers signature items including the Sake-Miso Marinated Alaskan Butterfish (my favorite) and the Garlic-Black Pepper Lobster as well as seasonal dishes. All breads, crackers, ice creams and desserts are made in-house by the pastry department. Blue Ginger also has a beverage menu that really complements their East-West cuisine. Signature cocktails include the Blue Ginger Gimlet and the Golden Goose, a ginger-infused vodka martini, and they have an extensive wine cellar.
You can buy online at www.ming.com
Day 16 takes us back to Tilar Mazzeo (Episode 12) who was noted as part of a Day 1 gift (Veuve Clicquot)….we’re mentioning her again because she also wrote two fabulous books called “Back Lane Wineries of Napa” and “Back Lane Wineries of Sonoma”, which would be perfect gifts for someone planning a trip to wine country in 2011.
It’s easy to Google ‘Napa wineries’ and end up with plenty of big name wineries with daily tours and souvenir shops. But what of those off the beaten path? Back Lane Wineries of Napa and its sister book for Sonoma are guides to small wineries making quality, hard-to-find handcrafted wines. These books take the reader off the highway to friendly, down-to-earth establishments where the wines are made by on-site proprietors. More than 70 wineries are profiled in each volume, as well as Wine Tasting Essentials, Wine Shipping Services, an overview of the area, ideas about how to plan an itinerary, the etiquette of tasting, general prices, and much more practical information, all packaged into a perfectly sized volume.
List price for each is $19.95, but only $13.57 on Amazon.com.
Add to these a few bottles of delicious Ceja Vineyards wine, made by Amelia Ceja, President of Ceja Vineyards, who was my guest on Episode 20, and was featured in “Back Lane Wineries of Napa” (p. 253). Ceja Vineyards is a family owned winery which makes 10,000 cases per year of award winning wine, and Amelia is the first Mexican American woman president of a wine production company as well as host of the video series “Salud Napa Valley”.
They have a Holiday Trio which consists of Ceja 2006 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, Ceja 2006 Sonoma Coast Syrah and a Ceja 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which normally retail for $134, but are only $75 for the holidays.
Two great ladies, two great gifts.
A fun and fabulous gift idea for that person on your list who has everything would be tickets to an amazing wine dinner or tasting, no matter which part of the country they’re in. Chef Daniel Bruce, who was our guest on Episode 26 has lots of options for you to choose from.
As the founder of the internationally renowned Boston Wine Festival, the nation’s longest running food and wine pairing series, Chef Bruce lines up dozens of the top winemakers and producers over a four month time span. Due to the success of the BWF, he has also launched similar festivals in the French Quarter, Washington DC and Berkeley CA.
Some of the many events to choose from (prices vary) are Baron Phillipe de Rothschild, Cliff Lede Vineyards, Plump Jack & Cade Winery, Meritage Madness and Super Tuscans…you can find out more at
You could also give a gift card to Chef Bruce’s award winning restuarant, Meritage at the Boston Harbor Hotel, where he pairs more than 200 dishes each year with outstanding wines from around the world. Large and small plates are offered for each item on the menu, and matched with complementary wine flavors. Meritage has a 12,000-plus bottle wine collection which boasts over 850 different varieties.
Why not buy tickets for yourself while you’re at it…you’ve been good!
Wente Vineyards is California’s oldest family owned and continuously operated winery. Founded in 1883, the winery is now managed by the fourth and fifth generations of the Wente family. I was privileged to have 3 family members on Cocktails for Everyone this year. Carolyn Wente, CEO and a fourth generation winegrower, was a guest on Episode 1 at the Nantucket Wine Festival. Christine Wente, Senior VP of Hospitality and Karl Wente, Winemaker – both fifth generation winegrowers – were my guests on Episode 10.
A lovely holiday gift would be a few bottles of Wente Vineyards’ 08 Riva Ranch Chardonnay Arroyo Seco…it’s a medium- bodied Chardonnay which has a rich, golden color and aromas and flavors of honey, graham, cinnamon and light floral notes. ($19.99). Add to this some of their Wente Vineyards Small Lot Pinot Noir Rose which has a brilliant watermelon color, and flavors of raspberry, melon, orange peel, mineral and honeysuckle. ($21.99).
To top it off, include a Gift Card which can be used at The Estate Winery and Vineyard Tasting Rooms, The Course at Wente Vineyards, The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, The Grill and The Concerts at Wente Vineyards (denominations vary).
Day 12 of our 25 Days of Gift Ideas is about Food & Wine pairings. Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein was my guest on Episode 18. His first book, “Perfect Pairings” was such a success, he released “Daring Pairings” this year. In Daring Pairings, Evan ventures into wine’s new frontiers, exploring the flavors and pairing potential of thirty-six distinctive grapes from around the world, including Argentina, Spain, Italy, Greece, and France. He offers advice on crafting unforgettable wine and food pairings, suggests wines for everyday and special occasions, and recommends producers and importers.
A copy of Daring Pairings ($23 on Amazon) is the perfect gift when paired with some fantastic wine, so why not add a few bottles of Emeritus Pinot Noir to the book? Emeritus founder Brice Cutrer Jones was my guest on Episode 6. Brice, who also founded the Sonoma-Cutrer label, is making some amazing Pinot Noir on 150 acres of vineyards in two Sonoma County locations – the home ranch, Hallberg Vineyard, which is in the heart of the Russian River Valley, and William Wesley Vineyard in the coastal mountains of the Sonoma Coast. The wines are available online when you join their mailing list.