Holiday Gift Ideas

It’s that time of year again.

For people like me, who leave things to the last minute. It’s time to think really hard – what gifts can I get for that difficult-to-shop-for [insert name]?

Of course, I don’t claim to have all of the answers, but through the years I’ve amassed some pretty cool kitchen & photography things. I thought I would share with you some of my favorite (and perhaps more unique and unusual) things I’ve gotten over the past few years. Perhaps it can be the perfect gift for some food-loving friend or relative you know.

The Inner Kitchen Chemist

I actually got this present for my birthday about a month ago from some good friends of mine. It’s perfect for my inner chemist who likes to play around with powders, liquids, and vials!

This molecular gastronomy kit includes many of the basic ingredients needed to execute all kinds of  molecular gastronomy techniques. They also gave me the Alinea cookbook, written by none other than Grant Achatz, one of the leading masterminds of molecular gastronomy in the U.S.

Or Savor Beautiful Food Photography + Recipes

Speaking of books by amazing 3-star Michelin chefs, another great gift idea might be the new, gorgeous book by Daniel Humm about dishes from his newly minted 3-star Michelin restaurant, Eleven Madison Park. I got to try many of these dishes at a special “cookbook tour” dinner cooked by Daniel Humm himself (at Boston at Menton, of all places!) just a few weeks ago. Details from that meal will be posted, soon I hope! I haven’t tried cooking out of the book, but I can attest to the fact that it’s gorgeous and the food we had on the cookbook tour tasted incredible.

 I’ve been meaning to try out these cool Japanese kitchen items I got in the mail from Korin, a cool specialty Japanese tableware and knives seller from New York City. They carry a lot of neat Japanese kitchenware, including many knives similar to my beloved Masamoto knives (among many other Japanese knives). They recently contacted me asking me if I wanted to review something from their store. I ended up picking this unusual type of pot called a Jo On Sai Pot because it was different and something I’d never tried using before. Look out for a new post about this! Meanwhile, check out Korin‘s store online, which has tons of fun Japanese-type dishware & knives, many of which would make excellent gifts for anyone who loves Japanese stuff (like me!).

Sous Vide Supreme

If you want to experiment with a cooking technique used by many high-end restaurants around the world, try the art of sous vide cooking, which involves cooking foods at very precise temperatures (in a water bath). For the adventurous, try cooking out of Thomas Keller’s food dedicated to sous vide cooking, Under Pressure. For a more basic book that’s chock full of really useful information, try Douglas Baldwin’s Sous Vide for the Home Cook.

Jura-Capresso Impressa F9 Fully Automatic Coffee and Espresso Center

We absolutely love our espressos and cappuccinos. We drink them every single day. This trooper of a machine has served us faithfully for the last two years. It is Swiss built and super reliable. We love that it’s completely automatic (everything from grinding, tapping, removing the grounds) and you can choose whatever type of beans you want to put inside. No K-cups in landfills! 
This machine is quite expensive, but we’ve definitely gotten our money’s worth and we absolutely love it. The espressos that it makes have excellent crema.  The cappuccinos are solid as well. I would highly recommend it!
 The Blendtec 1560 watt blender is one of the newest toys I’ve gotten this past year (thanks Bryan!). Many people have a hard time deciding between the Vitamix and the Blendtec. Frankly, both are excellent machines and will perform beautifully. From the multiple reviews I’ve read, the difference comes down to height (Blendtec fits under a kitchen counter whereas Vitamix does not); controls (Vitamix is more manual while Blendtec is more computerized); and noise (Blendtec is louder than Vitamix). There are other differences that people debate about such as power, ease of cleaning, tamper, and how “smooth” the shake is.
We chose the Blendtec mostly for counterspace reasons and the fact that you could turn it on and walk away. So far, I’ve had tons of fun with it – everything from making my own soy milk at home to whipping up gorgeous, restaurant-quality velvety smooth blended soups. Although it is a loud, the blending is only for a short amount of time, and the results are so worth it!

Zojirushi Fuzzy Rice Cooker

I have an older model of this rice cooker and I love it! It makes perfect rice every time. I also like how it has settings for different kinds rice, and you can set different types of timer options. Seriously, after having tried one of these rice cookers, it’s hard to go back to a normal one. :)

Lello 4090 Gelato Pro Quart Ice Cream Maker

Bryan got this for me as a birthday present one year and I absolutely love it. It has its own condenser so you don’t have to bother with taking up precious freezer space for a huge dewar. Best yet, you can make ice cream on a whim just by turning it on. It makes luxuriously beautiful ice cream. You can check out some of the more unique ice creams I’ve made on this blog, such as avocado, olive oil, black sesame, simple lemon, and grape nut.

Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron French Oven

I can’t believe it took me this long to appreciate how awesome cast-iron Dutch ovens are! I finally bought my first Le Creuset piece the summer of 2010 at an outlet store. I am still amazed at how evenly it heats everything and how well it retains heat. Seriously, it has made stir frying a breeze. I love the versatility of this pot. Yes, it’s heavy and a pain to lift up, but it’s totally worth it for the performance. It has become one of my default pots of choice whenever I want to stir-fry! Perhaps I’ll look into a cast iron wok next!


New generation zesters (inspired by the original Microplane zester) are surprisingly useful for so many things! I love the Oxo zester (pictured at left) because it “cuts” in both directions.  Of course I love my original Microplane zester as well, which works like a charm. I use them to zest my lemons,   create gorgeously fluffy Parmesan cheese shavings over pasta, and make chocolate shavings! It’s quite sharp, so be careful!

Shun Classic 7-Inch Santoku Hollow Ground Knife

For the longest time, this was my favorite knife. Bryan gave this to me one Christmas.  It far surpassed all the cheaper Tramontina knives I had in my starter set. I still swear by Japanese knives (I think they are among the best in the world), though I recently purchased some Masamoto Tsukiji knives (hard to get outside of Japan), which are nothing short of amazing. For a knife that is easily purchasable in the U.S., I still think this is a fantastic option. It’s great for someone like me who has slightly smaller hands.

Panasonic Lumix GF1

A birthday gift from Bryan in 2009 (soon after Tiny Urban Kitchen was christened), this is my carry-with-me-everywhere camera. It is small enough to put inside my purse and it’s really light. I love the f/1.7 aperture, which allows me to shoot really nice pictures in extremely low light conditions (typically inside restaurants). It is seriously the ultimate food blogger’s camera.  Click here to read more detailed thoughts about it.

Also consider getting the new generation Lumix GX1, either just the body or with a 14-42mm lens.

Canon 5D MK II

When I know I’m going to a special event, or if I know I’ll be in a very challenging light situation, I will bring this camera along (which actually belongs to Bryan!). We bring it along with us on all of our trips, and it’s really versatile. It’s biggest (and only) drawback is that it’s HUGE. It’s still worth it, though, This is an amazing camera that really takes seriously good photographs. Click here to read more detailed thoughts about it.

24-105 mm f/4 lens

Another present from Bryan (such a generous guy!),  this is my favorite all-time lens as its zoom range is versatile. Although this lens doesn’t quite have as low light capabilities, it has a wonderfully versatile zoom range and can still handle reasonably low light due to the fact that it has stability control. It is my favorite travel camera.
Bryan’s favorite travel lens is the Canon 24mm f/1.4 wide angle lens. It takes wonderful sweeping shots of landscapes and cityscapes, and performs beautifully in low light conditions.
After raw files leave my camera (yes, I don’t advise shooting in jpg! Please shoot in raw if possible!), I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 to catalog and work up my images. I absolutely love Lightroom because it makes photo processing so much easier! There are little sliders on the right side which allow you to fine tune parameters such as exposure, color, and clarity. Finally, there are all these plug-ins you can get that allow you to automatically upload to Flickr or post to your favorite blogging software all in one step. Definitely a time saver!

That’s it, for now . . .
I could go on and on and on, but I’ll stop here. Hope I gave you some inspiration for possible gifts, either for someone else or even for yourself!

If you’d like to support Tiny Urban Kitchen through your shopping, feel free to search for items through the link on the left sidebar of the blog, or click here to get to Amazon.

Have a great final week of holiday shopping!

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All Rights Reserved

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  1. Shani says

    It’s nice to see another great recommendation on the Jura machine. I’m actually buying one of those for my house this Christmas–a purchase that big always involves a little double-think though. 

  2. says

    I just bought my first Le Creuset dutch oven last year too but have never even used it for stir-frying!! Thanks for the tip. I see many more years and meals with my dutch oven :) Hope you are enjoying the holidays, Jen!

  3. says

    Today’s kitchens are all about great design: combining practical
    innovations with stunning good looks. The trick is to mix and match
    essential labour-saving features that will make working in your kitchen a
    joy, with those optional extras that reflect your personality and
    enhance your lifestyle. If you’ve always wanted a French farmhouse
    kitchen, a futuristic spaceship galley, or you love the distressed,
    shabby chic look – that’s fine. You can have any style you like, as long
    as it’s not boring!


  4. says

    Magnets keep timers out of harm’s way. If you’ve got limited counter space or are a klutz in the kitchen, a timer with a magnetic back can be mounted on an out-of-the-way metallic surface like the refrigerator.

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