Tag Archives: gift ideas

Culinary Gifts and Stocking Stuffers for 2013

Black Friday is in the books, but if you’re like most of us, you still have a lot of shopping to do because the gifts you have bought so far were probably of the easy, low-hanging-fruit variety.

As the shopping days become fewer and the crowds larger, it might be time to step up your game and give some thought to just what you’re going to give those serious cooks on your list (especially if they’ll be making your meals in 2014).

I’ve put together a short list to help you out and hopefully put a smile on the face of your chef this holiday season.

Now, I realize that some of these suggestions may seem obvious, but don’t overlook the fact that they might STILL be just what your cook needs the most.

Kitchen Knives

For example, high-quality pots, pans and knives will always top my kitchen essentials list. Unfortunately, they’re on the expensive side, but don’t feel you have to buy an entire battery of pots and pans or a full set of knives. You can start with one nice pot or knife and build a set as other special occasions come along. They’re GREAT birthday and anniversary gifts too! And if you buy high-quality brands, they’ll last a lifetime.

Quality Pots & Pans

Be sure to check out my recommendations for pots and pans along with my recommendations on kitchen knives on my blog earlier this year.

Lekue Steamer

Moving on to a few less-expensive gifts, I’ve fallen in love with my Lékué Brand silicone steamer tray, which I use in my microwave oven to stream fresh vegetables, fish and chicken. It’s VERY dishwasher friendly, and for $20 bucks, it’s one of my better buys this year.


Oddly enough, I NEVER seem to have enough tongs and spatulas in my kitchen (and I’m probably not alone). Between what I’m using, what’s in the sink and what’s in the dishwasher, I seem to need at least six at any one time. Besides, if you buy some fun, colorful ones, they almost take the place of a flower arrangement in your kitchen. They’re cheap, and you don’t have to water them.

Oil Bottles

I’ve blogged this year about some other important kitchen essentials too, so I would be remiss if I didn’t include them on this year’s gift shopping list. One, an insta-read thermometer, and another, decorative (or any) oil and vinegar bottles, which you can use to keep your favorite oils within easy reach of your cook-top. I love the convenience, and they give your kitchen a more gourmet look.


How important is a good thermometer? You’d be surprised. This $10 gift idea can save you a lot of money (and some bad meals). I always have one in my chef coat pocket and at least two within easy reach in my home kitchen. To learn more about why they are one of my top holiday stocking stuffer picks, click here.

Roasting Pan

And because we have two more holidays coming up where roasts may be on your menu, if the cook on your shopping list doesn’t have a good roasting pan with a rack insert, it’s about time you got him or her one. It will pay large dividends at the dinner table. There are many different brands to choose from, and because your roast really shouldn’t be sitting on the deck of the pan (instead of cradled in the rack above), it’s not essential that you spend a fortune on the luxury model.

Whirley Pop

Speaking of luxury, there’s nothing luxurious about popcorn. But when it’s as good as the best movie theater’s (or better), it’s about as luxurious a treat as you could wish for this holiday season. And Whirley Pop ™, the maker of one of the best (and most fun) popcorn makers around, has a stove-top model that replicates those theater memories (movie tickets not included). It’s a great gift for anyone in the family!

You’ll find all of these items at Sur La Table or William Sonoma and most at Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Have a wonderful holiday season.

Cool Kitchen Tools

Is there anything really good about the word gadget?

I mean, does the word gadget instill a feeling of confidence that the device is really worth having? Worth trying?

Worth buying?

For me, when I hear the word gadget, I think of a one-trick pony, handheld something or other meant to make my life easier, less of a chore, less of a mess. I imagine it’s made of plastic and that it won’t last long before it breaks, dulls, chips or is relegated to the back of my junk drawer or cupboard, awaiting its final fate when I can throw it away sometime after the pain of my stupidity is a more distant memory.

Few gadgets have made it past my “American Tourister” test, but those few that have are cherished. And I’m not ashamed to admit to owning them.


You might think that having cooked professionally for over 40 years, I’d have a lot of gadgets. Truth be known, I don’t have as many as you might think.

Gadgets never seem to find a home in a professional kitchen, and the very few that do are usually hidden by their owners in a drawer and under the wrap of a kitchen towel to avoid the perception of amateurism.

Another thing I must confess is that once I adopt a gadget, its name gets changed to “Kuel Tuel” (cool tool) to relieve me of the embarrassment of owning a gadget. (I do have my reputation to protect you know.)

Ok, so in the event you are making an early gift shopping list for the holidays, I’ll divide my list between what might be considered kitchen “must haves” and the “rather obscure” but very “kuel” tools to have around when the need arises.

Before I begin, I’ll preface my list by saying that NOTHING is more worth your while than a great set of kitchen knives, and I’ll speak to that subject in a late November blog.

You’ll also see that many have NO moving parts–no electronics, and the few that do, have withstood the test of time (a.k.a. the Gorilla).


Pete’s Kuel Tuels (You will be able to find ALL of these items at Sur La Table, but many may also be found at William Sonoma, Bed Bath & Beyond or Crate & Barrel.


The Must Haves:

  • I’ve said it over and over again: what makes great food great is seasoning–sometimes just salt and pepper. Get yourself a Peugeot brand pepper mill–one with at least four grinder settings. NOTHING beats freshly ground pepper.
  • Silicone non-stick cookware and bakeware all started with SILPAT, a French company. These non-stick sheets are pretty much indestructible and a kitchen MUST! Buy the real deal starting at under 20 bucks.
  • I’m always talking about Mandolines (no, not the kind you play; the kind you slice). Most every professional kitchen has one, and most buy an inexpensive Benriner from an Asian Grocery store. They let you slice and julienne things with ease. (Just watch your fingers!)
  • Again, back to seasonings. I always tell people to buy a Salt Pig, which keeps your seasoning salt literally out on the counter, right in front of you, begging you to remember it.
  • Immersion Blender (stick blenders) have been around for quite a while. If you don’t have one, buy one. They’re great to blend hot liquids, salad dressings, milk shakes…you name it.
  • Tired of buying expensive spray oils like PAM®? Buy a Tabletop Mister and use whatever oil you like! It also works for other liquids too!
  • Like to bake? Those lattice-top cakes are “Kuel,” but weaving those dough strips are a PAIN. A lattice Pie Top Cutter makes that job easy and PERFECT in one roll of the dough.
  • And if you love Crème Brulee (and who doesn’t), you don’t have to go to fire up your oven’s broiler when what most Pastry Chef’s use is a mini-blowtorch. The Cheflamme Butane Culinary Torch can do it with the best of them!


The Rather Obscure But “Kuel”

  • Tired of getting nothing but OIL when you pour your oil & vinegar dressing out of the bottle? The jury is still out on Emulstir, but this clever bottle has a built-in stirrer that you activate with an outside lever as you pour. It works! But will the Gorilla do this fella in? Stay tuned!
  • Rabbit®, a well-known maker of wine tools, now has Flipper Stoppers that allow you to pour wine with a non-drip spout and reseal it by just turning a lever on the pourer. Good news is that they also work great on bottles of oil, vinegar, sauces and the like. Woo Hoo!
  • There are two good uses for this next “Kuel Tuel.” LeKue’s Citrus Sprayer couldn’t be easier (or more natural). Plunge it into a lemon or lime, and spray a mist of your favorite citrus on salads or on the rim of your favorite “beverage.”
  • And last (and least) is one gadget that I just recently saw at Sur La table, and although I don’t own it, I’m SURE many might find it very useful if they bake or make dressings. The Juicer/Measurer actually strains and captures the juice of a lemon or lime as you ream it–all in the clear, see-through handle, which also measures its volume. Kinda “Kuel,” for now.


So there you have it, a dozen kitchen toys you may want to consider for your own. Give them a try and let me know what you think. If you’d like more ideas, check out my Extreme Pantry Makeover blog.


Share your MUST HAVE kitchen “gadgets” right here!

Nino’s Gift Baskets: Gifts of Good Taste

For decades here at Nino’s, we’ve been handcrafting some pretty remarkable gourmet gift baskets, each one overflowing with the freshest fruits, remarkable gourmet treats, vintage wines and fine foods.

We want each and every basket that leaves our store not only to be a representation of our dedication and quality but also to honor the “good taste” of our customers and the discriminating palates of their recipients. As an example of that dedication and commitment, Nino’s attends some of the finest food shows in America, searching for just the right products that go into each of our custom-made baskets, buckets, gourmet boards and towers. It’s been a labor of love.

This year, Nino’s is sharing even MORE love with an entirely NEW Collection of Gourmet Gift Baskets! Our beautiful 12-page brochure is “hot off the press,” and we can’t wait to share these fabulous new basket designs with you!

For all of those who LOVE fresh fruits, starting at just $24.99, Nino’s Signature Fresh Fruit Baskets have always been a favorite. Our five Traditional Baskets offer an enormous selection of fine foods and gourmet snacks. You can even add a bottle of wine to any basket for just $10 bucks*! (*In store pickup only)

Looking for a gift for the wine connoisseur in your life? Nino’s Vintner’s Choice comes with not only two great bottles of wine but also cheese, sausage, crackers and accessories! And our Four Vineyards baskets are themed collections, all selected by our sommelier.

For the kid in us all, Nino’s Movie Night popcorn and movie candy basket comes complete with everything you need to settle in for a night at the movies, right at home. And when it comes to snacks, our Nino’s NEW Signature Cookie Tray and The Towers “treats baskets” provide a terrific way to express how “sweet” life can be!

Our Gourmet Board of wine, cheese and sausage (complete with a hardwood cutting board) and our Party Pails, Tea Time and Santa’s Sleighs represent a fabulous, NEW collection you really have to see to appreciate.

So as you’re beginning to think about all the people on your gift list this season, think of Nino’s. Then, stop by and pick up one of our NEW, beautiful brochures, and see for yourself why people have been giving and receiving Nino’s Gourmet Gift Baskets for decades. We deliver nationwide and always have a great selection in our stores for you to purchase anytime your gift-giving needs arise.

Ready to shop? Nino’s Gift Baskets can be ordered online! Just click this link 24/7 and you’ll instantly be whisked off to Nino’s online basket ordering, where you can conveniently peruse, select and order your favorite baskets.

The gift of “Good Taste” is always at Nino’s.