Being a citizen of the world is difficult when you’re not allowed to enter the rest of it, much less travel across state lines without excessive burden. The ‘bad thing’ has made eating adventurously a tad harder. Some of us are meat-and-potato people. Others of us will unflinchingly and unknowingly order gizzard served in the basement of a Nepali restaurant in Queens because, as they say, when in Rome.
Although I’ve been unable to travel or eat at restaurants, my enduring love affair with my stomach has not taken a hiatus. With Christmas fast approaching, neither should yours, or that of the citizen-of-the-world you love.
These are items I’ve used or eaten, or that are also on my wish list, most of which are under $50. Bon appétit (and joyeux Noël).
These chocolates are inspired by the Spice Route, and include flavors that define Middle Eastern desserts: rose, saffron, cardamom, Arabic bread, dates. Not something you’ll find in most grocery stores, but are available at some international markets. Caputo’s Market & Deli, which is Salt Lake City-based, sells them with free shipping.
While known for being the world’s most expensive spice, it is available on Amazon in stocking-stuffer quantities (and at stocking-stuffer prices). I love The Gathering of Saffron, which is Spanish saffron available in a two-gram quantity.
I like balsamic vinegar on ice cream — something smooth, molasses-like and fruity. I found Due Vittorie Oro Gold Balsamic Vinegar after searching reviews and rankings of balsamic vinegars for something that could be used with breads, salads, and desserts. It’s also very affordable and Amazon carries it in packs of two for less than $40.
Macaron silicone baking mats
My pandemic hobby was learning to perfect the macaron. It’s a notoriously finicky and temperamental dessert, and there are numerous variables to account for when making them — a high-maintenance hallmark of French pastries. Among them was aging eggs for a few days, and I also tried multiple meringue methods to play with temperatures and moisture. Anyways, with all of these chemical factors in play, having control over the size of your macarons reduces some anxiety and makes them appear more uniform when they’re done. A silicon mat with the printed guide also helps distribute heat evenly. There are plenty of inexpensive options on Amazon (some come with piping bags), but I recommend this one from Sur la Table.
Precise, sharp knives are the difference between enjoying cooking and eating, or just wanting to put the garlic through a press and skip to the fun part. The best Christmas gift ever given to me was a set of Wüsthof knives that I use routinely. They can be pricey, but with good care, they will last and are a thoughtful, practical gift. I love this paring knife.
If you’re shopping for a worldly coffee lover, Turkish coffee is a great gift because it not only has so much body, but it also can be made into multiple gifts if you decide to complement it with a coffee pot for serving. Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi Turkish Coffee is the brand I buy from a local market, and is available on Amazon. There are some more embellished coffee pot designs on Etsy, but they can be found for under $20 in copper.
I didn’t know how it was pronounced either, at first. But it’s a spicy, spreadable Calabrian prosciutto spread that I’ve used in sauces for pasta dishes with seafood, and it’s very versatile and is easy to mix into sauce. I’ve purchased La Quercia’s ‘Nduja Americana at Whole Foods before, but it’s also available online.
I grew up on rose water. It’s used in many Levantine desserts and Americans have come around to it in recent years. The common complaint is it can have a chemical flavor or be too bold to add to drinks or anything that isn’t baked. Mymouné Rose Water is very subtle and has a balanced flavor. It also comes in a cute bottle.
Some people use lone blades to score bread, but bread lames are cute little instruments that usually have a wooden handle, and come packaged in neat boxes that are easily wrapped. There are plenty of affordable options online for under $15 — I personally own a Saint Germain bread lame, which came with six blades.
I’ve made so-called squid ink pasta on multiple occasions, and the noodles never left a stain marks on my plate — leading me to believe it wasn’t real (my boyfriend learned this from Nassim Nicholas Taleb, via Twitter). Conservas De Cambados Squid Ink In Jar will help leave a mark.