Thanksgiving is over and it is time to get serious about finding Christmas gifts for those you love. If you are looking for ideas for those on your list who like to cook, you can find wonderful items for them right here in our fair city.
For the last several weeks, I’ve visited my favorite Fremont merchants looking for just the right gifts to recommend to you. It’s always so much fun to do this because it involves two of my favorite things – shopping and gift giving. Win, Win!!!
My favorite find in downtown Fremont was at the Wise Olde Owl. Thom and Brian’s shop is so full this time of the year, you should walk through from front to back several times – once looking up, once looking down and once taking in all the merchandise at eye level.
I walked right by the gift I’m most enthused about until Thom recommended I look at it. I purchased a copy of Olive Oil, Sea Salt & Pepper – healing with fresh foods on his recommendation. After I brought it home and spent a most enjoyable hour looking at it closely, I have to say that it is the best basic cookbook I have seen in years.
This soft-covered volume by Jenn Crovato is a cooking primer that is a suitable gift for the novice in the kitchen or a more seasoned cook who wants to up his or her game by cooking simple food perfectly.
Ms. Crovato states that her purpose in this book is “to make a difference in the lives of others by presenting cooking in an uncomplicated form that will motivate people to get back into the kitchen and eat fresh, healthy food.” Mission accomplished!
Ms. Crovato’s book divides her recipes not by traditional main dish, dessert or salad designations but by cooking methods. There are chapters that delve into very specific instructions for sautéing, roasting and grilling. Every dish is made with fresh, readily available ingredients from our markets and so very healthful.
The recipe that proved most beneficial for me was her detailed description of how to sauté fresh tuna to perfection. This is a dish that I order every time I see it on a menu but have been hesitant to try at home. Fresh sushi grade tuna is expensive and I hate the idea of ruining that purchase. I can now confidently cook a simple tuna steak to rare perfection thanks to Ms. Crovato.
My copy of this book was signed by the author so it makes a very special gift for any aspiring, health-conscious cook. Its price is 29.99 which may seem a bit high for a soft cover, but it is money well spent.
That isn’t the only thing I found at the Wise Olde Owl. They have a selection of stocking stuffers and hostess gifts that is second to none. If you are giving a bottle of wine as a gift and want a Christmassy decoration, pick up a package of Santa Bottle Hats – a wine bottle topper that is festive but subtle. A package of 4 hats complete with white trim is $3.29 so it is a fun decoration that allows you to spend most of your gift money on the wine, not the wrapping. (Wise Olde Owl doesn’t carry wine, but walk just down the street a few steps and you will find The Wine Experience for lovely bottles of fine vintages. You won’t even have to move your car.)
Brian and Thom carry a great selection of kitchen tools that are not only whimsical but practical. I picked up a cute “spud dude” for $3.59. It is a brush attached to a potato face with a smile so you can scrub your potatoes and yams skins to get rid of all the dirt and bacteria before you cook them. It’s a great reminder that clean food is safe food.
They also have a gourmet food and beverage selection that is full of great food gifts. You will find specialty teas (they usually offer a sample of their tea each day), sauces, dips, chips, candy, etc. for your gift giving pleasure.
Park Avenue Antiques also has a great selection of gifts for anyone on your list. This lovely store features wonderful things to decorate any table for holiday entertaining so, of course, those items work as gifts for your favorite hostess as well.
They have a wide assortment of cookbooks and feature many selections from the Gooseberry Patch collection. I have purchased many of these books for gifts over the years and have always been rewarded by the smiles of the recipients. All of these recipes are submitted by cooks who have tried them and are proud to share them with others so you know they are kitchen tested and approved. These books also come with the instructions on how to submit a recipe for inclusion in upcoming volumes to this collection. You can give a copy and then challenge the receiver to try to win a new book by submitting a recipe they would like to share.
Store Manager Cindy and her staff are also on call to help you with ideas for stocking stuffers and gifts. They also carry a line of food products that are great to serve at holiday parties or give as gifts. Cindy is an excellent cook so her advice comes with experience and good taste.
If you have cooks in your life who collect antique kitchen wares and dishes, a trip through the antique section of the store will yield many gift options like cookie cutters, glassware, dishes, kitchen tools and memories galore. Whenever I take the time to wander through, I usually find an item or two that brings back memories because they were in my growing-up household. A nostalgic memory is a great gift you can give yourself while you are looking for gifts for others. I recommend it highly as an antidote for the hustle and bustle of the season.
So before you jump in the car to drive miles away for your gifts and stocking stuffers take a short trip to downtown Fremont instead and check out these two stores and the other fine merchants of our fair city. Some of them may not specialize in gifts for cooks, but I can guarantee you they have other delightful, reasonably priced offerings for your gift giving needs. Let them know how glad you are that they are here by shopping Fremont first.
Quote of the Week: Shopping is a woman thing. It’s a contact sport like football. Women enjoy the scrimmage, the noisy crowds, the danger of being trampled to death, and the ecstasy of the purchase. — Erma Bombeck