So we may not be the only ones posting a Holiday Gift Guide this week, but we’d like to argue that DALS is probably going to be the only place you can stop by for a Family Dinner Holiday Gift Guide. Which is another way of saying that every gift, recipe, ritual, moment you see here is either family-related, dinner-related, family-dinner related, or, in keeping with the spirit of the blog, s#$t we like so much we just needed to tell you about it. (See #1 above, Pantone Ornaments from Seletti — for all your design geek friends!) Be sure to read carefully — there’s something in it for you, too. — Happy Holidays from The DALS Team!
2. Mauviel Copper Roasting Pan ($280, 11 3/4″ x 8 5/8″) A Big Ticket Item for Big Ticket Home Cooks. Copper pots — any size or shape or model — are the gold standard for cookware. This was a present for Jenny last year; amazing what passes for romance in this house. But roasted chicken thighs have never looked so good. – Andy
3. A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector. Let’s put aside the fact that he’s doing life in prison right now: Phil Spector could make music sound good. We pretty much put this album on repeat for the entire month of December. Even when we’re eating Latkes (see #6). You can hate Christmas records and love this. Darlene Love singing “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)”? That alone is worth the price of admission. – Andy
4. Bangles ($20 each) I bought some version of these for our babysitter — but I can’t be too specific in case she’s reading. There are a zillion options to choose from at J.Crew. – Jenny
5. Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich (ages: 8-adult). This book is my new obsession. My friends are so incredibly sick of hearing about it. But let me just show you the first paragraph, and you tell me: “All stories begin with ‘Once Upon a Time.’ And that’s just what this story is all about: What happened once upon a time. Once you were so small that, even standing on tiptoes, you could barely reach your mother’s hand. Do you remember? Your own history might begin like this: ‘Once upon a time, there was a small boy’ — or a small girl — ‘and that small boy was me.’ But before that you were a baby in a cradle. You won’t remember that, but you know it’s true. Your father and mother were also small once, and so was your grandfather, and your grandmother, a much longer time ago, but you know that too. After all, we say: ‘they are old.’ But they too had grandfathers and grandmothers and they too could say, ‘Once upon a time.’ And so it goes on, further and further back. Behind every ‘Once upon a time’ there is always another. Have you ever tried standing between two mirrors? You should. You will see a great long line of shiny mirrors, each one smaller than the one before, stretching away into the distance, getting fainter and fainter, so that you never see the last. But even when you can’t see them anymore, the mirrors still go on. They are there, and you know it.” OH MAN, I AM DYING. IT IS TOO GOOD.– Andy
7. Ruhlman’s Twenty, ($23) by Michael Ruhlman. Every time I’m in a bookstore I am drawn to this one. The title refers to twenty culinary techniques which, if learned, will turn you in to a real cook — the kind who understands why things happen the way they do and not the kind who follows recipes to the letter without thinking. Which explains his first technique: “Think.” –Jenny
8. Black Maple Hill Bourbon ($33). Jenny bought a bottle of this for me a couple birthdays ago and it one of those things that disabuses you of the idea that all [insert product here] are basically the same. Oh, the $12 stuff is just as good. No one can tell the difference between x and y. It’s all marketing. That stuff’s a ripoff. I’ve said it, too. And I was wrong. Use sparingly, but use well. Also: what a label. – Andy
9 & 10. Trader Joe’s Gift Tags As if we needed another reason to love TJoes? Templates for these gift tags (and also a garland which was a little too ambitious for us) are sketched right on their paper grocery bags. Remind me why all stores aren’t doing this? PS: While you’re at TJoes, pick up the (#10) Gingerbread House Kit for a holiday activity with the kids that doesn’t require a degree in Baking from ICE. And it’s from Germany, so it feels legit. — Jenny
11. Concert T-Shirts ($20-$25) Jenny calls my new concert t-shirt obsession my “mid-life crisis.” To which I say: better than a new girlfriend or a Porsche. It’s true, though. I have been wearing these out lately, and I have no excuse. It just feels good to put one on; it feels less good, after putting one on, to walk by the full-length mirror in your bedroom and catch a glimpse of yourself and think, Man, who’s the dorky old guy trying to be a kid again? (From left, Neil Young, Nick Lowe, and The Drive-By Truckers.) – Andy
12. Beans from Joe the Art of Coffee ($11.95). There are way more days than I care to admit when my medium-sized cup of this stuff, purchased from Joe’s coffee cart in Grand Central Terminal, is the highlight of my work day. Seriously. – Andy
13. The Christmas Cookie Ritual Simple, buttery cookies, made with grandma, and slathered in sugar and sprinkles. What’s not to love? I could never quite figure out, though, why the cookies themselves, as tasty as they are, are only half as tasty as the raw dough. That never seemed quite fair. The family recipe is here. – Andy
14. Magnetic earrings. A pair of these should put off the ear pierce begging for at least a month or two. If you can’t find them at your local junky accessory store at the mall (which is where I found these), you can find some version of them at Claire’s, where they sell for $8 a pair. (Buy 2 get 1 free.) -Jenny
15. Marta Barware from CB2, ($1.50-$2.50 per glass) Every time I order these I think the same thing: Did they get the price wrong? It’s crazy how inexpensive these glasses are given how pretty our chocolate milks and cocktails look inside them. If you’re having a holiday party and not serving a special cocktail because you don’t want to cough up the dough for the extra (or proper) glassware — here’s your answer. – Jenny
16. Make Dinner Not War bumper stickers ($4 for 1; $10 for 4 — includes shipping) If you need me to give you a reason, please see previous 389 posts. – Jenny
17. Bon Appetit Subscription ($20 for first gift subscription, second is FREE) Have you noticed how much a part of the conversation this magazine has become? I like to think this is because Andy and I show up six times a year writing our “Providers” column, but I think it might also have something to do with Marcus Nilsson-shot stories like these. –Jenny
18. In2green Organic Cotton Blanket ($150) GIVEAWAY!!
Their classic cable knit baby blanket has long been my go-to newborn gift, so you can imagine how delighted I was when they started making full-size, bonafide cotton throws for grown-ups. Here’s the best part: They’ve been nice enough to offer a free blanket to one lucky DALS reader. Rules: Comment below with the best gift you’ve ever given or received. (As always, you must be a newsletter subscriber to be eligible, so do that first if you’re not already signed up.) Winner will be chosen at random this Friday. – Jenny
19. Pixar Short Films Collection. ($15) The downside of taking this DVD with us on road trips is that Jenny and I have to sit up front while the kids get to sit in the back, watching. We all have our personal favorites — Phoebe (“One Man Band”), Abby (“Lifted”), Jenny (“Boundin’”), and me (“Birds On a Wire”) — but really, they’re all genius. There’s something nice about how short they are (a few minutes each); they’re like little treats that we can dole out accordingly — and use as bribes if necessary — with minimal parental guilt. Why is it that letting the kids watch stuff from Pixar feels somehow healthy? – Andy
20. MOMA Spherical Ice Tray Set ($13) I’ve never been to Japan, but I hear this is how they roll, ice cube-wise. If so, I like their style. Drop one of these bad boys in your Black Maple Hill bourbon — or, really, the kids’ pineapple juice — and now we’re talking. One of those little silly things that makes life more fun. – Andy
21. Billy Kirk Black Laptop Bag ($290) If you’re going to splurge on one thing this holiday, make it this. Andy bought it for me last year in khaki and tan and not a day goes by when I don’t get a compliment on it. -Jenny
22. Flying Pig Farms Gift Certificate It’s been well-documented by now: we like pork. And we’ve yet to find pork that tastes better than the stuff they sell at Flying Pig Farms, which we only discovered after friends sent us a gift certificate a few years ago. We ordered a roast and some chops and some bacon, and none of it was bad. Now it’s a go-to present for friends who know from pigs. It also takes our ragu to another level. – Andy
23. Sambas for Kids ($30-$50) How good? These are Abby’s and are only a few weeks old — that should tell you how well-loved they are in our house. –Jenny
Update: The winner of the in2green blanket is Katherine (#115). Thanks for playing everyone!
Potato latkes photo by Andrew McCaul; Pork shredding photo by Jennifer Causey