Holiday Gift Guide 2013

Welcome to our annual guide for everything we want, covet, crave, and, yes need this holiday. (I don’t know about you, but in my world, coffee qualifies as an essential.)  As always, the round-up was compiled with cooks, kids, and parents in mind (again, coffee), as well as for those of you who have already bought Dinner: A Love Story for everyone on your list. For those of you who have not: here’s the guide for you. Happy Holidays!

Dansk Kobenstyle Casserole ($120) In the 70s, my mom had it in mustard yellow. Thirty-five years later, I bought it in green. Forty years later, I think you should own the classic in striking, festive red. Warning: Do not purchase this if you have something against kitchen workhorses that you will use every night (as we speak, some veggies are simmering in mine in for chicken pot pie) and that looks beautiful living permanently on your stovetop. –JR

Playmobil Dolls & Sets ($5-$30) We are pretty good about giving away toys to Good Will and friends with younger kids, but I’ll tell you one thing we never hand down — anything labeled “Playmobil.” Nope. All of those German-made cup-handed dolls and perfectly-snapped-together playsets go right into a box in our (otherwise unorganized) basement labeled “SPECIAL.” If your kids are into make-believe (or your husband derives an irrational happiness from putting together a Grand Mansion Dollhouse on Christmas morning), you cannot go wrong with these. The level of loose-part detail should be maddening (tiny leaves to snap into trees, decorative flowers to snap onto birthday cakes, teeny tiny bunny rabbits with the sweetest little faces) but instead inspires you to say things like “Wow, a lot of thought went into this little chimney sweep.” The possibilities are as varied as your childrens’ interests, and so are the prices. If you are in the market for the Big Ticket Item, there are plenty: Pirate Ships, CastlesFarms, and Zoos. (Btw, I’m weeping thinking of Abby’s beloved zoo sitting in a shoebox right now.) But honestly, it’s almost more fun to explore the wide world of mini environs and figures, some of which come with travel cases. A few favorites: A very DALSian Grand Kitchen ($25, pictured above); Doghouse ($11); Horse with Groomer and Stable ($11); Cop & Robber ($11, plus carrying case); Vet Clinic ($11, includes carrying case); Royal Dressing Room ($15); Outlaw Hideout ($18); Comfortable Living Room ($18). Man, I could go on forever. –JR

Blue Picardie Glasses ($26, set of six) I really have no business putting another set of drinking glasses in another gift guide, and yet…How fun is this blue twist on the bistro picardie glass? I first saw them at The Ordinary in Charleston, and have since been hinting in many not-so-subtle ways how cool they’d look with milk (or wine) and how psyched I’d be to unwrap a set of six someday soon. –JR

Jack Rudy Small Batch Tonic ($16 a bottle) Also in the category of “first experienced at The Ordinary:” This tonic, a concentrated quinine, mixed into a memorable Gin & Tonic during a memorable summer night. But trust me, the stuff is good all year long. –JR

Galaxy CR7s ($50). I’m not sure how I feel about the fact that our family seems set on making Phil Knight richer, but I am sure how I feel about this Hubble Telescope-y, Buck Rogers-y iteration of the Nike indoor soccer shoe: good. I can’t imagine where the people who designed these go from here (“I know, let’s put photographs of Canis Majoris on a pair of cleats!”) but I’m sure we’ll be buying. — Andy

KitchenSurfing Gift Card (Any amount, but I’d recommend a minimum of $100) Do you guys know about KitchenSurfing? I’m a little obsessed with it ever since our friends Liz and Charlie hosted a dinner party for twelve catered by an Indian chef they found on the site. If the word “cater” sounds a little stodgy and prosciutto-wrapped-melon-ish to you, trust me, this site is the opposite of that. It matches your dinner party needs (Cocktail party? Kid’s Birthday Party? Dinner for vegans or sushi lovers?) with a network of local chefs  (right now that means NY, LA, Boston, Chicago, the Hamptons, and…Berlin!) who bid on your job and send you menus with their thoughts. Everything is negotiable and customizable which makes for a far more reasonably cost evening than you might expect. (Especially factoring in the babysitter you won’t have to hire.) All I know is that if I were a new parent too exhausted to entertain, I’d be psyched to be cooked for and waited on in my own home for an evening. (Photo credit: Brooklyn Industrialist) –JR

PokPok Cookbook (by Andy Ricker and JJ Goode, $22) You might be familiar with the PokPok restaurant empire because you’ve been lucky enough to frequent one of Andy Ricker’s Brooklyn or Portland, Oregon Thai hotspots. Or you might just remember that I made his Pad Thai last year and it was off the chain. Either way, the experience is now available in cookbook form. Warning: This is not a book for people who shy away from mail-ordering or pavement-pounding in search of ingredients you don’t generally find at the A&P. But for major enthusiasts, that friend who has everything, or for someone who wants to learn about Thai cuisine (technique, ingredients, recipes, regional breakdowns) inside and out? This is the one. —JR

Jane’s Granola ($14) Our breakfast rut has, by now, been well documented. There have been exceptions, but for the most part, our kids always seem to come back to the Trifecta of Starches: Bagel, toast, pancakes. It’s hard to watch. But in September, I was out in San Francisco for work and brought home a bag of this almondy-y, cinammon-y granola from Jane (above), which is one of our favorite breakfast spots on earth. I bought it as an anniversary present for Jenny, actually, but she never even got a taste. Phoebe gave it a shot — over Greek yogurt, with a drizzle of honey — and that was all she wrote. Not that we’re complaining. — Andy

The Giant Book of Strange But True Sports Stories (by Howard Liss, Illustrations by Joe Mathieu; Used paperback copies starting at 1 cent) Goofy, old-school illustrations paired with stories that stay with you for decades. (Remember the one about Johnny Heisman scoring a touchdown by hiding the football in his jersey? Or the one where the umpires got lost on the way to a Dodgers-Braves game, so the players made the calls themselves? Or the one where the outfielder’s belt got stuck on the fence when he jumped to catch a fly ball? And he just hung there waiting to be rescued?) Andy spent every Saturday and Sunday morning reading this book in bed waiting for his brother to wake up so he could watch TV. I remember my own brother obsessing over it, too. (Age 6 +)  —JR


Rittenhouse Rye Because dark spirits season is upon us, once again. (Only $24 a bottle – if you can find it, that is.) — Andy

Anomia ($13) I first read about this game on Catherine’s blog, and since I will essentially do anything Catherine tells me to do, I bought it before summer vacation, thinking we might need a post-s’more activity every now and then. This was just the ticket. It’s best played with kids who are at least 7 or 8, and is one of those games where even adults find themselves standing and screaming out answers with their hearts racing, reminding themselves every few minutes to Calm Down It’s Just a Game. Bonus: It takes up no room in a suitcase. -JR

Nike GPS Watch ($169) There’s nothing quite like seeing how slow you are running to make you run a little faster. I am generally not a Gadget Guy at all — I still read physical books and need Jenny to program numbers into my phone — but this thing has changed my running life. (If only it could change the fact that I am old.) — Andy

A Very un-Christmasy Moleskine Notebook ($10). My pal Kendra gave this to me last year (along with one that said “Epic Sh#t,” of course) and I love it so much, I’ve been unable to write in it. It just sits on my desk, untouched, and I wait for people who come into my office to notice it, and when they do, they all say the same thing: “Oh my god, where did you get that?” Here. — Andy

Paul Smith Socks for dudes. Fashion-wise, J Crew is generally as crazy as I get, but I own two pairs of these, and they make me happy every time I put them on. And no one has to know. — Andy

Digital Speed Sensing Baseball ($20) I like to think that my two girls are not the girly lip-gloss-and-eyelash-batting types. (Exhibit A: While watching The Sound of Music last week, during the part where Rolf sang to Liesl that she needed someone “older and wiser telling her what to do,” Phoebe turned to me and said, “She can do better.”) But still, when it comes to buying gifts for boys — specifically my nephews — my girls never have any good ideas for me. This year I seem to have hit a home run, though, with these speed-sensing baseballs, recommended by my friend Jennie, mother of a middle school baseball star. As soon as my nephews opened them, they were outside (it’s winter here in New York, remember) testing out their cannons.


Matt’s Wood Roasted Coffee. Every time we visit our friends Mike and Sara in Portland, Maine, I spend much of the five-hour drive home asking Jenny variations on the following two questions: (1) what are we doing with our lives, and (2) why aren’t we doing it in Portland, Maine? The water, the healthy-looking people, the tight-knit feel of the community, the lobster rolls, the bread at Fore Street Grill (worth a trip in its own right), the food in general, and finally, the coffee. Man, the coffee! Last time we were there, we stopped in at a place called the Speckled Ax, and picked up a couple of pounds of the good stuff to go. Whatever alchemy happens when you wood roast coffee beans, it’s genius. We don’t drink it every morning because then it wouldn’t be special. A bag of this in the ol’ stocking, and I’m happy. — Andy

The Wire Complete series DVD. I wish I could promise that this is the last thing I’m going to say about this show on this blog, but I will not rest until every last one of you has seen this show. (Jenny finally watched all five seasons this fall, after years of my hectoring, and her review, which I am writing down as she says it, is as follows: “It’s ruined all television for me. I’m retiring from TV now, because I can’t imagine anything better.”) — Andy

Holidays Rule If you’re sick of the Phil Spector, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra Christmas jams, this album — featuring a bunch of cool, more contemporary bands, from Fun. to Holly Golightly, from the Heartless Bastards to Calexico — is a pretty excellent change of pace. If nothing else, give this tune a listen and see for yourself. Well worth $1.29. Also goes well with Rittenhouse Rye and a fire in the fireplace. — Andy

Other inspiring gift guides: The Wednesday Chef, Bon Appetit, The New York Times Dining Section, Cup of Jo for Babies and Toddlers.


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Lucy Mitchell

I know. The details in Playmobil are curiously unirritating. I think my favourites are the fish that come with the little boat, and their little crates. Our firemen sometimes have them for lunch. Oh, The Wire. I still miss it, particularly Omar. Great list!


I love those glasses. We have one that we inherited with our house, and it’s become my special wine cup. Glad I actually know the name of them so I can buy more.


My Mom is the same way about my old Playmobil toys. I never understood it as a kid (I mean I liked them, but I had other toys I liked more), but now that I am older, I am very thankful for my Mom’s foresight and I can’t wait to share them with my kids!

As for the Wire… sigh, I live in Baltimore and I decided years ago for my own peace of mind it’s best if I don’t watch that show. But I’m still tempted when I hear things like this!


What a fabulous list, I have to tell you that your book is on my list!!

I have never heard of Dansk Kobenstyle but just looked on Ebay & there is a lot of it on there, I love the yellow & teal blue, just added a few items to my “watch” list on Ebay.

Merry Christmas!!


I’m in love with the Dansk! (Also the Playmobils, but it might be weird to ask for them as an adult.)

Regine Franck

Nike Galaxy – that’s all she read (and bought immediately). My daughter will be literally over the moon …
Now off to find someone who’ll give me blue picardie glasses and glad to say that’s my only Christmas Problem remaining


I just ordered four things from this t, and one thing from last years. How GREAT is that baseball???


We’re waiting for Season 4 of The Wire from the library. It really is the

I’m off to the game store tomorrow to try Anomia. Looks fun!


As a Portland native in exile, I agree about Matt’s Coffee and the bread at Fore St, which comes from Standard Bakery located right downstairs- if you don’t already know it, you should make a point to visit next time, they get everything so, so right.


Oh man Playmobils! My sister and I would spend hours digging through our collection and making massive dioramas in the basement. I was actually thinking that this Christmas I would pick up the pirate ship (that actually floats in water!!!) and take it back with me. It would look awesome on top of my bookshelf.

Beth S

Just as I finished reading your list, what should come up in my Christmas playlist but the very “Blue Christmas” that you mentioned. 🙂

Beth S

…oh, and one of our most challenging Christmas Eve’s was the one we had to put together the Playmobil airport. We kept getting frustrated and handing it off to the other parent.


Jenny, I am a huge fan, but I never comment, sorry.
I have to tell you about My absolute favourite Playmobil of all time. It has to be the take-along dollhouse. It seems like it’s hard to find…last year I saw it in the ToysRUs flyer and I pretty much went there and pestered the employees until they found one for me.
All the pieces fit inside, and it closes tight. If you forget a piece, you can drop it down the chimney. Toys with their own carrying case make me insanely happy.


I love this list! And, I’m so excited that I actually just picked up a vintage Dansk casserole – same style and color as above! – from my friend’s awesome vintage furnishings site (

Playmobil has been a huge hit with my nearly 5-year old daughter, and I can’t wait to add to her collection either at Christmas or her birthday next month.


My family is a bunch of game playing fools – I’m going to have to pick up Anomia before I head home for Christmas. Also, I wish I’d remembered the Dansk when I wrote my wish list (I remember you waxing poetic about it before). I asked for a dutch oven – can’t believe I don’t have one – but this would’ve done the trick and been even prettier!


I see so much stuff for ME!!! how do i shop for anyone else? but would love the playmobil for my little boy!


Thanks for all of these, especially The Wire. Hopefully between all of us we can reach every adult out there who hasn’t seen it yet.


I bought the Cash Children’s album on your website and I love it–scratch that, the whole family loves it. Thank you.

Also grew up with a mom who had a Dansk pan. Her’s is bright yellow.

I am going to get that Un-Christmas notebook for a coworker. Made me laugh.

Would love to win the playmobil giveaway.

Thank you!


Great ideas – and like others have said mostly for me! I haven’t shared any wishes for this year!


Your gift guide really is inspiring. I love the thought that goes into all the choices because it really is
Reflection of your family philosophy – which I gather from your blog and which I appreciate even more than I do your recipes.


Always love your gift guides…just ordered the cookbook for my Thai food loving dad! I’m bookmarking the list for other occasions, too…


I think the entire list is great, and even got a few ideas for my hard to buy for husband. My toddler would love the playmobil!


Great gift guide. I may be picking up those glasses for myself. I’ve got a 5 yr old who would love that vet set!


Fabulous list! (And wonderful links to other lists.) My 3-year-old would love a Playmobil toy. And while you’re at it, could you also track down the life-sized gorilla robot that he’s asking Santa for?

Alyssa V

The Wire is a must-own! Though I’m not sure how many more emotionally-wrenching viewings of it I could handle…

Throwing my hat in the ring for the Playmobil giveaway!


love this! great ideas! my kids would love the playmobile and my hubby would love that sports book!!

Sara D

This is seriously a wonderful list for my little family! I love it all. My husband always picks a new Christmas album, and I’m sending him the link now.

Meghan #2

I’ve honestly been scared of Playmobil b/c all the tiny pieces just seemed destined to be at the bottom of the toy box…but your description may have brought me around!


Playmobil has become the perfect thing for our 6-year-old daughter (who has autism) to practice her pretend play skills with! The game has been purchased for our oldest daughter, and we love the Holiday Rules cd!


We have a whole table devoted to Playmobil animal sets in our basement. They know where each piece goes and woe to he who loses even a baby kangaroo.


Intriguing and some unusual gift ideas. I live the Anomia game, had never heard of it and am always trying to find something to engage teenagers.


Playmobile! I remember those and yes, my daughter would LOVE those under the tree this year. Maybe I’ll get lucky here…


kitchen surfing sounds so cool!! my girls would get a big kick out of playmobil…although, I know I will be hunting all through their toys for some specific piece!!


Great gift ideas–I have Anomia on my Amazon wish list now. My son has the Playmobil castle. . .so much fun to play with.

Melanie Burnett

I’m so happy to say that my kids are finally old enough for Playmobil toys. I hope they like them as much as I do because I plan to have quite a collection. Thanks for the awesome list! I love the drinking glasses. Perfect shade of blue.


I read your post on my lunc break at Barnes & Noble….rushed out to the sales floor to buy the cd. Great bands!


Ordered the tonic for my father-in-law, the baseball for 2 of my sons. Would love more play mobile for my little guy. The pirates and the knights have survived many rounds of playroom “clean out.” You routinely rescue our family dinner, now Christmas! Thanks Jenny (and Andy). 🙂


PLAYMOBIL. My mother-in-law saved my husband’s pirate ship and it’s amazing. We just got the Christmas house for our 3 year old. More. We need more.

Anne R

Just ordered 2 of the graphic novels for my kids from your October post. Can’t wait to read them! Thanks for all your great suggestions and recipes – you make a difference in our lives


Thanks for the great list. In addition to your Grandma’s biscotti that the kids will help make, their teachers and principals and such till be receiving lip balm from little flower soap co on etsy. Have you had her stuff? Someone gave me a piña colada and an almond lip balm and no I cannot be without it. I ordered coffee balm for my husband and he feels the same way.


What boy or girl wouldn’t love toys..maybe the big kids would love them too. Might have to get the family a set of glasses. Great list


Ahhh, Playmobil. Fond memories of my mother trying to get me to sniff pepper in the hopes that I would sneeze out the Playmobil piece stuck up my nose. To no avail. I ended up in the emergency room. Still think this would make an excellent gift for my 5 and 3 year olds! I have already resolved to skip the sniffing pepper part and head straight to the ER, should the need arise


Thank you, will definitely buy some of the item and as a thank you, will start watching The Wire ( never heard of it, but ok).

Katrina Pearson

Just added pok pok and the card game to by basket on amazon. You are such a good saleswoman.


I received a mustard yellow Dansk Kobenstyle Casserole as a wedding gift in 1965. It has always been one of my favorite and well used pots. (even though the color is a bit strange for today’s taste. happy to see them in the stores.