Holiday Gift Guide 2020

Greetings to longtime and brand new Dinner A Love Story readers! Herewith, the annual holiday gift guide featuring the best of eating and reading of 2020. In keeping with tradition, there’s an amazing giveaway for a few lucky readers, but this year, being 2020, there’s a little twist, and I hope you’re up for it. Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Chef Knife (Nakano, $60 with code DINNER) A chef’s knife can be a personal thing, but Nakano has nailed the most important factors to make this classic 8-inch kitchen workhorse be a universal fit for the home cook: It has just the right heft, a comfortable handle, a steel, sharp blade, and handles all your slicing tasks with precision and strength. Nakano sent me one a few weeks ago and I loved it so much, I decided to officially collaborate with them. Good news for DALS readers, because that means you can use the discount code DINNER at checkout to activate a $14 holiday voucher and receive a free Japanese e-cookbook with your order. You can also use the discount code towards their limited edition, double-sided, high precision Santoku knife ($139 with code DINNER). THAT’S NOT ALL! Perhaps most exciting, you can win BOTH OF THESE KNIVES FOR FREE. Keep reading for more details on that one….

Restaurant Gift Cards & Cookbooks (such as Eventide, $19) Most likely you can’t share a meal with someone at your favorite restaurant right now, but you can still support those restaurants to make sure they’re ready to go on the other end of this pandemic. Consider buying someone a gift card to that restaurant, along with a note that says “Can’t wait to eat ____ with you at _____ in 2021.” Another gesture of support: Look into your favorite spot and see if they’ve published a cookbook. Last week, we made the iconic clam chowder from Portland’s Eventide cookbook. Was it as good as being there? No. Was it special in its own way? Absolutely.

Mezcal (Madre, $50-55) I never cared very much about mezcal, a smoky agave-based liquor, until my friend Stephanie from Mexico City described the proper way to drink it: neat with a slice of orange. Then I couldn’t get it out of my head. My local wine store recommended Madre — how pretty/gift-worthy is that label?

Old-Fashioned Lowball (Crate & Barrel, $10, each) Olivia McCool, the food stylist on my book shoot, loved these glasses for the way they refracted light in a photo. I love them because they have the exact right heft and I feel supremely elegant drinking a Negroni (or Mezcal!) from one. For Next-Level Gifting: Pair a set of 4 with a bottle of the recipient’s favorite booze.

Trick Mirror (by Jia Tolentino, $17) Essays on identity politics and internet culture by one of this era’s great thinkers. My 18-year-old tore through it last year — I recommend highly for the special twenty-something feminist in your life.

The Cheese Plate That Will Change Your Life ($25, by Marissa Mullen) It’s hard to overstate how satisfying this book is. Mullen has a devoted following instagram (I first heard about it from my 18-year-old niece, who will be the likely recipient of this gift), and the cheese-by-numbers method spelled out in these pages gives you the tools and the visuals to execute her visions perfectly for every occasion: That Salami River Plate, That Game Day Plate, That Treat Yourself Plate, That Fireside Plate. You get the idea.

Herbal Tea Gift Set (In Pursuit of Tea, $35) I wrote a little bit already about my pandemic-induced, pathological obsession with Getting Cozy ca 2020. (Including but not limited to: fires in the fire place every day, string lights illuminated across the backyard window all day long, warm white bean soup for weekday lunches, etc.) A big part of Campaign Cozy, though, has been a sudden interest in afternoon tea. At some point between 2:00 and 4:00, just as we are pushing to finish the work day, either Andy or I will offer the other one a cup of herbal tea (no caffeine) and it feels so unlike us (and our morning, turbo-charged coffee routine) that I want to laugh every time. So I did a little research and found In Pursuit of Tea, purveyors of single-origin, hand-processed looseleaf teas. This Classic Herbal gift box features Chamomile, Mint, and vanilla-and-honey-spiked Rooibos. (Related, but pricey: The most gorgeous multi-colored mugs from which to drink them.)

Handmade Chocolate Mice (L.A. Burdick, $36 for a box of 9) If you’re looking to impress a boss or a friend who has everything, or you are a grandparent who wants to spoil your grandchild rotten (I can say from experience: the be-ribboned mice-shaped truffles elicit actual shrieks from teenage girls), these artisanal chocolates are iconic, classic, and no-fail.

The Ultimate College Cookbook (Victoria Granof, $20) She was the beloved, brilliant food stylist on my last book (and of course, the Pasta Con Ceci master), and here she offers a range of dishes designed to be cooked in dorm-friendly appliances as well as her hard-won, very Victoria-esque culinary wisdom. (“If you are cooking with subpar salt, don’t bother seasoning.”) I am all over this for my college freshman.

Oval Platter, ($122, Revol) Every time I take a photo of food on this plate, everyone’s all Where’d you get that beautiful platter? It really does make everything look elegant, from everyday muffins to cheese spreads and roasted vegetables. (Note: Forever grateful that Revol was one of the generous partners I collaborated with for The Weekday Vegetarians.)

Lollipops (See’s, $22 for 30) For the friend who misses traveling, pick up a box of the legendary pops, ubiquitous at all the duty-free shops. Any time I traveled for work, I used to pick up a box on the way home for the girls.

Giving Back and a GiveAWAY! LASTLY! I would like to humbly ask a favor: If you’ve ever thought to yourself “I wish there was a way to thank that Dinner: A Love Story lady for the recipe/menu/book rec/PPP series she once gave me….” I have a great idea for you! Consider donating $5 or $10 to World Central Kitchen, the miracle-working nonprofit run by humanitarian chef José Andrés (he’s the one up above, on the right), that has been busy feeding the hungry and stepping in to help bolster traditional safety nets — city services, food banks, school meal programs — struggling since COVID hit. I’ve set a GoFundMe goal of $2000 $3000 $5000 $10,000 $12,000 but if you are in the position to give, any amount however small would be amazing. Deadline for donating and entering is Friday, December 18 at midnight ET.

Now for the Giveaway!

-One lucky donor will win the featured set of Nakano knives (the Chef and the Santoku, shown above). To be eligible, please forward your WCK donation confirmation to Jenny@dinneralovestory.com and subscribe to Nakano’s newsletter.

– Three others will receive one of the featured books (Trick Mirror, That Cheese Plate Will Change Your Life, The Ultimate College Cookbook, The Eventide Cookbook, or your choice of restaurant cookbook, no more than $30). I’ll pick TWO from the donors and ONE random reader from the comment section below. If you comment below, be sure to note which book you’d choose. Good luck!

UPDATE: Congratulations to the winners, Jenny K, Andrea S, Camille H, and Megan H, who have all been notified. And THANK YOU to all of you who contributed. In total we raised $11,800 which is just mind-boggling. (FYI You can donate through January 1, 2021, if you are still inclined!) THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

Let’s see what we can do!

P.S. DALS gift guides through the years:

Gift Guide 2019
Gift Guide 2018
Gift Guide 2017
Gift Guide 2016
Gift Guide 2015
Gift Guide 2014
Gift Guide 2013
Gift Guide 2012
Gift Guide 2011

Photo Credit: Stocksy

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78 Comments

Erin

I would love the Eventide cookbook! Didn’t even realize they had one! We tried to go summer 2018 (a lifetime ago now) with our then two-year-old, and again last summer with our three-year-old, but were deterred the first time by a high fever that turned out to be strep, and the second by an exceptionally long line. Maybe next summer!

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Britt

Love those Nakano knives! I haven’t given my Christmas donations yet, but I plan on donating to the Southern Poverty Law Center and Planned Parenthood.
And those books look like awesome Christmas gifts as well.

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Kathy

My MIL put a food donation on her gift list and World Central Kitchen was my choice. Thanks for the extra push.

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Sarah

That Cheese Plate Will Change Your Life would be the perfect inspiration for cozy winter nights by the fire!

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Jen

I would love Trick Mirror, sounds like an interesting read. Bonus of a beautiful cover. Thanks for your writing; it’s always refreshing.

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Emily

Thanks, Jenny, for the donation inspiration. Helping worthwhile organizations feels like one way to redeem 2020 somewhat. I can’t wait to read That Cheese Plate!

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Melanie

That college cookbooks looks perfect for my sister! I’ve been consulting DALS when she asks me for easy dinner ideas.

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Sara Field

I went to college in Maine, and my first visit back I went to Eventide. One of the best meals I ever had. Their lobster roll with uni Mayo! Would love this book.

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beth

Oh, now I have to go back and look at all the previous gift guides. Just called my local independent bookstore to place an order for the cheese board book as a housewarming gift. Sent “Trick Mirror” to my kids’ babysitter. Thanks, Jenny.

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Kristin

I have been inspired more this year by Jose Andres than anyone else. How do we get him nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize? Thanks for the nudge. I have been meaning to donate to World Central Kitchen. Thanks for the gift guide as well! And also for being there for us this year. Your posts have been a place for comfort and inspiration, and I have thoroughly enjoyed them.

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Susanne Vargas

Don’t know where my previous comment went so here we go again:
I very much enjoy reading your posts. Each one of them is interesting and well written. Thank you! Also for the recipes!

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Teresa Pierce

Thanks for helping keep me sane this year with your PPP! I’m inclined to read Trick Mirror. Also, I was very happy to donate to World Kitchen.

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Cyn

Thank you for being a source of comfort and companionship. You’ve really been there for us during these covid times. I’m happy to support WCK!

I can’t wait to check out Marissa Mullen’s cheese plate book.

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MAYA

Hi!
I donated and subscribed. I’d love the Eventide book- yum, chowder. Summer foods. Travel. YUM>

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MAYA

Hi!
I donated and subscribed. I’d love the Eventide book- yum, Chowder. Summer foods. Travel. YUM.

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Rachael

Love the gift roundup! We’ve been doing so much more cooking this year than normal so a lot of these are perfect for the people on my gift list!

My cookbook choice would be That Cheese Plate Will Change Your Life

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Csilla Szabo

I just listened to an interview with Jose Andres on Hillary Clinton’s new podcast! What an amazing human!

And I was hoping your new book was coming out in time for the holidays!! Thanks for all that you do!

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Laura

i keep your gift guides handy all year long. thank you for the thoughtfulness you put into them.

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Kristel

What a wonderful thing you’re doing! It’s so nice to watch people come together and do great things in these difficult times

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Megan

True story: hanging out at the bar at Oyamel–Jose Andres’ fantastic Mexican restaurant in DC–I saw a guy who looked suspiciously like Jose Andres. Turned out it was, and my Mexican-American friend and I chatted with him for 15 minutes while he comped us half the menu. He was so gracious and generous, and while I’m so incredibly impressed and proud of what our local DC chef has done with WCK, I’m not at all surprised.

All of which is to say–I am thrilled at your choice of beneficiary for this fundraiser! Just donated. I don’t need the knives, but would love a copy of either Trick Mirror or The Cheese Plate book (firmly believe in the power of cheese to change my life).

Thanks for all that you do, Jenny!

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Nicole

I love that you’re bringing more awareness to this. I donated on behalf of one of my past patients who’s dream was to create better policies around food insecurity. Hopefully this will make a difference.

Also, Trick Mirror looks perfect for this thirty-three year-old feminist.

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Mary

I’d probably pick the Eventide book… it was the one place we didn’t make it to during our trip to Portland a few years ago. We have plans to go back someday, don’t worry.

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KB

Jose Andres deserves a humanitarian award for his nonstop efforts. He is truly one of the bright lights of this year.
If selected, the cheese book or Eventide look great!

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Michelle

As a gift to myself, I preordered Weekday Vegetarians. It is my first real, true hope that maybe-when-I-get-this-things-will-be-okay-again. <3

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Stephanie

This gift guide helped me take care of a few hard to shop for people on my list. THANK YOU!

And I agree that a cheese plate CAN change your life, so That Cheese Plate is going on my wishlist.

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Cindy Davis

The nakano knives look fantastic! As do all the books. The college cookbook will hopefully come in handy soon but they all look terrific. Always love your blog, the recipes and the tips!

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Laura G

Thank you!! I was having a block about gifts for my parents and some other family. I bought several boxes of the mice and penguins. A knife for myself, and another as a gift. Thank you for continuing these guides every year

College Cookbook

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Laura

i keep your gift guides handy all year long. thank you for the thoughtfulness you put into them.

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Ellie

Gah! That salt comment is *so* obnoxious. Who expects a college student to have a range of salts? What exactly is “subpar salt”? Iodized table salt? Because I guarantee you, most people would rather have a dish salted with subpar salt than something completely unsalted.

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Karen Graber

That Cheese Plate Will Change Your Life is really intriguing – I bet is is a dinner game-changer.

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Margaret

I’m a (very!) long time reader in France, and would love to win the Cheese Plate book to send to our good friends near Boston, who we miss so much. They were supposed to come and visit us this year, and our son was supposed to go and stay with them in the fall if his grades were good enough (they were!), and of course none of that happened. So I would like them to receive this book with a note to say that we are thinking of them and can’t wait to share a cheese plate with the four of them in 2021, no matter where it may be. Thank you!

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Robin

Thank you so much for shining a light on such an important cause. The college cookbook would be fantastic for my soon-to-be college student!

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Sarah

Thank you for all you’ve written during the pandemic, Jenny! I just donated/subscribed, and I’d love to be considered for the knives/Trick Mirror.

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Sara

Thanks Jenny! I would for sure pick Trick Mirror. I have been wanting to read it for ages, since I heard Jia Tolentino interviewed on Fresh Air, but it is never available at my library!

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Michelle Frost

Love the fundraiser and so happy to see that you’ve exceeded your $5000 goal. Here’s to making it to 10k. I’m a sucker for a pretty cheese plate, so would love that book.

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Laura

I don’t know if this counts, but a restaurant cookbook I’ve always wanted to have (based on your recommendation eons ago) is Pizza Camp. Some day, post-Covid, I’d love to travel around eating at the best pizza spots—Pizzeria Beddia, Roberta’s, Delancey, Mozza…. Maybe even the one Liz Gilbert mentions in Eat Pray Love?

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Camille

Thank you for the donation recommendation! I’d love to have another copy of any of your books,, but if not that, then the cheese plate book looks great!

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PSam

As a first responder, I have been the recipient of many WCK meals that were donated to my institution. Jose Andres is amazing and I am so happy to pay it forward.

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Tracy M.

“That Cheese Plate Will Change Your Life” is such a sweet gift idea! That would definitely be my choice. Thanks for being such a thoughtful person! Donating now. 🙂

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Anna

Trick Mirror is amazing. I photocopied the last page of her first essay The I in Internet and tacked it up. She’s so smart. Yes for twenty-somethings but also me as a thirty-something!

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Marissa

What a lovely round up – something truly for everyone! Eventide was the highlight of our summer trip to Acadia. I’d love the book to replicate our meal for my fellow NYC hospital docs.

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JennyE

I never realized I needed “The cheese plate that will change your life”. Her Instagram is beautiful. Thanks for connecting me with it.

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Jen

Great gift ideas! I’d love to have the Eventide cookbook. Thanks for your blog – I sure do love it!

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Sarah S

Thanks for all the gift suggestions! As for books, I’d be interested in The Cheese Plate That Will Change Your Life. I have always admired pictures of beautiful cheese plates but have no clue how to put a good one together. The cheese-by-numbers method sounds both intriguing and doable for a novice 🙂

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