As 2009 comes to a close with the holiday season, we all need a reason to celebrate, no matter what price points dictate your holiday gift lists. From spatulas to stemware, we have small treats and big splurges to outfit any wine and food aficionado for the holidays and beyond. Spend a little or a lot, but the quality of each of these gifts speaks for itself. That, and the smile you'll see when these gifts are unwrapped.
The One Glass ($50 per set of four, iwawine.com)
Master sommelier Andrea Robinson's The One wineglass purports to show all wines, young and old, fruity and austere, at their best. After extensive testing in the Wine Spectator tasting department, we found that this is not always the case, but we like the utility and price point, and welcome it into the class of everyday stems. For the wine lover in your family who doesn’t insist on a stem for every wine, these utilitarian wineglasses are an excellent gift at a good value.
Champagne Cup by Elsa Peretti ($950, tiffany.com)
Fuse art and wine with this functional showpiece, a sterling silver, 5-ounce bowl Champagne Cup by Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co. that ignites curiosity and investigation. Peretti, who has designed for the luxury company for 35 years, gives shapes to objects by evaluating their form and function in relation to smooth contours, in the case of this cup, how one would grasp the vessel. For the wine lover who delights in over-the-top hedonism, this is a luxurious splurge appropriate for sipping the most expensive Champagnes in the world.
Quilted Stemware Storage Cases ($72 for large glasses; $62 for smaller glasses, williams-sonoma.com)
Designed to safely store stemware, these quilted-cotton, zippered and stackable storage cases have so many layers of extra-soft cushioning your wineglasses wouldn't know what hit them. Great for anyone who needs to store extra stemware in small places or likes to travel with their own, each case (one designed for white wine stemware, one for red wine glasses) holds 12 wineglasses, plenty for an impromptu wine tasting, dinner party or neighborhood barbecue.
Artisan Cutting Boards ($29 to $32, williams-sonoma.com)
Everyone seems to adore farm animals (probably because we don’t actually have to live with them). These playful rooster-, pig- and turkey-shaped cutting boards are both handy and decorative. Made from lightly-distressed New England maple, they offer vintage American charm coupled with modern craftsmanship. These boards, useful both for prep work and stylish serving, are timeless additions to any kitchen.
Re-Inspired Elements tasting bar ($10,000, newtonvineyard.com)
If you want to go big on a gift for a serious wine lover, go huge: Re-Inspired Elements, a tasting bar by artist Claire Danthois. Danthois was so inspired by Napa Valley’s Newton Vineyards after a trip there in 2008, she created this installation to embody the winery's Nature by Design philosophy. Featuring reclaimed oak from a 300-year-old wine merchant from Bristol and previously-used Newton barrels, the handmade piece holds wine bottles and stemware, plus serves as a tasting table. As if recycled materials aren't enough, 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale go to Global Green, a non-profit focused on stemming climate change and building green cities.
Mac MTH-80 Pro Chef's 8" Knife ($145, macknife.com)
You may not be Le Bernardin's chef Eric Ripert in the kitchen, but at least you can use the same knives he does. Made in Japan, these razor-like blades are said to be the sharpest on the market; they'll effortlessly cut anything from bread to fish to steaks. The Pro Chef's MTH-80 features sub-zero molybdenum alloy for greater edge retention and dimples to reduce drag through cuts. The best part, though, might be the easy upkeep. Ripert says they "are very, very good and not difficult to maintain." Perfect for any chef with a day job.
All-Clad Copper Core Double Boiler ($300, williams-sonoma.com)
For the home baker with a sweet tooth, a high-quality double boiler is a gift that will warm their heart all year round. With its copper core and easy-care stainless steel, All-Clad’s Copper Core Double Boiler is top-of-the-line when it comes to melting chocolate or whisking together a hollandaise sauce. Chefs across the country rely on All-Clad, including Gale Gand of Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning restaurant Tru, who says, "I have a set I might have gotten six years ago, and it looks brand new." Now that's professional grade.
Bamix Deluxe Immersion Blender ($180, kitchenresource.com)
The holiday season signals winter and winter is the perfect season for homemade soups. Give a loved one the Bamix immersion blender, and hopefully you'll reap the benefits of warm bowls of soup all winter long (or at least rest easy knowing you made a home chef very happy). This deluxe hand-held gadget is handy for much more than soups as well: It also includes a beater, dry grinder and mincer.
Original Peltex Fish Spatula ($19, bridgekitchenware.com)
And if you’re looking for a last-minute stocking stuffer for the cook in your household, think about upgrading some of the more mundane tools in the kitchen. Most people won't splurge on a high-quality spatula, which is why you can slip this Peltex Fish Spatula in a stocking of any home cook. Chef Eric Ripert, who uses the very same spatula in the kitchen at Le Bernardin, says it's "great for flipping anything in a pan." Pancakes for the holidays, anyone?