For the Mixologist
F&W picks great new spirits, like Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka ($32), a small-batch spirit that's handmade in custom German pot stills, a more artisanal method than the column stills typically used for vodka. The potatoes come from a Pennsylvania farm.
We narrowed more than a dozen new whiskeys down to these four great choices, like The Glenrothes Alba Reserve ($63). This appealingly sweet single-malt Scotch is rich without being weighty. And it's certified kosher.
Travel-Sized Bitters Kit
The Bitter Truth founders Stephan Berg and Alexander Hauck made cocktail news a few years back with their exceptional bitters in flavors like celery and orange. Now they've released a travel pack of five mini bottles of their top blends in a nifty retro-styled box. $20; the-bitter-truth.com.
Spherical Ice Cube Trays
Mixologists like using big, round pieces of ice for spirits served straight, because they melt slowly and won't water down drinks. New York's Museum of Modern Art sells a Japanese-made tray for mixologist wannabes that produces two-inch-wide spheres. $16 for 2 trays; momastore.org.
For the Wine Lover
F&W editors taste thousands of wines every year. Here, their most memorable bottles of 2010, from a $22 Syrah to a $250 re-creation of a long-lost style of Bordeaux.
Some pricey bottles aren't worth the money. We've found others that are, like the 2007 Woodenhead Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($42) from an under-the-radar but great Sonoma Pinot producer.
These five picks may be esoteric, but they're also terrific. Try the 2007 Lang & Reed Two-Fourteen ($40). An unusual Loire Valley Cabernet Franc clone is the source of this lush California red.
"Socrates" by Jasper Morrison for Alessi has a modern, industrial look. $165; alessi.com.
For the Gastronaut
DIY evangelists Stephen Valand and Erica Shea own the Brooklyn Brew Shop, a terrific online source for small-batch home-brewing kits that include all the necessary equipment, yeast, malts and hops. Their most popular kit: a Belgian-style ale called A Well Made Tripel. $40 for a one-gallon kit; brooklynbrewshop.com.
MeatProcessingProducts.com is a great source for everything from meat dehydrators to smokers. To make sausage and charcuterie, butcher Ryan Farr recommends the TSM #10 grinder because it's powerful but compact $640; meatprocessingproducts.com.
Sous Vide Water Oven
The new SousVide Supreme lacks a water pump but heats water accurately enough to cook most foods perfectly. The company also makes a $130 countertop vacuum sealer similar to FoodSaver and Seal-a-Meal. $450; www.sousvidesupreme.com.
Courtesy of Polyscience
The Smoking Gun infuses everything from cocktails to butter to vegetables with aromatic smoke. $100; cuisinetechnology.com.
For the Griller
Courtesy of Bodum
Barbecue For Two
Compact and cute, the lightweight Bodum Fyrkat grill for mini cookouts is small enough to fit on the tiniest of patios. $50; bodumusa.com.
Cast-Iron Grill Humidifier
Pour beer, wine or even juice into cast-iron humidifiers from Moistly Grilled to infuse food with flavor and keep it succulent. $30 for 2; surlatable.com.
Metal Grill Smoker Box
Designed by Seattle chef Tom Douglas, the Pinzon box can be filled with wood chips and placed on the grill to give foods a touch of smoke. $13; amazon.com.
Knives and Tools
American cooks have gone mad for lightweight, supersharp Japanese chef's knives, like the Classic Chef's Knife by Shun ($150). F&W tested more than 100 widely available ones to find the best.
Classic Microplane Grater
Rarely has a modest kitchen utensil like this fine-tooth grater become so universally beloved in such a short time. It can create delicate strips of everything from citrus zest and hard cheese to chocolate $13; us.microplane.com.
Spudski Potato Masher by black + blum
A masher with a handle that looks like a ski pole. $16; charlesandmarie.com.
Courtesy of Polalee.com
Digital Measuring-Cup Scale
Taylor's over-achieving digital measuring-cup scale weighs dry and liquid ingredients in ounces or grams while measuring their volume in fluid ounces or milliliters. Ideal for bakers who crave precision. $35; cooking.com.
At home, Ming Tsai likes using a flat-bottomed cast-iron wok from Le Creuset: "The flat bottom means that more of the surface area is on the stove, so the wok heats up properly." Tsai also preheats the wok in the oven for 15 minutes so that it becomes "screeching hot." $230; lecreuset.com.
Classic Cast-Iron Pan
There are two kinds of cast-iron skillets: regular and enameled. Both heat evenly, if slowly, so they're great for cooking pancakes and searing meat. They're also good at keeping oil hot for frying and can withstand the high temperatures of an oven or grill. Lodge Logic 12-inch $34; 423-837-7181 or lodgemfg.com.
Stainless Steel Skillet
Stainless steel pans are superdurable, versatile (they can go from stovetop to oven) and easy to care for. Cooks love them precisely because they do what nonstick skillets don'tmake food stick (slightly) to the bottom. The crusty browned bits left in the skillet after searing meat are crucial for making a sauce. 13-inch $160; 800-255-2523 or all-clad.com.
Courtesy of Emile Henry
Stylish Pizza Stone
Emile Henry's stone works on the grill or in the oven and looks good enough for the table. $50; emilehenryusa.com.
Chartreuse rubber Hex place mats from Vitamin have coordinating coasters in black. $63 for 6 mats, $27 for 5 coasters; vitaminliving.com.
Droog's Salad Sunrise XL is like two cruets in one, operating on the principle that oil floats on top of vinegar. $70; droog.com.
Reclaimed-Wood Salt and Pepper Shakers
Handmade in Brooklyn, New York, from reclaimed walnut. $50; curiosityshoppeonline.com.
Using an 18th-century technique, a Japanese company called Kamebishi makes light, flaky salt crystals by dehydrating soy sauce that's been fermented for three years in 100-year-old cedar vats. Just a pinch gives shrimp or eggs a meaty flavor. $30 for a 2-oz jar; atthemeadow.com.
P.I.Y. Popcorn Kit
479° Popcorn's new pop-it-yourself kit comes with a jar of organic popcorn kernels and four terrific flavoring blends: two salts and two sugars. $35; 479popcorn.com.
Real beef jerky isn't a smoky stick of preserved mystery meat. Rachel Graville's handmade versions are an exemplar of the artisanal-jerky trend.
Photo © Justin Runquist
At Chicago's Drinks Over Dearborn, longtime bartender Kyle McHugh carries everything from unusual beers to local liqueurs like the hibiscus-flavored Hum by mixologist Adam Seger. McHugh also teaches students in his on-site classroom.
Former chef Maite Gomez-Rejón offers cooking classes around the US inspired by top museum collections.
Philadelphia Thomas Jefferson's tastes were largely shaped by his tenure as minister to France. ArtBites' "A Jeffersonian Feast" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art explores how his Francophilia influenced early American art, food and architecture. Recipes from the 18th century inspire the cooking class. Nov. 16; $130.
San Antonio The "Latin American Art and Gastronomy" class that writer Joel Stein took will be repeated at the San Antonio Museum of Art. January 2011.
Austin "Let Us Eat Cake" at the Blanton Museum of Art tours the Impressionist exhibit and explores the role of sugar in Europe; participants create French confections and petit fours. Dec. 18.
Los Angeles "A Taste of Art: The Gilded Age" examines the Huntington Library's American art from the 1870s to World War Ithe decadent period known as the Gilded Age. The cooking focuses on recipes fit for a 19th-century socialite. Nov. 6; $90.
Savvy wine experts share their picks on great wine resources in print.
These must-reads range from a juicy chef tell-all to a serious look at sustainable seafood.
Fantastic cookbooks, like star chef Tyler Florence's Tyler Florence Family Meal: Bringing People Together Never Tasted Better.
More Great Gifts
Many chefs donate their time to countless efforts to raise money and awareness to help those in need. Here, a look into the charitable efforts of some of the world's greatest chefs and others in the food world.
The people of this small town in the hills of Haiti are living in poverty, yet they have opened their homes to some 8,000 displaced earthquake survivors.
To a billion people around the world surviving on just a dollar a day, the question of what to eat tonight is more about life and death than about recipes.
We have the resources to provide good, healthy food for everyone. So why aren't we?
Our chef-instructors teach kids basic kitchen skills, cooking techniques and the importance of fresh, healthy ingredientsto connect with their bodies, their neighbors and their world in a healthy way.
My kids see the working poor, who look no different than anyone from our neighborhood. They see people with jobs who can't get enough food for their families.
Led by cult producer Hundred Acre, top Napa wineries donate the "pink" wine removed while making reds to Charity Case, which turns it into a lovely rosé. All proceeds go to children's causes.
Thanksgiving Farm at The Center for Discovery thecenterfordiscovery.org
April Bloomfield buys pigs from this New York farm, which works with people with disabilities.
Through its U.S. office, the Rías Baixas region supports Kiva, which offers loans to needy small-scale entrepreneurs. kiva.org
Kallari Chocolate's Profit Sharing
The Ecuadorian producers of this chocolate share proceeds with the cacao farmers who grow the beans. kallarichocolate.com
KIPP Charter Schools
The Breast Cancer Research Foundation
Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture
This nonprofit farm and education center celebrates community-based food production and the enjoyment of fresh food. stonebarnscenter.org
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Greenroof Environmental Literacy Laboratory (GELL)
Michael Anthony supports GELL, which is raising funds to build a green roof atop P.S. 41, a New York City public school. ps41.org/ps41/the-gell-project
This organization supplies animals to families in developing nations; a $20 donation provides a flock of chicks. heifer.org
March of Dimes
Chefs as Parents
Ed Jiloca supports this organization of chefs working to improve school lunches in the Washington, DC, area. chefsasparents.com