Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Not-At-All Comprehensive Maine Food Lover's Gift Guide

UPDATE: The giveaway winner is Anne! I randomly chose commenter #1 (the first commenter) as the winner of the Islandport Garden Harvest calendar. Thank you to everyone who entered and remember, Islandport Press is offering 20% off their beautiful calendar today and tomorrow. 

How's your holiday shopping coming? I am about...halfway through. No, that's not true at all. I had a meltdown at the grocery store in the pet aisle yesterday about my budget. So! That is to say, there's still some shopping to be done in my world. 

I know the internet is rife with gift guides (the annual, and very comprehensive, gift guide from Alex Steed and one from DigPortland), but I have a few things worth suggesting, so I'm going to throw my hat into the ring as well. 

Electric Rice Cooker
Great for: 20somethings, busy people, appliance lovers, and known terrible rice preparers

Vrylena has a rice cooker, and she's always singing it's praises. I thought I'd let her speak about her thoughts on the matter, as I know she has many. I'm very excited to have Vrylena's witty prose on the blog, asterisk note and all!

"The rice cooker is controversial appliance.* I myself was a doubter, until I ended up with this incredibly cheap rice cooker and it changed my life. Suddenly we had rice with all sorts of meals that were intended to be served with rice. Curries, teriyaki salmon, middle eastern lentils. Brown rice with everything! Or white rice! Rice with little bits of ginger! Rice not cemented to the bottom of my pot because apparently I AM incapable of cooking a decent pot of rice on my own. I could start the rice before I went to pick up my kid from daycare, and it was done in time for his meal with little to no effort on my part. 

It came with a little chart outlining the amount of water you'd use for each type of rice. It was basically made from tin foil and glue. I loved it. And then I dropped the little bowl and it dented horribly and didn't work again.

I bought a slightly more expensive version that's terrible. It's this one. It doesn't have a little chart, it just says it cooks all types of rice. What that means is that I have to make my own little chart through trial and error and dry undercooked rice. The steamer tray is useless. 

What I'm saying is that my first rice cooker is my rosebud, and I long for her.

In any case, if you get someone a rice cooker as a gift, you should also give them a copy of Roger Ebert's The Pot and How to Use It: The Mystery and Romance of the Rice Cooker.

* Maybe just to white people? Every Korean family I've met has one with apparently zero angst."

Cast Iron Bacon Press
Great for: bacon lovers (duh), outdoorsy types who love cast iron, no-frills cooks

My boss suggested this item. It's a square of cast iron with a handle that is designed to help create flat bacon. At first glance, it falls into the useless, one-trick pony kitchen gadget category, and is something I'd probably dismiss in the store.

But in addition to flat bacon, the bacon press also acts a panini press! So if you know someone who loves grilled, melty sandwiches and has a corresponding love for cast iron pans, this is for them. 

Cost: $15-20, available at Williams-Sonoma, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and probably LeRoux Kitchen

Portland Food Co-op Membership
Great for: broke family/friends, super crunchy types, Portland peninsula-dwellers...everyone really

The Portland Food Co-op is in full swing in it's new retail location that's open to the public. Now that everyone's had a chance to peek in this market and see how great it is (even if you don't agree, it's working out the kinks, and they welcome feedback), give a membership to someone that you know might enjoy it, but wouldn't necessarily purchase for themselves. Those are the best kinds of gifts! My friend got me a membership for my birthday, so I can personally attest how great it feels to be on the receiving end of this gift. Membership benefits include access to special sales and (eventual) member-owner rebates.

Cost: $100

Local Artist's Calendar
Great for: practical friends, not-so-close relatives, locavores, perpetually late friends (just kidding, don't do that), art lovers

Everyone needs a calendar for 2015 - but even if they don't, a calendar of local artists' prints will ensure that your gifts gets hung up and admired. I frequently grab Dana Heacock's 4x6 calendars at Abacus Gallery (I love that they come pre-wrapped), and my friend Tessa Greene O'Brien has created a calendar out of her beautiful paintings of New England swimming holes

If you know an extreme locavore, really impress them with Teresa Lagrange's "Garden Harvest" calendar from Islandport Press. The beautiful illustrations are from the cookbook Always in Season by Elise Richer. OK, so it's a local artist, painting local vegetables, in a cookbook about eating locally, published by a Maine publisher. Bam! 

Exciting news: Islandport Press is giving away a copy to one Blueberry Files reader; see below for details on how to enter to win.  

Cost: free to the giveaway winner! $19.95, plus a 20% discount given if purchased on Wednesday 12/17 and Thursday 12/18. 

Hope these suggestions trigger something if you're stumped for a gift idea! I'm looking forward to seeing my loved ones enjoy the gifts I've gotten them (ahem, will get them). 

Giveaway details: 
To enter to win one "Garden Harvest" 2015 calendar: Comment on this post with your best gift for a foodie in your life. I will randomly choose a winner tomorrow 12/17/14 and update this post with the winner and details on how to claim your prize. 

Giveaway open to US and Canadian residents only. Giveaway begins at midnight on 12/16 and ends at midnight on 12/17. 

Disclosure: Islandport Press gave me two calendars - one review copy and one to giveaway. No other compensation was given. 

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