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Gorumando’s Gift Guide

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Christmas is only a few days away! In case you’re in the market for a few last-minute goodies, check out this food-centric gift guide by Gorumando. You can buy most of these exotic finds at your local specialty grocery store.

Last week we shared a selection of our favorite gifts of cookware and cutlery, but not everyone needs or wants more objects in their kitchen.  Everyone loves to eat and drink, however, so allow us to suggest a few edible ideas you won’t likely find in the average gift basket.

Clockwise spiral from top left:

1.  Hard cider may have become hip lately, but in the Basque Country of Spain it’s been popular for centuries.  Unlike English-style ciders that are often carbonated and sweet, Basque cider is naturally flat and has a crisp, dry finish.  Isastegi and Sarasola are two of our favorites that shouldn’t be hard to find at your local wine store.  {Isastegi Natural Cider, $11}

2.  Founded in Kyoto in 1717, Ippodo produces some of the finest green teas in Japan and now conveniently ships to all parts of the world.  Their array of varieties and quality grades can be dizzying, even for a connoisseur, but we think a great place to start is this premium-quality Hosen sencha.  It’s a perfect companion for the tetsubin we featured last week.  {Ippodo Sencha, $20}

3.  We’ve written before about store-bought shio-koji, rice fermented with the mold Aspergillus oryzae, useful for making overnight pickles or for quickly marinating chicken and fish.  It’s easy, fun, and more economical to make it from scratch, from this little bucket of moldy rice and a few other common ingredients.  {Koji Rice, $7}

4.  Freshly roasted only a few blocks from our apartment in Andersonville, Metropolis was our favorite local coffee when we lived in Chicago.  This variety, Spice Island, hits all of our requirements for the perfect cup: organic, fairly traded, and darkly roasted. {Metropolis Coffee, $14}

5.  Our favorite sake for entertaining—for its dry, mellow taste, its magnum size, and its great label design featuring the face of the eponymous demon slayer—is Genbei Onikoroshi.  It can be difficult to find, but look for it at Japanese grocery stores or buy it online at the link provided.  {Genbei Onikoroshi Sake, $33}

6.  Rice is essential for any Japanese meal, and a beautiful rice cooker like the donabe we featured last week deserves the highest quality.  This Nozomi short grain rice is one of the best you can get outside of Japan and is easy to find in Asian grocery stores or online.  {Nozomi Short Grain Rice, $28}

7.  For the discerning whiskey drinker, rye is always a special treat, and this one from Chicago craft distiller Koval is one of the best.  Made from organic grains grown in the Midwest and water filtered from Lake Michigan, this rye blends well in classic cocktails like the Manhattan, but is also light and flavorful enough to sip straight.  Search for stores that carry it on their website {Koval Single-Barrel Rye Whiskey, $50}

8.  For the gourmand who has everything, you can’t do much better than a whole leg of Jamón Serrano or Ibérico.  Williamsburg, VA-based store La Tienda imports the top-quality Spanish hams both whole and boneless ranging in weights from 4 to 18 lbs, perfect for any occasion.  {Jamón Serrano or Ibérico, $250 – $1300}

9.  White corn grits are one of our favorite breakfasts, and the best we’ve tried are these, produced at a small family mill on an island outside of Charleston, SC.  Like a risotto, these grits cook up to a consistency that’s creamy yet still retains the integrity of each grain. {Geechie Boy Grits, $7}

10.  Founded by two French expatriates in Vietnam, Marou is the country’s first artisanal chocolate producer, offering single-origin bars that will redefine how good you thought chocolate could be.  Find it locally through their website, or order it online here.  {Marou Chocolate, $9}

11.  Slightly sweeter with a smokier, more earthy taste than its better known relative Aleppo pepper, Urfa biber is a dark purple pepper from Turkey that adds mellow heat and depth of flavor to dishes ranging from grilled meats to chocolate desserts.  Buy it online from the Spice House, a Chicagoland treasure that has been importing top-quality spices from around the world for over fifty years.  {Urfa Biber, $8}

Jeffrey Ozawa is a writer and cook living in Chicago. His blog, Gorumando, explores life’s pleasures through food. 

(Photo: Jaimie Lewis of Machins Choses)

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