Not all great gifts have to cost a fortune. In fact, some of the best can be downright cheap. Here's a selection of wonderful presents almost any food lover would be happy to find under their tree or even in their stocking.
Essentially nothing more than a round tool fitted with a flat layer of fine mesh, this deceptively simple kitchen appliance can be used in a variety of ways, from straining to sifting, doubling as a food mill or simple sieve. The flat mesh is often easier to use than a rounded strainer or cone-shape chinois. Tamis are typically metal or wood, fitted with a variety of different types and gauges of mesh. Prices vary but usually start about $15; widely available in cooking stores and online.
Japanese bartending tools
Mixologist Garbriella Mlynarczik of Ink is a big fan of the Japanese bar tools at Culver City's eclectic wine and spirits purveyor Bar & Garden. They've got something for every budget. Check out the funnel and bell-shaped jiggers in different sizes, either stainless steel or, for some real bling, gold-plated ($13 to $32). And for the bartender who already has everything, glass bitters bottles ($38 to $44) might be just the ticket. 6142 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 876-0759.
Suits & Knives coffee
William Miyazaki launched downtown L.A. micro-roaster Suits & Knives in July, selling coffee wholesale and online ("order before roast day Thursday, coffee in your cups by Monday"). Miyazaki selects green beans and roasts them in what he calls the Japanese style, which is a lot slower, he explains. "It's not about punching a button on a machine." Several varieties include beans from Central and South America and Ethiopia, with an espresso blend called Dempsy that marries both, "sweet and complex." $14 to $21 online.
Tovolo King ice cube molds
These colorful and roomy ice cube molds are a must-have item for the home cocktail connoisseur. Each tray creates slow-melting, 2-inch squares that keep cocktails perfectly chilled without immediately watering them down. $8.95 online.
"Lust for Leaf: Vegetarian Noshes, Bashes and Everyday Great Eats"
This super-fun vegetarian cookbook by Evan George and Alex Brown, the food-blogging duo Hot Knives, has chapters detailing "Bro-tein," "BBQ Mosh Pits" and more. It will make any meat-free dinner party a blast and any aspiring vegetarian cook happy. Beer and music pairings come with each recipe. $19.99 online.
Watts Towers tea towels
Stylish flour-sack towels from the atelier of Miss Fruitfly are silkscreened by hand. Your dishes will gleam with Los Angeles pride. Sold at various artisan fairs and for $14 online — search for "Watts tea towels."
Gindo's Spice of Life hot sauce
This locally made hot sauce is the house hot sauce for Umami Burger and a favorite of chefs around the city, including Michael Voltaggio at Ink and Ralph Johnson at the Pikey. It packs a flavorful yet spicy punch that doesn't drown out the flavor of food. Made from locally farmed hot peppers and infused with black lava, Himalayan and Alaea sea salts, options include original, jalapeño poblano, honey habanero and extra spicy. $10 online.
Assorted pickles from Bruce's Prime Pickle Co.
Chef Bruce Kalman left the Churchill in West Hollywood to start his own gourmet pickling business, and the results have all the right vinegary snap. Garlic Dill Horsey Cukes, Sweet Cab Onions, Bloody Mary Asparagus, Cucumber Kim Chee, Curried Cauliflower and Chi-Town Giardiniere are all locally sourced and hand-packed. They can be mixed and matched for the perfect pickle-lover package. $11.95, at the Cheese Store of Silverlake, 3926-28 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 644-7511.
Bak kwa (Singapore-style pork jerky)
The USDA disapproves, but visitors to Asia are often struck by an insatiable urge to smuggle back boxes of bak kwa, a sweet pork jerky best when toasted lightly over a flame. Bak kwa is often given as an extravagant holiday gift. At the newish Fragrant Jerky, the Los Angeles area finally has a bak kwa to compare with Singapore's best. From $6.95 for 4 ounces at the store, 8930 Mission Drive, Rosemead, (626) 329-2779, or online.
Trufflebert Farm hazelnuts
They're organic, they're sustainable and they're certified by Oregon Tilth. They're roasted to about a minute and a half short of full incineration. They are also about the most delicious hazelnuts you will ever taste, almost coffee-like in their intensity. You could order giant bags of them online from trufflebertfarms.com, but they're $9 a pound plus shipping with a minimum order of 10 pounds. Or you can pick up handy 1-pound jars for $15 at Mozza2Go, 6610 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 297-1130.
It's salt. It's chipotles. It's chipotle salt, made by the renowned restaurant La Casita Mexicana. It smacks whatever you choose to sprinkle it on with a sweetly smoky heat. Were you planning to sprinkle some on your next steak? Good idea! Pick up a jar of house-made mole while you're there. $3.99, at La Tiendita Mexicana, 4034 Gage Ave., Bell, (323) 773-4030.
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