Santa Baby

Santa Baby
Slip a sable under the tree,
For me.

Santa baby,
a 54 convertible too,
Light blue.

Santa honey,
there’s one thing
I really do need,
The deed,
To a platinum mine.

Santa baby,
Come and trim my Christmas tree,
With some decorations bought at Tiffany’s.


When Eartha Kitt crooned her ode to visible signs of affection for Christmas she wasn’t talking pots and pans.

To the gastronomically obsessed, however, a deed to a vineyard or a full set of Riedel Sommelier crystal is much more useful than a Tiffany-trimmed tree.

Well, maybe not.

If neither vineyards, nor fragile crystal, nor baubles from Tiffany are on the radar this year, what is the top culinary gift for 2011?


Zwilling Spirit Thermolon
Non-stick Fry Pans and Pro Gold Ceramic Baking Pans

“The culinary gift of the year is definitely Zwilling Spirit non-stick fry pans with Thermolon granite ceramic coatings,” says Stasia Nawrocki, proprietor of Dansk.

What’s so special about these pans? The three-ply base construction, superior non-stick hard ceramic finish, scratch resistant, no PFTE coating, with handles that stay cool, and they are on sale through December. Sale prices range from $20 for the 8-inch pan to $85 for the 12.5 inch.

“My second pick is ceramic-coated bakeware made by a company called Pro Gold,” says Stasia. “These cookie sheets have a double layer of non-stick ceramic coating. They work really well and clean up beautifully. The 17.5″ x 11.5″ baking sheet is $25.”


Staub Enameled Cast Iron Cookware

Gloria Lockie at Call the Kettle Black loves Staub cast iron enameled cookware. “The dimples on the inside of the lid puts moisture back in the food, and the black matte enameled interiors are easy to clean,” she says. “Best of all we have Staub on sale until the end of December.”

Staub Dutch ovens, pans, teapots and tagines come in several luscious colours. Price range is $135-$350 depending on the item.


Stinson Studio Hand-made Canadian Maple Salad Bowls

Another item Gloria loves are the 100 per cent Canadian maple salad bowls, hand-made by Stinson Studio in Tamworth Ontario. The bowls are a work of art, in square and oval shapes, some with bark, $260-$300 range.


Vietri Old St. Nick Tableware

“We have some serving pieces and tabletop items in a pattern called Old St. Nick,” says Karen Visser, owner of Bella Casa. “Prices range from $20 to $297. They are from the Vietri company — handcrafted and Italian made.”


Zocalo Pizza Kit

“Pizza stones are hot, no pun intended,” Miranda Ringma of Zocalo says. “They’re all the rage for creating great thin-crust pizza. We stock a great basic pizza stone with metal rack, 14.5″/ 37cm diameter, in natural bisque. It’s oven safe, and comes in a gift box. Be careful to hand wash as it could crack in the dishwasher, $20.

“Does your culinarily-obsessed love pizza night? Combine the pizza stone with the WMF stainless steel pizza wheel, $20; Tipo 00 Molina pizza flour ($6) and a beautifully functional Ritzenhoff beer glass ($45) to round out the perfect gourmet pizza gift.”


Krups Silver Art Collection Espresso Machine

Susan Lamash of Java Jive loves the new Krups Silver Art Collection; espresso machine, coffeemaker and kettle. “They are beautiful to look at, first of all; the design, stainless steel and chrome with wood accents, is masculine and elegant.

“The pieces are compact and ideal for the modern kitchen — these are meant to sit on the counter and be shown off — yet they all have superior technology and performance.

“For example, the espresso machine’s Thermoblock 15 bar pump means faster preheating and less limescale, making it easier to clean, and the precise tamping system promises a uniform result and better tasting espresso. You don’t usually get those sorts of features in a home machine.”


Imperia Stainless Steel Pasta Maker

As we learn in Corso 32’s Holiday menu making pasta isn’t hard, it just takes practice.

A good place to start is with a good quality pasta maker. Most good machines come with separate attachments that allow you to make more than one shape. Look for all-stainless machines made in Italy (or Japan, but you’ll pay a lot for that). This pasta maker is as straightforward as they come, a cinch to operate, sturdy enough for frequent use, and easy to keep clean ($70 at the Italian Centre Shop).


Casanova DOP Balsamico

Now that the restaurant trend of dunking bread into an indifferent oil and vinegar seems to be ending, lets get back to the real thing. What is balsamic vinegar? At the low end of the quality spectrum, wine vinegar is cooked with colour, citric acid, preservatives and flavourings in a fast commercial process. At the other, grape must is slow-aged under the eaves in the town of Modena and, if they are very special, get to use the DOP certification. DOP Balsamico, packaged in a fantastic curvy bottle and priced the earth, are meant as an elixir to anoint a piece of Parmigiano while you enjoy a wine of contemplation, or drizzled over steak to bring out the char-roasted flavours of good Alberta beef. What a thoughtful gift.


Segreto DOP Extra Virgin Olive Oil

So many Italian olive oils, so little information on the bottle. New this year: extra virgin olive oils that claim to be Italian must prove it. Then, the producer is allowed to say 100 per cent Italian. It’s not simply empty rhetoric, supply levels are strictly monitored by bureaucracy in Rome. Ok, now that you know to look for those words, what else should you look for? The words and symbol DOP. This is your guarantee that the oil comes from a specific place with certified growing standards, flavour profiles and rules of production. Segreto Extra Virgin Olive Oil, from Mount Iblei DOP in Sicily is one such oil, with a beautiful texture and fragrance. Use it for drizzling on salads and on pasta. Oils you use for cooking don’t have to possess the same characterful flavours. Look for brands from Italy, or oil from countries such as Portugal, Turkey, Spain and Greece.



Panettone is the Italian equivalent of the Canadian fruit cake. No one admits to eating it, but they are as ubiquitous as Santas at shopping malls. Actually, we like the fruit-studded version and enjoy it toasted for breakfast on Boxing Day. We also like the individual sized boxes of pannetonne, with chocolate, for party favours.


Beavertail Breakfast Set

First, a bit of culinary lore: The beavertail is a deep fried pastry made in the shape of a beavertail, served piping hot at cook shacks clustered alongside the Rideau Canal during the Ottawa winter carnival. Now the pastry is synonymous with a chain of the same name with locations in Canada, the US and Saudi Arabia.

The Beavertail breakfast set by DoveTale evokes the spirit of the original beavertail in a toothsome kit containing organic pancake mix, Quebec maple syrup and strawberry spread, $33. You could deep-fry them, of course, but most people will be happy to make pancakes in the traditional beavertail shape and enjoy with a mug of Bailey’s-laced coffee Christmas morning.


Seasoned Solutions

Edmonton food personality Gail Hall leads culinary tours with Toronto-based travel company Worldwide Quest. Gail has been the congenial host and familiar face on tours to Chile, Argentina, Italy, France, and the Okanagan. The 2012 tours promise to be a fascinating window into the food culture of South-east Asia: Vietnam March 9-21, and Cambodia March 21-24. For more information including itineraries, visit or Gail also plans a
shop/spa/wine tour in Sonoma, including dinner at John Ash’s restaurant in Santa Rosa, over the Family Day weekend, February 17-21.


Gourmet Experience

When food and wine impresario Peter Blattmann created the International Festival of Wine and Food at the Banff Springs Hotel in 1991, he lured some of the world’s top wine producers to an event on a weekend during the shoulder season when they couldn’t even ski. Since then, the improbable has become the must-do on the agenda of wine lovers across North America. In 2001 Peter left his position as the Spring’s food and beverage director to develop a business specializing in exclusive, upscale tours of top wine regions for small groups. His latest, the Culinary & Wine Tour of Alsace, Germany-Austria, October 7-20, promises his usual attention to detail and high level of care. Visit for itinerary.


Cuisine et Chateau: A French Culinary Journey in Perigord

Cue accordian music: This trip is a dream — an opportunity to stay in a lovely chateau, complete with swimming pool, cook all morning and, in the afternoon, wander about by bicycle in an impeccable French landscape.

All food lovers eventually end up in the Dordogne, the heart of French cookery, for a glimpse into a rural culture seemingly untouched by modern life. Perigord is known for its cheeses, foie gras, duck confit, escargot. Snail and duck farms, walnut groves, cattle and goats (14 million litres of goat milk for Cabecou alone) surround quaint medieval towns.

Marnie Fudge and Thierry Meret spent six weeks last summer in the region polishing their new venture Cuisine et Chateau. Both are experienced chefs as well as SAIT culinary instructors: Thierry Meret had a wonderful restaurant, La P’tite Table, in Okotoks; Marnie started the Basil Ranch, then developed Pallette Fine Foods, a delicious line of gourmet food products.

Along with intensive cooking lessons, the groups will visit farms and markets. All together, this is an ideal week for those who love to be in the kitchen and connect with a profound food culture.