One Christmas, my father gave my mother a set of faux leopard-skin suitcases — just the thing for someone who loved to hunt and fish! The lesson learned is that a bit of thought goes a long way when it comes to choosing a gift. It’s not the cost or the size of the box, it’s the amount of consideration that matters.

To that end, I have a short list of items that I really love, from a book to a camera, from pantry items to cookware, and even a great notebook for travel. Some are offered through our own store, but many others are just stuff I like. There are stocking stuffers, while others are full-fledged gifts, but I hope that you find one or two items that make it onto your gift-giving list this year.

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Traveler’s Notebook ($56 for starter kit)

This is my notebook of choice for travel for Milk Street. It has many options for booklet fillers, plus credit card holders and the like. I love the size and shape – big enough to do some serious work but not so large that it is unwieldy. (They come in regular and passport sizes.) There are lots of options for covers as well. I use one insert booklet per trip so that I can easily go back to check my notes later on.

Benriner Mandoline Slicer ($52.50)

By far the best mandoline on the market, this model is from Japan. Yes, it is has a safety guard, it has rubber feet so it stays put, and it is easy to clean and store. This is what a professional chef uses.

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Traverse Power Whisk ($24)

This does not look like a whisk – it is has two parallel sets of tines, nothing like a balloon whisk, yet it can whisk egg whites or heavy cream in half the time. The reason? The ingredients come in contact with the tines more often with this design. Fabulous tool.

Giannini 3-Cup Moka Pot ($149)

I have used old-fashioned espresso machines, which are wildly expensive and, well, a real pain to use. You have to grind the coffee beans just right and pack them in just right and then it takes a couple of tries to get the 23 seconds of drip that you want. This stovetop machine does that work for you at a fraction of the price and it is so much better than the run-of-the-mill moka pot. The hot water is forced up through the grounds unlike an espresso machine. The really nice thing about this model is that it uses a press-fit lever locking system unlike the cheaper moka pots that screw together. (Loose coffee grounds always make that process difficult.) Anyone who loves espresso will be thrilled to get this under their Christmas tree.

Giannini Moka Pot 1
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La Perruche Pure Cane Rough Cut Sugar Cubes ($17.95)

I love these! Perfect for muddling in cocktails or just throwing into a cup of coffee. Nice flavor, so much better than white sugar.

Jia Kkini Bowl and Chopsticks ($79.95 for a set of 2)

We just got this in stock and I immediately purchased a set for my own use. We love soup or a bowl of rice with toppings for dinner and these matte-grey porcelain bowls are just the thing. They are designed based on the Korean dolsot bowls used for bibimbap. The wooden covers are gorgeous and beautifully made, as are the chopsticks. If you want a unique, artful and useful gift, this is it!

In The Store — Bowls
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The Winter Fortress ($12.95 paperback)

Perhaps the most compelling “I can’t put this book down” read I have had in years. It’s the true story of the commandos who sabotaged the Norwegian heavy water plant in WWII. It was made into a movie in the 1960s, but this book is well-researched and almost unbelievable. For example, to get to the plant unobserved, they had to climb a 500-foot cliff in the middle of the night, in the dead of winter. Highest recommendation.

Milk Street Za’atar Mix ($14.95)

As a chef/friend of mine always says, “It’s the za’atar, stupid!” Our mix includes wild thyme leaves (za’atar is a type of wild thyme from the Middle East), sesame seeds, sumac, Aleppo pepper and garlic. Put this mix on everything from your morning eggs to grilled chicken and your cooking will improve dramatically.

Za'atar Mix
Fuji Film

Fujifilm X T-20 Digital Camera with 18-55mm 2.8 lens ($999)

I researched just about every option for a small micro four-thirds camera and this one is the best. I take it on all of the Milk Street trips and it does a fabulous job. (If you primarily want video, there are other cameras that are better options, but I think this is the best bet for photos.) The 18mm-55mm lens has a stabilizer built-in; it’s not in the body itself but this is an excellent everyday lens. If you spend the time to customize the controls, you can easily choose everything from focus settings, to special filters, to white balance — and more! It’s a camera that is easy to use for a beginner but has all of the sophistication of a professional-level device. Best of all, it is small and light.

Jia Ceramic-Terracotta-Cedar 4-Piece Steamer/Rice Cooker ($169)

We use this fabulous piece of cookware every day at home. You can steam vegetables in the cedar basket or use the ceramic cooker to make terrific rice. (I prefer to make rice in this cooker than in an electric cooker.) It is compact and makes steaming a pleasure. This is a must-have piece of equipment for your kitchen.

Jia 3-Piece Steamer Set
Mymouné Pomegranate Molasses

Mymouné Pomegranate Molasses ($15.95)

By far the best brand we have ever tasted and with all-natural ingredients. Its sweet and sour flavor is perfect for touching up stews, soups or salad dressings. Every kitchen should have a bottle. 

Huilerie Beaujolaise Lemon and Calamansi Bitter Orange Vinegar ($24.95)

Outstanding! Make a salad or vegetable dressing with this vinegar and you will be nominated to the Who’s Who of Cooking in America! You will never go back to your old French salad dressing again, it’s that good. (Buy two bottles while you are at it — we get limited inventory from our supplier and frequently run out.)

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Milk Street Tuesday Nights ($23.95)

This is a tad self-indulgent but I sincerely love this book. The recipes are easy and relatively quick to make, yet the flavors are bold and fresh. When we talk about “the new home cooking,” this is exactly what we mean. Every single recipe has stunning, full-color photography. This is the perfect gift book for any cook.