Wondering what to gift the serious chocophile in your life? Here are 7 ideas for the holiday season.
1. Cocoa Pods
[Photograph: The Cocoa Pod shop]
Cocoa pods make for interesting home decor conversation pieces. The Cocoa Pod shop currently sells whole dried cocoa pods and open empty dried cocoa pods collected directly from cocoa growers in Ecuador.
Cost: $13.95 each + shipping.
2. Hot Chocolate Making Kit
[Photograph: Graeme Pow]
Perhaps the most satisfying hot chocolate is made at home on the stovetop by melting fine chocolate into water or milk (or cream!). A hot chocolate making kit could include some or all of the following:
- a good quantity of good quality chocolate, preferably pre-chopped or in small pieces for easy prep: e.g. Michel Cluizel mini-grammes or Valrhona feves;
- luxurious cups: There are countless options for serving cups at a wide variety of price points. Lately I find myself most enjoying hot chocolate in a demitasse espresso cup, which is just the right size for a reasonable serving. In the splurge category, check out these classy cup brands that come recommended by coffee professional Meister at Serious Eats: Ancap and NotNeutral.;
- an immersion blender or milk frother;
- spices and extracts;
- recipes: from books (e.g. Michael Turback’s Hot Chocolate or, for a Francophile, Jean-Paul Hévin’s Chocolat Chaud) or the web (e.g. Paul Young’s Aztec Hot Chocolate, Maricel Presilla’s Hot Chocolate Agasajo, Hot Chocolate with Máchica).
Cost: Choose your own adventure.
3. Historical Chocolate Artifacts
If you enjoy the thrill of the search, there is a world of fun to be had in finding historical chocolate artifacts like vintage advertisements, antique chocolate pots and serving sets, or rare books on cacao and chocolate. Online, start with Ebay, Etsy, and Google to get the lay of the land. Offline, try antique shops, flea markets, rare or used book stores, and estate auctions. (Confession: I routinely search for “mancerina” on Ebay and occasionally unearth a pricey, centuries-old item. I then covet it daily via an open tab in Google Chrome, wondering who might buy it, only to watch the auction expire. Gorgeous mancerina-of-the-moment, I dream of adopting you one day!) Rest assured that a historical chocolate artifact is a gift to be remembered.
Cost: From pennies to thousands of dollars, beware all your moneys fleeing your wallet!
Every chocolate lover needs to read at least two books: Maricel Presilla’s The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes and Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe’s The True History of Chocolate. Beyond that, one could read for years and never come close to finishing the literature on chocolate. See here for my favorite books on chocolate from 2012 and 2011.
Cost: Usually between $10 to $30 each.
5. Chocolate money
Exploring the world of fine chocolate requires financial investment; a gift certificate to an excellent chocolate shop will help your giftee take their chocolate love to the next level. Below are links to a few of my favorite North American specialty chocolate shops offering gift certificates. You can’t go wrong with any of these, though I also strongly recommend supporting local specialty shops in your area:
- Chocosphere gift certificate (web based)
- Cacao Portland gift certificate (Portland, OR)
- Formaggio Kitchen gift certificate (web and Cambridge and Boston, MA, New York, NY)
- Future Chocolate at The Chocolate Garage (web and Palo Alto, CA)
- Chocolopolis gift card (web and Seattle, WA)
- The Meadow gift certificate (web and New York, NY, Portland, OR)
Cost: Ranges from $25 to $500.
6. Good Food Awards Finalists
[Image: Good Food Awards]
The Good Food Awards 2014 finalists, announced in November, represent a unique group of American artisan food producers. Let your chocolate giftees judge the products for themselves by providing a sampling of the finalists in the chocolate and confections categories (note: not all confections are chocolatey). Winners, chosen from the group of finalists, will be announced in January 2014.
Cost: It’s up to you.
7. Online learning
The popular e-learning site Craftsy currently has a Decadent Chocolate Cakes class on offer, taught by renowned chocolate dessert chef and cookbook author Alice Medrich. The offering includes 10 HD video lessons, downloadable class materials, and a virtual classroom that will help your giftee learn how to make three elaborate chocolate cakes.
Next Thursday, December 12, 2013, from 6:30-8:30pm, I’ll be teaming up with my favorite local specialty shop, Formaggio Kitchen, to teach a Chocolate 101 class. The tasting line up for this event will explode your mind and knock your socks off. If that sounds good to you, join us! Cost is $55 per person, sign up here.