Easter Gift Guide & Spring Cookbook Preview 2013

I can’t believe it’s Easter is coming this weekend! I usually think it’s warmer during Easter yet I’m still wearing cashmere sweaters and heavy coats to work. But what can I do? Here’s some gift ideas (most you may purchase beyond Easter) that you may give to friends and family:

Happy Easter! A Duo of Ladurée Cameo (Camées, in French) Easter Eggs Ladurée Cameo (Camées in French) Egg
Ladurée Cameo (Camées in French) Egg

The world famous Ladurée had released its first Cameo chocolate egg (small size, as seen here $18; large $56). It is a beautiful chocolate egg that has a cameo of Marquis or Marquisede Ladurée tied with a satin ribbon. When you break open the egg, it’s filled with a mix of milk and dark chocolates in the shape of seashells and cameos. It’s made with high quality chocolates and hard for this chocoholic (moi) to resist eating the entire thing in one sitting.

Boxes of gluten-free cakes and cookies
Boxes of gluten-free cakes and cookies by Kyotofu

Kyotofu is one of the bakeries in New York City that recently transition to baking gluten-free baked goods. Kyotofu uses Cup4Cup flour that was developed at the French Laundry by Lena Kwak and these cakes and cookies were still as great as I remembered eating them. The Valrhona miso chocolate brownies are gluten-free but it still has that smooth, decadent texture with a touch of chew from the Cup4Cup flour. The almond financers were still buttery and crisp and the muffins were textbook texturally perfect that I would not have thought it’s gluten free.

Früute cookies with a cup of coffee
Früute cookies


Früute is a Los Angeles, CA based bakery that focuses on baking mostly adventurous yet delicious cookie flavors. The best example of something unusual is their bacon black pepper rocher that has crispy twig-like cookies that’s mingled with spicy bacon bits and enrobed with the barely sweet dark chocolate. It comes across as a spicy, sweet, crunchy “cookie” for a lack of a better name to call this concoction. The raspberry roll cookies were soft raspberry cookie balls that are covered with sweet and sour raspberry dust that gives it a zingy bite. The salted caramel shortbread is a buttery cookie topped rich caramel and sprinkled with sea salt.

Whole Bone-In Cooked Country Ham Whole Bone-In Ham, Sliced
Johnston’s County Ham: Whole Bone-In Cooked Country Ham

The Johnston’s County Ham that is a family owned, ham producer for over 60 years. I had their whole country ham ($68.95, about 12 pounds) is salty, but it also has a sweet, creamy edge that’s unique to slow curing and aging. It’s pretty fantastic with some fresh homemade duck fat biscuits…

Lizzy Jay's Juice Cleanse
Lizzy Jay’s Juice Cleanse

But after indulging quite a bit on Easter, it’s not a bad idea to do a cleanse. Frankly, I am now prepping for my Easter feast with Lizzy Jay’s Juice Cleanse. I signed up for the three (3) day cleanse ($210). The cold pressed, unpasteurized juices are delivered to my doorstep overnight of a total of 18 bottles of various juices and cashew milk to drink up by the end of Day 3 (in other words 6 bottles of juices and cashew milk per day) and of course, with lots of water.

The only things I may snack on are fresh leafy vegetables (at most, lightly steamed) and fruits and for emergency cases only, a hard boiled egg and a small piece of fish. Sounds rough but after living through Day 1 of this cleanse, it’s not so bad and the juices does taste good and fresh.

Wines & Spirits

Bodegas Franco-Españolas Wines: Rioja Bordón & Royal Collection
Bodegas Franco-Españolas

Bodegas Franco-Españolas is winery that dates back to the 1890s, in the heart of Logroño, Rioja’s largest city. The winemaker, Carlos Estecha, who has been making the wines for 24 years. The wines are excellent from the good quality, fresh young wines, to the Reservas and Gran Reservas, to the aged examples, especially an outstanding old white Gran Reserva. In short, this is a producer deserving of much greater attention, especially from those, who are fans of the world’s great traditional producers.

Pallini Limoncello Bulleit Bourbon Kentucky Straight Bourbon whiskey

Limoncello is a classic summertime Italian liqueur that generally gives me some burst of sunshine after a hard day’s work, especially the chilly days we’re still having in New York. Pallini Limoncello has pure sweet, tart lemon flavor without an alcohol bite, but you can feel the warmth spread through your chest as you drink it. The distillers have really done an excellent job of capturing the essence of the fruit in this liqueur.

Bulleit Bourbon Kentucky Straight Bourbon (retails around $36 in NYC) is named after Augustus Bulleit, who created the first recipe in 1830. Bulleit is characterized by a higher-than-usual percentage of rye, and a maturation of around six years, which is long for an American whiskey.

Bulleit has an oak-y flavor that is as smooth as they come for the price. It’s wonderful to mix with, but I prefer to drink it alone because I am very fond of the smooth, mellow vanilla taste and oak-y aftertaste that it has come to be known for.

Tahoe Blue Vodka
Tahoe Blue Vodka

Tahoe Blue Vodka is a very new American vodka brand that is literally 1 year old. It started with a husband and wife who are from Maryland and accidentally stumbled into Lake Tahoe of Northern California. They were so blown away by Tahoe’s beauty that it inspired them to start a vodka brand based on the pure, smooth waters of the lake. (Also, proceeds from their sales goes to preserve Lake Tahoe.)

Their vodka is a blend of grapes from Northern California, the grain is #2 Corn from the American Midwest, and the sugarcane comes from Central or South America. The spirit is hand distilled in small batches, giving it more character. Interestingly enough, for those who need to know, it is wheat and gluten free.

It tastes super smooth, clean, crisp flavors and it certainly does not burn; just a warm tinge on the back of the throat. It’s better than some of the premium brands but the price tag doesn’t indicate so, as you can tell from their recent win at the Ultimate Beverage Spirits Challenge 2013

For the time being, you may purchase their delicious vodka through KL Wines. Seriously, get a case or two before they’ll run out.

Cookbook Previews

The New Persian Kitchen by Louisa Shafia Savory Bites: Meals You Can Make in Your Cupcake Pan by Hollis Wilder and Photographed by Tina Rupp

The New Persian Kitchen by Louisa Shafia (publish date: April 16, 2013) is Ms. Shafia’s contemporary take on traditional Iranian cuisine that she grew up with. The book describes some unique (to American culture) ingredients like rosewater, dried limes and sumac and she provides some useful information as to how it’s usually used and where we could find such ingredients. The some interesting recipes I hope to cook soon are herb frittata with walnuts and rose petals (I never had rose petals in an egg dish before) and the hearty Persian shepherd’s pie.

Savory Bites by Hollis Wilder, photographed by Tina Rupp (publish date: April 9, 2013) is a pretty ingenious cookbook for those who want to bake or even entertain meals with small, savory bites rather than an actual family-sized main course. Recipes like fig and blue cheese tarts, savory pudding Charlottes, and apple sausage breakfast cakes make me want to break out my mixing bowls, whisk, and my cupcake/muffin pans! This book is also a good foray for introducing children to cook/bake since the cupcake pan is an approachable size for them to handle.

Full of Flavor: How to Create Like a Chef by Maria Elia The Chefs Collaborative Cookbook: Local, Sustainable, Delicious: Recipes from America's Great Chefs

Full of Flavor: How to Create Like a Chef by Maria Elia (April 16, 2013) is made for home cooks/bakers who want to take a basic recipe to the next level. You can tweak a recipe with complimentary flavors and varying textures. I really like the fact Ms. Elia created several lamb recipes as I don’t cook with that type of meat often (and my family didn’t raise me with lamb) so this would be my little cooking adventure.

The Chefs Collaborative Cookbook: Local, Sustainable, Delicious Recipes from America’s Great Chefs by Ellen Jackson (March 12, 2013) is a collection of recipes from various recognized American chefs like Rick Bayless, Nobu Matsuhita, and Nora Pouillon who supports local, sustainable grown or raised ingredients and use it in their food. It’s an inspiring book and it does make me excited for the next growing season (spring has yet to come in New York) so I can look forward to cooking food beyond root vegetables.

Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom, with over 300 Deliciously Simple Recipes by Deborah Madison Jewish Traditional Cooking

Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison (March 12, 2013) is one of those few cookbooks that are devoted to vegetables and show it in a great, simple way. She gets me excited to cook and eat vegetables once I crack her book open. Her informative descriptions of the vegetables to the multiple, relatively simple recipes for each vegetable could possibly convert a carnivore to an omnivore.

Jewish Traditional Cooking by Ruth Joseph and Simon Round (March 16, 2013) is a Jewish cookbook that has modern takes on traditional Jewish recipes. Generally, I’m a novice on Jewish cuisine (I do love my lox, falafel, baba ganoush, and babka) but this book opened my mind a bit as to how much of Jewish food I have eaten in my life (quite a bit but not a whole lot) and it makes me want to cook it (which wouldn’t happen, if you asked me five years ago).

Smoke & Spice: Recipes for Seasoning, Ribs, Marinades, Brines, Glazes & Butters by Valerie Aikman-Smith The Union Square Cafe Cookbook by Danny Meyer and Michael Romano

Smoke & Spice by Valerie Aikman-Smith (March 31, 2013) is a great grilling cookbook that mostly based on the unique marinades, salt rubs and glazes for the different meats that will be cooked. The most interesting recipe I looked at was the Matambre, an Argentinian dish made of flank steak rolled in with Swiss chard, olives, Parmesan, a smattering of herbs and stuffed with hard boiled eggs. I need to try that this once the weather gets warmer.

The Union Square Cookbook by Danny Meyer and Michael Romano (March 5, 2013) is a tome full of classic recipes from the James Beard award winning restaurant. This is one of the more approachable restaurant cookbooks, as they do not cook modernist cuisine. If you never ate at Union Square Cafe in New York City, I highly recommend it for those who like not terribly fussy food in a comfortable atmosphere and get a taste of the legendary hospitality philosophies of Danny Meyer.

To view more photos of this event, please view the slideshow below (or CLICK HERE for my photo set):

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