Spring & Easter Gift Guide 2014

Ironically, it doesn’t feel like spring in New York City but Easter and Passover is coming up. Here’s some gift ideas for this (fast approaching) holiday.

When you think Easter, you tend to think chocolates, especially the Easter bunny. There’s plenty of these delicious sweets coming from many great brands across the U.S.

Mariebelle Large Easter Chocolate Egg Mariebelle Easter Chocolates

Mariebelle has a beautifully whimsical (and delicious) assortment of Easter chocolates ranging from a large chocolate egg ($35) (like the size of an adult’s head) filled with chocolate eggs and set in a nest with a colorful bird and butterflies. It looked like a girl’s dream of a chocolate Easter. There are of course, more manageable portions of chocolate Easter eggs available. The Easter Egg Set ($38) is an assortment of nine dark, milk and white chocolate eggs. There’s also their well known, delectable toffee (small size for $16 or large, $32) and their bonbons.

Large St. Germain Cake - Easter Edition Large St. Germain Cake - Easter Edition

One of New York City’s respected bakeries, FP Payard Patisserie, they have released this vibrantly colored, St. Germain cake (prices starting at $28 for 4 people) topped with an adorable, neon marzipan rabbit and Easter eggs set in a chocolate nest. This delicious concoction is made of vanilla bean pound cake covered in raspberry mousse and vanilla ganache with raspberry macarons.

Mascarpone Fraise Cake & Chocolate Egg Nest Cake
Mascarpone Fraise Cake with my Fortnum & Mason Countess Earl Grey Tea
Chocolate Nest Egg Cake

Financier Patisserie has recently released a seasonal holiday lineup of items like Easter chocolates, chocolate flourless cake, and beautiful cakes like what you see above, the Chocolate Nest Egg Cake (7-inch for $36.50) for Easter and the Mascarpone Fraise Cake (for Passover but I would still serve this for any occasion since it’s so pretty). Beyond its aesthetics, these cakes were wonderful. The Mascarpone Fraise Cake is very light, not too sweet and I like the sweet strawberry flavor shining through. The foil to this cake would be the Chocolate Nest Egg Cake. It’s rich and decadent, chocolate-y and a small slice goes a long way. Both cakes would be great for almost any holiday table. (The Mascarpone Fraise cake is sold in two sizes 7-inch and 9-inch, $27.50 and $42.50, respectively.)

Poco Dolce Easter bunny chocolates

The San Francisco based chocolate brand, Poco Dolce created dark chocolate bunnies that are either made with a subtle fruity olive oil (my excuse to eat them since they’re kind of healthier; $10 for 4-inch tall bunny) and also ones filled with raspberry (a box of 8 bunnies for $20).

Madécasse Chocolate

Madécasse Chocolate is one of the few brands that make single origin, Fair Trade bars on and from Madagascar, Africa. I adore their delicious, intensely flavored chocolate bars ($5.99 each) and they’re great for gifts for chocolate connoisseurs.

Cocobella Easter Collection 2014

CocoBella is a San Francisco based company that curates the best possible chocolates around the U.S. and the world. Part of their beautiful and delectable Easter collection is from brands like Christopher Elbow and Thomas Haas, along with assorted spring-inspired flavors such as raspberry, coconut, lemon, and many delicious others. (The pound box (19-piece) seen above is $45.)

Easter chocolates from EMVI Chocolate

EMVI Chocolate (it links to their Facebook page, as their website is currently under construction) is a Brooklyn-based, family owned chocolate brand that creates very good molded chocolates that are adorable and not too sweet. They’ve released a host of various types of Easter bunnies and baby chicks to appeal to every kid at heart. They are also carried in gourmet shops like Eataly NYC.

Wines & Spirits

Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskeys

Jack Daniel’s is a brand of sour mash Tennessee whiskey that is one of the most popular American whiskeys in the world. It is produced in Lynchburg, Tennessee, by the Jack Daniel Distillery.

What makes a Gentleman Jack ($35, 750mL) different from their original Old No. 7, is the two sugar maple charcoal filtrations before it gets put into the barrel. The purpose is to remove any additional impurities, decrease the oakiness and further mellow and sweeten the whiskey. The result is quite noticeable.

Single Barrel Select ($58) is, as the name implies, their Tennessee whiskey not blended but drawn from individual barrels selected based on tastings by experts at the distillery. Since there is no blending, one can expect a considerably more robust flavor profile. Single Barrel is very powerful and I can say with absolute certainty that this is not recommended for the newcomer to American whiskey. This is the kind of whisky you would want to have a shot and take sips or mix in cocktails, in my opinion.

Tennessee Honey ($35) is one of the most drinkable whiskey-based spirits we’ve ever had. It manages to be sweet without stickiness, and it balances that sweetness with a lovely amount of cinnamon and spice. It is surprising that this liqueur is 70 proof, as there is almost no alcohol burn whatsoever in the spirit.

Rested Tennessee Rye ($50) is a limited edition release aimed at Jack Daniel’s fans who want to sample the “work in progress” whiskey.

Pale gold in color, this whiskey has started to pick up some color from its time in barrel. The barrel impact on Jack Daniel’s Rested Tennessee Rye is clearly apparent on the nose, with an oaky top note that mingles with the rye spice. This is backed by an undercurrent of vanilla bean, a slight nuttiness, and a touch of Tootsie roll candy. While there is a touch of fruitiness to the nose with dark cherry, the prevalence of fruit is dramatically decreased after two years aging in a barrel. It does taste like a whiskey in the works and give you some insight what it tastes like.

Clase Azul Plata (Blanco tequila) and Clase Azul Reposado

Clase Azul Tequila is an ultra premium, artisan tequila that is bottled in unique, handmade ceramic bottles. These rare, hard to find tequilas are worth searching out for. Clase Azul Plata, like all Clase Azul offerings, is a true tequila – made in Jalisco, Mexico from 100% Blue Weber agave plants. The people at Claze Azul hand select the best of the best and slow roast the piñas for three days in old brick ovens.

Their Blanco tequila called Plata (around $70 depending where you purchase), is a full bodied, subtly spicy, and just ever so slightly sweet. This tequila deserves to be sipped slowly from a brandy snifter.

Reposado ($80-100 range) is aged for a minimum of 8 months and has this beautiful golden hue liquor. Like the Plata, it has a touch of oakiness added to the agave and vanilla. The palate experience is identical to the Plata in that it starts out smooth, slow, and subdued although a bit more oaky and smoky. The finish is long and smoky and smooth as it should be – a bit Scotch-like but with the agave still front and center, definitely another really wonderful sipper.

2009 Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese & 2010 Weingut GH von Mumm Rheingau Rüdesheimer Berg Rottland

2009 Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese ($35.99) is a German Riesling that has a wonderful concentration of ripe fruit, such as ripe apricot, combined with ripe peach aromas. It’s lush, honeyed and tropically fruited. It’s great paired with very spicy foods, such as Thai or even Indian style dishes.

2010 Weingut GH von Mumm Rheingau Rüdesheimer Berg Rottland ($30) is another good German wine with aromas and flavors of lemons, floral notes, and limestone. It’s clean flavors and not sweet that would pair well with other lighter dishes.

Domaine Serene wines

Domaine Serene is an Oregon based winery that makes beautiful wines, especially their Pinot Noirs. The Yamhill Cuvée Pinot Noir 2010 ($45, 750mL) has aromas of vanilla, cherry, and mushroom give way to wonderfully balanced acidity on the palate making this wine silky smooth. Flavors of bright red fruit hit you up front followed by classic Oregon earth on the finish.

Evenstad Reserve Chardonnay 2011 ($55, 750mL) is a lovely and delicate wine with aromas of lemon curd and jasmine. Soft, even slightly creamy in the mouth, with pleasing flavors of pear and citrus zest with a very subtle oak underpinning. An understated wine of great charm, that teases gently with finesse.

Partida Tequila

Partida Tequila ($50) is aged 18 months with aromas of sweet oakiness, vanilla, and hints of fruity sweetness. On the palette it shows crisp agave, sweet vanilla, honey, a touch of smokey oak, a limey citrus, and some spices in the finish. The mouthfeel is smooth and clean.

Sterling Vineyards Carneros Pinot Noir, Rose Blum Moscato Rose, Stellina di Notte Prosecco, and Smirnoff Light Sorbet

Sterling Vineyards Pinot Noir, Carneros 2011 ($30) is a dark red fruit (like black cherries) profile with toasty oak complexity. The finish is long and satisfying, with a spicy fruit intensity that extends toward a rewarding finale. Roasted duck and other game meats will pair well with the inviting personality of this Pinot Noir.

Rose & Blum Moscato Rosé ($18) is a simple, sweet, festive and refreshing bubbly with aromas of fresh strawberries and orange zest. It’s a good wine for any person who wants to have a fruit forward, sweet leaning effervescent wine.

Stellina di Notte Prosecco ($14) is a fun, affordable sparkling wine with delicate aromas of citrus, pear, melon, lemon and almonds. Elegant bubbles enliven the flavors, making them dance on the palate. The body is light, with a lovely balance between crisp acidity and a touch of sweetness. The hint of minerals in the finish is a classic quality of the Prosecco grape, which has been grown in the Tre Venezie region of Northern Italy since Roman times. Great with light seafood dishes and pastas.

Smirnoff Light Sorbet Pineapple Coconut ($15.99) is a low calorie flavored vodka for those who want to watch their calorie intake while quaffing their cocktail.

Coffee & Tea

Kuma Coffee

Kuma Coffee is a recent coffee brand discovery for me. This brand was awarded with the Good Food Awards especially for the Kenya Kiambara (but no longer available). It has a fruity bouquet of cranberry, raspberry and blood orange with lots of acidity, sweetness and nice body on the palate. It’s a fantastic cup of of joe in the morning. Their Ethiopia Aramo Natural has wonderfully complex tropical sweetness and their Guatemala Concepcion Chuito is great for a chocolatey espresso.

Palais des Thés in customized tins

Palais des Thés recently released a collection of eight gift-ready lacquered metal canisters filled with the brand’s best-selling signature flavored blends (3.5 ounces (100g) for $21, each) like the Fleur de Geisha, 7 Citrus Russian Blend, and Thé des Lords. The Fleur de Geisha is intensely floral with cherry blossoms and the green tea lingering in the background. The 7 Citrus Russian Blend is a black tea blend with bright acidic flavors like lemon, lime, sweet orange, bitter orange, grapefruit, bergamot, and mandarin orange. For the Earl Grey tea lovers, the Thé des Lords would satisfy you.


Eating with the Chefs by Per-Anders Jorgensen
Thailand by Jean-Pierre Gabriel

To recent/upcoming releases for this spring from Phaidon: Eating with the Chefs by Per-Anders Jorgensen ($59.95) and Thailand by Jean-Pierre Gabriel ($49.95) are beautiful tomes to read and be inspired of global cuisines.

Eating with the Chefs is by the Editor in Chief and renowned photographer behind the cult food magazine, Fool. It includes recipes of staff meals at a wide range of Michelin starred restaurants such as El Celler de Can Roca, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Chez Panisse, The French Laundry, Roberta’s, Attica and Noma.

Thailand is a vibrantly colored cookbook (reflective of that vibrant Southeast Asian country) that features authentic Thai recipes that a home cook could replicate.

Ample Hills Creamer by Brian Smith, Jackie Cuscuna, Lauren Kaelin and Lucy Schaeffer

Ample Hills Creamery by Brian Smith, Jackie Cuscuna, Lauren Kaelin and Lucy Schaeffer ($24.95) is the Brooklyn-based ice cream shop’s recipe book filled with adorable short stories relating to their amazing ice creams. If you love making ice cream like I do, especially with the coming of summer (I hope, at least for NYC) then you should own a copy.

First Prize Pies by Allison Kave

First Prize Pies by Allison Kave ($29.95) is authored by the one-half of the Brooklyn Flea vendor and soon to be dessert & cocktail bar, Butter & Scotch. Ms. Kave’s delicious pies are crave-worthy if you ever tried them and she tells you her secrets to how to make her delectable confections year round. If you must.

Eating in Color by Frances Largeman-Roth and Quentin Bacon

Eating in Color by Frances Largeman-Roth and Quentin Bacon ($27.50) is a great book that tries to introduce colorful vegetables to the hesitant vegetable eater and the recipes do work and you’ll like the results.


Sandra Lee Salad Spinner, Chopping Mats and Kenmore Set Knifes

As spring slowly making its arrival, we finally get to have fresh lettuce, herbs and other vegetables to make salad! (It’s even an excuse to cleanse yourself internally from the glutton days of winter.) Above are some kitchen tools (salad spinner, cutting mats, and cutlery set) all sold at K-Mart and Sandra by Sandra Lee that would make your salad making meals much more easier. The Essential Home 15-Piece Cutlery Set With Wooden Storage Block ($19.99) is useful to slice or chop up your vegetables in no time.


I shoot, eat, and drink. My full time job is a hospital administrator. Moonlighting as a freelance photographer and food and travel writer.

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