Holiday gifts for food (and drink)-loving travelers

gifts for food loversHoliday shopping is easy if the people on your list like to eat and/or imbibe. If they’re into travel–be it armchair or the real deal–the options are endless This year, think beyond the predictable bottle of wine or pricey “artisan” cookies and give reusable, portable, eco-friendly gifts or small-batch edibles that are the taste equivalent of a trip abroad.

As for where to get these items, look at farmers and flea markets, street fairs, specialty food shops, wineries/distilleries, and boutiques. One of my favorite spots to shop: foreign supermarkets.

For the green at heart

An inflatable wine bag is ideal for wine and spirit-loving travelers. They’re multi-use and work equally well for olive oil, vinegar, or other fluid specialty products.

A logo tote bag (preferably made from recycled materials) from a specialty food shop, winery, etc. is great for practical recipients. A co-worker recently brought me a signature navy blue number from Neal’s Yard Dairy, a famous cheese shop in London. In two months, it’s traveled to South America and across the U.S., doing time as a souvenir satchel, laundry and grocery bag, and all-purpose carry-on. When I don’t need it, i just roll it up and stash it in my duffel bag or day pack. Love it.

Gift a wine key (opener) salad tongs or bowl, chopsticks, or other kitchen utensils made from local, sustainable materials such as wood, antler, bone, bamboo, or shell. Do a quick online search or ask (I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: phrasebooks) about the origins of said object. If you have any qualms about the eco-aspect, don’t buy it and let the shopkeeper know why.

[Photo credit: Flickr user noramunro]gifts for food loversDrink coasters are always appreciated. I’ve picked up woven palm versions in Indonesia, as well as purchased colorful Portuguese azuelos tiles for this use. If the country or region you’re visiting is famous for its leather, woodwork, ceramics, or even recycled metal handicrafts, you’ll probably find a nice, inexpensive set of coasters. Again, be sure they’re made from sustainable materials.

Vintage kitchenware–even if it’s not functional–can be a great gift, especially if your intended is a collector. Salt-and-pepper shakers, wine openers, cheese knives, a set of Melamine bowls: hit up antique stores or street fairs, because you’re sure to find treasures at affordable prices.

For the adventurer

A pocketknife or plastic folding knife from a famous cheese shop or winery is indispensable to hikers, campers, foragers, and DIYer’s who enjoy a good picnic while on the road. Just make sure your loved ones aren’t the type who don’t check their bags when they fly. A mini-cutting board of wood/bamboo or slate is also a nice gift.

Know someone who’s into mountaineering or other high-altitude pursuits? Coca leaf tea (or for a less effective but more entertaining option, caramels or hand candy) really works, and it’s legal.

For the locavore

If you have a friend of the “Eat local/Support family farms” variety, a gift from your travels can still fit the mold. Whenever and wherever I travel, I make a point of purchasing local, handcrafted foodstuffs: jam or other preserves, honey, cheese, candy. What I buy depends upon where I am and whether or not I have to abide (cough, cough) by customs regulations or have access to refrigeration.
gifts for food lovers
If customs and temperature aren’t an issue, consider a gift of cheese, charcuterie, or even some spectacular produce (A would-be suitor once presented me with a tiny disc of goat cheese and one perfect peach before I departed on a flight; I wasn’t into the guy but loved the thoughtfulness of his gift).

If you you’re looking for a shelf-stable product, some suggestions: leatherwood, manuka, or tupelo honey (from Tasmania, New Zealand, and the Florida Panhandle, respectively); sea salt (I love the red alaea salt from Hawaii); Argentinean dulce de leche; drinking chocolate; real maple syrup; dried chiles or posole from New Mexico; palm sugar from Indonesia; spices from India or Morocco; Spanish saffron or paella rice–look for Calasparra or Bomba from Valencia; Provencal chestnut cream; Italian tomato paste or canned sardines (canned tuna from overseas is very often not from a sustainable fishery); barbecue or hot sauce; heirloom dried beans; stoneground grits…

I particularly like to buy items grown/produced by farmer co-ops but unless they’re manufactured for export or are a dried good, beware. A jar of manjar (the Chilean version of dulce de leche) I purchased from a tiny bakery wasn’t sealed properly, and was contaminated with mold when opened. Botulism or other foodborne illness is not a thoughtful gift (although I suppose it’s better to give than receive…), so make sure you’re getting professionally packaged goods.

[Photo credits: wine opener, Flickr user corktiques; honey, Laurel Miller]

On a tight budget this year? Make your own edible gifts based upon your recipient’s interests, favorite holiday spot, or ethnic heritage. Check out the below clip for an easy holiday recipe; bonus points if you know where Moravia is.

Moravian Spice Cookie Wafers

The Holiday Shops in Bryant Park, New York, open this weekend

bryant park holiday shops in new yorkThe Holiday Shops in Bryant Park bring holiday cheer to New York City for their 10th season beginning this weekend. From October 27, 2011, through January 8, 2012, visitors can experience this European-inspired open-air market that features artisans selling unique gifts, handicrafts, jewelry, bath and body products, toys, culinary enhancements, and more. An ice skating rink, a giant Christmas tree, and booths selling holiday pastries and hot chocolate add to the merry ambiance.

Some of the vendors (but, not even close to all of them) include:

  • Molton Brown- luxury bath, body, and hair products
  • Max Brenner- unique and fine chocolates by “the bald man”
  • Ooh La La Boutiques- women’s fashion, accessories, and jewelry
  • Momo Glassworks- glass canvas paintings and jewelry
  • Northern Tribe New York- women/men’s fashion and gifts
  • Organic Wares- products such as scarves and string lights made of organic materials

The Holiday Shops are open daily, Monday-Friday 11AM-8PM, Saturday 10AM-9PM, Sunday 10AM-6PM.

Daily Pampering: Nancy Gonzalez crocodile travel accessories

Nancy GonzalezDaily Pampering is determined to cover the world’s most sumptous spa treatments, tech gadgets, private villas and of course, accessories … but today’s first foray into travel by designer Nancy Gonzalez might just take the 2010 award for “over the top” luxury. Each piece of her new collection, available exclusively at Bergdorf Goodman, is handmade in Columbia and 100% crocodile. Luggage trolleys are constructed with titanium to be both ultra durable and totally lightweight … not that we’re letting the airline even think about asking us to check these precious goods.

Gonzalez’s new line includes in iPad case ($1800), passport holders ($425), a croc n’ pony hair trolley ($6125), an all-croc trolley ($7500) and a croc carry-on trolley ($6500).

So what do you think … will you be gifting the luxury traveler in your life something from this collection for the holidays?

Want more? Get your daily dose of pampering right here.

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Daily Pampering: Holiday wine packages from Destination Cellars

Nothing says love around the holidays like a box of wine. No, not that box of wine. This box of wine is much more civilized, and a lot more luxurious. Destination Cellars, the luxury wine club, has released its holiday offerings and the wine packages are sinfully extraordinary.

Ranging in price from $150 to over $700, you can find something for everyone from this list. The best part? Each gift box of wine comes with personalized recipes from Michelin-starred Chef Sarah Heller.

Recipes include seared duck breast, grilled striped bass, and slow-roasted beef tenderloin. Each dish pairs perfectly with one of the wines in the gift box.

Here’s a little taste of the wines you’ll find:LUXURY CABERNET SELECTION 6 bottles $649

Hestan 2006, Hestan Cabernet Sauvignon
Lamborn 2005, Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Lamborn 2006, Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Meteor 2005, Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Vineyard 29 2006, Aida Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Terlato Family Vineyards 2005, Episode

LUXURY INTERNATIONAL SELECTION 6 bottles $733

Chanson 2007, Clos des Féves Beaune 1er Cru
Chanson 2005, Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru
Chapoutier 2004, La Sizeranne Hermitage
Gaja 2005, Barbaresco
Il Poggione 2004, Brunello di Montalcino
Two Hands 2007, Bella Gardens Shiraz

BOUTIQUE VALUE SELECTION 6 bottles $288

Lail 2009, Blueprint Sauvignon Blanc
Lail 2007, Blueprint Cabernet Sauvignon
Vnyd 29 2007, Cru Vab $54.00
Clark-Claudon 2009, Wild Iris S. Blanc
Tamber Bey 2006, Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon
Tamber Bey 2008, Rabicano

With these wine gift boxes, there’s absolutely no excuse for not making it through the holidays.

Want more? Get your daily dose of pampering right here.

Gadling’s Gift Guide: $51 – $250

The holidays are upon us, and you seem to be reading our fine little travel blog. The confluence of these two facts suggest you might be in the market for some travel-themed gifts this holiday season. But what do you get for that discerning traveler on your list that won’t break the bank? With the rotten economy and all, you’re not made of money at the moment.

That’s where we come in. We’ve polled our team of travel experts here at Gadling and pulled together the following list of travel goodies priced between $51-$250, all travel tested and blogger approved. Have a scroll down below and of course, feel free to add your own travel-themed gift suggestions in the comments below.

Peek Personal Email Device

You may remember Scott’s review of the Peek from this past August, when he gave the device solid marks all around. For those that are not familiar, the Peek is handheld email device powered by the T-Mobile network. For only $99.95 for the hardware and then $19.95/month you get simple, easy to use access to all your email.

Frequent travelers looking for an unlimited email device will be pleased with the Peek’s features. Sure, the Peek isn’t for everyone. Those looking for Blackberry or iPhone-style functionality will find it lacking in features. But the device’s no-frills capabilities may ultimately be more appealing to those who are less technologically inclined because of this simplicity. Not to mention it has no monthly contract commitment unlike those fancier devices.

Where: www.getpeek.com and at Target stores nationwide
Price: $99 for the hardware, $19.95/month thereafter

Osprey Porter 46

You tend to go through a lot of travel bags when you write for a travel website. Whether it’s business travel, a quick jaunt home to Chicago for the holiday, or a 2 week trip to Japan, most of my bags have been through a literal trial-by-fire. Now, after burning through all manner of business-style rolling suitcases, shoulder-sling duffel bags and over-the-shoulder backpacks, I’m ready to declare a winner. It’s Osprey’s Porter 46 backpack.

What is it about the Porter 46 in particular that gets me so fired up? The best part for me is the size. Specifically designed to fit the exact maximum airline carry-on size restrictions, the Porter 46 ensures you’ll never have to check luggage again. I’ve fit this sucker on everything from Boeing 747’s down to those tiny Embraer regional jets, and it always has been able to squeeze into the overhead.

I’m also a big fan of the Porter 46 configuration. Unlike most typical backpacks, it opens like a duffel bag, with a zipper on the “top.” This prevents the annoying situation with most backpacks where you have to dig all the way down the bottom to find your toothbrush. No such issue here. I also really like the Porter’s backpack setup – the straps fold completely into a zippable compartment on the backside, ensuring nothing will get snagged on a conveyor belt if you do decide to check the thing.

Where: Head to the Osprey website to find a dealer online
Price: Though the Porter 46 retails for $99, I’ve seen it as low as $75 depending on where you look

Icebreaker Travel Shirt

Traveling sometimes means making do without the necessities. But that certainly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be able to look good and be comfortable while doing it. Enter the Icebreaker Superfine140 travel shirt. This ultra-lightweight fabric shirt is crafted from an ultra-fine merino thread, which ensures that it dries quickly and is extremely breathable.

These two properties of the Icebreaker offer an added bonus – they are very resistant to body odor. Internal consensus from the Gadling staff has it that the shirts have lasted as long as 15 days without taking on any kind of “funky smells.”

While Gadling does not endorse the extreme avoidance of regular personal hygiene, we are willing to give our readers the benefit of the doubt. Anybody looking for a versatile base-layer and all-around good travel wear should give Icebreaker a look.

Where: www.icebreaker.com
Price: $69.99

Gravis Hobo Messenger Bag

For the past 5 years, I have been on a relentless search for the best messenger bag. I wanted something that looked sharp enough to take with me to work, but not so corporate looking that I couldn’t take it with me when I was out and about on the weekends and traveling. That’s why when I stumbled on the Hobo Bag by Gravis, I knew I had finally found my choice.

While there are a number of great messenger bag makers out there, I like the Gravis Hobo Bag because of the multitude of pocket space inside. This includes a separate compartment for a laptop, as well as smaller zippered pouches for any small personal necessities. It works equally well day-to-day as well as while you’re traveling, holding items like a small camera, an umbrella and perhaps a change of clothing. I also particularly like the quirky patterns – while the exterior of my bag is white and black, the interior is made up of a pattern of robots, donkeys, elephants and monkeys (weird combo, right?). The ones online have similar colorful or more simple styles to them, leaving you free to pick a design that best matches your own style and needs.

Where: www.gravisfootwear.com or www.ebags.com
Price: $50 for the medium size, $75 for the large

Blackberry Curve by T-Mobile

Earlier this year, Scott mentioned a unique feature of T-Mobile’s Blackberry Curve phone. Not only does the Curve let you make calls over the normal wireless network of T-Mobile, it’s also equipped for Wi-Fi calling in areas where traditional cell phone service is not available. Basically this means you can make phone calls anywhere in the world over a local Wi-Fi connection, even if you have no service or are roaming in whatever country you happen to be visiting. If you’re not interested in going through the process of unlocking your phone to use it in other countries, this can be a godsend.

T-Mobile is also fairly generous when it comes to their Blackberry international data plan. For only $19.95 per month, you can send and receive as many emails as you want in other countries, with no hidden data charges.

Where: www.t-mobile.com/shop/phones
Price: $99 after instant discount and mail-in rebate, $449 without

SeV Quantum Jacket

I can never have too many pockets when I’m traveling. Between my wallet, a digital camera, a guidebook, a cell phone, my music player and all those other travel doodads we all like to have, your pants end up bulging with stuff. In September, we reviewed the SeV Quantum Jacket, noting its versatility for gear junkies. Between the jacket’s main body and sleeves it’s got 28 pockets for your digital and analog paraphernalia.

But it’s not just the many, many pockets that make this jacket a snap. It’s also got small openings throughout the fabric for something called the “personal area network,” allowing you to connect wires and cables from a device in one pocket to those in another. The Quantum also includes touch-screen accessible pockets for fans of PDA’s, iPhones and the iPod Touch.

Combined with the jacket’s breathable and water resistant shell and the optional fleece and you’ve got one tough, durable piece of outerwear.

Where: www.scottevest.com
Price: $250

iPod Touch – 8GB

Have you heard of this crazy iPod gadget? I hear they’
re totally popular now. OK, OK…you probably know all about the iPod, iPhone and iPod Touch at this point. Rather than dwell on the obvious, let’s talk about why the iPod Touch might be the perfect digital media solution for all you travelers out there.

First and foremost, the iPod has built-in Wi-Fi. If you’re not looking to spend $5 bucks at the internet cafe every time you want to check email during that trip to Spain, the iPod Touch lets you log on, surf the web and send a hello to the family without breaking the bank. Second, it has all the digital music, game and movie-playing goodies you’ll need to keep you entertained on those long plane or bus rides.

And perhaps most useful of all, you can even turn the IPod Touch into a “personal digital guidebook.” Let’s say I’m going to be touring around Seattle during the day. Instead of lugging around that Frommer’s book all day, you can just pull up the Wikitravel (or Gadling) page on your iPod Touch. Now even when you move out of Internet range you’ve got all the information pre-loaded and at the flick of a finger.

Where: http://store.apple.com
Price: $229 for 8 GB

No Reservations: Seasons 1, 2 and 3 on DVD plus Book

If there is one travel TV show that has kept us consistently entertained and delighted over the past few years, it’s definitely No Reservations. Say what you will about the Amazing Race or Bizarre Foods – the fact of the matter is no travel show on television is as consistently hilarious, interesting, blunt and entertaining as No Reservations.

If that someone special in your family is dreaming of some travel this holiday season but won’t be able to go there in person, why not buy them a couple seasons worth of No Reservations on DVD and the behind-the-scenes book? You can get the complete First, Second and Third seasons on Amazon.com. Yes, we admit – we are 100% in the tank for Anthony Bourdain.

Where: www.amazon.com
Price: $69 for Seasons 1, 2 and 3 and the No Reservations book

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