The holidays are full of bad advice for foodies. The New York Times Dining section made this plain on Wednesday in their gift guide, which recommended that readers buy three pounds of Washington cherries for $79. Also, .6 ounces of ground ginger—note that decimal placement—for $24.
The Times isn’t the only offender. (And hey, they also plugged Art in the Age’s Sage spirit, so they’re not all bad.) But you know what I’m talking about. For every ten foodie gift ideas, seven are insanely pricey, four are hard to get—mental Venn diagram time—and half of what’s left will probably just make your gourmet friend scratch her head while smiling awkwardly beneath the tree.
It doesn’t have to be this way. For the next few days, I’m posting better gift ideas: Things that your favorite foodie probably doesn’t have already, that are affordable on any budget, and that might just become as indispensable in their pantry as they are in mine.
Maras pepper (two-ounce jar, $4.79)
This sun-dried Turkish pepper has a deep, almost raisiny fruitiness to go along with its mild heat. Use it liberally in your next batch of lamb kebabs and you will never want to be without a fresh jar in your kitchen. And if you’re like me, that’ll be a stepping stone. I frequently sprinkle Maras flakes on my pizza and pasta, and go through real volume when I get on a chili kick.
(Bonus gift idea: Urfa pepper, which is a little hotter, earthier, and smokier—and just as miraculous in those lamb kebabs.)
A drawback is that I’ve never found either of these peppers in Philadelphia. (Kaluystan’s in New York is the closest source I know.) But tomorrow’s gift idea will be obtainable well within our city limits.