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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Chez Pim's Gift Guide: for the cooks who have *everything*

Jessica Seinfeld once found herself in not a dissimilar dilemma. She had to buy gifts for Oprah Winfrey – what does one buy for a woman who has everything? I feel your pain, Jessica, many of us are faced with that very problem every day, and worse so come holidays time. No, not that we had to find stocking stuffer for Ms.Winfrey herself, but we have friends who are nothing if not Oprah-esque in their foodiedom. And, like it or not, $10K worth of Jimmy Choo's – what Jessica allegedly ended up sending to her pal Oprah - aint gonna do for them.

So, to help you find that ultimate of ultimate gifts for the cooks who have everything, I've put together a list for you. Fret no more, Chez Pim, as usual, is coming to your rescue.

Here's the list, in not so particular order.


Give them a few thousand dollars' worth of gift certificates to Korin, about ten would be a good start. I don't care what you think $10K would buy you in shoes, it's just not that much in the ultimate world of cutlery at Korin. And, yes, even the cook who has got everything will never have enough knives. No foodie worth their fleur de sel would ever have enough knives.

Of course, the certificates is only good to use in the store itself, and is not valid for buying from their website. Why would that be a problem? Buying in person is the only way to buy knives any way. One doesn't just read about it and then One-Click to order on Amazon. One must be present, hold the knife in one's hand, feel the power of the blade, and create that connection that shoots in a straight line, from the cerebral cortex, down the shoulder, through the arm, the hand, and the extension of it, the knife's blade - be one with the knife. What's the price of a plane ticket to Manhattan for the cook who has got everything?

Once that cook who's got everything got his full of buying knives, he could spend the spare change on a good sharpening stone or two, or even a private session with the knife master in residence. Then again, if the sharpening of knives is far to pedestrian a task to bother such great a mind as the cook who's got everything, might I suggest buying two sets of exactly the same knives? Each set could be use in a two-week rotation, with the other set sent in to the masters at Korin to perform the upkeep magic.

Rotaval If that cook who has everything fancies himself or herself a molecular gastronome, get him or her a Rotaval. No, no, it doesn't do foam. Foam is so two years ago. It captures that elusive genie, the aroma, into a bottle for the gastronome to play with. The company that makes the Rotocal claims that it can distill the essence out of just about anything. I don't know about you but I've got a few things I wouldn't mind distilling. I'm sure the cook who's got everything will too. (You can order one at Le Santuaire.)

Gastrovac If the molecular gastronome in your life is up for a bigger challenge, get them a Gastrovac. Frankly, I don't really know what it does – something about cooking in vacuum at lower than atmospheric pressure or some such things. Allegedly, since water boils at lower temperature in that pressure, you could cook things much more gently in that machine, or one could even theoretically do cold infusion, imbuing a flavor of one thing into another and whatnot. I don't know though, Harold McGee and I and a whole afternoon tinkering with that darn thing produced rien-de-tout, ok, maybe a few slices of mealy apple that tasted vaguely of orange. But, hey, if someone's up for a challenge, this might be a mighty fun gift. Who knows what's could happen when you set such a brilliant mind – as the one possessed by your cook who's got everything – on such a fantastic machine. I shudder at the possibilities. Plus, at a mere $4,000, the Gastrovac is a bargain compared to the Rotoval, which would set you back quite a few more Louboutins. (You can order one at Le Santuaire.)

Cintura If your cook appreciates a dinner at L'Ambroisie, say, during truffle season more than a sojourn to elBulli, buy him or her a Cintura di Orione Sauteuse, designed by Richard Sapper with Alain Chapel. If you didn't know who Alain Chapel was, never-you-mind, that cook who has got everything surely does. And s/he is going to think the $350 you spent on the 2qt. saucepan - copper lined with 18/10 Stainless Steel – is a total bargain. Hey, since Alain Chapel has gone off to see his maker many moons ago, and so won't be designing any more pans, you might want to get a dozen, just so you have them for a long, long time to come.

Fakirgrill At about the same price range as Alain Chapel's Sauteuse is a new invention - this time by a Spanish chef by the name of Jordi Herrera. It's a rather odd-looking grilling contraption, sort of a cross between a flat plancha and a bed of nails yogis sleep on in India. Supposedly, one heats this contraption, called Fakircook, on open flame to thoroughly heat each sharp nail, then spear a piece of protein – no less than true Japanese Kobe or Galician Chuleton – atop the nails, which then sear and cook the protein into indescribable deliciousness hitherto unknown. If you've ever wondered why those Yogi sur son lit de clous in India were ever so tasty, now you know, they're cooked on a Fakir. Your cook who's got everything surely wants one. (You can order one at Le Santuaire.)

These do not suck

Ok, enough joking, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. If I were the cook who's got everything, do you know what I'd want? I want a whole leg of Jamon Iberico – that fabled Spanish dry ham, made from the famous black feet – Pata Negra – pigs, fed only on acorns. Quite simply the best ham in the world. For years, this ham had been unavailable in the US, but things have now changed. Now you can order your own Jamon Iberico, a whole leg of it, from Tienda in New York. Since the import law has just been changed, the ham won't actually be arriving until summer 2008. But the good news is, you can order them now. Tienda has a whole leg of Jamon Iberico de Ballota at just $1,400. Those of you in London can get one from Brindisa for just £850, and the ham stand is included even.

Check back tomorrow for more Chez Pim's holiday gift guides, this time perhaps for those cooks who lack a few things.


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