41. The 2023 Gift Guide - Part 1
The All-Star, Mega-Sized Edition.
It’s the third annual instalment of The Plate Cleaner’s gift guide! In previous years, I’ve divided the guide into two parts. The first is made up of things, usually taken from my home kitchen cupboards and pantry, that I can personally vouch for and recommend. The second part of the guide is essentially my wish list. I have no experience with any of them, but I sure would be happy to receive them.
This year follows the same format, but with a twist. Partly because, frankly, I was worried about running out of things that I own to recommend (“Who wouldn’t love onion powder!”) and partly because I thought you might enjoy hearing from people other than me every once in a while. Specifically, people in the food world you know (or should know), many of whom I’ve written about in the newsletter before.
So I sent out a bunch of DMs and emails and, to my excitement (and relief1), received back more thoughtful and varied suggestions that I could ever have hoped for. In the spirit of previous guides, some gifts are incredibly affordable while others we can call more aspirational. They are all, I hope, inspirational and will help you nail your holiday shopping.
Two quick notes:
- I’ve given list prices at the time of publishing. Many things are currently (or will go) on sale.
- This issue is absolutely massive. To read the whole thing, be sure to click "View entire message."
I Can We Can Endorse Wholeheartedly
Lev is the chef and owner of Lox & Schmear, the official smoked fish supplier to The Plate Cleaner and the place to be for great playlists and fun banter over a bagel, lox, and a variety of pickles. Their dedication to their craft, their community, and to Montreal hot dogs is an inspiration.
One thing (well two… one $$$ and one $) I own/love/use/would make a good gift…
Gozney Roccbox Pizza Oven ($599) I got one of these ovens back in the summer and have been making pizzas ever since. This pizza oven is beautiful, beautifully designed, and has the ability to make beautiful pizza. (The person making it has to know what they are doing, though.) While it’s on the pricier side of home pizza ovens, it’s worth it! We haven’t bought pizza in months. If I ever own my own property, I would definitely upgrade to the Gozney Dome oven.
Kuhn Rikon Y Peeler ($11) I can’t understand why there are other peelers on the market. This peeler is sharp, ergonomic, and affordable. It’s the perfect small gift to a cook.
Tobey Nemeth and Michael Caballo
Tobey and Michael are the chef-owners of Edulis, which recently retained its Michelin star for the second consecutive year. There is no restaurant anywhere that I love going to as much. (But you probably already knew that.) It is the perfect and seemingly impossible combination of impeccable food and service and a welcoming, unstuffy atmosphere.
Perceval Steak Knives (from €55) We love traditions—obviously! We love the act and reverence of sitting down for a meal, at home or at a restaurant. Setting the table, using beautiful linens, your favourite plates, music, candles, getting dressed —so lovely to take a moment to enjoy a carefully prepared meal (whether by your own hands or another). Truly one of the great joys in life. We are believers in investing in quality tools, and the table top is no exception. Since we were young cooks with very little spare money, we have always saved to invest in these treasures. Our favourite table knives on earth are made in France by Perceval; when we wanted to design custom knives for our restaurant, we asked Canadian knife maker Seth, at Cosmo Knives on Saltspring Island, to loosely model a design on Perceval. A great gift would be a set of these stunning knives from Perceval, or from Seth for a more local option! A joy to handle and to use, and a joy to care for as you watch the handles develop a beauty patina from use and love.
Nobu is a jack-of-all-arts who is probably best known now as a co-founder of Choir! Choir! Choir!2 He was also previously a host of The Food Network’s Food Jammers. We first met while waiting to audition for the role of Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. (You can learn more about that here.) His most recent album, released as Mr Nobu, is Tavie.
Something I own that would make a great gift is the Moccamaster coffee maker ($476). After years of being all about espresso, I’ve grown the fuck up and accepted pour over / drip coffee as my lord and saviour. It is the Vespa of coffee makers, stylish and at the height of efficiency. It makes the smoothest coffee you’ll ever have at home and couldn’t brew faster. When I die, I’m going to be cremated with it.
Peter is a chef-turned-butcher-owner of Sanagan’s Meat Locker, which has been my go-to for locally and ethically raised meat since it opened in its first location on Baldwin St. in 2009. In 2020 he published his first cookbook, Cooking Meat.
For things in my kitchen that I use a lot (nowadays) and highly recommend there is Baking Steel (from USD $1673) to make pizza. I make pizza every week now, and the results are close enough to a restaurant that I will find it hard to go back. With the book Elements of Pizza ($39) and a couple of other tools like a pizza peel ($35), it’s the best $300 I’ve spent in a while.
If I were to catalogue all of the things Lucy has done in her writing career, Substack’s limit on posts would blow whatever the cloud computing equivalent of a gasket is. She is a food editor, journalist, the author of 12 cookbooks, including The Flavour Principle, and a regular columnist for The Globe and Mail. She also has the longest Wikipedia entry of any contributor to this guide, where you can find out even more about her many achievements.
My one item that I can’t live without is my Chef’s Knife. It is the workhorse of the kitchen. For chopping, slicing, bashing. I have used a lot of different brands but my current favourite is the Kilne ($50). Beautifully balanced, keeps its edge, sharpens well. It’s designed in Canada from German steel and reasonably priced.
Dennis is by day a staff writer at The Takeout. In his off-hours, he has two Substack newsletters, The Party Cut, which gives food recommendations around Chicago, and Food is Stupid, which is where I first got to know and love his writing. The best way I have been able to describe Food is Stupid is that Dennis takes his extensive knowledge of food and cooking then weaponizes it against all common sense.
If there’s one single thing in my kitchen that’s gotten me out of a dinner pinch, it’s Bachan’s Japanese Barbecue Sauce ($15). There’s five types, the Original, Gluten-Free, Hot and Spicy, Yuzu, and Miso. The original base sauce is not unlike teriyaki sauce in that it’s soy sauce-based and sweet, but once you combine it with a protein, veggie, or starch, you’ve got a two-ingredient dish and you’re DONE WORRYING.
Right now we’re going through a bottle of the Miso flavour, and it’s turned things like fish, chicken, sweet potatoes, and eggplant into the most stress-free food on the face of the planet.
Writer (The New Yorker, The New York Times, Playboy, The Globe and Mail, Food & Wine, and many more); Crochet artist; documentary producer; and hospitality meme machine. I honestly don’t know where Ivy found the time to write so many suggestions for The Plate Cleaner as well.
I have never shopped at Williams Sonoma. All my Le Creuset, Limoges, and Beribocraft came from thrift stores, flea markets, and yard sales. So it’s hard for me to contribute to a gift guide because I don’t shop with a list when it comes to gifts, I look for treasures and part of the fun is never knowing what might turn up.
That being said, I am an avid follower of Blueberry Cove Vintage. Run by a former pastry chef, it is a cornucopia of cute finds. Expect salt and pepper shakers, trinkets and vases, but also beautiful glassware, retro mugs, and kitschy cocktail and kitchen stuff.
I’m not a mallrat, I tend to shop off the beaten path, so I’m a big fan of Hawk Krall’s gorgeous sloppy hot dog prints (from $25), or tablescapes by illustrator Maggie Cowles (you might recognize her work from Bon Appetit's The Receipt column). Calder Campbell does the most delicious drawings of artichokes, shrimp cocktail, wildflowers, and sardines. She’s accepting holiday commissions until the end of the month. And I'm crazy about Katie Kimmel’s line of food shirts. If a Linguine & Clams T-shirt ($25) is too casual and you really want to splash out, then let’s go totally bespoke. I think the most personalized gift possible is a portrait shoot. The best portrait photographer in the city right now is Sarah Bodri. You can find her work in the New York Times and you can book her here.
Finally, I offer up a gift idea for the toughest folks to buy for; the person who has everything, the person who hates everything, the hoarder and the one percenter.
Landon Bryant is a Mississippi native who went viral sharing his thoughts on the culture of the Deep South. His most popular subjects are all about food; everything from grits and gravy to banana sandwiches, to the proper way to pronounce “caramel”. I'm planning to book him on Cameo to record a video message for the most ornery person on my list.
As the one-woman show behind Bakes and Bites, Ilana calls herself a “cookie baker” but she’s being modest. She’s a cookie genius. The first time Beth showed me Ilana’s work I couldn’t understand how the decorations were done by hand.
My KitchenAid 6-quart mixer ($545) is my essential kitchen favourite. I can’t live without it as it makes my baking rock. And I bake custom cookies galore. If you love baking, it would be one of my holiday must-haves.
Trained as both a sommelier and an opera singer, Krysta is one half of the original Grape Witches, which started as a series of events celebrating and educating people about the joys of organic, biodynamic, and natural wine. Since then, Grape Witches has evolved into a store, a patio, an online shop, an event space, a wine importing agency, and a wine club—as well as being among those pushing to create more equity, diversity, and opportunity in the wine industry.
A Furbo pet camera (from $159). My partner gave me one for my birthday and I was traveling for wine and working A LOT this year. To be able to stalk my cat from wherever I was and throw her some treats was really nice for me!
Another idea is just a nice tomato knife ($11). Nothing fancy! Somehow I’ve lost a few over the years so a bright colour is a good idea.
And get your parents a normal (pulltap double lever) corkscrew ($9) and make them give away whatever weird electric gadget or two-arms-guy ancient corkscrew they are using. There’s no excuse!
Kevin is the owner and president of Knifewear, a store dedicated to all things Japanese and scary sharp with locations in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, and, as of 2023, Toronto. It is easily the friendliest and most welcoming Japanese knife store I have ever been in.
And just because this my newsletter, here is one of my own recommendations:
The Chef’s Press ($26-46) Like the Pepper Cannon last year, this has made the leap from my wish list to something I can wholeheartedly recommend.
They’re fantastic for keeping your food flat to the grill or pan while preventing trapped stream from messing with your browning. I use mine constantly and (don’t tell) will be giving them to several people this year. They’re also great for keeping things submerged when cooking sous-vide, particularly if you seal them inside the bag.4
And that brings to a close just the first half (!) of this year’s gift guide. I hope this provide you with some gift ideas your special somebodies will never see coming (unless they also subscribe, which they probably should). Or, at the very least, you’ll have discovered some new people you need to follow and some new places you have to check out.
Keep an eye on your inbox for the wish list segment of the gift guide, which will land after you’ve had a suitably long time to digest everything Part 1 just dropped on you.
My absolute worst fear was someone getting back to me with, “Something I have that I think everyone would love to receive is a gift card to my business.” Thank you to everyone for resisting the temptation!
Here’s how global C!C!C!’s reach is. In January 2016, I was shooting on location in Cape Town. One morning, apropos of nothing, our driver handed me his phone, and said, “You have to watch this now.” It was C!C!C!’s memorial tribute to David Bowie at the Art Gallery of Ontario, recorded just days prior.
Editor’s Note: The Baking Steel is sold pre-seasoned, which is very convenient, but it adds to the cost. If you’re comfortable seasoning your own steel, DareBuilt steels, which are made and shipped from Canada unseasoned, are at $139 a more economical option.
I posted that photo on Instagram and was surprised to hear from Chef Bruce Hill, the inventor of the Chef’s Press.