THE GOCHISO GOURMET: Gift Guide

columnist-logo_ryantatsumoto_FINALOnce again, it’s that time of year to ponder holiday gift giving. And just as the pandemic seems to have settled a little, we’re now faced with inflation with merchandise about 20 percent costlier than it was last year. So we have to be creative in stretching those hard earned dollars. Or perhaps we can splurge for gifts since we’ve cut back on everything else. Or both?

It’s Always 5 p.m. Somewhere
As you may be aware, I have monthly cocktail videos on the “Nichi Bei Café” on YouTube. So it goes without saying that I do possess a fair collection of cocktail glasses. But what do you do if your kitchen is space challenged or you don’t know where to start?

My suggestion if you just want one glass for all beverages, whether it’s wine, cocktails or hot toddies is to get a double walled, vacuum insulated drinking device. The majority are stainless steel, though the Bodum group makes double walled, insulated devices in glass.

You also might find double walled acrylic glasses, though my experience with the acrylic variety is that the seal eventually leaks. Some of our water glasses developed condensation between the two walls, indicating a leak.

While glass doesn’t react with any type of beverage, some claim stainless steel reacts with acidic beverages.

Personally, I’ve never experienced it and I do imbibe my fair share of wine from stainless steel wine glasses.

However, glass is a lot more fragile and I’ve broken the inner glass lining on two cups by dropping ice cubes into the glass. The lip of double walled glass cups also are fatter, so after a sip of wine or champagne, a little dribble rolls down the outside of the glass, defeating the anti-condensation properties. So my recommendation for those on a budget is the Snowfox Fun Collection Insulated Stainless Steel White Wine Glasses, $27.99 for a set of two glasses. They’re the perfect shape for wine and the lip feels the same as lead crystal glass (very thin). We use them for wine, cocktails and even hot coffee.

For those with no budgetary restrictions, wait for Elevated Craft to offer their Hybrid Cocktail Glasses — $59.99 for one glass — to the public as they are currently fulfilling orders for their Kickstarter supporters. The Hybrid Cocktail Glasses have an outer stainless steel insulated sleeve (in stainless, copper or black) and fits a borosilicate glass that can be kept in the freezer with measurement markings inside of the glass from one oz all the way up to six oz in 1/2 oz gradations.

Elevated Craft Shaker. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

If you’re into cocktails, a necessary accoutrement is a cocktails shaker. OK, cocktails can also be stirred in a mixing glass, but every Bond-o-phile knows the proper cocktail is shaken, not stirred. On Amazon, a standard cocktail shaker goes for as low as $6.99 for the budget conscious. Or if the sky is the limit, Elevated Craft (once again) makes a vacuum insulated cocktail shaker ($69.99) that twists open, but is sealed with liquid-proof gaskets, holds a full 750 ml bottle of wine and the inner cap has measurements for 1/4 oz all the way up to six oz, so you don’t need a separate jigger to measure your liqueur.

What about wine specific glasses? In lieu of purchasing grape varietal specific glasses, the one type of wine glass that works with most wines is the Schott Zwiesel Tritan Crystal Glass Fortissimo Stemware Collection White Wine Glass — $76.11 for a set of six glasses — and though it was created more for white wines, they also work with red wines. Since they are created from titanium and zirconium oxide, they are a lot more resistant to breakage, yet still have that desired thin wall of wine glasses.

If you’re set on giving traditional lead crystal, look no further than Riedel VINUM Zinfandel/Riesling/Chianti Glasses ($67.62 for a set of two glasses). Many years ago, I attended a wine tasting led by 10th generation owner Georg Riedel, and when he was asked if he could only have one type of Riedel glass at home, he said it was this one glass — good enough for Mr. Riedel, good enough for everyone else. And if storing stemware is an issue for your recipient, then I recommend the Riedel Big O Wine Tumbler Pinot, which Amazon lists for $27 for a set of two glasses. The balloon glasses are perfect for Pinot Noir, Barolo or Barbaresco, and Chef Michael Chiarello of Bottega and Coqueta uses these glasses for his gin and tonic variants.

Uncorking that Wine
For the economically minded, look no further than the vast array of Pulltap corkscrews listed on Amazon from $6.99 for the basic all the way up to $49.95 for the chrome-plated variety and everything in between. They all feature a blade to remove the foil covering the cork, a Teflon coated screw/worm for easy twisting into the tightest of corks and a double lever to assist finally getting the cork out of the bottle.

If cost is no issue and/or if your recipient enjoys aged or dessert wines, then my recommendation is the Durand ($135), which consist of two devices; a Teflon coated screw/worm and an Ah-So puller, two blades that are inserted between the neck of the bottle and the cork. Why two devices? For aged wine or dessert wines, the cork tends to be a little more brittle than with other wines. Using just a screw/worm device invariably just yanks the middle of the cork out leaving most of the cork still stuck in the neck of the bottle. The Ah-So puller won’t gouge the middle of the cork but as you slide the blades down between the bottle and cork, it sometimes simply pushes the cork down deeper. The Durand’s screw/worm is first threaded down the cork which prevents the Ah-So from pushing the cork deeper and now you have two devices pulling the cork from the middle and the sides. Voila!

But We Can’t Survive on Beverages Alone
The following gift suggestions don’t have an affordable and cost-is-no-issue alternative, but rather are simply kitchen tools that I personally stock and use regularly. The first is the Misen paring knife, which is meant for smaller cutting tasks. Though I’ve purchased paring knives from Shun, Global and Wusthof, I always find myself reaching for the Misen knife, as the blade is the perfect length, the handle is comfortable and it’s easy to sharpen.

It’s such a good knife that I actually purchased a second during one of their many sales. The retail price is $40, which is cheaper than the aforementioned brands, but they often offer 30 percent off, so I purchased both of my blades for $28.

I originally cooked my broccoli and cauliflower the way Mom did it — either boiled or steamed. But after we purchased the Anova Sous Vide oven, which also had the option of a convection mode, we started roasting our broccoli and cauliflower to create a nice char on the edges and intensify the flavors that can only come from dry heat. However, it used to require flipping the veggies about halfway through the cooking process to evenly cook.

Not anymore since I purchased the Gotham Steel Crisper Tray from Amazon for $24.99. The basket allows hot air to circulate above and below your veggies, so no tossing is required. They also offer three sizes, from 12.5” x 9” up to 16.5” x 12.5”, with the largest tray just $29.88 and the small and medium sizes can easily fit Breville or Anova ovens.

Finally, if you are invited to potluck dinners or simply have potluck lunches at work, the Pyrex Easy Grab nine-piece set is perfect for transporting your culinary creations. As of mid-November, Amazon listed it at $40.49 (I purchased mine for $44.49 a year ago) though Amazon prices can fluctuate hourly. The set includes a three-quart baking dish with cover (lasagna size), two six cup rectangular dishes with covers and an insulated carrying bag that separates the three-quart baking dish from the two six cup dishes as well as two hot/cold packs so that you can keep cold salads cool and cooked dishes warm as you transport them to their destination.

I know that this is supposed to be a gift guide for your favorite recipients this holiday season but there’s nothing wrong with also treating yourself during the holidays!

The Gochiso Gourmet is a column on food, wine and healthy eating. Ryan Tatsumoto is a graduate of both the University of Hawai‘i and UC San Francisco. He is a recently retired clinical pharmacist and a budding chef/ recipe developer/wine taster. He writes from Kane’ohe, HI and can be reached at gochisogourmet@gmail.com.

The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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