Tick-tock! By now, friends/drinking buddies/loose acquaintances/clients/distant relatives have made their way out of the woodwork to pounce on your unsuspecting, holiday-bewildered self, and good 'ol standards and practices dictates that they must each get a well-thought-out bauble...or bottle.
So, here's a list to ease the effing way!
For the sweet folk:
Bee Raw Honeys: Unpasteurized, single-variety honeys that will make you grateful for myopic, monogamous bees. Try the frosting-like, buttery Sweet Yellow Clover or Star Thistle on toast (or better yet, biscuits!), the rich-n-tangy Wild Raspberry drizzled on blue cheese, or the darkly funky Buckwheat in your gingerbread or oatmeal.
Can't choose/commit/decide? No worries, for those who've been VERY good, they offer varietal variety packs!
Need sweets more pimpin', less hippy? Yarra Valley Truffle Honey is a half-step from liquid gold, making it ridiculously easy to look like a cheese plate genius.
For the cheese nerds and otherwise cheese-curious:
Invite a friend out for a night of queso-based bonding with Murray's cheese classes (with an emphasis the booze-oriented ones); you can brush up on the basics, learn a thing or two about bourbon pairings (like the one I went to!) or expand your knowledge of all things stinky.
(By the by...I am currently not and have never worked for Murray's...all this super-schillin' merely demonstrates how pathetically dependent I am on them for tokens of good tidings and moments of personal indulgence.)
For those in need of a more potent yuletide fix:
Compass Box Whiskey: Sorry kids, these are not single-malt, but vatted malt (i.e., blended) Scotch whiskeys--don't let the lack of trendiness deter you, though. The Peat Monster is a great find for all the gruffed-voiced loves in your life; the almost floral Hedonism and Asyla will help to ease the Scotch-uninitiated; and winter nights are that much cozier with Orangerie and a square or two of dark chocolate.
Four Roses: No need to cross an ocean for solid brown booze--described as a "high-rye" bourbon, Four Roses has a spicy, fruity complexity that was practically made for spiking eggnog and dipping Grandpa's dentures.
Available in most high-end liquor stores, but more specifically for panicked midtowners/commuters:
- Park Avenue Liquor Shop (confusingly, on Madison between 40th & 41st)
- Grand Harvest Wines (Grand Central Terminal)
Both places are equipped with a phalanx of friendly booze nerds that generally outnumber their customers--don't be shy.
The only cookbook they'll need on a desert island:
The New Best Recipe: Indispensable! There are no glossy pictures, chef agendas, trend-pushing or weak-a** non-functioning recipes here. For every recipe, they walk you through their testing process, informing you of the techniques, methods, and even the specific products they used in order achieve the results they wanted. In other words, instead of babying you into further cookbook dependency, they're actually teaching you how to cook. Genius!
If they're allowed 2 cookbooks on said desert island:
Saveur Cooks Authentic American: Well...okay. Sometimes pretty is fun. But alongside the gorgeous photos are wonderful stories of family, heritage, and regional pride, via poke from Hawaii, fried catfish from Memphis, or New England crock-baked beans. No egos or snobbery...just the food that gets put on tables across the country, in all its sparkling best.
More, you say?
You need to impress uppity cousins and boss-types, you say?
- Goot Essa: A savory, beautiful American Cheddar that'll make you rethink all orange misconceptions. (Great for beginners!)
- Shropshire Blue: A blue anomoly, being on a cheddar-lookin' base rather than white--salty, earthy, a pleasurable jolt from cheese board boredom.
- Sottocenere : Laced with a spiced-rubbed rind and spiked with truffles, she's an approachable cheese bred to make all grades of partygoer happy. (Yup, I made her a she.)
That oughta shut 'em up. Murray's ships nationwide, so it's easy to do a drive-by cheesing from across the country....just don't dawdle.
Be brave amidst the stampeding masses--I'm cheering for you, readers! Happy holidays!