Budget Gift Guide

Food prices are on the rise, pint glasses are getting smaller, and paychecks don’t stretch as far as they used to. Gift-giving season is right at the doorstep, and though we’re bullish enough to offer our Winter 2008 Gift Guide, we also believe that you can still spend a little while giving a lot.

Salts and Spices from Le Sanctuaire, prices vary. These high-quality exotic ingredients will liven up any budget recipe. Give a taste of the tropics with Sri Lankan cinnamon sticks and whole handpicked organic cloves. Or take your giftee to the French Atlantic with some grey salt.

Bacon Treats from Archie McPhee, prices vary. Bacon might be recession-proof—and Archie McPhee’s silly pig-centric gift items like the Bacon Wallet and Bacon Strips Bandages fall under the $10 mark.

12fifteen Letterpress Coasters, $12 for a set of eight. Homemade gifts are budget-conscious and show that you care, but if you’re short on time or talent, the crafty types who sell on Etsy have plenty of both to spare. These letterpress coasters draw from Scandinavian design, with patterns taken from nature, muted colors, and simple lines.

Salumi Pancettini or Salami, $13–$15 per pound. People wait in long lines to try Armandino Batali’s cured meats (and not because he’s Mario’s father). Forgo the wait and the ticket to Seattle by ordering some of the best damn salami your giftee will ever eat. The current special: pancettini, baby pancetta that’s been rubbed with anise.

Fishs Eddy Pattern Glasses, prices vary. Fishs Eddy is a great place to find eclectic dishware on the cheap. We like its selection of patterned glassware, especially the Carnival and Milk glasses. A set of two makes a nice little gift.

Zyliss Susi DeLuxe Garlic Press, $14.99. Chowhounds say that the Zyliss is the best garlic press out there. Added plus: You don’t have to peel the cloves before pressing them.

Ice Jewels and Swizzle Sticks, $12.99 for both. Though real jewels may be off the list this year, this ice cube tray will make the drinking hour a bit more lively. Throw in some swizzle sticks, and an easy cocktail party just got even easier.

Staffordshire Salt and Pepper Shakers, $12. Salt and pepper shakers can range from cute and cheap to highly stylish and expensive. This folksy porcelain bird set falls in the former category, and is available in red, blue, or green.

Bottle Opener Key, $8. Give this key-shaped bottle opener to someone smart, because it seems like it could sow a lot of confusion. It looks like a key, it lives on a key chain, and it enables alcohol consumption. So if you’ve used it a lot for its intended use, you could easily try to use it for its trompe l’oeil use.

Payard Ballotin, $15 for a 1/4 pound. Really good chocolate can provide massive happiness at a relatively low cost. These chocolates taste ridiculously good and are beautiful to look at. Pleasure quotient: high.

Seeds from the Seed Savers Exchange, prices vary. What can you do to combat the high price of food? Grow your own. The Seed Savers Exchange is committed to preserving and sharing heirloom varietals. With many seed packets falling under $3 you can give the makings of a minigarden.

Fee Brothers Bitters, $5.75–$14.50 per bottle. If you’ve got a mixologist on your gift list, help him or her elevate those cocktail skills with a few bottles of bitters from Fee Brothers. The rhubarb and cherry versions are exceptionally good.

CHOW’s The Ten column appears every Tuesday.

Michele Foley is an associate editor at CHOW.

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