Need some ideas for your Christmas shopping?  Here are a few books, bottles and baubles to help you with the food lovers on your holiday giving list. 

The Fresh Eggs Daily Cookbook by Lisa Steel.  Steel is a fifth generation chicken keeper from Maine who is in love with her topic and her birds. She shares tips like how to hard-cook eggs that will peel easily, how to decode the numbers on the carton to get the freshest eggs, and why freshness matters. The book is worth it for just this insider info.  The over 100 recipes covering every eating opportunity during the day are a worthwhile bonus. 

Big Macs and Burgundy by Vanessa Price and Adam Laukhuf.  Here’s a book that demystifies wine, bringing common sense to a sometimes over-wrought topic. For newbies, it’s a great start. If you’re already drinking today’s trending wines or classics from the great regions, Price and Laukhuf provide a fresh perspective to broaden your enjoyment. Are you ready for Cheetos and Sancerre, cheddar popcorn and white Burgundy, or the title pair: Big Mac and Red Burgundy?  Specific wine suggestions are part of the package. 

I’ll confess that I haven’t read Doctors and Distillers by Camper English, but it’s on my Christmas list. For a guy like me, who enjoys digging into the history of what we eat and drink, it looks like a winner. 

Handpicked wines at Fountainhead in Norwalk

A special bottle of wine or spirits is always welcome.  Something splurgy that they wouldn’t get themselves will make eyes light up.  A White Burgundy, red Bordeaux or cult Cali is just the ticket.  Bourbon is very collectible these days.  I’ve been dipping into the fascinating world of small production Cognac and Armagnac brandies the last few years. 

A good local retailer would be happy to advise. I’ve had success at Wines and More in Milford, Harry’s Wine in Fairfield, Fountainhead Wines in Norwalk, Ancona’s in Wilton and Ridgefield, Sipstirs in Darien and Harbor Point Wines in Stamford. 

If you’d rather be an armchair shopper for the wine fan on your list, check out these two California wineries for wine available online. The Anaba Winery draws grapes from iconic Sonoma vineyards as well as their Carneros estate vines using the most advanced sustainable and renewable growing and winemaking practices. Their bright, crisp, no-oak Turbine Chardonnay ($34) is a refreshing wine that we recently enjoyed with Melissa Clark’s sheet pan chicken with plums and red onions. 

At the same dinner, Eden Rift barrel fermented Chard, with mid-range oak and a little wood sweetness was a delicious partner for pear and beet salad with crumbled goat cheese and pine nuts.  The Eden Rift vineyard, just 20 miles inland from Monterey Bay on the St Andreas fault line, is the oldest continuously producing vineyard in California.

This year I met Haygood Coxe at the Bluffton South Carolina farmers market. She introduced me to Carolina Plantation heirloom rice grown by her family at Plumfield Plantation on the Pee Dee river. For an authentic taste of the past for your southern recipes order some Carolina Gold rice ($10.31 for two pounds) or stone ground grits ($4.66 for one pound).

For those on your list who like to eat out, a restaurant gift card is always welcome.  Give one to their favorite place, your favorite place, or something new to both of you.   More freedom of choice comes with the On Washington Gift Card. Restaurants and retailers on that hip SoNo street have banded together for one gift that can be used in many places. You give – the cardholder gets to choose from places including Mecha Noodle Bar, Saltwater Restaurant and Tablao Wine Bar. 

If you seek inspiration by browsing, visit the Westport Farmers Market Holiday Market on December 10. They’ve moved to their winter quarters at Gilbertie’s Garden Center in Westport. The covered space at 7 Sylvan Lane will be packed with handmade gifts, delicious prepared foods, and one-of-a-kind homegoods. 

When I step into the kitchen, the first thing I do is grab my Hedley & Bennet apron. A gift a few years back, it’s an everyday part of my food life. The tough, pro-style apron fits great, and has pockets in the right places. The snazzy navy and white of my Hickory Striped apron ($95) always looks clean and the 100% cotton is comfortable even in a warm kitchen. The aprons come in a range of styles and colorful patterns which can be custom monogrammed.

Frank Whitman can be reached at