A Baker's Dozen


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Crammed into my pocket this time of year is a list. The names of family, friends and business associates I want to buy holiday gifts for are on it. If I’m lucky enough to know what anyone wants, I’ve written it down. Mostly, though, there are blank spaces staring back at me after the names, begging me to figure out what to get before time runs out. The guessing game begins.

For me, most guesses involve gifts for the kitchen, since everybody has one—and even if they don’t cook in it, everyone loves to eat. The gift suggestions here should satisfy the cooks and non-cooks on anyone’s list. They range from inexpensive to very pricy, playful to practical. Most are made or produced in San Diego. (Several are festively pictured at right in a Julian setting. See following pages for details.) With any of these, you might want to play Santa for yourself. ’Tis the season.

  1. Etta’s Edibles

Naughty or nice, everyone hungers for home-baked cookies, cakes and breads. Etta Miller sells those goodies (some of which are pictured at right) at her small, personal bakery just below Bankers Hill.

At Baked by Etta, you can order an extraordinarily good sour-cream coffeecake, loaded with brown sugar and walnuts, that serves 14 to 18 for $25. There’s also a moist, party-size apple-walnut-custard torte that serves 14 to 18, $28, and cranberry-orange, apple, banana, lemon, poppy seed and pumpkin cake loaves, $13.

Cookies by the dozen, $5.50, packaged in festive Christmas or Hanukkah colors, are so delicious they might be eaten before you get them home. Gift baskets, ranging from $40 to $200, filled with baked goods, fresh flowers and seasonal fruits, are a specialty.

Baked by Etta, 3085 Reynard Way, San Diego, 619-293-7650.

2. Sweet Treats

It’s hard to improve on nature, but Frank Busalacchi’s exquisite handmade marzipan fruits and vegetables, $25 a pound, come close. He sells them at his gelato counter at Café Zucchero in Little Italy. To make the marzipan dough, Busalacchi crushes whole blanched almonds into powder, mixes them with confectioners’ sugar and adds water and bitter-almond flavoring. Tiny pieces of this smooth almond paste are pinched off, shaped, dried and painted in realistic colors—radish red, peach pink, fig brown. Busalacchi has been creating these tiny, lifelike fruits and vegetables for four years.

Café Zucchero, 1731 India Street, 619-531-1731.

3. For the Li’l Chef

For little cooks who can’t wait to mix up a batch of cookies, there’s Santa Cookie Pops, $14.95, from Kids Cooking Kits. The kits put out by this local company are safe for children ages 3 and up, and each helps teach basic cooking skills in a fun way. Kid-friendly foods like pizza, pretzels and Hanukkah and Christmas cookies fill their line. In this case, it’s fun cookies-on-a-stick that depict a rosy-cheeked Santa in his red cap. Inside the colorful Santa Cookie Pops box are cookie mix, lollipop sticks, a Santa cookie cutter, candy sprinkles, red food coloring, icing bag and decorating ideas.

Call 800-718-1855 for a Kids Cooking Kits retailer near you. Purchase on-line at kidscook.com.

4. Positively Floored

Got a messy cook on your holiday list? Or a neat one with a taste for trompe l’oeil? Splatters on the kitchen floor never look better than when they hit a hand-painted floor cloth by Iris Potter, functional art at its best. Potter leans toward themes from nature, such as branches hanging heavy with lemons, enormous mangoes floating on a field of blue, and botanicals featuring vibrantly colored butterflies, flowers and insects. Patterns are repeated, but no two are exactly alike. Each floor cloth is 100 percent cotton canvas, painted then sealed with a waterproof finish. Standard size is 3 by 5 feet for $450, or $30 a square foot.

Iris Potter floor cloths, 88 K Street, Chula Vista, 619-422-6035.

5. Full of Beans

No machine gently forces coffee beans to give up more flavor and scent than the Capresso Automatic Coffee and Espresso Center, $900. This silver metallic coffeemaker automatically grinds, tamps and pressure-brews aromatic espresso or coffee—then cleans its lines in less than a minute. A built-in conical burr grinder system with six settings pulverizes the beans. A separate funnel handles preground coffee.

You can brew up to 12 cups of coffee or 40 espressos. There’s a hot-water dispenser that can be used for a continuous-steam output for steaming lattes or frothing milk for cappuccinos. Final enticement: It’s compact—only 11 inches wide and 16 inches deep—and fits under kitchen cabinets.

You can buy the Capresso Automatic Coffee and Espresso Center at The Silver Skillet, 2690 Via de la Valle, Flower Hill Mall, Del Mar, 858-481-6710, and Williams-Sonoma, 4417 La Jolla Village Drive, Suite N-3, University Towne Centre, 858-558-5755 or 7007 Friars Road, Suite 583, Fashion Valley Center, 619-295-0510. Purchase on-line at cooking.com.

6. Your Cup of Tea

You say your favorite people drink tea? If they’ve got a spirit of playfulness, they’ll love one of Karen Kozlow’s handcrafted kitty-cat teapots, $90, found at Gallery 8, La Jolla. Her work is in many museum collections. Tiffany’s in Beverly Hills thought enough of her wonderfully zany earthenware to fill a display window with it.

Kozlow’s cat mold started out in the 1980s as a big cup, which morphed into its present-day shape as a kitten licking its paw. A riot of bright colors (yellows, reds and blues, black-and-white polka dots and stripes) cover its glazed surface. Each two-cup teapot is unique. All are safe for the dishwasher and microwave.

Karen Kozlow designs are at Gallery 8, 7464 Girard Avenue, La Jolla, 858-454-9781.

7. Right in the Bread Basket

Crumpets to go with tea or coffee will stay warm for 20 minutes or more in a warmed stoneware basket, $39, by Eucalyptus Stoneware of Del Mar. In 1974, local potter John Laver made an open-weave stoneware planter he intended

to fill with greenery—until a friend pointed out it would make a great bread basket. An industry was born. Today, this basic basket, in round, oval, heart and French-bread shapes, is sold by the thousands internationally as a perfect bridal or kitchen gift.

To heat the basket, place it in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes. Once out of the oven, its side coils cool in about five minutes, but the base stays warm much longer, radiating heat up and into your breads. Each basket is handmade with lead-free glazes.

Eucalyptus Stoneware woven baskets can be purchased at The Silver Skillet, 2690 Via de la Valle, Flower Hill Mall, Del Mar, 858-481-6710; Canterbury Gardens, 2402 South Escondido Boulevard, Escondido, 760-746-1400; and Williams-Sonoma (only available in one oval shape, white or ivory), 4417 La Jolla Village Drive, Suite N-3, University Towne Centre, 858-558-5755, or 7007 Friars Road, Suite 583, Fashion Valley Center, 619-295-0510.

8. Move Over, Martha

It’s not easy to create food and floral arrangements more elegant than Martha Stewart’s, but caterer Christina Artigas does it. Her unique repertoire, based on gourmet Mexican cuisine with European influences, features traditional Mexican dishes like chilies en nogada (stuffed poblano chilies with fresh walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds) and French classics like croquembouche (a tower of cream puffs topped with spun sugar and jagged bursts of crisp, caramelized sugar). Artigas is known for her signature dinner and dessert buffets, with food prices starting at $26 per person.

Christina Artigas Catering, 619-688-0847.

9. Tops for Eating

If you covet the warmth of an antique wooden table for your kitchen, go directly to King & Company in La Jolla. Tables in this antique and decorative-arts shop have sold for $800 and up to $19,000. Currently on the floor: a rustic, mid-

19th-century Hudson River Valley table that seats 10, with a bottom shelf for kitchen pots and baskets, $3,800, and a 19th-century Louis Philippe walnut drop-leaf table that seats four, $1,795.

King & Company, 7470 Girard Avenue, La Jolla, 858-454-1504.

10. Cover Me

What good is a great table without the perfect tablecloth? Martha Smith Fine Linens carries exquisite French table linens by Pierre Frey. Throw one over any table and you’ll feel like you’re sitting on a sunny hillside in Provence. All the holiday colors are found in “Basse-Coure,” a rooster pattern. A 70-by-70-inch tablecloth is $140; 70 by 110 inches, $257. The subtle, more modernistic “Jardin de Sandrine” (70 by 70 inches; $138) depicts cypress trees scattered around a formal garden and pool. They’re machine washable.

Martha Smith Fine Linens, 7717 Fay Avenue, La Jolla, 858-459-8642.

11. Burn, Baby, Burn

Everyone loves candles—okay, everyone except Scarecrow. Their warm, compelling scent, coupled with the thin shell of translucent wax that surrounds the flaming wick, makes beeswax candles a magnificent burn. Knorr Candle Shop in Del Mar is the country’s leading manufacturer of 100 percent beeswax candles, turning 1 million pounds of beeswax into candles each year. These all-natural candles are a must-buy bargain of beauty and light.

A pair of 12-inch solid beeswax candles is $7.50. Two hollow 12-inch beeswax candles, which drip inward in a breeze, retail at $5.50. The White House has been ordering Knorr’s Royal Cierge hand-rolled tapers since 1928; a 12-inch pair goes for $7.

Knorr Candle Shop, 14906 Via de la Valle, Del Mar, 858-755-2051. Purchase on-line at knorrcandleshop.com.

12. Dressed To Cook

To celebrate the cook in your life, order a personalized chef’s jacket embroidered with his or her name—or something tastefully witty. Chef Works in Miramar provides restaurant kitchens across the country with chef’s clothing, but are just as happy to dress the wanna-be chef. The factory offers more than 15 types of chef’s jackets. There’s a basic jacket of 100 percent cotton, with cloth knot buttons, left breast pocket and turned-back cuffs for $25. Or go for the $70, top-of-the-line Egyptian combed-cotton jacket, with black piping, French cuffs, white hand-rolled buttons, front inset pocket and thermometer pocket. Embroidery costs extra and takes several days.

Chef Works, 8940 Activity Road, Suite G, Miramar, 800-372-6621 or 858-549-0632; or go to chefwork.com.

13. Prints Charming

Finally, a word about something for kitchen walls: Stoli on the Rocks or Spinach Salad by Harold Pickern. These limited-edition geclée prints (24 by 30 inches; $350), reproductions of his original acrylic paintings, are examples of photorealistic still lifes. Pickern’s focus is objects in the landscape we tend to overlook.

Stoli on the Rocks depicts a martini glass floating in space above a bed of dark pebbles. Flipped onto the pebbles is a stubbed-out cigar. His style forces you to look at the glass, the pebbles, the cigar, and then again at the whole surface of the work. Spinach Salad depicts the makings of a tossed spinach salad, with all the trimmings—including the dressing—sans plate. Each picture sounds messy, but both look great.

Harold Pickern, 619-698-1834; hpickern@hotmail.com.

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