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Today Annie suggests perfect gifts for the Francophile: gifts for cooks, gifts for travelers, gifts for movie lovers, gifts for kids, gifts for men, gifts for sports enthusiasts, and gifts for the host or hostess. We're going to get spoiled again!
If you liked this episode, you'll probably also like episode 45 Christmas Markets in France.
Gifts for the Host/Hostess/Cook
Cheese Marker Set: they look like thought bubbles, nice round things with a poking end, they are made of slate and come with some chalk so you can write the name of the cheeses you are serving. Now THAT would come in handy even if you already have a well-appointed kitchen!
Cheese Slicer: If you're going to make raclette or serve a cheese platter it is best if you slice your cheese at the last minute so it doesn't dry out. Slicing cheese is not very fun when you don't have the right implement! So I finally broke down and bought one and I love it! This one is by Oxo Good Grips and it comes with a replacement wire.
Cheese Board with Lid: I have to admit I'm not a big fan of cheese boards because I have beautiful plates and they do just fine. But one thing that would be nice is a serving board with a dome or glass bell because cheese is best served at room temperature but it gets stinky if you leave it out, not to mention how it will attract flies. There aren't a lot of good choices for such items in the US, but I found a good one for you. Talk about how you should get one in France next time you visit, ask for a "cloche à fromage" or "cave à fromage". Explain that it fits right in the fridge. Or talk about the artisanal one I found at a market with a retractable mesh top.
Le Creuset Dutch Oven: Mine is probably a hundred years old and it's still as good as new. It doesn't chip or stain or rust, it is perfect. Expensive, but perfect. I use it like a crock pot on low heat to make all sorts of stews. But you can also use it on high heat to make your stir-fry. And in the summer if you put it in the freezer for a few hours, it'll keep your food cool if you place it in a shady spot on the terrace. Very versatile.
Pressure Cooker: I use the pressure cooker so much it actually lives on my induction stove-top most of the time. I have that Clipso pressure cooker that they sell on Amazon.com and it's really good. You cannot make a pot-au-feu without it. I make couscous in the pressure cooker too. I use it to cook beans. You can make a tough roast tender in a pressure cooker. Brown it in some oil, then cover the piece of meat completely with hot water, close the lid, cook under pressure for 40 to 50 minutes (depending on the size of the meat) and it'll be tender! I use it to make Pork Carnitas (although the Le Creuset pot is also great for that). It cooks fast and it is great.
Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child: this book is 40 years old and still as good today as they ever were. Julia Child understood the way regular French people cook. It doesn't take a culinary degree, it takes good observation and common sense.
Herbes de Provence: inexpensive and absolutely necessary if you are going to cook anything French!
Walnut Oil or Hazelnut Oil: these oils add wonderful flavor to the simplest dish or vinaigrette. Using different types of oils is also healthy for you!
Moules Dish: you don't need this to make good moules marinières or moules à la crême, but it helps make it look real!
Crêpes Pan: this is one where you NEED the special pan because if you don't and use an every-day frying pan your crêpes will stick.
Fondue Set: you don't need the electric fondue set, but it will keep the temperature better than something with a small flame underneath. You can use it to make Fondue Bourguignone with beef (serve with ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and sauce Bourguignone if you can find it, but don't worry if you can't, it's not that good, honesty!)
You can also make Cheese Fondue aka Fondue Savoyarde which requires a mix of cheeses if you want to be proper about it (you can buy them at iGourmet or at fastfondue) but really any grated cheese that melts well will do, next time I'm in the US I want to try it with Grated Swiss and Mexican Queso, with a bit of white wine.
Crême Brûlée: to make this magical dessert you will need a kitchen torch and some ramequins. Don't go cheap on the torch, but look for the ramequins that will fit your needs. I like ramequins that stack, some like big, some like small, some like shallow, some like deeper, it's too personal for me to recommend a ramequin!
Madeleine Cookie Pan: Madeleines are easy to make, here's a recipe I've tried and liked.
Bring a Touch of France into Your Home
Provence Tablecloth: They are usually yellow and blue, have sunflowers or olives on them.
Throw Pillows: It says on the cover "Paris Is Always A Good Idea" which is a quote by Audrey Hepburn. When I lived in America (I said France on the show, I meant America) I liked a little touch of France in my home, I really didn't want the whole thing to look like a cliché of Provence.
French Flash Cards for Kids: some people do great things with flash cards, but if you're going to use those, one of you must be good at French!
Radio Pomme d'Api: if you want your children to learn French, surround them with French sounds. This is a good way to do it for free and they choose some really fun songs. Sometimes I listen just to get a big smile on my face!
Le Petit Prince Bilingual: this is a classic, if you haven't read it, you must, right now!
Paris Saint-Germain Soccer Jersey or Soccer Ball I don't really like soccer, but this is the biggest team in France and they have A LOT of fans! Possibly some in your family too.
Stade Toulousain Rugby Ball: I'm from Toulouse, I love rugby!
Les boules de pétanque: great game, can be played seriously and competitively or leisurely on a sunny day.
For Cyclists: Tour de France DVD from the year Lance Armstrong retired under great scrutiny that turned out to be warranted.
Power Strip: this power strip is light and compact, and it does NOT have surge protection which is what you want. American surge protector strip will trip the general at our house in France, we don't know why, but it works every time. So if you bring some other power strip, make sure it doesn't have surge protection or it'll be useless.
Traveler's Choice Suitcases: this is a 3-piece set, but you can get them individually.
Microfiber Travel Towel: this towel is great and you cannot do better for the price. It won't take up half of your carry-on and it works well. OK, I like extra heavy cotton hotel towels better, but this will do the trick and it dries fast.
Moleskin Notebook: so you can write down what you do every day on your trip, because after a while it all becomes a blur. Notebooks make a great gift for someone who is planning for a trip, it means all the things they can look forward to.
Ticket Stub Organizer: this is great for travelers and people who like to collect small mementos that will mean a lot to them in a few months or years. Looking at old tickets stubs or menus or business cards is a great way to journal your life and interests.
Movies for the Francophile: this is my list of favorite French movies.
To Learn French: Pimsler has been really good for me, but I wasn't trying to learn French but Spanish. If you have 20 minutes each day you can dedicate to oral learning, you'll love it.