If you're anything like me, you've begun your holiday shopping but you've had a tough time actually committing to any purchases thus far. (Except, perhaps, a few for yourself; turns out I was really good this year!) Between all those frazzled shoppers and all those gifting possibilities, the experience can be overwhelming. You need a game plan, something that could streamline the process. Is there a common denominator among the people on your list? Yup. They all eat food, and many of them prepare the stuff, too.
So here's what I hope is a handy guide to several local businesses who should be able to help you find the perfect presents for your nearest and dearest, as well as your office's Secret Santa assignment and that nice mailman. Oh, and anyone who you think might be getting you a gift, because you definitely do not want to look like a chump during what is reportedly the most wonderful time of the year. If you have other suggestions for local food-oriented gifts feel free to leave them in the comments section of this article, at the bottom of this page.
A sort of epicurean wonderland, Lombardi's Gourmet Imports and Specialties is packed to the rafters with everything a person might need to craft a show-stopping Italian meal, from olives and cheeses for the antipasto to San Marzano tomatoes and gorgeous artisanal pastas to ethereally sweet torrone to the espresso beans for the post-feast ristretto. Lombardi's also carries the necessary kitchen tools as well, like Microplane graters, bakeware, Le Creuset, and an entire wall of espresso makers. The Portmeirion collector on your list probably already covets Lombardi's selection of pottery, tableware, and linens, but anyone with less specific tastes, as well as those far away, would be totally tickled by one of Lombardi's creative gift baskets. (124 N. Main St., Fairport; 388-1330, lombardisgourmet.com)
Chances are pretty good that by December 25 the baker on your gift list will be all baked out. But just give 'em a few days, and they'll be back in the kitchen measuring, mixing, icing, and praising you for remembering them with a little something from Niblack Foods. This mini warehouse space is crammed with all manner of spices, extracts, sugars, and flours — like spelt, buckwheat, chickpea, and quinoa — as well as cardboard cake rounds and boxes for that professional touch. Besides that, Niblack carries enough teas, jams, beans, nuts, grains, hot sauces, and dried herbs to delight the non-bakers on your list as well. (900 Jefferson Road, Building 6; 292-0790, niblackfoods.com)
It seems a little obvious to bring up Cooks' World in a piece about holiday shopping, but mention the place to a cooking enthusiast and watch them swoon with visions of Kitchenaid stand mixers and All-Clad cookware. Just past Cooks' World's ingredients section — which includes a number of King Arthur flour blends not always available at retail — is a gaggle of aprons, some almost too lovely for splatter. And every good cook needs a great knife, so Cooks' World offers an impressive selection, with names like Wüsthof, Victorinox, and Global, as well as sharpening services, because few things are more dangerous than a dull blade. (2179 Monroe Ave.; 271-1789, cooksworld.com)
The gastronaut likes to venture out of his or her food comfort zone, and nothing screams "challenge" more than being unable to understand the language on a label. The Cyrillic alphabet is in full effect at Europa Deli, which specializes in fare from the Slavic countries; think places like Russia, Ukraine, and Bulgaria, as well as Poland and Germany. You'll find a deli case full of meats and cheeses, plus traditional foods like pierogi and pelmeni, smoked fish and pâtés, pickles and sauerkraut. There's also a showcase of beautiful baked goods as well as a bunch of different sweets, no-brainers since wafer cookies and filled candies with the word "vodka" on the wrapper need very little translation. (1694 Penfield Road; 385-2040, europadeliny.com)
You've probably passed by Mileage Master a hundred times and wondered what it is they do. Originally specializing in propane conversions for trucks, Mileage Master now does grills, along with anything else you could ever want to prepare food outside, like a variety of wood chips, barbecue sauces, cookbooks, and a ton of different grilling accessories, from covers to pizza stones. But if there's a hardcore grilling fan at the tippy-top of your list, they would undoubtedly love a Big Green Egg, a silly name for a serious ceramic charcoal cooker with design roots in ancient Japanese technology. (2488 Browncroft Blvd., 586-1870)
A restaurant kitchen isn't always full of gleaming, name-brand cookware; the folks on the line are typically using sturdy, affordable equipment that can stand up to a daily beating. That's what you'll find at Rochester Store Fixture, a restaurant supply place that's also open to the public. Founded in 1938, RSF has it all: stockpots, cast-iron pans, utensils, flatware, cake stands, sheet trays, pastry bags, thermometers, scales — in other words, if RSF doesn't have it, you may not actually need it. (707 North St.; 546-6706, rochesterstorefixture.com)
As a bridge-mix fiend, I try to suss out the best Rochester has to offer, which is why I'm dropping Christmas hints about The Nut House to anyone who will listen. Sure, there are other confectionery offerings, such as cordials, truffles, licorice, gummies, and sponge candy, along with dried fruits and nuts, available unadorned or drenched in chocolate. The Nut House also offers kosher treats as well as tins, platters, trays, and baskets for hassle-free gift-giving, or just for self-congratulatory munching on the drive home for being such a thoughtful person. (1520 Monroe Ave.; 244-9510, thenuthouseonline.com)
Chow Hound is a food and restaurant news column. Do you have a tip? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.