This list features something for every price point, so whether you need a white elephant gift, party host gift, or a really impressive client gift for any time of the year, you can find something fitting. Towards the end of the list I included products made in Dallas. When possible, I included the link to buy the items on Amazon or directly from the manufacturer. If you find the perfect gift, I would appreciate if you'd give a little back to me by simply clicking through my links so that I may earn an affiliate commission for helping you out. Pleas enjoy…
Jump to a Section of the Guide:
Coravin Wine Access System
This product demo is one of my top 5 most commented-on Instagram posts of all time(!) because what it does is truly unbelievable, but real. Coravin is a wine tool that lets you pour a glass of wine from a corked bottle without removing the cork or ruining the rest of the wine. I was invited to a one-on-one meeting with the inventor, Greg, so you can watch him explain how it works in my 15-second Instagram video:
I learned Greg was/is an inventor of medical devices and needles, but he is also a wine aficionado. He used his knowledge of materials to create a hollow, Teflon-coated needle that can penetrate cork to pour wine while simultaneously replacing the air in the bottle with argon— a tasteless, odorless noble gas. Replacing the lost space of the liquid you pour out is just one key to keeping the wine fresh. He showed me how cork is a naturally elastic enough material to reseal itself, so after you take the tiny, Coravin needle out, you can immediately tip the bottle over and no wine will leak out and no air will go in. With Coravin, restaurants and wineries are now pouring wine by the glass from expensive bottles they previously never would have opened. The Coravin-ed wine should keep indefinitely; one fine bottle he poured for me was dated with its first pour from many months prior.
At home, this is a great tool for solo wine drinkers or couples who don’t want to drink an entire bottle in one sitting. Some people chide, “Why wouldn't you drink the entire bottle at once?” Well, now you could pour yourself a tasting flight of wines with a small pour from several bottles in one night, or you may have a really expensive wine that you want to savor and try with different meals over time. Either way, the possibilities for drinking wine are much greater if you own a Coravin. I wish someone would gift me one!
“Coravin 1000 Wine Access System” - $299.00 at Amazon
Flip-Top Rubber Seal Wine Stoppers
If you can’t afford the perfection of totally re-sealing your wine with a Coravin, these cheap, flip-top wine stoppers with rubber seals are the next best thing. I have personally used this kind of wine stopper for years to keep open wine bottles tasting almost the same for at least another day or two. A rubber gasket on the inside of the lid seals the top of the bottle, preventing most air from getting in and rendering it leak-proof if you need to store the bottle on its side. However, it’s not a scientifically air-tight seal like the Coravin, and it doesn’t replace the lost liquid space with gas, like the Coravin, but it’s the next best thing.
Tip: after I seal my bottle, I place it in the refrigerator, where I think the cold air helps prevent bacteria growth. I can note some changes in taste, but usually it is still good to drink for a few more days. If you want to keep an open wine bottle fresh longer, there really is no substitute for the Coravin. Bonus: these bottle stoppers also seal beer, carbonated liquids (sparkling wine), and other bottles.
“Zyliss leak-proof bottle stopper, assorted colors” - $6.71 at Amazon. (This Zyliss brand has the best reviews of all the rubber bottle stoppers currently in stock on Amazon.)
Erasable Wine Glass Markers - Better Than Wine Charms
After a few sips, it's easy to forget which wine charm is yours, plus wine charms are a pain to store because they get bent and tangled. I think wine glass markers are the perfect solution! You can let guests write their name on their glass. It should take a lot more sips to forget their own name than to forget which charm was theirs! These erasable, metallic markers work on glass, crystal, and glazed ceramics, so you can use them to do a blind tasting by numbering the glasses, write a gift message on a wine bottle, label bowls of dips, or warn guests "this dish contains nuts".
“Wine Glass Writer - Metallic Colors - Pack of 2 - Use Markers on all Glass, Crystal and Glazed Ceramics” - $26.28 at Amazon
Casa Dragones Tequila
Casa Dragones Sipping Tequila is the smoothest, purest, best tasting, most expensive tequila I've ever drank. One bottle usually retails for $275-300, or over $200 per shot in a nice Dallas restaurant. But now they make a more affordable and still excellent version at $75/bottle: Casa Dragones Blanco, a 100% Blue Agave Silver Tequila.
I had the honor of learning how to properly taste tequila and understand the product differences during a one-on-one tasting with the first-ever female, certified "Maestro Tequilero" in the world. What I learned about sniffing the glass blew my mind. First, you need the right glass— NOT a shot glass— a Riedel lead-free crystal Tequila Sipping Glass, similar in shape to a champagne flute. Note the tequila’s color, which indicates its type. Swirl it and watch the legs; this indicates its alcohol/sugar content. Now tip the glass towards you and imagine its tiny opening divided into three zones: bottom, middle, and top. Separately and lightly sniff each zone, and you’ll get three distinct aromas! In their pricier, 100% Blue Agave Joven Sipping Tequila, the bottom of the glass smells like minerals, the middle like oranges, and the top like faint baking spices. Amazing! It has a platinum color, long legs, a burst of sweetness on the palate followed by pure flavors of volcanic minerals and a salty aftertaste, full body smoothness, very little alcohol burn, and a very long finish.
The $275 bottle is hand-blown, lead-free crystal, hand-etched with a pepita design that matches the 2 Riedel glasses in the gift set, which is available in Dallas at Pogo's and Spec’s. Pogo's will also monogram it with hand-etched calligraphy. By contrast, the $75 Blanco is not a handblown bottle. It maintains the Joven's very clean mineral flavor, but is sweeter, smooth but not as smooth, and has a long finish but not as long. It can be sipped but is designed for really great cocktails, as you see at Barter Dallas. It's one of Oprah’s “Favorite Things” for the 2014 holiday season. It goes on sale in Texas in Jan. 2015, but because you’re reading my post, you can pre-order it for delivery via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Casa Dragones Joven Sipping Tequila 750 ml - $239.99 at Total Wine & More (Cheapest price I've seen!)
Casa Dragones Joven Sipping Tequila 750 ml Gift Set with Personalized Bottle - $256.83 at Spec's
Casa Dragones Blanco - $75, only available via email@example.com until Jan. 2015
I had the opportunity to meet the U.S. Reyka Vodka Ambassador this year and talk to him and a Dallas bartender about their visit to the Reyka distillery in Iceland (which sounded like an amazing trip if you ever go to Iceland). The vodka itself surprised me by how remarkably pure, clean, and smooth it tastes. Sure, all vodka is "tasteless", but we all know water is also tasteless, yet you can tell when water has trace elements of other flavors. Same thing with vodka, except there really are no other flavors in this one. This is a grain vodka distilled in small batch Carter-Head copper stills and filtered through Iceland's naturally porous lava rocks, which makes for an excellent filtration system. Then they add 4,000-year old Arctic spring water from deep inside Iceland's glaciers. This ice formed before humans polluted the Earth, so it scientifically tests as one of the purest waters in the world— so pure, that the water scientists initially didn't believe the test results were accurate! "Reyka" means steam or smoke, and as such, this vodka is made with 100% geothermal energy at their zero emissions distillery. This vodka has a mid-shelf price point, but it tastes insanely better than that.
Reyka Vokda 750 ml - $17.99 at Total Wine & More
Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum
This is a bourbon drinker's rum if I could ever make one. If the person you're buying for normally only buys bourbon, it's a pretty sure bet they don't already have this bottle but will be glad when they do. Mount Gay's Black Barrel rum is aged in thickly charred bourbon oak barrels, which gives it flavors of bourbon, vanilla and caramel with a moderately smooth finish. Compare that to Mount Gay Extra Old rum, which is very smooth and has rich vanilla flavors with a hint of spice, but still tastes like rum.
Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum 750 ml - $25.99 on Total Wine & More
Belvedere Mango Passion Vodka
This past spring I was invited to a one-on-one private vodka tasting in Dallas with the London-based creator of Belvedere Vodka’s newest flavor, Mango Passion. Incredibly, she had to blend the mango and passion fruit flavors with five citrus fruits to make these two "exotic" flavors more "approachable" and familiar to American palettes. All Belvedere vodkas are infused with real fruits and no added sugars, which allows cocktails to taste very refreshing and fruity without the sugary, syrupy sweetness often found in beachy drinks. To see what I mean, try Perry’s new Mango Passion vodka champagne cocktail or their martini made with Pink Grapefruit vodka and fresh basil. Both are perfect summer drinks. The sexy black and gold bottle shown is Belvedere's new "Intense Unfiltered 80". Made with a higher quality, low-starch rye, it’s much smoother than regular Belvedere, has a slight saltiness, and almost no alcohol burn. I recommend sipping it straight up or in a dry martini.
Belvedere Mango Passion Vodka 750 ml - $24.99 at Total Wine & More
Belvedere Intense Unfiltered 80 Vodka 750 ml - $35.46 at Spec's
John Besh Cookbook "My New Orleans"
Several of the best meals I ate in 2014 were in Chef John Besh's many restaurants in New Orleans. I also happened to win one of his cookbooks, "My New Orleans", at an event in Dallas when the New Orleans Tourism board brought a NOLA food truck to Dallas. This cookbook really impressed me for the way John's stories and recipes flow together. It starts with explanations of why fresh and sustainable ingredients are important for cooking good food. This is a mantra he takes so seriously as to grow and raise his own ingredients and use every part of the ingredient throughout his restaurants. This is the genius of why he has a high-end restaurant for the finest cuts of pork and a casual restaurant for the basic cuts of pork— all possibly from the same pig from a farm he manages to make sure the animals are eating right and being treated well. Then he breaks down recipes like building blocks, so you can substitute any ingredients that may only be available in New Orleans with ingredients from your area. This makes the recipes seem very flexible and usable for whatever you have on hand, which is how I like to cook anyway. I also appreciate the first chapter of starter basic recipes for common French foods, like roux, hollandaise, pasta, and all kinds of stocks that can be made ahead of time and used in later recipes.
“My New Orleans: The Cookbook" Hardcover - $33.91 at Amazon
“My New Orleans: The Cookbook” Kindle Edition - $9.99 at Amazon
“50 Ways to Eat Cock: Healthy Chicken Recipes with Balls!"
Best cookbook title ever? This is a real recipe book, and it'd be a fabulous gag (ha!) gift for the foodies and chefs on your list, or any white elephant gift. It’s even written by a nutritionist and has a 5-star Amazon rating. Reviewers say it’s not just funny, but has helpful info and great recipes for cooking real food.
“50 Ways to Eat Cock: Healthy Chicken Recipes with Balls!" Paperback - $13.46 at Amazon
“50 Ways to Eat Cock: Healthy Chicken Recipes with Balls!” Kindle Edition - $9.95 at Amazon
A Really Good Extra Virgin Olive Oil
There is so much a creative home chef can do with a life-changing olive oil, like make the best-ever salad dressings and drizzle meats, veggies, and cakes to a fine dining level. Tasting for a good olive oil is a bit like tasting wine. There are differences in color, aroma, viscosity, and flavors, and each type of oil has it's own best application. Even moreso, I like to experiment with infused olive oils, like this Huile d'Olive Extra Virgin Olive Oil infused with garlic. I personally own this brand's oil infused with basil, but I couldn't find it on Amazon. Whatever you do, make sure the impressive olive oil you buy is in a tin that seals out light, because light damages oil.
Huile d'Olive Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oils by O & Co. - $14.00 - 21.50 at Amazon
Gourmet Sea Salts
This Spice Lab Gourmet Sea Salt Sampler Collection #1 includes 11 hard-to-find salts housed in Pyrex test tubes with all natural cork stoppers, sitting in a wooden base handcrafted from discarded shipping pallets. Salts include: Apple Wood Smoked, Murray River Pink, Bali Pyramid, Fleur De Sel France, Cyprus White Flake, Cyprus Rosemary Flake, India Black kala Namak, Pacific Blue Kosher, El Salvador Qab-nab Taab, Bolivian Sunset, and Hawaiian Red Alaea.
The Spice Lab Gourmet Sea Salt Sampler Collection 1 - $49.95 at Amazon
Refrigerator Magnet Spice Containers
Kamenstein Colored Magnetic Storage Tins, Set of 6 - $12.99 at Amazon
A Really Good Knife
A good, balanced, comfortable, sharp knife makes cutting easier, faster, and safer. It's a misconception that dull knives are safer; they require more force to cut, leading to more slippage, and thus more injuries. There are many knife brands, but the really good ones have one solid piece of metal running from the end of the handle to the tip, and they may be hand-forged. Since I first learned about kitchen knives as a teen, Wüsthof has always been the top brand in my mind, even though my parent's didn't own one and neither have I. I wish I did, though.
"The Wusthof Classic Cook’s knife is hand-forged, created by skilled craftsman using a 38-step manufacturing steps. Wustof uses state of the art technology to form the edge of their classic knives creating an exact edge from tip to heel, allowing at-home chefs to prep like a professional chef. Every knife is backed by a manufacturer’s limited lifetime warranty guaranteeing your knife lasts a lifetime."
Wüsthof Knives Store on Amazon
Best Garlic Press Ever
The Pampered Chef Garlic Press - $29.50 at Amazon
Easiest, No-Mess, Non-Electric Can Opener Ever
Kuhn Rikon Slim Safety Lid Lifter, White - $40.00 on Amazon
Dallas Caramel Co. Monthly Subscription Box
It's mentally perplexing how a caramel can be so soft and yet doesn't stick to the wrapper, your fingers, or your teeth. Their flavors are really unique and delicious, too. My favorites are the Original, Cinnamon, Apple, Chai (an international award winner), Bacon, and Sea Salt. The sweet (pun intended) woman who owns and makes these caramels enrolled me in her monthly subscription plan for a year back in January 2014, and I have to admit, I've been looking forward to my shipment of new flavors every month! This is a gift that keeps on giving all year to someone who enjoys sweets and especially caramels.
Caramel of the Month Club - $235.00+ on DallasCaramelCompany.com
Val's Cheesecake Jars
Val's Cheesecake Jars - 5 Jars for $35.00 on ValsCheesecakes.com
Variety Pack of Craft Beer from Local Breweries
Here's one for the guys who love beer and hate shopping for gifts. You can't just go in most stores or bars and buy a variety pack of every local beer, but if you have six beer-drinking friends or a few small holiday parties to go to, you can buy six 6-packs (or twelve 12-packs) and mix them up to create your own variety packs for all of of your friends.
In the Dallas area, local breweries include: Deep Ellum Brewing, Lakewood Brewing, Four Corners, Community Beer, Firewheel, Franconia, Peticolas, Rahr & Sons, and Revolver.
Wine from Dallas Wineries
There are only four wineries in Dallas, but several more in the DFW area in Grapevine and beyond. You could visit the winery and select your favorite bottles of wine or go to a local wine store. Mix and match wineries and give as many bottles as you see fit.
In the city of Dallas, local wineries include: Times 10 Cellars, Fuqua, Inwood Estates, and Calais.