Christmas Gift Ideas

Grana Padano Pizza at Keste

Grana Padano Pizza at Keste

While waiting in the dentist’s office last week, I had a chance to browse through some of the latest magazines.  Every one had an article about what to buy for last minute Christmas gifts.  They recommended everything from a paperweight (uh, no, thanks) to a whole wardrobe (doesn’t that take a lifetime of shopping?).  I don’t consider myself the most creative gift giver, but I didn’t like any of the ideas.  I can’t imagine anyone buying me a whole wardrobe and when it comes to paperweights, well, let’s just say I have enough!  Instead, I like to give gifts that I like to receive, things that I can eat or drink.  So here are my ideas for great gifts for last minute shoppers:


Averna — Not too sweet, not too bitter, this Sicilian digestivo has subtle flavors of herbs, chocolate and menthol.  Smooth and soothing after a holiday dinner and warming any time.

Panettone — Beautifully wrapped, it makes a perfect ready to give gift.  Ignore the cheap ones which may be made in places other than Italy.  Top producers include Le Tre Marie or Bauli and they are available at many retail shops.  Or you can order one by mail from my friends at  For Christmas breakfast or brunch, I love sliced panetttone toasted, slathered with good butter or mascarpone, and served with a chilled moscato or Asti Spumante.

Prosecco — Sparkling white wine from the Veneto.  We serve it with appetizers or throughout the meal.  Great with fish and seafood for Christmas Eve dinner.  Good producers include Alice, Mionetto, Bisol and Nino Franco.

Grana Padano

Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano — I use both for eating and grating.  Try Grana Padano shaved on a pizza with arugula and prosciutto, as I did recently at Keste.  Troppo buono!  Or serve with fresh pears and grapes, or nuts and dried fruit for dessert.   Both cheeses keep well in the refrigerator so I always have them handy.   Other cheese choices would include aged Montasio,  Piave or Asiago.

Kusmi Christmas Tea

Kusmi Christmas Tea —  Of Russian origin, this 140-year old tea company is very popular in Paris, where I first discovered it.  The Christmas tea is a blend of black tea with vanilla, orange and spice scents and the beautiful tin makes it ideal for gift-giving.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil — Always in good taste and so useful.  If you are not sure which one to buy, go to a good store like Di Palo on Grand Street where you can sample a variety of oils before you buy.

Chestnut Honey — Drizzle some on gorgonzola, or on that toasted panettone.  Heavenly!  The best come from Piedmont and Umbria in Italy.

Coluccio DOP San Marzano Tomatoes — Something akin to a diamond bracelet for a cook like me, I use these tomatoes all the time.  They are meaty and full of flavor and make terrific ragu.

When in doubt, get a gift basket from D. Coluccio and Sons, Di Palo Selects, or  There’s still time!

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1 Joanne Borkoski { 12.21.09 at 5:07 PM }

Great gift ideas, Michele. I especially welcomed the info re: preferred panettone brands. Only recently discovered it’s similar to sweet breads I grew up with. So nice to be able to buy something as good or better than homemade.

2 Michele Scicolone { 12.21.09 at 6:40 PM }

Hi, Jo,
Maybe not as good as you can make! But the good ones are terrific.
Have a great holiday!

3 Beatrice { 12.22.09 at 10:01 AM }

ciao Joanne, i write from Gustiamo, the website Michele suggested for the panettone. it is baked by Angelo Marchesi in his Antica Dolceria in Milano. we always order very few, since it is a very expensive product and it is so fresh, it needs to be flown in. sorry to say we sold out. (we are taking reservation for 2010!) not even one left for me.
i agree with Michele, if you can make the bread, there is no comparison, even with the best ones. tonight i’ll receive a panettone baked by a friend of mine and i can’t wait!

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    • Michele Scicolone