Omnivore - Culinary gifting

Last year I wrote an article about the best cookbooks of the year in the hopes it would help people with their holiday shopping. For some reason this year the publishing industry neglected to send me very many cookbooks, and so I wasn't able to figure out what the best were ahead of time. Luckily, the folks at Slate did a good job by asking culinary personalities what their favorite cookbooks are. Check it our here.

What I have been sent is a lot of chocolate. It seems there is a new high-end chocolate brand emerging every week. Gone are the days when Godiva was enough to impress the foodie in your life. While I applaud the general upswing in chocolate quality, it does become hard to tell all these brands apart. They all taste pretty much like chocolate. I have come across a couple of exceptions, though. The first is Hotel Chocolat, a company that has recently launched its product in the U.S. after gaining popularity in the U.K. Their website cites a lot of reasons why their chocolate tastes better than most, but I think the main reason is that they use a lot less sugar than other brands, even the high-end brands. Usually a dark chocolate fiend, I especially love Hotel Chocolat's milk chocolate, which actually tastes like cream and chocolate. It wasn't until I tasted this less-sweet version that I realized it was too much sugar that ruins a lot of milk chocolate. Check out their website here.

The other chocolate that has caught my attention this season is Vosges, which has been around for a while and combines all kinds of crazy flavors into their chocolate bars — think Kalamata olives and curry powder. I like their chocolate for its sheer freak factor, and the other day at Star Provisions I found another reason to love them: bacon chocolate. That's right, made with real bacon. I haven't tasted it yet, but in my culinary circle of friends and loved ones the gift-giving possibilities are endless.

Anyone else have ideas for culinary gifts?

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