More Scrumptious Gifts

Stash Tea's holiday "Christmas in Paris'' is elegant and evocative.
Stash Tea’s holiday “Christmas in Paris” is elegant and evocative.

Stash Tea’s 2021 Limited-Edition Holiday Flavors

When the weather turns blustery, a hot cup of tea really hits the spot, especially when it’s a brew with a special holiday flavor.

Oregon’s Stash Tea has got you covered, whether you want to treat yourself or gift friends or family. Choose from half a dozen flavors made especially for this festive season: Christmas in Paris, Licorice Spice, Holiday Chai, Christmas Eve, Christmas Morning, and White Christmas.

Choose from black, white, and herbal tea blends, either in convenient tea bags or loose leaf. I had a chance to try samples recently.

“Christmas in Paris”is an herbal blend with big hits of cocoa, lavender and peppermint, that makes you imagine sitting at a cafe on the Champs-Elysees enjoying this elegant tea. The “Holiday Chai” black tea will warm you up thoroughly with its cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and Jamaican rum flavor. And the “Christmas Eve” herbal tea with orange, cinnamon and clove is just the ticket for sipping in pajamas as you slide the last presents under the tree in anticipation of the next morning.

Six flavors of holiday Stash Teas to celebrate the season.
Six flavors of holiday Stash Teas to celebrate the season.

A box of 18 tea bags is $3.95. A Holiday Sampler Trio of three boxes of different teas is $12.95, while a Six-Flavor Seasonal Teas Gift Box is $24.95. The loose leaf starts at $8.75 (depending on the variety) for 100 grams.

Oryx Desert Salts From South Africa

You can now find a taste of the remote Kalahari Desert in South Africa at Whole Foods stores near you.

Oryx Desert Salts are harvested from underground streams running through ancient rock formations 280 million years old, then sun-dried. The salt is organic and unprocessed, with naturally occurring minerals including magnesium, zinc and potassium.

Oryx Desert Salts, regular (right) and smoked (left).
Oryx Desert Salts, regular (right) and smoked (left).

I had a chance to try samples of the regular salt and the smoked version. The crystals are more compact and crunchy than, say, lighter, fluffier, moist Maldon Sea Salt. They’re also larger in size than Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt.

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Chewy Ginger Spice Cookies with Ras El Hanout

Chewy ginger cookies with the depth of ras el hanout.
Chewy ginger cookies with the depth of ras el hanout.

After seasoning a lamb dish spectacularly, my leftover ras el hanout had been languishing forlornly in my pantry.

Remnants of this aromatic and punchy Moroccan spice blend were badly in need of a purpose and home.

Thankfully, the ideal one arrived in the form of “Chewy Ginger Spice Cookies with Ras El Hanout.”

Ras El Hanout is Arabic for “top shelf.” Like liquor at a bar, it connotes the best a mixologist or spice shop owner has to offer.

It’s a blend that can consist of more than a dozen spices, including cardamom, cumin, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, coriander, peppercorns, paprika, fenugreek, turmeric, fennel seeds, aniseed, and galangal.

I’ve always associated it with savory cooking. But this clever cookie recipe demonstrates just how well it takes to sweet preparations, as well.

The recipe is from the new cookbook, “Flavors of the Sun: The Sahadi’s Guide to Understanding, Buying, and Using Middle Eastern Ingredients” (Chronicle Books), of which I received a review copy.

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The Beauty of Washoku Cuisine at Nisei

Scallop with pine nut miso and pine nut brittle at Nisei.
Scallop with pine nut miso and pine nut brittle at Nisei.

When you enter Nisei in San Francisco’s Russian Hill neighborhood, you may experience a little deja vu if you’ve dined at Michelin two-starred Californios in SoMa.

The walls are a dramatic dark charcoal, just like at that daring, high-end Mexican restaurant. Both establishments were designed by Carolyn Cantu, co-owner of Californios, to create a cloistered yet elegant atmosphere. Some of the plateware are rough-hewed. minimalist matte gray at both, too.

And of course, there’s also an uncanny banana-caviar dish at each that will leave you talking long after you’ve taken the last bite.

It’s all not by coincidence, but in tribute, as Nisei Chef David Yoshimura was formerly the chef de cuisine of Californios. He opened Nisei in August to spotlight washoku cuisine or Japanese home-cooking that has deep reverence for seasonality and purity of flavor, and is often centered around rice.

In other words, don’t come expecting California rolls and chicken teriyaki. In much the same way that Chef Val Cantu doesn’t do burritos necessarily, but has broadened the definition of Mexican food, Yoshimura, who also worked at New York’s cutting-edge wd-50, does so with Japanese-American food, serving a 12-course tasting menu for $184.

Nisei does not offer outside dining, though its Bar Iris next door, which serves up Asian-inspired craft cocktails and small bites, has a parklet. If you dine inside at Nisei, the host will carefully check your ID and proof of vaccination before seating you. When I was invited in as a guest of Nisei recently, the restaurant actually let my husband and I sit by ourselves in the private dining room — with its own portable air filter system off in a corner — since the room wasn’t otherwise booked.

The embroidered kimono hanging on the wall in the private dining room.
The embroidered kimono hanging on the wall in the private dining room.

While the main dining room is adorned with brightly colored murals, the private dining room is more sedate with a gorgeous kimono hanging on one wall, and a unique triptych on another that’s over-layed with gold leaf designed to flake off over time, altering the work’s composition naturally. Fleetwood Mac and other classic rock tunes play over the sound system to impart a casualness to it all, despite the room’s inherent grace.

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Baked Jelly Donuts

Yup, these babies are baked -- not fried.
Yup, these babies are baked — not fried.

Who doesn’t love a fresh, warm jelly donut?

But making them at home can seem like way more trouble than they’re worth. Better to just buy a bunch at your favorite donut shop, right?

Wrong.

Leave it to San Jose’s Beth A. Lee, founder of the OMG! Yummy blog to devise a recipe for a baked version that’s really not much more difficult than making biscuits.

The recipe is from her new cookbook, “The Essential Jewish Baking Cookbook: 50 Traditional Recipes for Every Occasion” (Rockridge Press), of which I received a review copy.

The book includes 50 recipes, each of which are handily labeled as to whether they are dairy-free, nut-free, gluten-free, pareve, or vegan, too.

Enjoy everything from “Deli-Style No-Knead Rye Bread” and “Ready-For-Lox Homemade Bagels” to “Blintz Casserole” and “Pecan and Raisin Schnecken.”

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Scrumptious Holiday Gifts

A fresh-baked batch of madeleines made with and finished with Adagio Teas Whipped Cinnamon Honey.
A fresh-baked batch of madeleines made with and finished with Adagio Teas Whipped Cinnamon Honey. (Photo by Carolyn Jung)

Flavored Whipped Honeys From Adagio

Add a unique punch of sweetness to a cup of tea or favorite baking recipes with Adagio Teas’ flavored whipped honeys in Cinnamon, Chocolate or Matcha.

I had a chance to try samples recently of these thick, spreadable honeys. The Matcha is sweet with a slightly astringent and grassy note that lingers. The Chocolate is quite floral from the honey, which dominates, with the chocolate, itself, more a background player. Ooh, the Cinnamon is like a Red Hot, spicy on the palate with a pronounced cinnamon warmth.

The Matcha is a fun way to sweeten a matcha latte. The Chocolate can be drizzled over pancakes, waffles or marble pound cake. The cinnamon is delicious in any black tea. Or heavenly in a batch of these Honey Madeleines by Pastry Chef Claudia Fleming. The cinnamon taste in the madeleines will end up fairly subtle unless you add more oomph with a pinch or two of ground cinnamon to the batter. For a final touch, enjoy the warm madeleines dribbled with more of the Cinnamon Whipped Honey.

Thick and spreadable, whipped flavored honeys.
Thick and spreadable, whipped flavored honeys. (Photo by Carolyn Jung)

A 4-ounce jar of any of the flavors is $10; a 12-ounce jar is $19.

Onsuri Extra-Virgin Olive Oils From Jordan

When you think of quality extra-virgin olive oils, the countries of Spain, Italy, and Greece readily spring to mind, along with the Golden State of California.

But Ziad Bilbeisi wants you to get to know olive oil from his native Jordan.

Starting from scratch in a desolate, high-desert area of his native Jordan, he has created the largest family-owned olive estate in that country that includes a state-of-the-art, solar-powered boutique olive oil company, Onsuri.

Onsuri's Discovery Set includes four small bottles of different extra-virgin olive oils.
Onsuri’s Discovery Set includes four small bottles of different extra-virgin olive oils. (Photo by Carolyn Jung)

All the olive oils are graded “extra-premium,” a distinction few olive oils in the world have, according to Bilbeisi. It means they contain less than a 0.3 percent level of unstable fatty acids, and are extremely high in polyphenol compounds, which are powerful antioxidants.

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