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.

The regular salt has a clean taste that’s soft, not harsh on the palate. The smoked one does indeed have a nice smoky taste with an umami quality to it.

These would be great for cooking or finishing a steak or even adding a pinch to chocolate chip cookies.

The salts also can be purchased on Amazon. They sell for about $6.90 for 3.52 ounces of salt in a bottle with its own built-in grinder.

Impactful OneHope Wines

Bringing a bottle of wine to a holiday gathering? Why not choose one that not only tastes great, but gives back, too?

Napa Valley’s OneHope winery does exactly that with every bottle it makes and sells. Since it was founded in 2007, it has raised nearly $8 million to support local and international causes around hunger, water, health and education.

OneHope wines that give back.
OneHope wines that give back.

OneHope was founded by CEO Jake Kloberdanz, a former district sales manager for E&J Gallo Winery. He was inspired to create this charitable enterprise after a childhood friend was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma at the age of 22.

I had a chance to try two samples recently. The 2020 OneHope Pinot Noir ($40) from Monterey County is aged in French oak for 10 months, adding a hint of vanilla and sassafras to its bold cranberry and cherry profile.

The 2019 Rutherford Estate Sauvignon Blanc ($45) is elegant and juicy with peach, papaya and citrus notes. It would be lovely with chilled Dungeness crab for Christmas.

Seka Hills Estate Olio Nuovo

With its robust flavor, just-pressed olive oil is always something to look forward to each year.

Seka Hills Estate Olio Nuovo 2021 ($16 for 250ml bottle), of which I received a sample, is lively with the scent of fresh olives and bay leaves. It’s peppery with just the slightest bitter edge like arugula or watercress.

This year's new oil from Seka Hills.
This year’s new oil from Seka Hills.

Milled and bottled in mid-October, the oil is meant to be used within a couple of months. So use it liberally to dunk artisan bread in or to finish dishes just before serving such as salads, pastas, grilled fish, stewed beans, baked potatoes or even a scoop of gelato finished with a sprinkle of sea salt.

The nifty, built-in spout for easy pouring.
The nifty, built-in spout for easy pouring.

The bottles are very well designed, made of dark glass to keep light from deteriorating the oil, and with a built-in pouring spot that springs up when the cap is unscrewed.

The oil is a product of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, who sustainably manage more than 24,000 acres in the Capay Valley.

“Gastro Obscura” For Those Hungry For Food Knowledge

“Gastro Obscura: A Food Adventurer’s Guide” (Workman) is not a cookbook per se, but it will definitely prime the appetite for tasting the world.

Written by Cecily Wong and Dylan Thuras, the folks behind the well-known travel guide book, “Atlas Obscura,” this sister tome takes you on a flavor-filled journey around the globe to discover and discern ingredients, foods, drinks, festivals, and cultural touchstones that will delight, surprise and illuminate.

Did you know there was once something called a mustache cup in Great Britain during the Victorian Age? It was a tea cup with a patented wing-shaped ledge that created a barrier between the liquid and a gentleman’s facial hair, so as not to muss it as he sipped. Or that as part of a 10-day festival usually in February or March in Kerala that 4 million women from all over India gather there to make rice pudding in honor of the goddess Bhadrakali? It’s considered the largest spiritual gathering of females in the world. Or that egg rolls are popular all over Senegal? That’s because many Senegalese soldiers recruited by France in the French Indonesian War were stationed in Vietnam, where they married local women, who later accompanied them back to Senegal after the French were defeated. The women set up stalls in food markets there, frying “nem,” spring rolls filled with glass noodles and ground meat or shrimp that became a hit.

“Gastro Obscura” serves up a stupendous feast of fascinating facts and stories sure to leave you satiated.

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