Grande Skinny 1-pump Vanilla Iced Latte: This is my beverage soul-mate, my One True Drink. Come to mama. And, confidential to Starbucks: you are a corporate mega-giant, your drinks are over-priced, you are just not cool, but I can't quit you. Literally. If I quit, it hurts. (Rest assured: no toddlers were caffeinated in the making of this photo. That's a stunt latte. Please direct all complaints here.)
Le Creuset 8-quart Oval Dutch Oven: Among all the equipment in my kitchen, this is the one I use the most. The original non-stick cookware, these enameled babies can go from stovetop to oven and are perfect for soups, stews, braises, roasts, sauces, curries, and, if dropped, crushing every bone in your foot. My good, kind husband bought me one of these many Christmases ago, and I've used it every single week since. They are a little spendy, but if you prorate that over a lifetime, it's only 2.3 cents per use. (Not really. I just made that up. But it COULD be true.) Also, T.J. Maxx and Marshall's sometimes offer Le Creuset seconds for way below retail.
Trader Joe's Cocoa-Covered Almonds: Whole, toasted almonds covered in dark chocolate and cocoa powder. What more do you need to know? If you buy some, please keep them away from me.
Green Curry Chicken: My favorite Thai dish, forever and ever. When it is good, it is nearly magical, and when it is not so good, I'll eat it anyway. A good green curry has a velvety, coconut milk broth, heady with spices, fresh ginger and lemongrass. A good green curry should be served with lots of jasmine rice and be a pleasing mixture of green, white, and every shade in between. A good green curry needs to get in my stomach right now. If you'd like to make some at home, Tyler Florence (Applebee's Sellout! But still cute!) has a pretty good recipe over here.
Bacon Sandwiches: The bacon has got to be crispy, crispy, crispy. So crispy that it is very nearly burned. The bread should be lightly toasted. The mayo should be perfectly applied: not too liberally, not too stingily, and most certainly not of the fat-free variety because that stuff tastes like paste and, come on, it's a bacon sandwich. Nobody is achieving sainthood here. A little lettuce, a little tomato, and you're set. And here's the secret, shameful part: if we don't have any L or T, I will eat the B anyway. Bacon sandwiches are pure, salty comfort.
Eva Zeisel Classic Century Dishes at Crate and Barrel: I love the beautiful (but functional) work of American sculptor Eva Zeisel, and her original pieces are collector's items. Lucky for mid-century enthusiasts, Crate and Barrel released an entire line of new dinnerware designed by Ms. Zeisel. The catalog describes these pieces as "sensuous, multi-functional shapes with a pedigreed past...reborn for a new century. Originally designed in 1952...this timeless tabletop art makes a comeback in a creamy neutral." Sensuous. Creamy. Oh, mercy. The serving pieces, which are especially organic and sculptural, are my favorites and make excellent gifts. For me.
The Best Creamy Brie Soup in the History of Time: A long time ago, my dear friend Kelly had a daddy who ran a faaahhncy restaurant in an historic hotel in downtown Boise. There he served a little first-course soup, a soup made with wild mushrooms and cream and topped with a crusty crouton of bread and hot, melting Brie cheese, a soup so decadently rich and creamy and artery-exploding that you'd have to taste it to believe it. And, since I'm a giver, here's a link to the recipe. Please exercise caution when eating. Also, exercise.
White Stilton with Ginger and Mango: This is cheese as religious experience: a sharp, crumbly English Stilton studded with candied bits of tangy ginger and mango, a beautiful coming-together of sweet and salty. It tastes amazing with a crisp, cold glass of your favorite dry white. I wish people gave out big wedges of this at Christmas instead of fruitcake. If you're a cheese purist, you'll probably turn up your nose, but, I'm sorry: you're wrong and quite possibly French.
Furikaki Chex Mix: We have lots of family living in Hawaii (Hi, Chris!) and they are the white devils who introduced us mainlanders to this snack. Another food that so perfectly scratches the sweet-salty itch, it is like normal Chex Mix but much, much worse for you. This mix features cereal, pretzels, peanuts, and cashews slow-baked in a buttery, gooey syrup with a little soy sauce and Furikaki rice seasoning thrown in. Sounds weird, tastes like sin. There's a recipe over here, but it's not quite right. I'll scare up the official family version and post it later. (Chrissy: e-mail it to me!)
Sofia Blanc de Blanc Minis: Four words for you: champagne in a can. And the can is wee and raspberry pink and it comes with a tiny, telescoping straw for sipping. The champagne, from Francis Ford Coppola and his daughter, Sofia, is pretty darn good, the packaging kind of irresistible, and the portioning makes a perfect little treat for certain thirsty (but lactating) people with champagne-hating spouses. The box of four would be a lovely, all-purpose Christmas gift or stocking stuffer. For me. (If you want a chuckle, check out the teensy-bit pretentious Sofia Mini website.)
Natural Apple Cider: After all that booze and sugar and fat, I thought we'd clean things up a bit. Recent studies have shown that natural apple juice (yes, the cloudy kind with floaties) is good for prostate health and may have other cancer-fighting properties. Plus, it tastes so much better than the other stuff. A cold glass of cider really tastes like eating a fresh, juicy apple on a chilly fall day. At Fred Meyer's, I buy the Naturally Preferred Organic Unflitered Apple Juice in the gallon glass jug. It is relatively cheap, organic, and (bonus!) we have lots of equipment available for our hillbilly jug band. Who needs expensive piano lessons?
Microplane Grater: Everyone already knows about these, but they are the best kind of kitchen gadget: slim, multi-functional, and sharp enough to take off your fingerprints if the occasion calls for it. I use mine for grating fresh nutmeg and cinnamon, turning garlic cloves into pulp, shredding hard cheeses, zesting citrus, and abrading my fingertips.
Mulligatawny: If you've never heard of Mulligatawny, today is your lucky day. Because, look! I have a whole post about it right over this-a way.