With Christmas less than a week away, it's time to wrap up your holiday shopping. CultureMap is here to give you the scoop on the best gifts for the foodie in your life, whether it's a locally made pecan pie or a cookbook from an area chef.
Backstreet Kitchen: Seasonal Recipes from Our Neighborhood Cafe by Tracy Vaught and Hugo Ortega
Chef Hugo Ortega's new cookbook, released just this November, is a celebration of the 30-year history of Backstreet Cafe. Featuring more than 120 recipes from the restaurant's kitchen and bar, the cookbook was written along with Vaught, the geologist-turned-resturant owner (and Ortega's wife) whose empire also includes Hugo's. It features recipes that align with Backstreet's seasonal, Gulf Coast cuisine. The cookbook is available for sale online and also at the couple's restaurants.
The city's newest food magazine, Sugar & Rice is a collaboration between David Leftwich, whose Twitter account regularly features his stunning dishes created with local ingredients, and Down House partners Chris Cusack, Joey Treadway and chef Benjy Mason. Inspired by high-profile efforts like Swallow and Lucky Peach, the magazine dives deep into under-explored aspects of Gulf Coast food culture.
Also, it looks great. A subscription to Sugar & Rice is perhaps the ultimate foodie gift and an annual subscription — which is extremely affordable — is readily available online.
Cordúa: Foods of the Americas by Michael Cordúa, David Cordúa and John DeMers
Chef Michael Cordúa, the Nicaraguan-born restaurateur behind Houston eateries Churrascos, Amazón Grill and Américas, and his son David created this stunning cookbook to celebrate 25 years of success in the Bayou City. The book focuses on Latin American cuisine and features 99 recipes — including signature dishes from the family's restaurants as well as private family recipes — and just as many beautiful photographs by local photographer Julie Soefer. This book, released just this September, would make the perfect gift for any dedicated foodie, especially those with an interest in South American cuisine.
Holiday Gift Set of Cookbooks from Erin Hicks
Erin Hicks is a home chef who has been eating her way across Houston for the last 10 years. With her extensive knowledge of Houston's food scene, Hicks has written four highly-regarded cookbooks that translate recipes from Houston's best restaurants into dishes that can be made at home: Houston Small Plates & Sips, Houston Classic Desserts, Houston Classic Mexican and Houston Classic Seafood.
After covering the burgeoning food scene in Houston for 19 years, My Table has assembled the third edition of The Ultimate Food-Lover's Guide to Houston. The book, which features 725 listings all carefully divided into six categories, helps one explore Houston's bars, restaurants, markets and more. With the book being so recently-released, chances are your food-loving friends don't own it yet.
Cheese of the Month Club from Houston Dairymaids
With Houston Dairymaids' Cheese of the Month Club, you can give the gift that keeps on giving in the most delicious way possible. This cheesy gift, available in either three or six month subscriptions, gets two artisan cheeses and an accompaniment — such as crackers or jam — sent to your recipient each month. Houston Dairymaids, started by self-proclaimed "cheese professional" Lindsey Schechter, is a purveyor of fine cheeses from both local and national artisans, with her cheese selections available online and in a warehouse in the Heights (open Tuesdays through Sundays).
Handcrafted Holiday Cupcakes from CRAVE
Does your loved one like cupcakes? Oh wait — who doesn't!
CRAVE is currently offering their "Handcrafted Holiday Box" comprised of strawberry, red velvet and dark chocolate cupcakes, beautifully decorated as Santas, reindeer and snowmen. The box, which you must pre-order, is available at both the Uptown and West University locations. If that isn't enough for you, Crave is also offering eggnog and gingerbread cupcakes just for the season.
Brazos Bottom Pecan Pie from Goode Company
Nothing on this list may be quite as Texan as Goode Company's decadent pecan pie, beautifully packaged in a pine box with the words "Made in Texas" branded on each side. With its with rich, gooey filling and topping of pecans harvested from the banks of the Brazos River, this pie is like no other pie. This is a gift that would be appreciated by any recipient — Texan or otherwise — and can easily be ordered on Goode Company's website.
Pies and cupcakes are both excellent, but how about buying a dessert that will be a conversation piece, at least until your family devours it. This riff on the classic French dessert bûche de Noël features devil's food cake, salted caramel frosting and meringue mushrooms.
To order, 832-374-8340 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Assorted wines at D&Q The Beer Station
Overall, 2013 has been a great year for Houston wine enthusiasts with one outstanding new wine bar in Camerata and several restaurants that have either launched or expanded interesting wine programs. On the retail side, former Oxheart sommelier Justin Vann brings his passion for obscure producers and neglected vintages to a carefully chosen selection of wines at essential beer destination D&Q.
While there's always something new on the shelf, Vann tells CultureMap that his top picks for holiday shoppers include Contadino 10 from celebrated natural wine maker Frank Cornelissen, red wine l'opera des vins and, of course, at least a couple bottles of rose. If nothing else, Vann's entertaining shelf talkers that describe one wine as "The Doomsday Device of Flavor" and offer encouragement to reluctant buyers (Hell yeah you should drink Marsala!) are worth the visit themselves.