The Best Food Gifts for Valentine's Day, No Edible Panties!
Did you leave it till the last minute? Well it's not too late to buy one of these gifts for the food lover(s) in your life, ranging from $20 to $50:
A box of chocolates is still the perfect Valentine's Day gift, but you won't score any points with trashy, gloop-filled truffles on plastic trays. Justine Pringle's hand-dipped caramels at Brooklyn's Nunu's are a great standby (12/$20) with a wonderfully chewy texture and dark caramel with just a touch of smoke. Not ready for that kind of commitment? Check out Robert's appraisal of the cheesy heart-shaped boxes in every drugstore this week.
Luxardo's marasco cherries are dark, dense orbs, ideal for classic cocktail-making (or deluxe snacking; try them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream). They're sweet but full of flavor, and far more sophisticated than the tasteless hot-pink maraschinos that used to bob around in your Shirley Temples. The cherries can be hard to find, but Court Street Grocers has them in stock this week ($20/jar).
There's something quite cheeky about offering someone you like a hunk of culatello, a glorious salami made from the pig's upper thighs. Find a good piece from Salumeria Biellese at Murray's.
You don't have to be a high roller to enjoy fish eggs. Buy trout roe (125g/$35) or salmon roe (125g/$25) from Russ and Daughters, and enjoy them simply with crème fraîche on toast and a bottle of cold vodka. Years from now, when you're dropping $1,000 on the good stuff and licking it off mother-of-pearl spoons, you'll remember this fondly.
This collection is edited by poet Kevin Young (you might have seen his sexy poem, Leftovers, as part of the subway's Poetry in Motion series) The Hungry Ear, Poems of Food and Drink ($25) is a slim book full of classic and contemporary food-inspired poetry, from Adrienne Rich on onions, to Elizabeth Alexander on butter. Read them out loud.
I love the work of Vera Balyura, a Ukrainian jeweler based in the East Village. Her strange, beautiful collection includes a brass ring decorated with a wee pig ($48). It's perfect for the omnivorous food lover: The ring is delicate, but the pig looks like a legit, paunchy heritage type.
Forget all that aphrodisiac nonsense. Fresh oysters are always a good way to start a meal, and if you don't already know how to open one, don't be frightened away. Walrus and Carpenter delivers to the city and offers a free shucking lesson when you pick them up, or you can direct your questions to an oyster expert at Wild Edibles. (A basic oyster knife with a thick plastic handle will only set you back an extra $10.)