11 Savvy Gifts for the Foodie

iStock
iStock

Whether it’s the friend who makes you wait in two-hour brunch lines or the uncle who starts planning Thanksgiving in August, you likely have at least one foodie in your life. This holiday season, indulge their gastronomic side with one of these delectable gifts.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. Short Stack Editions

Cover of cookbook.
Amazon

Entering the kitchen can be daunting, even with a well-written book of recipes at your side. The Short Stack series of cookbooks keeps things simple. Each slim volume focuses on a single ingredient and contains 20 to 25 relevant recipes written by a different culinary professional. Butter, avocados, chocolate, and tahini are just a few of the featured themes. And when the books are not being used to whip up recipes, the colorful, textured paper covers make them lovely to look at.

Find It: Amazon for $14 and up and at these other retailers:

2. Horseshoe Brand Hot Sauces and Barbecue Sauces Six-pack

Row of hot sauces.
Horseshoe Brand

Horseshoe Brand sells 11 varieties of small-batch hot sauce and barbecue sauce. If you can’t pick just one bottle for the condiment-lover in your life, the Hudson Valley, New York-based company offers a six-pack. Mix and match to create the perfect set of sauces from their line, which includes roasted garlic, kiwi jalapeño, and hot barbecue sauce.

Find It: Horseshoe Brand for $30

3. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat By Samin Nosrat

Cover of cookbook.
Amazon

Forget specialized kitchen gadgets and artisanal ingredients. The key to most good meals, cookbook author Samin Nosrat claims, comes down to just four components: salt, fat, acid, and heat. In the author's beloved book (which even inspired a Netflix series), she reduces over 100 basic recipes to these elements. With Nosrat’s sharp insights and Wendy MacNaughton’s playful illustrations as a guide, the readers of this book will develop essential cooking instincts.

Find It: Amazon for $21

4. Very Veggie Spice Collection

veggie spice blend collection
Uncommon Goods

Save your vegetarian loved one the labor of finding the perfect spices to pair with their meat-free dishes. This set includes seven sweet-and-savory blends—Manchego & roasted garlic, chipotle parmesan, chili lime, Asian curry and honey, balsamic and roasted onion, and parmesan mediterranean—which have been slow-dried and then quickly ground and jarred to preserve flavor. One taste of the seasonings will ruin the supermarket stuff for good.

Find It: Uncommon Goods for $26

5. MOLECULE-R CUISINE R-EVOLUTION KIT

Box of cooking supplies.
Amazon

Molecular gastronomy isn’t limited to Michelin-starred chefs working out of space-aged kitchens. With this kit, anyone can create futuristic dishes from their kitchen at home. The package contains pipettes, food additives, tubes, a mold, spoons, and a syringe. A DVD walks home chefs through 50 impressive recipes, making dishes like mint caviar beads, chocolate spaghetti, and tzatziki spheres as approachable as they are tasty.

Find It: Amazon for $43 and at these other retailers:

6. Balsamic Vinegar Of ModenA

Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
Food52

It’s easy enough to find basic balsamic vinegar at your local supermarket, but if you want to find something that goes beyond the basic stuff, you’ll have to search harder. All bottles of this product come from a real vinegar house in Modena, Italy, a.k.a. the balsamic vinegar capital of the world. Its authenticity comes through in the flavor. With no additives or caramels muddying the taste, every drop is pure, concentrated balsamic.

Find It:

7. Chefsteps Joule Sous Vide

Food cooking in a pot.
Amazon

Flavorful fish and perfectly-cooked steaks are just a quick sous-vide away from the dining room table. If you know someone who would geek out over an immersion circulator, this is the one to get them. It stands less than a foot tall and weighs 1.3 pounds, making it half the size of similar products. And unlike traditional sous vide tools, this one connects to smart devices via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. The app relays updates on the food as it cooks. Dinner has never been so hard to screw up.

Find It: Amazon for $199 and at these other retailers:

8. Pizza Rescue Kit

Vials of spices next to a box.
Uncommon Goods

In a perfect world, every slice of pizza would leave you wanting more. But unfortunately, there’s no shortage of mediocre pies out there. That’s why a group of New York pizza aficionados created the Pizza Rescue Kit. The three vials contain black truffle salt, aleppo pepper, and an Italian herb blend. Pizza lovers can sprinkle the seasonings on frozen pizza or $1 parlor slices to elevate them to gourmet status.

Find It: Uncommon Goods for $15

9. Turntable Kitchen Pairings Box; 1 Month For $25

Vinyl disc and food recipe.
Turntable Kitchen

This gift is for the person in your life who treats food like a cultural experience. Each monthly box of this subscription contains two parts: a recipe and curated music to complement it. Home cooks can drop the 7-inch vinyl onto their turntable and listen to new music from artists like Basecamp and Cathedrals while they cook. Once that track is over, they can transition to the digital mix tape that comes with the subscription. The food portion of the gift includes three seasonal recipes, one or two premium ingredients, and tasting notes.

Find It: Turntable Kitchen

10. SHERRY B CUSTOM ICE CREAM CAKE SANDWICHES SIX-PACK

Ice cream sandwiches.
Goldbely

Ice cream cakes are usually reserved for special occasions; this six-pack of ice cream cake sandwiches from Sherry B Dessert Studio makes it easy to enjoy the treat anytime and anywhere. Choose six flavors from options like birthday cake, purple velvet, Fluffernutter, and Blackout ice cream. The treats weigh nearly half a pound, so hopefully you can convince the giftee to share.

Find It: Goldbelly for $99

11. Antidote Dark Chocolate Bars Six-Pack

Gourmet chocolate bars.
Amazon

These gourmet chocolate bars are flavored with exotic ingredients like cardamom, mango, and cayenne. But in each variety, the cocoa takes the starring role. Antidote chocolate is made with Arriba Nacional beans from Ecuador that have been slow-roasted to create a rich depth of flavor. Little to no sugar is added: Instead the chocolate is mixed with real spices and chunks of fruit.

Find It: Antidote Chocolate for $43

Make Taking Out the Trash Your Easiest Chore With This Self-Sealing Trash Can

townew
townew

“What died in here?” is a question most homeowners (and renters) have asked themselves at some point after discovering that their kitchen trash can is no match for the festering odor of raw chicken trimmings, rotting cantaloupe rinds, balsamic vinaigrette runoff, and everything else that they've discarded that week.

The folks at Knectek Labs have invented a trash can that’ll ensure you never have to ask yourself, or anyone else, that question again. The multi-talented gadget, called townew, not only seals in odors, it also seals and changes the trash bag for you. All you have to do is press a button, wait a few seconds for townew to seal the bag, then toss it in the dumpster while townew replaces the bag for you.

Townew is also smart enough to detect when the trash can is overflowing (which is always your roommate’s fault and never yours, of course) and will lift the entire top compartment in order to seal the bag without any spillage.

To open the lid, simply wave your hand over the top of townew; it’ll stay open for several seconds and close automatically. Need it to stay open for longer? Tap the button on the front of the machine and townew will keep its lid open until you tap the button again. When the bin is full and it’s time to take out the trash, hold the button for three seconds, and townew will seal the bag for you.

Townew is manufactured with acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, an engineering-grade plastic built to withstand humidity and temperature changes as well as chemical and physical impacts, so it won’t let a mid-summer heat wave stink up your kitchen and it won’t get demolished by your mischievous dog. It’s the same plastic that LEGO uses for many of its bricks—and if you’ve ever stepped on one of those, you know just how durable it is.

Just once a month, you’ll have to do two small tasks: replace townew’s recyclable refill ring, which contains 25 trash bags, and charge its 2000 mAh battery for 10 hours.

A townew trash can in an office
townew

The 15.8-inch-tall trash can comes in teal or white, and its sleek, tech-chic design will blend seamlessly with the decor of any room. Indiegogo’s early bird special includes the trash can and four refill rings for $70—shipping is free, and estimated delivery is scheduled for this September. Check out other buying options here.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

7 Useful Products With a Lifetime Guarantee

iStock.com/billnoll
iStock.com/billnoll

It’s worth it to splurge on a new pair of shoes or a set of good knives if you know they'll last forever—or if they don't, that their maker will repair or replace them for free. Here’s a round-up of seven useful everyday items that come with a manufacturer's lifetime guarantee.

1. Le Creuset Cookware

A Le Creuset cookware set
Le Creuset's five-piece cookware set in cherry
Le Creuset, Amazon

We know that $350 seems like a steep price to pay for a 5.5-quart Dutch oven. However, plenty of cooking enthusiasts are willing to shell out top dollar for iconic French cookware manufacturer Le Creuset’s enamel cast-iron pots, casserole dishes, and skillets.

The colorful kitchen tools are attractive and durable, plus they distribute heat evenly. An added bonus? Each item comes with a lifetime limited warranty. "Defective cookware will be replaced free of charge, or replaced by a similar product or one of equivalent value if the product is no longer in production," Le Creuset’s website states.

Of course, you can’t just swap your grandmother’s ancient Le Creuset casserole dish (or the one you bought on eBay) for a new model if it chips or breaks. You have to be the item’s original owner. The warranty also "does not cover damage from abuse, commercial use or other non-consumer use, neglect, abnormal wear or tear, overheating, or any use not in accordance with the cookware instructions provided with the utensil." In other words, it needs to be obvious that the cookware has worn down with consistent use (and that you didn't accidentally scorch it in a kitchen fire).

Get one of the brand's signature Dutch ovens (or a five-piece set) on Amazon, Sur La Table (which regularly runs sales on its pricier cookware) the Le Creuset website, or at these other retailers:

2. Zippo Lighters

A black Zippo matte pocket lighter
Zippo, Amazon

We’re not endorsing smoking, but portable butane lighters can be useful if you’re camping and need a quick and easy fire source. Plus, many people find flicking a lighter’s tiny switch to be less intimidating than lighting a match.

If you do plan on purchasing a lighter for household or outdoor use, make it a Zippo. Founded in 1932, the iconic company’s trademarked slogan is “It works or we fix it free." No matter how old or damaged your pocket lighter, you can ship it to Zippo. They’ll promptly repair or replace it—but keep in mind that this warranty only extends to real Zippos, and not toward counterfeit lighters. (Factories in China reportedly make around 12 million fake Zippos a year.) Wondering if you own the real thing? The Wall Street Journal produced a handy video back in 2011 that teaches you how to distinguish a genuine Zippo from a fake.

Get one of Zippo's genuine Windproof Lighters on Amazon for $10 and up.

3. JanSport Backpacks

A black JanSport backpack
JanSport's SuperBreak backpack
JanSport, Amazon

If the trusty JanSport backpack you purchased in high school is starting to look a little threadbare, you can send it—or for that matter, any one of the brand’s packs, bags, or luggage items—back to its warranty center in Alameda, California. Depending on the damage, JanSport will repair it, replace it, or refund it.

Repairs will take anywhere from four to six weeks, depending on the season, and while you pay the initial shipping charges, JanSport absorbs the bag’s return costs. However, JanSport doesn’t claim responsibility for “direct, incidental or consequential damages." Your pack's wear and tear should stem from good old-fashioned use—not because, say, it got shredded by a luggage carousel.

Get one for yourself from JanSport's website or on Amazon, where the classic SuperBreak model is currently $33. It's also available at Backcountry.com ($36) and Walmart $32 and up).

4. Craftsman Tools

A 193-piece tool set
Craftsman 193-piece mechanic’s tool set
Craftsman, Amazon

While Craftsman also makes work clothing and lawn and garden equipment, the brand is most famous for its hand tools. Most of them are advertised as having an unlimited lifetime warranty, meaning they'll be repaired or replaced free of charge if they're no longer in tip-top shape. (For a full list of which tools qualify, visit Craftsman’s website.)

Stores take Craftsman's warranty pretty seriously. In 2009, Consumer Reports’s website, the Consumerist, wrote that a California man was refused a full warranty when he visited Sears and tried to trade in some of his grandfather’s old Craftsman tools. (At the time, Craftsman was controlled by Sears Holdings, though it has since been acquired by Stanley Black & Decker.) The man was reportedly denied replacements because some of the tools had rusty sockets.

He sent an angry letter to Sears, and one of the corporation’s vice presidents, David Figler, replied by issuing a statement to the Consumerist: "Craftsman tools have a heritage of performance and trust,” Figler wrote. “I want to assure you and your readers we stand behind the warranty—complete satisfaction—period.” He assured the website that he had communicated with Sears's sale associates to rectify the error.

Check out Craftsman's products at Amazon, Lowes, or Sears. You can get a 230-piece Craftsman mechanic's tool set on sale for $99 at Sears right now.

5. HARDENCO Jeans

A pair of denim jeans
HARDENCO's 010 Jean

Founded in 2010, HARDENCO (also known as Hartford Denim Co.) is a small, old-school clothing manufacturer in Connecticut that produces raw denim jeans. Made by hand on antique sewing machines, they're designed to last forever. However, since all jeans rip and fray, the company's clothing also comes with a lifetime of free repairs. (On their website, the company. explains that it gets the chance to “improve our work and get to know our customers a little better" by mending your pants gratis.) And if you own a pair of worn jeans that weren't made by HARDENCO, they'll still fix them up for you for a charge.

The company's classic jeans are $285.

6. Eagle Creek Bags

An Eagle Creek cargo backpack
Eagle Creek's 60-liter Cargo Hauler

All products sold by the California-based outfitter Eagle Creek—which happens to be one of our favorite eco-friendly brands—comes with what it calls a "no matter what" warranty. "Eagle Creek is synonymous with quality," the company's warranty page assures customers. "Every buckle, zipper, and fabric choice is meticulously selected and then analyzed after rigorous lab testing. After it’s built, we take it to the road to make sure it can handle real-world travel abuse. And it does." If anything does go wrong with your bag, you can send it back to Eagle Creek, which will repair or replace it for you. (However, the guarantee doesn't apply to accidents that fall outside the scope of "normal use" of your duffel bag or pack: " For instance, Eagle Creek wheels can withstand cobblestone streets, but are not built to be run-over by a train," the company warns.)

If you're not sure where to start with Eagle Creek, our favorite product is the Cargo Hauler duffel bag, a water-resistant duffel with removable backpack straps, an inner divider to keep your stuff organized, and lockable zippers. When it's not in use, it can be folded up to fit in its own front pocket, making it easy to throw in a larger suitcase if you're planning on returning with more stuff than you're taking. (It also makes it a cinch to store once you get home.) It comes in 40-liter, 60-liter, 90-liter, and wheeled 110-liter options.

Eagle Creek also makes a ton of other travel essentials, from packing cubes to airplane pillows to laptop bags. You can check out all its offerings here.

7. L.L. Bean Boots

If you own a pair of L.L. Bean boots, chances are they’ve outlasted every other pair of footwear in your closet. The durable rubber-and-leather shoes are hand-stitched in the company’s Brunswick, Maine factory. They’re designed to survive every single camping trip, rainy day, or hiking excursion—but if they don’t, L.L. Bean will let you trade them in for a new pair, no questions asked, for up to a year. In fact, this policy extends to every single store purchase.

"We stand behind all our products and are confident that they will perform as designed," the company writes on its website.

Up until early 2018, L.L. Bean's famously generous return policy—which didn't even require a receipt—was good for the entire lifetime of the company's products. Apparently, enough unscrupulous customers abused the program (buying items from garage sales and then returning them for full credit, for instance) that it cost the company as much as $250 million in one five-year period. As a result, the no-questions-asked lifetime guarantee now only applies to products purchased before 2018.

However, when it comes to product defects, L.L. Bean is still true to its original policy. If you bring a product in that has a defect or has broken down due to poor craftsmanship, the company will still consider it for a return regardless of the purchase date.

Shop the company's beloved boots for men, women, and children here.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

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