Hortus’ 2016 Gift Guide

This year, I decided to put together a little list of Italian-inspired gifts, paired with some of my American favorites.
This idea was born from my days roaming the shelves of New York stores, full of excellent products that I wished like crazy someone could just drop before my door.
There is a little known fact, and one I am almost intimidated to say out loud to my fellow countrymen: many of the most excellent Italian products I know, I discovered in New York. Wether it was at Whole Foods, in specialty stores like Di Palo’s, or even at a supermarket like Fairways, Italian artisanal products were everywhere to be found.

Fast forward to 2016, when I started to work with Italian food&wine export, and I discovered that most of our best products get shipped out to the US, China or the Arab Emirates. Of which, I must say, I am quite glad: I am glad that the rest of the world have access to some incredible food produced in this generous country, and I am glad that the world seems to appreciate it so much.

I have never stressed much over gifts – mostly because I’ve only ever made gifts to people I am extremely close to, but I understand that they can be a struggle for many. 

When in doubt, I resort to food.

It is usually a gift that can be made on a budget, and one for which you can really care about quality. After all, the best pasta you can possibly buy will hardly ever sell for over 6 ~ 8$.It is useful and hardly ever wasteful. And, if your edible gifts are carefully selected, they will make for an even more heartfelt gift. 

So, reminiscent of my experience in the States, when I discovered that brands such as Pasta Mancini and Italian truffles were to be found through Amazon if not at a physical store, I was inspired to put together a little list of Italian-inspired gift for the foodie who’s dreaming of Europe, ranging from totally affordable to slightly pricier but of very high value. This list aims to be a marriage of American and Italian finesse that would make every food aficionado, I am sure, very very happy. At least, I know for sure they would make me happy to say the least.

Furthermore, you can find some link love for further inspiration at the bottom of this post!

What are your favorite Italian products that you can find in your country? And what are some of your favorite homemade gifts to make? Leave a comment below!

Food, Wine & Books

Hortus' 2016 Gift Guide | Hortus Natural Cooking

{ The Pantry }

1. /Bitterman Salt Co. Cervia salt
I was surprised to see, amongst Bittmann’s array of salts, one coming from Cervia. Cervia, a town in Romagna, not far from where I live, is famous for its high quality, hand-harvested salt. It will make a perfect finishing salt – as would most wonderful salts of the same brand.

2. /Pasta
I am fond of Pasta Mancini Pastificio, which I discovered for the first time in NY. They make small batch pasta with the wheat they grow themselves around their factory near Fermo, Marche. Their pasta has great texture, thickness and quality.
Other brands I like are Monograno Felicetti and Alta Valle Scrivia. If looking for a nice US-made pasta, have a look at Sfoglini.

3. /Aceto Balsamico (Modena Balsamic Vinegar)
Aceto Tradizionale di Modena, the real, aged balsamic vinegar which can only be made in the province of Modena according to Italian Law, comes in small bottles and kind of big prices, but it is well worth the money. It comes in silver label (aged 12 years) and gold labels (aged 24 years) and can be drizzled over meats, ice cream, fresh fruits, cheeses (especially Parmigiano!) and roast pumpkin. It is one of the Italian ingredients I love the most and one I think is really worth the money.

 { Teatime }

4. /Torrone
Torrone, the Italian nougat made of egg whites, honey and nuts, is one of the most traditional Christmas eats. Ones by brands like Sorelle Nurzia and Barbero come in several different coatings and flavors and in some very pretty packaging to boot. You can find these at Eataly or at a specialty Italian shop. 

5. /Chocolate
I love Venchi’s chocolate – both for the flavor and for the vintage wrappings, reminiscent of Piedmont’s old glory. My favorite has got to be their Chocolate Caviar and Gianduja, the Italian chocolate and hazelnut mix from Piedmont.

6. /Smith Teas
I am a mad tea lover, and have tried several brands throughout my life. None has struck me as much as Smith Teas did. The boxes are also very elegant, making them perfect for gifting.}

Hortus' 2016 Gift Guide - Bitterman Salt Co | Hortus Natural CookingHortus' 2016 Gift Guide | Hortus Natural CookingHortus' 2016 Gift Guide - Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena | Hortus Natural CookingHortus' 2016 Gift Guide | Hortus Natural Cooking


7. / Wines from Northern Italy

My favorite wines in the world are those from Friuli and from Veneto, in northern Italy. If you love scented, fresh, intense still whites, then wines from these regions are for you. Eataly Vino has a nice selection that can be found pretty much all around the US, and so does wine.com. The unmissable bottles are Ribolla Gialla, Friulano (ex Tocai), Soave, Moscato, and Malvasia (NOT sparkling), my favorite. These wines are one of our best kept secrets, even though Bastianich is doing a good job at spreading the word.
Moving south to Tuscany to pick some Reds, one of the best cellars sold in the US is Félsina. You could pick just about any wine and be sure it will be a hit (just look at the ratings).
Two of my other favorite cellars which make killer whites, and some of my favorite wines, are Aloïs Lageder and Stag’s Leap.

Hortus' 2016 Gift Guide - Wine from Friuli | Hortus Natural Cooking

Tools & Table

8. /Fog Linen Works home goods.
Perfect for the design lover: these scissors are beautiful and affordable, and so are these linen napkinsAn alternative for all your friend who love gardening or foraging are these Japanese shears (I love my scissors dearly).

9. /Fog Linen aprons
When Betty got me and Zaira one, I couldn’t believe my eyes. If any foodie you might gift it to is half as happy as we were, you’ll know you’ve found the gift of the year.

10. /Freaky Raku bowls
My friends Zaira and Francesco handcraft their beautiful dishware in their makeshift lab in the countryside right outside of Venice. Get one of their bowls before they become crazy famous and you will have to wait a year before they can make one for you – which is happening soon as they have a rather long request list already.

11. /‘Il Coccio’ Terracotta cooking vessels
These have been the discovery of the year. Use them to cook stews, vegetables, soups and even meat like you’ve never done before. They are healthy, sustainable, quite cheap, and allow for cooking with very little fat. I Have two, and plan to invest some money in more shapes and sizes. This, this and this are some of my favorites. I saw them on sale at Chelsea Market and in pretty much all major cities I’ve been to. 


12. /Happy Socks
They have some rather whimsical underwear designs, sure to make any boyfriend with a sense of humor rather happy!

13. /Klasse14 Watches
These watches are made by a company in Hong Kong, but are entirely designed and produced in Italy. I’ve been loving the rose gold color of mine and I’ve been wearing it religiously.

14. /Scented Candles
Both Le Labo and L’Objet sent me their candles to try out, and I fell in love with all of them. I actually started the habit of lighting a candle in the evening to unwind after learning about theirs. Le Labo’s fragrances are unique and somewhat whimsical, in an extraordinarily pleasing way, and seem especially focused on musky, earthy, almost masculine, intense scents. L’Objet candles are more on the traditional side, though the selection is small and well curated, with scents ranging from flowery to woodsy.

15. /Aesop Oils
I immediately fell for these as soon as Christiann made me try them. They will add a whole different mood to your home and life.

Hortus' 2016 Gift Guide - Le Labo Candles | Hortus Natural CookingHortus' 2016 Gift Guide | Hortus Natural CookingHortus' 2016 Gift Guide - Wrapping | Hortus Natural Cooking

{ Books }

15. / There are many great Italian cooking books on sale. My favorites are: Frankie’s Spuntino for super simple Italian fare for beginners and  fuss-free cooks (and quite veggie friendly too); Emiko Davies’ Florentine, about the author’s experience in Tuscany with local recipes; Tasting Rome, the work by Katie Parla & Kristina Gill on Roman cuisine; and Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, the real bible for mastering all the best recipes of Italian cuisine. Of course, another Italian bible cookbook would be The Silver Spoon (2000 recipes anyone?).
Lidia’s Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine is a lovely book, as well: it has a thorough guide to all Italian ingredients, kitchen tools, perfectly cooking pasta and vegetables, and plethora of nice, everyday recipes. It is one of those fuss-free cookbooks with no photos but tons of good tips and cute illustrations!

Finally, the book from which I got my choice of cookies for this year: Alanna Taylor-Tobin’s Alternative Baker, which I am loving like I hardly ever did a baking book and from which I made Chestnut Chocolate & Cherry cookies to share on the blog (recipe soon)!

Stunning gift guides, Wrapping, & Edible gifts ideas

{Gifts Guides & Wrapping}

~ Local Milk’s 20142015 & 2016 gift guides

~ Eva Kosmas Flores’ 2015 & 2016 gift guides

~ I Am A Food Blog’s cute + design-y 2016 Gift Guide

~ Beth [Local Milk]’s Floral Gift Toppers & 2016 Gift Wrapping

{Homemade Gifts Inspiration}

~ Linda Lomelino’s DIY Edible Gifts in Jars & Swedish Butterscotch Gingerbread Cookies

~ Again, Linda Lomelino’s Homemade Flavored Sugars

~ My Flavored Infused Honeys (the lemon one is to die for!)

~ And my Infused Oils and Ointments (I LOVE the vanilla + lemon one for blemishes)

~ Valentina has these beautiful blends for herbal teas to soothe sore throats, painful periods, and aid digestion. They’d look so pretty in a jar!

~ These Ginger Viennese Swirl Cookies by Jenny would look quite classy in a nice box.

~ Sophie has a *swoon* giftable Chocolate Gingerbread Granola + cute gift tags!

{Christmas + Lifestyle}

~ Christiann Koepke published a guide with the most beautiful photos about setting some Christmas mood in small spaces <3 

My personal cookie choice this year fell with Alanna’s cookies, of which – as mentioned above – I will be sharing the recipe soon. They are hands down some of the best cookies I’ve ever had and the world needs to know about them.

Happy gifting & wrapping!

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