Skip to content

Hey — it’s December, and the holidays are once again upon us. While I used to reflect on all the cookbooks that crossed my desk, and kitchen counter, over the past year, I’ve lost track of what I’ve made from which book, and when. (One year I got wise, and started the list on January 1st, and continued adding to it as I went. And come December, it was all set to go.) Well, I’m not so organized anymore, a combination of not enough time, doing a number of other things, and bobbing up and down in the flow of life happening around me. So I decided to feature some things that really caught my interest this year – a kitchen tool that I found particularly useful, my favorite travel accessory, a book that may change my life (hope springs eternal…), and a few edibles.

Zoku ice cream maker

Zoku Single-Serve Ice Cream Maker

If you have friends or family who want to churn up just one batch of ice cream, all for themselves, the Zoku Ice Cream Maker Bowl promises to “churn” up a single serving of ice cream in just 10 minutes. This pint-sized gift (actually, it makes 6 ounces), can be used to “churn” up ice cream, sorbet, sherbet, or gelato whenever the needs arises. Another gift for them? They won’t have to share.


Tempur-pedic Sleep Mask

Know a light sleeper? (In addition to me…) Get them a Tempur-pedic sleep mask. I’ve lost sleep counting the number of eye masks I’ve tried that suck. Most let in light, which is the reason you buy an eye mask in the first place – or are uncomfortable to wear. This one blocks out 100% of light and after wearing it for a few minutes, the memory foam conforms to your face and it feels like you’re wearing nothing. I take mine everywhere I go when I want to block out light and get a good night’s sleep, such as when staying at hotels (what’s with all those appliance power lights that illuminate the room when you’re trying to sleep?) or on airplanes. Or even just at my place, during the months when the sun wakes up before I want to). This is my favorite travel object and I don’t go anywhere without mine. (I actually have two, because I am terrified that I’m going to lose one.) A great gift for any traveler.

marie kondo life changing magic of tidying up

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

One day, a little packet arrived in my mailbox. My publisher had sent me a copy of this book with a note tucked inside the cover, saying that it created a sensation in their office, so they wanted me to have a copy. Thumbing through The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I could see why they found it so inspirational. (And with over 2 million copies sold, we’re apparently not the only ones.) Just after I started reading it, I spent a few days going through all of my clothes and shoes, and cleared out half of the drawers in my bedroom, seeing something called “empty space” for the first time in years. It was, indeed, life-changing. And kind of “magic” that I got off my duff and did it.

Next up? Getting around to the rest of Marie Kondo’s suggestions. This pocket-sized book is great motivation not just for cleaning out closets, but for making space in your life, and moving forward on a number of things. It was a great gift to me, and worth passing along to friends as well.

chocolates gift

Nunu Chocolate, Woodblock Chocolate, and Dandelion Chocolates

Who doesn’t love chocolate? In the last decade or so, there’s been an explosion of wonderful chocolate makers and chocolatiers in America. As someone described it to me, it’s a true American revolution. A few favorites that have been part of the revolution are Dandelion Chocolates and Nunu Chocolates, both owned by people who I first met in Paris – of all places.

Dandelion changes their bars depending on whatever beans they can get their hands on, and they’re roasted and ground in their tiny factory in San Francisco. They offer a wrapped gift set, which are three bars and a letterpress tasting guide, as well as sets of three bars. Due to high demand, availability may be limited. (Disclosure: I am a small shareholder in the company.) The folks at Nunu chocolates offer various chocolate assortments, including a Beer Box, blended with craft beers in Brooklyn, the Booze Box with mezcal, rye, and absinthe, as well as a Caramel Blend, melded with various nuts and salt. Bonus: Both companies will deliver gifts for you.


Another addition to the American chocolate scene is Woodblock Chocolate, a very small, artisan bean-to-bar chocolate maker in Portland – who is also recently met in Paris, and is turning out compact bars with flavors ranging from toasted sesame to salt & cocoa nibs. They’re offering a holiday ten-pack of chocolate bars, as well as gift boxes in a variety of sizes, flavors, and cacao bean origins.


Rancho Gordo XOXOC Beans

Steve Sando at Rancho Gordo presents a collection of indigenous beans grown in Mexico from small farmers. In his XOXOC bean sampler, there are four bags of the tastiest heirloom beans you can imagine. I use them to make soups, as well as just for cooking up a pot o’ beans, with onions, garlic, and bacon, to serve with roasted meats – although vegetarians love them too! This quartet of bags makes a pretty special gift for the food-lover in your life. And if you’re looking to convert someone to the pleasures of heirloom dried beans, by the time they’ve polished off the first bag, they’ll be happy to have the other three bags of Rancho Gordo beans on hand.


Le Creuset Raymond Loewy Coquelle

I love my vintage Le Creuset coquelle, designed by French industrial designer Raymond Loewy back in 1958. He’s known for designing the Lucky Strike logo, as well as cutlery for the Concorde airplane and the Studebaker. I have a few of these vintage coquelles that I’ve picked up over the years at French flea markets and in antique stores. Some are in decent condition, others have been obviously well-loved. Le Creuset has reissued the coquelle in a limited edition. Granted, the $375 price is more 2014 than 1958, but you can also troll online auction sites and perhaps come across one for less. But whether new or used, it makes a pretty spiffy gift for a cook who also wants to add a bit of mid-century modern history in their kitchen.


Operation Smile

Not everyone needs a physical gift to make the holidays special. So why not make a donation in someone’s name to help a child in need? (And you don’t need to do it in someone else’s name – you can simply make a gift to a child in need, as a gift to them.) A 45 minute operation that costs $240, to correct a cleft palate, will change a child’s life forever. I’ve donated in the past and will do so again this year.

Oxo ice cream scoop

Oxo Ice Cream Scoop

My first thought when I saw this simple looking ice cream scoop was, “How is this object going to change my life?” I’ve used every kind of ice cream scoop out there, but this Oxo ice cream scoop has become the one is the one that I grab when I’m ready to scoop up my favorite ice cream or sorbet. (Their kitchen scale is also my favorite.) The pointed design neatly cuts through ice cream and makes perfect scoops. It’s scoopendous!

Les Sources de Caudalie, Bordeaux, France-19

Spanish Tinned Sardines

Spain is one of the few places in the world where canned food is often just as good, if not better, than fresh. So much so, that there are tapas bars in Spain that only served canned foods, which are amazing. I’ve become hooked on the tiny, tasty sardines from Spain, which make an excellent pre-dinner bite along with a glass of wine or sherry. (And giving sardines gives the gift of heath: They’re very high in vitamins B and D, and Omega-3 fatty acids.) Conservas de Cambados (available in the U.S. from La Tienda) are some of the best I’ve ever had. Just make sure that whoever you give them to, they realize what a special gift they are, and they don’t just mash them up and make sardine spread for Triscuits out of them. (Although they’d probably be the best sardines with Triscuits they’ve ever had.) Another good source for Spanish sardines is The Spanish Table, which carries another Spanish brands. And Zingerman’s carries Portuguese sardines, which are excellent, too. (Rödel French sardines are excellent, too. But I’ve not found a source for them outside of France.)


Füri Knife Sharpener

Okay, hear me out on this one. I know that all those people who spend hours honing their knife blades using fancy $525 Japanese stones might recoil at a simple, cheap device such as this. But basically, most people just want a sharp knife to cut fruits and vegetables with. This compact “diamond fingers” knife sharpener, made famous by Rachael Ray, works great. I was turned onto it by an very accomplished Italian cook and now use it all the time. It looks like they may be discontinuing this sharpener (I’ve seen them online for as low as $3.65 each) – so they’re unusually cheap online at the moment. So don’t be a dullard and wait for them to disappear entirely! (Updated Note: Designer of the sharpener Mark Henry noted in the comments they are not going out of business but have new owners, and the previous owner is clearing out their stock.)


KitchenAid Pasta Making Attachment

The problem with this KitchenAid pasta attachment for your stand mixer is that once you start using it, you’ll find yourself making fresh pasta a lot more often. Yes, the little handrollers are cheaper, but pasta is notoriously tricky to handle; you’re trying to roll out a whisper-thin length of dough, that grows in length with every pass through the machine. And unless you have a few extra hands to help, it’s a challenge to turn the crank with one hand while trying to manipulate the pasta coming out with the other. These rollers are heavy-duty and very well made. This is the attachment I use most often and anyone with a KitchenAid stand mixer would be delighted to receive a set of these as a gift.


Cocktail Aging Barrel

I went on a cocktail aging kick this year, the only limitation was trying to find small barrels small enough for home-sized batches of libations. (In France, everyone wanted to sell me 60 gallon barrels – yikes!) For those looking for more reasonable sizes, Tuthilltown Spirits has a selection of custom-made oak barrels in a variety of sizes. (North American Barrel also sells barrels online, too.) These make fun gifts for cocktail-loving friends, who hopefully will share their bounty with you when the cocktails are ready. My friends have been benefitting from all this year, so hopefully your friend will start a batch now, and you’ll be enjoying cocktails with them in the next few months to come!

My Paris Kitchen

My Paris Kitchen

There were a number of great books that came out about Paris and France this year, written by friends, including Baking Chez Moi, Hungry for Paris and Hungry for France, Edible French, The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris, French Roots, and Patisserie Made Simple, and while I wasn’t able to give them all a proper shout-out (yet) – I do hope to feature them in the future.

My Paris Kitchen was released this year, with stories and recipes about shopping and cooking in Paris. Whether people want to whip up a tasty French dip or spread to go with pre-dinner drinks, simmer up a pot of French onion soup, or finish off a holiday meal with a stunning Bûche de Noël (and how I wove a little nod to quirky San Francisco into the story of that recipe, we’ll never know), my favorite Paris-inspired recipes are all in this book.

My Paris Kitchen is available at your local bookseller, as well as at Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and Amazon, and makes a great gift for the cook or Paris-lover in your life.



    • Liz

    i think your gift of donations for a child in need is a great idea for me, as I truly don’t need anything, I can ask people to donate money toward the kids.

    • CM

    Is My Paris Kitchen available autographed?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I would if I could, but overseas shipping is crazy-expensive. Wish I could!

    • Ang

    Love that you have “Operation Smile” on your list! :)

    • wlizabeth

    Great list…and I’m happy to say I have 3 of the items on your list. First..of course, your book, which I am happily looking through, and having gotten the KitchenAid pasta rollers recently I already have the extruder which I’ve only used once) I followed your pasta recipe with good results. I need practice, no doubt.

    And yes..that ice cream scooper is wonderful. Like you, I have tried many…this is my favorite and the only one I use now.

    • elizabeth

    and if I maybe so bold to make a suggestion.. the Breville smart scoop ice cream maker is to die for.. I love the pre cool mode where one can just push that button & having no need to chill the mix overnight in the fridge.. great for instant gratification.. ole’..

    • Anie

    magical tidying is THE BEST! Really loved it. Fresh perspective and some solid ideas in there. Enjoy!

    • Alyce Morgan

    Great list. I think my favorite is the individual ice cream maker, though I’ve given the ones in the shape of a ball (you roll them around on the floor until the ice cream’s done) for gifts to all my favorite ice cream geeks. Maybe they need one more cool gadget, though! I’ve bought a couple of the other books you mentioned; yours and Dorie’s come out on top; I’m making gifts of them, too. December blessings and don’t forget to put a link to your snack mix in a December post. It’s our go-to now.

    • Kay

    David, sorry to put my question here but couldn’t figure where else to put it. I have your Paris Kitchen book (love it) and I’m looking at making the Christmas cake recipe and see that I need to make orange syrup, but I don’t see what I do with it. Do I add it to the filling? I probably am just not following along closely enough.

    • Linda K. Strohl

    Love your blog and share some history in that I lived in California for many years and left after the death of my husband…

    Love Operation Smile– a very, very worthy organization, but… I was curious that you didn’t recommend supporting an anti-hunger organization. I’m a big fan and just got back from 6 glorious days in Paris, recovering from my work as the executive Director of a meals on wheels program in southwestern Michigan. The meals on wheels programs in the US and Canada do so much to combat hunger and senior food insecurity, especially for our frail, homebound seniors who are invisible. Yes, some education on that, but also a hope that some anti-hunger organizations might make it on the list for next year! Happy holidays to you.

    • McKenzie

    Do you have suggestions for eating the sardines? Must you eat the nice ones with no additions? I like them, and I’d like to eat more of them, but I’m not sure I could stomach them straight out of the tin with nothing else.

    • melissa

    david..i love your suggestions along with everything else about your blog, but i’m bound to say that i wish you would give french addresses for some of the things you suggest..i live in the dordogne and would love to find some of these things online from french does have the kitchen aid attachments which i’m giving myself for my birthday this year

    • Bebe

    I just ordered the tidying book. Looks interesting and we are buried alive.

    As for charities, they are subjective. Many of us have pet projects. Operation Smile is a good one. So is Meals On Wheels (although the recipients pay for their meals). I imagine we could assemble quite a list. But this is about David’s personal recommendations. Probably best to leave it at that…

    Merry Christmas!

    • Susan Herrmann


    This is the greatest gift list I think I’ve ever seen. Something for everyone, and your generous and giving nature is at the fore.



    • Nicola

    Lovely ideas, thanks for sharing

    • Donna Carpentier

    Of course, your book was at the top of my list, but I couldn’t wait for Santa, so I bought it for myself. My 19-year old son Sebastien was home from college for Thanksgiving and saw my book splayed open on the coffee table and began reading. He ooed and ahhhed in exactly the same places I had, and it sparked a pretty fun conversation, peppered with memories of our favorite foods, places and people in France. When he left to go back to school on Friday, we had several recipes flagged for Christmas vacation cooking! I will be sure to report back! Thanks for providing me with inspiration over the past few years, and for now being the inspiration to my kid! (PS, I made calvados and foie-gras laced gravy from the turkey drippings, and when I spilled some on the stove pouring it into the gravy boat, he grabbed a straw and started “cleaning it up”! Love that kid!)

    • Sandy Thomas

    Thank you so very much for your attention to detail with good food, fresh ingredients, wonderful books and recipes. I have enjoyed all your books and am continually amazed that as infrequent as it may be I rarely ever change anything in your recipes. They work wonderfully well and I so appreciate this. I am lucky, living in Pacific Palisades I can usually find the wonderful ingredients. You are an inspiration to me and have brightened lots of gray days. Please keep up all your hard work, you are much appreciated.

    • CMS

    I have tidied my clothes, shoes and purses, my books and am just finishing my papers. This book is truly magic – 14 trash bags of clothes, 150 books, 2 linear feet of magazines, 2 trash bags of office supplies. 25 cubic feet of papers reduced to 5, three trips to do shredding, 4 trips to the thrift store to donate and numerous cubic feet of recycled paper. I even got $80 selling some of my clothes. I wish there was a franchise deal on this method. My life is opening up!

    • Colin

    A book you may find very interesting and if you have time and patience you may even delve into a recipe or two (very taxing and involved, so be warned) is Cooking for Kings – the life of Antonin Careme – the first celebrity chef by Ian Kelly.
    He died an early death mainly due to slaving over hot charcoal, but cooked very elaborate dishes on a contract basis for ALL the major royalty in the west and Russia.

    • Canadian Gal

    Hi David – thank you for this terrific list.

    My favourite book that I bought this year was My Paris Kitchen. I am still reading through it – I don’t want it to end!

    I also bought and loved another of your books, “The Sweet Life.” I continue to enjoy your posts, and look forward to what you have in store for us for 2015.

    • Kathleen

    Thanks for recommending the Spanish sardines as a great gift. I love sardines (and quality tinned foods in general), and wish more people saw this as a worthy gift idea. A slab of toasted, crusty bread and butter topped with flavorful sardines is a fine repast. Also, just ordered two of the sleep masks for my husband and myself. Terrific suggestion!

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    McKenzie: Because the sardines are so special, they’re best appreciated on their own. However they are very nice on buttered dark bread as well, and make a great lunch!

    melissa: Due to the number of visitors from many countries, it’s difficult for me to provide links and addresses to where things can be found around the world, including France. I spent about an hour looking for a source for the Rödel sardines in the U.S. and couldn’t find one. I suggest to readers to check my post: How to Find Foods and Other Items Mentioned on the Site for tips on how to find things in their area.

    Kay: The syrup is brushed on the cake, which was omitted in some editions due to a production gaffe. It’s been fixed in subsequent editions. More here. And enjoy the cake – it’s one of my favorites! : )

    Linda: For a number of years, I participated in Menu for Hope, which helped the UN World Food Programme. Unfortunately the organizer for the online auction was unable to continue running the event. Since I have a few friends that were either born with, or have children that were born with, cleft palates, I thought I would feature them (and make a donation myself to them) this year.

    Canadian Gal + Donna: So glad you like the book!

    • Fiona

    thank you – a really interesting list and one of the very few I am going to buy things from. Bravo!

    • Moda

    Lovely ideas, thanks for sharing !

    • Denise

    Thank you, thank you, thank you David! I found 4 things on this list that are perfect gifts. You’re the best!

    • Gavrielle

    I enjoyed the list immensely and have bookmarked the chocolate retailers for my upcoming US trip – but I’m a little disappointed at your lack of, um, spirit in not bveing willing to take on the 60 gallon barrel:).

    • Jeanne Horak-Druiff

    Oh I need that book about tidying up! My husband asked what I wanted for Christmas and I seriously said “a personal assistant for a week to help me declutter my house!” And aren’t Zoku products great? I have the quick pop maker that I don’t use nearly often enough…

    • A. Nonn

    Love these suggestions–thank you. I can’t justify buying the Le Creuset, but those cocktail aging barrels are adorable. I’m pretty sure I’ll be getting my mother that sleep mask and myself some chocolate. Love Operation Smile, too :)

    But I have to say that short of dropping and chipping my ceramic knife, the Furi knife sharpener is the worst thing I ever inflicted on a knife. Maybe there were differences in quality (the Amazon reviews suggest manufacturing quality has decreased over time), since I can’t fathom anyone using the thing I’ve used and thinking it was good. It not only didn’t make my knife noticeably sharper, but left several unsightly scratches.
    I much prefer the ceramic sharpener I snagged on clearance at my local supermarket for $2. I’ve seen similar models at full retail for $15-$20.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I’ve had mine for perhaps 8 years and haven’t had any problems with it, or with it damaging my knives. But perhaps newer models aren’t as good as the older ones? Although it’s a pretty simple design, so not sure why they would modify it.

    • Jacquelyn

    Thank you for this very interesting list. Your blog is one of only a few that are ‘must reads’ for me because I’ve come to trust your recommendations and your recipes. Thank you for creating this special place of fun and inspiration. Joyeux Noel!

    • Bebe

    Many think of Operation Smile as an organization that just makes cosmetic repairs on children’s faces. Many do not know that a hare lip is often accompanied by a cleft palate, which can make it nearly impossible for a child to feed and thrive.

    Thanks, Colin, for the recommendation re the Careme book. He was the father of grande cuisine. Far more elaborate than modern “gourmet cooking”. And from what I’ve read in bits here and there, he had a fascinating – albeit short (by our standards) – live. I say “by our standards” because life expectancy in his time was quite short.

    I can’t wait to receive the tidying book from Amazon. CMS’s post is inspirational! There is hope!!!

    David, your blog is a great gift every day. And your guests only add to its value. Thanks to all…

    • Bebe

    PS. I have found that knife sharpeners where the blade moves between metal parts to sharpen DO leave scratches along the side of the blade. The best sharpener I ever had was a ceramic rod, which I’ve managed to misplace in a move. It will turn up. The tidying book should help with that!

    • Liz

    A wonderful list – thanks for the Operation Smile inclusion. My father was born with cleft palatte/hair lip. His family was well able to correct when he was a child but I was taught about it and have a heart for helping children with the condition.

    And another thank you for a previous recommendation that I am very much enjoying: the book “In search of the Perfect Loaf: a Home Baker’s Odyssey” by Samuel Fromartz. I’ve baked bread for nearly 40 years and the last 4 by the no knead method. I keep learning and although this is not a cookbook, I have learned things that made my bread better as well as thoroughly enjoying the journey (odyssey!).

    • Caroline Crisp

    I bought the “Tidying Up” book right before I started a “staycation” this fall and it did change my life for the better! I have started throwing out stuff I have hung onto for years and the space it has made in my life feels amazing!!!!!

    • Jennifer

    The book is amazing, I ran out to buy it immediately after you posted it, as my small apartment was being usurped by unnecessary things. I feel so much happier, it’s amazing what organizing and throwing things out does to you. Thank you!!!

    • Bruce Johnson

    I got these five bladed herb scissors just before Thanksgiving and they mince herbs quickly and completely.

    • Saskia

    wow, what a surprise this list is! what i like most is the fact you actually use all of these products yourself, so your recommendations are really honest and indeed convincing. thank you!

    have a merry christmas and keep up the great work. :)

    • Ashley

    I’ll definitely have to look into the knife sharpener.

    We were just in Paris and while walking around the 11th we found a store with nothing but stuff made of wood, and I saw a small wooden keg. I’m not sure what type of wood it was, but I thought of you and this post. :)

    We used your ebook while we were there and loved it. Some of our favorite finds were thanks to you. I can’t tell you how many of your top picks we visited. ;)

    • Mark Henry

    Hi David, loved your guide and was very surprised to see *my* compact Füri Diamond Fingers recommended: thank you! You might recall I sold Füritechnics in 2008, and to cut a long story short, these sharpeners (and the Füri knives) are not going out of production. They are still selling very well under the new Australian owners, McPherson’s. Those bargain prices would be old stock sold down by the previous (American) owners who went out of business a couple of years ago. So, grab them while you can: they have always been a great sharpener, even at full price!
    Mark Henry

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks Mark – It’s a great sharpener so thanks for the great design. I updated the post to reflect the change. Thanks!

    • Melissa

    Thanks for recommending the eye mask! They are a mandatory part of my travel and napping kit but rarely really work, right? I ordered this one after reading your post and just love it – it actually blocks out all the light and is comfortable and cool – three qualities that rarely come together. My only challenge is keeping it away from my puppy, who thinks it is a dog toy…. Ha! Merci, David, and Happy Holidays.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Glad you like it. Yes, I always travel with one and it wasn’t until I tried this one, that I realized this was the only one worth owning. It’s great on planes since it blocks every bit of light and once you’ve had it on for a few minutes, it almost feels like you’re wearing nothing, it’s so comfortable. The only problem is that it’s too good at what it does: Once I arrived somewhere, jet-lagged, and wore it to sleep. The next day I woke up…and it was 3pm!

    • Amy Williams

    Great and unique ideas. We need decluttering here! Reading every page of My Paris Kitchen now and loving it!

    • Ashley

    I’m thinking of giving the little ice cream maker as a present to my dad and his wife. Some of my dad’s fondest memories include making ice cream with his mom, with a rumbling, loud, beloved ice cream maker (with lots of iced salt!). I plan to include some of my grandmother’s recipes with the gift.

    Have you personally used this little guy? How does it compare to more traditional ice cream machines/makers? And any advice for scaling down recipes?

    David, it’s always a joy to read your blog. Happy New Year!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Hi Ashley: That’s the only item I haven’t personally tried, although it’s gotten very good reviews. (They’re not available in France.) But the same company makes other products that work very well.

    • Ashley

    That’s my conclusion, too. It also seems kid friendly.

    Any advice on scaling down recipes? I imagine it becomes a hassle when it’s 1/32 of a teaspoon!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Just divide them in half, or in one-quarter, if possible, depending on the recipe and the actual recommend capacity of the device. There may be recipes packed with it as well that are already scaled for the freezer ~


Get David's newsletter sent right to your Inbox!


Sign up for my newsletter and get my FREE guidebook to the best bakeries and pastry shops in Paris...