Please help me with Christmas gift!
My two closest friends happen to be a couple and I would appreciate if you guys could help me choose between Option A or Option B, or neither (in which case feel free to share your own ideas).
--A huge gift basket of assorted spices/herbs from Penzeys, good quality vanilla, and maybe a few little kitchen gadgets
Reason: They have me over every week for a dinner party (the other guests rotate) and they'll often ask me to make dishes I've served them at my house. Problem is, their spice cabinet consists of salt, pre-ground pepper, and dried oregano.
I would hand pick the Penzeys stuff. She loves Nielsen Massey vanilla, so I'd add a bottle of that. As far as kitchen gadgets, they both HATE chopping garlic so maybe a garlic press (?). She's always saying her roasts overcook so a meat thermometer might be good. And they only have one potholder in the house. So a set of those.
I thought it would be a nice gift they could actually use... The first time the man of this couple came into my kitchen, he oohed and ahhed at my spice/herb collection (which is really pretty basic) and called the girlfriend in to see it. He said "We need something like THAT."
--A set of Le Creuset stoneware bakers for her
--Monogrammed BBQ brand for him
She has just gotten into baking (from scratch), and I've been gifting her essentials for a while now (pie plates/weights, baking sheets, assorted pans/tools, mixing bowls, etc.) and she gets so excited. The LC bakers are a good size for brownies/bars or small casseroles and would match her newly redone kitchen.
He grills 3-4 nights a week and is an old-school meat and potatoes kind of guy--steaks and chicken, but mostly steak. He is obsessed with his behemoth of a Weber and spends good money on having his steaks hand-cut by the butcher down the street. I hope this doesn't make me sound nuts... But I was thinking of getting him a custom monogrammed cast iron grill brand. Knowing him for over a decade, I think he would get a huge kick out of it. Truth be told, I can't think of a single other thing to get him.
Thoughts? Other options?
My budget is not huge, hoping to spend under $100 for the both of them.
I love your idea of option A; it's clear they like your stash of seasonings and they need to start a collection of their own. Which has me puzzled as to why, if they spend good money on steak and have remodeled a kitchen they haven't already bought any other spices/herbs, they have the money yet the cupboard is bare in that dept....anyway, again, I'd go with A.
I'm not sure why their kitchen is so poorly stocked. She is very young and didn't really live alone until she and this guy moved in together. I get the impression she grew up on things like Rice-A-Roni or jarred pasta sauces from the way she cooks and what's in the cupboards. So I think she's still learning about cooking from scratch.
As for him, he was married previously and never cooked for himself. When he grills, it's either pre-seasoned/marinated by the butcher or just salt and pepper on the meat.
I'm getting excited browsing all the possible spices to get! And thanks everyone else for the suggestions regarding oven mitts and pepper grinders, etc. I could spend hundreds on this gift easily, but I'll have to figure out a way to keep it in budget!
We got a monogrammed brand for a friend back in 2009 -- cost $47.69 w/shipping. Price is same still (steakbrands.com -- had the best price when I was shopping around then) but the presentation box would be another $19 (we opted no). It was simply but well-made and he liked it but it's a bit of a novelty. It's a nice gift (and that company was responsive and quick ship) but would use up a chunk of your budget.
I lean toward option A. Some nice steak seasoning for him, her vanilla, some fancy-ass cinnamon.... oh man, spice shopping is so much fun. :)
If I might expand on Option A:
I've gotten salt samplers from http://www.saltsofthe7seas.com/
that were pretty and well-received. They have larger sizes that look quite counter-presentable also, and also now peppercorns; what's familiar may be a nice gift for your friends. Not the cheapest but a starting point.
If they enjoy beans at all, Rancho Gordo (ranchogordo.com) is a great source of heirloom beans and some spices, grains, chilies. I'm pretty sure the owner of the company has posted here on CH. The Mexican Oregano and Oregano Indio are fragrant and flavorful.