Food & Drink

Gift ideas for home cooks and cocktail connoisseurs

For the home bartender, this "stirring set" from Cocktail Kingdom is only $86.75.
For the home bartender, this "stirring set" from Cocktail Kingdom is only $86.75.

If your holiday shopping list includes gifts for the home cook or amateur mixologist, we have some ideas.

We sought suggestions from experts across the state to satisfy your holiday gift giving needs. Items, unless otherwise noted, are available at Whisk store in Cary, other housewares stores and online.


If you are serious about cooking, you should own a kitchen mandoline, said Dan Saklad, owner of Whisk, a kitchenwares store and cooking school in Cary. This versatile tool is a favorite because it helps cooks of all levels save time by rapidly slicing fruits and vegetables in perfect, even slices of varying thicknesses. This Progressive Adjust-A-Slice Mandoline costs $21.99.

Immersion blender

This kitchen tool was chosen by two of our experts: Dan Saklad of Whisk, and Raleigh cookbook author Elizabeth Wiegand, who wrote “The Outer Banks Cookbook” and “The New Blue Ridge Cookbook.”

Saklad said the immersion blender is more compact than a food processor or blender, and does much more than just puree soups. Cooks can use it to make whipped cream, mayonnaise, hummus, cheesecake, mashed potatoes, chopped nuts, soups, smoothies and tomato sauces. Wiegand added that she loves hers because she doesn’t have to transfer hot liquids into a blender and then worry about the blender “blowing its top.” This OXO Illuminating Digital Immersion Blender costs $89.99.


Wiegand learned the hard way how invaluable a nice set of tongs can be. “I forgot to pack tongs in my kitchen box for our two-month road and camping trip to Alaska this summer,” Wiegand recalled. “I realized how much I rely on tongs not only for grilling but turning fish, shrimp or veggies while sautéing. This Chef 15-inch Pro Series Duo Tongs is $19.99.

Fish Spatula

Katie Coleman, owner of Durham Spirits Co., a Durham cooking school, recommends buying a slotted fish spatula. “The shape of a fish spatula was created to cradle something as delicate as a piece of fish,” Coleman said. “The metal is very thin, which makes it much more versatile than your standard spatula. It also is slotted, which make draining any excess oil very easy.” This Slotted Chef’s Fish Spatula is $29.99.

Infrared Point and Shoot Thermometer

Coleman of Durham Spirits Co. said such a thermometer is “great for reading surface temperature, which makes it ideal for frying and candy making.” They don’t require any contact with what you are cooking, so you don’t have to worry about burning yourself to get the fry oil to the right temperature. The ProAccurate Infrared/Thermocouple Probe Thermometer is $99.99.

For the coffee lover

Amy MacCabe, owner of the Savory Spice Shop in Charlotte, recommended the Cup of Joe gift set, which includes 4-ounce jars of Vanilla Bean Sugar, Dutch Cocoa Powder, Peppermint Vanilla Bean Sugar and Ground Saigon Cinnamon, to liven up that cup of morning coffee. The set costs $22.95 at Savory Spice Shop locations in Raleigh and Charlotte.

For the adventurous cook

MacCabe of Savory Spice Shop recommends the company’s “Spice to Plate” cookbook, which comes with a 10 jar gift set of spices. The book features more than 30 recipes using the signature spice blends. The book and spice package costs $64.95 at Savory Spice Shop locations in Raleigh and Charlotte.

Stirred, not shaken

Bob Peters, mixologist at the Ritz-Carlton in Charlotte, likes this “stirring set” from, which includes a julep strainer, a seamless Yarai mixing glass, an ice cube tray, and stainless steel barspoon and jigger. It costs $86.75 at

Old-school glasses

Peters of the Ritz-Carlton in Charlotte likes the style of champagne coupe glasses. A set of two Stork Club glasses costs $24.95 on Amazon. Peters also recommends searching secondhand or thrift stores. “I think mismatched sets can be very cool,” Peters said.

For Southern cooks

Sally Brewster, owner of Park Road Books in Charlotte, said, “The Southerner’s Cookbook: Recipes, Wisdom and Stories,” by the editors of Garden & Gun magazine, has been popular this fall. “It’s Southern. It’s simple. It covers the whole gamut,” said Brewster, who noted the book’s recipes include homemade peanut butter, and duck and oyster gumbo. It costs $37.50 at local and national bookstores or online.

For food nerds

Brewster of Charlotte’s Park Road Books said, “The Food Lab,” by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, the managing culinary director of Serious Eats website, is a good choice for food nerds. (Think fastidious engineer-types who venture into the kitchen or anyone who loves the scientific food writing of Harold McGee.) “I’m loving it,” Brewster said. “My husband and I are taking turns reading it.” It costs $50 at local and national bookstores or online.

Andrea Weigl: 919-829-4848, @andreaweigl

Thanks to Whisk

The mandoline, fish spatula, immersion blender, tongs and infrared thermometer can all be purchased at Whisk, which loaned us the items for this photo shoot.

Whisk was recently honored by The Gourmet Retailer, a trade magazine covering the specialty food and kitchenware retail industry, as its Kitchenware Retailer of the Year and the U.S. Global Innovator Award (GIA) winner.

“Dan and Diana Saklad and their team have created a successful and thriving concept that combines the best brands of the housewares industry in a store that has quickly become a destination in the greater Raleigh-Durham area,” says Anna Wolfe, Editor-in-Chief of The Gourmet Retailer. “Whisk is proof that it is possible for independent retailers to thrive in today’s competitive marketplace.”

The Gourmet Retailer, a co-sponsor of the U.S. GIA for independent kitchenware retailers, selected Whisk as the U.S. winner after soliciting and reviewing nominations from the industry. Whisk and housewares retailers from more than 20 countries will be recognized at the 16th annual GIA awards in Chicago on March 5.