L + D Gift Guide 2023: Special Guest Edition

Continuing a tradition started last year, I again managed to convince five of my favorite people to share their gift picks with all of us. I could not be more excited to bring you this very special edition of the gift guide. Once again I have already ordered multiple gifts from these lists. And in case you missed it, my annual guide was published last week—check it out!



You probably know who Samin Nosrat is from her best-selling cookbook (another is on the way!),  television shows, podcast, or world tour (which I had the pleasure of hosting on her Chicago stop!). But you should also know that she is a dear friend who has impeccable taste. The kind of taste that feels effortless. I’m always learning something new from Samin, which is in itself such a gift!

From Samin:

Over the last few years, I’ve found myself spending more of my time considering a single question: “What is a good life?” Another way of asking the same question might be, “At the end of my life, how do I want to have spent my time — which is to say, my most limited, and hence most valuable, resource?”

I’m in the midst of a shift in my life, toward making the answers to these questions — and a handful of others — the points on the compass that guide my decisions, both large and small. And so, in some ways, it feels odd to offer gift ideas when the thing I’d really like to suggest is that you give the most valuable gift of all, which is your time. Yet I hardly make all of my own gifts, nor do I spend time with the people I love the way I wish I could, so I can’t suggest that. Anyhow, I’ve found that often, people most appreciate a gift that allows them the time or encourages them to do a small project they’ve been putting off, to cook a dish they’ve been wanting to try, or just stop and make a cup of tea each afternoon in their new favorite mug. In that spirit, I offer this handful of suggestions:

Blackthorn Sea Salt
This year I tried Blackthorn Scottish sea salt for the first time, and it’s heavenly. Made by master salters using traditional methods along the Scottish coast, the huge, white flakes are gorgeous and clean-tasting. A 3 pound bucket would make a wonderful gift for any avid cook (or eater), and last for ages, too.

Japanese Mandoline 

After nearly 20 years of using the narrower version of this mandoline at home, I recently upgraded to this “Big Beni,” and the only regret I have is not having done it years sooner. Every kitchen needs a mandoline — just glancing at mine hanging on a hook in the kitchen inspires me to make shaved salads with all sorts of fruits and vegetables I might not have otherwise thought to use that way.

Black Walnut Cutting Board 
I’ve had this work of art sitting on my kitchen counter for over a year now, and I never tire of looking at it. It also makes slicing and dicing feel a little bit luxurious, every time.  Add the optional feet and finger grooves, and it’ll make an extraordinary gift for any aesthete with a tiny kitchen who needs to expand their counter space. (And don’t forget to get the Board Butter, too!)

On the Necessity of Gardening
I’ve had this gorgeous book on my coffee table for over a year now, and never tire of browsing through it and reading a little essay or bit of history. It’s inspiring and surprising and has led to much careful thought on my part on the role of the garden in my life. It’d make a lovely gift for any avid gardener or nature lover.

Gregory Parkinson Tablecloth, Placemats, or Napkins

Setting my table with Gregory’s gorgeous double-block printed textiles makes every single meal feel special. Digging through my bin of napkins to find the ones that best match each diner’s personality is a true delight. Any of his offerings would delight a textile lover, but a few sets of napkins would make a truly luxurious gift for anyone who loves to host groups of friends for long dinners around the table.



Ashley Butler is a design scout for Apple’s industrial design team, but more importantly she is one of my besties. We have spent the last couple of decades sending each other links to cool things and ridiculous texts like: “What should I do about a rug?”. Ash ALWAYS has an answer. There is nobody I trust more to know what is up (although her husband Andrew is a very close second).

From Ashley:

Last year I gave my work team books and it felt nice- less about consuming more stuff and more about brain expansion. I wanted to read more fiction last year, so I gave fiction. This year I don’t need any more concrete information in my head, so I’m drawn to pretty things. Long live the arts!
Little Book of Prada
Oh To Be a Painter 
Book of Marble

I (not so secretly) prefer edible gifts, ideally stone fruit, or any fruit at its peak. These pineapples are absurdly good, and its quite an absurd thing to gift as well. Also got a hot tip about these dried apricots. And Russ & Daughters dried strawberries are a perfect delicacy.

Continuing the fruit trend, I’ve been admiring antique alabaster in any forms, but nothing is quite as wonderful as Italian alabaster fruit, plenty is available on Etsy and eBay.

The years after 40 are my stretching years! I’d love to say this is about stretching my comfort zone but it’s actually a complete necessity to stretch my body daily or shit starts to HURT. I was recently introduced to these Miracle Balls and they are truly miraculous. Plus it’s fun to ask my family “have you seen my balls?”



It is so creepy of me to say that I like Rachel’s brain! But I do! We met on Twitter years ago and I immediately loved her way of arguing and making fun of things. It was so sharp and funny. And her cultural writing and criticism is among the best I have ever read. Recently her first novel, Lazy City, was published (which made it onto my gift guide this year) to great acclaim. But even more importantly, we finally got to hang IRL this year and it was a real treat. Someday we’ll do a Tom Drury-inspired Midwestern road trip together.

From Rachel:

Loved and Missed by Suzie Boyt

I picked this book up with low expectations recently but quickly found I couldn’t stop reading it. I don’t know exactly why my expectations were low. The cover is great, and the blurb is basically accurate, but I think some of the adjectives used perhaps gave me the impression it would be sappy or somehow hectoring in tone. So basically ignore everything it says on the jacket. All you need to know is that this is a story told from the perspective of a dryly funny middle aged teacher named Ruth. Ruth’s daughter Eleanor is a heroin addict. Eleanor has a baby and, wary of the chaos she has been born into and feeling rejected as a mother, Ruth sort of steals the baby one day. That isn’t a spoiler, it happens early on. The book is a kind of love story, about Ruth and the baby, and there are lots of scandals and surprises along the way. Also this book features several terrible Christmases, so if you give it to someone with a tricky family, and they read it between Christmas and New Year, their family arguments will likely feel comparatively small scale.

The Notem weekly planner

A planner may be some people’s idea of a terrible gift but I truly can’t think of a stocking filler I would like to receive more, and right before January too. I greatly resent the digitisation of calendars and to-do lists, I believe it is partly responsible for the creeping sloppiness and widespread disorganization which plagues us as a society. In my opinion, a paper planner is the only way for a civilized person to manage their affairs, and the satisfaction of ticking things off when they are done is unrivaled. This is the best paper planner I have found. The design is simple, it isn’t heavy, you can plan your whole week over a double page spread, you fill in dates yourself so no paper is wasted if you skip a week. I am basically in love with this diary.

Capers from Pantelleria

Pantelleria is a very strange and beautiful island near Sicily. Almost nothing grows here, except capers, and Pantellerian capers are supposed to be the best in the world. I went to Pantelleria on holiday when I saw it on a friend’s Instagram. I was so struck by the pictures that I had to go. It was even better than I expected, and we ate capers in every meal while we were there. I haven’t tried every other kind of caper in the world but I would be very surprised if there are any better ones out there. We brought some bags back, it is very hard not to eat them with every meal.



Did anyone ever realize the potential for a newsletter better than Nicola Lamb? Her Kitchen Projects newsletter arrived at a dark time in human history (hello, pandemic) and gave so many home bakers a weekly touchstone to look forward to. I am forever grateful for it and so many of my favorite recipes are from Nicola. I’m happy to report that she’s also the nicest/funnest/coolest and of course she knows exactly what to give as a gift (I STRONGLY second her recommendation of Yondu!). Next year her first cookbook is being published and if you know what is good for you, you will preorder it NOW.

From Nicola:

Let’s start with the non-glam cooking gifts that, though on the surface may not seem like home runs, are the kind of things that will continue to bring joy to your kitchen-minded recipient long into the future. The Victorinox Tomato Knife is the single greatest knife of all time. The Benriner Mandolin is a timeless classic and can’t be improved upon. YONDU. Do people know how good Yondu is yet?! Go straight for the big bottle which has a very satisfying design.

My first tomato leaf scent dalliance is still my favourite – the Earl of East Greenhouse Candle is my home scent. As a companion piece, Nata Concept Store has the most extensive collection of culinary inspired candles, but it’s their tinned fish match sticks that are so very appealing to me.

If in doubt: Socks. Are socks a naff gift? I don’t think so. I adore anything made by RoToTo. You can size up for extra comfort if you like. They’re the best I’ve ever owned. You can apparently wear them on hikes, but I wouldn’t know. The extra thick ‘room socks‘ are for your friend that always complains they are cold.



Natasha Pickowicz is way cooler than she needs to be. Which could be annoying on anyone else. But instead she creates a buzz of good energy that is infectious. She manages to handle things like the promotion of her (INCREDIBLE) book in a way that feels honest and thoughtful and fun (have you seen her drawings of the Simpsons?). She encourages activism and community engagement without seeming condescending or self-righteous. I really admire her ability to function online as well her consistently good taste.

From Natasha:

When I was little, my favorite part of Christmas morning was slowly unpacking the contents of my stocking. It was a parade of endless tiny treats—small bags of bulk sour candy, little sticker books, wasabi peas, floppy novels. I’m more partial to an avalanche of trinkets and edible treats than capital-G Gifts; I feel like it takes the pressure off of purchasing the “perfect”/deep/meaningful gift, which is just us projecting meaning onto more STUFF, after all. This strategy allows you to spontaneously gift anybody anything any time of the year—I keep a stack of cake stickers in my wallet; parcels of 2-4 loose Rose Delights to bring to drinks; a freezer full of jars of crunchy brittle and sour lemon peels and buttery shortbread.

I love stickers! It’s so funny to me that you can make literally any dumb photo or inside joke into a magnet, mug, or t-shirt, but the real move is to bulk order 2”x 2” square stickers (the chicest sticker shape) from Sticker Mule. Throw one in any holiday or thank you card or just keep a small stack in your wallet, like I do, so you can pass them out to friends to stick on their phone or refrigerator. Pick something classy and artful, like a bowl of fruit or a layer cake or a film still, or just go cute (your pet).

Growing up I loved eating vegetables so much my mom called me “green bean girl.” Over the years she’s given me some very special green bean-themed pieces, like jade pendants and wooden sculptures. I buy a few of these keychains every time I stop by Ni Japanese Deli at the Essex Market because they are the perfect weird little gift. Keys should be cute!

Fancy and delicious soy sauce in a tiny paper carton—what’s not to love? Buy Kamada’s gift set and parcel them out to various pals (the dashi soy is perfect to shake over greens or dash into soup!).

Everyone obsesses over the famous God’s Love We Deliver brownies, and rightfully so—the chewiness is correct, the flavor is rich and intense, and each brownie is individually wrapped and packed up in a glossy red box with a lush ribbon. Plus, you can say they were baked in the (actually named) Joan Rivers Bakery.

My boyfriend gave me my very own P Touch for my birthday this year and I have never felt so seen by a present! If you very carefully open the box in advance and load up a wheel of tape, you can get someone started with a parcel of “labels” already printed out (poetry fragments, bell hooks quotes, recipe haikus, Simpsons references) to make them laugh. We should be getting surreal with our jam jar labels!! (Would be a nice gift paired with a roll of the very best pink duct tape for a contrasting analog labeling approach).

Until Rancho Gordo starts selling more Asian beans, I’ll be relying on my local Chinese groceries for small bags of organic mung beans, adzuki beans, and soy beans. The packaging is often beautiful and cool, and these kinds of beans are small and cook quickly—great beginner beans.


HUGE thanks to Samin, Ashley, Rachel, Nicola, and Natasha. Could not be happier or more proud to collaborate with you here. And if you would like to check out last year’s guest guide, it is here.

*Credit for photo of Samin to Amanda Marsalis and Natasha to Graydon Herriott

4 comments to “L + D Gift Guide 2023: Special Guest Edition”

  1. Wonderful ideas–and 97% of them are linked to a source other than Amazon. Respect.

  2. Thank you all for helping me look much more thoughtful this year!

  3. This gift guide is such a gift! Thank you!

  4. my career has peaked being in this gift guide THANK YOU!

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