Weird and Wonderful

Fascinating food gifts that chefs and foodies will adore

Anyone with a chef or foodie on their holiday gift list knows they’re hard to shop for.

The poor souls who share a kitchen with a food connoisseur are used to cabinets chock-full of appliances for every purpose from coring a pineapple to milking an almond, and drawers stuffed with knifes, peelers, grinders and sharp things with seemingly no name or purpose.

While there may be no cure for the overloaded kitchen of a food snob (even giving away kitchen gadgets on the sly seems to backfire once a Thomas Keller recipe calls for it again), there is hope.

If you are going to outdo rival gifters (who will probably dolefully present something the cook already has) and ease the worries of the foodie’s cohabitants, you’ve got to give the gift of really weird food this holiday season. Not gross weird, like grub or sheep brain (not judging here, just clarifying), but obscure, hard-to-find and unusual food — the kind foodies love. Since part of the mystique of these culinary treasures is their origin, you’ll have to look beyond your usual shopping haunts to find them.

Xocopili spicy chocolate

What would the world be without chocolate? Terribly sad. For the foodie or chef, the world of chocolate is so much broader than Cadbury versus Lindt. Fine chocolate classifications include cocoa solid content, cocoa butter quality, conching and more.

A chocolate certain to satisfy any foodie is the Xocopili 72 percent cocoa spicy dark chocolate pearls. This chocolate is from an original recipe created by Frédéric Bau, executive pastry chef at L’Ecole du Grand Chocolat Valrhona. We’re not sure what all that means since we eat Cadbury chocolate (if it’s good enough for the queen, it’s good enough for us), but we’re pretty sure it’s something impressive, especially when pronounced correctly.

The chocolate includes curry and chili pepper spices, and Valrhona, the chocolate’s manufacturer, says it’s the “perfect complement for a dessert wine or cognac.”

Xocopili costs $37.90 for 35.2 ounces and can be found at

True wild rice

Foodies abhor processed food, so finding whole foods from small farms with no additives is no easy task when it comes to grains. Grains, which are hard to digest in their pure form, must be processed in order to be digestible. In fact, the most popular white rice sold in the U.S. is highly processed, enriched and bleached.

Foodies and chefs know that this type of rice lacks the nutritional qualities of other long-grain brown and wild rice varieties. But even in the selection of alternatives, most varieties of so-called “wild rice” are actually hybrids of white rice, not wild rice itself, which is actually an aquatic grass seed.

Enter Northern Lakes Wild Rice Co.’s “true wild rice.” Unlike 95 percent of what is labeled “wild rice,” says one of the distributors of the rice, Market Hall Foods, this rice is an aquatic cereal grain hand-harvested in Minnesota the traditional way (by two people in a canoe) before being dried, roasted, hulled and stored. The result is a rich nutty-flavored nutritional rice that serves as a dish on its own.

It’s $9 for 8 ounces or $18 for 16 ounces and available at and


Jamón Ibérico de Bellota

High on the mountains of southwest Spain lives the black Iberian pig, a free-range beast allowed to roam the oak groves of the Iberian Peninsula, feeding on natural grasses, herbs, roots and acorns. After this pig is slaughtered, the meat is dry-aged in the mountain air of Spain, a curing process that takes 12 to 48 months.

That’s what makes Jamón Ibérico de Bellota one of the finest hams in the world, one of the most expensive dry-aged meats on the market and the perfect gift to give a foodie.

An entire 9-pound section of this ham costs about $800 to $900, but for only $47.50, a 3-ounce shaved portion can be sent from Spain. It arrives in a cold-packed shipping container, making it probably the most exotic food gift your food lover will ever receive. One reviewer even called it “gentle perfection.”

Find Jamón Ibérico at