French Press Set by Grace Hightower -- VRAI Magazine

VRAI Magazine is proud to partner with Julie Gordon of Inspiring Kitchen.


[columnize][dropcap] T[/dropcap]he holiday season is here! Such an exciting time of year to celebrate with your family and friends. As someone who loves giving gifts, finding that special item takes a little research. My idea of the perfect gift is something that will resonate with the recipient in some way. Perhaps it reflects a personal experience between us or fits their cooking style, home design, love of food and beverages or entertaining niche. I thoroughly enjoy wandering through stores, reading magazines (trade and consumer) and shopping online. I am even fortunate to be able to attend conferences and trade shows in the food, beverage, housewares and entertaining space to gather additional insight. The opportunities to discover amazing products are endless!

I have always been focused on finding quality items for myself, my clients and to give as gifts. This is particularly true for products that are more expensive. There will always be cheaper options but it is important to look at the whole picture to choose what is truly the best for your needs. For example, well made cookware is an investment but will last you forever if taken care of. When it comes to foods, I look for products that are made with natural ingredients.

So, after researching all the potential products for this gift guide (and there were so many wonderful options!), I was able to narrow it down to 25 that fit into 6 categories: Food, Cocktails, Cookbooks, Table Top, Candles and Specialty Items.

The design of this gift guide isn’t just a list of products. Instead, I wanted to share stories from the manufacturers and brands on the products’ origination. I find that to be a way to personalize a gift. VRAI Magazine is graciously including 6 gift ideas for you to consider along with their stories:

  • Tiffany’s Torcher Hot Sauce
  • Not Ketchup
  • Plenty More Cookbook
  • Sorel liqueur
  • Grace Hightower De Niro’s Coffee with Grace
  • Michael Aram’s serving pieces

I hope you will be as excited about these discoveries as I have been. Don’t forget to treat yourself too![/columnize]

[custom_headline type=”center” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”] Tiffany’s Torcher Hot Sauce [/custom_headline]

Tiffany's Hot Sauce - a great gift for the holidays -- VRAI Magazine


For anyone who loves flavor and heat, then Tiffany’s Torcher Hot Sauce is for you. The company has a story that everyone with an entrepreneurial spirit should read about. A California man trying to protect his garden from critters decided to plant peppers as a natural deterrent. Didn’t help the vegetables much but gave him lots of peppers to enjoy. So, when “life gives you peppers, you make hot sauce”!

And soon the word spread about Tiffany’s Torcher Hot Sauce that went far beyond the local community. Internet orders began coming in from all over the world. “Soon to be famous” had now become “getting famous”. Inspiring Kitchen is sharing this find with you to be used not just as a last-minute add on to your eggs (which is a delicious option if you haven’t tried it yet) but as an ingredient in your dishes. Here’s one recipe that may have you buying a bottle just for yourself:

Grilled Salmon – combine Tiffany’s Topanga Torcher with mayonnaise, spread on both sides of Salmon and grill. Wow! So good! And Easy!

Tiffany’s Topanga Hot Sauces are not novelty hot sauces, however. They are serious flavor and heat. Try them with any of these dishes for a memorable meal:

  • Chicken Wings/Chicken
  • Stir Fry
  • Salad Dressing
  • Or as enhancements for guacamole, curries, eggs, soups, potatoes, Thai food and soups, Asian noodle dishes, Mexican and Spanish food, spiced up aoli, cocktail sauce, and cream cheese dip.

There are three different styles of hot sauce:

  • Tiffany’s Topanga Torcher (Hot) – made with Habanero, Jalapeno, Serrano, Thai and Arbol Peppers
  • Tiffany’s Topanga Ghost (Hotter) – Torcher ingredients plus Ghost and Smoked Ghost peppers
  • Tiffany’s Topanga Scorpion (Hottest) – Torcher ingredients plus Ghost peppers and Trinidad Moraga Scorpion peppers

Tiffany's Hot Sauce Gift Box - VRAI MagazineEach bottle sells for $8.75 but I highly recommend the gift sets that are in 3, 6 or 12 packs to really let the peppers tempt your taste buds. For the adventurous eater and cook with a palate for upping the flavor and heat, it’s time to introduce you to Tiffany’s Torcher Hot Sauces. Visit Torcher Hot Sauce for more information.

[custom_headline type=”center” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”] Not Ketchup [/custom_headline]

Not Ketchup - VRAI Magazine


Can you imagine ketchup without tomatoes? Seems like such a strange concept, right? Until you try Not Ketchup’s gourmet sauces. How about meatballs with a cherry chipotle sauce? Or smoky date pork chops? Four different flavors to tempt your palate and open your mind to create dishes that are far from ordinary.

If you are looking for a healthier alternative to preservative filled condiments, you are going to like what you see in this ingredient list. There is no corn syrup, white sugar, artificial colors, preservatives and flavors. Plus, they are low in sodium. Instead, Demerara sugar (an unrefined cane sugar), honey and molasses are used as sweeteners in addition to the fruit. Important to mention is that you will find real fruit as the very first ingredient on every single bottle. The savory vinegar and spices balance the sweet fruit flavors to add just the right combination to each bottle. You will get sweet, savory and tart flavors in each bite. So good!

Here’s how it all started. Food blogger, Erika, from Erika’s Kitchen, went cherry picking with her children only to come home with 30 pounds of cherries. Tired of making pies and jam, she experimented using fruits to create recipes that would be delicious on a wide variety of dishes.

Her masterpieces include:

  • Blueberry White Pepper Not Ketchup – best with seafood, pork
  • Cherry Chipotle Not Ketchup – best with burgers, fries, ribs
  • Smoky Date Not Ketchup – best with pork chops, cheese, sausage
  • Spiced Fig Not Ketchup – best with lamb, pork, cheese
Not Ketchup Recipe Ideas - VRAI Magazine


The variety of recipes and uses for these sauces are endless. Marinades, glazes, baking sauce or dips are just a few ideas of how to use Not Ketchup in your meals. Think beyond main courses or appetizers too. How about using Smoky Date Not Ketchup in a cake recipe? Have children who are “particular” eaters but will eat anything you serve them if they can dip it into a sauce? They can choose from 4 choices of Not Ketchup!

If you are looking for a gift for someone who loves to create dishes that give their guests flavor options for dipping sauces, you should share this find with them. The bottles are $9 each or come in 3, 4 or 12 bottle sets. You will also find many recipes on Not Ketchup’s site to give you ideas of different ways to incorporate these sauces into your menu. Not Ketchup is sold online and in some retailers. Check out Not Ketchup for more details.

[custom_headline type=”center” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”] Sorel [/custom_headline]

sorel bottle picm


Life throws you obstacles and you need to determine how to best maneuver your next steps. For Jack Summers, that meant creating a company called Jack From Brooklyn, that produces and distributes a liqueur based on his family’s Caribbean heritage. Sorel actually originated as a Bajan hibiscus tea called “sorrel” which is made from dried hibiscus petals blended with spices and roots like cinnamon and ginger and sometimes spiked with rum.

As Jack reorganized his world, he created an island-spiked hibiscus tea now called Sorel which is made with Brazilian clove, Indonesian cassia, Nigerian ginger, Indonesian nutmeg, Moroccan hibiscus, pure cane sugar and organic grain alcohol. Warm or cold, this burgundy colored liqueur is spiced to perfection.

Within Brooklyn Spirits: Craft Distillery from the World’s Hippest Borough, you will find three unique recipes incorporating Sorel in very different ways. Each beautifully presented in the photography that accompanies the recipe and story.

The uniqueness of Sorel’s flavor, story behind its origination and delicious recipes makes this a welcome gift for the holidays. Sorel can be found at liquor stores across the country and sells for $35.

Inspiring Ktichen Sorel Collage


[custom_headline type=”center” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”] Plenty More [/custom_headline]

plenty more cookbook


This brand new cookbook is just one in a line of beautifully written recipes and photographs from Yotam Ottolenghi. His previous books Plenty, Jerusalem and Ottolenghi have all been New York Times bestsellers. He writes on vegetarian cooking for The Guardian and appears on the BBC. But, this book will capture your attention simply because of the colorful and extraordinary pictures of Yotam’s dishes. Vegetarian or not, your interest in creating vegetable based dishes as main courses or sides is going to sky rocket. Whether entertaining, cooking for your family or yourself, Plenty More will give you a wealth of ideas on how to create flavorful, brightly colored and uniquely combined recipes that will work for all taste buds. You will find more than 150 dishes prepared tossed, grilled, baked, simmered, cracked, fried or braised and carrying all the zest and rich essences that are his hallmark. He uses spices, seasonality and bold flavors to accomplish his goals.

Plenty More Cook Book Recipes -- VRAI Magazine

Source: Plenty More

Plenty More is organized by cooking method which is designed to bring out the best in the ingredients: Tossed, Steamed, Blanched, Simmered, Braised, Grilled, Roasted, Fried, Mashed, Cracked, Baked and Sweetened. You will be introduced to new foods like black garlic, for example. He will show you how to incorporate unique items to get the most out of them for each recipe. This book is focused on techniques in constructing a dish, in putting together components and arranging them in layers of flavor, texture and color. If Plenty, through its structure and recipe selection, tried to shed light on groups of Yotam’s favorite ingredients, Plenty More takes these favorites and adds to it and then focuses on cooking techniques and methods that best utilize their potential. Try roasting lemons or braising lettuce. Simple, every day items made extraordinary.

Yotam Ottolenghi is a well-known restauranteur with multiple locations in London as well as being an established and highly regarded cookbook author. His recipes teach you not only how to create flavorful dishes with unique ingredients but also how to technically prepare the meal. This book will become a staple in your home for brunches through dinners surprising even the most committed carnivore to the benefits found within the flavors of the world of vegetables. Finally, just because Yotam Ottolenghi is known as a vegetarian Chef should not minimize his skills in creating dessert recipes. Richness in flavor and color carries through to his decadent desserts as well. You can find Plenty More at Amazon for $21.

[custom_headline type=”center” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”] Grace Hightower & Coffees of Rwanda[/custom_headline]

Grace Hightower Coffee -- VRAI Magazine


For the coffee lover, there is nothing better than a steaming cup of fragrant coffee to start the day. Unless you have the opportunity to support a hard-working community in a far away land who harvests your coffee beans by hand and with great pride. This is an environment where the people are filled with determination and hope for the future. They are building a sustainable lifestyle bringing the world a collection of coffees that highlight the flavors of Rwanda and the strength of its people.

Grace Hightower De Niro was inspired by the Rwandan people, creating these coffees as a way to celebrate and support the coffee farmers of Rwanda. She heard the president of Rwanda speak about “trade not aid” for his people. Through direct sourcing, fair trade, ethical practices and environmental stewardship, Grace Hightower & Coffees of Rwanda is dedicated to the coffee farmers to allow them to create sustainable businesses that can be passed down from one generation to the next.

The holiday season is the perfect time to think about how fortunate we are and to reach out and help those working hard to make their world a better place. Coffee of Grace offers you that opportunity to buy a variety of coffee roasts individually or in gift packages. You will find Light, Medium and Espresso roasts as well as their Signature Series in stores and online. To really personalize your gift, include the Signature Series in your gift package. You will find a label on the packaging highlighting where the coffee is from and the producer’s story.

For more information and to order, please see Coffee of Grace.  Coffee beans start at $12.95 per bag. Don’t forget to order some for yourself, too. Not only will your day start out beautifully, but you will be supporting the people of Rwanda with every purchase.

Grace Hightower Coffee -- VRAI Magazine


[custom_headline type=”center” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”] Michael Aram[/custom_headline]

Michael Aram White Serve Dish - VRAI Magazine

Source: Bloomingdales

Finding the right gift for someone’s table should take in to consideration their style of entertaining and home decor. I have found that choosing pieces that are multi-purpose are good choices for gift giving whether hostess, holiday, birthday or wedding related. I look for pieces that will highlight the food that is shared and the decor that makes a house a home. For me, Michael Aram has a style that transitions across design tastes whether traditional or contemporary. Michael is an American born artist who moved to New Delhi to begin working with the rich metalworking traditions of the area. His pieces are all about quality, the mark of a true artisan. Bridging the gap between the artist and artisan is a hallmark of Michael Aram’s work. Each piece is entirely handmade with no two examples ever exactly the same. The handmade quality of the work allows it to shift beautifully between the world of fine and decorative art. This confirms the work’s ability to be well placed in homes of differing design. Interestingly, in Hindi, “aram” means “gently, with peace, with love and care”. Very fitting for Michael Aram.

This serving piece from the White Orchid Collection is not only beautiful but also very useful. The white porcelain insert can be used in the oven for a wide variety of dishes and then placed in the frame for serving. From Michael Aram’s perspective, the white nickel orchids offer an illusion of brightness that comes from a new beginning. Isn’t that a nice thought for the holidays and entrance into 2015?! This piece can be found at Bloomingdales Home Stores.

Michael Aram's Olive Branch Bowls - VRAI Magazine

Source: Amazon

Interesting serving pieces add an element of sophistication to a table whether you are offering olives, nuts, candy or appetizers. Michael Aram’s 3 bowl sculpture known as Olive Branch Triple Compartment Dish is the right size for dining tables, buffets, coffee and end tables. This lovely piece can be found at Amazon for $159.

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[custom_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h3″ accent=”false”] Meet Julie Gordon [/custom_headline]

Julie Gordon from Inspiring KitchenJulie Gordon is the owner of Inspiring Kitchen. After spending more than 14 years in the housewares industry, Julie is taking her broad knowledge and sharing it with brides, grooms, homeowners, interior designers and realtors to build the kitchen of their (or their clients) dreams from inside the cabinets to on the countertops. Julie has represented such high quality brands as All-Clad Metalcrafters and KAI USA, Shun Knives working directly with national retailers including Williams-Sonoma, Crate and Barrel, Sur La Table, Bed Bath and Beyond and Bloomingdales Home stores. She has had the pleasure of interacting with Emeril Lagasse and Chris Cosentino among many other very talented chefs on a local and national level.

Julie’s love of cooking and entertaining, inherited from a family of fabulous cooks, coupled with extensive knowledge of kitchen products and equipment makes Julie an invaluable resource for those who are establishing their first kitchen together, upgrading their existing kitchen or building their vacation home. If you are looking to design your “inspiring kitchen”, let Julie create a personalized plan just for you.

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1 comment

  1. K

    Perfect timing to see these ideas. Wanted something to add to my husband’s birthday gift and love Julie’s ideas. The hot sauce is the winning gift as he is addicted to spicy foods. I checked out her site too and saw the other gifts that I need to remember for future use. Thanks for the introduction.

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