10 Gifts for the Mexican Food Lover

Tacos may very well be the perfect food, but let's face it, the standard Meximerican fare can get a bit stale after a while. Taco the Town is here to highlight some of the more unusual Mexican finds in the Valley. 

This week: A Holiday Gift Guide for the Mexican Food Lover

¿Como se dice?: If your Secret Santa pick is more of a chimichanga and cheese crisp connoisseur, get 'em a gift card to Valle Luna or On the Border and your work is done. Otherwise, read on. This gift guide is geared toward the more adventurous home cook that knows their arbols from their Anaheims, and can whip up a mean batch of aguas that would make an abuelita proud. From tortilla presses to exotic spice blends, read on for our top ten recommendations for the Mexican food lovin' home cook.

10. Good tequila: When people claim to hate tequila, it's usually because they've been shooting Cuervo swill all their lives. In Mexico, it's much more common to buy a nice bottle of sipping tequila than it is to take straight shots. For the price, you can't beat Don Julio.

9. Molcajete with tejolote: Every Mexican kitchen should have a molcajete. A Mexican mortar and pestle ideal for grinding spices, or preparing salsas and guacamoles. Made of basalt, it seasons like a cast iron pan and looks oh so pretty on display. Consider adding little felt or rubber pads to the bottom to keep it from scratching delicate surfaces. Here's a shopping tip: You may think of it more as a bakery or a place to grab a roasted chicken, but La Tolteca is a great place to pick up Mexican kitchen essentials as well.

(get the rest of our spicy recommendations after the jump)

8. Comal: A flat cast iron griddle that retains heat well and is perfect for cooking tortillas, grilling quesadillas, or getting a nice sear on your carne.

7. Cookbooks from Diane Kennedy or Rick Bayless: Two chefs who will never lead you astray, even in the darkest depths of a mole disaster, are Diane Kennedy and Rick Bayless. They've been there, done that hundreds of times over, and are considered authorities on authentic Mexican cuisine.

6. Tortilla press: It gets really old hand-patting each individual tortilla and sope, so why not snag a tortilla press to speed up the process? Bonus: You get to eat twice as fast because your Mexican food-lovin' giftee will be done in record time.

5. Huge menudo or caldo pot: Menudo and caldo are something your entire family (heck, invite the neighbors) should gather around, and it takes years to ascend to the level of menudo or caldo cook. Everyone has personal secrets to amazing menudo, but one thing is constant you need a big ass pot to make it in.

4. Tortilla warmer: Don't let your homemade (or store bought, we won't tell!) tortillas go cold before even reaching the table. An insulated warmer will keep your corn tortillas pliable from first bite to last. 

3. Exotic ingredients: Swing through Phoenix Ranch Market and pick up some fancy ingredients. Arrange in a gift basket and you're good to go. Snag epazote for quesadillas, achiote paste for cochinita pibil, aguacate leaves for moles, cajeta for sweet treats, hibiscus flowers for jamaica, guava or tamarind concentrate for postres, piloncillo cones for drinks, Mexican oregano (there's a difference), and dried chile peppers galore.

2. DIY Mexican hot chocolate: Turn the tired old hot cocoa mix (bound to be re-gifted) into a tasty kit for making your own atole or champurrado. Snag Mexican chocolate like Ibarra, several piloncillo cones, Mexican cinnamon sticks (canela), Mexican vanilla, masa harina to thicken, some arbol chiles and a molinillo (Mexican whisk to froth cocoa drinks). Fancy, authentic, and perfect for the holidays. Also available at Ranch Market.

1. Gift card to Barrio Café or The Mission: For the home cook who really does have everything, just get 'em a night out on the town at a swanky Mexican joint so they can sample what the pros have to offer, then take those ideas home for future inspiration

Still looking for that last minute gift for the foodie in your life? Check out our other gift giving guides (home gardenersweet lovera chef's recommendation for what to get a cook and what not to get a cook), and all the local recommendations in Gifted 2011.

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Erica O'Neil