10 Best French Gift Ideas & Gifts for Lovers of France: 2019 Edition

File under: Gifts for francophiles, gifts for people who love France, French gifts, French gift ideas.

Do you have a France-lover on your gift list? I’m here to help. Below are my top 10 gift ideas for people who love France. The first five are the best all-new French gifts, and the last five are “greatest-hits” — gifts for France lovers that have been very popular on this site in the past. Enjoy!

Garnier Thiebaut Tea Towels. More designs are available this year.

1. French Jacquard Tea Towels from Garnier Thiebaut

A few of you might spot this pick and say, “Hey! That was on your list last year!” Well, it’s true. So what’s new? These richly colored jacquard tea towels from Garnier Thiebaut now come in a lot more designs — from herbs (basil, thyme, mint) to fruits and vegetables (blueberries, squash, blood oranges), as well as seasonal variations (Christmas, a 2020 calendar, and more). Being unmistakably French, they’re beautiful to display; being absorbent, they’re also incredibly useful. As of today, they range in price from $21 to $28 on Amazon. (P.S.: I’m kind of partial to the rooster towel, as it’s the enduring symbol of La Belle France.

By the way: Did you know that “Jacquard” means the design is woven in, rather than printed? It’s just that much lovelier (and lasting).

P.S.: In love with Jacquard? For just the right person, these Garnier Thiebaut French napkins would also be a divine gift.

2. France Inspiration du Jour (Book)

This lovely collection of words, watercolors, and sketches might inspire someone to write their own French story.

If you know someone who loves travelogues and memoirs about France, here’s something just for them that’s a little off that beaten path: It’s a sketchbook/journal of photographs, watercolors, and words that artist Rae Dunn has collected during annual sojourns to Paris, Provence, and the Cote d’Azur. I just adore the way the joie-de-vivre comes on alive on the pages. The photographs and sketches point out things that you might not have noticed — or things that you’ve forgotten about. It didn’t make me homesick for France; rather, it made me happy to recall touchstones I love so much.

This evocative book may also inspire others to keep similarly compelling journals — whether visually or in words — of their own travels.

As of today, this book is $18.95 on Amazon. While you’re at it, why not throw in a little travel journal/sketchbook so that the recipient can write/sketch their own travel story?

3. Le Cadeaux Appetizer Plates

Looking for gifts for the young francophile? These pretty appetizer/tapas plates are as cute as can be, and are perfect for those who are just beginning to feather their nest.

They’re made of high-quality melamine, so they’re almost unbreakable. That means they’ll be durable for the recipients next five moves before they settle down for a while. Why not combine this gift with a gift certificate from a local cheese/charcuterie/gourmet shop? They’ll love it.

Currently, they’re $31 on Amazon. By the way, ignore the 1-star review: It seems the person did not understand that they were appetizer plates. If you understand (like I did, and the rest of the reviewers did!) that these are appetizer plates, they’re exactly as advertised.

4. Great Hostess Gift Alert: Un Air d’Antin Hand Cream Set

What is it about French hand creams? They’re so luxurious! These opulent creams are made from shea butter, aloe vera, and almond oil, and they’re great for hydrating hands that have done a lot of dishes over the holidays! Your hosts, perhaps? The charming gift box is sweet, the tubes are durable (you can carry them around in your purse forever), and the fragrances are sheer delight: Two are floral (one tube is a combo of rose, peach, and patchouli, and the other a mix of orange blossom, lily of the valley, and rose). The other two are more bright and botanic (one tube is almond, fig, and vetiver, while the other is verbena, bergamot, and lemon). The scents are not overpowering, either.

Right now, the set is available on Amazon for $29.95. I can’t imagine anyone who would not love these high-quality creams.

5. Le Creuset Trivet

If you follow me on this blog at all, you know that I’m a nut about enamel cast-iron braising pans! I love them, and I use them probably about five times a week in fall and winter. What I haven’t told you is how important it is to have a really durable trivet to place your big cast-iron braiser on top of. You see, I once placed a hot braiser on my pretty little Villeroy and Boch trivet and … you guessed it: The delicate thing cracked.

Lesson learned: The cast iron Le Creuset Trivet is the only thing that’s durable enough for your braiser. As with anything made in cast iron from Le Creuset, it will wear like iron — because it is iron! And you know that if it’s Le Creuset, it’s going to come in a variety of amazing colors. I’m kind of partial to Marseille. Currently the trivet sells for $74.95 on Amazon.

Now, onto my five “greatest hits” gifts. These are gifts that I either give often, OR they’re the gifts that readers of this blog order the most often. Enjoy!

6. The 365 Days of France Calendar

I love love love this calendar, and I have given one to my husband, Mr. Sportcoat, every single year since we’ve been going to France nearly every summer. Each month features a region (e.g., Savoie) or a city (e.g. Marseilles), with representative photos of the month’s highlighted region for every single day.

Better yet, the copy is written by Patricia Wells, the famed French-cooking expert and cookbook author. It’s a lovely gift for anyone who loves France, dreams of going to France, or goes to France often. We love it because we often recognize minutiae of places we’ve been, from little shops and cafes to little-known churches.

I’ve taken a look at this year’s edition, it’s as dreamy as ever. Destinations include lesser-known places like Morbihan, Tarn, and Aveyron, as well as long-time favorites, such as Nice, Paris, and the Côte d’Azur.

As of this posting, the calendar is currently $10.99 on Amazon.

7. The Splurge Gift for a Lifetime of Great French Meals: The Le Creuset Braiser

Clockwise from top: The 5-quart, the 3 1/2-quart, and the 1 1/2-quart Le Creuset Braiser. I get the most everyday use out of the 3 1/2-quart size, but I love the 5-quart size for entertaining.

I don’t know how I ever lived without my enamel cast-iron braising pans from Le Creuset. Braising is a “low and slow” cooking method for transforming less-expensive cuts of meat into rich, succulent meals. Coq au Vin, Boeuf Bourguigon, Blanquette of Pork, Osso Bucco are all braises, as are a slew of great everyday recipes, like pot roast and beef stew. With its tight-fitting lid, wide base, and shallower-than-a-Dutch-oven sides, the braising pan is simply the best choice for this cooking method.

As I write this, they’re currently priced around $265 for the 3 3/4-quart braiser, or $339 for the 5-quart braiser. Which one should you buy? If you usually cook for four to six people, get the 3 3/4-quart braiser. If you generally cook for six to eight, go for the 5-quart braiser. That little yellow 1 1/2-quart braiser ($199.95) comes in handy, especially for braising small cuts of meat for two or cooking leftovers, but it’s not as essential to me as the other two.

8. The Less-Expensive Alternative to the Le Creuset Braiser: The Lodge Braiser

It might not be called a braiser, but the Lodge Color Enameled Cast Iron 3.6-Quart Covered Casserole works just like a braiser—I’ve tested one and give it a hearty thumbs up.

Yes, I prefer (and own) three Le Creuset Braisers, but if you don’t want to splurge for French pedigree, I can recommend this braiser. It’s made of enamel cast-iron, just like the French pans. It’s designed by an well-respected American company and made in China. PS: While there aren’t as many colors as there are for Le Creuset, both the blue braiser the red braiser are lovely. Both cost $59.90 as of this writing.

9. Serrated French Dining Knives

Serrated table knives. I won't call these "steak knives," because you'll use them for everything from chicken to pot roast to pizza. It's the French way.

Serrated table knives. If you’ve ever dined in France, you know: The French use serrated knives at the table for just about everything except fish.

For heaven’s sake, if you don’t already own some elegant French dining knives, get yourself a set. And, while you’re at it, give someone on your list a set, too. Everything from chicken breasts to pot roasts to pizza cuts better with a serrated knife, and that’s why the French use serrated knives at the table for just about everything except fish. So while these might be classified as “steak knives,” once you start using them for everything else, you’ll wonder why you’ve been using flat-edged table-knives for so long. As of right now, they’re $49.73 on Amazon.

Oh–and make no mistake. These knifes are truly from France. There are some imitations out there, but these are the real deal.

10. The Wustof Gourmet 3-Piece Cheese Knife Set

Enjoy a little German craftsmanship with your French cheeses with the Wusthof Gourmet 3-Piece Cheese Knife Set with Cheese Board ($114.95). I especially adore the soft-cheese knife—it’s the one with the holes in in the blade. Use it for washed-rind and bloomy rind cheeses (like Camembert, Epoisse, et al.); the cheese won’t stick to the knife. The offset knife is stellar for cutting firm and semi-firm cheeses, while the cheese plane lets you cut those ultra-thin slices from favorites like Comté and Gruyère.

PS: If you want, you can just purchase the Soft Cheese Knife (currently priced at $94.95), my favorite of the three. But frankly, for $20 more, I’d go for the set.

Always remember that any purchase you make through one of the links on my site will help support the work I do on this blog. So, if I’ve ever led you to a great recipe, a favorite wine, or a lovely French town, please consider making a purchase through one of my links. Doing so won’t add to your costs in any way!

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Great Christmas Gifts from European Market

The kind of high-quality vintage Christmas ornaments you always look for but rarely find are a click away at European Market.

A week or so ago, I gave you some great gift ideas for France-lovers on your gift-giving list. Now, I’m thrilled to share the “mother lode” of beautifully curated European gifts …

These gifts hail from a small mom-and-pop company called European Market. The owners are Chris and Sue Ellibee, a couple I met over 20 years ago while working on projects for Meredith Corporation (the publishers of Better Homes and Gardens and other lifestyle magazines). A few years ago, this duo started traveling to markets all over Europe, bringing home beautiful antiques and contemporary wares from artisans and small manufacturers from all over the Old World.

I love armchair traveling through their website. I also enjoy getting their occasional newsletter, which highlights new finds and also offers insights on the artisans who make these beautiful products.

If you’re looking for great gifts not just from France, but also Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Holland, Italy, Latvia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland, take a look at their beautiful holiday decorations, candles and soaps, fine housewares, beautiful scraves, bags, and more! What’s really nice is that you can shop by country, so if you have a fan of Finland on your list, you can narrow the options. How cool is that?

Here are some more personal favorites on their site:

Bet you know someone who would love these moisturizing soaps from Tuscany. They’re free of artificial colors, fragrances, and never animal tested.

I’ve told readers again and again that the French never serve aperitifs without a little nibble alongside. But they never overdo it — “little” is the operative word! So, is it any surprise that I adore these little French snack cups? They’re kinda perfect.

Is someone you know having a baby? I can almost guarantee that if you bring this darling children’s dinner set to the shower, no one will have brought the same thing!

If you know an Anglophile, you know they’d enjoy this London Tube Stop Kitchen Towel. This fun little gift offers a wee wink to the London insider.

I love the way my friends Chris and Sue have made it so easy to find gifts that are truly one-of-a-kind. Head to their website to find out more.

P.S.: To be clear, I’m not earning a commission on anything you buy through European Market. I just love these things, and I adore the Ellibees, and simply wish to share the gift ideas with you.

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My Favorite Recipes from The Little Women Cookbook

Announcement: I’m pleased to say that The Little Women Cookbook made it to Round Two of the Goodreads Choice Awards. If you’re so inclined, I would be thrilled if you’d help it go to the final round. Vote here. Thank you for your consideration.

Now, on to today’s post:

Ever since The Little Women Cookbook was published in October, friends, readers, relatives, and interviewers have been asking me what the best Little Women recipes are.

That’s hard to answer! The great thing about a cookbook with only 50 well-chosen recipes is that I can honestly say there’s no “filler.” I like (and continue to cook!) every single recipe in this book. In fact, I had to leave a couple faves out for space.

A few I’ve been making a lot lately include Jo’s Gingerbread (I adore the deep molasses, brown sugar, and baking-spice flavors contrasted by the bright lemon icing), the Fruit-and-Nut Trifle (hot milk spongecake makes this especially true to the era), Garden Pot Pie (a vegetarian recipe inspired by Bronson Alcott’s love of gardening), and the Spice Trade Deviled Eggs, which speak to the fact that the spice trade was going strong in the March family’s time — remember, Laurie’s grandfather was a spice trader.

However, if I were to choose one recipe that I’m most pleased with, it might be Hannah’s Cheese-and-Jam Turnovers. Not only do I love the flavor (the savory and buttery-rich flaky crust surrounds a dot of sweet jam), but I just love the story behind the turnovers, as it truly speaks to the way the family cares for each other through food. Here’s a quote straight from the text of Little Women:

I’m pleased to say that this book made it to Round Two of the Goodreads Choice Awards. If you’re so inclined, I would be thrilled if you’d help it go to the final round. Vote here.

“These turnovers were an institution, and the girls called them ‘muffs’ for they had not others and found the hot pies very comforting to their hands on cold mornings. Hannah never forgot to make them, no matter how busy or grumpy she might be, for the walk was long and bleak.”

I just love that story of affection shown through food — and it’s just one of the may ways food weaves its way throughout Alcott’s masterpiece.

If you’d like to give these little guys a try, below is the recipe. There are so many ways to enjoy them: They’re great snacks at mid-morning or tea-time; they’re terrific as part of an appetizer spread. I also adore serving the with a warming bowl of soup for a Sunday night soup supper (if you go that route, might I recommend the New England Fish Chowder, on page 51 of the book?)

May these little pies warm your friends and family in the way they warmed the Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy — through and through.

Hannah's Cheese and Jam Turnovers
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
One of my favorite recipes from Little Women. Note that this is one of the more advanced recipes in the book, which also includes plenty of easy-peasy starter recipes for younger cooks.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon (4 g) sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons [112g]) unsalted butter, cut in pieces
  • 1 cup (114 g) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons (44 to 60 ml) 2% or whole milk, plus additional for brushing pastry
  • ¼ cup (80 g) fruit preserves or jam, such as apricot or blackberry
Instructions
  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter. Using a pastry blender or two table knives working in a crisscross fashion, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the cheese. Add the milk, stirring until the flour is moistened and the mixture starts to come together. Knead the flour mixture gently against the side of the bowl to make a ball. Flatten the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour, or until the dough is easy to handle.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough about ⅛ inch (3 mm) thick. Using a 3½-inch (9 cm) round cutter, cut out dough circles. Gently press the scraps of dough together and reroll as needed for additional circles. Work quickly so the dough does not become soft.
  4. Spoon a heaping teaspoon of jam into the center of each circle.
  5. Brush the edges of the circles with additional milk and fold the circles over to enclose the jam. Press the tines of a fork around the edges to seal. Cut three small slits on the top of each turnover with a sharp knife to allow steam to escape. Arrange the turnovers on the prepared baking sheet.
  6. Bake until the turnovers are golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before serving. The jam centers will be hot.

 

 

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