Big City Favorites: Fall Edition

I really hate to say it, but in a few weeks the holidays will be in full swing (hence the big bottle of vodka on my favorites list) How could this be? It was just summer, and now we're surrounded by a pumpkin extravaganza. Lattes, tortilla chips, hummus and toilet paper. Well, I haven't actually seen pumpkin spice toilet paper yet, but I have a feeling someone must be working on it.

I've put together a list of some favorite items I've been gobbling up and using in the kitchen almost every day. Oh, and if you're one of those nutty people that actually shop ahead for holiday gifts and not wait until Christmas Eve to run out for something, some of these items make great holiday gifts...

No. 1:  TCHO Chocolate I'm not a chocolate fanatic but I do enjoy a bite of good chocolate once in a while. TCHOa local chocolate company based in Berkeley California is my go-to, and my favorite is the Mokaccino. Other amazing flavors include Strawberry Rhubarb Pie and Galactic Gelato. Makes a great gift.

No. 2:  Staub Cookware I treated myself to this beautiful and durable enamel cast iron pot from France that will probably outlive me. Find this Staub 5 3/4 quart Coq Au Vin pot online at Williams-Sonoma. A must have for any serious cook or someone who adores a beautiful cock perched atop their pot.

No. 3:  Oxo Ricer The days of lumpy starchy mashed potatoes will be gone after using this sturdy task-master of a ricer. After trying, returning and even throwing away several lousy ricers (one rhymes with Dartha Stewart) I finally found the Oxo. Cleanup is easy, just throw it in the dishwasher.

No. 4:  Maldon Sea Salt Flakes I have an addiction to salt. I collect it just I do like shoes and stray animals. Wherever I'm traveling I head straight for the salt aisle. Maldon should be in everyone's pantry. Hand-harvested on the Essex coast in England it's great for everyday cooking and baking. Find it on Amazon, specialty shops and some major grocery stores.

No. 5:  St. George Citrus Vodka & Fever Tree Tonic Water My drink of choice is usually wine or champagne but since I discovered this delicious citrus vodka I've been feeling like a grown-up and enjoying a cocktail once a week. My mixer of choice is Fever Tree tonic water from England, devoid of corn syrup like the run of the mill ones.

No. 6:  de Buyer Mineral B Pans I lugged this iron beauty all the way home from Paris a couple of years ago after shopping at the famous cookware shop, E. Dehillerin. (I felt quite safe wandering the streets of Paris alone with my trusty pan by my side) Little did I know I could just go online and order one. These pans need to be seasoned, but once they are they become non-stick. One of my all-time favorites.

No. 7:  Simply Gum I was tired of weirdly flavored fruity gums. Tropical banana-mango-fuzzberry blast? No thanks. Simply Gum is just that, a few all-natural ingredients. Choose from Mint, Maple, Cinnamon or Ginger. Find at Whole Foods.

No. 8:  Organic Coconut Oil Have you heard? Coconut oil is all the rage. And for good reason: helps lower cholesterol, increases immunity, aids in digestion and better yet, slather it all over your body for smooth and delicious smelling skin. Virgin oil is great because it imparts a mild coconut flavor. Use it for every day cooking or melt to use in place of butter in baking. Find it at Trader Joe's for about $6.00.