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Must Haves

on November 30, 2012

Life is too short and too delicious not to try something new at least once a month.  Check out this month's CN Essentials for products we discovered and now love and think you will too.


Welcome to our 2012 Holiday Gift Guide where we have selected some of this season's top gifts (at least to us). Whether it is for a friend, family member or yourself, these gifts are sure to deliver some holiday cheer.

Be sure to check out our 2012 "Favorite Things" that are also perfect gifts, stocking stuffers or "just for enjoyment" this holiday season and beyond on Monday, December 10.

    Based in North Carolina, Courtney Paul has crafted a variety of chocolate bars that are unique, delicious and have "one-of-a-kind" written all over them.  Perfect holiday gifts for friends, family, employees and business associates.  You'll be sure to pause for a moment to admire the beautiful packaging before finally deciding to go for the chocolate inside.  Savor each moment with a glass of your favorite wine and you'll be in heaven.  Purchase price various by individual bar and gift set which ranges from $12.50 - $175.00.
    Let's just say OMG… Oh My Goodness.  You know the holidays are here when Williams Sonoma pulls out the peppermint bark that is one of their exclusive signature items during the holidays.  A custom-blended of Guittard premium chocolate on one side and white chocolate with peppermint candy bits on the other.  Highly addictive and a delicious holiday gift for an office colleague or neighbor… or yourself.  Purchase price per tin is $26.95.
    What do you give to the home master chef who thinks he or she has it all?  A panini press! You can get as fancy as you want but we found that is one from Cuisinart ® is perfect for adding that gourmet touch to your favorite sandwiches.  This particular griddler and panini maker is non-stick and adjust to fit the thickness of your sandwich and indicator lights help with accurate cooking operation.  The perfect kitchen addition for adults and teens.  Purchase price is $49.99.
    Give the gift of juicing with this powerful and easy to use juice extractor from Cuisinart® that holds up to 16 ounces of juice and 40 ounces of pulp. With a one touch operation, the extractor has an adjustable flow spout, removable pulp container and large feed tube as well as a mesh filter basket and blade assembly that efficiently grinds fruits and vegetables for maximum juice extraction.  Available at Bed, Bath and Beyond for $99.99.
    Move over Starbucks, this must have accessory for your favorite coffee lover is not only as good as the one you find at coffee houses but also affordable.  Make your own gourmet coffee at home with this battery-operated frother that adds an expert touch to lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos and hot chocolate too!  The soft-touch push down button makes it easy to turn on and the chrome stand makes it easy to store. Purchase price is only $17.99. 
    Make the baker in your family so happy this holiday with the perfect baking tool, The Cooking Thing.  Yes, that's the name of this creative invention that helps you roll out cookies to a variety of desired thickness and helps bakers make those perfect looking cookies without all the mess. There is no other tool like it and great for a beginner or pro.  Purchase price is $49.95.
    Move over Rosetta Stone, now you have a walking, talking companion who can help order a glass of wine in Paris or sushi in Japan. Translate up to 12 different languages including French, German, Russian, Portuguese, and Japanese with more than 8,400 travel-related phrases for directions, sightseeing, ordering at restaurants and just general conversations.  Use with earphones in busy areas and the back-lit screen helps you keep the conversations going at night.  Perfect for your next international adventure for your fellow avid traveler.  It is battery operated. Purchase price is $39.99 and it is available at
    We found this great wine protector that will make the perfect stocking stuffer for any wine enthusiast this holiday season. VinniBag is an inflatable bag that protects wines, even bottled foods like oils, while you travel or they are shipped from one destination to the next. With a few breaths, it inflates with the air chambers conforming to its contents.  It is TSA friendly and recyclable.  Purchase price is $28 per bag or 2 for $25.
    Ever wonder what temperature your wine is before being served? This wine thermometer will let you know if it is chilled just right for your whites or at the perfect room temperature for your reds.   Another great stocking stuffer that is fun and easy to use and read.  Purchase price is $29.99.
    This is for the cool in you as a wine enthusiast.  Keep your wine chilled or at room temperature in this BPA-free, eco-friendly wine beverage bottle as you as enjoy dinner at a restaurant that lets you bring your own wine, while camping or during a romantic picnic. It will keep white wines chilled up to 24 hours and the temperature of reds are good up to 12 hours. Best of all, 10% of all sales benefit programs to improve access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation.  Purchase price is $45.
    This is one selection that we just fell in love with this year. This unique blend of red wine, pomegranate juice and oranges puts pomagria high on our list of wines for entertaining.  It is the first pomegranate-flavored sangria to be released in the U.S. and the perfect gift to take to all of your holiday parties as well as enjoy with friends any time of the year. Purchase price is $11.99.

You can never go wrong with the gift of wine during the holidays.  We went inside the cellar with wine consultant James King for a few more selections that are perfect for sharing with loved ones and friends. All wines can be ordered by contacting James at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

2011 Bellenda Prosecco "San Fermo" Brut, $16.99 – The bouquet is remarkably fine with intense hints of golden apple, peach and acaia blossom.

2006 Castiglion Del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino, $44.99 –  This modern expression of Brunello boasts generous tones of black fruit, cherry, tobacco, leather and cola with smooth, silky tannins.

We have tasted A LOT of food and wine and tried a lot of fun gadgets over the year. For the first time, we have a favorites list with the products that stood out to us the most. Check out our list for this year and be sure to order some for yourself to enjoy!

Our 2012 Favorite Things List

We are always looking for new and existing products to enhance readers' culinary and travel experiences.  Got a product you would like to have featured?  We would love to know about it.  Simply send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to learn more. 


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