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  • By John R. Quain

The 2023 Holiday Gift Guide

Over the course of a year, we test hundreds of products from cars worth more than a half a million dollars to $20 kitchen utensils. Most are mediocre. Some are terrible. And then there are the few that standout for their quality of design, utility, and innovation. Some of these gift ideas are related to tech and travel, and some are not. They’re just great products. So here, with a bow and a wave, are those products that we found worthy of our 2023 holiday gift guide:

For the Romantic

Is there a more romantic meal than fondu on a snowy winter night? We think not.

But it’s a hassle to compose (how many cheeses do you need to melt?). That’s why we love Emmi’s prepackaged Original Cheese Fondu. It contains premixed Swiss cheeses and spices in a bag that you simply squeeze out into a fondu pot and heat. Initially skeptical, we tried it for the first time this year and, well, we loved it. Just add wine and romance, and you’ll fall in love with it too.

For the Wellness Buff

Anyone who has pulled or strained a muscle can vouch for the value of an impact massager. With one of these hand-held drivers, you can work out cramps and knots and speed healing (we found it was invaluable after a pulled hamstring). Most models are hundreds of dollars, but you needn’t spend that much for quality. To wit, the $129 Roll Recovery R1 Percussion, a diminutive impact massager that more than does the job with four speeds (up to 3,200 rpm), four attachment heads, and a rechargeable lithium ion battery rated to last up to 7 hours. We found the R1 got our blood going just as much as $300 competitors and was an ideal traveling companion for continuing physio. If you’re looking for something more modestly priced, Roll Recovery also makes a superlative R4 roll bar for working out tight quads or glutes. Unlike less expensive foam rollers, the R4 also has a center groove so you can work on inner back muscles without putting pressure on your spine.

You’re thinking, a toothbrush? As a holiday gift? Absolutely, particularly for the health-conscious person on your gift list. The Oral-B iO Series 10 is powerful without being painful, and it represents the ultimate in connected cleaning with live coaching and direct messages on the charging base, so you don’t have to keep looking at the brush handle or an app on your phone. It will prompt you if you’re not brushing enough and even indicate if you’re neglecting certain areas. But best of all, it is the most effective electric toothbrush we’ve ever tested, including modes for sensitive gums and for tough-to-clean areas.

For the Outdoorsey Type

For those crisp winter days that you want to spend the maximum amount of time on the hill, there’s Stio’s DoubleCharge Insulated Jacket ($359.20). It’s a heavy-duty but lightweight performer and is not only one of the most technically advanced winter ski/snowboard jackets available, it’s also one of the most eco friendly, including Primaloft’s Silver Eco recycled insulation and Gore-Tex’s latest PFC-free waterproof membrane to keep you warm and dry. (In fact, the Gore-Tex material is Bluesign approved.) The jacket has snug interior cuffs and a waist skirt to keep the cold air and powder out—all in a clean but warm design. Want to stay totally warm? Add the complimentary DoubleCharge Insulated pants ($319.20).

Getting the right outerwear for more active winter pursuits—running, hiking, advanced cross-country skiing—is a challenge. Outdoor Research has managed to meet the challenge with the Deviator line, which uses a twisted polyester yarn insulating liner that’s soft and comfortable, yet breathable and wicks away sweat. Ideal for milder winter days, the Deviator Hoodie ($171.75) and Wind Pants ($104.25) make for a perfect match—along with the Deviator gloves ($51.75) to keep your hands protected or to stuff in the pockets of the hoodie after you warm up.

For the Traveller:

Eagle Creek is brand fellow travelers recognize around the world. It’s true that the company makes some of the best backpacks on the planet, but Eagle Creek also has an extensive luggage line. One of the easiest rolling models is the Eagle Creek Tarmac

XE 4-wheel 40-liter carry-on. It glides effortlessly across the terrazzo floors of JFK or the cobblestone side streets of Amsterdam and complies with the sternest restrictions for overhead compartments (the so-called European carry-on size). The Tarmac XE is just 7 pounds and 11 ounces (relatively light weight) and made of 100 percent recycled materials. It has a padded interior laptop sleeve that can accommodate up to 16-inch clamshells, and a tough 900D outer skin and is weather resistant but not waterproof (which is the case for most luggage). Best is Eagle Creek’s “No Matter What” guarantee to fix or replace your gear if it fails. A company rep recently explained to me that the “fix” proviso is recognition of the fact that simply throwing out slightly damaged gear only contributes to our land fill problems. So whenever possible, Eagle Creek will repair gear instead of just tossing it and replacing it with a new carry-on.

For the Hiker

For getting out in the snow with a minimum of fuss, nothing beats a pair of snowshoes. An excellent package, especially for beginners facing rolling white terrain, is the MSR Evo Trail Snowshoe Kit. It includes the MSR Trail series snowshoes that have solid crampon-style teeth underfoot (which provide plenty of traction even in crusty conditions), a hinged binding for flexibility, and a net design that goes over the boot, making for easy access. Also included is a backpack the shoes can be strapped to and a pair of telescoping Dynalock Trail poles. The whole kit weighs just 5 pounds, 14 ounces, making it perfect for taking along to a weekend B&B getaway or tossing into the trunk for spontaneous winter hikes.

For the Gourmet

Anyone who has used a mixing machine, especially one of those ubiquitous KitchenAid models, knows they can make a mess in minutes. Part of the challenge is getting flour and requisite liquids into the bowl while it’s in operation without

spilling. Enter the New Metro Metal Pouring Chute. It’s a simple but extremely effective gadget that hooks onto the side of a mixing bowl (it works perfectly on KitchenAid models). The chute directs liquids and powders directly into the center of the bowl as you’re working, no splashes or spills. It even stays put if you accidently nudge it or knock it while cooking.

With concerns about “forever chemicals” leaching into our environment—and our food—shoppers looking for new cookware are increasing opting for more sustainable non-stick pots and pans. One favorite of ours this year is Farberware’s line of Eco Advantage cookware. These pieces are made from 100 percent recycled aluminum and use a non-toxic ceramic non-stick coating. That means no worrying about PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl) or PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid)--chemicals that some nonstick pans use that have been linked to cancer and hormonal disruption. We found Farberware’s Eco Advantage 12.5-inch deep fry pan was the perfect instrument for Sunday morning french toast and pancakes. It’s also dishwasher safe and has cool-touch handles. The only downsides: it’s not induction compatible and can only handle oven temperatures up to 350 degrees.

There are so many air fryers on the market, it’s difficult to get excited about one. But the Typhur Dome is definitely superior to the rest, offering faster cooking times (roughly half the time of others in our tests), a self-cleaning feature, much quieter operation, and a large basket that makes it suitable for family-sized meals. The Typhur Dome has a 5.6-quart capacity and because it’s designed to accommodate a 12-inch pizza, it means meat and vegetables can be spread out in the basket for more even cooking. The Dome also has touch controls with easy settings for common dishes (we like the setting for french fries). The Typhur Dome is also a solidly build kitchen appliance, and with settings that include not only air frying up to 450 degrees but also a dehydration mode, you’ll find it difficult not to use every day.


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