Shop smart.

The halls are decked. Our gayest apparel is waiting to be donned. “Love, Actually” is airing on multiple channels simultaneously. Free Amazon Prime trials have been secured with yet more dummy Gmail accounts. It’s that time of year. Shopping season is upon us.

In the age of persona-based shopping guides and preference-tracking recommender modules, holiday gift giving is becoming something of a lost art. Call me old-fashioned, but I like to believe that you know better than an algorithm what’s the perfect gift for the person you’re buying for.

Nonetheless, there are limits to the amount of time we can spend pondering the perfect Earth-splitting, mic-dropping gift for every Ted, Doug and Herbert on our shopping lists. And while we at Eat a Sandwich have no clue what you should buy for newborn niece Madison or crotchety Uncle Linwood, we do know sandwiches. For the discriminating sandwich snob in your life, let our rundown of the best gifts for 2013 be your guide.

Home Sandwichmaking

My own history of home sandwichmaking is separated into two eras: Before Sandwich Press (BSP) and After Sandwich Press (ASP). I will stop short of endorsing the Cuisinart Griddler specifically as better or worse than any other grill press, it just happens to be the one in my kitchen. That said, it has changed my life. If you love sandwiches and make them at home, you need a grill press. Make room on the counter. Sandwiches you never thought of heating up will never be the same.

"Melt," by Shane Kearns
“Melt,” by Shane Kearns

And what should the special sandwich artist in your life make with his or her new press? Our friend Shane Kearns has more than a few toasty ideas. Shane, who can be followed on Twitter at @GrilledShane, recently published his new cookbook “Melt: 100 Adventures in Grilled Cheese.” Although I personally feel there are some reasonable limits that need to be set on what should be called a grilled cheese, this collection of savory and sweet variations on the classic comfort sandwich is a perfect addition to any home cook’s library.

As we know, great sandwiches are all about contrasts, not only texture and temperature, but also — perhaps most importantly — in flavor. D.C.-based Gordy’s Pickle Jar produces an inspired line of pickles and relishes, any of which play a perfect sweet, salty or spicy foil to brighten an otherwise dull sandwich. They can be purchased locally at various locations including Union Market and globally at


Louisiana's Muffuletta, by Stately Sandwiches
Louisiana’s Muffuletta, by Stately Sandwiches

For your favorite art-minded aesthete, the sandwich-inspired design project Stately Sandwiches is a good bet. This ever-expanding series of minimalist photographs features the signature sandwich of more than half of these United States (32 states at present) deconstructed, its various components thoughtfully arranged atop a wooden cutting board. With prints available for purchase in two standard sizes, there’s no reason every wall in my house shouldn’t be covered with these. Even at Christmastime, it’s important to remember to treat yourself, too.

Alternatively, the coffee-table art book Scanwiches, which features beautifully stark, cross-section imagery of more than 50 classic sandwiches, is a perfect conversation piece for people who like to have conversations about sandwiches. Created by constructing a sandwich, slicing it in half, and literally scanning the cut side on a scanner, the images in the book function as maps to the sandwiches’ components. And if there’s one thing I love as much as sandwiches, it’s maps.


Deli Fresh Threads's Sandwich City Series
Deli Fresh Threads’s Sandwich City Series

For the fashionista, look no further than Deli Fresh Threads’s brand-new Sandwich City Series, a line of sport-inspired t-shirts featuring the signature sandwich of each of a handful of U.S. cities. A pastrami on rye styled like the New York Knicks logo? Yep. And if the Dolphins football team were ever were to consider a name change, they could do much worse than the Miami Cubans. The shirts ingeniously combine our love for sandwiches with the provincialism of professional sports and hometown pride. Because why represent your city one day and your favorite sandwich the next day when you could rep both at the same time?

Or, if all else fails, take your special someone out for a sandwich, a beer and a good laugh. After all, the company of loved ones is the best gift we can give, any time of year. Have a happy and safe holiday season, and feel free to suggest your own sandwich-inspired gifts in the comments section!

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December 6, 2013