Also near the top of the high-tech gift-concept list is TASTEBOOK, which allows you to order custom hardcover cookbooks, featuring recipes and photos of their choice, for $34.95. (Boxes of tattered note cards and tomato sauce–stained notebooks are so old fashioned.) This is another gift that might require some work — stealing and entering your recipient’s favorite recipes, for example — although the Tastebook crew also allows cookbook creators to select recipes from Epicurous.com, if desired. It’d also probably be fairly easy to search for other people’s recipes on the Web, and cut and paste them in as your own.
The gift of alcohol is nearly always appreciated. I searched strenuously for a Web site devoted to custom-made beer and wine, hoping to skip the self-brewing step and get someone else to do the dirty work. But, alas, I came up empty-handed. There are close contenders, though.
New York–based MATT BREWING COMPANY lets customers design personalized labels for their Saranac Beers and Root Beer, at mybeer.saranac.com. It costs $29.95 for a 12-pack of beer, with the option to choose from a label gallery, or upload a photo of your own. The California-based company BEER ON THE WALL also makes custom labels, but offers the service only on a mysterious sounding blonde ale, made by an unknown brewer. Companies such as the Australia-based BREWTOPIA (brewtopia.com.au) allow customers to order just the beer labels, freeing you to slap them on some Pabst Blue Ribbon, or any other brew. Of course, beer bottles are disposable — sorry, recyclable — so if you’re looking for a more permanent gift for the beer or wine enthusiast, try PUBGLASSES or MY BAR BUTLER. The former sells customizable pint glasses and beer mugs, and the latter crafts hand-painted wine glasses.
Back to basics
And if none of these personalized options quite satisfy your gifting needs, there are fallbacks: sneakers and underwear. There are a ton of sneaker chains out there offering customizable footwear. PUMA has a sweet in-store service, where customers can become sneaker designers, with swatches of fabric and a crafty computer set-up. NIKE and CONVERSE both offer custom kicks on their Web sites (nikeid.nike.com and converse.com). New York–based FIVE THREE FOOTWEAR offers custom-inked Vans sneakers, by artist Seth Brau. The designs on the company’s Web site range from Keith Herring–esque street-art styles, to trippy, neon-filled psychedelia, and we assume that since customers contact Brau directly for orders, you can get pretty much whatever you want. And CUSTOMIZEDGIRL.COM offers all styles of underwear, printed with photos or phrases (insert joke about Brad Pitt, etc., on your underwear here), because, if nothing else, everyone needs underwear.
Caitlin E. Curran, owner of five monogrammed stars in the Phoenix Dwarf Galaxy, can be reached at email@example.com.