2015 Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

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The type of gift you give will naturally be determined by the type of relationship you have, but in every case, it’s important to put some thought into it. Paying attention to the little things go a long way, so a gift that’s very personal will make a bigger impression than the price tag. With that said, brand-name gifts are guaranteed to make her friends jealous, and what women doesn’t love that? Here are some ideas to get you started.

Gunter Wilhelm Cookware & Cutlery

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Whether your loved one is a professional chef or just acts like one in the kitchen, you can’t go wrong with Gunter Wilhelm, which produces high-quality cookware and cutlery that lasts longer, makes food prep easier and results in tastier meals. Their stainless steel cookware is some of the best we’ve ever used, boasting a 5-ply construction that offers superior conduction and even heat distribution, which means that you can throw on a piece of fish or meat directly from the freezer and have it ready in under 15 minutes, restaurant-style. They also feature a rivetless design that make them easy to clean; an electropolished, stick-resistant mirror finish that eliminates the need for sprays, oils or butter; stay-cool silicone handles that are oven-safe to 500 degrees F; and vented, self-standing lids with a temperature port for digital thermometers. If you don’t want to break the bank on one of their cookware sets (though they’re always running deals that are practically a steal), Gunter Wilhelm’s cutlery – from a 7-piece beginner set, to a 26-piece executive set with 12 steak knives – makes for a great alternative. These knives are amazing, with excellent weight and balance, a comfortable grip and an extra-wide blade for enhanced performance. Along with the cookware, they’re the perfect complement to any kitchen.

STREET by 50 On-Ear Wireless Sport Headphones

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SMS Audio’s STREET by 50 line may not have the name recognition of a brand like Beats by Dre, but it’s a worthy substitute with comparable audio. The problem with a lot of premium headphones, however, is that they’re not exactly built for working out. STREET by 50’s Sport collection looks to address that with the introduction of wired and wireless on-ear headphones that, much like the less stylish Soul+ Combat, are designed with active lifestyles in mind. They’re IPX4 rated for sweat resistance and protection, with a sweat-proof chamber within the ear cup and OVALFIT perforated leather memory foam on the headband and ear pads that provide comfort and breathability. The headphones also boast professionally-tuned 40mm custom drivers for high-quality sound and include a one-click microphone, on-board track and volume controls, ear covers for added protection and a sports towel. But perhaps most crucially, they’re surprisingly lightweight, which makes them ideal for gym rats and marathon runners, especially women who can’t wear the bulkier models while moving around.

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2014 Holiday Gift Guide: Booze

Walk into any liquor store and you’ll see hundreds of options. You can zero in on someone’s favorite drink when picking a gift, or you can get creative and choose something they wouldn’t buy for themselves. Also, remember that you don’t want to come to a party empty-handed, so get in the habit of at least bringing a bottle.

And for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

Roca Patrón Silver

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It’s only been 15 or 20 years since high-end tequilas began to compete against Cognac and single-malt Scotch for supremacy among world-class sipping experiences, with often outstanding and highly accessible results. Already by far the best known premium tequila in the U.S., Patrón is upping their game even more with a new line of super-premium boozes, Roca Patrón, named for the stone wheels used to extract the juice of the blue agave plant. Unlike añejos and reposadas, silver (aka white) tequilas are un-aged and generally best used for cocktails and shots. At an MSRP of $69.00, however, Roca Patrón Silver is definitely no freshman-year bender fodder and a great gift for the man or woman who’s sipped nearly everything. The Patrón people describe the flavor as sweet, “with notes of black pepper, pumpkin and lime tea.” We taste mainly the honey-like flavor of the agave, but isn’t that the whole point of quality tequila? Not too stuffy to accompany a little grapefruit soda or perhaps even a perfectly a well-balanced classic margarita (shaken, not blended!), this definitely qualifies as not just the good stuff, but the very good stuff. Aged Roca Patrón Reposada and Roca Patrón Añejo are available at commensurately higher price tags.

Patrón’s Holiday Classic Cocktails Kit

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Once maligned by the ignorant, tequila has emerged as every bit the equal of whiskey, gin and, yes, Cognac, as the basis for a truly tip-top cocktail – and we don’t just mean a classic margarita either, as marvelous as those can be. Now, the biggest name in premium tequila is marketing its own variation on one of the ultimate cocktail classics, the Añejo Manhattan, which substitutes aged tequila for the usual bourbon, rye or Canadian whiskey. This set (MSRP $54.99) includes a bottle of flavorful mellow Patrón Añejo, two very sturdy, large coupe glasses (a more rounded old-school variation on today’s standard martini glasses) and Dashfire Brandy Old Fashioned Bitters. The latter is a tantalizing alternative to standard Angostura aromatic bitters with a strong accent of smokey cloves; no self-respecting Manhattan is remotely complete without bitters, and this artisanal brand is an outstanding choice. All your giftee needs to add is a cocktail shaker/mixing glass, some sweet vermouth (ideally Carpano Antica), lots and lots of ice, and we’re off to the races! A strong gift selection for any open-minded cocktail enthusiast.

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2014 Holiday Gift Guide: For Her

Whatever you decide to buy, please make sure you put some thought into it. This applies to your wife or woman that you’re dating, and even that mom or other women on your gift list. They will love if you buy something that makes them feel appreciated.

Click the links to purchase each product online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

Brooks Running Gear

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Marathons have become increasingly more popular over the last few years, and whether you’re a serious runner or just do it for fun, having the right gear is essential. While most people tend to stick to popular brands like Nike and Adidas, it’s better to buy from a specialty company like Brooks Running, who offers an entire catalog of products designed specifically with runners in mind. Footwear options range from the PureFlow 3, a lightweight shoe with a more rounded heel and repositioned Toe Flex to better align your stride, to the award-winning Cascadia 9, which is better suited for trickier terrain thanks to its 4-point pivot posts and a BioMoGo DNA midsole that adapts cushioning to your feet and the surface beneath. Both styles come in a variety of bold colors, and the same goes for all the apparel as well, including the water-resistant Infiniti Jacket IV, the retroreflective PureProject Jacket (which is both wind- and water-resistant) and the moisture-wicking Infiniti Tight III. After giving our wives the chance to test out some of the gear provided by Brooks Running, the verdict was unanimous: if you care about function and quality, this is one brand that every runner should add to the top of their wish lists.

eCreamery.com Custom Ice Cream Pints

We’re avid believers that ice cream is great no matter what time of year it is (especially for those whose winters actually feel like, well, winter), and the folks at eCreamery.com have created the perfect gift for the holidays: create-your-own ice cream, gelato and sorbet with customized labels on the packaging. All you need to do is select your base, main flavor and mix-ins, and then give your new creation a name. We made a custom ice cream (Cinnamon with Chocolate Covered Pretzels) and gelato (Cheesecake with Strawberry Swirls and Chocolate Chunks), and both were incredibly delicious, especially the latter, which is one of the best frozen treats we’ve ever sampled. There are over 40 flavors and 30 mix-ins to choose from, and the quality is definitely a step up from your typical store-bought ice cream, but it comes at a price, with four pints (the smallest possible order) costing a whopping $59.99, and that doesn’t even include shipping. While that may seem pretty steep for ice cream, eCreamery’s custom pints make for a really unique gift that’s worth splurging for at least once.

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2014 Holiday Gift Guide: Games

The holiday season is the video game industry’s busiest time of year, with publishers saving many of their marquee titles to release on the public like an avalanche of digital goodness. It can actually be quite overwhelming with so many different options to choose from, so we’ve done our best to put together a collection of what we feel are some of the year’s best titles, and ones that the gamer on your list will love.

Click the links to purchase each product online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

Destiny

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After creating one of the most successful video game franchises in history, Bungie could have done pretty much whatever they wanted for their next project and it would have undoubtedly been a massive hit. Thankfully, the team behind the “Halo” series hasn’t strayed too far from its roots with this sci-fi first-person shooter, although it’s certainly a different experience due to the incorporation of role-playing and MMO elements. But while you can do things like upgrade your character’s abilities, weapons and armor, or team up with fellow players (via Bungie’s matchmaking system) to complete missions, the game is still very much a shooter at heart – one that has the benefits of co-op multiplayer without making you feel like you can’t play and progress at your own pace. The story doesn’t dig as deep into the post-apocalyptic premise as we would’ve liked, and the gameplay can get a bit repetitive at times, but “Destiny” is a deceptively enjoyable shooter with fantastic visuals, an addictive multiplayer mode and an open-ended structure that allows Bungie to continue to provide new content for many years to come.

FIFA 15

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Most video game sports franchises have gotten to the point where the truly innovative features are less about what’s on the surface than what’s underneath, and “FIFA 15” is a perfect example of how subtle changes can still make a world of difference. Though it plays very similar to last year’s edition, “FIFA 15” has gone one step further in bridging the gap between a video game and the real thing. Slide tackles and boot marks are visible on the pitch, the surface becomes more weathered as each match progresses, and crowds behave differently according to their specific club or country. Gameplay has received a few upgrades as well, including the ability to control teammates during set pieces, improved push/pull mechanics during man-to-man battles, and more accurate ball movement. There’s also a brand new intelligence system for goalkeepers that allows them to better anticipate shots and passes, while players now recognize situations (whether it’s a hard tackle or a series of bad fouls) that trigger an emotional response. And believe it or not, that’s just a taste of what “FIFA 15” has to offer, because this is arguably the most comprehensive digital soccer experience yet.

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2014 Holiday Gift Guide: Television

Television fans must love the holidays, because it’s the one time of year when studios unleash a host of massive box sets collecting their favorite dramas and comedies. This year is no different, with several critically acclaimed shows getting the complete series treatment. But while we like to devour an entire TV show just as quickly as the next person, sometimes a little self-discipline is required, which is why we’ve also included some less time-consuming (and more affordable) suggestions as well.

Click the links to purchase each product online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

The Wonder Years: The Complete Series

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Can it really have been way back in 2006 when we put “The Wonder Years” at the top of our list of the 15 shows that we most wanted to see released on DVD? 2014 has been a damned good year for that list – now that “Batman” and “WKRP” are finally available, the only things left that we’re still waiting to see released are “Sifl & Olly” and “Ed” – but nothing’s made us as happy as the arrival of a miniature locker containing two faux Trapper Keeper notebooks filled with 26 discs worth of “The Wonder Years.” In addition to the 115 episodes, there’s also over 23 hours of bonus material, including footage from the recent cast reunion, tons of interviews with cast, creators and numerous guest stars, 10 newly-created featurettes, and outtakes from the filming of Kevin and Winnie’s first kiss…which, in case you didn’t know, was also Fred Savage and Danica McKellar’s first kiss as well! Lastly, when you pop open the locker – don’t worry, there’s no lock, so you don’t need to memorize a combination – you’ll also find a hardcover “yearbook” filled with behind-the-scenes pictures and notes from the cast. It’s so totally worth the wait.

Batman: The Complete Television Series

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Whether you grew up in the late 60s when it originally aired, or watched the reruns that played throughout the following decades, chances are that the “Batman” TV series was a big part of your childhood. One of the best things about the show is that it operates on multiple levels, so whereas you were attracted to the suspense, action and colorful production design as a kid, when revisiting the series as an adult, you’re able to enjoy the subtler, campier aspects. It certainly helped that it had such a game cast, from stars Adam West and Bruce Ward, to its cavalcade of villain guest stars – most notably Frank Gorshin, Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith and Julie Newmar – all of whom understood exactly what kind of show they were making. “Batman” is one of the few classic TV series that still holds up today, which is why it’s so surprising that it took this long for it to be released on Blu-ray. The new digital restoration looks fantastic for a show that’s nearly 50 years old, with all 120 episodes presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The Blu-ray set also comes with hours of bonus material, including a retrospective on the show’s production and its legacy, a roundtable discussion with West and other Bat-fanatics, the original “Batgirl” pilot, screen tests for West and Ward, as well second-choice Lyle Waggoner (Batman) and Peter Deyell (Robin), and much more. And as if that wasn’t enough, it also comes with a Hot Wheels replica Batmobile, while the box itself plays the “Batman” theme song. Holy Fan Service, Batman!

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