Help me not give him a tie (again).
December 5, 2011 4:39 PM   Subscribe

What experience-intensive but local (NYC) gift can I get the Best Spouse Ever? I’d love suggestions for activity-focused things that can be acquired/done in NYC. (Note, these can be pure experiences, or they can be items that are used for some activity).

In pondering this year’s Christmas present for my amazing husband, I’ve thought back over previous successful and non-successful gifts and realized that most of the really good ones involved some kind of experiential component rather than just being objects. The best two things I’ve ever given him were tickets to a fighting robot competition and the basic equipment for home coffee roasting.

On the other hand, my attempts to cater to his hobbies usually fall flat. For example, he really loves to garden and he’s quite good at it, but mostly this involves trying to sprout weird seeds he acquires on walks and consulting the internet when he has a specific question. I’ve gotten him gardening books that have remained totally unread and a potted tree that was a bit better received but not really beloved the way the plants he grew from found seed are. Similarly, he’s a terrific cook but mostly likes to noodle around in the kitchen and try things that strike his fancy. He never uses cookbooks. Gifts of kitchen equipment get polite thanks but don’t make him light up.

He is late 30s, self-employed professional. Interests are cooking and gardening as above, Minecraft and some of the other slightly more cerebral MMORPGs, like EVE. We do not have any gaming consoles, and I do not play any online games myself.

Things I’ve thought about: skill-focused cooking class (like a knifework class), array of various stinky cheeses to experiment with, board or card games (this would be a last resort for me because he loves games and I haaaaate them).

Things I don’t want to do: fancy restaurant (this is our standard birthday/anniversary gift), trips that are more than 1-2 hours outside NYC (we have a toddler), DVDs (trying to pare down physical media), gift certificates (cop-out). My cooking sucks. I sew pretty well but lack the time or private space for any really complicated craft (as it is some of my handmade Xmas presents are likely to be recategorized as festive MLK Day gifts).

Budget is flexible, but let's say <$250 US as a ballpark.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis to Shopping (16 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
What about a molecular gastronomy starter kit? He seems like he likes to get nerdy with his hobbies, so it might appeal to him.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:58 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you gave me $250 in stinky cheeses, I would swear fealty to you for life. I realize that as your husband he's kind of done this already, but I have a hard time imagining any gift that I would love more. Having said that, how about $250 in awesomely rare spices?
posted by roger ackroyd at 5:01 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: What about cheese making supplies? I don't have a specific recommendation since I only made it to mascarpone before not being allowed to eat dairy anymore but googling turns up lots of options.

My mom gave my dad a hydroponic herb garden on year and it gets lots of use. It's so nice to have basil on hand for when you just want a few leaves.
posted by carolr at 5:16 PM on December 5, 2011

Do you have any outdoor space (preferably not, like, RIGHT where your toddler hangs out)? Even if not, he might get a kick out of beekeeping classes.
posted by argonauta at 5:17 PM on December 5, 2011

A collection of rare herb or vegetable seeds. Maybe heirloom or some such, things you wouldn't find at the local gardening store. He can then grow the seeds and then experiment with them in the kitchen. I don't know any good US sites though but this one looks interesting and googling brings up a wide range of others.
posted by wwax at 5:20 PM on December 5, 2011

Does he like to drive? You can rent a whole selection of luxury / race cars for a day, though it may hit your spending limit.
posted by Mchelly at 5:27 PM on December 5, 2011

Shoot - scratch that last one. Just figured out how to check the prices and they're way higher than their gift card minimum, so it won't work within your budget. Sorry!
posted by Mchelly at 5:30 PM on December 5, 2011

Best answer: The Stone Barns Center up in Westchester has some really great programs and it's a nice day getaway from NYC. He might like the Winter Farm Tour or Insider's Tour. They also have Farming and Gardening Programs and a monthly farm to table cooking class.

Here's their calendar of events.

They also have really great programs for kids like hands on egg collecting for children as young as 2.

By car, it is about a 45 minute drive up via Henry Hudson Parkway.
posted by spec80 at 6:16 PM on December 5, 2011

Response by poster: These are all really terrific suggestions! (I TOTALLY want to keep bees but alas, we have no outdoor space. Also, the spectre of the maraschino bees makes me wonder a little about truly urban bees.)
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 6:55 PM on December 5, 2011

Best answer: A few ideas:
- See if you can get in touch with an urban forager and have him take you two on a private tour of Central Park
- Contact NYC Resistor and find out when their next laser cutting class is
- A class at Murray's Cheese? The Mystery of the Cheese Caves tour is unfortunately sold out, but they do have the cheese cave tours available as private events for small groups. Maybe call and ask when they plan to do it again?
- A family membership to the MTA Transit Museum, which is one of the only ways to officially see the old City Hall subway station
- A beer making kit from Brooklyn Brew Shop with several different mixes and accessories
- Perhaps a class at the Astor Center like Resurrecting Historic Cocktails (And Drinking Them With the Professor) or Introduction to Micro-Distilling
- Brooklyn Kitchen has some good looking classes as well: Pig Butchering, Molecular Gastronomy Class: Eating Solid Liquids
- A copy of Modernist Cuisine, if you have space? OK, maybe not. But perhaps you could somehow persuade Dave Arnold to let you guys visit him at FCI?
- A helicopter tour of Manhattan
- The immersive theatrical experience Sleep No More (Hitchcock inspired, loosely based upon Macbeth) has some gaming and self-guided exploration aspects
- The 92nd St Y Uptown and Tribeca sometimes have some interesting behind the scenes tours, too
posted by kathryn at 7:57 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

A friend of mine did a tour with 'Speed' Levitch for a birthday. It was really terrific. Get a couple friends to go with, because it really is a terrific way to spend a couple hours.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:00 AM on December 6, 2011

Get tickets to the symphony, opera, ballet, or a Broadway show.
posted by seriousmoonlight at 4:03 AM on December 6, 2011

Would he enjoy a class at The Brooklyn Brainery? I've taken several there (caveat: I'm also friends with mefite's own soma lkzx, who runs the joint) and they're a black. Weird Spices sounds fun.
posted by zoomorphic at 6:35 AM on December 6, 2011

Ooh! The New York Trapeze School offers lessons in your price range.
posted by workerant at 8:05 AM on December 6, 2011

One more I forgot to mention: the Levy family also gives unique tours in and around the five boroughs.
posted by kathryn at 9:23 AM on December 6, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone!

I ended up getting him a class at the Astor Institute and tickets to Sleep No More, so kathryn really hit the jackpot, but there were so many great suggestions that I'm keeping a number of them in reserve for future gift-giving occasions.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 2:55 PM on January 5, 2012

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