39 amazing foodie gifts
Handmade kitchen gadgets, delectable treats, and more for the gourmand or avid home cook
It was meant to be merely a prop, but we fell for this leather-handled tray sold by Heath. Walnut tray, $300; 14 by 21 1⁄2 in.; heathceramics.com
Planning on giving someone breakfast in bed this holiday season? (Or hoping to be the recipient?) A whimsical birch tray, hand-printed by L.A.-based designer Annabel Inganni, could come in handy, either in delivering the goods—or the hint. $68; 14 by 19 in.; wolfum.com.
Designed and made in a one-woman shop in L.A., these walnut serving boards come in a range of shapes and sizes; the one shown here, the Moon board ($145), is a 10-inch round. From $145; primitivereserve.com.
A hand-thrown bowl from Heath Ceramics of Sausalito, California, doesn’t just elevate salad—it’s a new heirloom. Classic Salad Bowl (without tongs), $132; heathceramics.com
This reversible bowl, handmade in Vietnam, does more than just provide a pretty stage for produce. Buying it helps Shopping for a Change, a Bay Area nonprofit, foster creative talent in developing countries. $48; shoppingforachange.org.
It is baking season, after all—why not up the odds of getting more homemade pie in your life? Give your in-house baker one of the Washington State company’s elegant and extremely functional pins, and watch the flour fly. (They come in beech, maple, sapele, Doug fir, or walnut for $39; $49 will buy one jauntily painted with food-safe pigments.) knotweld.com.
For the baker who wants to put a personal stamp on her pastry or cookies, these laser-engraved rolling pins sold by Northern California Healdsburg Shed are customized with a blackbird, chevron, or circle design. $62; healdsburgshed.com
You’ve tried that swanky, gold foil–wrapped EVOO. But have you tried bright, bold, green-tasting olio nuovo, or freshly pressed olive oil? This unfiltered finishing oil keeps just a few months—so pour it on bread, braised greens, polenta, you name it. Try intense Katz December Oil ($24/375 ml; katzfarm.com) or milder Séka Hills ($16; 250 ml.; sekahills.com) and CaliVirgin ($32/500 ml.; calivirgin.com). You can also buy all three at markethallfoods.com.
For the cook who’s resolved to master a new cuisine, there’s the Bollywood Theater Indian Spice Set. It comes with freshly ground garam masala, tikka masala, and vindaloo masala blends—and a recipe to make with each—from chef Troy Maclarty of the crazy-popular Portland Bollywood Theater restaurants. $19.50; reluctantrrading.com
Since 1994, firefighter Lee Taylor grows a legion of peppers in the Palo Alto fire station’s backyard. Our heroes who make this zesty sauce give all proceeds to the Palo Alto Firefighters Charitable Fund. $6 for 8.5 oz. bottle; paloaltofirefighters.com
It’s high time for a local alternative to the usual French aperitifs. This well-balanced newcomer—made in Sonoma by San Francisco mix master Duggan McDonell—combines a white wine base with 10 locally sourced herbs. Use it in a cocktail, or drink it on its own, over ice. $30; jardesca.com.
We’re not fans of fussy wine gadgets at Sunset, but a simple aerator—a device that quickly introduces oxygen into wine—can soften harsh tannins and release aromas in young vintages, to make a glass of wine markedly more enjoyable without the time lapse of a traditional decanter. Our newest favorite—Aervana—is the first electric version. After quick assembly of batteries and tube, you can just hold your glass under the spigot, push the button, and a stream of wine burbles out. In blind taste tests in the halls of Sunset (our wine: muscular, age-worthy, beautiful Mt. Veeder Cabernet from Napa Valley), the staff got it right every time, identifying the glass that had been aerated. $99; aervana.com
Great bottles of wine can present owners with a dilemma—when you open them, you have to drink the entire bottle within a couple of days to avoid the leftovers oxidizing. But what if you’re dying to taste that 2007 Silver Oak, but your husband is off with the kids, and it’s only you? Go ahead—with the Coravin system. Just out this fall, Model Two is a sleek device that lets you insert a thin needle through the cork (without pulling it), and pour as much as you want. An inert gas from a small canister shoots in to replace what you’ve poured, preserving the wine from oxygen and keeping it sound for months to come. You can still share with your husband. $349.95; coravin.com
Sure, one could simply grind some star anise or chop some Thai chile or tarragon and toss it in one’s drink. But Addition, a Seattle-based line of tinctures, lets the home bartender flavor a cocktail with exactitude, medicine dropper and all. The 25 flavors range from tarragon to horseradish to “filthy dirty”—for martinis, of course. From $18 each; drinkaddition.com.
How’d this tall, handsome drink of water get its name, the Oaxifornia? While on vacation in Oaxaca, Mexico, the owners of the San Francisco haute-kitchenware store March were introduced to these hand-blown carafes, and it was love at first sight. (On their side, at least—carafes don’t kiss and tell.) $75; marchsf.com.
This cheery blue critter by Sallie Williams—one of the original artworks adorning a set of four drinking glasses—would brighten anyone’s day, says Megan McCrea, assistant to Sunset’s editor-in-chief. Even better, the proceeds help support the disabled artists working at Oakland’s nonprofit Creative Growth studio, where the pieces were created. $32/set; creativegrowth.org.
Pitcher perfect: the recently reissued iconic vessel created by Russel Wright, who brought modern design to the masses. American Modern pitcher, $90; bauerla.com
Perfect to share a home brew, this customizable Western red cedar beer caddy can also step up even the most basic six-pack. $49; gifts.redenvelope.com/gifts/wooden-beer-holder-30143892
Chile jelly can be wimpy, way too sweet, or both. But Ojai Jelly gets the balance just right. The Southern California company cooks up small batches, and leaves some chopped chiles in the jar for texture, medium heat, and fresh flavor. Choose from jalapeño jelly, habanero jelly, and habanero apricot jam. 6 jars (11 oz. each)/$60 and individually at selected stores; ojaijelly.com
Imagine the favorite campfire treat with a deluxe makeover and a holiday flavor spin. The peppermint version of the Ticket Artisan S’mores Kit includes four handcrafted chocolate grahams, peppermint-streaked marshmallows, and fine-quality milk chocolate bars coated with crushed peppermint candy. Not feeling minty? Go for the classic kit, with honey grahams, vanilla marshmallows, and plain milk chocolate. $19; ticketchocolate.com
There’s no wrong time for ice cream, but now is especially good, thanks to Portland ice cream maven Salt & Straw’s decadent holiday ice cream assortment. Available at their shops in Portland and L.A. as well as by mail, it features a hometown lineup that does Oregon proud. Local mint and booze (plus recipes from a local mixologist and a politician) go into Peppermint Cocoa, Bourbon Pecan Pie, Spiked Eggnog, Mincemeat Pie, and Congressman Blumenauer’s Fruit Cake; sales of the last flavor support a holiday bike drive. 5 pints/$65; saltandstraw.com
Made with raw honey by a beekeeping family in Utah, these slightly chewy caramels have a warm, deep sweetness. Honey caramels from $8 for a 1⁄4-lb. box; beesbros.com
We’re big believers in buttery caramels, and these Montana-made sweets are the creamiest of them all. The best part: Your purchase could help such environmental charities as The Nature Conservancy and Arbor Day Foundation keep the West—and the rest of the planet—beautiful. From $40, caramel Eco Gift Box; goodkarmal.com.
Designed for the connoisseur who appreciates dark chocolate with intense yet nuanced flavors, the Dandelion Chocolate Wrapped Gift Set includes three single-origin, 70% chocolate bars from different parts of the world. The boutique San Francisco bean-to-bar factory packages the chocolate with care, too; they include a tasting guide and wrap the bars in hand-made, silk-screened paper. $30; www.dandelionchocolate.com
Some might call it gilding the lily—taking roasted Oregon hazelnuts, candying them, and then coating them with cocoa—but we wouldn’t. Well, maybe we would, if we weren’t too busy polishing them off … $15/4 oz.; getyourhotcakes.com.
Where have all the penny-candy counters gone? Never fear—now giving classic candies is as easy as sending an email. You pick the size of the box and hit “send,” your beloved chooses the actual assortment (shown here, clockwise from top, licorice pastels, Boston Baked Beans, Sour Patch apples, pink Sixlets), and Denver-based Sugarwish takes it from there. $25/1-lb. box; sugarwish.com.
A nine-piece sampler of soft, chewy French-style fruit candies from San Francisco’s Tout Sweet includes tingling winter flavors like negroni, raspberry fig, and passion fruit. Pâte de fruit, from $10; toutsweetsf.com
Whether or not you avoid gluten, you’ll want to dive into the gluten-free holiday assortment from Cookies con Amore. The Visa, California company packs 9 classic Italian cookies into the box, including crisp biscottini, chewy amaretti, snowy powdered-sugar coated wedding cookies, orange and almond ricciarelli, raspberry jam-filled polentine, and dried fruit and chocolate-filled cuccidati. 1 lb./$19; cookiesconamore.com. Enter coupon code natalesunset2015 for 15% off the holiday assortment.
The next best thing to living in California’s Mendocino County is eating like you live there ... which means terrific cheeses from Pennyroyal Farm. A sampler includes Boont Corners 2 Month, Bollie’s Mollies, Boont Corners Reserve, Boonter’s Blue, Boont Corners Vintage, and Laychee chèvre. $66; pennyroyalfarm.com.
Funny thing: Soon after this wooden crate arrived from Portland and its contents were photographed, they vanished, never to be seen again. No one admitted anything, but the faint aroma of saucisson sec (garlic and black pepper), saucisson d’Alsace (baking spices), and pork pistachio pâté could be detected near our photo studio, and one of our photo editors looked suspiciously content. $90; olympicprovisions.com.
In and around Santa Maria, California, barbecuing beef over a fire of red oak logs has been a way of life since rancho days. Nowadays, the grill of choice—appropriately called a Santa Maria grill—can be raised and lowered so the meat sits just the right distance from the flames. But the models typically used in parking lots around town to serve crowds are a good 20 feet long. For the home cook, Santa Maria Grills makes a range of smaller backyard bbqs that work just the same way. From $189; santamariagrills.com
Any wine lover on your holiday list (yourself included!) is sure to appreciate this one-of-a-kind half case, including award winners recognized for their outstanding quality by Wine Enthusiast, Wine Spectator, Wine & Spirits and other wine authorities. Featuring multiple fine wines rated upwards of 90 points from the world’s foremost wine regions, including Napa, Tuscany and Bordeaux, this half case is available exclusively from Firstleaf at a price that’s also a gift! www.firstleaf.club
A San Francisco fave, Ritual Coffee Roasters delivers the caffeine—12 ounces of special seasonal blends—without the crowds. $20/shipment; ritualroasters.com
Finally, the perfect present for the serial coffee monogamist in your life. You know who we mean: She’s always trying the most-talked-about (or, alternatively, most obscure) beans around. The Bay Area–based company Mistobox sends regular care packages containing coffee from four different under-the-radar roasters from around the country—think Ristretto, from Portland, instead of Stumptown. $105/3-month subscription (four 3.4-oz. bags/month); mistobox.com.
Get your favorite home cook the gift that keeps on giving (and hope you'll be invited over to taste the results). Choose from the favorites on our food editors' bookshelves, from a collection of garden-fresh recipes to the latest from San Francisco's incomparable Tartine Bakery.