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When in doubt, I gift food. It’s a pretty much foolproof tactic because there’s something out there for everyone, whether they’re an accomplished home cook who will appreciate a niche condiment or an avid eater who has the local pizza joint on speed dial. There’s also an appropriate pick for every occasion: inexpensive stocking stuffers like a chunky garlic chile crisp a few experts say they drizzle on everything, thoughtful host offerings for all those parties you’re about to attend (it’s not a competition, but they might very well be happier to receive fancy maple syrup than yet another bottle of wine), and all-out showstoppers like an indulgent tasting set of caviar. To round up the very best edible gifts, I’ve dug deep into our archives to pull the most special and delicious items we’ve written about over the years and added some of my own favorite treats to the list too.
This giant bucket of Maldon, at once industrial and fun, is a joy of a gift to open. It will probably make them laugh — and then they won’t run out of the very best crunchy, flaky finishing salt for at least a year (maybe two).
Any real chile-crisp enthusiast probably already has a bottle of Fly by Jing’s tingly, deeply savory version, but more is more — and they’ll still be so excited to expand their collection with four other (very good) spicy ingredients from the brand. This box includes the original for when they run out plus a chile oil for finishing dishes, a vinaigrette for easy salads, an umami-rich dumpling sauce, and a super-versatile spice mix.
I first spotted Mama Teav’s in Carla Lalli Music’s kitchen, and since then, two other pro cooks have told me how much they love this version of chile crisp. It’s not insanely spicy (it leans more on the garlic than the chile), so they can drizzle it on everything, and the crunch-to-oil ratio is perfect.
This curated gift box from Brooklyn’s Big Night is a thoughtful collection of pantry staples for the perfect pasta dinner: a box of fancy bucatini, a bottle of silky olive oil, and jars of dried cherry tomatoes, artichokes, and peperoncino flakes — all imported from Italy (which is not their entire personality). All they need is a pot of salted boiling water and they’re set.
We’ve recommended this preserved-lemon paste, a favorite of chef and writer Lauren Joseph’s, for home cooks and professional food people alike because it adds instant punch to any dish. A little goes a long way stirred into dressings, marinades, salsa verde, dips, and even drinks.
If their favorite winter activity is cozying up with an at-home movie, they’ll surely appreciate this fancy box of popcorn kernels from BjornQorn that tastes nuttier and fresher than your average microwave bag. Bonus points if you gift it alongside the popper and cheddar-cheese seasoning we recommend here.
Matiz Piparra pickled peppers aren’t exactly cheap, which makes them the perfect little indulgence to give. Your recipient can snack on them plain, chop them up to sprinkle on salads or sandwiches, or set them out on a dazzling snack tray at their next dinner party.
Heilala vanilla paste is a small luxury to have around, even if they already stock premium extract. It includes actual pods, so the consistency is thicker (a little goes a long way), and it imparts a deeper, stronger flavor into baked goods than pure liquid.
Even if you think espresso martinis are a bit last year, your recipient can use this to make their favorite drink at home without having to worry about pulling an actual shot. Cheeky sources beans from Brooklyn’s Café Integral and bottles a well-balanced, just-slightly-sweet mixer that, when shaken with vodka and ice, produces a drink as well balanced and smooth as any bartender could make.
If they’re a collector of spirits, mixers, and bitters, they’ll love having these amaro-soaked cherries on their bar cart to finish off cocktails in an unexpected and sophisticated way. Instead of preserving them in sugar (which can make them cloyingly sweet), St. Agrestis uses the digestif to give them a smoky, bitter, boozy flavor.
Even when I’m not hosting, I’m often put on salad-dressing duty — and I know that nothing makes a noteworthy one like high-quality vinegar. No shade to Bragg’s (really), but this ACV will turn your recipient into a devotee because the sweet and tart notes are perfectly balanced and it tastes like real, juicy apples.
Brightland’s Pizza Oil, infused with raw jalapeños, garlic, oregano, and basil, is a fun way to dress up any pie — especially one that has turned lackluster in the trek from shop to door. It has a slightly spicy, distinctly herbal richness, and they’ll thank you every time they dunk their crust instead of leaving it behind (boo, hiss).
Helena Barquet and Fabiana Faria, owners of New York City’s ultracool design shop Coming Soon, say these in-shell peanuts make a super-fun gift because they actually taste like really good peanut butter. We think it’d be especially nice to give to a holiday-party host as an alternative to a bottle of wine.
Sure, they can run to the bodega when a craving strikes, but a gift box of high-quality chocolate will keep them stocked for quite a while. You can choose between a set of plain bars with different cacao percentages (for the purist), a set of flavored ones like honeycomb toffee and juniper lavender (for the adventurous), and a large set that includes all the offerings together (for the recipient you really love).
Imagine their delight at receiving Brooklyn institution Four & Twenty’s whole Salty Honey pie at their door — no matter where in the country they live. It’s the signature flavor from the shop, beloved for its “wonderfully gooey, sweet, luscious, and just-rightly-intense custard,” Eater Austin editor Nadia Chaudhury says.
Another A-plus delivery idea from another esteemed New York establishment, this collection of French cheeses (with plenty of accoutrements) can be set out in full at their next dinner party or stocked in the fridge for personal snacking.
Without weighing in on the tinned-fish discourse, the bottom line is if they love it, they love it — and it doesn’t get any better than Fishwife’s selection. I’m especially a fan of the albacore tuna they source from the Pacific Northwest: It’s succulent and plump but comes apart in gorgeous flakes.
If they top their pancakes and waffles with an average grocery-store squeeze bottle, they’ll be blown away by this one, aged with a bit of raw bourbon to give it an oaky and complex flavor. It’s great to have around during the holidays, too, for big breakfasts with houseguests.
Cookies are a no-fail gift, especially when they’re as gorgeous and delicious as these seasonal packs from baker Laurie Ellen (formerly of San Francisco’s famed Tartine). Bonus: She sources ingredients from some of our favorite companies, including Burlap & Barrel, Heilala Vanilla, and Murray’s Cheese (all of which make an appearance on this list).
Jamón ibérico is the fanciest cured meat, only produced in Spain — a real treat for anyone who savors salty, porky products. Strategist senior editor Chelsea Peng says this one lives up to the hype with its floral, nutty notes and the melty quality of the fat.
This collection from Bellocq will have them set as the weather turns chilly. It comes with a toasty breakfast blend, a citrusy mint flavor, a white studded with cedar and black currant, a floral black flavor, and a green variety with notes of passion fruit and rose. It includes 25 tea bags, too, plus the option to gift wrap for an additional $10.
Caviar is a real indulgence — the kind of thing they’re unlikely to splurge on themselves. Pearl Street comes recommended by event planner and expert host Lilli Sherman, who likes to put out these multiple tins at a party so everyone can taste different kinds, but we won’t judge if they keep them all to themself.
Just like with the Maldon bucket, it’s simply fun to give a giant version of something delicious, and these salty, crunchy, toasty chips from Spain certainly fit the bill. They’re a statement set out at parties (we’ve spotted them at swanky events all around the city) or a post-soirée snack to last the social season.
For my friends who don’t consider themselves amazing cooks but enjoy being in the kitchen anyway, I always find joy in giving what I call “weeknight assists”: ingredients that make turning out delicious food decidedly easy. This stir-fry sauce from Los Angeles’s popular pop-up turned restaurant Woon is just that (the restaurant uses this exact one in both its beef and veggie noodles).
The best gift I ever received (and it happens every year thanks to my mom) was a big box of vibrant, juicy citrus straight from sunny California. The box, stuffed to the brim with Meyer lemons, cures any winter blues I’m feeling (and the farm also has limes, limequats, kumquats, Ojai Pixies, blood oranges, mandarins, yuzu, and more on offer).
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