Saturday, December 04, 2010

Food-Themed Holiday Gift Ideas

Tis the season to figure out our holiday gift lists.  A friend of mine asked me last week if I was going to put together my thoughts on suggestions for my top food-themed present possibilities.  I had kind of sort of been thinking about doing a post about this in the same way that I’ve kind of sort of being trying to get myself motivated to do my holiday shopping for my large extended family (hey, I just bought stamps for holiday cards so I’m getting there).  Her call was the push that I needed to get myself going.

This has been a year for me to get to know lots of great new food things available in New York City and to meet some of the wonderful people behind these items.  What is helpful for your shopping list, too, is that some of these products are also available to you via online ordering or even in your own regional stores.  I’ve tried to gather as much of this information as is possible, but I always defer to the brands’ own websites, as they will (or should) have the most current details available for how to get your hands on their products. 

I hope that this list will help you to make quick work of your holiday shopping, at least for the foodies for whom you are buying presents.  I have no idea what I’m going to get for the majority of my family members, and I can’t just bake cookies and mail them out to everyone, unfortunately.  We operate a non-gift card policy, so I can’t even show up in Virginia empty-handed and expect to get those last-minute at the mall!  So, without further ado, here’s my list of some food-finds that I think would make good gifts:

Edibles (non-chocolate)

Blue Crab Bay Co. (

You’re shaking your head as to why this is on a list where I feature mostly New York-produced items.  Well, they were at the Fancy Food Feast so I’m sneaking them in here.  We don’t really get all the blue crab dishes up here, and it is one of those things that I miss from home.  Fortunately, I can order supplies from these folks to tide me over until I can get down south to the family crabfest each year.  I picked up some of their fantastic Crab Dip Kit and hid it in a cupboard at my parents’ house to have this holiday season, so at least I’ll be well-supplied at Christmas.

Rick’s Picks (

Unsure if my liking them when I sampled the Mean Beans and People’s Pickles at International Pickle Day was just a fluke, I went back for a second round at their table at the Piglet Party this week. Mmm, yes.  For your pickle-fanatic fans, you should grab a couple of jars of these to stuff in their stockings.  If they like heat with their brine, Rick’s also has some spicy varieties, too. 

Schoolhouse Kitchen (

I first found their Spreadable Fruit, Mustards, and Chutneys at the New Amsterdam Market and fell completely in love with them.  Wendy W. Smith, the president of the company, was kind enough to talk to me one afternoon about their products and their philosophy.  To find out more about these items and to see some additional photos of their wares, please see my Product Spotlight post about them.  Their products and gift packs will be available at the New Amsterdam Market for the next two weekends as well as at the Brooklyn Flea Gifted market. 

Spices & Tease (

This is a family-run enterprise with the most gorgeous array of spices and tea blends.  One day, I’m going to just throw the budget out the window (must get paying job first!) and buy all the combinations that they offer.  In the meantime, I’ll have to sample them sparingly.  They have stalls at the Columbus Circle and Union Square holiday markets, and are offering gift sets of tins.  Please be aware that they only accept cash payments.

The Filling Station (

With several locations in Manhattan (Chelsea Market and Provisions down at South Street Seaport) as well as stalls at the holiday markets at Union Square and Columbus Circle, this is a must-stop spot for the olive oil and vinegar lover on your list.  Their Blood Orange Olive Oil is fruity and smooth, not at all chemical-ly, which sometimes happens with flavored oils.  Their small bottles of Truffle Oil at $10.00 per seemed to me to be a bargain, as this condiment can often be very pricy.  They also have blends of salts and herbs for sale, too.  The widest selection will be at Chelsea Market, but you can also stop by their stalls to get samples.

Edibles (chocolate/sweets)

A friend of mine and I were wandering through the Bryant Park Holiday Fair on Thursday when we came across this stand.  I discovered these dark-chocolate covered hazelnut beauties when I studied in Italy and have been a fan ever since.  Part of the fun of them is to take the slip of paper that has sayings translated on it and see if they work in each of the languages printed.  Sometimes these have been, ahem, ‘transliterated’ rather than translated exactly.  One day, I will get a job correcting these, as well as in making Italian-to-English subtitles make sense.

Bond Street Chocolate (

I first visited this shop during the East Village Eats walking tour.  The chocolate flavor combinations were really interesting.  What grabbed my attention, however, and puts this store on my list is the unique molded chocolates that they sell.  Need enlightenment?  How about a chocolate Buddha.  Feeling a little more heavy metal?  They have chocolate skulls, too.

Co Co. Sala Chocolate Lounge & Boutique (

This was one of the chocolatiers who knocked my socks off at the Chocolate Show last month.  They sell several different gift boxes with different flavor themes that would fit perfectly in anyone’s stocking, especially mine!  I really loved their White Chocolate with Sea Salt and Pink Pepper, but they have other delicious-sounding flavors as well.

Fika Choklad (

Or, if someone really wants to get on my good list, I’ll take some of these.  Another favorite of mine from the Chocolate Show.  His caramel with sea-salt crunch will change the way your brain processes filled chocolates.  Other flavors like gingerbread and cardamom are completely seasonally appropriate.  I still haven’t had a chance to make my way down to their shop to see if his boast of the best coffee in NYC holds water.

Liddabit Sweets (

Jen and Liz make some of the most deliciously, addictive caramels, candy bars, and flavored popcorn available (ask me about their Bourbon-Coffee-Bacon-Caramel Popcorn).  They use locally-sourced seasonal ingredients to produce their confectionary wonders.  Check out their website for updates on locations, as they’ve recently added a bunch of new ones. 

Xocolatti (

This was another of my top-ranked finds from the Chocolate Show.  I thought the design was gorgeous and appealing.  What was important, however, was the product, which also did not disappoint.  The Sake Chocolates would be a good adult gift to replace those bourbon or rum balls once and for all. 


Benmarl Winery (

Tomorrow, the New Amsterdam Market will be featuring New York State wines.  I’ve recently become a convert to these, especially when there are such great bottles like Benmarl Winery’s DeChaunac Cabernet Franc to be drunk.  I’m planning to stop by their stand to pick up another bottle of this delicious wine with Côtes du Rhône flavors so that I can have some on hand to celebrate the holidays. 

Brooklyn Oenology (

I’ve had a couple of opportunities to visit their tasting room, which I wrote about last month.  My favorites in their wine cellar include the BOE 2009 Rosé and the BOE 2005 Merlot. 

Doc’s Draft Hard Apple Cider (

This is one tipple found on Brooklyn Oenology’s flights menu, which is where I first drank it.  I’ve had sips of several New York apple ciders, and this is the closest one I’ve found to the flavors that I really enjoy.  Crisp with lots of clean, tart apple taste, much like the ones from my home state of Virginia.  At the New Amsterdam Market wine festival this weekend, I also had a chance to try some of their other products, including a fabulous Bourbon Barrel Aged Apple Liqueur.  This is a drink meant to be sipped so as to enjoy all its rich, wonderful tones of caramel and ripe, juicy apple and would be perfect on a cool, winter's day in front of a roaring fire.

Inspire Moore Winery (

One of the wines that really impressed me today at the New Amsterdam wine festival was the 2009 Framboise from this Finger Lakes winery.  Somehow, they managed to capture perfectly the sweet-tart notes of local raspberries without making a beverage that is too syrupy or cloying.  This would be a great, refreshing dessert wine to have alongside of a platter of cheese and some chocolates and is something new to bring to your holiday table.

Ever wondered what real, soda-fountain style sodas tasted like?  Well, Anton and Erica are trying to bring them back to us.  I first met them and tried a lime-ginger combo when I was at the New Amsterdam Market at the Ice Cream Festival.  My second taste of their great product was a seasonally-appropriate Concord Grape Soda at New York Magazine’s Grub Street-Hester Street Fair.  Both of these were clean-tasting and refreshing without being overly sweet and cloying.  Their site lists the markets where you can find them this season.

Sheldrake Point Vineyard (

Another of the wineries that was at the New Amsterdam wine festival this weekend, Sheldrake brought several of their award-winning bottles with them for visitors to sample.  I really enjoyed their 2008 Late Harvest Riesling.  New York wineries, as I've discovered, make some amazing late harvest wines, which I enjoy for their layers of flavors.  This one is no exception with lots of pear and citrus.  It would be a perfect dessert wine.  Their 2008 Apple Splash was also a great treat, giving my mouth a full apple flavor along with warm caramel tones.  This is another wine that I could see serving as a wrap-up to a delicious holiday dinner.


Brooklyn Brew Shop (

Ever wanted to delve into the world of home brew making (or know someone who has)?  Brooklyn Brew Shop has created several kits to help you get going.  I’m interested to try the Chocolate Maple Porter, if anyone whips up a few bottles of that.  I saw these at the Union Square Holiday Market, but they are also available locally at Whole Foods and Williams-Sonoma in the city per what they told me.

NY Cruets (

As I was breezing through the Union Square Holiday Market earlier this week, this stand made me stop and do a double-take.  Hand-crafted in Hungary, these gorgeous and functional olive oil and vinegar cruets would make a wonderful addition to any kitchen.  I have one that I bought in Italy many years ago and have found it to be perfect.  The only downside is that mine is glass.  These are made of Pyrex, so they should be much more durable.  For the moment, they are available on line and at the Union Square and Columbus Circle holiday markets.

Karma Living (

One of the challenges to bringing my lunch each day when I have an office job is to figure out what container to put it in.  I don’t really like sandwiches, so I prefer to bring dinner leftovers or to create some type of hot meal.  Regular plastic containers just don’t cut it.  Bento boxes have been one option that I’ve considered.  Another is the tiffin concept.  This stand at the Bryant Park and Union Square holiday markets might offer the solution to my problem. 

* * * * * *

I hope that you enjoyed reading about some of my food-oriented finds that could be solutions to your holiday shopping needs.  I wonder what my secret Santa has decided to put in my stocking or if he will go “off the list” as we call it!


Nicole said...

This is making me miss NY!!! Rome is a fantastic food city, but there's no place New York. Buon Natale.

The Experimental Gourmand said...

Grazie! I really do miss all the gorgeous decorations and gifts that I used to get in Italy for the holidays. I don't have to look too far to get panettone; it is everywhere these days!

All Images and Text copyright by The Experimental Gourmand 2005-2011. All rights reserved.