Metro Weekly

Holiday Gift Guide: 9 Great Food Gifts

Food gifts from spices and spiced coffee to petite cookies and even do-it-yourself butter

The holidays aren’t just about candy, cookies, chocolate and way too much eggnog. Here are nine ideas, both sweet and savory, to satisfy the gourmands in your life, whether given as gifts, Secret Santa, in stockings, or just displayed and eaten at parties.

Season's to Taste cookbook

Jonathan Bardzik’s Seasons to Taste Cookbook – It may not have been the most high-profile of cookbooks to come from local chefs this year — Grill Nation from David Guas of Bayou Bakery takes that crown — but the gay Bardzik’s second self-published book, subtitled Farm-Fresh Joy for Kitchen & Table, is as attractive, impressive and engaging as any other, and seemingly more practical for the average urban cook. The gorgeous, plush 320-page hardcover book ($40) features 127 recipes grouped by season, peppered with humorous personal insights and amusing anecdotes that inspire you to keep reading until you’re ready to get cooking. Once winter finally feels like winter, you’ll crave his Mushroomy Mushroom Soup, Manchego Serrano Souffle and Herb-Crusted Pork Chops with Parsnips. Visit jonathanbardzik.com.

Hello Fresh

HelloFresh Three-Meal Box – The Berlin-based upstart HelloFresh, like competitors Blue Apron and Plated, ships meal kits featuring fresh ingredients to make several recipes (including one a week from British chef Jamie Oliver starting in 2016). A week before Christmas, it’s too late to order a gift box — but you can purchase a gift card for that someone in your life who likes to cook, but is often unsure about what to make. It could be a great gift for your significant other or roommate, and is sure to enhance social interaction as well as cooking skills, as roommates and guests help prepare meals and then enjoy the fruits of the labor together. HelloFresh starts at $79 a week for a Classic Box of three meals easily feeding two per, or $69 for a three-meal Veggie Box. Visit hellofresh.com.

Try The World Gift Box — Try The World is a New York-based service offering gourmet packaged food goods every other month, each curated box representing a different country or culture. The most recent box toasted Spain, with recipes for tapas using the box’s six ingredients, including El Avion smoked mild paprika, El Navarrico Salsa Tumaca con Ajo and P. Listo rose petals jam (for a cava spritzer cocktail). As with HelloFresh, it’s too late to gift a $39 box from Try The World, but you can purchase a gift certificate for the same amount. Visit trytheworld.com.

Laconiko Olive Oil — Olive oil may seem like a odd gift, though one taste of the smooth, buttery, peppery oil, and you’ll be a convert. Laconiko also sells 10 infused varieties, as exotic as Black Truffle, Chives and Blood Orange. At $21.95 per 375ml bottle, it’s more expensive than the average — but because it is single-sourced and unblended, Laconiko has a shelf life of more than two years, several times longer than the cheaper, mostly blended varieties you’ll find in the supermarket. An especially giftable selection of five flavored varieties runs $90 online at laconiko.com. Also available at area Ah Love Oil & Vinegar stores.

Dean and Deluca French Spices

Dean & Deluca’s French Spice Stack — This “stack” of four spice blends includes savory, “fines herbes” (a blend of parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil) and tarragon. But the star attraction, naturellement, is Herbes de Provence. A special blend of floral, earthy herbs including marjoram, rosemary, thyme, oregano and lavender, Herbs de Provence is especially good for seasoning steak prior to searing. It can be hard to find the blend at local grocery stores — even Whole Foods isn’t high-end enough, it seems. Naturellement, one of the original high-end grocers, with a location in Georgetown that remains a destination for gourmands, is so savvy as to feature it among its gift baskets. Mais oui. ($25). Visit deandeluca.com.

ButterKit_HI_Square

Roaring Brook Dairy Homemade Butter Kit — Everything tastes better with butter, though not just any butter. Most store-bought varieties taste little better than “greasy cardboard,” as Jonathan Bardzik puts it. Of course, good butter, such as Bardzik’s preferred Amish grass-fed butter sold by Agora Farms at Eastern Market, is expensive. It’s also too perishable to gift. A slightly cheaper, giftable alternative is this kit, which makes for a cool little science experiment perfect for a geeky — or at least goofy — food-loving friend. It requires shaking heavy cream for 15 minutes to turn it into butter — unless you cheat and use a mixer — and also produces a buttermilk that you can drink. The kit comes with a mini butter crock and butter spreader, plus packets of cinnamon sugar and Herbes de Provence for making herbed butter. Glen’s Garden Markets in Dupont Circle and Shaw carry the kit for $17.99 (organic heavy cream not included). Visit roaringbrookdairy.com or glensgardenmarket.com.

Trader Joe’s Joyous Joe Coffee Assortment — By this time of year, plenty of people are turned off by anything spiced with pumpkin or gingerbread. But not all of us. If you can’t get enough of the season’s flavors, pick up a 12-ounce can of flavored coffee at Trader Joe’s, rotating between Pumpkin Spice, Gingerbread and Wintry Blend. All are delicious, though Gingerbread has the edge given its veritable kick from dried ginger root. This year, you can get all at once with this assortment of 2.75 oz. cans, also including the tingly Peppermint Mocha with peppermint leaf and red peppercorn. Available for $12 at area stores, including the 14th St. NW location. Visit traderjoes.com.

Carla Halls Black Forest Crinkle

Carla Hall Petite Cookies — D.C.-based celebrity chef Carla Hall, known from her stints on Bravo’s Top Chef and as co-host of ABC’s The Chew, offers the perfect antidote to standard-fare holiday cookies, which are generally too large and too sweet. The cookies in her collection are the size of sugar cubes and are light and airy. Particularly noteworthy is her divine Black Forest Crinkle, a blend of chocolate chips, cherries, cocoa powder and vanilla extract. Other varieties include Almond Ginger Cherry Shortbread, Chocolate Cinnamon Tea Cake and Lemon Black Pepper Shortbread. A 6 oz. plastic cube of Black Forest Crinkle costs only $6.99 at Glen’s Garden Market locations. Visit carlahallbakes.com and glensgardenmarket.com.

Creole Cringle Cake from Bayou Bakery — Both the Arlington and Capitol Hill locations of Bayou Bakery offer stocking stuffers, from candied creole pecans ($10) to a trinity of pralines ($8) to a “heavenly hash” of pecan and marshmallow fudge ($7). But the most interesting seasonal offering this year is chef/proprietor David Guas’ hybrid of the famous, mass-produced King Cake from his native New Orleans. Guas adds a little Kris Kringle cheer to concoct a brioche-style cake topped with sugary brown butter icing and stuffed with crumbled pralines and creole cream cheese. There are 12 to 16 servings in each cake, which costs $39.95 and must be individually ordered by Tuesday, Dec. 22, at 1 p.m., for pick-up Dec. 24. Visit bayoubakerydc.com.

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Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music, food, nightlife and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @ruleonwriting.

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