If you’re still stumped for what holiday gifts to offer your food-loving friends and family, may we suggest our last-minute holiday gift guide? We have two words in mind: subscription boxes. These little gems, which cater to a wide range of preferences, deliver surprises month after month and will have your loved ones waiting in anticipation for the next delivery.
Mantry sounds just like what it is: a pantry for men. Except that, well, gender aside, the box we happened to try contained some of the most intriguing finds we received, and women and men both found plenty to like.
Six artisanal items, which come in a rustic and reusable wooden crate box (manly even down to the packaging!), are chosen according to a specific theme each month, and come with storytelling that’s fun to boot. The desert-themed box we received was filled with items from the American Southwest—jellies made from prickly pear (delicious), garlic-green chili pistachios (addictive), a roasted green chili sauce with a zip of lime juice and garlic, and a pancake mix from northern New Mexico made with blue corn and pine nuts (wholesome and nutty), and machaca, a traditional handmade, shredded, dried beef.
The other was a wild sage and mint tea, which verily separated the wheat from the chaff, or rather, those who could handle their tea (intense and herbal) and those who couldn’t. One gentleman tea lover colleague of ours said he could feel hairs sprouting on his chest as he drank.
Prices per crate: 1 month, $75; 3 months, $225; 6 months, $450
Skoshbox is perfect for those who love all things Japanese, or have a nostalgic soft spot for cutely packaged treats. Each month, the company curates a different set from Japan’s dizzying array of snacks—from addictively crunchy, savory-sweet rice crackers, to matcha-flavored biscuit sticks, to mochi-and-sesame-seed-filled chocolates.
If you’re an avid snacker, their original Skoshbox of 8 to 11 snacks (most of them modest in size) might not last you the whole month. The Dekabox, double the original size, is a safer bet. Most of the snacks are sweet, with some more pleasing to the adult palate than others. In recent boxes we sampled, the chocolate-covered coffee beans made an excellent afternoon pick-me-up, as did the chocolate-covered almonds peppered with bits of rock sugar. Others, like Hello Kitty marshmallows with matcha-flavored jelly and pop-out heart-shaped chocolates, mostly win with their packaging.
The adorableness doesn’t stop there—sometimes Skoshbox will throw in a free gift, like Pocky-shaped chopsticks and sushi-shaped erasers.
$12 per box for Skoshbox, $24 per box for Dekabox
Those with a more discerning sweet tooth will enjoy these collections of artisanal treats from around the country. Each box comes with three to six different products, all from small-batch companies. We sampled a recent box that included gooey pecan-topped caramels covered in dark chocolate; salted caramel apple oatmeal cookies that tasted like biting into a rich apple pie; fantastically buttery toffees from the International Chocolate Award-winning company Laurie and Sons; and a jar of apple and cranberry preserve that surprised us with its infusion of bay leaves (enjoyed on bread with some butter to balance the tanginess).
At $19.95 per box, Treatsie leans on the pricier side, but it still costs less than buying the items separately. Getting the box is a great way to discover new artisanal goodies.
$19.95 per box
Try the World
Armchair travelers, here’s something for you to munch on. Celebrity chefs curate these boxes, filled with seven items from artisans around the world. Recipes, a playlist, and stories complete the package.
Some items are ready-to-eat and others are to be used in recipes. The boxes are themed by country, with the exception of the special edition holiday box, curated by food personality David Rosegarten, which contains items from around the world—the olive oil from Israel was excellent with a peppery bite, and we especially liked the dried bilberries and lingonberries from Finland.
$39 per box
Wholesome ingredients, free of GMO, artificial sweeteners or colors, are the basis of the nutritionist-approved snacks delivered by NatureBox.
You can either pick five items—from a vast menu of over 100 snacks searchable by taste or nutrition profile—or choose to be surprised. If you don’t like a snack, you can get it replaced in your next box.
We loved the addictive salt and pepper lentil loops (half the calories of chips but just as satisfying), summery dried California peaches (no sugar added), the superlative tender jerky (made with grass-fed beef and without preservatives), and the not-too-sweet dark cocoa nom-noms (with oats, cocoa, and vanilla). Best of all, it’s guilt-free snacking.
$13.95 for 3 snacks, $19.95 for 5 snacks; shipped weekly, biweekly, or monthly
With Love, From Brooklyn
Leave it to Brooklyn artisans to produce intriguing ver- sions of every product under the sun (mayonnaise, any- one?). With Love, From Brooklyn has subscriptions that you can gift, as well as gift sets. For bacon lovers, the “Brook- lyn Bacon” gift set includes Roni-Sue’s Bacon Buttercrunch candy, Bacon Mayo from Empire Mayonnaise, red chili-gar- lic bacon spread from Bacon Jams, and Bacon Corn from Liddabit Sweets ($79). Another gift set, Brooklyn Heat, fea- turing Mike’s Hot Honey, Chili Lab Chili Salt, Empire May- onnaise Sriracha Mayo, Brooklyn Grange Hot Sauce, and Jojo’s Sriracha, is perfect for those who love spicy foods ($75).
$117 for a three-month subscription; prices for gift sets vary.
This is not a subscription service but if travel through Grand Central Station in New York City during your commute, then this qualifies for sheer convenience for last-minute gifting. Taste NY stores across New York state are offering specialty gift baskets—either prepackaged or customized—with products all made in the Empire State.
Items include a wide variety of specialty food items such as wines, liquors, candy, and snack foods. For example, there’s whiskey from Brooklyn’s Van Brunt Stillhouse, Candied Jalapeños from Little Bird in Queens, and wine from Sparkling Pointe.
For the first time, stores are taking orders by phone and for delivery.
In New York City, The Grand Central Station Taste NY store is located across track 37 (212-663-2212). Taste NY also has a booth at the Grand Central Holiday Fair in Vanderbilt Hall.