‘Tis the season of gift-giving, and no present is more welcomed—and guaranteed to be used—than food. There’s something for every palate, from classic holiday sweets to dry-aged American Wagyu beef to gloriously stinky towers of cheese.
Some of our best finds are deliciously educational: single-origin chocolates, coffees, spices, and more that tell the stories of their homes, testaments to the connection between food and place. Happy gifting—and eating!
For the Sweet-Toothed
Nothing says Christmas like an old-fashioned fruitcake. Matthews 1812 House, a family owned and operated bakery making all-natural, small-batch baked goods since 1979, has excellent options. They’ve been making their Brandied Apricot Cake since their early days, full of brandy-soaked apricots; crisp, buttery pecans; and soft, caramel-sweet dates. For a non-alcoholic option, the Heirloom Fruit & Nut Cake is lovely, a lightly-spiced honey and brown sugar cake also generously studded with the trio. The cakes are more tart than sweet, with no citron or candied fruit—the main culprits behind fruitcake’s bad rap—in sight. $68 for a three-pound ring; $38 for a one and a half-pound loaf.
The holidays beg for a cookie platter, too. Matthews 1812 House’s Extraordinary Cookie Assortment combines a selection of six freshly-baked favorites: hazelnut, toffee cashew, triple chocolate, marzipan-filled almond roll ups, fruit-filled, and orange currant shortbread rounds. They taste of nostalgia—simple, homemade goodness. $51. 1812House.com
Recchiuti’s Pâtes de Fruits, traditional French fruit jellies, join the confectionary’s beloved chocolate truffles on its best-selling list. For good reason: Made with real fruit puree and no preservatives or artificial flavors, the delicate jellies sing with bright, concentrated fruit—Morello cherry, passionfruit, blueberry, and pear-lime—without being cloyingly sweet. A coating of crystallized sugar gives them a sparkling finish. $24 for a box of 18 pieces. Recchiuti.com
Fat Toad Farm, in Brookfield, Vermont, makes their award-winning goat’s milk caramel sauces the traditional way, with fresh, local goat’s milk, hand-stirred into rich, velvety-smooth perfection. We’d be happy to eat it straight with a spoon. Their new Petit Caramel Winter Gift Bag Quartet is ideal for gifting (especially stocking-stuffing) with four two-ounce jars of caramel, packaged in hand-stamped cotton gift bags tied with a wooden spoon. You can customize your flavors, with options like salted bourbon, vanilla bean, cold brew coffee, and spicy dark chocolate. $27.50. FatToadFarm.com
EHChocolatier’s peppermint bark is the holiday classic at its best: smooth white chocolate swirled with dark, studded with crunchy bits of natural peppermint candy and dusted with peppermint sugar crystals for a refreshing finish. $14.
Meanwhile, their chocolate-dipped orange slices, made from organic sweet Valencia oranges hand-sliced into thin, delicate rounds, dehydrated, and dipped in rich Valrhona 70 percent chocolate, strike a perfect balance between sweet, tart, and just barely bitter. $14 for a box of eight. EHChocolatier.com
For the Chocolate-Obsessed
Stick With Me Sweets’ handmade chocolate bonbons elicit oohs and ahhs in three rounds: the first, with the box, designed as a hollowed-out book; the second, with the reveal of its contents, a dazzling collection of glossy, hand-painted jewels; and the third, with the sweet discovery of their insides, in playful flavors like Speculoos S’more, Yuzu, Liquid Salted Caramel, and Kalamansi Meringue Pie. The Christmas in New York Holiday Gift Box features 25 bonbons arranged in a Christmas tree, backdropped by the city celebrating the season. $98. SWMSweets.com.
Gift the curious chocolate lover a unique tasting experience with Dandelion Chocolate’s Wrapped Three-Bar Gift Set. The package includes three of the bean-to-bar producer’s single-origin 70 percent chocolate bars, each made with purely cocoa beans and sugar to let the beans speak for themselves—and speak they do, their distinct profiles and nuances coming into sharp relief, some flavors so strong and unexpected it’s hard to believe that no other ingredients are added. A tasting guide accompanies the bars, and the gift box comes beautifully wrapped in handmade Indian cotton paper. $30. DandelionChocolate.com
Rabitos Royale bonbons are made from dried Spanish figs stuffed with ganache and dipped in chocolate. The Trio gift collection comes with three versions: a dark chocolate shell and brandy ganache filling; a milk chocolate shell and salted caramel ganache filling; and a white chocolate shell and strawberry ganache filling. $21.95 for nine pieces (three of each flavor), $37.95 for 18 (six of each flavor). Available at Tienda.com.
A sweet and whimsical gift, La Maison du Chocolat’s adorable Dreamy Elf Bouchée features a rosy-cheeked milk and white chocolate elf atop a praline bed enrobed in dark chocolate. $38. LaMaisonduChocolat.us
For the Cheese Lover
Murray’s cheese towers—yes, towers made from stacked wheels of cheese—make for a stunning gift or crowd-pleasing centerpiece. The globetrotting Tower of Terroir starts with Project X, a pleasantly nutty raw cow’s milk tomme inspired by Italy’s mountain cheeses; followed by the award-winning Greensward, a luxuriously spoonable, spruce-wrapped gem originally developed for Eleven Madison Park’s “Iconic New York” menu; and finally crowned by Valençay, a pungent, spreadable number from France’s Loire Valley. Each layer comes individually wrapped, ready to assemble into a tower. $95.
To round out a cheese board—or for multiple cheese lovers in your life—try the Hudson Flower ($35/pound), a delicately creamy sheep’s milk beauty with piney and floral notes from a coat of herbs and hop flowers; the Regal al Tartufo ($40/pound), a decadent grating cheese packed with black truffles; or the Stockinghall Cheddar ($30/pound), Murray’s crumbly, fudgy, and bacon-y first cheese (and our enduring favorite). MurraysCheese.com
To pair: Raw, unfiltered honeys from Mitica, Murray’s first line of single varietal honeys from abroad, hail from the region of Emilia-Romagna, in northern Italy. $9 for a four-ounce jar.
Bee Seasonal’s first harvest of raw, organic honeys comes from Brazil; their Marmeleiro, for instance, is a floral and faintly tropical quince varietal from the northeastern part of the country. $5.99 for a four-ounce jar. BeeSeasonal.com.
Le Bon Magot makes award-winning artisan chutneys and condiments highlighting complex African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian flavors. The tangy brinjal (eggplant) caponata and smoky-sweet spiced raisin marmalata are particular standouts. $7 for a two-ounce jar; $13 for an eight-ounce jar. LeBonMagot.com
For the Coffee Connoisseur (or Beginner)
Give the gift of personalized coffee from around the world with a Driftaway Coffee subscription. This coffee is as fresh as it gets: the Brooklyn-based roaster ships bags of single-origin beans within six hours of roasting. Each subscription starts with a tasting kit of four coffees with distinct profiles; recipients can then rate them on the Driftaway app or website to customize future deliveries—and even provide feedback directly to farmers. Coffees change monthly, making the gift as fitting for a veteran eager to more deeply explore the world of coffee as for a beginner looking for a point of entry. Gift subscriptions start at $39 (seven ounces per month for three months). Driftaway.Coffee
For the Tea Aficionado
Ippodo, which has been producing Japanese green tea for nearly three centuries, has a new gift-ready Glass Teapot Set, including a beautifully simple, wide-chambered teapot with a filter built into its lid, plus two green teas to brew: sencha and genmaicha. $39.75. Ippodo-Tea.co.jp/en
For the Avid Home Cook
Pastificio G. di Martino, third-generation maker of PGI Gragnano Pasta, has joined forces with iconic Italian designer Dolce & Gabbana to create a food-meets-fashion pasta gift box for the holidays. A vintage-inspired tin bright with colorful tile artwork holds five bags of spaghetti, paccheri, and penne mezzani rigate, made with 100 percent Italian durum wheat semolina and spring water from the hill town of Gragnano, as per centuries-old tradition. A Dolce & Gabbana-designed apron completes the kit. $160 at NeimanMarcus.com.
Carnivores will swoon over Snake River Farms’ new dry-aged beef program. The family-run, ranch-to-table business, whose products are featured on the menus of the likes of Daniel Humm, Thomas Keller, and Wolfgang Puck, takes its famed American Wagyu and USDA Prime steaks and ages them for a minimum of 45 and 30 days, respectively. The result: incredibly rich, deeply-flavored steaks that might just ruin all others for you. Starting at $85; $299 for an assortment of porterhouse, New York strip, and ribeye. SnakeRiverFarms.com
In the middle of the Sandhills, Nebraska, George Paul Vinegar makes beautifully clean fruit and wine vinegars using traditional, old-world methods. They take anywhere from two to eight years to finish. The apple cider and raspberry vinegars are especially refreshing, sweet and tangy embodiments of the fresh fruits they’re made from (the latter over vanilla ice cream is a revelation); while the balsamic-style Emilia is rich, complex, and luscious. Starting from $9.95. GeorgePaulVinegar.com
Burlap & Barrel sources unique single-origin, hand-harvested spices from around the world, working directly with small farmers. Expand a curious home cook’s culinary horizons with the Fundamentals Collection, a set of six of their most popular offerings: silk chili flakes from Kahramanmaras, Turkey; Mediterranean coriander and flowering hyssop thyme from Denizli, Turkey; cured sumac from Gaziantep, Turkey; smoked pimentón paprika from Extremadura, Spain; and toasted sesame seeds from the Fayoum oasis in Egypt. $46.99. BurlapAndBarrel.com
Salt is key to good flavor; Jacobsen Salt’s pocket-sized, take-me-everywhere Sea Salt Slide Tins, containing a blend of pure, hand-harvested sea salt from the Oregon Coast, ensure never a bland dish. They’re the perfect stocking stuffer for cooking enthusiasts. $6 for a pack of two. JacobsenSalt.com
Shopping for a wine lover? We have a guide for that, too.