Epoch Taste 2016 Holiday Gift Guide

December 1, 2016 3:12 pm Last Updated: December 6, 2016 1:52 pm

For this year’s holiday gift guide, we scoured the width and length of America, from shining seas to purple mountain majesties. We found good old ingenuity, like a young woman designing her own cheese caves—and insisting that they be American-made—to creativity manifesting in unexpected flavor combinations, like a goat cheese fragrant with lavender buds and wild fennel pollen.

Others, like regional honeys or jams, capture the essence of place: from wild elderberry jelly and peach preserves made with Michigan fruit, to honey with the fragrance of the Sunshine State’s orange blossoms.

For holiday classics, look to caramels and chocolates too decadent for words.

Happy gifting!

(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

That’s My Jam

(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Based in Michigan, American Spoon sources local fruit to make preserves that amplify their most delicious elements, from the herbaceousness of its award-winning Wild Elderberry Jelly ($13.95), to the perfectly balanced tartness of its Sour Cherry Preserves ($10.95) and the nectar-like sweetness of its Red Haven Peach Preserves ($10.95). Spoon.com

Brooklyn Meets Delhi

(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Achaar is a traditional Indian relish made from a mix of vegetables and fruits, spices, chilies, and oil. Brooklyn Delhi makes a powerful tomato achaar from New York-grown tomatoes, smacking of potent Indian heat and spices ($8.75). BrooklynDelhi.com

Sweet ‘n’ Spicy

(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Straight out of Brooklyn, Mike’s Hot Honey can be addictive. The taste of chilies hits your throat with force, but before it wreaks havoc, the honey soothes it over ($10 for 12 oz.). MikesHotHoney.com

When Ramps Go Funky

(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

It’s amazing how much flavor just salt and a little bit of time can impart. The ramp kraut from Blackberry Farm in eastern Tennessee is funky and pungent, its garlicky and tangy flavors reminiscent of kimchi ($18.50). BlackberryFarmShop.com

The King of Crackers

(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Based in Vermont, Jan’s Farmhouse Crisps makes Cranberry Pistachio crackers rich with the scent of rosemary, nuts, and seeds. These are what won the company a sofi Award from the Specialty Food Association, but the Sesame Citrus crackers are equally enticing with a taste of lemon. Their thin, crunchy texture makes these crackers an awesome snack on their own or with your favorite cheese ($71.40 for a case of 12 boxes, or check online for locations). JansFarmhouseCrisps.com

Inspired by the Hudson Valley

(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Chocolatier Oliver Kita, who was named one of Dessert Professional magazine’s Top 10 Chocolatiers in North America, is inspired by the beautiful landscape of New York’s Hudson Valley, where his chocolate shop is located. Kita’s decadent, all-organic truffle flavors include Cognac Crème Brulée, with caramelized brown sugar; delightfully tart Passionfruit and Lychee; and Palet d’Olivier, with the concentrated taste of black currant ($48 for four-tiered gift box).

(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

For the holidays, Kita also makes an adorable dark chocolate polar bear, hand-painted in off-white ($24). OliverKita.com

Gingerbread in a Chocolate Bar

(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

For a festive holiday treat, Nathan Miller Chocolate from Pennsylvania makes a gingerbread-infused chocolate bar, with just a dash of ginger-and-clove inflected crunchiness. The bean-to-bar company uses direct-trade cocoa from the Dominican Republic to make a smooth buttermilk chocolate with roasted, fruity notes ($7.50). NathanMiller.MyShopify.com

For Caramel Fans

San Francisco-based chocolatier Michael Recchiuti is known for his caramels. The Fleur de Sel Burnt Caramels are delicately balanced, with bitter, sweet, and salty flavors ($24), while the Burnt Caramel Truffles marry chocolate and caramel in the ganache, lending a deep, smoky flavor ($26). Recchiuti.com

Chocolate Bars, All Grown Up

(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

For the chocolate lover in your life, get EH Chocolatier‘s The Big Tasty gift box. It’s filled with grown-up, refined versions of fun chocolate bars, such as peanut butter crunch, brown butter toffee, and caramelized white chocolate ($32). A signature touch of the company is that their treats are never cloyingly sweet. EHChocolatier.com

American Honeys

(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Bee Raw‘s raw honeys showcase the astounding range of flavors and textures from different parts of the country. The Florida Orange Blossom gives off a hint of orange rind ($14.99), while the Oregon Meadowfoam exudes strong floral notes ($18.99). The Colorado Sweet Yellow Clover has a buttery, custardy texture, with an intense sweetness that builds as you savor it ($14.99). TheBrooklynKitchen.com

Snowmen Too Sweet to Resist

(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

These chubby Jacques Torres chocolate snowmen—available in white, milk, and dark chocolate—make a great gift for anyone with an inner child and a sweet tooth ($7 each). MrChocolate.com

Pears to Eat With a Spoon

(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Grown in southern Oregon, these ridiculously juicy Royal Riviera pears are what made the food gift company Harry & David famous. You’ll need a spoon to eat these without spraying pear juice everywhere ($19.99–$74.99). HarryAndDavid.com

Caramel Popcorn

(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

The caramel popcorn from the Classic Moose Munch Gourmet Popcorn Tin by Harry & David, with its buttery, toffee-like coating, is the perfect satisfying munch for an evening by the holiday fire. The tin also includes s’mores, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate flavors ($39.99). HarryAndDavid.com

Cheesy Caramels

(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

The good old salt-and-caramel combination has a serious challenger in these cheese caramels from Call Me Caramel, made with Gruyère. Sweet and popping with savory umami, these caramels make an indelible impression ($20 for 4 oz.). CallMeCaramel.com

Chocolate Turtles

(Courtesy of Phillips Chocolates)
(Courtesy of Phillips Chocolates)

If practice makes perfect, Boston’s oldest chocolatier, Phillips Chocolates, has gotten chocolate turtles down to an art. Packaged in a chocolate basket, in milk and dark chocolate, these scrumptious turtles are filled with hand-roasted pecans, cashews, and almonds and perfectly creamy caramel ($99). PhillipsChocolate.com

Cheese Heaven

(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Cypress Grove‘s first ever “Host With the Most” holiday gift box should turn the heads of cheese lovers far and wide. The cheeses from Humboldt County, California—including the evocatively named Humboldt Fog, Purple Haze, Midnight Moon, Truffle Tremor, Ms. Natural, and Lamb Chopper—will transport you straight to cheese heaven. The box thoughtfully includes platters, knives, a cheese wire, and napkins, plus jam and flatbread from Rustic Bakery ($140). Available until Jan. 2. CypressGroveCheese.com

A Taste of the Holidays

(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

What says holiday time like peppermint bark? Askinosie‘s classic version layers single-origin dark chocolate, creamy white chocolate, and crushed peppermint candies, sweetened and colored with beet juice ($15 for a small tin). TheBrooklynKitchen.com

Worth Its Salt

(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Jacobsen Salt Co. harvests its salt from the waters of Netarts Bay on the Oregon Coast. Its enormous sea salt flakes make for a marvelous finishing touch—pure, clean, with a beautiful texture. The company also makes infused sea salts, in flavors such as sweet onion, black garlic, habanero, black pepper, and garlic. A sampler set, with six vials and a wooden stand, lets you try all of these ($35). JacobsenSalt.com

For the Charcuterie Lover

(Courtesy of D'Artagnan)
(Courtesy of D’Artagnan)

If a musketeer got into the charcuterie business, you might get D’Artagnan‘s excellent tasting products emphasizing free-range production and humane farming practices, free of hormones or antibiotics. The Deluxe Charcuterie Gift Box ($74.99) offers plenty to please a charcuterie lover, from applewood-smoked bacon made from heritage breed pork, to duck rillettes, to saucisson sec. White and black truffle butters round out the selection. DArtagnan.com

American Wagyu

Hugh Acheson Steak Box. (Courtesy of Snake River Farms)
Hugh Acheson Steak Box. (Courtesy of Snake River Farms)

Chefs Thomas Keller, Michael Mina, and Wolfgang Puck source their impeccable American wagyu from Snake River Farms, so you know that a gift box from this producer will make you a very, very popular person. Opt for a gift box curated by chef Hugh Acheson, with two filet mignons, two ribeye filets, a Lodge skillet, and other goodies ($199); or our favorite, the American Wagyu Bone-In Steak Collection, with two bone-in filet mignons, two bone-in New York strips, and two T-bone steaks, accompanied by Espresso Brava sea salt and a cooking guide ($350). SnakeRiverFarms.com

Crafted in Brooklyn

(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Brooklyn-based Pernt Studio makes these walnut cutting boards with a strap, as beautiful to the eye as they are to the touch, using traditional techniques ($120 for medium, $150 for large). TheBrooklynKitchen.com

Raising the Bar

(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

This 12-inch magnetic knife bar, handmade in Greenpoint by Brooklyn Bowyer (they also make bows and arrows), is crafted from solid wood, either cherry or walnut, and adds a super cool, rustic touch to any kitchen ($115). TheBrooklynKitchen.com

Chef’s Knife

R. Murphy, based in Massachusetts, has been making knives since 1850. The 8-inch Carbon Steel Chef Knife, with a rosewood handle, can tackle almost any task in the kitchen ($90). TheBrooklynKitchen.com

Fine Cast Iron Cookware

(Courtesy of Finex)
(Courtesy of Finex)

If you thought cast iron pans made in the U.S.A. had gone the way of the dodo, have a look at Portland-based Finex Cast Iron Cookware Company. The surface of every pan is polished to a smooth sheen, while the ergonomic spring handle is designed to stay cool—all details that speak to the company’s high level of craftsmanship (10-inch skillet, $165). FinexUSA.com

Liquid Gold

With scandals surrounding olive oil coming from Europe, American olive oil is gaining more attention. The olive oils at Lucero, based in Corning, California, are of superb quality. Their award-winning Ascolano olive oil bears peach, tropical fruit, and herbal aromas ($7.50, 100 ml; $17.50, 250 ml; $27.50, 500 ml); while the year’s new olive oil, the Deluxe Olio Novello blend, is made from Taggiasca, Leccino, and Favolosa varietals for a fruity-floral profile and a green finish ($60, 750 ml). For those who prefer to try single-variety bottles, the Artisan Collection is composed of nine 100 mL bottles of Hojiblanca, Frantoio, Favolosa, Ascolano, Koroneiki, Barnea, Taggiasca, Picual, and Coratina ($70). LuceroOliveOil.com

Your Own Personal Cheese Cave

(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
(Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

An idea came to self-described “cheese nomad” Jessica Sennett: What about building a personal home cheese cave, of sorts? One that would keep cheeses from meeting their untimely demise, as they so often do without the careful care of a cheesemonger. So Sennett (who got her cheesemaking chops by way of Cowgirl Creamery, Formaggio Kitchen, Bedford Cheese Shop, and an apprenticeship in Alsace, France) created the Cheese Grotto, a handsome, eco-friendly wooden box with removable shelves and a clay brick, which once submerged in water and placed inside the box provides the ideal climate control. At last, long live cheeses! Designed to fit on the counter or in the refrigerator. Made in Virginia ($350). CheeseGrotto.com

Buzz-Worthy Peaches

(Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
(Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

These pickled peaches get a fantastic zing from soaking in a mix of apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, peppercorns, and other spices ($10). The fruits—sourced from local farms in Oregon—transform into electrifying versions of themselves. RepublicOfJam.BigCartel.com

(Courtesy of Nantucket Looms)
(Courtesy of Nantucket Looms)

Wild Beach Plum Jam

Straight from the island of Nantucket, comes a beach plum jam from Nantucket Looms. Made from indigenous stone fruits that are in season only a few weeks each summer, the jam is handmade, sweetened with organic cane sugar, and seasoned with wild Jamaican cinnamon leaf and organic Madagascar vanilla bean ($20).