I’m posting my annual favorite food finds list early this year, as I think most of us will be shopping online and there may be shipping delays. As always, these are just some personal favorites – no one has asked me to promote any products or compensated me in any way, though I may earn a small commission from Amazon sales. Photos used are from the vendors. And check out my Festive Finds 2020 for more gift ideas and my Amazon store for some of my favorite things.
If you are home a LOT, with kids or family, or just as a break for yourself, why not make afternoon tea a thing? Package up a fun gift for friends in the same situation. Send a gift set of quality teas from Brooklyn Tea (there’s a New to Tea bundle which is a great introduction). Spice up your cup with Spicewalla’s Chai Masala for a whole new chai experience. Pretty up your tea spread with beautifully molded French sugar cubes. And when there is tea, there must be cake. Memphis made Judy Pound Cakes will ship the lovely mini loaves or a full size cake. And cookies – Lark Fine Foods makes lovely traditional shortbread in nontraditional flavors, like Salted Rosemary and Mexican Chocolate. Lindera Farms honey chamomile syrup is perfectly soothing in a cup of tea or a cocktail. I love the combination of New England maple syrup and Southern sweet tea created with Zoar Tapatree’s Maple Syrup for Tea. It’s a unique sweetener for hot or cold tea (they make one for coffee too).
And how festive is Holly Honey from Waxing Cara? Be sure to check out all the amazing varieties like butter bean or bamboo. I’ll still be doing some outdoor socializing in the cold, wrapped in blankets and sweaters, so I think I’ll warm up my cocktailing with these Wassail Spices from Oliver Pluff. You can build a gift box of El Guapo bitters and cocktail syrups from New Orleans – and be sure to check out their mixers too. Camp Cocktail kits are fabulous – beautiful jars of dried fruits, herbs and spices you add alcohol to and infuse for a fun sipper. Try the seasonal Cranberry Martini or Hot Toddy. And if it’s time to take your cocktails to the next level, add some sparkle – literally – with Fancy Sprinkles prism powder. And while you’re in a sparkling mood – make your mornings magic with sparkling maple syrup!
I bet we’ve all been making a lot of dried pasta this year. So it ought to be good pasta, and fun. Louisiana’s D’Agostino Pasta makes a variety of handmade pastas, but the fleur di lis shapes (or gators or crawfish) make a fun change to your mac and cheese. Salt and pepper hardly seem exciting, but here’s a fun presentation. Put this salt and pepper block in a wooden holder on the table and diners simple scrape off the seasoning. New Orleans-based Jamboree Jams has amazing flavors like spicy satsuma and mayhaw jelly and offers a pretty gift box sampler. Honeycomb is a lovely addition to a cheeseboard and Pass the Honey’s individual packets make it easy to add a special touch to your spread, or to squish on some hearty toast. And check out this Tiger Tail Mustard made with Charlie Vergos Rendezvous’s world famous barbecue seasoning. And be sure to look at their best sellers gift box.
For a gift that keeps on giving, Shotwell Caramels has a club that will send a selection of caramels quarterly – Santa Claus, please take note. You can also send one of their lovely gift boxes in the flavor of your choice. Build a box of beautiful chocolates from Cacao and Cardamom in truly unique flavors. I am a sceptic about anything that claims to be “the best” but Houston’s Tiny’s Milk and Cookies makes the best chocolate chip cookies, and you can send the frozen dough to the people you love (and one for yourself). Winter this year will probably involve sitting around a firepit outside. Make it more fun with these s’more kits. Or send an indulgent chocolate care package from Kate Weiser to someone who needs it.
Holiday celebrations are likely to be smaller affairs, which is a great chance to splash out with the best cuts of meat, like gorgeous grass fed ribeye from White Oak Pastures. D’Artagnan’s Cassoulet Kit is a delicious kitchen project and perfect winter family meal. Or have fresh lobster delivered right to your door (live or various cleaned meat options). I don’t expect you to handout pricey fresh truffles (but if you do, can I be your friend), but you can add a luxurious touch with black truffle oil from Regalis.
I’ve tried to highlight some small businesses here, and I urge you to support local in these difficult times. So many great stores and boutiques have curbside pick-up or local delivery. And think about restaurant gift cards for takeout, or gift cards from local businesses or salons.
Of course, the best gift is giving to others, so consider donations to organizations doing great work in these crazy times. Feeding America supports a network of food banks across the country. Click here to find your local food bank, or donate directly here. The Lee Initiative, founded by Chef Edward Lee, has a restaurant worker relief fund. Chef Chris Sheppard’s Southern Smoke Foundation has turned its efforts to relief for food and beverage workers. World Central Kitchen created by Chef Jose Andres provides meals for those in need and jobs
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