10 Best Food and Drink Holiday Gift Ideas to Bring Instant Cheer

By Jane Black, Gabriella Gershenson, Eleanore Park and Lettie Teague

IN A YEAR when festive events are dropping off the calendar left and right—from the office holiday party to your annual drinks date with old friends and even family dinners—sending a gift of food or drink is more meaningful than ever. This season’s edible and drinkable gift recommendations are equal parts practical and pure pleasure. When the novelty of cooking or even mixing a cocktail at home has worn perilously thin, these gifts will deliver a satisfying serving of joy to the people you care about. Each one is a celebration waiting to happen.

A Classic Champagne to Toast the End of 2020

Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne is sourced from premier cru sites and produced by one of the oldest, most prestigious Champagne houses. With its creamy texture and subtle aromas of pear and lemon, bottled in an old-fashioned flagon, this 100% Chardonnay sparkling wine exudes elegance. And while certainly a special-occasion bottle, it’s made for drinking now; your giftee needn’t feel compelled to hide it away in a cellar for the next 25 years. $70, bassins.com

Substantial Salted Caramels for Grown-Up Appetites

Already a celebrated source of buttery shortbread, mail-order bakery Café Warshafsky has a new caramel sampler ideal for anyone who likes sweets with a salty edge. All three flavors—sea salt, coffee and raspberry—get a generous seasoning of salt crystals that linger on the tongue after the caramel melts away. Each piece yields three big bites, so you could have a nibble and save the rest for later. Not that you’d want to. $20 for 12 caramels, cafewarshafsky.com

Technically Advanced (and Totally Delicious) Chocolate Chips

Some things are hard to improve. Chocolate chip cookies, for instance. But Bay Area bean-to-bar outfit Dandelion Chocolate has done just that with its mega-size single-origin chocolate chips. The claim to fame: a Tesla product designer conceived their unique faceted square shape. But what’s truly extraordinary is their rich flavor, full of fruity complexity and mouth-watering acidity. At 3.5 grams each, they’re as good for snacking as they are for baking. $30 for 500 grams, dandelionchocolate.com

Toys for ‘Top Chef’ Contestants of the Future

If you have a nascent chef in your midst, nothing less than these play food sets from Milton & Goose will do. Produced by hand from natural, non-toxic materials, these trompe l’oeil toys are beautiful objets as well as opportunities for imaginative play. What feasts might a child dream up with a gorgeous onion shaped from glossy wood, a fistful of felt pasta ribbons and a very convincing log of herb-flecked felt goat cheese? From $48 per set, miltonandgoose.com

A Gift-worthy Pantry Essential: Black Kampot Peppercorns

Every committed cook in your life reaches for black pepper everyday, so why not deliver an ingredient upgrade? BoTree Seasonings’ premium organic black Kampot peppercorns, grown in the south of Cambodia, are so fragrant and nuanced they’ll reawaken your favorite chef to the taken-for-granted spice. The citrusy flavor and tingling heat will fundamentally enhance favorite foods, be it pepper-crusted steak, a bowl of cacio e pepe pasta or plain old scrambled eggs. $15 for 90 grams, store.177milkstreet.com

How A Little Science Can Make Cooking Fun Again

Raspberries and chocolate are obvious friends. But how about chocolate and cauliflower? Such less-well-known duos may be just as delightful according to a visually stunning new book, “The Art & Science of Foodpairing.” Its authors—a chef, a bioengineer and an entrepreneur—analyzed foods’ aromatic molecular properties to devise 10,000 scientific flavor matches, from accessible (sweet potato and Cognac) to wacky (turkey and crème de cacao). Just the sort of creative prompts any cook could use right now. $50, fireflybooks.com

This Chile Sauce Comes Bearing Gifts of Heat, Crunch and Savory Depth

At chef David Chang’s Momofuku Culinary Lab, the team has spent years working up their Chili Crunch, an homage to Chinese chile crisp and Mexican salsas with a crunchy consistency. It’s made of chile flakes, garlic and other flavor-bomb ingredients, all fried to a crisp and suspended in a vivid vermilion oil. Give it to anyone whose jaded pandemic palate could use the jolt of heat, texture and umami oomph it brings to noodles, dumplings, eggs, pizza and even ice cream. $10, shop.momofuku.com 

A Bumper Crop of Vinegars, Sauces, Syrups and Salts Straight From the Farm

At Lindera Farms, Daniel Liberson makes delicious vinegars from anything he can grow or forage. During the pandemic, he said, he’s expanded into syrups, hot sauces and other condiments to help home cooks make food “as good as that Michelin-star restaurant they can’t go to anymore.” Among them: a smoked-plum and wild-ginger syrup ideal for cocktails, a bright ramp and green-chile hot sauce and more. Holiday Gift Box, $160 for 8 sauces and seasonings plus recipes, linderafarms.com

A Taste of Sicily, Delivered Monthly

The Sicilian town of Corleone might conjure “The Godfather,” but thanks to local organic farm Bona Furtuna, it’s now also associated with peppery olive oil, fragrant herbs and pasta made from heirloom wheat. This subscription box serves up ingredients to make a traditional recipe each month. December features the classic Christmas dish sfincione, a kind of Sicilian pizza, while January serves up a Sicilian pesto. Christmas orders must be made by Dec. 10. Società Bona Furtuna 3-Month Gift Subscription, $230, bonafurtuna.com

A Whisky Made for Everyday Sipping

Happy hours will clearly be held at home for the foreseeable future. This is therefore not the year to gift a whisky too fancy or fussy to make use of immediately. Fortunately, Japanese distiller Nikka offers an ideal break-it-out-now bottle. Nikka Days Whisky is a light, smooth and mellow blend of grain whiskies and aromatic non-peated malts built for sipping anytime—straight, on the rocks or mixed into the recipient’s signature cocktail. $62, caskers.com


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