From the foods that nourish us to the drinks that fortify us, and all the opportunities food creates every day for us to experience the world—including helping others—here’s our guide to the most thoughtful food gifts for the holiday season—all available right here in the Bay Area.
Always in Fashion: Classic Holiday Gifts
Some gifts never get old. These classic choices are perennial favorites, and all are made in the Bay Area, but shippable anywhere.
California Olive Oil
California olive oil has fully come into its own, and two of our favorite producers are Séka Hills, grown by members of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation in the Capay Valley, and Bondolio, between the towns of Davis and Winters in the Sacramento Valley.
Spices From Oaktown Oaktown Spice Shop, which started as a tiny space on Oakland’s Grand Avenue, has grown into a big retail extravaganza, including a brand new outpost on Solano Avenue in Albany. This is your one-stop-shop for salts, herbs, peppers rubs, and items both staple and esoteric.
No longer a culinary territory exclusively held by Italy, panettone, the deceptively simple, sweet bread confection that makes fruitcake seem poor by comparison, is elegantly crafted by Oakland’s Roy Shvartzapel. Get one before they’re gone.
A gift without an expiration date: Maria Schoettler's annual produce calendar, which celebrates the seasons with botanical illustrations on calendars, notecards, linens and prints.
Experiences, Not Things
Here are five choices for local gift-giving that won’t clutter recipients’ lives—because the gift is experiential rather than material.
Cooking Classes on the Coast With Olivia Wu
Olivia Wu is a rare combination of master chef and master teacher, not to mention writer extraordinaire. The former Google chef now offers cooking classes in her Moss Beach “learning kitchen” for individuals and groups, including team building retreats.
Pizza-Making 101 at Lucia’s
The best pizzeria in the East Bay, Lucia’s on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley is offering up their world famous pizzaiolo, Gambero Rosso award-winning Ernesto Palmieri, for lessons in pizza-making the Neapolitan way. Buy a gift certificate now for classes in January.
Preserve It at Preserved Preserved in Temescal is the place to learn about all things fermented, brewed, cultured and jarred. January classes include deep dives into kimchi, bitters, kombucha, sourdough bread and ricotta. Choose your gift or purchase a gift certificate for open-ended use.
Celebrate the Arrival of Legal Cannabis Curious Cannabis Salon, an offshoot of local food-tour company Edible Excursions, is a new series of educational adventures designed to demystify this medical and recreational herb. Look for dinners, product fairs, and other hosted gatherings with trustworthy and knowledgeable speakers. (Prescription card required prior to official legalization.) Gift certificates available.
Sensory Immersion at Stags’ Leap Winery in Napa
The Apothecary Garden Experience at Stags’ Leap Winery in Napa is like a spa for the nose and palate, with an aroma and tasting experience set in the property’s lush garden planted with herbs and flowers that relate to winemaker Christophe Paubert’s Bordeaux-style wines.
Rituals & Rejuvenation
If ever there were a year for relying on comforting rituals that encourage reflection and rejuvenation, 2017 would be it. Whether your inclination is to cultivate alertness via coffee or tea or to relax into your thoughts by way of wine or cannabis (soon to be legal in California), these gifts allow for wide-ranging options.
Port of Mokha: Coffee From Its First Origin
Mokhtar Alkhanshali is from Yemen, a country under siege, the country where coffee was born, and the place currently producing the finest coffees in the world. Port of Mokha is the result of Alkhanshali’s obsession with quality coffee, and their gift box, The Yemen Trilogy, is the most exciting gift any coffee-lover on your list could possible receive.
Robert Mondavi Winery’s To Kalon Vineyard: Classic and Rare Wines
Everyone knows Robert Mondavi Winery, but few have the opportunity to taste Fumé Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon from To Kalon, one of Napa’s most exclusive vineyards. The highly allocated wines, a splurge well worth every sip, are available at the winery or by phone: (707) 968-2020. We Mondavi for their above-and-beyond work for fire relief (their For the Love of Napa concert raised $90K, alone). See below for more philanthropic gifts to help with the recovery of our Wine Country neighbors.
Quantitea For You and For Me
San Francisco’s Chris Kornblatt launched Quantitea last year as a way of sharing his love for the world’s highest-quality teas. Kornblatt personally sources each selection and provides detailed tasting notes, as well as brewing and serving suggestions.
The Magic of Micro-Dosing
There are lots of cannabis edibles on the market in anticipation of legalization, and Herba Buena is a top choice for purity-tested, full-spectrum organic and biodynamic cannabis products. We love their tinctures, in particular. (Prescription card required prior to official legalization.)
If there’s anything we love more than dining out, it’s cooking for ourselves. With a year-round abundance of the freshest produce, Californians are perhaps the luckiest cooks in the country. Here are our top five cookbooks this year that will push your palate and teach you a thing or two about technique.
Local, Sustainable Seafood
Activist Ned Bell is a seafood expert who encourages us to go beyond salmon and tuna. His new book, Lure: Sustainable Seafood Recipes From the West Coast spotlights the wild, sustainable fish available locally and offers recipes to prepare it simply and nutritiously.
Eating and Activism Feed the Resistance: Recipes + Ideas for Getting Involved is Julia Turschen’s ode to hope in difficult times, set at the intersection of the communal table and political activism. The book will feed your ideas for change with its optimism and practical advice for making the world a better place from your own kitchen table.
Indian Food For Everyone
Oakland chef Preeti Mistry’s brilliant pan-Indian cooking comes alive on the page in The Juhu Beach Club Cookbook (with Berkeley food writer Sarah Henry). From comfort food to street food to fancy restaurant dishes, the recipes are accessible to the home cook and bold in aroma and flavor.
Samin Nosrat’s Singular Cooking Primer
We knew Nosrat before she wrote Salt Fat Acid Heat, a New York Times bestselling cookbook and the best cooking primer since Julia Child’s famous tomes. With a foreword by Michael Pollan and illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton.
Back to Italian Basics
Food importer Manicaretti’s founder, Rolando Beramendi, has crafted a beautiful guide to simple, seasonal Italian cooking, at the heart of which is a properly curated pantry. Autentico: Cooking Italian the Authentic Way is a philosophical exploration of one of the world’s most satisfying cuisines.
Lending a Helping Hand
While every season is appropriate for giving, and there are as many ways to help as there are those in need, one local cause is dear to us: Wine Country fire relief. There’s much good work going on; here are just a few suggestions for chipping in. Do it in someone’s name for a thoughtful gift.
Olive and Poppy Sonoma Tote
A full 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the Sonoma version of Olive and Poppy’s Sonoma Tote, a heavyweight canvas bag perfect for the farmer’s market or a picnic lunch, go to the Sonoma County Resilience Fund.
Vintage Wine Estates’ “Heart of the Vine” Campaign Vintage Wine Estates, which owns Clos Pegase, Swanson, and other fine wineries, has raised nearly $140,000 for direct fire relief through a Go Fund Me campaign called “Heart of the Vine.” The concept is simple: Proceeds go to purchase gift cards to distribute to their employees and their families, as well as to first responders and those who find themselves starting over, many of them rebuilding their lives, literally, from nothing.
Gary Farrell Winery
Renowned Russian River Valley winery Gary Farrell is donating $2 for every bottle of wine sold through the Sonoma tasting room, phone or website through the end of the year to fire relief. Donations will be given to the North Bay Fire Relief Fund and the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation Wildfire Relief Fund (for agricultural workers displaced from their homes by the fires).
Known the world over for quintessential California design style, Heath Ceramics is helping neighbors devastated by fire to get back to basics. Heath has collected dishware and other household essentials for those trying to begin again, as well as donating proceeds from their annual sale to fire relief. Support their efforts by shopping online or at their Ferry Building or Sausalito stores.