Sure, you could give rely on the traditional holiday staples--gift cards for the kids, candles for the host, wine for the friends--this season. Or you could give them one of the delicious gifts on this list, which boast the dual benefits of being mostly consumable gifts (so your giftee isn’t stuck with something that will gather dust in the closet) and locally made (so you can feel good about avoiding the dual behemoths of Target and Amazon).
Bread Baking Books by Local Bay Area Bakers
The only thing better than giving someone a loaf of crusty, chewy San Francisco sourdough? Giving them the tools to make it in their kitchen at home. You’ve got options--take your pick from Tartine’s definitive first book (or recent book about whole grain baking); Josey Baker’s cheery, beginner-friendly guide; or the recently released, Thomas Keller-blessed, bread baking book from Petaluma’s Della Fattoria (Which yes, does include the recipe for their sublime Meyer lemon and rosemary bread). Paired with a loaf from the respective bakery, it's an ideal nudge for anyone looking to break into bread making.
A Choose Your Own Holiday Adventure: you stand in front of your giftee, with a plate stacked high of cookies. They beam at you, look closer at the cookies and discover that the cookies look like them, from their round glasses to the shape of their nose to their penchant for Hawaiian shirts. Do they run away, unsettled by the prospect of eating a cartoon cookie version of themselves? Go on to the next gift.
If they're flattered by seeing their face commemorated in cookie form, Parker’s Crazy Cookies in Hayward will make custom cookies from any photo of a person/pet/logo. You send in photos of your beloved and select from their 21 different body types (Is your giftee a “Wine Lover” or more of a “Gone Fishin’”?) and then their artists do a preliminary sketch. Each order includes three revision of their sketch, allowing you to subtract some wrinkles or add their signature dimple before they're immortalized in animal cracker form.
For something a little farther from the uncanny valley, head to Oakland’s Chinatown, where you can get custom fortune cookie from Tom’s Bakery Fortune Cookies. They offer a variety of flavors, including chocolate, sesame and coconut, with the option to create up to three custom fortunes per order.
For the friend who’s interested in beer making, but who isn’t sure about investing in homebrew equipment just yet, take them to Oakland’s Diving Dog Brewhouse. The new beer pub offers a Brew On Premises service, where they provide everything you need to brew your own beer. Just pick what style you’d like to make from the over 20 styles they offer, and make your beer at one of their kettles (all named for owner’s dogs). Come in a few weeks later for bottling (they even include custom labels) and leave with about six cases of beer. Diving Dog encourages people to bring friends, making it an ideal gift for a family outing or group of friends.
No one wants to see how the sausage gets made--except in the Bay Area, where there are butchery classes that teach about deconstructing various types of animals as well as catering to various skill levels. Choose from deer butchery at Berkeley’s Local Butcher Shop, the women’s only classes at the Fatted Calf in Napa or yes, sausage making at Avedano’s in San Francisco. The lucky person you gift with a butchery class will leave with meat, improved knife skills, and a newfound appreciation for their morning bacon.
Whichever side of the Bay you’re on, there’s a food tour to fit you (and your giftee’s) tastes. Amateur mixologist? The Craft Cocktail Tour from Avital Tours will give them a tour of Union Square via its various bars. Dumpling fanatic? Savor Oakland's Chinatown tour will introduce them to them to the neighborhood’s dizzying range of foods. Parents coming into town from the Midwest? Edible Excursions will feed them Acme sourdough and Slanted Door spring rolls, then put them on the ferry for a tour of Alcatraz. All tours include plentiful samples, a history lesson on the neighborhood and enough walking to break up the gluttony at least a little.
You can’t beat the endorsements for Angelo Garro’s salt. Alice Waters never travels without it. Michael Pollan declares that it “improves whatever it touches." And that delightful Kickstarter video that helped bring the salt into production? Directed by Werner Herzog. The SF blacksmith-based Omnivore Salt--made from Northern California sea salt, flecked with fennel, chili and a secret blend merely listed as “organic spices--off a recipe from his Sicilian grandmother, and it works equally as well on roasted vegetables as it does on meats. Bonus: the mini bag is the perfect stocking stuffer size.
If you want to impress the Brie lover in your life, you’ve got options, depending on their level of cheese obsessiveness. Are they more of a casual fan? Send them to the Cheese School Of San Francisco for a Cheese and Beer pairing class. For the full-fledged cheese obsessed, gift them entry to one of the school’s one day cheesemaking intensives, where they’ll make fromage blanc, crème fraîche and feta. In the East Bay, the Institute of Urban Homesteading offers classes on making everything from Brie to burrata. And for those you really love, nothing compares to a cheese wheel cake, a towering stack of cheeses, available in themes like “The Californian” and “The International.”
Leland Tea offers a sprawling range of teas, from the traditional (Sencha, Darjeeling) to their custom blends (Like “Shake Your Shimmy,” a blend of oolong, yerba mate and melon blossom). But for the truly hard-to-please tea lover on your list, they offer the chance to make a custom blend. You choose from a wide variety of base teas, then choose what flavors and teas to add in to your blend. They’ll even print labels with a personalized message. If you can’t make it to their charming Burlingame store, where you can enjoy a traditional tea service, complete with scones and Devon cream, you can also create your custom blend online.
Prewrapped boxes of truffle assortments are ideal for any number of last minute gift-giving crises. Baby sitter present? Teacher present? Office gift swap? Everyone’s happy to receive a box of chocolate, but San Francisco’s Charles Chocolate found a way to make their Christmas and Hanukkah gift boxes even better: the box is edible. The bittersweet chocolate boxes are filled with an assortment of Charles’ truffles (flavors include a Poire Williams Caramel and Bittersweet Peanut Butterflies) and topped with a white or dark chocolate lid with the holiday decorations of your choosing.
If you’re traveling somewhere cold this holiday season, give your loved ones the gift of summer in December with the S'mores Kit from Recchiuti Confections. The San Francisco chocolatier's kit contains four s'mores worth of bittersweet chocolate, graham crackers and vanilla bean marshmallows to toast around the stove or fireplace.
Forget the dill: the seasonal offerings from the Cultured Pickle Shop in Berkeley will make you reconsider the humble pickle. Made from local produce and available in a wide range of combinations (everything from Butternut Squash & Maitake Mushroom Kim Chee to Red Daikon with Turmeric, Cardamom, & Fenugreek), they elevate everything from salads to sandwiches and make the perfect hostess gift. In San Francisco, McVicker Pickles sells a variety of mustards, bacon jam and a “Bloody Buddies” mix of pickled carrots, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cocktail onions, an ideal gift perfect for your favorite day drinker.