It's been a few years since we published a gift guide at the holidays. But we've been keeping a list this year of things we've eaten and sampled that we really loved. And now seems like as good a time as any to share them with you!
If you're looking for some gift ideas (or maybe a treat for yourself), here are some things we recommend:
Caroline's Cakes: When we were getting married, we debated for a long time about what to do for dessert. One excellent option, recommended to us by our friend Katy, was to buy Caroline's Cakes. They're made near us, in Annapolis, Maryland, and they're beautiful -- based on the classic Smith Island seven-layer caramel cake, but with tons of different varieties and flavors.
We took a trip out to the store to try a few slices (okay, it was more like six slices) and we fell in love with them. We opted against them for the wedding because of the kind of event we were having, but we've often recommended them as gift ideas. Cakes vary in size and price, but a 9-inch cake that serves 14-20 people is $48. They ship nationwide and you can order at CarolinesCakes.com.
Zingerman's Candy Bars: Earlier this fall, Tori from Sickles Market (a sponsor of this blog) sent us a box of products to sample. Among them was one of the best -- if not the best -- candy bars we've ever tasted, a Zingerman's Zzang! Original Candy Bar, from Zingerman's Deli and food market in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
We loved it so much that Clay ordered five of them as a surprise for Zach's birthday. At $6 each, they're definitely an indulgence, but one that the chocoholic on your list will enjoy immensely. Available to ship from Sickles Market.
Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream Sandwiches: Another sweet indulgence! At the Fancy Food Show this summer we sampled these ice cream sandwiches from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. We've talked at length about how much we love Jeni's. Needless to say, the sandwiches do not disappoint.
If you haven't tried them, you have no idea what you're missing. We had the Chocolate Hazelnut and still dream about it. Available for $7 each from Jenis.com.
The conversation left a big impression on us, as did the granola, and we've been thinking about it ever since. We highly recommend it as a fun gift or stocking stuffer.
Available for $7 from LucysGranola.com.
Hell's Kitchen Peanut Butter: How is it possible to love a peanut butter this much? We don't know, but we've been licking our chops at the thought of this awesome spread ever since we sampled it at the Minneapolis restaurant a few years ago. It's phenomenal.
Pick up a jar or two from the Hell's Kitchen online store.
Louisiana Kitchen and Culture: We always recommend food magazines as gifts, but we especially love giving more unusual or unheard-of food magazines. Louisiana Kitchen & Culture is in its first year of publication. We struck up a friendship with the editor, Jyl, for a few years back when she was at another magazine.
When we went to New Orleans earlier this year, we had lunch with Jyl and her business partner Susan. These ladies love Louisiana and its unique food culture, and it shows in the magazine, which showcases the diverse foods of that state. They're about five issues in at this point, and we can't wait to see what's next. You can subscribe at the Louisiana Kitchen & Culture website.
Pecan Butter from Pecans!: What if you could have delicious, creamy handmade Alabama pecan butter delivered to your door? What if it arrived in adorable, reusable Weck jars? And what if your gift supported job training skills for at-risk youth?
That's the idea behind the Pecans! Project, part of the HEROyouth program in Greensboro, AL, which provides food skills, GED courses and career readiness activities to teens in need. Clay gave it to Zach for his birthday a few years ago and we loved it. They sell pecan brittle and sugared pecans as well, but we love the pecan butter. Available from the Pecans! Project.
Rick Steves' Classic Back Door Bag: We have one go-to piece of luggage for any trip we're taking -- this Classic Back Door Bag from Rick Steves. Zach bought one in high school for a trip he took with his family, and has literally used that same bag for every single trip since 1997, from an overnight business trip to Des Moines to a two-week trek through China.
Clay bought one for himself a few years ago. We love these bags because they're endlessly versatile, they can be stuffed to the gills, and they easily cram into overhead airplane compartments.
And at current sale price of $63.99, it's the best travel investment you can make. Get the bag from the Rick Steves Travel Store.
Aluminum Steamer Set: We don't own this Aluminum Steamer Set, but our friends Drew and Ralph have it and we covet it. If we hadn't purchased a bamboo basket steamer earlier this year, we'd buy one for ourselves in a heartbeat.
It's a simple and relatively cheap piece of cookware for steaming foods, but we love how it looks. Available for $39 from Amazon.
Kyocera Handheld Japanese Mandoline: Years ago, we purchased a full-size, highly recommended mandoline that we haul out of the deep recesses of our closet about twice a year. It's really nice, but we hardly use it unless we're doing a really big slicing project, like for canning.
This summer (much to Zach's anti-gadget-proliferation chagrin) we purchased a second mandoline, a hand-held ceramic Japanese mandoline.
We're loving it (yes, even Zach). It was perfect for quickly and thinly slicing summer veggies for salads. This fall we're using it on root vegetables. It hangs on our wall-mounted pegboards and we can throw it in the dishwasher when we're done, so we're using it all the time.
That other mandoline must be jealous. Available for $23 from Amazon.com.
And if those ideas don't help, you always have:
Food Magazines: Give the gift of a magazine subscription. It's a monthly reminder to cook more and eat better. Or is that cook better and eat more? Regardless, we believe everyone needs a subscription. See our recommended magazines.
Books: We love giving and receiving books as gifts. Our Amazon storefront has a collection food books we've really loved over the years. See our recommended books.
Kitchen Gear: These are products we have, own, and use year-round. See our recommended kitchen gear.
What's your gift strategy this year? Buying gifts? Making them? Have something you're eager to give or (it's okay, you can tell us) even receive?
Previous (Classic?) Gift Guides: