The Ultimate L.A. Food Lovers Gift Guide

Our food team weighs in with their own personal wish lists

With the deadline to order gifts via internet rapidly approaching—you don’t want to decrease your total shopping budget by paying for expedited shipping costs—and malls about to be overrun with rabid holiday shoppers fighting over the last mint green Le Creuset, you need to start forming a rock solid gift-giving game plan. We at The Digest don’t know who you’re shopping for, and we can’t speak for everyone’s tastes, but, if you need some ideas to get you started, here are our personal favorite food gifts from (mostly) around the city.

All the tea, all the time
All the tea, all the time

Photograph courtesy Facebook/Art of Tea

Lesley Bargar Suter
The Food Lab Cookbook
I get a zillion cookbooks in the mail and for some reason this one has escaped my shelves. How dare you J. Kenji Lopez-Alt! It’s not Los Angeles focused, but a scientific approach to cooking is sort of universal.  

Art of Tea Sampler
I think that in 2016 I’m going to become a tea snob. It just feels right. Art of Tea is the only company to blend their teas locally (most everyone else uses overseas blenders).  See? I haven’t even bought my first pu’erh and I already sound pretentious.

Rollich & Duggan Classic Bitters
Will a few splashes of this stuff make my mediocre cocktails taste like the ones Christiaan Rollich makes at A.O.C. and Lucques? It’s unclear, but it’s also a delicious risk I’m willing to take. 

Imagine the homemade Reuben possibilities with pastrami by the pound
Imagine the homemade Reuben possibilities with pastrami by the pound

Photograph courtesy Yelp/Kimi O.

Lesley Balla
Cheesemaking Course from the Institute of Domestic Technology
There are two things I would drop everything to do full-time (if I was independently wealthy): bake and make cheese. I can do the former pretty well, but cheesemaking is a mystery. The Institute of Domestic Technology, which offers classes in everything from tincture making for cocktails to pickling, has a cheesemaking course in January that will definitely put me on my path. Classes are always good gifts!

Wexler’s Deli Pastrami by the Pound
Meat. Did you know that Wexler’s Deli now sells its pastrami by the pound? It’s $30 a pound, which is why it makes a great gift. I’d never pay that myself. Plus, they’ll deliver it, a bonus for anyone who doesn’t want to fight that Grand Central Market parking structure.

Gin from St. George Spirits and/or Ventura Spirits
Gin: It’s what I drink. I’d love to beef up my home bar with some California spirits, maybe the little St. George Spirits trio, like a little starter kit from a distillery in Alameda, California, or Ventura Spirits’ Wilder Gin, which is distilled with wild-harvested, native California botanicals.

Auntie Apple
Straight outta the oven, it’s cookies with attitude

Photography courtesy instagram/auntieapple

Valentina Silva
Custom Sodas from Galco’s in Highland Park
I just really want someone to make me a soda at Galco’s in Highland Park. They have a whole set up with glass bottles, a whole bunch of syrups, a soda water dispenser (you can pick your carbonation level), and a bottler.

A Large Quantity of Mail-Order Cheese
This isn’t local, but the Zingerman’s (the deli in Ann Arbor) holiday catalog  is my favorite porn magazine. I would love their British Cheese Passport, which is a cheese basket that includes 3 hunks of cheese plus bread. Pretty much any of their gift baskets would make my year.

Cookies from Auntie Apple
I love the cute custom cookies that Auntie Apple makes. I wouldn’t mind a nice assortment of those in elf shape or something to that effect.

The finest mezcal in the game
The finest mezcal in the game

Photograph courtesy Facebook/Mezcal Real Minero

Bill Esparza
Bottle of Real Minero Largo Mezcal
It’s not the holidays without some great wines and spirits, and as we’re in the golden age of mezcal, it would be a shame not to take advantage of it.

A Big Hunk of Livarot Cheese from Beverly Hills Cheese Shop
Really, any selection of cheeses from the smelly enough to chase the kids out of the living room for some peace on Earth.

Club Membership at Lou Wine Shop
The $50 month-long membership is pretty much an answer to any problems I may encounter in the New Year.

Large quantities of meat make a fantastic gift!
Large quantities of meat make a fantastic gift!

Photograph courtesy Facebook/Belcampo Meat Co.

Josh Scherer
A Giant Meat Cleaver from Chef’s Toys
I was hacking through a bunch of chicken wings the other day with my usual chef’s knife and couldn’t stop thinking, “Man, this would be way more fun with a huge cleaver.” And Chef’s Toys in West L.A. carries every piece of cooking equipment you could ever want, alongside an impressive selection of cleavers.

Expensive Steak from Belcampo
It’s so tough to justify spending money you don’t really have on expensive meat—which is why I would demand that another person spend money on it in my name. Nothing crazy, just a 40 oz bone-in rib-eye or something.

The Gjelina Cookbook
Not only do I want to learn how to make my own rye pasta with sausage and fennel and all that, but Gjelina: Cooking From Venice, California—as it is officially billed—is just one of those books that every L.A. household should have sitting on the coffee table.

Will your beer be the one that joins The Bruery's lineup?
Will your beer be the one that joins The Bruery’s lineup?

Photo courtesy The Bruery

Jolie Myers
Barrel Aged Sour Beer from The Bruery
Want to impress the beer lover in your life? Pick up a bottle of Oude Tart or Sour in the Rye from local brewery The Bruery. For $20, you get a complex, unique bottle… And maybe they’ll share it with you. Available at finer bottle shops and Whole Foods.

Branded Glassware from The Cellar
The Cellar Bottle Shop in Whittier carries snifters, tulips, conic pints, and flutes from the best local and international breweries. Personal favorite: The Delirium Tremens snifter with the Brouwerij Huyghe’s signature elephants printed all over it.

Dinner for Two at Eagle Rock Public House
Treat your significant other to dinner at Eagle Rock Brewery’s restaurant on the Northeast side. The seasonal, chef-driven menu is built with beer pairings in mind; a rarity in the fine dining world.

Tiki mugs are now post-pop culture, still hold drinks well
Tiki mugs are now post-pop culture, still hold drinks well

Photograph courtesy Facebook/Wacko

Caroline on Crack
Tiki Mugs from Wacko Soap Plant in Los Feliz
I’ve just recently acquired an addiction to collecting Tiki mugs. And currently on my radar is this scorpion bowl ($52) available at Wacko/Soap Plant in Los Feliz. It features scorpion tails on which you can put any crazy garnish. How adorable is that? Share a Tiki cocktail with a friend or keep it all to yourself.

Bottle of Fernet Francisco Barrel Select
For spirits, I’ve got my eye on Fernet Francisco Barrel Select as recommended by Bar Keeper’s Joe Keeper and Wesly Moore. The Bay Area Fernet, which would actually be the perfect hostess gift for holiday dinners, is finished for 12 months in American Oak Pinot Noir casks. Deelish!

Han Solo Shot First Flask
Even though it isn’t available for purchase yet, I still want it!