Best Food Gifts from 11 Top Cities

Give the gift of local flavor with these top food finds from 11 U.S. cities.
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Photo By: Andrew Cebulka

Photo By: Andrew Cebulka

Savor the Cities

When it comes to holiday gifts, home is where the hearty appetite is. But if homemade gifts elude you, rely on the pros to help play savory Santa. We scoured several cities across the country, tracking down the best edible gift in each to share the spirit of the city, including a few with in-airport kiosks for the ultra-last-minute gift giver. Whether you’re keen to give good coffee, chefs’ pantry favorites or a nip of the holiday spirit, here are 11 tasty local finds.

Photo courtesy of Bittermilk/Andrew Cebulka

Portland, Ore.: Stumptown Coffee

You can call Stumptown the coffee that launched a thousand drips — or pourovers. This Portland-based group produces perfectly roasted beans that are a cult favorite for coffee freaks, and the perfect gateway to caffeinated utopia for those whose morning routines need an overhaul. Upgrade loved ones' coffee with a trio of the brand’s three signature blends or inspire them to get outdoors with a hipster-approved travel coffee kit including an AeroPress kit, portable hand grinder, bag of beans and two enamel mugs.  

New York City: Katz’s Delicatessen Pastrami

NYC alone could inspire dozens of its own gift guides, with thousands of options for mail-order sundries, spirits, kits and mixes. But few options are as cool as sharing a few of the sandwiches that inspired the infamous When Harry Met Sally moment. Goldbely ships an array of products from the deli institution, including matzo ball soup, knishes and the Reuben Package, which includes a full pound of your choice of corned beef or pastrami, rye bread, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, sauerkraut and the all-important pickle. The package is shipped directly from the shop, meaning that by this time tomorrow, your loved ones could be Sally-ing out.

Philadelphia: Soom Tahini

Thought we were going to suggest shipping cheesesteaks? Tahini may not be the most-obvious Philadelphia food, but this is no ordinary tahini. Nutty, robust and creamy, this spread brings surprising complexity to a one-ingredient condiment. Started by three sisters, the brand includes sesame-based dips and a chocolate-sesame spread that's a great nut-free Nutella alternative. But the original is superlative, called out by Philadelphia superchef Michael Solomonov as his go-to. Give it as is, or bake some into cookies, using the recipes on Soom’s site.

Boston: EHChocolatier Beernut Bar

For a city that takes its sports and its food very seriously, there may be no better chocolate bar than the Beernut Bar. Made by Boston’s own EHChocolatier, the bar is a day at the ballpark, with peanuts and beer-based caramel packed into a robe of high-quality dark chocolate. (The company works with the elites: Valrhona, E. Guittard and Michel Cluizel.) To create the caramel, the team uses malty Guinness and saison from local Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project. Pair it with a six-pack of great Boston microbrews, then sit back and wait for opening day at Fenway.

Washington, D.C.: Gordy’s Pickle Jar

What more-fitting way to get out of a gift-giving pickle than with a little dill or half-sour action? The pickling pundits at Gordy’s use local, seasonal, organic ingredients whenever possible to create next-level jars of spicy, tangy, perfectly crunchy pickles. Around this time of year, the Bloody Mary Mix is ideal. With the right hit of vinegar and cucumber with cherry peppers and ample garlic, it’s the perfect hostess gift or on-hand helper for impromptu holiday brunches. Order online or pick up a jar at Salt & Sundry

Los Angeles: Sqirl Jam

Few things trumpet the flavors of Southern California produce quite like a spoonful of this jam. Chef and jam genius Jessica Koslow strikes up relationships with small-scale farmers, allowing her to nab the best, juiciest batches of California-grown Persian mulberries, French plums and Blenheim apricots. When it’s available, Wild Boysenberry is our choice (and the jar we hoard for the frostiest February days); it's harvested from a single acre east of the city, and only for three fleeting weeks of the year. At 7.75 ounces, the jars are too big to pack into a carry-on, but you can nestle them into checked bags, or go big with a four-, six- or 12-month subscription.

Charleston: Bittermilk’s Gingerbread Old Fashioned Mix

For those keeping spirits bright, Bittermilk takes the chaos out of mixing and muddling with its just-add-booze combinations. Combinations like the Smoked-Honey Whiskey Sour and the elderflower-tinged Tom Collins are appealing year-round, but during the holidays the Gingerbread Old Fashioned is Christmas in a cocktail glass. The mix combines ginger, orange and other baking spices, all waiting for a quick stir of rum and ice. Garnish it with an orange peel or a mini gingerbread man and embrace seasonal feelings. 

Chicago: Frontera Salsa

Obliterate winter chill with fiery chipotle salsa (or the more medium-spice tomatillo version) from Rick Bayless’ Frontera. Spoon it over Christmas Eve tamales or serve both versions side by side for festive Christmas-colored dips. The chef also sells Aztec-style chocolate sauce spiced with chile and vanilla, an unexpectedly robust topping for ice cream, online and in his restaurants. Jars of all three are available at the Frontera cafes within O’Hare International Airport, meaning that you can carry the 16-ounce salsa and 11-ounce chocolate sauce on board with no TSA hassles.

San Francisco: Sosu Srirachup

Travels throughout Southeast Asia inspired Sosu owner Lisa Murphy to launch her own take on Sriracha and a Sriracha-blended ketchup that takes advantage of plump, rich California tomatoes. Murphy starts with Early Girl tomatoes, then adds all-natural ingredients, including chiles, vinegar, a touch of sugar and garlic, making a sauce that actually tastes like tomato (and spice, of course). It’s revelatory slathered on breakfast sandwiches, but Murphy also has a recipe for Srirachup-spiced pecans for holiday hors d’oeuvres. As for the Sriracha itself, Murphy’s chile-packed version is aged and fermented in whiskey barrels, giving it a deeply oaky flavor.

Nashville: Olive + Sinclair Bourbon Nib Brittle

Give the gift of the whiskey trail with this Nashville chocolatier’s bourbon nib brittle. Tennessee's first bean-to-bar chocolate company makes stone-ground chocolate (grits-style), adding Southern touches like buttermilk white chocolate and cocoa nibs that are smoked in the same Tennessee smokehouses that produce Benton's bacon. The bourbon brittle recipe calls for the nibs to be aged in small-batch bourbon barrels before they're mixed into crunchy, buttery chocolate-covered brittle. 

Austin: The Salt Lick

Give the gift of Southern barbecue with rubs and sauces from Austin ’cue institution The Salt Lick. Often cited as one of the best barbecue pits in Texas, The Salt Lick will actually ship its ribs and brisket across the country. Unless you’re still searching for a holiday main, opt instead for a gift pack of bottled sauces and the super-seasoned dry rub. As a bonus, the sauce-and-rub gift pack is available at the pit's airport-cafe offshoot, meaning you can do last-minute shopping for meaty magic for all your loved ones. 

Photo courtesy of Britt Barrett

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