For the third year in a row, we’re back! Our annual food and drink gift guide features our favorite products — ones we’ve used ourselves, received as gifts, and/or gifted to others.
Like last year (and the year before), there’s no ulterior motive. There are no affiliate links or kickbacks. Just the products we love and most often recommend to our own friends and family when they seek gift giving advice.
- A distribution of gift options between $20-$300, with very few at the top end of that range, and plenty of affordable selections. There are even a few options under $20!
- A diverse range of products that can accommodate every palate and dietary restriction
- No mass market stuff
- A focus on small businesses and diverse ownership (companies founded by women, PoC, and other under-represented groups all made our list)
- US & Canada focused, with every option shipping to the continental US
To give you completely fresh, new ideas, you won’t see repeat recommendations from our past gift guide editions. We stand by those past recommendations. We’ve just uncovered a slew of newly discovered and not-previously-mentioned products.
In this 2022 edition, three of us have compiled our gift recommendations. Here’s a little more about each of us so that you get a better sense of what informs our perspectives:
Rand Fishkin: Cofounder and CEO at SparkToro, married to a James Beard award winning food writer. Infamous for selecting one terrible restaurant in Lecce, and only slightly less infamous for suggesting a taste test of every Mountain Dew flavor. Rand’s also a ludicrously picky eater, surprisingly passable home chef, and mostly wants all his friends to buy the people they love good, consumable things that won’t clutter up their homes.
Amanda Natividad: VP of Marketing for SparkToro, former test kitchen cook at the Los Angeles Times, Le Cordon Bleu graduate, has strong opinions about everything she buys, and is a proud recommender of the Travelpro Carry-on Spinner suitcase since 2015, before the Wirecutter started recommending it in 2017. (She would share her Amazon product review screenshot as proof but she doesn’t want to doxx her username, so I guess just trust her?) She also has a discerning palate but isn’t a food snob. (She likes Flamin’ Hot Fries which makes me question how discerning her palate actually is, but I can appreciate her non-snobbery.)
Andrew Bohrer: A close friend of mine whose food and drink opinions have never steered me wrong. He’s a cocktail-competition-winner, bartending legend, artist, connoisseur of all things tasteable and taste-worthy. He had to sit out last year’s guide, but he helped me put together our inaugural one. Andrew not only brings an expert point of view, but he’s also consumed, used or visited all of his recommendations, which means he’s giving tried-and-true, thoughtful advice.
Without further ado, onto our list of 38 recommendations, organized by category and in our own respective words:
For foodies and home cooks
Nut Butters from Ground Up
Have you gone over to your friend’s house and seen two mediocre jars of “artisan” almond, cashew, or sunflower seed butter in their fridge with teaspoon-spoon sized holes in the nutpaste, strongly suggesting they dig in directly with a spoon when they’re hungry and don’t have time for anything else?
Of course you have. And this is the perfect gift for those friends. They’re just a little too pricey to be an everyday nut butter, which makes them the absolute perfect gift.
I’ve tried coconut+cashew, macadamia+chia, cardamom+cashew, and even the salted eggnog. All are good, but the cashew-based ones are my favorite. Cardamom + cashew might be the winner. The monthly subscription and holiday tasting flight are great options, too. Just one suggestion: confirm your friend’s nut allergies BEFORE you buy.
100 Cookies Cookbook by Sarah Kieffer of the Vanilla Bean Blog
This is Geraldine’s favorite cookbook. I will now transcribe a conversation had in a rather small, Courtyard-by-Marriott hotel room about this cookbook:
R: “Hey KTL (I call her KTL; it’s a secret acronym, sorry), what should I tell people about the 100 Cookies Cookbook you love so much?”
G: “Mmmm… That ummm… it… do you just want me to write it?”
R: “Yes, please.”
G: <continues talking as though she hadn’t just agreed to write this next part, which I will now transcribe> “There’s tons of baking books out there. What makes this one distinct? It’s a mix of recipes for reliable classics perfected and entirely new, innovative recipes. It focuses exclusively on cookies, bars, and brownies. And unlike other cookbooks where you find yourself making only one or two recipes, you will find that you make many of these again and again. You know, finagle, clean it up, but… yeah, write that.”
R: “OK, thank you, I love you.”
G: <giggles quietly in a really adorable way and goes back to scrolling r/AmItheAsshole on Reddit>
Sodium Citrate from Modernist Pantry
Let me tell you about the ten most anger-inducing times in my life: Number one, top of the list for sure was when I was betrayed by my best friend who I loved with all my heart, and then lied-to, and then hurt repeatedly for no reason I can understand even to this day. Numbers 2-10 were when I tried to make Cacio e Pepe and ended up with glumpy, clumpy, gross wads of gummy cheese and pepper instead of silky smooth, rich and creamy cheese and pasta-water sauce like every Italian can do from the time they turn three.
Well, now you can give someone the gift of never dealing with 2-10. Number one, you’re on your own.
This secret powder came to me via my friend, Scott Heimendinger. He’s a certified culinary genius and food scientist, formerly of Modernist Cuisine and Anova, so, yeah, industry cred. Scott told me,
“Rand, it’s OK. A lot of guys need help with this. It happens to almost every man at your age. You’re trying to get your cheese-based sauce to maintain consistency through temperature fluctuations, but you can’t do it yourself. Take this white powder that looks suspiciously like cocaine and call me in the morning.”
And oh what a morning it was. Joyous. Beautiful. Like the first day after you’ve won the lottery or discovered lumbar support. I mixed it in with the grated pecorino, added the peppery pasta water, and presto! Perfect, creamy, rich, fantastic cacio e pepe, no matter the temperature of the bowl or the water.
Miracles exist amici: I submit sodium citrate as proof. (Amanda can personally attest to the deliciousness and perfect consistency because I made this for her during her last Seattle visit!)
Chorizo Bilbao from The Spanish Table
I’m about to perform magic… Ready?
Chorizo is delicious in paella.
Now watch the comments and tweets about this post. They will rapidly fill up, as though through eldritch power, with the incensed voices of proud Spaniards decrying the gastronomic heresy committed by the sentence above. They’ll say, “That’s NOT a paella! It’s arroz con chorizo! Just because it’s prepared exactly the same way and every other ingredient is the same doesn’t mean you get to use the word ‘paella,’ you monster.” Pretty impressive, right? I didn’t even go to wizard school.
But, that’s not the only magic I’ve got for you. Spanish chorizo, the right Spanish chorizo, especially *this* Spanish chorizo is phenomenal as an appetizer, in stews, sauces, on some soft bread, maybe dipped in a bit of tomato sauce. All of these suggestions will make Spanish culinary puritans scream. But, what do they know? Not how to make paella, that’s for sure. (Gianluca, 😘 I wrote this just for you)
Chorizo Bilbao is a pain to find in stores. Only one place in Seattle sells it. So we were thrilled to see this readily available for online purchase. If you buy a pack, consider whipping up Amanda’s all-time favorite Shrimp and Grits recipe, which she personally sourced from the Los Angeles-based restaurant that serves it and that she tested twice during her stint at the LA Times Test Kitchen.
Soba or buckwheat noodles from Kabuto
Years ago, we were in the Japanese mountain town of Karuizawa, wandering up a disturbingly-steep, deserted street. Every restaurant was closed. We were starving. Only one place was open—a soba noodle spot. Geraldine complained bitterly, “I don’t like soba!” I convinced her we’d get even angrier at each other if we didn’t eat. Twenty minutes later, she’d converted to the gods of buckwheat noodledom. She still says “Remember that day you didn’t want to get soba, but I insisted?” because my wife is the queen of rewriting her personal history to appear blameless.
Guess what? Kabuto’s soba, while not quite as good as the mountaintop spot in Karuizawa, is very delicious. It’s noticeably better than the other three brands I’ve tried from Seattle supermarkets. If you cook it al dente (which requires draining and quickly tossing with ice), you’ll get a fantastic texture. I particularly love this quick dinner from the WaPo (though we’ll sometimes use salmon in place of pork; equally good if not better). Buy your recipient some of these rice crackers while you’re at it. The perfect snack while you’re waiting for soba and sipping Sapporo.
My favorite method of prep for these noodles is tossing them in spicy peanut dressing along with edamame, sliced carrots and cucumbers, and a fistful of freshly chopped cilantro.
Calabrian hot chili powder from TuttoCalabria
Here’s the deal: you know how sometimes you use a jalapeno in a Thai dish, because you couldn’t find Thai bird’s eye chilis at the grocery store? Or maybe you’ve used New Mexican hatch chilies in a Caribbean dish? Not the same as habanero by any means. Culinary excommunication looms, but it mostly works.
Same thing with spicy, Mediterranean dishes and American chili powders or flakes. It’s not the same. If you’ve been to Calabria, Naples, Sicily, and eaten the spicy foods of those regions, you’ve had Calabrian chili. This stuff. Now when someone says “that’s a spicy a-meat-a-ball!” you can say “thanks! Unlike your hackneyed stereotyping, it’s authentic.”
Matcha powder from Cha Cha Matcha
When I first started reading about matcha powder and where to buy it, I learned that green teas (even organic ones), particularly tea grown in China, may contain lead. And while there’s research to show that over a thousand Chinese tea varieties exceed the recommended safety levels, wary consumers may want to be sure they’re buying their matcha sourced from Japan. Cha Cha Matcha provides exactly that: ceremony-grade matcha sourced from Uji, Japan.
Instant noodle variety pack from Momofuku
I’ll level with ya. I love instant ramen noodles. Calm down, many chefs love them too — they just don’t cook with those Top Ramen seasoning packets. These Momofuku noodles are now a pantry staple for me, and I do use the provided seasoning. All I do is add a protein — usually some seared sirloin steak quickly marinated in a dash of soy sauce with squeeze of lemon and glob of garlic — and a sauteed vegetable, and it’s an easy weeknight meal.
Spoon holder and steam releaser from Ototo
At $20, this is among our more economical picks! This might look frivolous but it’s not. A while back, my husband noticed an odd cooking quirk from me: I have a habit of balancing my pot lids on the pot just off-center. I do this to retain most of the heat without risking the liquid boiling over. And occasionally, the lid will fall off the pot. Until my husband got the Red the Crab Steam Releaser for me, I had no idea such a product existed! Now, this little crab holds my cooking spoon in place (allowing the saucy spatula to drip into the pot) or keeps my pot lid in place (allowing a pathway for the steam).
Cooking concentrates from Rhea Goods
I arrived at my friend Tony’s house and after greeting me he ran to the fridge eagerly asking, “Try this, have you had it? It’s so good.” He later revealed that while, yes, he loved the Deep Fermented Black Garlic Concentrate, he mostly wanted to be the one to introduce me to something new. And that he did! I think I’ve sent a half dozen of the set of Liquid Sunshine (preserved lemon concentrate) to other folks I know in a similar “Ha, first!” fashion. What do I do with these concentrates? A flick of Liquid Sunshine on any vegetable, roasted, poached, whatever. I mostly use the Deep Black in marinades for pork belly or flank steak. I’ll add other ingredients but I don’t need to.
Y-peeler from Kuhn Rikon
Drag your vegetable peeler across the palm of your hand. Now if you aren’t dialing 911 with your other hand, then your peeler is dull and needs to be replaced. Rikon makes great Y-peelers that are so inexpensive that they are often sold in 3 packs. If you are more interested in cooking gear in the style of “I am become death, destroyer of worlds,” then go with the Titan Peeler. I’m on my 12th year with mine.
Nothing compares to these peelers. With their small, sharp size, they’re easy to maneuver and help you peel fast.
Boos Block Board Cream from John Boos
It’s the culinary equivalent of socks for Christmas. But like socks, it’s essential. I do all of my cutting boards once a year but I should probably do them more often. This board cream is a natural blend of bees wax and mineral oil. Basically it fixes the divots in your cutting board that your well-meaning friend put in while pretending to be the Swedish chef. It also is a natural antibacterial and antifungal sealer that protects porous wood. Also, Boos makes a good cutting board if you want one of those too.
The Mexican Pantry from Providore Fine Foods
Y’all know Matt Brown? Picky, picky guy. Especially when it comes to food. Just imagine Eric Ripert but from Portland, Oregon. Anywhoodle, Matt bought us this gift box in September. It’s nearly gone. We loved every item. Every. Item. Do you know how rare that is in a gift box?
The mole was spectacular. Better than many restaurants. The salsa seca? Divine. The blue corn? Fuggedaboudit. Buy it for someone you love. Then go for a visit.
Panettone from Fiasconaro
I buy a lot of panettone. It’s a go-to gift when we bring something over to a friend’s house around the holidays (or even into February). It’s shelf-stable, which seems odd for a bread product, and I probably wouldn’t trust it if it were American, but it’s Italian, so… yeah, they wouldn’t make it or ship it if it wasn’t amazing and safe.
This brand is the best. Or, at least, my most consistent favorite. I’ve had others I loved equally, but then I try another variety from them, and they fall flat. Fiasconaro delivers over and over. You can buy some from Supermarket Italy or D’italia, or even Amazon. Get five delivered to your own house and treat them like flowers or wine: a more creative riff, oozing with savoir faire.
Rand gifted me one of these once! It was divine. I’d only ever had American panettone bread and for the life of me, couldn’t figure out what made this stale massive hunk of bread a seemingly important holiday staple. But yeah. Sorry. The American grocery store versions are not good. At all.
Star of David Bundt Pan from Nordic Ware
You never call. You know I sit by the phone all day hoping someone will call, but no one ever does. What shame have I brought to this family that I deserve such loneliness? And such hunger–no, no, don’t get up, I’ll get it myself. My legs have been cramping something awful, but I can walk…
Bubby! STAHP it. Look, Geraldine made a nice cake for us.
Oh. That *is* a nice cake. Such a lovely shape. How did you do it, dear?
And that’s how the gentile won over her Jewish inlaws. With a bundt cake pan. Use this knowledge wisely, and make a Red Sea Pedestrian very happy. OK, maybe not “very happy,” maybe just “briefly not complaining too much.”
-Amanda and Andrew (ha ha ha, just kidding, obviously Rand)
Now I might buy this for myself just to make sure Rand truly feels welcome at my home the next time my family and I have him over.
For home bartenders
Japanese Sake Vermouth from Oka Kura
Wait, Japan makes vermouth? That’s what I thought the first time I saw this display at my local spirits purveyor. Bought some, mixed it with yuzu syrup and bitters, fell in love.
It’s very different from Western vermouths, but very delicious. You can read all about it in Punch. Or you can try it at your friend’s house after you buy it for them.
Lucky Envelope Brewing’s Fine Beers & Sours
My doctor says I have pre-pre-diabetes. So I’m mostly cutting out beer. It’s a tragedy, but a tolerable one. I still get to sneak in some spirits and wine. I’m not yet over the line into the technical “pre-diabetes” area. I just gotta watch it.
So, when I indulge in my one beer every few months, I gotta make it good. Lucky Envelope brews right down the street from us, and they’ve won a whole mess of awards, local and national, for ‘em. My absolute favorite is the Vienna Lager, which reminds me of the many lovely beers I drank in Bavarian pubs with my late father-in-law (who hated almost everyone but seemed to like me – I like to think it’s because I’ve always been good to his daughter, and he loved her dearly, but struggled with expressing emotions because that’s what men of his generation did). My second is the Raspberry Sour; delightful. Screw anyone who says real men can’t drink sours. Real men, women, and nonbinary folks can A) drink whatever the “f” they want (as long as their doctor says it’s OK) and B) aren’t defined, offended by, or interested in the opinions of those who place arbitrary, antiquated gender norms on them.
The Helles Lager is also quite good.
Sake Advent Calendar from Namazake Paul
Advent calendars are a fun way to count the days leading up to Christmas (if you celebrate). And this particular calendar is especially great for sake lovers. Packed in padding with lots of love, each day comes with about two servings of sake, some served chilled or hot. (Don’t worry, it comes with a little booklet to help you learn about each sake.) A thoughtful gift for someone you love, or a great gift for yourself to get you into the holiday spirit!
Clear sake set from DUJUST Store
I have been searching far and wide for a sake set with my preferred criteria of being clear (so I can see precisely how much sake is left), and allowing me to maintain a hot or cold bath for the tokkuri. This set offers everything I was looking for, and it’s under $30.
The Audrey Saunders Sour Glass from Cocktail Kingdom
A perfect glass. I like a small glass, I’ll have a second cocktail if I want more. I like a glass that doesn’t spill, I’m a fella who likes to gesture. I love a sour glass that has a touch of Nick and Nora that is also perfect in size and shape for an Irish Coffee. Get these glasses.
Oak barrels from Baby Barrels
I care about barrel aged cocktails like I care about pet rocks. But if you are into that, go with the gods or whatever. What I am into is making bespoke house blends of whiskey or rum. My current house rum blend is mostly Jamaican (probably always will be) with a bit of Haitian, Cachaça, and some old Demerara. Blending all of these together makes an affordable sipping rum that can’t make a bad cocktail and is only ever available at my house.
Tiki Mugs from Mondo Shop
We don’t really drink exotic cocktails out of other peoples’ gods’ heads anymore. That’s a good thing, but now, you can drink from the heads of the new gods, the gods of media. I really like the Mondo mugs because they are a bit of a nod to classic tiki without being, um, colonial. Tiki at its origin and exotic drinks now were/are about traveling without traveling and having a bit of fun. These certainly deliver on that promise.
For frequent hosts
Linen napkins from Madre
I am in love with these napkins. I’ve washed and dried them half a dozen times and they still look great. The easygoing fabric doesn’t feel at all starchy, nor does it feel flimsy. And with the golden trim, the overall vibe is casually lux. The colors all play well together, so I’ve mixed and matched several of the colors.
Champagne saber from Laguiole
Sabering Champagne is one of the most fun things one can do that is slightly dangerous. It’s easy to saber champagne bottles. I’ve done it with a bottle opener, a belt buckle, an iPhone, braver folk than I can do it with a champagne flute, but you’ll never fail if you have a saber. It’s the difference between getting your tires rotated at the shop and just having four friends over to lift your car and hold it still.
Oh this is a princely gift. I’m buying these for some friends right now, because there is not a human alive who doesn’t enjoy sabering champagne with a fancy scimitar.
Herbal digestive from Underberg
I love Underberg. I have an Underberg truck with my name on it and the trailer to follow it that is actually a music box. It’s the best thing to drink after a heavy meal, between beers, before a cheese course, on the golf course, if your stomach is upset, if your stomach is happy, if you are happy or upset— it might be the best drink there is. It’s a simple, tiny bottle of boonekamp bitters (stomach bitters) which is basically a spirit infused with bitter herbs and botanicals to aid in digestion. You used to have to (and still can) save caps to exchange for secret brand swag but the Underberg store is now open with all kinds of silly gear to promote your interest in bitter drinks and digestion.
Packaging is adorable. Taste is enjoyable. User experience is 10/10. Would gift.
Cocktail sets from Bull in China
Think about something you love, you are passionate about or something you want to learn. Now think about exploring that love with the finest that Target has to offer. Don’t worry, I’m not talking shit about Target. One of my most common expressions is “you aren’t too good for City Target,” because no one is. But Target isn’t where you go for specialized gear. It takes care of the basics and if you are lucky it makes them pretty and affordable. With that said and to shift Sauron’s Eye from Target to you: whatever cutie pie bullshit cocktail shaker or drink mixer you have is bad and wrong and you should feel bad and wrong. The good news is, resetting your shaker and mixers to something 10x better costs about the same if you buy it from a retailer that curates stock for quality. That’s what you get from Bull in China. Cobbler shakers (three piece) are hard to use for professionals and even harder for the home user. I promise you’ll get a better drink out of a 2 piece, metal on metal shaker. METAL ON METAL.
For travelers or experience-seekers
The gift of a distillery tour
I have a buddy who has been studying whiskey and it’s inspired me to get tasting, learning, and visiting again. I also just drove across the country and found that gifting a distillery tour to my hosts is a true kindness. Westland in Seattle, for example, pours you over $50 of booze (where you’d be lucky enough to buy it in a bar). And fellas, (men) when you are on these tours, if it’s more of a comment than a question, keep it to yourself.
Other distilleries I visited and loved during my cross-country drive:
- High West in Utah
- Leopold Bros in Colorado
- J. Rieger and Co in Kansas City
- George Dickel in Tennessee
- Catoctin Creek in Virginia
For when you’re looking for something new and unexpected
Totoro Japanese Tea Cup from Studio Ghibli
I have an embarrassing confession – I’ve never once drank tea from this cup. I use it for my morning espresso. I love it more than 95% of my possessions. The little characters are so cute and the texture is like if ASMR were a physical thing. The translations: adorable. The size: flawless. The sippability from the lip: perfection.
True sadness is knowing that only a few things can be this beautiful and beloved in your life. But if you have Ghibli fans on your gift list, this might be just the ticket to their hearts.
Soup, bread and cookie gift box from Spoonful of Comfort
This gift box has become my go-to gift for new parents, sick loved ones, and any friend who needs a little extra support during an unusually busy week. Spoonful of Comfort usually delivers in less than a week, and the thoughtful packaging — complete with metal ladle — makes for a truly beautiful gift.
Canned agua frescas from Agua Bonita
I’m always on the lookout for nonalcoholic beverages, and I was thrilled to stumble upon Agua Bonita. This Latina-owned small business makes delicious canned agua frescas that you can buy directly online or from select Sprouts locations. My personal favorite is Mango Habanero which has a refreshing spicy kick (but don’t worry, not too spicy). I’ll drink it as is, or with a freshly squeezed lime wedge. And sometimes, if I want a low-effort cocktail, I’ll add a shot of tequila as well.
French Macarons from Kayla’s Cake
I can’t remember what occasion it was (eating my feelings, probably), but for at least a few weeks, French macarons from the best known France- and New York-based bake shops were sold out. I also couldn’t find a macaron shop near me. Then I stumbled upon Kayla’s Cake, on Amazon where I learned they were local-ish to me). Not only was I pleased to see that they also sell directly on their website, they also ship all over the US. The macarons are delicious, and Kayla Cake’s various ecommerce options make their goods easy to buy.
Straw filters from LifeStraw
LifeStraw contributes 6% of its annual gross income towards its charity program. They have given over 10,000 filters to 1,600 schools in 3 years, and it all came from their own profits. Not only does this company distribute a way to have clean water, but they designed the cost-efficient way to do it themselves. I have 3 for emergency purposes. Super boring way to keep yourself and others safe in an emergency and helping other people in need. Water is the most important drink.
Go forth and have a delicious holiday season
Thanks for reading! We hope you discovered something new. And if there’s a great (and tasty) gift you think we missed, feel free to drop your recommendation in the comments. Have a delicious Thanksgiving, a very Happy Hanukah, and a Merry upcoming Christmas to all who celebrate.
-Rand, Amanda, and Andrew