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The Eater LA 2018 Holiday Gift Guide

There’s plenty to give this year, from sleek wood serving boards to hip hoodies

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Matthew Kang is the Lead Editor of Eater LA. He has covered dining, restaurants, food culture, and nightlife in Los Angeles since 2008. He's the host of K-Town, a YouTube series covering Korean food in America, and has been featured in Netflix's Street Food show.

Here at Eater LA, we believe in giving great gifts, especially ones that are produced locally in the city or have strong ties to the City of Angels. This year, that means anything from a chic new apron style from local manufacturers Hedley & Bennett on down to a wonderful tea set from Tea Habitat in Alhambra. Giving a gift shouldn’t be a stressful endeavor, so take a look at the highly curated set of ideas below. For the coffee maven, there’s nothing better than getting a trio of the new Manufactory roaster from Downtown LA.

Espresso enthusiasts might enjoy sipping on their morning double with some handthrown ceramics available for purchase in Chinatown’s Now Serving bookstore. And ambitious cooks can wrangle up a crowd with the pasta set from Semolina Artisanal Pasta, which comes with three different shapes and even a can of tomatoes and a box of great sea salt to build a nice sauce. Here now, the 2018 Eater LA holiday gift guide for food lovers. For a bigger set of gift ideas, check out the complete Eater gift guide for 2018.

Coffee Manufactory Whole Bean Set

It’s hard to imagine how much LA’s coffee scene has progressed in the past ten years, ever since Intelligentia landed from Chicago. Other roasters have made their home in the city, and the latest is San Francisco’s Coffee Manufactory, which comes from the Tartine family and will eventually roast at a massive facility at Row DTLA. Until then, order up these colorful, newly redesigned bags by the whole bean on their website. Flavorwise, Manufactory leans toward a bit more of a medium roast, which works great with milk or cream in the mornings. Those looking for a bit of a brighter experience, but not necessarily acid-forward, can opt to grind up some of those Africa beans.

Price: $55

Mt. Washington Pottery Espresso Cups

Local artisan Beth Katz grew up in Topanga Canyon learning to throw ceramics as a young child. She combines a Japanese pottery approach with a sleek Scandinavian design for a kind of jagged but elegant aesthetic that leans on striking glazes. This set of espresso mugs works perfectly for the morning coffee fanatic who wants to build a cute macchiato or a strong double espresso. They’re built tough and should last long as heirlooms. Available either online or at Now Serving in Chinatown.

Price: $55 per cup

Tea Habitat Loose Leaf Tea Set

Eater national critic Bill Addison wrote a highlight piece on one of his favorite tea destinations in the country: Alhambra’s own Tea Habitat, which doesn’t necessarily boast a big marketing budget or talented design team. But what Tea Habitat lacks in style it more than makes up in quality. Owner Imen Shan finds some of the rarest teas in China, and this six set tea sample contains a variety of white, oolong, and green teas in one ounce packs that should give the budding tea lover plenty from which to choose. The white peony is especially good afternoon tea, light on the palate but brimming with a freshness and buttery smoothness that begs from some crumpets, or perhaps some xiao long bao.

Price: $75 for the set

Semolina Artisanal Pasta Holiday Tote

Leah Ferrazzani opened a specialty pasta shop in Pasadena with the intention of bringing Angelenos the real flavor of high quality dried pasta in unique shapes. Starting with organic durum semolina from the U.S., she cuts the pasta using bronze ties, which supposedly helps the dried noodles to soak up sauce. This set includes three shapes: strozzapreti, ditalini, and rigatoni, plus a can of Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes and a box of Jacobsen kosher salt for seasoning. A sturdy tote keeps the package all together and Ferrazzani throws in some recipe cards to ease the way into the kitchen.

Price: $49.99, including shipping

The Wooden Palate Aria Serving Board

Founders Ryan Silverman and Eileen O’Dea produce incredible wood kitchen tools and serving pieces like this 14 inch Aria circular board with the intention of keeping them forever. Produced locally in the South Bay, the couple prefers to source American hardwoods like white oak and walnut for pieces like these serving boards, which come with a handy hanging hole so display when it’s not in use. The two sides are identical, so it’s best to cut on one side and then serve on the other. The fumed oak to the left has a bit more color gradient while the white oak offers foods like cheeses, crackers, fruits, and small bites to dinner party guests in a more neutral tone. The Wooden Palate also makes excellent cutting boards that work for a more discerning home cook.

Price: $160 for each board

Jon & Vinny’s Pancake Party Gift Box

Brunch doesn’t always have to involve driving out to a restaurant when Jon & Vinny’s brings the weekend meal home. Fairfax District’s Jon & Vinny’s restaurant and its wine shop Helen’s puts together a handy pancake party with pancake mix, Sqirl plum jam, a bottle of fizzy pet-nat wine, and a gorgeous wooden spoon made by Four Leaf Wood Shop in Ojai. All you need is a good griddle and some quality maple syrup.

Price: $136

Milla Chocolates Signature Assortment

After popping up at the Row DTLA last year, Christine Sull Sarioz is already creating some of the city’s best chocolate, with a nearly opened storefront in Culver City. Using a geometric theme and striking black packaging with gold lettering, Milla does a fine job of balancing amazing chocolate with just subtle enough flavorings like raspberry and pink sea salt or hazelnut praline with Turkish coffee. A lot of times chocolate companies hew either toward the more rustic or overly stylized look, but Milla rides the seam between both, which appeals to both chocolate obsessives and newbies.

Price: $81

Sweet Laurel Chocolate Cake Kit

New bakery Sweet Laurel started with the idea of preparing allergy and gluten-insensitive diners with not just a viable alternative, but one that possibly outshines the goods with standard flour and refined sugar. Laurel Gallucci doesn’t try and reinvent the wheel: Her chocolate caramel layer cake is just damn good, and it’s available for shipping in whole form. But for a better party trick, she makes a lovely cake kit with chocolate cake mix, gluten free vanilla extract, and vegan caramel. It’s like a fancy Betty Crocker box that just happens to be tailored to those avoiding gluten or dairy in a colorful gift-worthy package.

Price: $55

Hedley & Bennett Sierra Smock Apron

Hedley & Bennett has appeared many times in this gift guide over the years, but the continue to innovate with this sweet smock-style apron that’s been increasingly popular with service staff at hip restaurants around town. Made with French linen and sporting a crossback strap situation, it’s a little less strain on the neck with more weight of the apron spread to the shoulders. But the linen is so light it almost doesn’t matter, making this comfortable enough to wear for long cooking or crafting sessions. Big front pockets make it easy to store utensils or anything else, or just hands.

Price: $89

Momofuku Katakana Zip Hoodie

Majordomo opened on the first month of the year, bringing one of New York City’s most celebrated restaurant groups, Momofuku, to Los Angeles. And while Majordomo doesn’t overtly sport the Momofuku brand, the glowing neon sign outside the restaurant does reveal the Katakana characters for the “lucky peach.” Score one of those comfy hoodies to stay warm during the winter months in LA.

Price: $35

Kikori Whiskey

LA-based company Kikori started in founder Ann Soh Wood’s basement, with most of the brand’s distribution network in the Los Angeles area. The Japanese rice whiskey is lighter and less aggressive than other grain-based whiskies, with a smoother finish thanks to more barrel aging. This is the fourth edition of the whiskey, which has a noticeably darker tint than the more yellow bottles of years past. Kikori is an excellent base for a Japanese-style highball, light, refreshing, and fantastic to pair with food. Think of it as sake or soju but with a mature edge.

Price: $62.99 at Bevmo

Mulholland American Whiskey

Local company Mulholland Distilling takes Indiana liquor aged in Kentucky before finalizing the stuff in Downey, just a few miles south of Downtown LA. The 100 proof whiskey is a tad harsh to drink neat, but works great on the rocks, and in an Old Fashioned or Manhattan. With a mostly corn mashbill, plus a hint of rye and barley, the nose will feature a bit more of the tasty vanilla and maple notes that novice brown liquor drinkers will like, and it comes at a wallet-friendly price point.

Price: $29.99 at K&L Wine Merchants or $27.99 at Total Wine

Clean + Dirty Drinking by Gabriella Mlynarczyk

Longtime LA bartender Gabriella Mylnarczyk, who’s consulted on and created multiple cocktail menus around town, such as Accomplice, finally has a book that allows her culinary approach to drinkmaking to shine. And with an LA-style mentality of drinking with alcohol or without booze, this recipe book allows imbibers to craft beverages that feel creative and fun without the needed to get hosed. Get this one for the adventurous home bartender looking to move beyond the basic Negroni, with a lot of technique and technical aspects that helps a budding mixologist learn the tricks of the trade.

Price: $13.56 on Amazon

A Common Table by Cynthia Chen McTernan

LA-based food blog star Cynthia Chen McTernan stuns with this accessible, and personal, story of how she blends her Chinese heritage with her Southern upbringing. It’s a story of life, marriage, and motherhood, with a ton of Korean and Hawaiian influence from her husband. The photography, which Chen McTernan shoots herself, is phenomenal, with tons of natural blue-tinted light that allows the dishes to pop on the page. And the recipes are pretty easy, good enough for a novice cook to start spending more time in the kitchen. While Chen McTernan just recently relocated to Los Angeles for her law career, the story of melding cuisines and heritage is a classic Angeleno story of reinvention and discovery.

Price: $19.49 on Amazon or available in store at Now Serving in Chinatown

Bestia by Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis

One of LA’s most popular restaurants, it was only a matter of time before Bestia founders Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis wrote their cookbook. A thick volume full of obsessive details, it’s easy to see why Bestia is so beloved in LA, with its careful balancing of Italian and California sensibilities. Fans of the restaurant will find out how to recreate their favorite dishes from chicken liver to even charcuterie and pizza. Most cooks will probably find a lot of the recipes a bit too challenging to try at home, but it’s still inspiring to see the attention to detail. Note, Eater travel editor Lesley Suter is a co-writer of this book.

Price: $22.48 on Amazon

Los Angeles Cult Recipes by Victor Garnier Astorino

A lot of restaurants don’t necessarily have the means or the marketing horsepower to fuel their own cookbooks, but Paris-based writer, photographer, and burger maven Victor Garnier Astorino has done an excellent job of compiling iconic recipes and dishes from around the city. Things are as simple as the chicken breakfast burrito from Cora’s Coffee Shop all the way down to the corned beef reuben sandwich from Canter’s Deli. With wonderful photos and an eclectic mix of local favorites, this one’s a great coffee table book for casual perusal.

Price: $22.46 on Amazon

Trap Kitchen: Bangin’ Recipes From Compton by Malachi Jenkins and Roberto Smith

Sometimes gift guides tend to feel a bit precious with the flowers and bright pastel colors. Here’s a hilarious and awesome cookbook from Trap Kitchen, an underground cooking crew that dominated Instagram a few years ago with their mind-blowing dishes. The book doesn’t have much to offer in the way of style or design, but Jenkins and Smith’s story is unlike any other. Former members from rival gangs, they talk about how cooking was the main driver to changing their paths. FYI, this book is full of NSFW language, so it’s probably best for a more mature readership.

Price: $16.96 on Amazon

All About Cake by Christina Tosi

Milk Bar founder Christina Tosi recently opened a massive cake and pastry shop along Melrose Avenue with room enough for teach classes and serve up her whimsical sweet creations. Her previous books, Milk Bar and Milk Bar Life, didn’t have quite the focus on those amazing open-sided cakes, so this latest volume offers recipes on everything from pistachio bundt cakes to mint chocolate chip microwave cakes (for the supremely lazy, or a handy college student). Released just a few weeks ago in late October, this is a solid stocking stuffer (for those book-shaped stockings).

Price: $22.48 on Amazon

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