The road to a satisfying holiday season is always paved with giving. That doesn’t always mean physical gifts or objects — it could mean acts of service or thoughtfulness. The holidays are the best time to recharge and replenish relationships, so hopefully, amid the ongoing pandemic and safer gatherings, there’s the opportunity to see loved ones in person again. The best things in life truly don’t need to cost anything.
So while there’s much more than physical things you can give to show affection, appreciation, and overall holiday cheer, it certainly never hurts to send someone a small token of joy, especially for the person who loves to support local California and Los Angeles businesses. These are also great things to send to folks across the country who miss LA, like melt-in-your-mouth chocolates from Valerie, a hot-buttered rum kit, deeply flavored barbecue sauces, or a well-embroidered apron for passionate home cooks. Here now is the 2021 Eater LA holiday gift guide.
Pasta sauces from Gino Angelini
Los Angeles has plenty of incredible Italian restaurants, but few have had the staying power and influence of Gino Angelini of Angelini Osteria, whose Alimentari market and grab-and-go spot has become a neighborhood staple in Beverly Grove. Angelini has now gone the Rao’s route and seen the golden road of pre-made pasta sauces with this classically designed by always useful pantry item. These stellar sauces are a way to taste Angelini at home, from an organic spicy arrabbiata sauce to a creamy but tangy limone cream that just begs for some freshly boiled spaghetti. Now we’re waiting for a frozen version of the restaurant’s incredible lasagna.
SJ Apron Crimson from BlueCut Aprons
BlueCut Aprons always try to add a personal touch or story to some of its signature aprons. The SJ Crimson is named after co-founder Karam Kim’s mother Soo Ja Choo. The apron comes with a tutorial on how to make japchae, a stir-fry of vermicelli noodles and vegetables, at home thanks to Zip Banchan chef Krissy Song. The best part of this apron is the embroidered carnation corsage, a nod to when Kim made these to honor parents on Parents Day in South Korea (yes, kids spend a day celebrating their parents in Korea). The apron is a crimson French linen fabric with brass hardware and cotton straps. Twenty percent of sales from this apron benefit the Abundance Setting, supporting working mothers in the food industry. (BlueCut face masks aren’t included with the apron but also make for a nice stocking stuffer.)
Ototo Sake Club Subscription
Echo Park restaurant Ototo has a handy monthly sake subscription that comes with three 300-milliliter bottles a month that will span different regions, brewing techniques, and styles that should appeal to the sake aficionado. Ototo supplies colorful notes on each sake that discuss flavors and facts from each brewery. Sets can be picked up in Echo Park after the 15th of each month or can be shipped across California for a fee. And think of the time saved not sweating over which sake to buy at the local Nijiya, Tokyo Central, or Mitsuwa.
Koreatown Collection by Sugar Lab
3-D printed sugar sculptures meld 21st-century tech with local LA flavor in this Koreatown collection by Sugar Lab. The colorful set has everything from kimchi bouillon to sweet hangwa that recall traditional Korean celebrations. Not everything here is made with sweetness, as the bouillon sculptures can be dropped into hot water to make soup or even added to your instant Shin ramen for extra flavor. This is definitely more of a conversation-starter kind of gift for those that love all things Korean and K-town, with 15 pieces included in the box. A portion of each sale goes to Gyopo, an organization that highlights diaspora Koreans working in art, film, and more.
Seasonal produce from Fruitstand
Monthly produce delivery from Fruitstand takes the CSA model and appeals more to the hardcore vegetable and fruit fan who delights in hard-to-find or impossible-to-grow varieties sourced mostly from California farms. Examples from other months include special grapes from K&K Ranch in Orsi, or midnight roma tomatoes, habanada peppers, and 898 squash from Nuss Farms in Lodi (pictured above). A subscription provides four to five pounds of produce and can be shipped anywhere in the country, making this a great gift for anyone who doesn’t have access to Southern California’s amazing farmers markets. Cutting board is not included. Cost for a three month subscription is $135.
R6 Distillery Mini Gift Set
El Segundo distillery R6 has been making some of the county’s best whiskey for years, with bottles even occasionally showing up at Costco at a very attractive price. But the special distillery has a handy five-piece gift back that offers straight bourbon, straight rye, single malt whisky, caramel-flavored whisky, and vodka in adorable little two-ounce bottles. These samplers help the cocktail and spirits fans in your circle to support a local outfit while finding the style of whiskey they like. The set can be shipped anywhere in California, and of course, full-sized bottles are available at local liquor stores or at the distillery in El Segundo.
Indoggo Strawberry Flavored Gin
Snoop Dogg. Gin and juice. That’s all you need to know about this amazing purple bottle of strawberry-flavored gin by one of the greatest rappers of all time (and truly, one of the most beloved and ubiquitous celebrities in Los Angeles). What’s the best way to drink Indoggo? Some fresh lemonade is the easiest for a refreshing weekend sipper on the rocks.
The strawberry flavor makes the gin just a little sweet (though there’s no sugar in this bottle), making it versatile with coconut milk, tonic water, grapefruit juice, or pretty much anything that would work with gin. It’s not really the kind of stuff you’d want to make a martini out of, but in terms of mixing or splashing into punches, Indoggo (even the name is incredible) is a solid go-to. Plus, a bottle won’t cost you anything near Ace of Spades for that celebrity booze flex.
Tres Milagros Gesha coffee from Copa Vida
Everyone has that coffee fiend in their circle that would appreciate a well-roasted gesha variety that boasts complex flavor. Pasadena-based cafe and roaster Copa Vida has a special Tres Milagros gesha from Costa Rica presented in a gorgeous engraved wooden box. The washed coffee is grown in volcanic soil and clay and produced in the Dota-Tarrazu region. The five-ounce tin should yield around 10 cups and can be brewed in a coffee machine or pourover. (Note: the spoon and clip are not included.)
Greenbar Distillery bottles
One of LA’s longest-running modern distilleries, Greenbar has been producing a slew of craft spirits since 2004. The Slow Hand single malt whiskey is the one that should appeal to cocktailians, with butterscotch, black tea, and vanilla notes coming from aging in six different kinds of wood, including white oak, maple, and mulberry. Good for old fashioneds or sipping neat, it’s proof that not all good whiskey comes from Kentucky. The Grand Poppy amaro is a more floral take on the classic digestif and mixer that works great with spritzes. The City gin is another solid aromatic gem with botanicals that conjure LA’s international flavors, including East/Southeast Asia, Mexico, and the Middle East. The distillery offers tastings and tours by appointment, with bottles available at local liquor shops.
Bludso’s Barbecue Sauces and Rubs
Former Compton and current La Brea Avenue legend Bludso’s has a super cool line of Texas-style sauces and barbecue rubs that bring the flavors of the popular restaurant to any avid home cook or pitmaster. Originally developed by Kevin Bludso’s grandmother Willie May Fields and produced here in Southern California, this barbecue kit works well with slow-cooked or smoked meats. The packaging design is awesome, too.
Sightglass Coffee gift box
Sightglass has custom gift boxes that can be assembled to order when calling into the Hollywood cafe and coffee roaster. This wooden box includes a 12-ounce bag of Winter Soltice beans, granola, shortbread cookies, chocolate chip cookies, buckwheat brownie, and a bottle of 2014 Barham Mendelsohn pinot noir. This basically covers the whole of a great weekend day during the winter months: coffee and granola in the morning, shortbread cookies in the afternoon, and wine with brownies and cookies at night. This is what adults do to get through the holidays.
Lost Cove Hot Buttered Rum Kit
Delivery service Lost Cove launched during the pandemic to bring Tiki flavors, Hawaiian food, and drinks to cocktail fans. Founded by Kevin Faerkin, who was previously the director of operations at Bludso’s Bar and Que, as well as bar manager Chad Austin (Lono, Smugglers Cove, Bootlegger) and bartender Justin Oliver, the service prepares classic Tiki drinks and presents them with easy-to-mix spirits or flavorings to replicate easily at home. The hot buttered rum kit, in particular, has a Plantation Isle Rum cocktail, eight ounces of buttered rum batter, a rum barrel mug, and holiday straws and stirs, plus instructions. Also shown above but not included with the set is Tiki Nog, a ready-to-drink creamy cocktail that just needs to be shaken and garnished with a cinnamon stick to enjoy.
History Is Delicious Kids Food Book
Eater LA contributor and first-time author Joshua Lurie, a father of two, has written a really fun and colorful entry for budding food enthusiasts. Illustrated by Laura Foy, the book is an introduction to ingredients and cuisines from around the world, particularly ones that have strong restaurant scenes in Los Angeles, like Middle Eastern, Asian, and Latin American. There are even some feasible recipes like the tortilla española from Gasolina Cafe chef Sandra Cordero and family-friendly onigiri by Jichan’s Onigiri-ya. The reading material is probably more for kids older than six, but has enough interesting information to appeal to grown-ups as well.
Spread the Love Nut Butter Gift Pack
Filipina-owned, Los Angeles-based specialty butter company Spread the Love makes a gift set that should keep toasts nicely slathered through LA’s “colder” months. Almond cashew power butter uses just the two nuts, and nothing else, while marionberry and raspberry jam comes from Pacific Northwestern fruits. The best part of this gift pack is the silicon-tipped peanut butter spoon, the ideal tool to spread the good stuff onto your morning snack. Hey, we want to lick the peanut butter off of it, too.
Insulated Mugs, Tote Bag, and Shirt from Bloom and Plume
Brothers Maurice and Moses Harris took an artful, wonderfully appointed cafe next to their flower studio and turned it into one of Los Angeles’s top neighborhood coffee spots in Historic Filipinotown. Soak in the references to Black culture in the patterns, colors, and artwork at the shop, which extends to the merchandise, which is among the best-designed in LA’s coffee scene. Insulated mugs come in bright yellow or muted teal, while a well-fitted T-shirt works with any outfit. Finally, a large Moroccan tote bag to carry everything.
Chocolates from Valerie
Consistently one of LA’s classiest gifts, Valerie Gordon’s namesake shop and bakery has a few sweet treats this year, including a toffee and caramel box that includes different flavors of crunchy toffee coated in luscious chocolate. Printed menorah chocolate truffles are 61 percent bittersweet and come in at $25 a box. Partnering with Commune Design, Valerie’s Good Mix looks like cereal but is basically chocolate-covered granola — a salty, sweet, crunchy snack that you really won’t be able to stop munching on.
Fun-Diggity Funnel Cake Mix
Seriously, a funnel cake mix. It’s an awesome way to have Fun-Diggity funnel cakes right at home thanks to this ready-to-make product made here in Los Angeles from founder Cheyenne Brown, who was serving out of her home but recently moved operations to Amped Kitchens in South LA. There’s even a drive-thru funnel cake pickup, for those that are too lazy to mix up flour and heat up oil at home. But for people who have powdered sugar and whipped cream ready, this funnel cake mix is the answer to those sluggish holiday afternoons when the family’s trying to get over a food coma.
Caviar cubes from Petrossian
Pressed cubes of caviar are truly the bougiest thing you could offer to your martini-loving friends — cocktail onions, olives, and lemon twists seem blasé in comparison. These pressed salty caviar jellos provide a briny, salty pop to any stirred martini, though, of course, Petrossian will be happy to throw in a tin of their outstanding caviar if these cubes aren’t enough. (Vodka is purchased separately. Cup and spoon are not included with the cubes.)
Wilder Mustard Quartet
The lover of mustard is someone who clearly likes their food taken to 11. Wilder mustard, produced in California and packaged into this rather adorable vertical gift set, has included the quartet-only truffle mustard that brings the wonderful aroma of the wild tuber. Spice up everything from hot dogs and pastrami to leftover turkey sandwiches with an array of these flavor-packed mustards for an easy stocking stuffer.
Chile oil from Mason’s Dumpling Shop
The last stocking stuffer is this rather handsome jar of chile oil from Highland Park restaurant Mason’s Dumpling Shop. This chile oil in particular pairs nicely with some aged Chinese vinegar and a few dashes of light soy sauce. And, of course, some pan-fried or soup dumplings. Lace on some of this intense chile oil on basically anything to make it better.