It's getting down to the wire. Christmas Day is almost here and Hanukkah is almost over. If you're still scrambling to find a perfect gift for the foodie who has everything, we have a list of local businesses that can ease the stress of holiday shopping.
We know foodie is a trite and over-used term but gourmet seems too snooty and gourmand implies gluttony so we'll opt for foodie this time. Forgive us.
So here's a list of places to knock out the shopping for winos, boozehounds, barbecue bros, cookie monsters, and restless travelers who have been grounded due to the pandemic.
Sweets and Treats Fiends:
Alchemy Bake Lab
16214 Pine Thorn
This cottage business is an independent venture so pre-ordering is a must to get your favorite mini treats in time. Petite sweets is what this bakery excels at and those who love everything miniature will appreciate the precious baked goods coming out of Kady Miller's baking kitchen.
The mini gingerbread houses are a perfect treat for a child or a child-at-heart and they are completely edible and much better tasting than the grocery store counterpart. Mini macarons and Brown Buttered Krispy Treats get high praise from customers. There are mince pie tarts, Oreos on Steroids, Chocolate Malted Eggnog Macarons and Spiced Chai Shortbread Cookies. There is an Xmas Sampler Tray ($65) for gatherings and a decorating kit of a dozen mini gingerbread men ($15) to keep little ones entertained. For a complete list of its holiday offerings, check out it website.
The goodies can be ordered for delivery but there are also a few pick up dates for those in the area. The bakery will have pick up for pre-orders December 19, December 23 and December 24 from noon to 5 p.m. each day.
The Bearded Baker
518 W. 11th
Allan Hursig just celebrated the grand opening of his custom cookie shop December 12. Now, he and his team are going full speed to turn out holiday cookies for the season. Customers can fill up an assorted Holiday/Christmas box with options such as hand-decorated sugar cookies, brown butter chocolate chip, brown butter chocolate chip with pecans, Yum Yum oatmeal raisin with pecans and the Elevated Gingerbread cookies made with crystallized ginger. The Bearded Baker also has a couple of macaron choices and its new creation The Chockey Puck, a dark chocolate brownie with walnuts baked in a four-inch round mold, giving equal edges for those who consider the edge their favorite part. There is also a Holiday/Christmas box of decorated sugar cookies.
Genevieve Guy's rebranded restaurant opened in September 2020. The quaint French bistro offers a comfortable atmosphere in which to take a romantic partner for an elegant dinner or a friend for a bubbly lunch. However, for Francophiles wanting to impress their family with a European dessert, the buche de noel is a tasty and pretty way to show up Aunt Bertha's sweet potato pie.
It comes in two different flavors and sizes. There's the chocolate log with pear mousse or the Grand Marnier log with orange foam. Each is $33 for the small (6-8) and $49 (10-12) for the grande.
Brasserie du Parc
1440 Lamar, 832-879-2802
Etoile Cuisine et Bar
1011-11 Uptown Park Boulevard
Chef Philippe Verpiand is offering homemade chocolate truffles for the holidays at both of his French restaurants. Guests can order online or by phone or just hope that there are some available when visiting the restaurants. The truffles are sold by the dozen in three flavors, four of each. There's dark chocolate brandy, milk chocolate passion fruit and white chocolate with pistachio. This taste of les paradis will cost the smart gifter $18, a small price to pay for the oohs and aahs and extra kisses under the mistletoe.
Fluff Bake Bar
1701 W. 15th
Owner and renowned pastry chef, Rebecca Masson, is as busy as Santa's elves right now filling orders for her much loved and craved cookies, pies and treats. Known as "The Sugar Fairy," Masson has built a reputation in as one of the premiere sweets bakers in Houston which is why her goodies keep selling out. For those who have particular Fluff favorites like the Fluffernutters or Birthday Cake Whoopie Pies, it's time to order online or make a trip to the Heights to fulfill those sugarplum dreams. Gift boxes have sold out but there are plenty of treats like Christmas cookies and Krispy Treats to design a custom order. The shop also offers whole desserts like Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie and Pistachio Pound Cake. Masson will have pick up for preorders December 23 and December 24 at pre-assigned times.
Five Houston locations (Downtown temporarily closed)
Local Foods has created a whole holiday menu of dishes and desserts along with curated wine pairings. The special menu items need to be pre-ordered by December 19 for pick up December 23 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. or December 24 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. We think the Double-layered Honey Cheesecake with citrus tahini crunch ($30) makes a nice gift, especially if paired with a bottle of Albert Bichot Brut Rose ($24). There's also Mom's Chocolate Cake & Pecan Fudge ($30) which Local Foods recommends with Henriot Champagne ($40). Sounds like a perfect pairing to us.
Local Foods is also offering its Rancho Gordo Deluxe Gift Box ($50) which includes The Rancho Gordo Heirloom Bean Guide by Steve Sando and Julia Newberry, one logo tote bag and five one-pound bags of heirloom beans. There is a postcard included with instructions.
Wine and Spirits Imbibers:
Eight Row Flint
For bourbon aficionados, Eight Row Flint is offering a sampler package that features some spirits perfect to pair with a cigar, next to the fireplace with an Airedale terrier at your feet. The package includes three 50ml samples of ten year-aged Eagle Rare, Knob Creek 6 Year Rye and Old Forester, aged for five. It also includes a pre-batched Old Fashioned for two, made with Old Bardstown Bourbon, piloncillo (unrefined cane sugar) and Angostura bitters. The cost is $75 for the package.
2347 University Boulevard
Anyone would like a gift card for Shanon Scott's cozy Italian restaurant with chef Angelo Cuppone at the helm but guests can choose a virtual experience for a friend or couple who aren't willing to dine out in these difficult times. It can also be a romantic gesture for a significant other. As Marie Barone tells her husband on Everybody Loves Raymond, " I don't need another Totes umbrella ".
The restaurant hosts virtual wine dinners moderated by local Italian wine expert, writer (and sometime contributor to the Houston Press) Jeremy Parzen. The wine dinners often include Italian vintners on Zoom discussing the wines as guests enjoy the virtual dinner with real food and wine. The dinner includes three bottles of wine and a three-course meal from Roma for $119 per couple or $89 for one. The gift cards can be ordered by phone and email. The only catch is, the wine and food must be picked up between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. the day of the dinner, with the Zoom beginning at 7:30 p.m. Check its website for the virtual wine dinner schedule.
TuttiLili Wines and Specialty Foods
This woman-owned small business had to suspend its wine tastings due to the pandemic but holiday shoppers can order from its vast array of Italian wines and fine foods for pick up or delivery. The shop can help design a custom basket with wine, cheese and chocolates or customers can chooses one of its curated selections. The Holiday Six Pack deal offers six Italian wines: Rossese Bianco and Le Coste di Monforte Barolo from Amalia, Il Maschio da Monte from Santa Barbara, Prosecco from Antonio Facchin, Catarillo from Luna Sicara and a Torre del Piano from Casale della ioria for $170, normally a $200 value.
D'Amico's Italian Market Cafe
This Italian-American restaurant and market offers inexpensive lunch specials and a great outdoor area for al fresco dining. It also boasts a market that is a taste of little Italy in Rice Village. If you have an aunt who faithfully watches Lidia Bastianich's cooking show or a cousin who thinks she's Giada (in more ways than one) D'Amico's has plenty of authentic Italian ingredients to create a delicious gift basket. There's fresh pasta, anchovies, high quality olive oils, imported canned tomatoes and a variety of international condiments. Throw in a couple of bottles of wine and you'll be everyone's favorite relative. There's also pizza flour for that friend who fancies themselves an artisan pizza maker. To round out the gift, add a Grab N' Go Bag of D'Amico's homemade Italian cookies for $6. The bag includes a dozen assorted cookies in three flavors: peppermint white chocolate biscotti, seed cookies and cucidati (Italian fig cookies) all tied up with a bow. Grab a bag for yourself as well and mangia!
Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen
1140 Eldridge Parkway, 832-230-3842
6401 Woodway, 713-334-7295
Sylvia Casares is the Enchilada Queen in Houston and her cookbook, "The Enchilada Queen Cookbook" won first place in its category at the International Latino Book Awards in California. For budding Tex-Mex chefs or cooks that need to step out of the Taco Tuesday box, her cookbook can be purchased on the website. However, an even better gift would be the gift package on offer. Instead of the usual basket, this gift comes in a stainless steel bowl (practical) and includes a hardbound copy of Casares' cookbook and a molcajete (the Mexican version of a mortar and pestle). It also includes a head of garlic, a glass container of cumin and black peppercorns for making one of Casares' favorite spice blends in the molcajete. And there's a tortilla wrapping towel sewn by the Enchilada Queen herself. If that's not worth $55, we don't know what is.
The gift bowls can be ordered online or picked up at one of the two locations. Call ahead to make sure they are in stock. If one is feeling extra generous, a Sylvia's gift card can be added for the restaurant or one of Sylvia's cooking classes.
For Loved Ones Far Away:
If you have Yankee relatives like we do and want to impress them with some Texas barbecue, then Goode Co. has a number of smoked meats and gift boxes that can be shipped right to their door. Its packages also make great presents for transplanted Texans who may be longing for brisket and pecan pie. Or they can be shipped across town to the parents you haven't seen in months due to the pandemic. There is a selection of varying items but The Independence is a special gift that ticks all the boxes. For $170, it includes a smoked brisket, slab of pork ribs, one link of Czech sausage, one link of jalapeno sausage, one bottle of Goode Co,'s Original BBQ Sauce, two loaves of jalapeno cheese bread and one of its famous Brazos Bottom Pecan Pies. Shipping is extra and there are several options.
Goode Co. also has gift boxes like the Pure Texas ($50) with a smaller eight-inch version of Brazos Bottom Pecan Pie, a bag of Honey-Glazed Pecans and a bag of Sated Roasted Pecans, plus a mini Texas flag for homesick folks. Its pralines, original or chewy, and its bottled barbecue sauce are available in gift boxes as well.
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