The holidays are upon us, and that means it's time to show your buddies you care by buying them things they probably don't need. But there's no reason to shell out for an expensive, ugly Christmas sweater that he'll never wear, or a tchotchke that will sit idly at the back of her closet, when you could give THE gift that everyone loves: food! We've found the best food and food-related items for anyone on your list, from pets and kids to the true gourmand. Many can be purchased in and around Houston, and some are available online and at major retailers. Let's get shopping!
This holiday season, strongly consider giving the gourmand in your life one of these ten locally produced items. (Psst...it's totally okay, too, if the "gourmand in your life" is you!)
10. Kombucha from Kickin' Kombucha. Thanks to the ever-increasing popularity of fermented mushroom tea, most Houston grocery stores offer multiple varieties of kombucha. But there's only one brand born and bred in H-town and that's Kickin' Kombucha, which also happens to taste mighty fine.
9. Honey from the Heights Honeybee Project. The sweet, successful venture from Houston restaurateurs Jamie and Dalia Zelko, the Heights Honeybee Heights Project practices ethical beekeeping and produces organic, sustainable and gobsmackingly tasty honey. Pick a few jars for your neighbors (the nice ones, not the couple who stage loud brawls at 3 a.m.) by contacting Zelko Bistro.
8. Gift box from Revival Market. The assortment of wares at Revival Market can be overwhelming, in a good way, so why not let them choose for you? This holiday season Revival Market will be offering two varieties of pre-assembled gift boxes. The "Condiments and Sauces" ($49.95) includes such goodies as American mustard, Sam Houston BBQ sauce, Revival Market ketchup, bread & butter pickles, Galveston County Jurassic Salt and Market Grill Rub. For $79.95, however, you can indulge in the "Revival Pantry Gift Box," which boasts all of the above PLUS house-made granola, Market tomato sauce, green tomato relish and Market salsa. You can also design your own gift boxes (small, medium or large available) for a more personal flourish. Contact the store for more details.
7. Cocoa Mix from Petite Sweets. This December, Petite Sweets aptly demonstrates that not all cocoa mixes are created equal by offering its own superlative version ($25) that includes two mugs, powdered cocoa, homemade marshmallows and chocolate-dipped spoons.
6. Cheese from Houston Dairymaids. A cheese plate is as much a fixture of the holiday potluck table as cookies and eggnog, but can get a bit stale if you restrict yourself to grocery Cheddar, Monterey Jack and brie. This holiday season, rejuvenate the classic cheese and cracker platter with selections from the Houston Dairymaids. Your host or hostess will thank you.
5. Big Badass Biscuits & Jam Box from BRC Gastropub. Holiday fare tends to center around evening and late-afternoon meals, leaving few festive options for matutinal dining. The solution: a box of "badass" biscuits and accompaniments (e.g., BACON JAM) from BRC. Order a few for your clients and local friends and present them hot and fresh the morning of Christmas Eve.
4. Reindeer Cupcakes from Ooh La La Bakery. Ooh La La is a veritable baked-good mecca for the holidays (red velvet cheesecake! iced sugar cookies), but their pièce de résistance is a reindeer cupcake. I particularly enjoy this cupcake's wonderful fusion of salt and chocolate via its crown of cocoa icing and pretzel "antler" adornments. You can order your Rudolph confections now by calling the bakery; starting December 20, they'll be available in the bakery, first come, first served.
3. Tamales & Praline Gift Box from Los Tios. For only $10, you can satisfy a friend's sweet and savory desires with a box of one dozen (each) of Los Tios' signature (pork or chicken) tamales and pralines. And because these "Tamale Time Gift Boxes" may be picked up at any Los Tios location, they also make a terrific last-minute hostess gift.
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2. Three-Month Membership to The Nice Winery. A tidy box of premium wines, hand-selected by sommeliers and delivered monthly to your doorstep = the perfect present. Transform the standard gift into something truly nice with a three-month gift membership ($150) to the Nice Winery, Houston's premier wine boutique, owned and operated by certified sommeliers and Le Cordon Bleu-trained chefs Ryan Levy and Ian Eastveld. To arrange an order, call Nice Winery or go to www.nicewines.com.
1. Fudge Brownie Mix In A Jar from The Brownie Bowl. Delayed gratification is remarkably underrated. Rather than foist off another plate of soon-to-be stale cookies now as a gift to your friends and family, give them the opportunity to enjoy some fabulous baked goods later (re: not during the December sweets glut) via this gourmet brownie mix in a jar. Thank you, Brownie Bowl, for understanding that our desire for delicious treats extends beyond the holiday season and, on a personal note, for providing me with the means to indulge in your confections at a time of my choosing, which will probably be 10 p.m. on a January weeknight after spin class.