Foodie host gifts
New to chowhound and relatively new to SF (6 months). Lots of Holiday parties coming up. Any suggestions for unique food or beverage host/hostess gift ideas? Between $15 to $40. I don't want to show up with a box of See's Candy! (I've heard locals complain about this all-too-common host gift.)
Jams or other unique (preserved fruit in syrups, etc) treats from June Taylor--her jams are the best. Also fab jams from Frog Hollow--made with organic fruit from their orchards. I second the Ferry Bldg/BiRite/Pasta Shop/Michel Ricchuti suggestions...and Charles Chocolate too. I used to work in a fancy chocolate shop in the Marina, and customers were in LOVE with the salted caramels, lemon pistachio clusters, and peanut butterflies from CC. CC also makes cute chocolate bars with a San Fran landmark theme (about half the size of their reg. bars)--I saw these up at the shops/cafes along Crissy Field (Warming Hut & Visitors Center). Could be nice as gifts to those out of town, too.
See's is OK for what it is (really inexpensive chocolate). Try the Edible Chocolate boxes filled with Fleur de Sel Caramels from Charles Chocolates, or the the Pasta Shop on 4th St. in Berkeley, they have tons of cool food items that I haven't seen anywhere else. Another good place in SF is BiRite Market - it's a grocery store, but don't let that fool you, it's also an amazing place to buy unique food products and a nice bottle of wine.
I'd take See's over Charles Chocolates any day. I like Charles well enough, but even my chocolate-maniac friend doesn't place them at the top of the chocolate heap flavor-wise.
It seems the problem with See's isn't the chocolate themselves, but rather that too many people give it as a gift. Once box of See's is fine, but six boxes ... too much.
Part of this is knowing your audiance. Some of these suggestions that would appeal to food-loving folks, will not be so popular otherwise. That is why, unless you know who you are giving a gift to, See's is a safe choice. I've found this for XOX truffles too. I'm curioous this year to see if Chocoletier Blue gets the same general approval that See's or XOX got in the past.
Another thought ... cookies. While I don't like their cupcakes, Teacakes in Emeryville has some tasty cookies in a pretty presentation.
Penzeys Spices recently opened a shop in Menlo Park. It's on Santa Cruz St on the same block as the farmers market. They have a lot of great gift box sets and tons of individual spice bottles. If you are familiar with the Spice House in Chicago (also sold at CIA Greystone), it is a similar concept.
I love the idea of giving a few different exotic salts (can be found at most upscale food boutiques like Le Sanctuaire and Bi-Rite, I know I've seen them at the Ferry Building too). There is a myriad of interesting chocolates for gifting at Bittersweet. But who are these jerks that are turning their noses up at See's? I wouldn't go to their parties, anyway.
If you're not sure about See's, just bring a bigger box. Elegant, exclusive, hip...no. But tasty and balanced they are. In places where See's doesn't have retail stores and is widely unknown, it's a big deal. Even snotty Manhattanites, who have no idea of it's commonness, like it.
Far West Funghi in the Ferry Building used to carry a "truffle sampler" - truffle salt, truffle paste and a truffle, each in 3 small jars - about $25. Other favorite gifts for foodies there is the Truffle Honey ($24 and YUM with goat cheese), or Truffle Salt, about the same price - great on eggs and popcorn!
I was at the Ferry Building yesterday with visiting parents when I finally got a chance to try Rechiutti Chocolates & thought what perfect holiday hostess gifts. I was looking for something around $20 when a salesperson suggested kiwi lime apples. One bite and I was sold! Wafer thin slices of oven dried, slightly tart, slightly crisp apples dipped in delicious chocolate (pear didn't taste as good). The other chocolate I enjoyed was their wildly popular Fleur De Sel Caramel. I also bought some olive oil in the Ferry Building as gifts.
BTW, I recently tasted sugar free almond/peanut clusters at See's & I was pleasantly surprised as to how good they were. In-laws in India had asked me to send some sugar free chocolates/candy, hence my discovery. Of course these are not fat free :(
I didn't know about the sugar-free almond/peanut clusters. I have tried the sugar-free dark walnut clusters, and they are surprisingly good. They make much-appreciated presents for the growing number of diabetics I know (I'm probably getting there myself), especially in Asia where good sugar-free treats are really hard to find.
This one more chowhound hostess who'd happily recieve a box of See's (preferably without creams or truffles). In fact, give me See's over Godiva any day!
Very timely topic. Was just discussing this with friends last night.
All lovely ideas from cmvan. A trip to the Ferry Building on a Saturday or Tuesday will provide you with many wonderful local choices, to be sure. Picked up some great local artisan chocolates at a stand there for a host gift last week. NeoCocoa. www.neococoa.com
But let me say that there is absolutely no shame in gifting a box of See's Candy, imho. Obviously I can't speak for all locals, but this native is always thrilled to accept a box of See's.
Some thoughts on beverages:
For the coffee lover: Blue Bottle white ceramic dripper adorned with the blue bottle image - available at the cafe on Mint. (I want one!) Throw in a bag of beans. They have Jamaican Blue Mountain at the moment.
For the beer lover, head to City Beer. Tons to choose from and knowledgeable staff. Bound to find some not-so-common beers for your hosts. http://www.citybeerstore.com/
How about sake instead of wine? This is a nice change for some of us. There's a great store on Hayes in SF. True Sake. http://www.truesake.com/
How about a small basket of locally produced artisan foods? I've done that myself with great results.
Examples - The Girl & The Fig preserves, Noyo Mustards, Perfect Pear items, Sparrow Lane vinegars, DaVero olive oil, maybe some Della Fattoria bread and a few wedges of some excellent local cheese (ie Bellwether Carmody or San Andreas, a Cowgirl cheese, Andante, Point Reyes, etc, etc).
Most of these are Sonoma/Napa, but there are similar items produced all over the Bay Area and Northern California. Make it local, make it delicious, make it memorable for your friends and family.