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19 local gifts for food lovers
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Angelenos already know that our city has the most exciting restaurants in the country (not a flex, just the honest truth) — but Los Angeles is also home to a cadre of craftspeople, brands, and shops that are making and stocking one-of-a-kind, outrageously delicious products. So when it comes time to gift this holiday season, close your Amazon app and look no further than these made-in-LA selections. From the budding pizzaiolo to the home cook to the tea enthusiast, there’s something for every food lover on your list.
Naples- and Sotto-trained pizzaiola Ines Barlerin Glaser turns out beautifully puffy Neapolitan-style pies at pop-ups, events, and private parties. Her spice blend of sea salt, fennel pollen, chile flakes, and oregano gives pizzas (and plenty of other savory items) an unexpected extra layer of earthy flavor — making it the ideal stocking stuffer for any Ooni or Roccbox obsessive.
Anyone shopping for oenophiles, listen up: Inglewood’s first and only wine bar, opened by sisters Leslie and LeAnn Jones in 2021, also serves the largest selection of Black-owned wines in the state of California. The perks of 1010’s wine club go beyond discovering new bottles: Members are shipped one red and one white wine monthly, receive 10 percent off merchandise, and score a free in-person tasting at the wine bar every month.
Around 30 students at South LA’s Dorsey High School created this avocado-based sauce in their entrepreneurship class with Neils Cotter (who started the Dorsey Green Foundation) and Mel Nicola, executive director of Culinary Arts Kids Eat (C.A.K.E.). The class project-turned-new-business-initiative was designed to teach the students about entrepreneurship; Deutsch LA provided creative direction and branding/marketing mentorship, as well. All proceeds from the sauce go directly to the students and class initiatives. As if that wasn’t reason enough to buy a jar (or 12), the sauce is damn good: Made with local ingredients, it’s spiked with loads of dill, oregano, cilantro, and lime juice — in other words, it’s an all-purpose flavor punch that can be slathered on just about anything.
Anyone who eats out regularly in Los Angeles has undoubtedly spotted Hedley & Bennett aprons on kitchen or front-of-house teams at restaurants all over town. This year marks the first time the decade-old brand founded by former Providence and Baco Mercat line cook Ellen Bennett has ventured into cookware, launching its first-ever chef’s knife made from three layers of Japanese steel. The knife is lightweight and ergonomically designed for a comfy grip, making it a go-to tool for pro and novice cooks alike.
The only thing better than a gift basket from DTLA Cheese is a gift basket from DTLA Cheese that’s also stocked with selections from its sister tinned fish bar Kippered (also based in Downtown LA). The basket is filled with three hand-selected cheeses from founder Lydia Clarke, three tins of fish, crackers, potato chips, pickled peppers, jam, and a bottle of Espinaler with an option to add bubbly — so basically everything to build a board featuring the coolest snack of the year. (Apologies to butter boards everywhere.) Available November 21.
Carmen Dianne and Kara Still founded Prosperity Market, a roving farmers market highlighting Black farmers and producers, to both support Black-owned businesses and create economic impact in their communities. In that same vein, the duo is launching a variety of gift sets for the holidays that center food items from local Black-owned businesses. The Flavor set, for example, contains Ghanaian umami pepper sauce from Gloria’s Shito, Misha’s Kind Foods dairy-free cream cheese, strawberry-lemonade and peach cobbler jams from Happi Jams, Spicy Nutty Parmesan seasoning from My Daddy’s Recipes, and Got Damn Sauce’s lemon-pepper hot sauce and mambo sauce. Available November 25.
As nonalcoholic bottle shops continue to spring up around Los Angeles, so too do giftable options for those who choose the zero-ABV lifestyle. The New Bar, one such bottle shop in Venice that opened earlier this year, is amply stocked with stylish libations for teetotalers — including this toast-worthy gift set featuring two bottles of nonalcoholic bubbly (a rosé brut from Prima Pavé and a sparkling Chardonnay from Thompson and Scott) and a Sip Sip Hooray pink bubbly raspberry chocolate bar from Seattle Chocolates.
Los Angeles has no shortage of excellent coffee — and now there’s one more local option. Lip Service is the brainchild of childhood friends Joel Burt (the winemaker for Las Jaras Wines and Waves Wine) and Ryan Rickett (an artist specializing in music videos, commercials, and photography). The pair has been roasting coffee for family and friends for 20 years and decided to launch a coffee-and-chocolate company that puts a premium on design and pleasure. Initial offerings include Bright-ish coffee (sourced from Ethiopia and Oaxaca, with jammy raspberry notes) and an Oat Milk Latte dark chocolate bar. Note: Prices start at $8 for chocolate.
Finery, the Los Angeles-based apparel company led by Min Yung Lee and Greg Sato, started its How LA Eats apron collection in 2020 as a way to support its favorite minority-owned restaurants in town. For the third collection, they tapped five creatives from various disciplines to choose a restaurant that speak to their identities as Angelenos. They are: photographer and director Brandon Stanciell (who chose Little Ethiopia’s Flavors from Afar); chef and cookbook author Diep Tran (Compton’s Alma Backyard Farms); designer Eliana Rodriguez (Caribbean Gourmet in the San Gabriel Valley); musician Raveena (Rahel’s Vegan Cuisine in Little Ethiopia); and creative studio Sari-Sari Studio (Chinatown’s Lasita). Not only are the aprons exquisitely crafted, but each one purchased this holiday season will feed a family of four for a full week through Finery’s partnership local nonprofit No Us Without You.
Since 2014, local Mexican food and cookware company Masienda has partnered with hundreds of traditional Oaxacan farmers to grow and source heirloom corn for its nixtamalized, finely ground heirloom masa, a favorite of chefs and home cooks alike. This year, founder Jorge Gaviria wrote a book — perhaps the book – on masa, covering everything from making arepas to more modern applications like samosas and waffles. Pair a signed copy of the book with one of Masienda’s four heirloom masas (made from blue corn, yellow corn, white corn, or red corn) for a gift that’s corny in the best possible way.
Zab’s might be the hottest hot sauce in town: Although the datil peppers used to make it are grown in St. Augustine, Florida, the LA-based sauce packs a vinegary punch to dishes at restaurants like Clark Street Diner. Plus, this year’s limited edition hot honey mustard was slathered into countless sandwich-shop collabs. For the holidays, founder Miles Soboroff has put together a gift set featuring the brand’s two hot sauces (Original and the more intensely spicy, fuller-flavored St. Augustine Style), hot honey, and a tin of chocolate cashew clusters done up with a sprinkle of Zab’s signature spice.
Even cocktail aficionados with the most well-stocked home bars can appreciate a good shortcut now and then. Pasadena-based Knox & Dobson uses high-quality ingredients like barrel-aged whiskies, Angostura bitters, and Maraska Maraschino Liqueur to create its bottled cocktails. The gift set includes four classics: a gin martini, Old Fashioned, the Improved Whiskey Cocktail, and a rye Manhattan — each ready to open, pour, and enjoy. No shaking, stirring, mixing, or muddling required.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve — or wearing one’s favorite food on one’s hat, for that matter. Mister Parmesan, a charmingly quirky apparel company founded by chef Samuel Schiffer earlier this year, sells dad hats, beanies, and bucket hats emblazoned with the names of mostly Italian ingredients like various pasta shapes (“spaghetti,” “rigatoni”) and mortadella, but there are also caps for ham, butter, and gouda lovers too. Mister Parmesan doesn’t take itself too seriously, and neither should whoever unwraps a playful statement piece from the brand this holiday season.
Chinatown tea lounge and effortlessly cool cocktail den Steep offers a well-edited selection of loose-leaf teas and tea-drinking accoutrements like cups, storage canisters, and scales. The shop’s travel set (available in black or white) includes a mini ceramic teapot, strainer, three mini cups, and a smartly designed carrying case with a leather handle so that anyone who takes their morning tea seriously can enjoy the ritual on the go.
Francesca Pittaluga and her husband Matthew started their Ciao Pappy line of Italian red sauces in 2021 to pay tribute to her Italian father, whom she affectionately calls Pappy. As if that isn’t heartwarming enough, in another nod to her father, the company donates a percentage of its proceeds to organizations that help aging adults to stay connected, learn technology, and remain employable. Pittaluga’s two red sauces — the dead-simple Marinara Classico and a fresh herb- and red pepper-spiked Marinara alla Pappy — are both made with 100 percent California ingredients and are perfect for anyone who could use the warm hug of a Sunday pasta supper.
Marketing consultant Mercy Fabila turns out golden, caramelized, sweetly decadent Basque-style cheesecakes from her Manhattan Beach kitchen. A longtime baker, Fabila started pursuing the craft more seriously in the early days of the pandemic, when many of her marketing clients’ businesses closed; the cheesecakes quickly became her most popular item. Her showstopping cakes now come in six-, eight-, and 10-inch sizes, and bundles of mini cheesecakes are available as well. Note: Prices start at $40 and go up to $68.
Named for artist Beatrice “Beato” Wood — the so-called “Mama of Dada,” who credited her longevity to chocolate and young men (her words, not ours) — this line of confections was started by Ojai gallerists Lisa Casoni and Heather Stobo as a way to marry art and chocolate. Offerings include bars like the Happy Valley (dark chocolate with citrus oil and “Ojai pixie dust”) and the Menage a Trois (dark chocolate with toffee and sea salt). For the holiday, we’re partial to a tin of Whoops, a playful, not-too-sweet take on Whoppers, in which crushed peppermint and dark chocolate are wrapped around a crunchy malt-ball center. Note: Prices start at $12.
Carolyna DeLaurentiis (yes, she’s related to Giada) tapped three female chefs to develop the first four sauces for her new line, Our Pantry, launched this year. The idea: to create quick, easy pantry staples that are both traceable and delicious. The first four sauces include a bright cherry tomato sauce, spicy cherry tomato arrabbiata, sweet ginger barbecue sauce, and a Hogao-style roasted tomato-onion salsa made with California-grown chipotle chiles. The versatile sauces are befitting for the multitasking food lover who just doesn’t have time to cook.
Everybody has that one friend who can’t resist ordering an espresso martini whenever they’re out. Make their ‘tini-loving lives easier with a bottle of Mario’s Hard Espresso, a handcrafted coffee liqueur made from founder Joseph Grasso’s father Mario’s family recipe; it’s a combination of roasted Italian espresso, organic Madagascar vanilla, and cane sugar. The liqueur can be enjoyed on its own over ice, and all your friend will have to do to enjoy his or her favorite drink at home is add some simple syrup to the hard espresso, shake over ice and strain into a martini glass. As Ina would say, “How easy is that?”
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