Saturday, December 10, 2011

Holiday Bites: Gift Idea for Your Favorite Foodie - Edibles Under $80

Just getting started on your holiday shopping?  Here are a few gift ideas for edible gifts for your favorite foodies - a list that may or may not be disproportionate weighted in favor of chocolate (but gourmet ones, that won't look like you just picked up a box of whatever, last minute at the drugstore).  And all under $80!

1. Forget the Jewelry - It's all about Gem-like Chocolates & Love Nuts - Compartes
There's the perception that LA is all about the visual.  Compartes breaks this stereotype with handcrafted truffles that not only look beautiful (almost like jewelry boxes!) but are made with organic seasonal ingredients, in the European tradition, using a lush chocolate ganache filling.

And if your recipient is into the hype: Compartes has been featured in Bon Apetit, Food & Wine, LA Times and more.
And for my favorite thing to get from Compartes of all time - Almond Love Nuts - these things are insanely delicious.  Nuts are caramelized, lightly sprinkled with sea salt, then tossed in an organic chocolate blend, then rolled in extra brut cocoa powder. Consider yourself warned: One bite and you'll develop an instant addiction.

Buy from: Compartes Chocolatier Organic Truffle Box 20pc $42 Love Nuts (Almond) $10

2. Proof of Divine Design - Macarons

If you ever wondered whether we are here from random astronomical incidents, or if there is a higher power and meaning - take a bite of a Laduree macaron.

So, those of us who can't always hop over to France (for the treat that has been an institution in Paris since 1862) or New York won't be able to get our fix easily, but what we can get our hands on are 'lette macarons, made Parisian style.  Disclaimer: it's not even close to the divine experience that is Laduree, but will satisfy a macaron craving well enough. And it comes in cute packaging.

Further torture Step it up a notch for your fav foodie with a recipe book from Laduree beautifully packaged in a box set inspired by the classic Laduree pastry box. Choose from sweet or savory recipes (yes, Laduree is a tea house in Paris that also serves cafe fare)

Buy from:
Paulette macarons gift box of 24 $38
Barnes and Noble: Laduree Sucre $39.95 Laduree Savory $25.24

3. Tea, S'il Vous Plait - Imperial / Mariage Freres

By now teas that start out as a tightly wound ball that unfurl into beautiful blossoming gardens in the bottom of your teapot, are a fairly common sight (when you start seeing things being offered at Walmart, you know the cool factor is done).  BUT, this one comes from a legit traditional style, no cheesy gimmicks tea house in the foodie beloved Ferry Building in San Francisco.  Their Blossoming Tea Gift Set includes one of each of four spectacular blossoming teas, and a 12-ounce Dancing Blossom Glass Teapot.

Looking for a more straightforward tea gift? Does tea get any better than Mariage Frere? A company started by the tea-trading Mariage family in France in 1854, their passion and endless pursuit for perfection in the art of teas shines through. My favorite is the Vert Provence, an amazing green tea with layers of floral and fruit notes, which is hard to find in the US, but Dean and Deluca offers their Imperial Wedding tea.

For a more modern looking gift set, check out Le Palais des Thes flavored blends gift set, which offers a large variety in chic tubes.  My fav is The des Sables which is floral and fruity but light and not overly sweet, but this set allows your lucky recipient to sample from their collection!

Buy from:
Imperial Tea Court Blossoming Tea Set $40
Dean & Deluca  Mariage Freres tea $22.50
Gilt Taste Le Palais des Thes gift set $65.95

4. The Dom Perignon of Champagne Truffles - Teuscher
Of the champagne truffles I've had, the most luxurious / mind-blowing is from Teuscher.

The lushest and smoothest champagne creme is enveloped in rich but not overwhelmingly dense dark chocolate ganache, then the whole thing is surrounded by a delicate milk chocolate shell rolled in powdered sugar.   All I have to say is: perfection. 

Buy from: Teuscher 16 pc box $46.50 24 pc box $69.50 Save on shipping - stop by their store in Beverly Hills (yes their store decor is a bit garish, but the champagne truffles are incredibly well made and will make your eyes roll all the way to the back of your head)

5. Local Handcrafted Jams & Preserves - SQIRL
For the locavore and fan of handcrafted goods in your life - SQIRL has the most amazing jams and preserves I've ever tasted.  Owner/chef Jessica Koslow sources her ingredients and even cooking equipment from local sources, and her super-creative products are ever changing with whats in season. 

My fav that I got from last year's Artisanal LA show was the Kumquat & Chamomile preserve.  Right now at their webstore SQIRL has an amazing sounding preserve called "The Snow Queen Nectarine" made with "a great white fleshed stonefruit of legendary status. So fragile that it melts in your mouth, but not before providing a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity, and intense, complex, lingering aromatics and flavor."  Apparently the fruit peaks for only a few weeks of the year, so the preserve is only available in limited supply and will make for a nice unique gift. 

Get a few jars and make your own gift basket (Cost Plus has some nice sized baskets and get some floral moss from your local flower supply store) for a personal touch.

Buy from: SQIRL online $14 each or gift box of 2 for $25. Stop by their booth at Artisanal LA's Holiday Pop-Up Shop tomorrow December 11th in Pasadena, buy online (and save on shipping by using code "SHIPONSQIRL"), or visit their store in Silverlake!

6. Student of Chocolate - Vosges

I love breakfast any time of day - but especially on Christmas morning.  Give the gift of a luxurious breakfast and make it unforgettable with Vosge's original Pancake mix with Mo's Bacon Bar chocolate chunks.

Mix includes chunks of Exotic Candy Bar, which combines Hickory smoked bacon and Alder sea salt with deep milk chocolate.

To make this into a more substantial gift set, put in gift basket with mixing bowl and wooden spoon and/or a bottle of champagne (for mimosas to go with breakfast!).
For the studious chocoholic in your life: Vosges has a fun, nicely packaged Holiday Mini Candy Bar Library - a box set that includes nine ½ oz mini candy bars in holiday inspired flavors including gingerbread toffee and peppermint candy cane!

Buy from: Vosges Haut Chocolate Mo's Bacon Chocolate Chip Pancake Mix $12 Holiday mini-candy bar library $25

[Deal alert: Free standard shipping with orders over $75 - use code "DECFREE"]

7. Just Say Cheese - Murray's Cheese at Gilt Taste
If you've ever been to Murray's Cheese at Grand Central Station in NYC, you've experienced a cheese lover's idea of heaven.

Through Gilt Taste, Murray's has put together a stellar gift pack that features one of my favorite cheeses of all time, Sottocenere - a semi-soft cheese studded with intoxicatingly fragrant black truffle and enrobed in a beautiful edible vegetable ash rind.  Other cheeses in the pack include Robiola "swaddled in chestnut leaves is aromatic and drippy", Comte, "nutty and firm", and Bayley Hazen Blue a bright, delicate blue cheese.  You get a 1/2 lb of each cheese with the pack.

Buy from: Gilt Taste $75.95

This is just a start.  Got any cool edible gift suggestions? Send 'em my way or post in the comments!

For my picks for more durable gifts - see my Top 10 Gift Ideas post here.

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