The scent of ethically raised birds, vegan baked goods, and gluten-free side dishes is in the air. That's right. It's holiday time in the Bay Area and you're already a little late to that shopping list. Here to make your life easier: The San Francisco Holiday Gift Guide for Food Lovers. Using similar methods to our most beloved restaurants, all of the featured products are locally made or inspired.
Sugar with an Attitude
The cruffin bakers over at Mr. Holmes Bakehouse paired their classic almond-fruit granola (studded with freeze-dried milk clusters) with three jars full of spreadable "donut fillings" that put regular jam to shame. There is salted caramel, strawberry Bay leaf, and Ferrero Rocher (a.k.a. fancy Nutella). Slather on toast, just-baked cookies, or dollop atop ice cream. Everything comes in a box with the brand's Insta-famous slogan — "I got baked in San Francisco" in classy gold letters. $30; purchase at Mr. Holmes Bakehouse.
Holiday Cookie Hack
Batter Bakery's super-talent Jennifer Musty has baked up a storm of gingerbread and shortbread so that you can skip straight to holiday cookie decorating. Each gift box comes with a baker's dozen of cookies, four colors of royal icing, six different kinds of sprinkles, and guidelines on how to trick out your cookies like a pro. $35; purchase at Batter Bakery.
If you've never tried Belinda Leong's kouign amann there's no better time than December, when she adds dollops of gingerbread, speculoos-pear, eggnog, cranberry-orange, and chocolate peppermint. Try them all in this holiday sampler box. $25; purchase at b. patisserie, 2821 California St., 415-440-1700
Gin with a Local Spin
Treasure Island's Raff Distillerie uses 100% California grapes as the base for this gin inspired by Bummer & Lazarus, two real stray dogs that became local celebrities in the San Francisco of the mid-1800s due to their keen ability to catch and kill rats. When Lazarus died, 30,000 people attended the funeral. Now you and yours can pay homage with this earthy, citrusy, and spicy gin. $35; purchase at Cask, The Jug Shop, or mail order here.
Also from Raff, this traditional absinthe is made with wormwood sourced from 30 miles outside of Pontarlier, France, the home of absinthe. Subtle and savory, it's named for Joshua Norton, the famous San Francisco vagabond credited with proposing the Bay Bridge and the Transbay Tunnel. 750 ml $63.99; purchase at Cask, The Jug Shop or here.
A Bottle of Rhum
Raff's latest creation, this Barbary Coast Rhum Agricole gets its funky terroir from fermented Columbian sugarcane. It'll take your holiday daiquiri game to new heights. $39.90; purchase at Cask or The Jug Shop.
San Francisco Spirit
Made locally with 12 semi-secret ingredients, including rhubarb, bay leaf, cinnamon and orange peel, the most notable thing about this Fernet is its lower viscosity and sugar content when you compare it to the omnipresent Fernet-Branca. The label riffs on a Barbary Coast icon and all the ingredients are non-GMO, making this the most San Francisco-appropriate Fernet out there. $39.99; purchase at The Jug Shop or Cask.
Forged in Thiers, France and finished with handles carved from California wood, these handmade Million and Clark knives stand out next to even the best of the mass-produced creations from Wustof, Shun, and the like. They're protected for your gifting purposes in a 100% felted wool sheath. $130-$205, purchase at SHED or the company website.
Hot PotThe unofficial crockpot of Japan, the donabe is a Japanese home kitchen staple. It's endlessly versatile, allowing you to make everything from stew to rice to steamed fish over a gas flame. Made of durable coarse clay, this is a great starter version, and it's good-looking, to boot. The newly released Donabe: Classic and Modern Japanese Clay Pot Cooking rounds out the gift. Cookbook is $22 at Amazon; Donabe $180 at SHED.
Unlike the mass-produced green-capped, plastic bottled sriracha, this version is California-made from natural ingredients and special enough to give away. The Srirachup kicks chili into ketchup made from early girl tomatoes, and the barrel-aged sriracha is aged in whiskey barrels for smoky depth of flavor. Buy one as a stocking stuffer or sweep up a few and put a bow on 'em. Purchase here.
This is Camino
For the ambitious home cook, this book takes the cooking philosophies and methodologies of Oakland's pean to fire cookery Camino and attempts to translate them for mere mortals. Make the crispy flatbread and slow-cooked duck leg with prunes and never look at your backyard grill the same way again. $35; purchase a signed copy from Omnivore Books here.
Near & Far
Award-winning San Francisco-based writer and 101 Cookbooks blogger Heidi Swanson translates her immersive aesthetic to this collection of vegetarian recipes accompanied by stories from Swanson's home life and travels through Morocco, Japan, and Italy. $29.99; purchase a signed copy from Omnivore Books here.
Finding Yourself in the Kitchen
Zen priest and former San Francisco Zen Center cook Dana Velden crafted this reflection on the lessons you can learn in the kitchen. The process of letting dough rise teaches us to take time to breath and rest, for example. But you don't have to cook: the mere act of reading this book is meditative. $24.99; purchase a signed copy from Omnivore Books here.
Coffee beans arrive at your doorstep as often as you like with Blue Bottle's fully customizable coffee delivery service. The latest shipment always arrives with explanations of the offering's inspiration and there's even a support line should you forget how to navigate that pesky French press. $7-$37/shipment; purchase here.
[Photo: Clay McLachlan]
100% Organic TeaStarted by a local couple who fell in love with medicinal tea while living in Spain, Tea Smiths sells 100% organic, loose leaf blends that "let the herbs speak for themselves." This holiday specific package includes the best-selling turmeric, Healthy Tummy, and Elderberry Immunitea blends along with a tea infuser that looks like a leaf. $35; purchase here.
Lower Haight brewery and restaurant Black Sands has three varieties of its at-home beer brewing kit for the holidays. Depending which kit you choose, you'll get the exact recipe for the brewers' French saison, smash nelson IPA, or chocolate stout— all of which are regularly on Black Sands' tap rotation. Each kit equals about 12 glass bottles worth of beer plus years' worth of bragging rights. $70; purchase at Black Sands.
The microbrewers over at Cellarmaker Brewing Co. just came out with stainless steel growlers that beat traditional glass growlers, mostly because UV rays make beer taste like stale cardboard and steel keeps the sun out. Fill one up with your choice from the tap list and get ready for a big hug. The pro holiday pick? Go for "Mad Nibs," a dessert-y Double Chocolate Milk Stout with vanilla beans, cocoa nibs, and an 8% ABV. 1 L with beer $31, 2 L with beer $44; purchase at Cellarmaker.
Cook with a Chef
Shop the San Rafael farmer's market with the chef at Larkspur's beloved Italian restaurant Picco. "Help" him make the perfect risotto while you sip on sparkling wine; then feast on a three course meal at the restaurant. $110/person; purchase at IfOnly.com.
Tour Like a Local
Avital Unger's Food Tours are designed to help San Franciscans rediscover the city by revealing insidery secrets and tastes from the most popular dining neighborhoods. Like did you know that Alice Waters modeled Chez Panisse's pizza oven after the one at Tommaso's in North Beach? Each tour is built around a four-course progressive dining experience, so you definitely won't leave hungry. Purchase a gift certificate before December 25th, and you'll get free cocktails, beer, and/or wine with your tour if it's booked and redeemed in January or February. $84/person; purchase here.