Well, the holidays should be … something this year. After last year’s full lockdown separated from family and friends, it will be wonderful to gather together again — but also maybe all of the COVID anxiety and interpersonal drama will have had extra time to marinate. Either way, the good news is that we’ve got your gifts covered. San Francisco restaurants, bars, bakeries, and other foodmakers continue to be wildly creative, packaging up festive snack packs, fresh pasta kits, luxurious steak samplers, smoky mezcal flights, bittersweet chocolate towers, and visions of fish sauce that will dance in condiment dreams. Following the annual tradition, here are the hottest holiday gifts in San Francisco this year, for all those who love to eat, drink, and be merry.
Gift Box from La Cocina
Beloved local nonprofit La Cocina launched a retail shop at Ghirardelli Square this year, so fans can stock up on exciting snack packs while supporting local female and immigrant food entrepreneurs. Gift boxes range from $25 to $150, stuffed with 6 to 20 plus items, and the snacks swing both sweet and savory, from bittersweet black sesame toffee to the crunchiest Vietnamese corn nuts.
All-Purpose Rub & Slides from Horn Barbecue
Horn Barbecue was one of the hottest restaurant openings in the country this pandemic, and pitmaster Matt Horn doesn’t just throw down smoked brisket, he’s also got fly merch. The all-purpose spice rub levels up brisket, ribs, chicken, or vegetables, and if you want to look cool while mastering the grill, the slides are a backyard barbecue vibe.
Holiday Kit from Flour + Water Pasta Shop
Flour + Water Pasta Shop not only produces all of the fresh pasta for the popular restaurant group, but it’s also a retail shop selling boxes of tortellini and bottles of wine. For the holidays, chefs Thomas McNaughton and Ryan Pollnow have thrown together a “Cook the Book” set with a signed copy of the Flour + Water cookbook, antipasti olives and caponata, tortellini en brodo fixings, olive oil for drizzling, and, for dessert, cookie dough and a chocolate budino. Throw in a bottle of wine for another 20 bucks. Preorders required, email firstname.lastname@example.org 48 hours in advance, starting November 28.
Wagyu Sampler from A-Five Meats
Gozu is that hot new restaurant that serves an all-wagyu tasting menu, while A-Five Meats is its proprietary distribution company that sources the most richly marbled steak directly from Japan. Wagyu fans will obsess over these sampler packs, starting with four tidy cuts of steak for $200.
Mezcal Flight Gift Box from Tahona Mercado
Tahona Mercado is that new Mexicatessan on Nob Hill, which is well stocked with mezcal, beer, and wine, as well as tamales, pupusas, salsas, and other infinitely giftable goods. This season, the owners are recommending a “Mexican State Flight” that pairs three flasks of mezcal, all hailing from different states in Mexico, along with three different chocolates, produced by Casa de Chocolates in Berkeley.
Holiday Pastry Box from Sunday Bakeshop
The Sunday Bakeshop team is known for pastry boxes jammed with Asian-American pastries. This year, they’re switching up their usual selection for the holidays and debuting some new festive flavors, from a turkey croissant with cheese and thyme to a pumpkin cruffin pumped with custard and topped with whipped cream, as well as cookies and bars.
Celebration Chocolate Tower from Kokak Chocolates
Kokak Chocolates opened in the Castro during the pandemic and has been wowing the neighborhood with chocolate rainbows and frogs (the latter will please Harry Potter–loving millennials). Chocolatier Carol Gancia is taking it over the top this year with a tower layered with 70 chocolates, from holiday gems like pumpkin spice and peppermint patty, to her favorite Filipino flavors like tropical kalamansi. Of course, there are also smaller boxes available, as well.
Coffee Beans and Sweatshirt from Lady Falcon
All those who swing by the vintage truck on their way to the Sunset farmers’ market know that Lady Falcon has got the good coffee. For caffeine fiends, the “All the Painted Ladies” gift set includes five beautiful bags of beans, from Mexican to Ethiopian blends. And you could throw in a pretty pastel sweatshirt, with the same Art Nouveau–inspired designs.
Holiday Gift Box from Red Boat Fish Sauce
The dark horse gift this holiday season just might be this full fish sauce set from Red Boat, headquartered in Hayward, making it a hometown condiment. Because who doesn’t need a bottle of fish sauce for the pantry? It would be pretty hard to go wrong with nuoc chom and kho sauce for dipping and grilling, a bowl, tote bag, and recipe booklet, too. Sold separately, Red Boat also came out with a full cookbook this year.
Black Food by Bryant Terry
Black Food by Bryant Terry was big book news this fall, and it’s no everyday cookbook, but a collection of essays, poetry, art, and recipes. But as per usual, a full stack of great cookbooks came out of the Bay this year: The Mister Jiu’s cookbook dove deep into Chinese-American food, Table with a View took a classic road trip up to Nick’s Cove, At Home in the Kitchen steps inside the home kitchen of star chef David Kinch of Manresa, and the Essential Napa Valley Cookbook featured favorite restaurants and dishes from across wine country.
Matcha Gift Set from Uniqlay Ceramics x Common Clover
Lynn Chang of Uniqlay Ceramics hand shapes the gorgeous dishes seen at the coolest San Francisco restaurants, including Nisei, Abaca, and Marlena. And while she usually works on commission, she’s partnered with Common Clover online shop this season, in order to put out a gorgeous gift set: a blush matcha bowl with a spout, ceremonial matcha from Fukuoka, Japan, and a bamboo whisk and golden spoon.
Chile Ristra from the Petaler
You’ve probably already dined under one of her dramatic arrangements at Octavia, but meet Rebekah Northway of the Petaler, the cult favorite florist of San Francisco restaurants. She is reopening her holiday shop on November 11, and putting out bouquets, wreaths, and botanical ornaments. Originally from New Mexico, she’s also got a chile ristra, which is both beautiful to hang up in your kitchen for the season, and serves a culinary purpose — pluck off a dried chile and crush it into whatever you’ve got simmering. A ristra is $45, while the botanical ornaments run $15 to $25.