This is part of the L.A. Times 2021 gift guide. See the full guide here.
Here’s an opportunity for your family and friends to indulge a little — and for you to support local restaurateurs, chefs and businesses during the pandemic. We’ve pulled together a holiday gift list that includes sweets and caffeine, spices and serveware, and produce and merch — something for almost everyone who appreciates what it takes to put food on any table.
With restaurants hemorrhaging money during the pandemic, we found ourselves buying merchandise along with our takeout. This year, we suggest getting your favorite gourmand a shirt or hat from an essential L.A. institution: Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen, which has been around since 1999. Started by the late Adolf Dulan, known as the king of soul food, Dulan’s serves smothered pork chops, cornbread, fried chicken and all the sides. The restaurants — in Inglewood and Hyde Park — are now run by Dulan’s sons Greg and Terry.
$19 | 👉 Purchase here
Chili crisp and chile sauce
For the chile heads on your list, check out restaurants around the city that are bottling their own chile sauces, oils and crisps. Here are 16 options, including a fiery chile oil from dumpling specialist Hui Tou Xiang, infused with cinnamon and star anise; a funky and fruity chile sauce with a Sichuan pepper kick from Needle and a chile oil from RiceBox that you could honestly eat straight with a spoon.
$5-$20 | 👉 Purchase here
Hitachiya sauce dishes
If your meal requires on-the-table condiments, sauces or spices (and even if it doesn’t), these dishes from Hitachiya in Torrance — each with a vegetable pattern in the center — will bring an element of whimsy to any table.
$69 | 👉 Purchase here
More gift guides
Papa Cristo’s olive oil, dressings
The market portion of Papa Cristo’s Greek restaurant in the Pico-Union neighborhood is a treasure trove of spices, oils, wine and bottles of salad dressings. Put together a gift basket with some of the restaurant’s greatest hits, including the famous Greek salad dressing, tahini dressing, Greek seasoning blends, olive tapenade and a nice bottle of olive oil.
Prices vary | 👉 Purchase here
Valerie Confections toffee and caramel box
Valerie Gordon started Valerie Confections in 2004 with just six flavors of toffee. She and her husband and partner Stan Weightman Jr. now have two locations (Echo Park and Rampart Village), where they sell cakes, pies, jam, plenty of chocolates and beautiful petit fours. For the holidays, they put together a box of sweets that includes an assortment of toffee (black sesame, durango and pumpkin) and caramels (almond fleur de sel, black sesame and liquid mezcal).
$50 | 👉 Purchase here
Say Cheese custom gift basket or box
This Silver Lake cheese shop will build a custom basket or box with cheese, wine, fresh fruit, crackers and anything else you’ll need to make the ultimate holiday cheese board. Boxes start at $50 and the baskets start at $75, but the shop will create a larger-than-life custom gift basket worth $10,000 or more. Call the store for custom orders.
$50 and up | 👉 Purchase here
People’s Pottery Project serving bowl
This Glassell Park studio’s ethos is all about prison abolition, empowerment through the arts and employing formerly incarcerated people, particularly women and members of the queer, trans and nonbinary communities. Filling that bowl with food for friends and family is just icing on the cake.
$80 | 👉 Purchase here
If you’ve always dreamed of eating warm cookies without having to drive to a bakery or bake them yourself, your heaven has finally arrived. Dawn Perry, a local food writer and recipe developer, boxes up classic cookies (if you can’t decide, consider the mixed dozen) and delivers them — nationwide — to your door, with instructions on warming them up in under five minutes. If you live in L.A., the company offers delivery of already-warm cookies for large orders or catering. Worth the wait for some of the best cookies in the country.
$21 for a half-dozen | 👉 Purchase here
Bauer Pottery pitcher
Original Bauer Pottery pieces are collectors’ items, and replicas (some in bright new colors) continue to carry on the Bauer name. Today the company has a Glassell Park showroom and a factory in San Bernardino that produces bowls, pots, cups and plates in a classic, distinctive style.
$70 | 👉 Purchase here
Fishwife tinned seafood
Forget that canned salmon and tuna from your youth. Fishwife, an L.A.-based canned seafood company, is on the mission to bring ethically sourced and high-quality tinned seafood to every home in America. Offerings currently include smoked Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout, as well as wild-caught sardines and albacore tuna. The tinned fish is sumptuous and delivers on taste far beyond others we’ve tried. But it’s the company’s commitment to “working with small boat fishermen, sustainable aquaculture farms and micro-canneries” that really separates them from the rest of the pack.
$24-$33 | 👉 Purchase here
Fugetsu-Do 12-piece mochi selection
Fugetsu-Do was founded by Seiichi Kito in 1903 in Little Tokyo. Now run by Seiichi’s grandon, Brian Kito, the small bakery is the neighborhood’s oldest business, according to the Los Angeles Conservancy. Fugetsu-Do specializes in mochi — rice pounded into a malleable paste, molded into various shapes and imparted with different flavors like red bean, strawberry or peanut. You can find Fugetsu-Do’s mochi in different Japanese supermarkets, and even online on the Japan Super website, but a visit to the old-fashioned shop is a delight in and of itself. A selection of dozen costs $23.50.
Prices vary | 👉 Purchase here
Groundwork Coffee drip kettle
Groundwork Coffee opened its first cafe in Venice about 30 years ago. In the intervening years it expanded across the L.A. area and into Portland, Ore. In addition to coffee, Groundwork sells brewing essentials, including this drip kettle. If you know someone who loves pour-over coffee, it could turn out to be an essential item.
$59.95 | 👉 Purchase here
Compton Vegan merch
Compton-born chef Lemel Durrah began Compton Vegan in 2017 as a way to create generational wealth in his family as well as to give better, healthier eating options to people in underserved neighborhoods. His food truck currently operates at the corner of Rosecrans and Central avenues in Compton, and he’s looking to expand. You can support Durrah and his plant-based mission by buying Compton Vegan shirts, hats and other items on his website.
Prices vary | 👉 Purchase here
Flamingo Estate regenerative farm box
For a gift that keeps on giving, this subscription service regularly delivers fresh produce to your loved one’s door — and helps support local farms in the process. Produce boxes can be ordered for delivery once, weekly or every other week. The boxes come with a revolving lineup of fruits and vegetables from Flamingo Estate’s own garden, as well as from farms across California. Boxes have included jars of pickled rhubarb; furikake spice blends; bouquets of purple basil; Asian pears; a half-dozen fresh eggs; and loaves of bread from local bakery outfit Bub and Grandma’s. For inspiration, each box arrives with a set of recipes from local chefs to help make the most of that produce haul.
$75 per one-time purchase ; $70 per box with subscription | 👉 Purchase here
Marianna Fierro kitchen towels
For the Italian-deli lover in your life, give the gift of sliced meat — but make it stylish. Local artist and occasional L.A. Times illustrator Marianna Fierro — whose work “bridges the gap between digital experiences and branding, through projects that create value and have a positive impact on the world” — sells kitchen towels emblazoned with pistachio-studded icon mortadella. She offers a closeup version as well as an option featuring multiple loaves. The kitchen towels can be ordered a la carte or in a set that features both prints, and they’re also machine-washable — you know, for when you get red sauce all over them.
$25 apiece, $45 for a set | 👉 Purchase here
Butter, Love and Hard Work cooking chocolate
In addition to whimsical, oversize, mallet-whackable chocolates filled with truffles during major holidays, celebrity chocolatier Chris Ford sells some of the best cooking chocolate in the city year round. His “LOVE” chocolate, sold by the kilo, arrives in a resealable bag packed with quarter-size pucks of a creamy, custom blend of Ecuadorian and Ghanaian cacao. These disks melt into gooey puddles in chocolate chip cookies, can be tempered into a luscious pool for dipping and coating, and serve as a Grade-A snack when you simply need a handful of milk chocolate. What’s more, $1 from every bag benefits Feeding America, a nonprofit with an extensive network of shelters, food banks and other organizations to feed those in need.
$35 per 2.2-pound bag | 👉 Purchase here
Phoenix Bakery treats
It’s always a good time to support America’s Chinatowns, which have suffered mightily during the pandemic, and L.A.’s Chinatown is a great place to start. This year, treat your loved ones to Phoenix Bakery, the venerable 83-year-old institution owned by the Chan family. While known for its strawberry whipped cream cake, Phoenix Bakery may be most famous (in my family, anyway) for its sugar butterflies — glazed, sticky sweet cookies. They cost $5.95 for six — add on a dozen almond cookies for just $3.95 more.
Prices vary | 👉 Purchase here
‘Death & Co. cocktail book
When a number of bars temporarily shuttered due to the pandemic, some of us discovered just how shoddy our home-bartending skills actually are. A new book from the team behind one of L.A.’s top cocktail destinations might prove to be the perfect fix for your favorite amateur mixologist — or simply serve as a hint that you’d love a drink. Death & Co. is following its authoritative bestsellers on mixology with “Death & Co.: Welcome Home,” a 400-recipe tome more geared toward making drinks at home and at any level of skill. There are tips, recipes and how-tos not just for mixing a drink, but also for how to keep a home freezer stocked with key ingredients; the 12-bottle combination that can make 50 different cocktails; and how to batch drinks in advance for a dinner party.
$40 | 👉 Purchase here
Aranya Black Pepper
With aromatic notes of Zinfandel and nutmeg (really!), this pepper is an epiphany — like the difference between using table salt and sea salt for cooking. Aranya pepper is harvested in Kerala, India’s lush southwestern state, and it has become a signature product of Diaspora & Co., an Oakland company founded by Sana Javeri Kadri in 2017 with the goal of decolonizing the modern spice trade and empowering farmers across India. Purchase it online or find it locally at the DTLA Cheese stall inside Grand Central Market.
$12.50 | 👉 Purchase here
Bar Nine Coffee
A favorite coffee roaster of Times restaurant critic Bill Addison, Bar Nine’s Odyssey program is for the home brewer who finds inspiration in the unexpected: Each shipment is a surprise, based on the beans that owners Zayde Naquib and Jereme Pitts source from all over the world. They include smart, absorbing tasting notes with ideal brewing temperatures. Try their coffee before gifting a subscription at their Ten Cafe in Marina del Rey.
Prices vary |👉 Purchase here
Mitsuwa Monkey Kitchen Sponge
You can’t really blame a home cook who revels in the glories of feeding friends and family but hates to clean up. (All that work, and now it’s 1 a.m. and I still have to do the dishes?) If you know someone like that, you might 1. brighten their day or 2. lessen their workload with the proper kitchen equipment. Sure, it’s a sponge, but it’s a serious scrubber, and, at the very least, it makes for an adorable stocking stuffer.
$1.99 | 👉 Purchase at Mitsuwa Marketplaces