Every holiday season, I work at finding fun treats from small companies that I am happy to support with my hard-earned dollars. Here are some gifts that are on my list to give this year. Any of these could be considered for Christmas gifts, hostess gifts, or just fun treats for the time of year.

The Sweets

Bissinger’s English Toffee. I have given this as a gift for several years, and everyone who’s received it has been thrilled. Bissinger’s is a company based in St. Louis that’s over 100 years old.

John and Kira’s. John and Kira’s is the type of company I’d love to own if I owned a candy company. They make fantastic confections, and source each of their ingredients carefully. The mint that’s in their mint chocolates, for instance, is student-grown at public schools in Philadelphia. I have tasted both their chocolate assortment and their fruit squares, both of which are going on my giving list this year.

Poco Dolce. I picked up a beautiful box of Poco Dolce chocolates at Cheese Plus recently. Each chocolate is individually wrapped and in great flavors such as burnt caramel, Aztec chile, ginger, and almond. I highly recommend them as a hostess gift.

The Sips

San Francisco has some really fantastic, locally produced alcohols. I love giving them as gifts because they are delicious and people love getting something specific to San Francisco. I love when my gifts have a story, and all of these liquors do.

Hangar One. By now, chances are that you have heard of Hangar One, and know that we at Bay Area Bites love our Hangar One. This Alameda based company is the local rockstar of vodkas, earning nationwide recognition for good reason. The straight vodka is delicious, and the flavored vodkas are compelling.

Junipero Gin. This gin is produced by our local distillery, Anchor Steam. I have had this gin around the house for the past year or two, and the most common comment I hear is “I don’t usually like gin, but I really love this one.” It’s a delicate gin that’s great on its’ own or in cocktails.

No 209 Gin. This gin is a newcomer to the San Francisco liquor scene, and is quickly gaining recognition for being an “adult gin with an adventurous attitude.” I’ve had it, and love the herbal flavor. It also has a great story: No. 209 Gin is the only gin which is distilled over water — on Pier 50 here in San Francisco. Distillery 209 is owned by Leslie Rudd, the owner of Rudd Vineyards and Winery in Oakville.

The Spices

This year, my stocking stuffers will include fun spices from our local growers and companies.

Tierra Vegetables. Lee James and her brother Wayne are farmers in Healdsburg. You may know Lee as the “pepper lady” who is at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market. Wooden crates full of fresh peppers don her booth in the fall, during the height of the pepper season. They also produce some delicious spice packets which are always a hit in my family. My favorite is the harissa mix and the smoked onions, which are a great stocking stuffer for vegetarians.

Happy Quail. Happy Quail Farms is the brightly adorned pepper stand that can be found at several Bay Area farmers’ markets. They create some very reasonably priced hot dried pepper mixes. I use the smoked pimento pepper throughout the year, and am looking forward to giving them as gifts this year.

The Occasional Gourmet. These small spice packets can be found at some local area stores, and combined together into a set would make a nice stocking stuffer for friends who cook. I love the tagine mix and the taco mix. You can read more about the Occasional Gourmet here.

Holiday Gifts for your Food-Loving Friends 28 November,2006Jennifer Maiser

  • boberonicus

    I love toffee. I looked at the Bissinger site. The ingredients include partially hydrogenated soybean oil, which means lots of nasty trans-fat. A “healthy” alternative (and those are really big quotation marks) is Enstrom toffee, which uses butter… Pick your poison, I suppose. Anyway, very tasty and they’re at http://www.enstrom.com.

  • CandyZoo

    Hey toffee lovers! Check out CandyZoo.com for toffee-nut confections made with gourmet chocolate — it’s Dangerously Delicious!


Jennifer Maiser

“My passion for food began young.”

I am the editor of the influential website www.EatLocalChallenge.com which encourages readers to support local farmers and producers.

I began my personal website, Life Begins at 30, in 2003.

I have been published in Edible San Francisco and Fine Cooking, write regularly for Bay Area Bites, Serious Eats, and have been quoted in many nationwide publications. Photography is a passion, and I have had photos printed in National Geographic Traveler and Travel + Leisure.

I contributed to a Williams-Sonoma cookbook: Cooking from the Farmers’ Market, which was released in February 2010.

I live in San Francisco, California and can often be found at local farmers markets seeking out the best of what’s in season and chatting with farmers.

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