The season for gifting is upon us. It’s always a bit of an awkward time for me because I am not someone who likes getting gifts. (I’m convinced that it’s always a form of manipulation—I know I need to unpack that later.) Nevertheless, I would undeniably be excited to receive anything from the places below! I imagine that the food person in your life would be too.
Founder Susanna Yoon makes the best chocolate bonbons in New York City. I suggest eating them as soon as you get them because each one is made fresh, and that is where the quality really shines. This has become my go-to anytime I want to send somebody some love. There really is no wrong route, every flavor I’ve tried has been vibrant and memorable. Each bonbon is even individually hand-polished until it has the shine of a fancy diamond.
My love for Jeni’s is no secret. I’ve shouted from many a rooftop about how her Green Mint Chip is the ideal version of the flavor. I’ve soliloquized about how much I miss the greatest ice cream flavor of all time, the floral Supermoon. No matter the season, my ice cream always arrives in pristine condition, making it a great thing to send to the ice cream connoisseur in your life.
This farm—founded by Daniel Liberson in Delaplane, Virginia—makes the best seasonal vinegars in the game. They source peak ingredients year-round and turn them into the most radiant vinegars I have ever had. We used them at our restaurant, Hail Mary, back in the day, and ever since we make sure to have a few bottles stowed away whenever we feel something needs a fancy zip. The efflorescent tang of their elderflower vinegar is hard to beat, but you can’t really go wrong with any of their flavors .
Our fridge isn’t very big, so that nook in the door where condiments live is prime real estate. Still, there are always two spots for Hawa Hassan’s Basbaas sauces. I can’t really pick between the bright and fruity coconut cilantro chutney and the slightly fiery and smokey tamarind and date sauce. Luckily I don’t have to, since the variety pack has both.
Lani Halliday’s gluten-free treats at Brutus Bakeshop are on par with any of the gluten-full bakeries in NYC. I’m partial to the miso chocolate chip cookies. The salty funk of the chickpea miso acts as a great foil against the silky chocolate chips. Did I mention that these cookies are also vegan? Don’t sleep on the pop tarts either!
Husband and wife team Giuseppe and Skyler produce my favorite extra virgin olive oil. I learned that freshness is a very important factor in olive oil, with older oils exhibiting extra bitterness from rancidity. And boy, is this olive oil fresh. It’s smooth, balanced, and full of flavor. Every label discloses harvest and bottling dates so you know exactly how old your bottle is. It’ll be hard to turn back once you start using Exau.
Jon Gray, known for his work with Ghetto Gastro, founded Gastronical to reimagine pantry staples in a healthier, more nutritious way. I’m a big fan of their Wavy Waffle and Pancake mix. I used to think pancake mixes were silly… but no more. This mix is gluten-free, plant-based, non-GMO, and has no cane sugar. And the best thing? It makes my favorite batch of waffles. I go for the Ancestral Roots blend because the only flavor I usually want with my waffles and pancakes is too much maple syrup.
You really can’t go wrong with anything from Anson Mills. They specialize in bringing back heirloom grains and rice, and the results are absolutely spectacular. But we’re here for one thing: popcorn. I am extremely particular with my popcorn, and these kernels pop into the lightest puffs of intense corny flavor that I have ever had. Make sure to keep it in your freezer to maintain freshness! That's where you’ll find the two pounds I always have on hand.
Kitchen Arts & Letters is a special place for many line cooks in New York City. It is a magical, welcoming place where the culinarily obsessed go to find rare books, browse without judgment, and just hang out. They have a big collection of limited edition and signed cookbooks if you are looking to gift something extra special. And if you are ever in NYC, be sure to stop by to experience the joy yourself. There are few places like it.