This season, the choices for new and exceptional comestible holiday gifts are as diverse as they are delicious. Here are our fully vetted favorites.
Smuggling, fakery, overfishing — imported caviar has problems. Give guilt-free indulgence with this flight of three sustainably raised U.S. caviars ($175). Earthy osetra from North Carolina, rich and pungent California white sturgeon eggs and mild-mannered Oklahoman paddlefish roe come in stylish tins of 30 grams each.
From a millennia-old Tuscan farming family, this golden-green oil ($45) is the fruit of the 30th harvest from groves replanted after devastating frost. It’s a triumphant anniversary. With a floral bitterness and a spicy finish, it elevates the flavor of anything it’s drizzled on. The gold bottle adds bling while protecting the oil from light.
To ensure freshness, the world’s first Japanese rice specialty shop mills grains to order, hand-packs them in lovely bags, and labels them with the mill date. Light, moist and aromatic, the results trump all others. Regional rice selections ($11.99–$60.99) include firm, savory Niigata Koshiibuki; soft, sweet Hokkaido Yumepirika; and more.
New Orleans chef Isaac Toups has just launched hot sauces ($18/pair) that taste like his hometown. Bristling with chiles and funked up with dashi, the Smokey Green is mouthwatering on seafood. Vinegar-and-cayenne Louisiana Liquid Snake has the bright, hot tang that collard greens need. They’re perfect stocking stuffers.
“Top Chef” fans will love this collection from fourth-season winner Stephanie Izard, a Chicago chef known for globalist cooking. Home cooks can follow her lead with these five brilliant spice blends ($29.95), including the sizzling, citrusy “Went to Belize”; flowery, lamb-ready “Went to Morocco”; smoky, garlicky “Went to Cuba”; and more.
Bone-in, dry-aged cuts are all the rage, but it’s time to rediscover filet mignon with these buttery steaks from family butchers Rastelli’s. Antibiotic-, steroid- and hormone-free, the meticulously sourced Black Angus is corn-finished 120 days for luxurious marbling, and wet-aged for pillowy tenderness. The eight 8-ounce filet mignons ($219) are cut to order.
Since 1926, this chefs’ favorite has made country hams the old-fashioned way, with a salt cure and hickory smoke. Hung for 400-plus days, the longest-cured is Surryano ($130–$350), a moist, winey riff on jamón. This year’s vintage is the first since a fire ravaged the company’s Virginia smokehouse in 2016.
Pile holiday hors d’oeuvres atop pickled rye bread ($30) from Carissa Waechter’s craft bakery in East Hampton, New York. Made with local rye, pickle brine and a starter first cultured back in 1999, the salty, sour, slightly sweet loaf comes covered in dark, tangy caraway seeds and retains an incomparable moistness.
For 162 years, the inventors of the Belgian praline have pulled off new tricks. This season’s magic? Pralines to pair with wines ($35): white chocolate filled with hazelnut, honey and cardamom to go with a rich Mosel Riesling; Earl Grey-spiked ganache and mango purée for a perfumy Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. A box of 24 pieces in six varieties includes a pairing booklet by Le Bernardin sommelier Sarah Thomas.
From his hit market in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards comes chef José Andrés’ selection of traditional Spanish Christmas treats ($32.95). Chewy almond-honey nougat; caramel–dark chocolate bonbons; crumbly marzipan cakes; and five other delights come 34 to the box, crafted by 12th-generation sweets makers Turrón 1880.
Actor-designer Waris Ahluwalia launched his botanical teas ($27 each) with a midnight tea party covered by Vogue. Though trendy, the teas offer holiday healthfulness. Shatavari root stokes passion in “Love Conquers All.” Rhodiola and ginger sharpen focus in smoky “Sweet Clarity.” Chamomile and cardamom calm nerves in flowery “Night of Nights.”
Bollinger has been sipped in 14 James Bond films. In advance of next year’s “No Time to Die,” the Champagne house unveils this collector’s 2011 Blanc de Noir ($195). Oak-vinified from estate Pinot Noir, hand-riddled and hand-disgorged, it offers a creamy bubble and earthy, plummy notes with an herbaceous finish. Its glass-front box springs open, Bond-style, at the press of a button.
From the Umbrian family that popularized the world’s most tannic grape comes this powerful limited-release Sagrantino ($275) . It’s named like a fairy-tale heroine, but it’s more like the wolf in the woods. Made with an estate-grown clone called Cobra and oak-aged for eight years, it’s inky dark in color and flavor with a stony, chewy finish.
This California Cabernet producer has made its Lot 1 wines since 1952, when Louis P. Martini first chose the best of his fruit. The current vintage comes with two Riedel wine glasses crafted to bring out its charms. Young yet, this 2016 Lot 1 Cabernet ($230) is already showing its sophistication with swarthy tobacco and bramble flavors supported by a lip-smacking acidity.
Finally, California is producing a worthy after-dinner spirit. It took New Yorkers to get it done. PDT managing bartender Jeff Bell and the NoMad’s star sommelier Thomas Pastuszak collaborated on this pot-still brandy ($42) blended from barrels up to seven years old. Silky-smooth with a caramelly, apricot flavor, it’s crafted for cocktails but just as delicious sipped straight.
Pot-distilled from blue agave grown in the Jalisco highlands, Tears of Llorona Extra Añejo ($224) has been blended from tequila aged for five years in a mix of brandy, Scotch and sherry barrels. It boasts multilayered flavors of black pepper, ash, Oloroso and sweet spices. The latest tiny batch dropped in October; gift it while you can.
Your pals will be doing good while drinking when you give them Redwood Empire Whiskey ($44). For every bottle sold, the solar-powered Sonoma distillery plants a sapling through the Trees for the Future Foundation. Named after the world’s largest coastal redwood, “Lost Monarch” blends rye and bourbon for a spicy-sweet sip with an earthy appeal evocative of the woods it honors.
Only 600 bottles were released in the United States, so for the Black Russian drinkers in your life, grab one now. Forget the caffeine and the alcohol; this first single-origin cold-brew coffee liqueur ($50) couldn’t be more addictive on flavor alone. Produced with Caturra Arabica coffee grown on a Colombian family finca, it has the balanced bittersweetness of dark chocolate–covered cherries.
The raspberry smells intensely of berries. Cranberry has the tartness of Thanksgiving relish. New York distiller Ute Londrigan handcrafts six fruit liqueurs ($14 and $30 each) just as her German grandmother did: with whole, in-season produce from neighboring farms. You taste the freshness — in cocktails, with seltzer or neat.