As December approaches, we’re often tasked with finding the perfect holiday or hostess gift. Below is a list of gift ideas that support our fabulous local Houston-area food community. I’ve broken them up into five groups: gifts that give back, ideas for the food lover, cookbooks to catch, drink suggestions, and creative local favorites that just didn’t fit anywhere else. Enjoy!
GIFTS WITH A CONSCIENCE
The Center is a wonderfully inspiring nonprofit that serves Houstonians with mental retardation. Why not gift some of their famous gingersnaps or cheesesnaps for the holidays? Both offerings come in gorgeous tins, no gift wrap required. Similarly, the Brookwood Community for adults with special needs sells fabulous salad dressings, roasted pecans, and jalapeno jelly. All items are wonderful and keep well in the fridge or freezer. Katz Coffee features three flagship cause coffees: Buffalo Bayou Partnership, Friends of Enchanted Rock, and Austin’s Bat Conservation International. Each organization has its own specialty beans, and 50 cents of every pound sold goes directly to that charity. Need something longer lasting? Urban Harvest sells fantastic “I Dig Houston” shirts at its Eastside, Discovery Green, and City Hall farmers’ markets for $15, with proceeds benefiting the gardening community. Or try a donation to the Houston Food Bank. A special card lets them know that a donation was made in their names, and you can tell them the part about how $1 in the hands of the Houston Food Bank can provide a full day of meals for someone in need. HFB also sells coffee mugs, tote bags, and cute holiday ornaments made in the HFB youth programs.
It’s super fun to troll the farmers’ markets for various things to give to family and friends. How about some of the fantastically earthy olive oil from the Texas Hill Country Olive Company? You could pair it with a fresh baguette from Slow Dough or Angela’s Oven and a hunk of local cheese from the Houston Dairymaids. On the other hand, you could also offer some homemade granola with a tub of creamy goat’s milk yogurt from Swede Farm and some delicious local honey from Bee Wilde. You could always pack up some cured meats from Chris Shepherd at Catalan. Some people might *love* the Gluten-Free Holiday Kit from Gluten Free Houston. Or if you really need to wow ‘em, try a ready-to-bake cheese soufflé from Elizabeth Swift. They are? To. Die. For.
We’re Houston proud of our local cookbook celebs... Among Robb Walsh’s hometown collection, Sex, Death, & Oysters is pretty much a must-have. Or if you’re thinking of something a little more ethnic, Indo-Houstonian Shubhra Ramineni’s Entice with Spice offers dozens of fantastic Indian-inspired recipes with stunning photos and detailed explanations. Shubhra’s subtitle is “Easy Indian Recipes for Busy People,” and she takes great care to create accessible recipes without compromising the distinct flavors. My old standbys are the Junior League of Houston cookbooks, which offer fabulous meal ideas while giving a little something back to the Houston community (a portion of the books’ proceeds goes to Texas Children’s Hospital). If a magazine’s more your style, My Table has a holiday special: Buy one subscription at regular price ($24 for a one-year subscription of six issues) and get unlimited gift subscriptions at half-off.
Give your friends a trip down Memory Lane with a bag of Fluffernutters from the Fluff Bake Bar. Need more variety? You could also give the super cute cookies from Paulie’s, the gorgeous macarons from Maison-Burdisso, or the sensational cupcakes from Jodycakes. Want something more versatile? Then perhaps a few cinnamon rolls from Sinfull Bakery. If all else fails, a gift card to Hank’s ice cream just might do the trick. Maybe you can get them to sell ya a pint of peppermint!
For the beer enthusiast, give a grab bag of local brews from St. Arnold’s and Southern Star. St. Arnold’s even offers a super duper Christmas Ale. Plenty of other labels have seasonal offerings, too -- they’re just not brewed right here in your backyard. Tito’s Vodka and Deep Eddy sweet tea vodka are from right up the street in Austin. Or if you’re looking for something a little more tame, try Mexican hot chocolate mix from El Bolillo or a gift card to a local coffee shop, like Antidote or Catalina.
Howsabout a tshirt from our local favorite burger chain? Customize your Whataburger shirt the same way you customize your burger. Tamales always make great gifts, and Berryhill sells thousands of them over the holidays. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s only, they’ve got the fabulous turkey tamales. Go get ‘em! For something a little more “little guy” local, you could gift a holiday burger challenge: gift cards to local burger shops Hubcap Grill, the Burger Guys, Becks Prime, and more. Include handmade score cards so you can determine the true Burger King for yourself. Or more creatively, give an herb garden starter kit with planters or seeds from Buchanan’s Native Plants.
Got any more local gift ideas? Let me know, and I’ll add ‘em to the list!