Every year. reliable as rain, the holidays come around. The sun disappears, kitchens get crowded with friends and relatives, brake lights glow along the road to SeaTac. And you have to buy gifts. Even (maybe especially) for people who say they “don’t like gifts” or “don’t want anything, really!” And inevitably, you have no idea to get them.
So we’re going to do you a favor and tell you what to get those insufferable gift-haters this year. It’s a list aimed at food-lovers, but everyone has to eat, and if you’re here you’re probably a food-lover yourself or at your wit’s end trying to shop for your friend who is constantly Instagramming new restaurants. Sure, you can get them a Tock gift card, but that’s boring! Buy these things instead:
Dumplings from MìLà
Frozen soup dumplings may not be a traditional holiday gift, but these dumplings are special. They’re made by a company founded by Jennifer Liao and Caleb Wang, a Bellevue couple who pandemic-pivoted their restaurant Xiao Chi Jie into an elite-tier frozen meal purveyor. As Eater’s Bettina Makalintal writes, “After these soup dumplings spend 11 minutes in a steamer, it’s hard to believe they came out of a dry-ice-filled cardboard box. The frozen balls transform into shiny, pleated pockets, plump with pork and soup.” Right now you can buy a whole 100-dumpling set — sauces and steamers included — for the sale price of $139.99.
This little company next to a cemetery in Bryant has been turning out incredible, award-winning bars. Their bourbon-infused chocolate is the crowd-pleaser, but any of their single-origin bars are showcases for the richness and variety of the flavors found in cacao beans. This year Spinnaker is partnering with Ghost Note Coffee on its “Oatnog” bars, and for the first time doing a line of chocolate truffles. If you’re not sure what to get, a $50 gift box contains four of Spinnaker’s best bars.
Jam from Ayako & Family
The problem with the jam sold by Alessandra Gordon, the second-generation jam maker at Ayako and Family, is that it’s too hard to pick which flavor you want. With 20 varities of plum jam, plus classics like apricot and rhubarb, it’s just too much. Fortunately, as a gift giver you don’t have to think to hard — just get the “signature trio” set, which comes in a lovely box.
Cooking classes from the Pantry
If you have a friend who collects cookbooks like baseball cards, buying a food-related gift can be a bit challenging. But every home cook, no matter their skill level, will appreciate a class at the Pantry in Ballard, where they can learn about cuisines ranging from Cantonese to South American empanadas. The January slate of classes has yet to be announced, so your best bet is probably a letterpressed gift certificate.
The Pathfinder nonalcoholic spirit
This pandemic-born, Seattle-based brand makes a nonalcoholic spirit that’s something like zero-proof amaro, but with more herbal flavors. Basically, it tastes like something your grandpa would have enjoyed. A splash of it in seltzer is a fine drink to end the day with, and if the day has been a hard one, the Pathfinder can be a great ingredient for alcoholic cocktails as well.
A knife from Element Fe
“Early in my career, I made a conscious choice to go all out on comfort and function, and leave flash and awe aside,” says Guemes Island–based knifemaker Andy Gladish. The result is carbon steel chef’s knives that are high-quality but relatively affordable. They are widely used by restaurant chefs in the region, and even if they aren’t flashy they’re cool as hell. A six-inch chef knife, the most popular size, is under $200.
Rachel’s Ginger Beer
There are two kinds of people who like Rachel’s Ginger Beer: people who don’t drink alcohol and appreciate a 0.0 percent beverage, and people who love a good mixer. Point is, anyone can appreciate the punch of ginger, carbonation, and sweetness that’s packed into every sip of an RGB drink. This year, as usual, the brand founded by Rachel Marshall is doing its much-hyped honeycrisp cider, but the original flavor is hard to beat. A four-pack, at $78, should get you through the coldest part of winter.
Vinegar from Symbiotic Cultures
Michelle Pogostkin was an anthropology student at the University of Washington who took a sharp turn into the high-end food world; she studied at the Institut Paul Bocuse and did a stint at Noma’s fermentation lab before coming back to Seattle, where she sells miso, vinegar, and garum in a variety of eclectic flavors as Symbiotic Cultures. The D’Anjou pear vinegar, one of Pogostkin’s best-sellers, adds a really satisfying sweetness to anything you put it on, but you can’t go wrong here.
Chili Crisp from KariKari
This locally made chili crisp is the condiment to rule them all — spicy, umami, a little bit sweet, crunchy, flexible enough to go on anything, or nothing, if you prefer to eat it straight from the jar. Get the big 16-ounce jar, by the way; it’s worth it.
Bunafr’s smokeless home coffee roaster
What do you get for the caffiene fiend in your life who’s home coffee setup has everything? The Bunafr roaster, a nifty piece of equipment from a local company that allows said caffeine fiend to quickly and easily roast their own green coffee beans. This not only makes the freshest cup of coffee possible, it adds another layer of variables to tinker with, as you can control the darkness of the roast. Roasters ordered now will ship in January.
Chocolate-covered cherries from Chukar
Look, we know this is a little basic. Everyone in Seattle should know about these cherries, which have been sold all over the place (including at Pike Place Market) forever. But sometimes a classic is a classic for a reason. These are as luxurious and dense with flavor as any chocolate truffle. Our favorite is probably the classic assortment, which is a great chance to experience the differences between cherry varieties.
Merch from Marketime Foods
So hear us out: This is a random grocery store in Fremont (with another location, Ken’s Market, in Greenwood), and you can’t buy this stuff online. But look at how hard this goes. If a streetwear designer put this on a white tee it would be in the triple digits — at Marketime, a T-shirt is $20 and a tote (their best-selling merch item) is just $15. No link here, just go to 4416 Fremont Avenue and tell them Eater Seattle sent you.