Sure, you could hit the mall. Or the website of the Bezos who shall not be named. But if the loved ones on your holiday list are foodies, travelers or sippers of the coffee, tea or spirits persuasion, we’ve got you covered.
EAT: Beginner’s Oyster Shucking Kit
Make it easy for the oyster fiends in your life to feed their mollusk habit at home.
Marin County’s Hog Island Oyster Co. has put together a Beginner’s Oyster Shucking Kit that comes with a shucking glove, a shucking knife and a bag of 36 Hog Island Sweetwater oysters, the stars of their briny show.
Just tell your recipient to click the website link to watch the “Shucking 101” video, and soon they’ll be slurping away.
Now, you may be wondering, as we were, just what an advanced oyster shucking kit would come with — an insurance policy? Just kidding. The “beginner” designation means that those extra-small oysters are the perfect size for novice shuckers.
Details: $115 at https://hogislandoysters.com
DRINK: ‘Countdown to Christmas’ tea advent calendar
Here’s a great early-bird idea. Give Numi’s “Countdown to Christmas” collection — featuring 24 blends — to the tea lovers on your list, and they’ll think of you every time they brew a cup this holiday season.
Oakland-based Numi prides itself on sourcing all organic ingredients for its teas; even the plant-based, non-GMO tea wrappers are enviro-friendly. Included in the advent calendar are blends for all times of the day, from Breakfast Blend to Sweet Slumber; fruity faves like Hibiscus and Dry Desert Lime; and Numi’s top-seller, Aged Earl Grey.
If you want to throw an extra gift into the box, Numi’s newest offerings are three small-batch Japanese green teas: savory Hojicha, nutty and sweet Kokicha, and lemony Yuzu Bancha.
Details: Tea collection, $14.99, and green teas, $7.99 a box, at Numi’s online store, https://numitea.com/
PLAY: ‘Lodge: An Indoorsy Tour of America’s National Parks’
You’ve no doubt got someone on your list who loves the great outdoors. Well, the great outdoors comes with some pretty great indoors, too.
In a new coffee-table book, “Lodge: An Indoorsy Tour of America’s National Parks” (Gibbs-Smith, 224 pages), author Max Humphrey casts his interior designer eye on 10 lodges, mainly in the West. He and co-author Kathryn O’Shea-Evans and photographers David Tsay and Rob Schanz explore the history, design and furnishings of the iconic Ahwahnee at Yosemite as well as the park’s Curry Village, plus El Tovar at the Grand Canyon, The Oasis in Death Valley, Crater Lake Lodge, the Old Faithful Inn and lodges at Glacier, Olympic, Mount Rainier and Zion.
As hard-driving entrepreneur-investor and TV “shark” Barbara Corcoran says, this book is a “beautiful reminder to go somewhere rustic with spotty WiFi once in a while.”
Details: $40 at your favorite bookseller
EAT: Angkor Chef’s Cambodian sauces, spices
As Fremont chef Channy Laux’s career evolves from condiment developer to cloud kitchen chef to brick-and-mortar owner, she stays true to her mission: She wants to share her mother’s legacy by introducing people to the flavors of their birthplace, Cambodia.
She and her husband, Kent, recently expanded their business to include a downtown San Jose restaurant, Angkor Chef, now in its soft opening phase. There, diners can taste the sauces and spices she uses in her dishes and buy jars and bottles for the home cooks on their gift list.
The array includes her award-winning Lemongrass Paste (regular or vegan, used in stir-fries); Chrouk Metae (a traditional hot sauce); Tamarind Sauce (a natural tenderizer; think braised short ribs); Makrut Lime Powder (sourced from refugee farmers near Fresno); Kroeung Prawlak (a Cambodian barbecue marinade); Organic Thnot Sugar (with caramel undertones); Kampot Peppercorns and more.
Details: Condiments are priced at $8 to $12 at the restaurant, 86 S. First St., San Jose, and $10 to $20 online at www.angkorfood.com (those prices cover shipping). Market Hall Foods in Oakland and Berkeley and the Ferry Building’s Village Market in San Francisco also carry many of the products.
DRINK + EAT: Whiskey Lover’s Collection
Consider these spirits-infused gems from Michael’s Chocolates for the whiskey-sipping chocolate aficionados in your world. They’re created by Michael Benner, a California Culinary Academy-trained pastry chef and certified sommelier who, for his next act, decided to focus his palate on chocolate. At his shop in Oakland’s Grand Lake district, he and his team handcraft bonbons in 17 flavors.
This signature collection contains Bourbon Caramel Pecan bonbons, made with Lost Republic Bourbon from Healdsburg, and Old Potrero Rye Whiskey bonbons, with a pot-distilled rye whiskey from San Francisco. Much thought (and sipping) went into the selection. “I chose the Old Potrero in a blind tasting of whiskeys,” he says. “Little did I know that it was by far the most expensive of the bunch. But the flavor notes were an ideal match with the Guittard chocolate I use to make it.”
Looking for something a little lighter? Benner received his first national award, from the Good Food Foundation, in 2018 for his Lemon Burst, the yellow-and-white domed bonbons in the case. You’ll get a little hit of dark chocolate on the finish.
Details: Boxes, $15 to $88, available at the shop, 3352 Grand Ave., Oakland, or online at www.michaelschocolates.com. A San Francisco shop called Olive This, Olive That also carries this line of chocolates.
PLAY: Adopt-a-Seal certificate and care
The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, which has chalked up thousands of successful animal rescues since 1975, has made it easy and affordable to support their mission with the Adopt-a-Seal gift program.
Here’s how it works: You pick a “past patient” to adopt, and your money goes toward the care of a current or future patient. Scan the website array of photos that depict furry rescues with names from Annette to Zachary — soooo many pairs of big brown eyes! — and choose one. You’ll receive a certificate with the animal’s photo and story and your recipient’s name.
For children, you can upgrade to a gift package that includes a plush animal. If your recipient is an adult, consider adding a 2024 Marine Mammal calendar (the cover star is Ody, a Northern fur seal) or other adorable merch.
Details: $30 for certificate and care of a marine animal, $15 for calendar; shop and order at www.marinemammalcenter.org
EAT: ‘The Unofficial Ted Lasso Cookbook’
You can’t bring up politics, religion, sports, organic produce or child-rearing advice with (insert relative’s name here). Nevertheless, you’ve got to figure out what to give (insert relative’s name here).
We have the solution: Who doesn’t love Ted Lasso, the irrepressible futbol coach? NorCal authors Aki Berry and Meg Chano teamed up to write “The Unofficial Ted Lasso Cookbook” (Harvest Publishing, 160 pages).
Subtitled “From Biscuits to BBQ, 50 Recipes Inspired by TV’s Most Lovable Football Team.” the collection includes such audience favorites as Pigs in Roy’s Blankie and the biscuits Lasso gives Rebecca every morning, homemade despite their pink bakery box.
Details: $24.99. By purchasing this at your favorite independent bookstore, you’ll make a local business owner’s holiday brighter too.
DRINK: Red Bay Coffee’s Holiday Gift Set
For the second time in four years, Oprah Winfrey — she of the season’s most fabulous gift list — has bestowed her “Favorite Things” imprimatur on Red Bay Coffee of Oakland.
EO Keba Konte’s Holiday Gift Set contains three eight-ounce bags of some of their most popular beans — East Fourteenth, a dark roast; Motherland, a medium roast sourced from the Kayanza province in the East African country of Burundi; and Carver’s Dream, a blend of Guatemala and Burundi beans beloved by espresso drinkers.
An entrepreneur and artist, Konte founded the roastery in 2014 as “a vehicle for diversity, inclusion, social and economic restoration, entrepreneurship, and environmental sustainability.” All beans are ethically sourced and freshly roasted in small batches.
Want to make it a beans-plus present? Check out the “Coffee: Africa’s gift to the world” T-shirts and tote bags on the website.
Details: $32.99 at www.redbaycoffee.com
PLAY: BART, Capitol Corridor clothing
Bay Area commuters can now wear their devotion to rail transportation on their sleeve. Or feet.
Railgoods.com, dubbed the official source for BART and Capitol Corridor clothing and gifts, offers a selection of shirts and socks that are perfect for wearing while exploring sites reached by rapid transit or rail.
We like the colorful BART Train Face Tee, with its display of trains old and new, and the Cappy Train Socks, which come in adult and youth sizes. The BART System Map Flip Flops skimp on a lot of stations, making them less giftable, but the new microfiber BART Eyeglass Wipe (only $2.50) displays the whole system and hints at the downtown San Jose/Santa Clara extension coming (we hope) in our lifetime.
And nope, no designs yet featuring BART’s newly acquired $76 million tunnel-boring equipment. Maybe in a future holiday season!
Details: Purchase online at www.railgoods.com
EAT: Christmas Pudding, Yule Cake
All Americans who have grown up with stories from Dickens, the BBC and the BritBox know very well the Christmas traditions observed across the pond. But how many have actually tasted those holiday delights?
Thanks to Kristen and Dean Scott, you can share this gift. The couple bakes English, Scottish and Irish sweets and savories year-round at their Celtic Tea Shoppe in San Jose, but this is the season when the classics reign. The star is the Christmas Pudding, filled with fruit (cherries, sultanas, currants, Granny Smith apples, pineapple, plus ginger and a touch of Guinness and dark rum) and steamed. Before serving at home, you steam the pudding again and serve the slices with hard sauce, a dollop of cream or vanilla ice cream.
Other lovely gifts from their ovens this time of year include the Yule Cake, a cookie-like currant and spice cake covered in a lemon glaze (the treasured recipe comes from a friend’s family); Fruit Mince in jars (for pies, a condiment with meat, or with cream cheese or ice cream); and Rum Cake, Irish Whiskey Cake and Scotch Whisky Cake. (See those whiskey/whisky spellings? That’s how you can tell this Celtic couple is legit.)
You’ll find the Scotts from Tuesday to Friday at their shop and on weekends through Dec. 17 at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair.
Details: Order in advance at https://celticteashoppe.com for pickup or shipping of Christmas Pudding ($30, with gift box), Yule Cake ($14) and liquor cakes ($11) from 4432 Pearl Ave., San Jose.
PLAY + DRINK: Lake Tahoe, Mount Shasta and Half Dome barware
What’s an adventurer to do when the weather won’t allow for climbing? Encourage them to sit inside and drink out of these fascinating hand-blown tumblers and pint glasses as they plan their next trips.
Using data from the U.S. Geological Survey, the artisans at North Drinkware mold into the base of glasses the natural wonders of California. There’s the unmistakable visage of Half Dome, a mini-model of Mount Shasta’s 14,179 feet, the switchbacks on Mount Whitney and Lake Tahoe with the surrounding mountains — in amazing detail.
Each glass is handmade, lead-free and dishwasher safe, and a percentage of sales goes toward preservation efforts. For example, the Lake Tahoe products benefit the Keep Tahoe Blue nonprofit organization, and Half Dome sales help the Yosemite Conservancy.
Details: $56 each at https://northdrinkware.com
EAT: Small Batch Jams made with Andy’s Orchard fruit
We love it when you can buy one delicious present and benefit two family enterprises while thrilling a third, the gift recipient.
Veteran orchardist Andy Mariani of Andy’s Orchard grows the luscious fruit in Morgan Hill; Pablo Lugones transforms and jars these beauties at his Small Batch Jam Co. in Pacifica.
At Andy’s online shop, you’ll find Blenheim Apricot, Black Tartarian Cherry, Golden Transparent Gage Plum, Baby Crawford Peach and Prosecco Clementine jams. The Small Batch online shop features Rainier Cherry, Bing Cherry, Cherry Champagne, Cherry Juniper and soon, Mirabelle Plum.
By the way, if you’re a really good friend, you’ll tuck in a bonus, maybe a box of Andy’s dried fruit confections or a jar of Pablo’s popular Boysenberry, his go-to for PB&J.
Details: Purchase from https://andysorchard.com ($9.50 a jar) or https://smallbatchjamco.com ($9 a jar).
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