While some might hold out for designer fashions or a luxury car topped with a red bow, food lovers may be just as thrilled by a gift of roasted hazelnuts, chile-spiced salt or Singaporean beef jerky.
Well, that might be carrying it to extremes, but at least we'll be really, really happy with them. Here are 11 ideas for consumable products that are bound to please any eater on your list.
Jam of the Month Club
What says love quite like a jar of Sqirl jam in your mailbox each month for a year? Find out which month the mind-blowing Blenheim apricot jam is set to be delivered and wangle yourself a breakfast invitation. $180 for a year, $90 for six months and $60 for four months at sqirlla.com or at the restaurant, 720 N. Virgil Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 284-8127.
The Tasteful Pantry takes the label reading out of the equation for people on gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan or other special diets with a specialty subscription service that will customize its boxes of chips, nuts, cookies and other treats. Good as a gift to a college student who might otherwise make less terrific snack choices. There's also a more indulgent one-time holiday box. $21.99 per month or $22.99 for a single box at tastefulpantry.com.
Bak kwa (Singapore-style pork jerky)
The USDA disapproves, but visitors to Asia are often struck by an insatiable urge to smuggle back boxes of bak kwa, a sweet pork jerky best when toasted lightly over a flame. Bak kwa is often given as an extravagant holiday gift. At the newish Fragrant Jerky, the Los Angeles area finally has a bak kwa to compare with Singapore's best. From $6.95 for 4 ounces at the store, 8930 Mission Drive, Rosemead, (626) 329-2779, or at www.bbqbeefjerky.com.
Trufflebert Farm hazelnuts
They're organic, they're sustainable and they're certified by Oregon Tilth. They're roasted to about a minute and a half short of full incineration. They are also about the most delicious hazelnuts you will ever taste, almost coffee-like in their intensity. You could order giant bags of them online from trufflebertfarms.com, but they're $9 a pound plus shipping with a minimum order of 10 pounds. Or you can pick up handy 1-pound jars for $15 at Mozza2Go, 6610 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 297-1130.
Suits & Knives coffee
William Miyazaki launched downtown L.A. micro-roaster Suits & Knives in July, selling coffee wholesale and online ("order before roast day Thursday, coffee in your cups by Monday"). Miyazaki selects green beans and roasts them in what he calls the Japanese style, which is a lot slower, he explains. "It's not about punching a button on a machine." Several varieties include beans from Central and South America and Ethiopia, with an espresso blend called Dempsy that marries both, "sweet and complex." $14 to $21 from suitsandknives.com.
Doug Margerum Amaro
Doug Margerum, winemaker and co-owner of the Wine Cask in Santa Barbara, has produced one of the first — if not the first — American amaro, an Italian-style digestivo. Made from fortified wine infused with botanicals and herbs, Margerum's complex amaro is aged outdoors in casks. Drink it after dinner or as the bitter component for a Manhattan. $50, available at Margerum Tasting Room, 813 Anacapa St., Santa Barbara, (805) 845-8435.
Biscotti from Boncora
Bonnie Tempesta helped introduce the biscotti to America. Now she's back with her impeccably light, crisp almond and almond-chocolate cookies. A 1-pound gift box is $28 plus shipping and comes beautifully wrapped. Boncorabiscotti.com.
Navarro Vineyards helped introduce the wine club concept in the 1970s. Now the second generation is doing the same with really remarkable goat cheese from its Pennyroyal Farm. A six-cheese sampler is $66 at www.pennyroyalfarm.com.
Gindo's Spice of Life hot sauce
This locally made hot sauce is the house hot sauce for Umami Burger and a favorite of chefs around the city, including Michael Voltaggio at Ink and Ralph Johnson at the Pikey. It packs a flavorful yet spicy punch that doesn't drown out the flavor of food. Made from locally farmed hot peppers and infused with black lava, Himalayan and Alaea sea salts, options include original,jalapeño poblano, honey habanero and extra spicy. $10, at www.gindosspiceoflife.com.
Assorted pickles from Bruce's Prime Pickle Co.
Chef Bruce Kalman left the Churchill in West Hollywood to start his own gourmet pickling business, and the results have just the right vinegary snap. Garlic Dill Horsey Cukes, Sweet Cab Onions, Bloody Mary Asparagus, Cucumber Kim Chee, Curried Cauliflower and Chi-Town Giardiniere are all locally sourced and hand-packed. They can be mixed and matched for the perfect pickle-lover package. Join his pickle-of-the-month club, or buy them individually for $11.95, at the Cheese Store of Silverlake, 3926-28 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 644-7511.
It's salt. It's chipotles. It's chipotle salt, made by the renowned restaurant La Casita Mexicana. It smacks whatever you choose to sprinkle it on with a sweetly smoky heat. Were you planning to sprinkle some on your next steak? Good idea! Pick up a jar of house-made mole while you're there. $3.99, at La Tiendita Mexicana, 4034 Gage Ave., Bell, (323) 773-4030.