Foodista's 50 Inexpensive Gourmet Gift Ideas for the Food Lover

November 25, 2016

My favorite thing to do each year is to curate our Holiday Gift Guide, a long list of items we personally own and use in our home. This is an honest list of things our family loves, things we think you'll love, too. Many of the items we recommend are small and perfect for stocking stuffers or for creating a basket of gourmet goodies (who wouldn't love getting a basket of must-have spices?!). Some items are curious, you'll see, but there's a reason for it. If it's on this page, it's what Barnaby and I have loved and feel they'll make a great gift. Best of all, I've kept the list almost entirely under $100 - well under, in fact. Gone are the super big ticket items. As our family gets older we find it's not about the big fancy gadgets, it's about cooking and sharing good food with people we love and spending a little more on things that whet our appetite and tickle our taste buds. You'd be surprised at how a really good mustard can make you feel happy or how a fine aged balsamic can make a dish sing.white balsamic vinegar

Fondo di Trebbiano White Balsamic, Aged 4 Years

We love any aged balsamic vinegar - white or dark - but the white is especially sweet, floral, and slightly smoky. The longer it's aged, the better it will get and more expensive. Look for this in the little bottles with the higher ticket price. Don't be shocked by the high price, we use this typically as a finishing vinegar and do not liberally pour it. Try it drizzled over fresh fruit or just a bit tossed into a fruit or vege salad. It's great drizzled over grilled fish or chicken just before serving, and we've even added a dab of it to freshly shucked oysters. Oh my, it is good!

Maille Black Truffle & Chablis Mustard

Last year we stumbled upon the Maille Mustard boutique in Paris and walked out with more than a dozen jars of gourmet mustards. You can find the standard Maille (pronounced my) Dijon and grain mustards in nearly every supermarket, but the good stuff needs to be ordered online. We keep our little jars of mustards in a basket and place it on the table when we serve grilled meats and such, but we also frequently use a dollop of one or the other to elevate a vinaigrette. Barnaby orders Snyder's Sourdough Hard Pretzels by the case from Amazon and any flavor of Maille mustard on one of those is a delish snack! The Black Truffle and Chablis Mustard featured here is an exquisite blend and such a treat on nearly anything. I recommend purchasing 3 or 4 small jars for a variety (and to make the shipping more worthwhile). Check out all their mustards here, you can even select your favorite meat for pairing recommendations.

Hondashi bonito soup stock

Hon-Dashi Bonito Fish Stock

Barnaby said to feature daikon - those huge, long white radishes about the size of a woman's forearm - because we've been eating so much of it lately, but I guess what I'm really featuring is both daikon and dashi, the ubiquitous bonito fish stock from Japan that is the base of so many dishes. I ate a ton of daikon when I lived in Japan: as a grated garnish on Agedashi Tofu: Fried Tofu in Broth (recipe here), simmered in dashi, rice wine vinegar, and sake, or pickled. Since the weather has turned cold, we've been simmering daikon in dashi the way I used to eat it in Japan (double the broth recipe here and simmer the daikon in it until tender) and have also used it in place of meat in many stew recipes. Trust me when I say when it's cooked, daikon becomes tender and juicy and has an unctuous, almost fatty pork-like quality but without the fat! I might skip wrapping up a big daikon, but toss a little jar of instant dashi in your loved one's stocking along with a printed recipe or two rolled up and tied around the lid for some culinary inspiration.

Recipes recommendations:

Japanese-Style Spot Prawn (or Shrimp) Soup
Ginger and Lemongrass Simmered Alaskan Black Cod
Kabocha: Savory Simmered Japanese Pumpkin
Agedashi Tofu: Fried Tofu in Broth.



Coach's Oats

I admit it, it may seem a bit out of the ordinary to give someone a breakfast cereal for Christmas, but if your loved one loves oatmeal, they will LOVE Coach's Oats. Their patented "cracked n' toasted oats" are nutty in flavor and have a wonderful crunchy yet chewy texture. They're right when they say, "You've never tasted oatmeal this good!"! What I also love is that I don't have to cook it all night or get up extra early in the morning as I would with regular long-cook oatmeal. Coach's Oats take just 5 minutes yet still have structure, not mush! Give your loved one a big bag (it's almost 5 pounds) along with a bottle of this Pure Grade-A Maple Sugar and their mornings are sure to be sweeter (and healthier!).

Ginger People's Ginger Juice

I make a smoothie nearly every morning and I go through a lot of fresh ginger. Ginger, like turmeric and cardamom, have many health benefits like anti-inflammatory properties, can help fight certain cancers, aid in digestion, and can help ward off colds and the flu. I love this convenient, time-saving liquid ginger for my smoothies, but I also use it in marinades, vinaigrettes, stir-fries, as a tea, anything where I would use fresh ginger. This one comes in a two pack for less than $12, so you've just shaved two stocking stuffers off your list!

Sweet Curry Powder

I simply LOVE this stuff and so does our 6-year-old daughter. If I run out before getting a refill, I nearly go through withdrawals. It is not spicy at all and instead possesses the lovely bold and sweet flavors of a curry powder but without the heat. My favorite way to use it is to coat cauliflower florets with olive oil, then toss it generously with the sweet curry powder and roast it in the oven. Super simple, super tasty. You can purchase it from Penzy's here.

Oregon Olive Mill, Extra Virgin Olive Oil Trio

Oregon Olive Mill is not far from my mother's home in Portland, Oregon, so I try to get there at least once a year to stock up on oils and fabulous vinegars. I have purchased this trio of amazingly flavorful olive oils as gifts numerous times and always get rave reviews. Do you know how to tell a really good olive oil (and a good-for-you one) from a not good one? If you get that peppery taste, especially when it hits you in the back of the throat, then you've got a high-quality olive oil. The pepper flavor means it's newly pressed, low in acid, and high in antioxidants. And darn good! All three of these will give you that peppery hit!

Simple & Crisp - Mixed Artisanal Dried Fruit Crackers

These fruit "crackers" are a must-have for entertaining. The thin, beautiful slices of dried pear, orange, and apple are wonderful with cheeses and pâté, served as a garnish for a dessert, alongside wine, in tea, we've even tossed an apple cracker in a glass of brandy for a lovely edible garnish. They look gorgeous on a plate and they're non-gmo and gluten-free as well.

Lemon Zest Flake Salt from Jacobsen Salt Co.

Any salt from Jacobsen Salt Co. is a winner, but I especially love their Lemon Zest Flake Salt. Use it as a finishing salt on salads, grilled fish, meat and vegetables, and more.

Olympia Provisions

Charcuterie is always a great gift for the meat lover and my personal favorite is anything from Portland, Oregon's Olympia Provisions. Everything they make is hand-crafted, using "a nearly extinct traditional technique that is seldom seen in America." They are also Oregon's first USDA-approved salumeria. For just $40 you can get beautiful sampler boxes like this European Sampler featuring Loukanika (a Greek garlic, cumin, and citrus zest-spiced sausage), Chorizo Rioja (a Spanish sweet and smoked paprika sausage with garlic and oregano), Salami Nola (a course-ground Italian salami with black pepper, chili flake & allspice), and Saucisson Sec (a traditional French salami flavored with garlic & black pepper). Check out all of their Sampler boxes here and their Hampers here.

Honey Citron Tea

Honey citron tea is a fall/winter staple in our home, especially during the cold and flu season. It soothes a sore throat (the citrus peels are wonderfully numbing!), helps ease coughs, and helps with digestion too. We scoop one or two spoonfuls into a mug with hot water, sip, then gobble up the marmalade-like citrus peels that remain. Adults, add a shot of whiskey to make it a yummy hot toddy!

Premium Blue Cheese Powder

Barnaby hiked part of the Pacific Crest Trail this summer and bought all kinds of powdered and dehydrated food. But this blue cheese powder was a hit with the whole family! It is so good sprinkled over popcorn, mixed up with a bit of water for a quick snack dip (get the box of those Snyder's Sourdough Pretzels out!), and mixed into a vinaigrette for an easy blue cheese dressing.

Hella Bitter Five Flavor Bar Bitters Set

After a long day at work, Barnaby and I like to make our favorite cocktail - a Manhattan. We love to play around with different bitters as it both enhances and changes the nuance of the flavors. This bitters set is the perfect gift for the craft cocktail lover! See below for our small wooden keg where we barrel age our Manhattans! And, if your loved one travels a lot this is the ultimate make-your-own-inflight-cocktail on the airplane as these little bottles are just 1.7 ounces.

Hella Bitters

Theo Chocolate

Theo Chocolate is our local chocolate company specializing in single source, organic chocolate. They are, simply, great people doing great things for people around the world, and the result is delicious chocolate for us all (read about them and their wonderful mission here). Each year they feature their holiday collection, such as Gingerbread Spice, Peppermint Stick, Nutcracker Brittle, and Cranberry Orange, but don't stop there. Some of their Best Sellers include wildly creative combinations like Coconut Turmeric Chocolate Clusters and Black Rice Quinoa Crunch. Get a Theo Classic Library for just $40, but be sure to check out the whole store.

Spicy things we love....


This is a wonderfully spicy, slightly sweet, and smoky red chili powder from Korea. It's used to make kimchi, but can also be used in sauces (add it to your BBQ sauce and you'll win contests!), marinades, sprinkled over Asian cucumber salads, you name it. A bag of it is always in our home.

XO Sauce

This stuff is seriously addictive! The not too spicy condiment is relatively new on the culinary scene, developed in Hong Kong in the 1980s to use in seafood dishes, and is comprised of mostly dried seafoods like scallops, fish, and shrimp. It's excellent on meats, fish, vegetables, tofu, rice, and noodles. I just wish it came in a bigger jar!

Powdered Rooster Sauce

We first bought World Spice's Rooster Sauce to sprinkle over popcorn, but its culinary use has since expanded! This spicy powder is a blend of Chinese chile, African cayenne, garlic, ginger, citrus, and star anise and is wildly delicious. Use it as a dry rub for meats, sprinkle on vegetables, or, as World Spice recommends, " mix it with lime juice, minced lemon grass, and fish sauce to create a deliciously fiery paste that’s perfect with chicken or shrimp."

Cookbooks we love and use...

Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London's Ottolenghi

You don't have to be a vegetarian to love this cookbook. It will inspire you, make you drool, and get you in the kitchen.

Land of Fish and Rice

Lovers of Chinese cuisine will find themselves engrossed in this exquisite cookbook featuring classic and modern dishes from the country's culinary capital of Jiangnan, known as "the land of fish and rice." Classic recipes include dishes such as Beggar's Chicken and Soup Dumplings, the simple dishes range from easy soups to fried rice and noodles.  

Art of the Pie

My friend Kate is the Queen of Pies. A natural teacher, she makes baking not only approachable and fun, but easy. In her new cookbook (or, what I like to call a bakebook) she gives detailed instructions on how to make a pie crust - from mixing to rolling to baking - as well as tips and tricks for filling the pie. The book is organized by fruit, type of pie, and sweet and savory pies with recipes ranging from Old-Fashioned Rhubarb Pie and Triple Berry Pie, to savory supper comforts such as Traditional English Pork Pies. It's a must-have for experienced and novice bakers alike. Get her Quintessential Apple Pie Recipe here and don't miss her savory Sausage and Apple Pie Recipe here.

Infusing Flavors: Intense Infusions for Food and Drink: Recipes for oils, vinegars, sauces, bitters, waters & more

Infusing Flavor is a must-have for anyone who wants to add flavor and depth to their food and drinks. Erin Coopey’s latest book is approachable, not over-complicated, and so informative that even the seasoned cook will be inspired. It starts with floral and herbal teas and tisanes that can aid in a variety of ailments like migraines, heartburn and arthritis, and ends appropriately with drool-worthy desserts like Lemongrass-Infused Coconut Milk for Popsicles and Rosemary Peaches with Rosemary-Infused Brown Sugar. In between you’ll find the book is packed with an eclectic collection of recipes for homemade cocktails (try the Good Bloody Morning using her Celery Bitters!), sipping vinegars and other refreshing beverages like Ginger Beer and Old-Fashioned Root Beer, infused oils and vinegars that will make your salads sing, and amazing broths that are perfect for any season.

Ivar's Seafood Cookbook: The O-fish-al Guide to Cooking the Northwest Catch

Ivar's is one of Seattle's iconic seafood restaurants and the original building you see below still stands. Their chowders, of course, are outstanding (like their Alaskan Smoked Salmon Chowder), but what I especially love is their clam nectar, a delicious broth that is wonderful to sip on a cold day.

Jamie Oliver's Everyday Super Food

This is a terrific go-to cookbook for everyday meals that are colorful, healthy, delicious, and easy. My mom always taught me to "eat a rainbow" and this book is both the rainbow and pot of gold at the end of it. Each dish is super wholesome and creative. Jamie's Oatmeal Dust, for one, is a brilliant concoction of rolled oats, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and cocoa powder that is blended until fine. It's perfect in smoothies (no chunks!), as a topping for yogurt, made into a porridge, or sprinkled over Fruits Soups (think smoothie bowls). You'll simply love this book!

The New Making of a Cook: The Art, Techniques, and Science of Good Cooking

This tome of a cookbook is a must-have for any home cook. Madeleine covers literally every technique from knife skills to baking bread, explains the "whys" of cooking, and offers a ton of recipes both heart-healthy and low-fat as well as a great number classics like Beef Bourguignon. Sadly, it is no longer in print, but you can get a used copy on Amazon as I did - still well worth it, worn cover and all!

Stuff Every Cook Should Know

This tiny little book is a perfect stocking stuffer. It offers helpful tips and how-tos, kitchen organizing advice, and so much more. It's fun to just flip through - you'll find yourself saying ahh, that makes sense!

Ingredienti: Marcella's Guide to the Market

Unfortunately, Marcella Hazan, the Godmother of Italian cooking, died in 2013, but her legacy lives on in her extensive work. Through her many recipes and notebooks, her husband and collaborator Victor translated and transcribed her notes on how to buy fresh produce at the market to use in delicious Italian meals at home. The book is broken down by ingredient from A to Z and includes sections on the Essential Pantry as well as Salumi.

The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from around the World

Fermented foods and drinks are essential to good belly health and staving off colds and the flu. We seem to always have a pot of kimchi or sauerkraut "brewing" in our kitchen. We even make our own kombucha. This book is a must-have for anyone who likes the sour side of life and wants to create some fermented goodness at home.

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace

If you ever have a moment when cooking dinner feels like drudgery (we've all been there), then pick up this book and Tamar will help you over the hump. Her book is more than just a cookbook, it's a thoughtful meditation on the pleasures of food and eating. An Alice Waters prótegé, Tamar covers topics such as frugality (like what to do with the scraps we usually toss in the compost), lost arts of cooking (like boiling), how to convert a ho-hum ingredient into wow, and so much more. You'll want to cozy up on the couch with this book before you get in the kitchen.

Rise and Shine: Better Breakfasts for Busy Mornings

This cookbook is great for anyone in a rush most mornings - especially busy parents! As a mom, I'm always looking for fun yet healthy breakfasts to fix for my daughter (we all get in food ruts, right?), and this great cookbook is simply inspirational. Chapters range from Smoothies and Drinks and Fruit and Yogurt to Everyday Eggs and Sandwiches and Wraps. It even offers ideas for jazzing up toast (such as Egg and Avocado Smash) and Make-Ahead Muffins, Breads & Bars. It's simply YUM!

Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories from An Unlikely Life on a Farm

Molly and her husband are both Juilliard trained musicians, but they ditched their life in Brooklyn for a more musical one on a farm in the Midwest. I've met the award-winning blogger and her cookbook is a true reflection of her vibrant, magnetic and hilarious personality. Her recipes are a fun and eclectic blend of her Jewish-Chinese heritage and include dishes like her Mum's Matzo Brei, as well an abundant assortment of both Chinese and Israeli meals. This is another beautiful, full-of-stunning-pictures cookbook that is both readable (you'll laugh out loud) and totally "cookable."

Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food

In a word, this book is dreamy. It takes its name from its author's celebrated French bistro in New York, but don't be frightened by the word "French." This cookbook celebrates simple, comfortable cooking but with elegance and style and without spending a lot of money. Chef/author Jody Williams shows you how to transform simple ingredients into sophisticated dishes and flavor combinations (try the Carrot Spoon Bread), how to think of alternative platings (serve ice cream in a teacup instead of a bowl or chocolate mousse on a spoon), and even includes clever sidebar tips like how to remove red wine stains and how to build a cocktail bar. The photography is gorgeous, the recipes exquisite!

Yogurt: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

This is an awesome cookbook for the yogurt lover! They'll be inspired by the plethora of every meal recipes that are both sweet and savory. It includes recipes for appetizers, salads, soups, sauces, marinades, beverages, desserts, even directions for making your own yogurt at home. I love the Spicy Yellow Split Pea Soup with Tomato, Cumin & Yogurt as well as the Lamb Meatballs in Warm Yogurt Sauce with Sizzling Red-Pepper Butter.

Ruhlman's How to Roast: Foolproof Techniques and Recipes for the Home Cook

Roasting is one of the most fundamental of cooking techniques and culinary expert Michael Rhulman gives advice on the tools you need, including staple ingredients to have on hand, and how to get the most out of your oven. Who likes plain old cauliflower? But roasted cauliflower is a whole different ball game! His mouthwatering recipes include his own classic roast chicken that he makes every week (known as "The Icon"), as well as sumptuous desserts like Roasted Peaches with Mint Crème Fraiche. It's full of beautiful photography, even step-by-step images. Be sure to check out his other cookbooks in this series: How to Braise and How to Sauté.

The Forest Feast: Simple Vegetarian Recipes from My Cabin in the Woods

The simple, few-ingredients-necessary recipes in this book are both beautiful and delicious. The author, Erin Gleeson, is also an adept illustrator and her cookbook is filled with gorgeous illustrations and hand writing that enhance the fresh and fabulous recipes.

World Spice at Home: New Flavors for 75 Favorite Dishes

World Spice is my favorite spice shop here in Seattle (it's located just below Pike Place Market on Western Ave). Whenever I go there, I inevitably end up "talking shop" with whomever is tending the store and they always send me home with a sample or two of some new-to-me spice or blend. Their cookbook will inspire you to cook international dishes from Small Bites and Sweets & Breads to Vegetables & Grains and Meats, Poultry, Seafood and Shellfish.

ChopChop: The Kids' Guide to Cooking Real Food with Your Family

I subscribed my 6-year-old daughter to their magazine, a quarterly food and cooking magazine for kids, and their cookbook is equally as fun and informative as their website and publication. Kids love being part of preparing their own meals, and when they do so they eat better too! There are more than 100 recipes covering each meal of the day, including sections for Soups, Lunch Bowls, Salads and Dressings, as well as Drinks and Desserts. It's a cookbook that will definitely instill healthy eating habits and lifelong culinary skills in kids!

Kitchen Gadgets We Can't Do Without....

Britt's Pickle-ator At-Home Fermentation Kit

I purchased one of these Pickle-ators at our farmer's market a few weeks ago and it's never been empty, never left the kitchen counter. We've made countless varieties and flavors of sauerkraut, half-sour pickles, and now I'm making a batch of beet kvass (a raw, fermented beet drink that's super healthy!). It's so easy to use and doesn't take long until you can eat the goodness you've made.

3-liter American Oak Barrel: Age your own Whiskey, Beer, Wine, Bourbon, Tequila, Hot Sauce & More

We've had one of these 3-liter barrels for years, which we've usually kept filled with rum or some such spirit, but recently we've been combining bourbon, vermouth, and bitters to make our own barrel-aged Manhattans. Barnaby sometimes uses an orange infused rye called Hochstadter's Slow & Low Rock & Rye, a Spanish vermouth, and orange bitters to make what he calls a "Spanhattan."  

uKeg 64 Pressurized Growler for Craft Beer

This beautiful growler is the perfect gift for the beer lover. It keeps 64 ounces of beer fresh and cold, and is fun to fill and take to parties.

Silicone Spatula with Measurement Conversion Chart on Head

This little spatula is one of my indispensable kitchen gadgets! It's perfect for scraping the sides of a bowl or pot and has a handy conversion chart on the head for converting measurements.

Glassybaby votives

While not a kitchen gadget per se, I have one of these beautiful votives in our kitchen both for ambiance and for killing any unwanted lingering aromas. They have umpteen color combinations as well as votives for a cause. See the many organizations they donate 10% of each sale to (they've raised over $5.5 million dollars so far!), including cancer care and research, children's health and wellness, environmental health, nursing, animal care, and support for vulnerable communities. There's literally a color for everyone and everything.

Amazon Echo (and Dot)

Again, not a kitchen gadget but having music in the kitchen and being able to listen to the news makes being at the stove even more fun. You can even ask Alexa to tell you a joke. Check out the smaller Dots, too, which we keep in our room as well as my office.

Julienne Peeler

I have neither the time nor patience to julienne (cut into tiny matchsticks) vegetables. This handy peeler does the job for you! It's another one of my must-have kitchen items.

Scanpan CTX 8-Inch Fry Pan

I love, love, love my Scanpan! Omelets just slip right out of it, plus it's scratch resistant and dishwasher safe.

Teavana Contour Tumbler for hot beverages

This fabulous tumbler is great for any hot beverage, especially tea as it comes with a basket insert. It keeps drinks hot all day and looks cool too. Get one to go along with the following tea collection.

Artisanal Brewing Collection Kit by Teavana

This is an excellent gift set for the tea lover! The teas from Teavana are simply exquisite, all of which are high-end leaf teas that are wonderfully flavorful (plus you can reuse the leaves 2-3 times). This set comes with a 16-ounce Perfectea Maker, Perfectea Rock Sugar (so yummy!!), a Perfectea spoon, and 4 airtight reusable tea tins with 2-ounces each of Teavana's most popular teas: Youthberry / Wild Orange, Maharaja Chai / Samurai Chai, Peach Tranquility, and Jade Citrus Mint.

Johnny Apple Peeler

We've owned our apple peeler for years. Sure, it's not the item you use every day, but during apple season it gets used a ton! We love drying apple slices in our dehydrator (see below) or making big batches of apple sauce. It's not just for apples, however, you can also easily peel potatoes and pears. It's great to peel, or core and slice, or peel, core and slice at the same time!

Nesco FD-75A Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator

Our beloved dehydrator gets well used! We love to make huge batches of dried fruit - apples, persimmon, bananas, pears, etc. - and fruit leathers for snacks. We've even dried mushrooms and tomatoes, which are wonderful reconstituted in soups, stews and sauces.

King Do Way Double Wall Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Sports Water Bottle, Dark Yellow Wood

I love my King Do water bottle! Its narrow mouth makes it easy to drink from while exercising and it keeps drinks cold (and hot) for a long time. 

5-Piece Ceramic Sake Set

After spending 3 years in Japan I fell in love with sake. I have a glass sake set for drinking cold sake in the summer, but in winter I love sipping hot sake from ceramic. I brought a set home from Japan that is similar to the set below. Keep in mind, the set needn't be expensive, this one is just under $20 and it comes in a gift box!


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