Five Fantastic Food and Drink Gifts for Discerning Food-Lovers

This post originally appeared on December 5, 2020 in Amanda Kludt’s newsletter “From the Editor,” a roundup of the most vital news and stories in the food world each week. Read the archives and subscribe now.


I am a gift guide fiend. I don’t have that many people to shop for. I don’t shop all that much for myself. But I love perusing lists of products and items that have escaped my attention, of fashionable bowls and useful gadgets and pungent sauces I could have in my life if I just clicked a button.

Luckily, here at Eater, we have a plethora of guides, from our big national picks of products and experiences to locally focused lists in over a dozen cities we cover. I especially love the local ones, because they have restaurant-related products my New York friends might not know about. So, because exactly one reader asked me, I’ve sifted through all of these and added some of my faves to offer a very brief, but hopefully helpful, restaurant- and food-themed gift guide.

This is very much a shameless plug for something my team launched this year, but I sincerely love it. We created the wine subscription box that we wanted in our lives: A monthly offering of exciting wines chosen by extremely cool wine pros from our favorite restaurants and wine shops across America. I gifted myself a four-bottle ongoing subscription and sent one-off boxes to some select aunts, cousins, and friends.

I got my hands on the new baking book from my favorite itinerant pastry chef, Melissa Weller, just before Thanksgiving, and her approach to an all-butter crust 1,000 percent upped my game last week. Her recipes are challenging but provide huge payoffs, so I recommend the book for any dedicated baker in your life. Same goes for Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person. Her recipes are harder than I think she thinks they are, but they’re worthwhile for any true, ahem, dessert person.

Blankets sold at King restaurant in New York
King

I’m a sucker for good restaurant merch, and I’ve taken a shine to the latest COVID-appropriate offering: blankets. I got one at NYC’s Raoul’s last week — it’s $15 and akin to an airplane blanket — and am eyeing the ones at Hunky Dory and Four Horseman. The King blanket is something to behold, but I can’t personally pony up the $120.

My colleague Lesley Suter just convinced me to buy these pricey cookie stamps to bring some extra joy and professionalism to my holiday cookie experience. Forty dollars seems like a lot to invest in a seasonal baking accessory, but I feel like these have the potential to stick around for decades. I’ll be very smug if my grandchildren end up using them someday.

The Poketo/Takenaka bento box collab
Poketo

I am not this person, but I have a lot of people in my life who would swoon over this cute bento box collab between Poketo and Takenaka. It’s a good gift because you might not want to spend $40 sprucing up your own lunch life, but you know a friend who deserves it.

Other ideas

Cozy, funny, and/or stylish restaurant merch; an exciting condiment from Dana Cowin’s collection of products from women-owned brands as a stocking stuffer; Culinary Backstreets’ travel-inspired gift box; the poignant and funny Waffle House Vistas; and the arch and wildly useful cocktail book Drink What You Want from John deBary.

Or (!) just go to our How to Help guide and make a donation in your friend’s name.


More cities around the country are pulling back on dining. Dallas is now at 50 percent indoor capacity, Vegas at 25 percent, D.C. heading to 25 percent. The enforcement of new restrictions has ranged from pulled liquor licenses and fines (Michigan) to arrests (Staten Island).

In LA, where only delivery and takeout is allowed, restaurateurs are demanding evidence to prove outdoor dining has led to a rise in COVID-19 cases, and a judge agreed that officials need to offer up the data. Meanwhile, some cities within LA County are threatening to secede from the health department’s jurisdiction to avoid the restrictions. But it will all be moot if the whole region of Southern California enters a state-mandated stay-at-home order in the next few days.

One prominent restaurateur in the area is calling for an industrywide rent strike.

Elsewhere, restaurants across the country are entering hibernation mode as they see little upside to trying to stay open through fits and starts and colder weather. Other groups, like Danny Meyer’s USHG and Chicago’s Boka Group, have shifted to takeout and delivery only.

And in London, the month-long lockdown ended this week, as restaurants and pubs eased into a new phase of uncertainty.

A fancy dining room at night with green velvet chairs and dizzying wallpaper.

I’m not sure what’s happening at Chifa in LA, but at least they went for it.
Wonho Frank Lee

Openings: In London, Cafe Deco, chef Anna Tobias’s long-awaited ode to the beauty of brown food; in D.C., Michael Schlow’s American Glover Park Grill; in Cambridge, a stateside iteration of Tehran’s La Saison Bakery; and in LA, the craziest-looking restaurant I’ve seen all year, a Peruvian place in Eagle Rock called Chifa.

Closures: Yours Truly in Los Angeles; Blue Smoke in New York; and Pok Pok Wing in Vegas.

In other news: A survey from One Fair Wage found that the pandemic has exacerbated sexual harassment within restaurants; Chicago implemented a fee cap for third-party delivery services; the group behind Alinea and Next will open two restaurants within an upcoming downtown skyscraper; and star Raleigh restaurants Bida Manda and Brewery Bhavana fostered an atmosphere of misbehavior, abuse of power, and inappropriate sexual conduct.

Some sweetness: We tested out the best way to send cookies in the mail; Joshua David Stein reviewed Steve McQueen’s excellent Mangrove; dive bar owners shared their grief over the death of Alex Trebek; and Ryan Sutton discovered Colombian diner Empanada Mama is still nourishing its Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood (even late at night) during the pandemic.


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