The 2021 Eater NY Holiday Gift Guide
AnotherAnother mid-pandemic holiday season is around the corner, but more vaccinated get-togethers — and fewer shaky Zoom calls — will be a game changer this time. For some families, it’s their first gathering in two years. The bar for meaningful gift giving is high, and this guide can help.
Here are 14 food-centric gifts that will put a smile on the face of the restaurant regular, home cook, and condiment connoisseur among family and friends. From statement-piece plateware to sleek bottles of rice wine from the country’s only producer of Korean makgeolli, this year’s gift guide is overflowing with thoughtful ways to wrap up some love for the dining enthusiasts in your life. Plus, no global shipping holdups to worry about here: Each of these items is sourced from restaurants and small businesses based right here in the city.
Vinegars to spruce up cocktails or salads
Since 1996, Atef Boulaabi has enchanted visitors to her specialty food shop in the East Village with a treasure trove of spice blends, plum-coated sesame seeds, and even cheese powders sourced from around the world. But her own line of vinegars, with flavors like elderberry, juniper, and pineapple, are especially versatile and would be an ideal kitchen gift for someone to use with shrubs, as a finishing vinegar for roasted veggies, or in tangy vinaigrettes.
A card deck made for restaurant regulars
There may be countless restaurants in New York, but the 52 illustrated in this deck of cards includes some Eater all-time favorites, including Joe’s Steam Rice Roll, Via Carota, and Adda. Three University of Pennsylvania students — Maggie Tang, Alaina Chou, and Amy Yang — created the Gourmand 52 Deck as a way to benefit ROAR (Restaurants Organizing, Advocating, and Rebuilding), which has been helping unemployed restaurant workers throughout the pandemic. A good cause and a fun stack of cards? Count us in.
Korean makgeolli from the only producer in the U.S.
Korean restaurants are well-represented in New York City, but sool — a catch-all term for Korean alcoholic beverages — has been slower to catch on. New to the scene this year is Hana Makgeolli, a Greenpoint taproom that also houses the country’s only producer of makgeolli. The milk-white fermented rice wine is available for local and national delivery in a handful of flavors: Its signature takju (16 percent ABV) is the cloudiest with a clean tropical taste, while the hwaju (12 percent ABV) is made by infusing the beverage with hydrangea and chrysanthemum flowers.
Porcelain plateware from a century-old Chinatown store
For generations, Wing On Wo & Co. has been selling enamel tea sets and porcelain from this storefront on Mott Street. The shop, which started as a general store in the 1890s, is the oldest operating business in Manhattan’s Chinatown and one of the last to specialize in Chinese porcelain. Now overseen by fifth-generation owner Mei Lum, Wing On Wo continues to sell hand-painted products at a variety of prices, including chopstick rests ($3), soup spoons ($5), and dinnerware ($25 to $45).
Recipes from one of NYC’s most popular Middle Eastern grocery stores
Sahadi’s, an institution on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn since 1948, comes alive with its comprehensive-yet-approachable cookbook Flavors of the Sun. Fans of Middle Eastern cuisine will find recipes incorporating ingredients the grocery store has become known for, like savory sumac to sprinkle on roast chicken, or creamy labneh perfect to complement any weeknight dinner.
Handmade flour tortillas for a homesick Texan
Newer arrivals to the city might not understand how good they have it, living at a time when one can walk into one of several restaurants and buy a package of flour tortillas to take home. We don’t mean the puffy, plaster-white version found at grocery stores, either; we’re talking about flour-dusted, roll-it-up-with-butter tortillas commonly found in the southwestern United States. Nab this coveted gift for a homesick Texan or a lifelong New Yorker who needs their faith in flour restored by calling ahead at Yellow Rose (East Village) to order a package for pickup, or messaging Border Town (Greenpoint) on Instagram for delivery to Greenpoint and Williamsburg.
A cookbook for various mushroom moods
Smallhold, New York’s first-ever indoor mushroom farm — which also supplies to restaurants like Maison Yaki — has put together its own cookbook. The farm tapped several New York-based chefs, including Woldy Reyes, Tara Thomas, and Bon Appétit senior food editor Christina Chaey, to develop their own mushroom-focused recipes for Mushrooms in the Middle, from a mushroom-filled bloody mary to a salted caramel shiitake mousse. This cookbook is a great pick for those looking for new ways to incorporate more fungi into their diet, or simply treat the book itself as a work of art worth flipping through.
Organic wines for parties and potlucks
Less-expensive natural wines have been all the rage in recent years — and rightfully so — even if they’re not always exactly affordable at Two-Buck Chuck prices. The newly released bottles of white, rosé, and red from Souleil incorporate some of the best low-intervention practices, such as using organically grown grapes. Whether it’s the vibrant Le Blanc with its citrusy notes, a dry pink wine for summer, or a balanced Le Rouge with enough body to pair with a steak, all these cheerily designed bottles range between $14 and $16. The founders, including a Franco-American New Yorker, give part of the proceeds to helping preserve oceans.
A magazine for cooking and eating enthusiasts
Amber Mayfield, the founder of NYC-based events company To Be Hosted, is an expert on the art of the dinner party. Last year, she parlayed those skills into While Entertaining, an annual magazine bursting with recipes and thoughtful essays on food and dining from Black food and beverage leaders from across the country. The 2021 edition of the magazine is chock full of features with industry heavyweights, including local stars like baker Lani Halliday, Gramercy Tavern sous chef Aretah Ettarh, Butterfunk Biscuit’s Chris Scott, and chef and food justice advocate Mavis-Jay Sanders.
Pastries that double as holiday table centerpieces
Post-Diwali order rush, chef Surbhi Sahni’s gold and silver-flecked mithai — bite-sized, sweet Indian confections — continue to be showstoppers for any type of holiday table. The treat assortments come in a variety of options, including nine- and 16-piece sets that can be made nut-free or vegan. The boxes are available to purchase online or on-site at Tagmo, Sahni’s Seaport District restaurant.
An essential addition to any condiment-lover’s shelf
Gloribelle Perez of East Harlem restaurant Barcha watched night after night as diners kept requesting extra sides of the kitchen’s harissa hot honey with their meals. At first, Perez worried that Barcha was undersaucing their dishes; turns out, customers simply wanted to dip just about everything in the tingly sweet-and-spicy condiment. Barcha has now bottled the sauce and sells it at the restaurant and online within the restaurant’s food delivery radius. Special jars for the holiday ($17.95) come in a red gift box with a honey wand for dipping, plus a recipe booklet listing ways that diners have used the harissa hot honey at home. To place online orders outside of Barcha’s delivery zone, email the restaurant directly.
Restaurant illustrations to hang at home
Do you miss the burger at Bar Sardine or the clam pizza at Franny’s in Brooklyn? Or maybe you have memories of Cosmopolitan-drenched nights at the Odeon or the heaping platter of keema mutter at Jackson Diner but you can’t remember the last time you dined at either spot? Artist John Donohue’s mission includes preserving the memories of restaurants — current favorites as well as those that have permanently closed — by sketching the facades of the city’s favorite dining establishments. He started off his project with New York in 2017 but has expanded to Paris and London in recent years. For those who want to pass on framing a limited-edition print, the former New Yorker editor-turned-artist also recently released A Table in Paris, a follow-up to his New York book.
A T-shirt to display ube doughnut pride
One of the hottest tickets in town this year was an order confirmation email from Filipino doughnut startup Kora. The wildly popular doughnuts still sell out in minutes every week, but Kora’s ube doughnut T-shirt is a little bit easier to snag. Kora sells the shirts — along with a selection of other merchandise, including black and beige caps — online anytime, and in-person for those lucky enough to secure a slot for doughnut box pickups.
The perfect bowls for East Fork Pottery fans
Prospect Heights ceramics studio Bklyn Clay is a community favorite, with pottery classes for all experience levels. But for those who’d like to leave clay-building to the experts, the team launched its first-ever in-house line of ceramic bowls, plates, and more in colors that run the gamut from saffron to celadon. Though this piece is referred to as a cereal bowl on the site, we think it’s well-suited for everything from chicken and dumplings to vegan adobo — at all times of day.