5 Fool-Proof Gift Ideas From L.A. Weekly Critic Besha Rodell

Sqirl jam makes a great gift.
Sqirl jam makes a great gift.
Anne Fishbein

This is my fourth holiday season in Los Angeles, and I've gotten my local gift game down to an art of sorts. There are now a few things I turn to for almost all my L.A. gift-giving needs, for Christmas or weddings or anything else. Here are my five most trustworthy ideas for great gifts of the edible and drinkable variety, as well as implements to help your giftee eat, drink and cook. 

5 Fool-Proof Gift Ideas From L.A. Weekly Critic Besha Rodell (2)
B. Rodell

5. Vintage glassware
I am a sucker for cocktail and glassware from the '30s, '40s and '50s, and in part because my own collection is ridiculously huge, I've turned my purchasing lust to gifts for others. A set of beautiful juice glasses (I like a mismatched collection as much as a matching set) or a cocktail shaker with matching glasses makes a wonderful gift for anyone but the strictest modernist. To make a day of it — and get a good deal — I'd head down to Long Beach, where some of the best antique stores in SoCal are located. You can wander Fourth Street, also known as Retro Row. Or you can dive into the more intense (and less curated) world of antique malls along the PCH. If just want something fabulous, money be damned, you can head to Barkeeper in Silver Lake, where they've done the digging for you.

2. Sqirl Jam Club
My love for Sqirl is well-documented, and I love owner Jessica Koslow's jams almost as much as I love her Kokuho Rose rice bowls. Made with seasonal fruit (in flavors such as black mission fig and red wine, or blackberry and lemon verbena) and usually with far more pucker than the too-sweet jam at the supermarket,  these jams are great for everything from topping for an English muffin to smearing into home-baked pastries. You can sign up for "jam club," which is a four- to 12-month subscription that will get you a new jam monthly. It's a great gift for the baker or jam enthusiast in your life. sqirl.myshopify.com. 

3. Magnum of wine from Lou 
Wine as a gift, particularly super fun and geeky wine, is always so appreciated. What's more fun or geekier than a magnum of esoteric French Burgundy? Lou Amdur at Lou's Wine Shop is always happy to talk you through your options, whether for gifting or drinking yourself, and right now he has a few things that would make fine gifts. A magnum of Julien Guillot's Clos des Vignes du Maynes ($84) comes with a cool story, per Amdur: "[It's] from an historic Burgundian vineyard planted with all of the old, traditional grape varieties that used to be commonly planted in Burgundy before the vineyards were replanted with a monoculture of pinot noir." He also has a few bottles of D'Oliveira Terrantez Madeira from 1971 ($249), which would be an amazing gift for anyone interested in fortified wines or disappearing grape varietals (terrantez used to be common in Portugal and especially in the making of Madeira but is almost extinct on the island today). Lou Wine Shop, 1911 Hillhurst Ave., Los Feliz; (323) 305-7004, louwineshop.com. 

4. OpenTable gift card
Did you know that OpenTable sells gift cards? You can choose to specify a particular restaurant (though if you're tempted by this option, I'd first check to see if you can get a gift certificate directly from the restaurant) or let the recipient choose which restaurant they'd like to go to. You could even fill it up with a bunch of money and let them eat at a bunch of restaurants. Not all eateries are partnered with OpenTable, of course, but it is a pretty huge pool to choose from in any major city in America. gifts.opentable.com.

Yoshihiro knife
Yoshihiro knife
B. Rodell

1. Yoshihiro Knife
A few years ago my husband gave me one of these knives for Christmas, and I can't tell you how much it's changed my cooking life. Maybe I'm shallow, but just the thought of picking up something so beautiful makes me more likely to want to cook in the first place. It inspires me in much the same way gorgeous produce does. The look and feel of the knife are so goddamned sexy, it makes me excited about the mechanics of cooking in a way no other utensil ever has. These are beautiful, hand-crafted Japanese knives sold in a storefront in Beverly Hills, and they offer both traditional Japanese knives and knives with more Western-style handles. They come in a variety of styles and blades. I've been to the store myself to buy knives as gifts for other people, and the service is wonderful. 9775 Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310)777-0227, echefknife.com. Knives start at about $100. 

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