Like movie previews or Hendrix opening for the Monkees, sometimes the intro act can overshadow the main event. Such is the case with a really well-stocked stocking. We're particularly partial to the pre-tree practice because holiday stockings tend to be crammed full of loads of small but deliciously potent nibbles.
So, in honor of the one time of year where footwear makes for acceptable food storage, turn the page for a list of some of L.A.'s best edible stocking stuffers...
10. 8Fudge from Food + Lab
Cooked up in a small West Hollywood kitchen, this hand-made, small batch fudge gets its flavor base from a natural derivative of cane sugar, which is only sold in New Zealand. Perhaps the addition of this rare ingredient explains why this rich, hearty fudge is the least cloying we've had in years. Packets sell for $8.50 and are available in "Blonde" (butterscotch) and "Dark" (chocolate.)
9. Little Next Door's Poached Seasonal Fruit
A jar of seasonal poached fruits ($12) from Little Next Door simultaneously brings Old World Christmas and California freshness to your true love's stocking. We're especially enamored with the boozy spiced port wine poached figs or the earthy, herbal Muscat and rosemary figs.
8. Guava Paste from La Monarca Bakery
Just about any baked good from La Monarca would be welcome on our holiday table -- okay, on our table at any time. But these tart, toothsome cubes of ate de guayaba (small $2, large $7) made in Aguascalientes, Mexico are compact enough for the stocking and add a little bit of jelled fruit to Christmas without calling in the fruit cake.
7. Bakelab's Cupcake Decorating Kit
For those with the Sandra Lee impulse without the skills to back it up, Bakelab's holiday themed cupcake decorating kit ($12.95) comes with shiny cupcake liners, snowflake sprinkles, hand-stamped sugar buttons, and even teeny tiny deer figurines, to help you turn your boring cake mix cupcakes into a wintry tableau.
6. All Spice Cafe's Ghost Pepper Grinder
A gift for the naughty on your list, the punishingly hot flakes of incendiary bhut jolokia ghost pepper that emerge from this seemingly innocuous grinder make us cry -- but in a good way ($24.99)
5. J.J. Bakery's Pineapple Pastry
Not to be confused with the puffy pineapple bun, these little squares ($5 for 4) are Taiwanese kin to shortbread, filled with sticky, sweet pineapple paste. (2370 Crenshaw Blvd, Torrance; 310-328-6668)
Made up the road in Cayucos and sold at the counter at Oaks Gourmet Market, these pale golden disks -- crumbly, buttery, and with more than a hint of sea salt -- offer a dazzling grown up take of the Nilla Wafer ($4.95 for 6.)
3. Royal/T's Signature Milk Tea Blend
Because you need something to dunk all of these holiday pastries into. Aromatic, with a hint of sweetness from the mingling of vanilla, peach, and dried fruit (2 oz for $7.50,) the milk tea blend is a cup of cozy waiting to be brewed.
The Tickle-Me-Elmo of L.A.'s edible stocking stuffers, this must-have condiment cum dinner in a jar ($12), teeming with sweet caramelized onions and rich porky heft, flew off the tables at Artisanal L.A. It does have to be refrigerated though, so probably best to keep the stocking far from the fire.
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1. Monastery of Angels' Pumpkin Bread
Okay, so this moist but dense loaf might take up the majority of your stocking, but seriously, it's pumpkin bread made by nuns. It doesn't get more Christmassy than that. Plus it's delicious.