Holiday gifts for food-centric friends are tricky. You want something unique that isn't already lining their overstuffed kitchen cabinets. Sure, those Paula Deen silicone spatulas from Target are tempting, if only for the gift card fun (suggestions on what/who to swat when your friends have had their fill of the Food Network). On second thought, swatting at the Southern diva could result in more Rose Parade riots.
Instead, we suggest hitting your neighborhood museum shop for truly unique kitchen gifts. Sure, there are mugs, lots and lots of mugs, at most of these museum shops. But we also found some great, truly unique products. Noodle “manners” bowls, angelfish-shaped colanders, Abbey fruitcake, even a rather promiscuous apron. Plus, the proceeds go to a local nonprofit rather than a wealthy Southern diva. Turn the page for our Top Ten Local Museum Food Gifts. Eleven, actually, because we just couldn't bear to leave out James Buchanan again this year.
11. MOCA: Yes, we've seen the Andy Warhol image more times than we've actually had Campbell's soup, but this mug ($20) comes in a cool box so you don't have to wrap it.
10. Ronald Reagan Museum: It's hard to get more unique that pick-your-President china. Whether they're a tacky gift or the epitome of good taste depends on your view of American politics. Nonetheless, we suggest George Washington's gold monogrammed cup and saucer ($58) for your patriotic grandma and plates ($45) from James Buchanan, who seems to wind up as No. 1 on most of those worst-Presidents-in-history lists, for that subtle jab at the in-laws (with its sweet pink pattern, they'll never guess).
9. Huntington Museum: If you're going all-out homemade this year (we are, hence those Twelve Days of Cookies recipes we're handing out this month), but feel that nagging need to buy a little something to go along with your shortbread, this orange marmalade ($7) is made from the orange trees that have been on the estate since Henry Huntington bought the property more than 100 years ago.
7. Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels: The Cathedral's shop has a small but well-edited selection of food gifts, like this $8 creamed honey made by Cistercian Sisters of Redwood Abbey and a $36 rum-soaked Abbey fruitcake made by Trappist monks. Combine either with A Taste of Heaven: A Guide to Food and Drink Made by Monks and Nuns and consider your holy holiday duties complete.
6. Fowler Museum at UCLA: Our current favorites of the Fowler Museum store's ever-changing selection of handmade gifts are these hand carved elephant mugs from Mozambique ($32) and the dog and cow ceramic salt and pepper shakers ($8 a pair, photo on first page).
5. Getty Museum: No time to bake? These $22 plates are covered in pastry designs by Los Angeles artist Joanne Callis. Calorie free cream puffs… though actually, we're pretty keen on those calories.
4. Santa Monica Museum of Art: No gift card required. These $18 Noodle “manners” bowls (“slurping is encouraged”) and $16 chopsticks (“Don't bite off more than you can chew”) from the Santa Monica Museum of Art shop say it all.
3. Norton Simon Museum: What happens when a cookbook designer and chef get together to write a book? The Geometry of Pasta Book ($25), nearly 300 pages of black and white graphic patterns based on pasta shapes. Yes, you can buy it on Amazon. But the ones at the Norton Simon Museum shop go to a much better cause.
2. Pasadena Museum of History: Even better than composting. Local artist Damon Siples picks up scraps from trimmed branches and fallen trees in Southern California and turns them into these hand-carved, food-safe bowls ($15 to $35) available at the Pasadena Museum of History.
1. LACMA Museum: Does anyone really need another apron? Probably not. But this one with an image of a 19th century sculpture in the museum's collection is pretty hilarious. It “ties approximately 26-inches long.” Or so we're told in the product description, as we actually haven't seen if those apron strings really as long as the museum claims.