Heads up, kids! The holidays are basically here. And if you're like me, you're still scrambling to figure out what to get for that hard-to-please food-loving parent or friend. We've compiled a bunch of L.A.-based, food-themed gifts, all of them available to buy in a retail location so you don't have to worry about shipping times. Get on it!
5. Hedley & Bennett apron
If you're looking for a homegrown company to support, it's hard to resist the charms of Hedley & Bennett, even if at first you balk at the idea of a $100 apron. Founded just over four years ago by then–line cook Ellen Bennett, the company has grown into an insanely successful brand, all built on the idea that cooks should feel better and look better and have functional, beautiful tools beyond their chef's knives. Made at Hedley & Bennett's factory in Vernon with premium materials (such as Japanese denim) that have been tested for durability and comfort, the aprons really are beautiful, and they solve that ever-present issue of what to get the cooking enthusiast in your life who already has everything. Hedley & Bennett also makes chef coats and work shirts — the coats in particular are a revelation for women chefs, with the women's line being built specifically for a female body. You can even get the aprons and jackets embroidered to personalize the gift. (Available at various retail outlets as well as directly from the Hedley & Bennett factory, which has a shop that's open to the public.) hedleyandbennett.com.
4. Avocado Toast Christmas Ornament
This one isn't L.A.-specific, except for the fact that we probably eat more avocado toast per capita than anywhere else in the country. Besides, I couldn't resist: How silly is this thing? I found it at Sur la Table at the Americana at Brand, which also has a bunch of other food-related ornaments for sale: oysters on the half-shell, Brussels sprouts, hot dogs, deviled eggs, salami, sushi hand roll. But the avocado toast wins the day. surlatable.com.
3. Soda sampler from Galco's Old World Grocery
For some reason, probably having to do with its sugary bad reputation, the wide and weird world of soda has never become much of a foodie obsession. If there's any place that will change that for someone, it's Galco's Old World Grocery in Highland Park. Founded in 1897, the Italian grocery has, for the past 20 years or so, been a wonderland of soda, stocking a mind-blowing array of the rarest and coolest types of fizzy drinks. Absinthe soda, celery soda, cinnamon soda, every kind of ginger beer you can imagine, not just bitter lemon but also bitter orange … the choices are overwhelming. There's even a station where you can make soda with syrup and sparkling water, which would allow you to create a signature soda of your own for gifting purposes. But even just a collection of the coolest and weirdest sodas plucked from Galco's shelves would make a great gift. While you're there you can also shop the awesome beer selection for a self-gift (to reward yourself for your creativity and thoughtfulness). galcos.dreamhosters.com.
2. Gift basket from La Tiendita Mexicana
Gift baskets are OK if you're into chocolates and fancy crackers, but the options at La Tiendita Mexicana are far more interesting than your average William Sonoma collection of fancy things. The shop, which is next to chefs Jaime Martin Del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu's Bell restaurant, La Casita Mexicana, offers a number of gift baskets with a variety of Mexican products such as moles, candies and the ingredients and equipment to make Mexican hot chocolate. Even the most extravagant of them seems to cost far less than the smaller baskets you can buy from gourmet market–type places. And, as a bonus, there's a lot of Mexican folk art to buy in the shop as well, for the art or culture lover in your life. tienditamex.com.
1. Cookbooks from your favorite L.A. chefs
A great way to show family the riches of our dining city is to give them books from our great chefs. This was a banner year for cookbooks, and a couple of the best came from chefs right here in Los Angeles. Nancy Silverton's Mozza at Home and Jessica Koslow's Everything I Want to Eat are two of our favorites. Beyond new releases, the Gjelina cookbook already feels like a classic, as does Valerie Confections' Sweet for the baker on your list, and Tal Ronnen's Crossroads cookbook for your meat-free friends. All of these can be bought last-minute at the restaurants from which they sprang, which also cuts out the retailer and gives more of your dollars to the people who actually wrote the books.