The Epic Houston Food Finder List Of Holiday Gifts—Updated
The holiday season is in full swing. Are you looking for the perfect gift for the foodies in your life? Before heading to some anonymous box store, first consider this extensive list of products sold by Houston businesses. Many of the great ideas in this article are more creative, unusual and special than the norm.
This guide is the end product of suggestions we received from across the Houston Food Finder spectrum—from readers to the vendors themselves. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, many restaurants and food artisans were hit hard; some still haven’t financially recovered. Supporting the work they do in Houston right now is a great and generous thing. Whether you’re looking for gorgeous gift baskets, original olive oils, fine wines or cheeses, there is something for every taste in the epic list below.
A SPECIAL FOR HOUSTON FOOD FINDER READERS
VOM FASS Houston 2424 Rice: Sourcing oils, vinegars, spices and gourmet delights from around the world, this Rice Village spot offers unique and memorable items for even the finickiest of foodies. How about a selection of Indian spices? Or a pairing of Italian olive oils? Perhaps a basket with sauces, chutneys and syrups? “We have an extensive selection of gifts that fit any budget. We can also make custom sets and baskets with 72-hours notice,” says Vom Fass proprietor Brian Moorhead.
Houston Food Finder Reader Deal: $10 off any purchase of $50 or more. Valid in-store only; cannot be combined with any other promotion. Must mention Houston Food Finder to redeem. The discount is available through December 31, 2017.
Note to local vendors: if you’d also like to tempt in our readers with an extra incentive and would like to be considered for inclusion, please email us.
COOKING & FOOD GIFTS
Bee2Bee Honey Collective: Food doesn’t get more local than this. The group keeps hives all over Houston, including in Houston yards, suburbs and even on rooftops inside the 610 Loop. When the honey is harvested, the group identifies not only primary food sources for the bees (like lavender, for example) but which neighborhood the honey came from. The honeys are available online and most 10-ounce jars are $12; most four-ounce jars are $6. (Hello, stocking stuffers!) There are also honey-of-the-month clubs and some non-food gifts, including a necklace with a vial that holds one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey—the amount an average honeybee makes in its lifetime. Now that’s food for thought—and a conversation piece.
BrisketU: This business offers hands-on barbecue education, often at fun local breweries such as No Label, Town in City, 11 Below, Southern Star, Spindletap and Eureka Heights. For the holidays, BrisketU offers a gift set that includes a voucher for three classes (brisket, chicken and ribs), a 32-ounce bottle of rub mix and a beer glass. It all comes in a festive red box. According to the company, it’s a $275 value that is on sale as as set for $199. Place orders online by December 15 to ensure delivery by Christmas Eve.
Blue Heron Farm: Best known for its creamy, richly textured goat cheeses (as well as ridiculously cute photos of baby goats and foster puppies), Blue Heron also sells shelf-stable items that make great stocking stuffers. These include decadent cajeta, a caramel sauce made with goat milk ($7 plain, $8 bourbon-infused) and the brand-new hot pepper salts ($8). Find these at the Urban Harvest Farmers Market or the Rice Farmers Market. Before heading out, check Blue Heron’s market schedule online. Those aforementioned ridiculously cute baby goats are also featured in a 2018 calendar. It’s rather therapeutic; just looking at it takes the edge off of bustling city life.
burger-chan Teams Up With Houston Dairymaids, 5 Greenway Plaza: This is of special note for those who live or work near Greenway Plaza. Chef Willet and Diane Feng’s acclaimed burger shop is making it convenient for those nearby to pick up some awesome cheese assortments. These gift boxes include some of the Houston Dairymaids’ most popular, delectable and interesting cheeses. The trio box is $55 and includes Sweet Grass Dairy’s Double Cream Brie, Latte Da Dairy’s Goat’s Milk Gouda and Beehive Cheese’s Barely Buzzed. The big assortment is $90 and includes five cheeses: Mozzarella Co’s Hoja Santa, Revelation Artisan Cheese’s raw milk tomme, Roelli Cheese Haus’ Savory Aged Cheddar, Sweet Grass Dairy’s Double Cream Brie and Point Reyes’ Bay Blue. Orders must be received by December 8 and can be placed online at the burger-chan website or in person. Boxes will be ready for pick up on December 13 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. If this isn’t convenient or you miss the dates, you can always visit the Houston Dairymaids store at 2201 Airline or order directly from their website. Updated 12/6/2017, 8:53 a.m. to reflect order and pickup deadline extensions.
Cuchara, 214 Fairview: Any diner who has eaten at Cuchara has seen the bold art of Cecilia Beaven (sister of owner Ana Beaven). Houstonians can put her work on the walls of their own homes or offices, as a selection of character depictions are for sale at the Cuchara Market website. In addition, the online shop has many low-cost, artisan gifts from Mexico that even a penny-pincher will find hard to resist. Those include enameled spoons, woven baskets and gourmet infused salt sprays for those who want to cut back on the sodium (or just add more flavor). For those who prefer to visit in-person (and grab lunch or dinner at the same time) the restaurant always has a wide selections of interesting, colorful and useful wares for sale.
Erin Hicks’ Cookbooks: Cookbook author (and lover of fine bubbles) Erin Hicks has made it a mission to help home cooks re-create some of the signature dishes of top Houston chefs. For the holidays, two of her cookbooks—Houston Small Plates & Sips, and her newest, Houston Soups & Sips—are on sale for $19.95, which is $5 less than normal retail price. (Read our article on Houston Soups & Sips for an in-depth look.) The special price is only available online on Hicks’ website and the books can be shipped directly to the recipient. (This seems like a perfect gift for an expatriate Houstonian.) These, as well as other titles, are also available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. For those in a hurry (or who want to see the cookbooks in person), they can be purchased at Siphon Coffee, Helen Greek Food and Wine. Bering’s Hardware and VOM FASS. (So, you could go to VOM FASS and get not only a cookbook but the special reader discount listed above, too. We call that smart multitasking.)
The Grateful Bread: Long a fixture at the Urban Harvest Eastside Farmers Market at 300 Richmond, the stand features proprietor Al Marcus’ outstanding alderwood smoked cheese, handmade sausages and vanilla extracts (both a vodka- and a rum-based, which are great stocking stuffers for cooks). His biggest claim to fame, though, is his maple-smoked bacon. Packed in big hunks and studded with black peppercorns and other spices, customers can slice it to the width of their liking at home. Many call it the best bacon in Houston and we can’t argue with that. Can’t make it to the farmers market? The Grateful Bread has an online order page (product menu is on the left) and free delivery is offered within the city on orders of $50 or more.
HIVE Bee Farm: This new company is selling local honey as well as the best byproducts of beekeeping. Those include “honey squares,” which is essentially a box of honeycomb with a twist. The unique aspect is that the container is incorporated into the hive, so the bees build the honeycomb directly in the box. This reduces human interference and the need for extra handling of the honeycomb. Honey squares can be purchased online for $20 each. HIVE also sells a six-piece box of chocolate-dipped honeycomb (which are like little bon bons) for $10 and beeswax candles in a variety of shapes and sizes. Owner Sandra Murray says the fastest way to order is to call (713) 419-9323 or send a message via Facebook or email. Pickups can be arranged in the Garden Oaks area (including at the St. Rose of Lima holiday market on December 2) and deliveries are available inside the 610 Loop. Honey squares and candles are also for sale at Artisana Bakery at 965 Pinemont.
Hot Line Pepper Products: This Spring producer makes a variety of hot sauces sure to add some sass to the holiday table. Selections include the Evil Ooze, a combination of fire-roasted habanero chiles & jalapenos that will kick up any tomato-based dish; and the flavorful, slightly tamer Garlicky Greengo with roasted jalapenos and tomatillos. No matter what palate you’re trying to please, Hot Line has the right peppers sauce for it. When ordering online, use promo code HOT17 and save 20 percent.
Hugo’s, 1600 Westheimer and Caracol, 2200 Post Oak Blvd: For the chocoholic on your list, grab this gorgeous $60 gift basket. It includes a signed copy of James Beard Award-winning chef Hugo Ortega’s Street Food of Mexico cookbook; a house-made chocolate tablet (perfect for making Mexican hot chocolate or mole sauce); a molinillo (a traditional Mexican turned wood whisk used to mix and froth hot beverages) and two mugs in which to enjoy your Hugo’s Mexican hot chocolate.The basket can be purchased in-person at the restaurants or online. (Scroll to the bottom of the purchase page for the gift set.) Order before December 19 for delivery by Christmas Day. Local orders can be picked up at the restaurants, but advance notice is needed for orders of 5 or more.
Old Country Olive Oil: Owner and native Houstonian Rita Joubran has one batch of olive oil pressed each year from her family’s groves in Lebanon. The result is an artisan-quality, cold pressed, unrefined oil that’s been produced for more than a decade. It’s perfect for anyone who loves cooking with handcrafted products. Joubran also donates $5 of every bottle sold to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Order one-liter or half-liter bottles online. There are also soaps made with the olive oil, which would make nice stocking stuffers.
Phoenicia Specialty Foods, 12141 Westheimer and 1001 Austin: Foodies know Phoenicia as a global bazaar, its aisles packed with high-quality imported foods from Albania to Zimbabwe. Cheeses, fine wines, house-made Mediterranean specialties, fresh breads and exotic fruit can always been found at the outpost’s two locations. For the holidays, there’s all manner of great gift ideas, including a stunning copper kettle and painted Moroccan tea glasses offered with a selection of Phoenicia’s specialty teas. Kitchen gadgets, Georgian wines in richly detailed clay vessels and Phoenicia’s trademark classic baklava or pecan baklava gift boxes are just some of other fantastic foodie finds available.
Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen, 6401 Woodway and 1140 Eldridge: Tex-Mex fans who also love to cook will likely be delighted with this assortment of kitchen goodies, all neatly tucked in a 1.5-quart stainless steel bowl. Included is a signed copy of Sylvia Caesares’ The Enchilada Queen Cookbook, a molcajete (Mexican-style mortar and pestle), a large jar of whole cumin and black peppercorns (for making one of Caesares’ favorite spice mixtures), and a colorful dish towel sewn by Caesares’ herself. The cost of all these items is only $55 plus tax. (Available at both restaurant locations and in the link above).
GIFT CARD DEALS
Maybe you’re pressed for time, perhaps you want something foolproof or maybe you simply know your co-worker’s favorite restaurant. Whatever the holiday need, it’s hard to go wrong with gift cards. All of the restaurants in our list below are offering special deals to make your money go farther.
Free Beer With $25 Gift Card Purchase
Axelrad, 1517 Alabama: In one of the most novel gift card promotions, the popular midtown bar is giving away a free canned beer to anyone (21 and up, of course) who buys a $25 gift card. The choice is any on their “bucket list” of options. It’s a great excuse to go “shopping”!
$5 Gift Card Free With $25 Gift Card Purchase
- Antone’s Famous Po’ Boys, 4520 San Felipe and 2724 West T.C. Jester
- Le Peep Houston, five locations: Receive a $5 voucher for every $25 gift card purchased.
$10 Gift Card Free With A $50 Gift Card Purchase
- Alicia’s Mexican Grille, four locations
- Backstreet Cafe, : Gift cards can be purchased at the restaurant or online, and can be mailed or delivered electronically.
- Big Horn BBQ,2300 Smith Ranch, Pearland
- Caracol, 2200 Post Oak: Gift cards can be purchased at the restaurant or online, and can be mailed or delivered electronically.
- Dario’s Steakhouse and Seafood, 14315 Cypress Rosehill
- d’Vine Wine Bar, 25202 Northwest Freeway
- Galiana’s Bakery and Cafe, 24110 Northwest Freeway
- Hanan’s Cafe, 25282 Northwest Fwy, Cypress
- Harold’s Restaurant & Tap Room, 350 West 19th: The promotion runs from Friday, November 24 through December 31, and the $10 free cards can be used anytime in 2018.
- Hugo’s, 1600 Westheimer:
- Marvino’s Italian Kitchen, 24002 Northwest Freeway
- The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation, 2704 Navigation: Gift cards can be bought at the restaurant or online.
- Xochi, 1777 Walker: Gift cards can be purchased at the restaurant or online, and can be mailed or delivered electronically.
$20 Gift Card Free With $100 Gift Card Purchase
- Américas: Purchase at the restaurant or online. Free $20 card is redeemable January 2 through July 31, 2018.
- Artista: Purchase at the restaurant or online. (Note that this restaurant is closing next year.)
- Churrascos: Purchase at the restaurant or online.
Kata Robata,: Starting December 1, 2017, for every $100 in gift cards purchased, the buyer will receive a complimentary $20 gift card to give as a gift or use themselves. The $20 bonus card will be good for use starting January 1, 2018.
Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen, 6401 Woodway and 1140 Eldridge: Starting after Thanksgiving, purchase $100 in gift cards and receive a complimentary $25 gift card that can be used 24 hours after receipt.
SWEETS FOR THE SWEET
Bizzibi Baklava: Owner Tracy Hamblin is a local baker who makes her baklava with local honey and pecans in a commercial kitchen. During the holidays, she sells it at Central City Co-Op every Wednesday and at the East End Street Market on Sundays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If neither of those two spots work, or for larger orders, call Hamblin at (832) 790-1935. It’s available with or without a chocolate drizzle and in vegan or organic versions. A tray of 24 pieces of the regular kind is $50, but smaller quantities are available, too. Call for details.
Cacao & Cardamom, 5000 Westheimer: Annie Rupani’s gourmet chocolate shop combines sweet and savory flavors for stunning results. On offer this holiday is an assortment of house-made chocolate with selections such as cherry cordial, cranberry rosemary, peppermint, pumpkin pie and sage. Beautifully presented and packaged, they’re almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
Central Market, 3815 Westheimer: It’s easy to get lost amid the wealth of potential foodie gifts at Central Market, but this one is a good start. Check out Fudge Kitchen’s premium fudge, brittles and caramels. These gourmet products are made in the UK, but this Texas-grown market brings them close to home. The slim boxes that the fudges come in slip easily into Christmas stockings, too.
Eat My Pralines: We interviewed local candy maker Becca Reyenga earlier this year about her Houston-based praline business. Since then, she’s added Pecan Orange and Pumpkin Spice pralines to her holiday repertoire. “The Pecan Orange has orange zest and sort of lights up your mouth! The Pumpkin Spice is buttery with nutmeg, cinnamon and almonds,” she says. All flavors can be ordered online. A half-dozen is $15 and a full-dozen is $30. Gift packaging is available, including custom messages on tags and various ribbon colors. Eat My Pralines also sells bourbon balls and bread pudding made with bits of praline, both of which also sound perfect for this festive season.
Etoile Cuisine et Bar, 1101-11 Uptown Park: Chef Philippe Verpiand is selling his handmade truffles for the holidays, in a rotating variety of flavors (usually 3 to 4 in a package). The cost is $24 for a dozen ($20 if pre-ordered.) Call (832) 668-5808 for more information.
Latin Bites, 5709 Woodway: The Galleria restaurant has an online shop that features a variety of housemade cookies. Choose a dozen, dulce de leche-filled Alfajores cookies for $14 or select the a box of three, big chocolate-covered marshmallows ornately adorned as Christmas trees for $10. Business gift-givers can even get their company logo printed in edible ink on iced cookies for $5 each. Visit the order page for other selections and more information.
MerryMuffins, 560 Chimney Rock: For a healthy hostess gift or a guilt-free treat, order a Sunshine Sampler. (The company says its products are lower than most in fat, sugar and calories.) The $50 package includes a half-dozen of sweet muffins, two jumbo savory meal muffins, two jumbo protein cookies, five protein balls and a bag of granola or snack mix. A larger gift option is available for $100 with twice as many muffins, protein cookies and protein balls. Orders may be placed via email or by calling (832) 986-5537.
Ooh La La, 770 W. Sam Houston Pkwy; 23920 Westheimer Pkwy, Katy and 20155 Park Row, Katy: The popular sweet shop has two new holiday macaron flavors to usher in the season. Choose from eggnog or gingerbread. $2.25 each or $27/dozen. — Updated November 30, 2017.
Picnic, 1928 Bissonnet: The Rice Village restaurant offers a big variety of housemade sweet and savory treats perfect for gift-giving. Just to name a few: the Holiday Favorites dessert tray for $20, which includes bite-sized brownies, lemon squares and more, would make a welcome addition to a party table. On the other hand, the $26 gallon gift tin filled with rosemary-Parmesan crackers, spicy roasted pecans, chocolate covered sunflower seeds, and cranberry-pecan toast can satisfy the snacking instincts of a crowd. The bourbon pecan pie is reportedly hard to resist, too. Shipping is available for an additional fee.
Rainbow Lodge, 2011 Ella: Part of the appeal of this spacious, hunting lodge-style restaurant is its big fireplaces and overall comfort. It’s holiday gift lets guests have some of that comfort at home. It’s a big mug with the Rainbow Lodge logo stuffed full of Godiva cocoa, truffles and other goodies. It sells for $20 and is the only excuse anyone needs for curling up under a blanket with a good book. Visit the restaurant to purchase or call (713) 861-8666 to inquire about shipping. Added 11/29/2017, 11:35 a.m.
Wine, Beer & Spirits
Central Market, 3815 Westheimer: What are the holidays without a little sparkle? Find a range of sparkling and other wine styles for holiday celebrations—or to give away as host or hostess gifts—in Central Market’s expansive wine inventory. Russ, Galo, Sharon, Kyle, Joseph and the rest of the wine team can help find the perfect taste profile and price point. Two sparklers to check out include the Henriot Prism ($44.95) and the Mionetto Winemaker’s Edition Prosecco ($13.95), both exclusive to Central Market.
Saint Arnold Brewing Company, 2000 Lyons: Houston’s original craft brewery is offering the ultimate gift for local beer fanatics. First off, plans are underway for a new beer garden and restaurant. Founder Brock Wagner says in a statement, “This will be a restaurant and beer garden open seven days a week on the property next door to our brewery. We will showcase all of our beers including special barrels and beers under development. The beer garden will have an amazing view of the downtown skyline. It will be a place to be enjoyed year-round.” To support this endeavor, the company is offering a limited number of Saint Arnold Society memberships. The cost is $1,000, but the membership is valid for the rest of the recipient’s life. The benefits include a free Saint Arnold’s beer on every visit, a handmade pewter mug valued at $150 and engraved with the Saint Arnold logo (which will be kept at the beer garden for the owner’s use), a membership card and VIP perks like a construction tour and special grand opening party. More details and the purchase link are online.
Sonoma Wine Bar. Photo courtesy of Sonoma Wine Bar.
Sonoma Wine Bar, 2720 Richmond and 801 Studewood: Sonoma sources great wines from around the world—many from small grower-producers. That has made the wine bar a must-visit for Houston oenophiles. For Small Business Saturday on Nov. 26, get 30 percent off the regular retail rate when you buy a bottle of wine—for yourself or for a gift. Pony up for a mixed case and the discount increases to 40 percent off. What better excuse to give and receive?
Yellow Rose Distilling,1224 North Post Oak: The brand has developed a reputation as carefully crafted Texas whiskey and its holiday gift set is a thing of beauty. This year’s offering is $29.99 and includes a bottle of Yellow Rose Blended Whiskey, branded dice and playing cards. The cards also have cocktail recipes printed on them, so the set is perfect for at-home bartenders. Find it at the Yellow Rose tasting room or well-stocked liquor stores like Spec’s.