The Houston Food Finder 2021 Holiday Gift Guide
‘Tis the season for gifting, eating — and eating gifts. If one or more of these activities is on your to-do list, let our suggestions for worthy, locally made Houston products give you a leg up. There are sweet treats, savory sauces, combo packs and enticing deals on gift cards for enjoying now and later.
Pick up special additions for stockings, get a thank-you present for a gracious party host or hostess, or buy a gift card to show appreciation to mail carriers, coworkers and other essential people in your life. You’ll also be supporting local Houston businesses. Happy Holidays!
Cooking & Food Gifts
Brennan’s of Houston, 3300 Smith: The signature Chef’s Table experience will ensure a memorable meal for any foodie on your list. Wine, dine and take in the action with a view of the kitchen, and enjoy a completely new perspective on how your food is prepared. It is available during every dining period Wednesdays through Saturdays, with the exception of holidays. The Chef’s Table can be reserved for 4 to 10 adults and costs $73 per person for brunch or lunch and $95 per person for dinner. Add wine pairings for additional charge. Make reservations by calling (713) 522-9711, and visit the website for more information.
Guests at this Midtown mainstay are also given a family-recipe praline on the way out the door after every meal, but you don’t have to visit to bring these beloved sweets into your home. The classic, New Orleans-style, melt-in-your-mouth pralines are available packed in gold gift boxes at the restaurant or for online order and delivery nationwide. A dozen is $24.99 plus shipping. Learn more about the history of Brennan’s pralines in this video from Alex Brennan-Martin.
Cacao & Cardamom, 5000 Westheimer: Delight recipients with handcrafted chocolates in a dizzying array of colors and flavors from chocolatier Annie Rupani. Bars and bite-sized treats, such as mendiants and dragees, start at $9.99 and are available in Pecan Dulcey, Passionfruit Tajin, Salted Caramel, Strawberry Pop-Rocks and Strawberry-Passion Macadamia. The Holiday Petite Sampler is a lovely accompaniment to any gift and costs $16.
All cookbook descriptions are by David Leftwich, associate editor.
Chris Shepherd: In the introduction to his cookbook, James Beard Award-winning Houston chef Chris Shepherd (UB Preserve, Georgia James, One Fifth, Hay Merchant), gives some good advice on how to approach these diverse stories: “I admit, my first instinct was to be proud of myself for ‘discovering’ these spots [independent restaurants primarily serving the food of immigrants] … But I realized that there’s a distinction between ‘discovering’ and learning. Reality check: I wasn’t ‘discovering’ anything because these communities and restaurants had been thriving long before I ever showed up.” Shepherd shares the stories of the real heroes behind the dishes. In the brief descriptions before the recipes and in a handful of longer features, we learn about people such as Jacklyn Pham and and her father Long who own Saigon Pagolac, Lawrence and Noi Allen who own and operate Asia Market, Heesuck Ko at Kong Ju Rice Bakery, and the Patel family from London Sizzler.
Francine Spiering: Houston Cooks: Recipes from the City’s Favorite Restaurants and Chefs by Francine Spiering. In her first cookbook, Francine Spiering, editor of Edible Houston, shares stories and recipes from 40 of Houston’s top chefs. From Himalaya’s Kaiser Lashkari to Mala Sichuan’s Cori Xiong, Felix Flores and Jessica DeSham of Cherry Block and Fadi Dimassi of Fadi’s Mediterranean Grill, the chefs represent a cross section of the Bayou City’s diverse dining scene.
Ford Fry: Border by Ford Fry and Jessica Dupuy: Chef and James Beard Award semifinalist restaurateur Ford Fry, who owns Superica, La Lucha and State of Grace, grew up in Houston before moving to Atlanta in 2007. Like many families in the Bayou City, his dined out on queso, fajitas and enchiladas at legendary Tex-Mex establishments such as the now-closed Felix Mexican Restaurant (the most popular location is currently home to Uchi) and Armandos. He’s now co-authored a cookbook with Jessica Dupuy that’s simply titled, “Tex-Mex.”
To learn about more Houston cookbooks published in recent years — such as The Enchilada Queen Cookbook by Sylvia Casares, Hugo’s Ortega’s Street Food of Mexico, by Hugo and Rueben Ortega, Julep: Southern Cocktails Refashioned by Alba Huerta and Marah Stets and Paulie’s: Classic Italian Cooking in the Heart of Houston’s Montrose District by Paul Petronella — check out this cookbook roundup by editor Ellie Sharp.
Dish Society, multiple locations: Coffee fiends will want to join the Dish Society Mug Club, which includes free coffee on every visit. Purchase the insulated travel mug adorned with a Dish Society logo for $34, and bring it in to score the complimentary coffee fills. Buy at any of the restaurant’s six area locations.
Dozier’s BBQ, 8222 Farm to Market 359: This area icon has served locals its signature ‘cue since 1957. These days, fans can have selections shipped virtually anywhere in the country thanks to a partnership with Williams-Sonoma. Dozier’s BBQ Brisket and BBQ Sauce is $129.95. The 2-pound, 12-ounce pack includes sliced brisket and Ed’s BBQ Sauce. Order by noon on December 21 for delivery by Christmas. There is no in-store pickup at Williams-Sonoma.
DR Delicacy, 4120 Directors Row Suite A: Give the gourmand in your life a delectable holiday with luxurious food gifts at price points for every budget. (Really!) Find goodies under $15 or splurge on items well past $100. Cross off everyone on your list including friends, family, bosses and more. Choose from an assortment of specialty products such as tender cuts of meat, fresh and dried mushrooms, luxurious caviar, desserts and sundry accompaniments such as oils and vinegars and even truffle-scented candles! Purchase online as well as in-store Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. Call (713) 303-3503 for more information.
Molina’s Cantina, multiple locations: Tuck into as many tamales as your tummy can hold, and give the rest away! Get Classic Pork Tamales made with chili-laced braised pork for $11.95 per dozen ($2 off regular price). The deal is good through December 31. Allow 24-hours notice for large orders and call your nearest location to order.
For a quick pick, snag some customer-favorite Zesty Seasoned Salt to add a savory-and-spicy kick to fajitas, burgers, popcorn and more. It is $7.95 per bottle.
Hungry for more? Check out Staci Davis’ roundup of tamales across Houston.
Pier 6 Seafood & Oyster House, 113 6th Street, San Leon: The perfect host or hostess gift just might be a Champagne & oyster shucking kit from Pier Six. This family-run offshoot from oyster company Prestige Oysters is famous for its fresh seafood, quality service and stunning waterfront setting. Choose from four options, or go a la carte. The following “Deck” combinations are available through December 30 and can be ordered by calling 281-339-1515.
- Deck One includes one bottle of Dom Perignon, two Champagne flutes, one dozen Prestige oysters, caviar, shucking knife, cutting glove and two oyster forks for $300.
- Deck Two includes one bottle of Veuve Clicquot – Yellow Label Brut, two Champagne flutes, Veuve Clicquot apron, one dozen Prestige oysters, caviar, shucking knife, cutting glove and two oyster forks for $160.
- Deck Three includes a choice of four mini Chandon bottles, two Champagne flutes, one dozen Prestige oysters, shucking knife, cutting glove and two oyster forks for $60.
- Deck Four includes an Oyster Roasting Kit of one dozen Prestige oysters, oyster shucking kit (Pier 6 shucking board, shucking knife, cutting glove and two oyster forks) and choice of six-ounce roasting topping (Rockefeller, Bienville, Hot Blooded, Prestige, Blue Crab) for $85.
- A La Carte: Make your own collection from one dozen oysters ($12), caviar ($40), Dom Perignon ($250), Veuve Clicquot ($75), Chandon mini ($10), pr Oyster Shucking Kits: Pier 6 shucking board, cutting glove, shucking knife and two oyster forks ($60).
Add in fun apparel such as the new Pier 6 logo hoodies and trucker hats. The sweatshirt is $45 and has “OYSTERS” displaced on the back, and the logo trucker hat is $30.
Phat Eatery, 23119 Colonial Parkway: Combine a gift for now with a gift for later from this Malaysian street food favorite in Katy. Pick up an Insulated Cup for $20, Cap for $30 or T-Shirt for $25 to pair with gift cards. Spend $100 in gift cards and get a $20 card.
Phoenicia Specialty Foods, 12141 Westheimer and 1001 Austin: Shopping at this family-owned grocery store-meets-gourmet-kitchen-shop is an adventure every time — and a little bit of a global vacation too, if we’re being honest. Whether you’re looking for small treats and trinkets to fill stockings, or heftier goods such as serving dishes, wine glasses, tea kettles and accessories, wooden cutting boards, pots and pans or unique cookware, there is plenty from which to choose. Tasty fare includes specialty wines, cigars, chocolates and sweets, baked goods, cheeses, nuts & snacks, coffees and more. Both locations feature dining options, too, (MKT BAR downtown and the Phoenicia Coffee Shop on Westheimer), so you can fuel up before, take a breather during or replenish your energy after your shopping spree.
Urban Eats, 3414 Washington: Knock out nearly everyone on your list at this one-stop cafe plus gourmet goods market in the Washington Corridor. Choose from ready-to-go baked treats such as cookies, brownies and cupcakes, or pick up an assortment of imported and local products to create a custom gift basket. Look for olive oils, chocolates, vinegars, cheeses, pastas, and much more from local and favorite producers such as Drink Modern Vintage, Lone Star Bee. Company, Java Pura, Trishnna Tea, Salsa Maya, Bravado Spice, Klein Bros and Olive Scaciati. No time to play Santa? Let Urban Eats do the heavy lifting. Email to order a custom combination and visit the gift guide page for more information.
There are meal bundles, too; great for planning ahead for a more relaxed holiday. Try the Biscuits and Prosecco special, which includes six housemade Buttermilk Biscuits, a six-ounce jars each of housemade Bacon Jalapeño Jam and Strawberry Prosecco Jam and one bottle of Stellina Di Notte Prosecco. It costs $42, or omit Prosecco for $28. Place New Year’s Orders by 3 p.m. December 23 for pickup before 8 p.m. December 30.
Bee2Bee Honey Collective, 281-845-4069: Fans and businesses swarm for the hyper-local honey produced in hives throughout Houston’s Inner Loop, and collected by a dedicated company founded by Nicole Buergers (you can learn more about her work here). Purchase jars labeled with the neighborhood in which the honey was created, along with tasting notes. Sizes and prices vary by flavor, but generally start at $4 and go to $25 with a choice of two, four, 10 and 20-ounce jars in flavors such as Houston Wildflower, Cardamom-Infused and Raspberry Creamed. Alternative gifts include the honey-of-the-month club, Moisturizing Balm ($6), and gift cards starting at $20.
BrisketU: The Certified Backyard Pitmaster is a three-hour class covering all the essentials to turn out delicious meats every time. Reap the benefits of a hands-on barbecue education for years to come! Order the BBQ Pitmaster Gift Pack that includes a class voucher, heavy-duty apron and spice rub mix for $149.
Blue Heron Farm: In addition to its locally famous goat cheese, Blue Heron also sells pantry items great for stocking stuffers. Rich cajeta, a caramel sauce made with goat milk is $10 for plain or bourbon-infused, and hot pepper salts are $9. The former kicks up ice cream sundaes a few notches, while the latter is at home in soups, sauces, salads and more. Find these online and at the Urban Harvest Farmers Market.
HIVE Bee Farm: Find local honey, candles and more from this Heights honey house that also partners with a number of Houston-area businesses with honey products and ingredients. The seasonal Hive Honey Holiday Bundle is $30 and includes local raw honey, handmade honey mango soap and hand rolled beeswax candles. Visit the Facebook page or call (713) 419-9323 or email for more information. Find them in person at the Urban Harvest Farmers Market Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon, or at these area businesses.
Hot Line Pepper Products: Bring some heat to your holiday spread with hot sauces from Spring producer Kerry Stessel. These flavorful condiments can please every palate from the mild-mouths to the fire-fiends with seven selections such as Evil Ooze, a combination of fire-roasted habanero chiles & jalapeños, Garlicky Greengo with roasted jalapeños and tomatillos (editor/publisher Phaedra Cook’s favorite), sweet-spicy Pineapple Paradise and Scorching Scorpion made with some of the hottest chiles around. The holiday Build Your Own 4-Bottle Pack is on sale for $39.99 (normally $51.96). All a la carte options are also on sale. Visit the website for the full selection.
Gift Card Deals
$5 Gift Card Free with $25 Gift Card Purchase
Molina’s Cantina, multiple locations: Now through December 24, for every $25 gift card purchase, receive a bonus $5 gift card. Bonus cards are redeemable January 1 through March 31, 2022. Purchase online.
Tacos A Go Go, multiple locations: Tacos, queso and other Tex-Mex delights are better when free. Purchase a $25 gift card in-store or online, and receive a $5 gift card redeemable through February 8, 2022.
$10 Gift Card Free with $50 Gift Card Purchase
Tacos A Go Go, multiple Locations: Want more free tacos? Purchase a $50 card and you can spend a $10 free card on more yum! Purchase online or in-store and redeem the free card through February 8, 2022.
$20 Gift Card Free with $100 Gift Card Purchase
H Town Holiday Bonus: Every $100 gift card purchase kicks you back an additional $20 good for use after December 31, 2021. Purchase online or in-store. Cards can be redeemed at all H-Town Restaurant Group locations: URBE, Backstreet Cafe, Caracol, Prego, Hugo’s and Xochi.
Phat Eatery/Yelo: Like a create-your-own buffet, these gift cards are good at both Malaysian restaurant Phat Eatery and at Vietnamese eatery Yelo located right next door. For each $100 gift card purchase, receive a $20 gift card to use January 1 through January 31, 2022. To purchase, ask your server/host or call (832) 913-6382. Cards must be purchased at the restaurants.
Tacos A Go Go, multiple locations: The more the merrier when it comes to quesadillas, tacos, flautas, nachos and other tasty bites. Spend $100 on gift cards, and you’ll get $20 in free cards to use through February 8, 2022. More everything? Yes, please! Purchase online or in-store.
$10 Gift Card Free with $100 Gift Card Purchase
Pier 6 Seafood & Oyster House, 113 6th Street, San Leon: Purchase a $100 gift card in person and receive a $10 gift card to use after January 1, 2022. Note that the bonus card is available for in-store card purchases only.
Wine, Beer & Spirits
8th Wonder Brewery, 2202 Dallas: Add serveware with the charm of an Ugly Christmas Sweater to your collection with the Holiday Glass Set. The stemmed glasses are 16 ounces, and the set comes with one each of the Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Festivus designs. Each set is $25.
What to pour into those glasses? How about the Holiday Bomber Bundle, which includes three 22-ounce bombers for $20 ($28 value)? The set includes White Tuxedo Imperial Dunkelweizen brewed with honey, aged in Jameson Irish Whiskey casks and finished on Champagne yeast, Semi-Formal Imperial Dunkelweizen brewed with honey and finished on Champagne yeast, and Dream Shake American Stout.
Highway Vodka: Texas’ first Black-owned distillery has vodka for gifting that is just 57 calories per serving. Hemp, locally sourced corn and artesian water give this vodka a unique place in the spirits market. Find it across the state including Total Wine, Spec’s and online through Reserve Bar.
Still Austin Whiskey Co., 440 East St. Elmo Road, Austin: This Hill Country distillery started in 2015 with an expanding portfolio of whiskey and gins focused on using heritage grains. The company recently re-introduced its Cask Strength Bourbon, which sold out in weeks the first time it was released — it was so popular they made it part of the permanent collection. Find the spirits throughout Houston and online. It is made from 100% Texas grains (70% non-GMO white corn, 25% Elbon rye and 5% wildfire malted barley). The tasting notes are “complex, dark flavors with a deep spice finish”. Prices start at $60 for a 750 ml bottle. Call (512) 276-2700 for more information.
William Price Distilling, 970 Wakefield: Choose from a variety of holiday #RaisingTexanSpirits Gift Boxes that each include two bottles of spirits, two etched tasting glasses and cocktail recipe cards. The Whiskey Duo is $84.99 ($100 value), the Liqueur Duo is $44.99 ($52 value) and the Mix Duo of one whiskey and one liqueur is $59.99 ($75) value. Choose from Straight Rye Single Barrel, Straight Rye finished in a Honey Barrel, French Oak or Oloroso Sherry Cask, TX Single Malt, finished in an Oloroso Sherry or Rye Barrel, Award-winning Cold-Brew Coffee Liqueur or Limoncello. Order custom boxes online for pickup the next business day.
You can also give a distillery experience, with several package choices. The Private Tasting experience is $25 per person and includes a guided tour (10 guest minimum), the Craft Your Own Custom Blend experience is $1000 for a three-hour class with six guests to create a personal rye whiskey and each guest gets to take two bottles home, and the Distiller for a Day experience is a full day of making moonshine and blending spirits to take home. It is $2,000. Call 713-364-9225 for more information and to book.
Badolina Bakery & Cafe, 5555 Morningside: Impress hosts and hostesses with a decadent and wow-worthy cake from this new Rice Village bakery and cafe. Choose six-, eight- or nine-inch rounds in flavors such as Raspberry Rose, Chocolate Mousse, Cheesecake, Babka and Orange, each with a distinctive artsy look. Stop in to see what’s in stock, or place hours 24 hours in advance to ensure availability of your must-have flavor. Find more sweet and savory goods on the website. Call (832) 649-5909 to order and for more information.
Cloud 10 Creamery, multiple locations: Creamy, dreamy ice box pies are delightful for stashing and sharing. Choose from the vegan and gluten-free Coconut Milk Thai Tea Ice Box Pie, gluten-free Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Box Pie, Spiced Pumpkin Ice Box Pie and Nutella S’mores Ice Box Pie. They cost $40 each. Pre-order through Monday, December 20 for pickup on Thursday, December 23. Visit the ordering page for more details.
Craft Creamery, 1338 Westheimer: Gift or serve a cold and creamy treat in playful flavors made with local ingredients. Chef Steve Marques crafts his desserts in small batches using the French-pot method, which is a process that includes spinning the pot of ingredients and allowing them to freeze to the outer walls of the bowl. The menu includes 15 “rotating” flavors (get it?) such as Lemon Chiffon, Crave Pumpkin Cupcake and Satsuma. Limited-edition holiday flavors are available through December 31 and include Candy Cane, Eggnog, Gingerbread and Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.
In addition to by-the-scoop indulgences, pick up pints for $10.50 and quarts for $16. Place to-go orders by Sunday, December 19 for pickup December 22 or 23.
Orleans Seafood Kitchen, 20940 Katy Freeway: One for you, one for me… the pecan pie special at this Cajun spot is tough to pass up. Whole housemade pecan pies are buy-one-get-one half-off through December 31. Purchase the first for $20 and get the second for $10. Each pie serves 8 to 10 people. Shop in-store or call (281) 646-0700 for purchase and more information.