Food & Drink

Feast gift guide: Ideas from the Sacramento food scene

Maryellen Burns and Keith Burns co-wrote the book “Lost Restaurants of Sacramento and Their Recipes.”
Maryellen Burns and Keith Burns co-wrote the book “Lost Restaurants of Sacramento and Their Recipes.”

Believe it or not, we’re just a couple calendar Xs away from Black Friday, traditional start of the holiday shopping season. If you’re starting to think about stocking stuffers, host gifts or under-the-tree presents for foodie friends or family members, we’ve got some ideas cooking. Feast reporters and editors (Debbie Arrington, Chris Macias, Allen Pierleoni, Blair Anthony Robertson and Tim Swanson) have put together a list of 17 recommended gifts, all with strong ties to the Sacramento region. Many are produced, fabricated or harvested here; others simply celebrate our local food-and-drink scene. All are relatively affordable – with prices starting at $5 and topping out at $65 – and sure to bring a smile upon unwrapping.

Bee staff

Almonds in a California Box from Blue Diamond ($10.75)

Blue Diamond Growers are certainly in a celebratory mood this holiday season. Revenues at the locally based almond cooperative were up 25 percent in recently released annual figures. These almonds have traditionally made for a popular local gift, and in a bit of Golden State pride, also come in a California-shaped box. Choose between whole almonds (9 ounces) or candy coated (11 ounces). Available at


Bariani olive oil ($22 for 1 liter)

This family-owned company produces liquid gold from the Sacramento Valley: buttery, pure extra virgin olive oil. The Bariani family grows about 180 acres of olives near Zamora in Yolo County. This past year, they relocated their processing plant from Sacramento to Zamora to provide better quality control. “What makes our olive oil so good? That’s always the most difficult question to answer,” said Sebastian Bariani, whose father, Angelo, started the business. “I’d say that the two most important ingredients are simplicity and tradition.” Available at Nugget Markets, Corti Brothers, Taylor’s Market, Sacramento Natural Food Co-op and online at


Bike Dog Brewing unisex zip-up hoodie ($40)

Local beer gear is always a welcome gift, but something about Bike Dog’s zip-up hoodie makes it stand out from the pack. Our affinity for it extends beyond a general appreciation for the apparel itself (zipper front, comfy pockets, cool color) to focus on the brewery’s logo displayed on its back. It’s an emblem we love not only for its clean, simple aesthetic, but for what it says about living in Sacramento. “It’s definitely an extension of the three things that we like most in life: dogs, bikes and beer,” Sage Smith, an owner of Bike Dog, told The Bee. Available at Bike Dog (2534 Industrial Blvd., #100, West Sacramento) or online at


“Lost Restaurants of Sacramento and Their Recipes” ($20)

Sure, Sacramento has an increasingly vibrant restaurant scene, but it was glorious back in the day, too. Generations of locals have fond memories of restaurants such as the Coral Reef, the Ram, the Golden Tee and the Hong Kong Cafe. For holiday perusing, both seasoned and novice diners can relive those glory days in “Lost Restaurants of Sacramento and Their Recipes” by Maryellen and Keith Burns. (American Palate, 160 pages.) Available from Amazon, and other booksellers.


“Hella Local” T-shirt ($17)

All the cool kids are wearing them. We’re talking about a line of Sacramento-centric T-shirts by Pomegranate Design that have turned into a coveted bit of clothing for Sacramento food enthusiasts. This “Hella Local” T-shirt fuses NorCal vernacular and Sacto pride for a gift that keeps on giving for your favorite locavore. Available at


Darjeeling Gin ($35)

Perhaps the best gin you’ll ever taste just happens to hail from Auburn, via the upstart California Distilled Spirits. True to its name, this impeccably aromatic gin is flavored in part by Darjeeling tea, plus citrus peel and a top secret blend of spices. The craft cocktailer on your list will appreciate this gin on the rocks with a bit of fresh squeezed lemon juice, or as the basis for a fantastic French 75. Available at Corti Brothers, Taylor’s Market and SaveMart in Auburn


“The Pizza Bible” ($30)

When you’re burned out on holiday spreads, one alternative is to pick up a pizza. Which isn’t nearly as interesting as making one. In “The Pizza Bible,” 11-time world pizza champion Tony Gemignani teaches home cooks how to make professional-quality pizzas in their kitchens. One of his 10 Commandments of Pizza: “Thou shalt not rush the rise.” Gemignani is chef-owner of Sacramento’s Pizza Rock and seven other pizza-centric restaurants. (Ten Speed Press, 320 pages.) Available from Amazon and other booksellers.


Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates gift card ($20 minimum)

This is the premier place for chocolates and related desserts in the region. Boxes of chocolates are exquisite, and there are plenty of flavor options. There are also cakes, truffles, cookies and plenty of other treats. In fact, everything in this midtown shop is gift-worthy. So if you’re the least bit undecided, you’ll make anyone happy with a Ginger Elizabeth gift card. Because many of the products are perishable, gift cards are also a great way to ensure freshness. Available at Ginger Elizabeth (1801 L St. #60, Sacramento;


2013 Bokisch Albariño Terra Alta Vineyard / 2012 Bokisch Monastrell ($18/$23)

The holiday season means plenty of dinner parties, plus a bottle or two to take for your hosts as gifts. Instead of the obligatory chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, give a taste of something different with these Spanish varietals from Lodi’s Bokisch Vineyards. This fruity and floral albariño is the perfect way to get that party started, while the earthy and berry-licious monastrell pairs especially well with ham or turkey at the holiday table. Available at Corti Brothers or


Honey from Spease Bees and UC Davis ($8, $10)

Be sweet and show up at the door with jars of Spease Bees honey from Elk Grove, sourced from wildflowers in the Cosumnes River Watershed. The mild-tasting treat was introduced to the market in a grass-roots way seven months ago, but big buzz helped it migrate into 20 Save Mart stores. It sells for $8 per 12-ounce jar. More info at Meanwhile, the busy bee people at UC Davis Honey & Pollination Center blend a special Northern California wildflower honey ($10 for 12 ounces), collected from throughout the Sacramento-Davis area. Available at


Corti Brothers Exquisite Whiskey ($30-$50)

The limited-supply Corti Brothers Exquisite Whiskey is 7-year-old Kentucky bourbon poured into white oak barrels that once aged local dessert wine Mission Del Sol. The bourbon was barreled in 2013, with a splash of the 1986-vintage high-alcohol Mission wine, then bottled in January. The result is a 90.5-proof spirit made richer by the flavor of the wine and wood, ideal for sipping in front of the fireplace or for making classic Manhattan cocktails. It comes in two sizes: 375 milliliters ($30) and 750 milliliters ($50). Available at Corti Brothers (5810 Folsom Blvd., Sacramento) or at


Preservation & Co. Sriracha ($20)

Now here’s a spicy stocking stuffer. This gift box houses three of Preservation & Co.’s locally made sriracha sauces that represent different approaches to this traditional Thai condiment. The “Capitol Sriracha” uses local honey for a touch of sweetness, while the green version takes on a citrus-y tang. The “Hellfire Sriracha” is designed to rock your world with ghost peppers, showing off a scorching side of Sacramento. Available at Preservation & Co. (1717 19th St., Sacramento).


Puur Chocolat’s 12-piece chocolate collection ($24)

I’ve been following Sacramento-based chocolatier Ramon Perez’s work on Instagram, and it’s practically magical. His chocolates look even better in person – an array of exotic colors, patterns and textures. The flavors are very exciting, too, inspired from his travels around the world. Examples include banana caramel ganache with rum and Cubeb pepper; or a licorice root with fennel pollen. Available at


Sol Boards cutting board ($65)

Doug Tolson started making these beautiful cutting boards as gifts for friends, but others spotted them and the demand eventually compelled him to launch a business. I have owned a Sol Board for three years and love it. Tolson uses a variety of hardwoods to create a multi-hued, functional piece of art. Treat occasionally with linseed oil but don’t put it in the dishwasher and it will last for years. Available at


Stollen bread from Grateful Bread ($5-$16)

A bakery is a great source for an edible holiday gift. Find German Christmas stollen and citrusy orange stollen at Grateful Bread. The handcrafted loaves will be joined Dec. 20 by Italian pannetone, Swedish rye limpa (orange rind and anise seeds) and alpine lemon bread ($5 to $16). Available at the store, located in Loehmann’s Plaza, (2543 Fair Oaks Blvd., Sacramento; 916-487-9179).