When my sister flew in to visit me in San Francisco from Brooklyn this Thanksgiving, she had something special in her carry-on: a dozen everything bagels sealed in heavy-duty Ziplocs. (For native New Yorkers, “New York-style bagels” and New York bagels are not the same thing.) By the time she touched down in SF, her suitcase—and every item of clothing in it—reeked of onions and garlic. We did a full load of laundry and laughed it off as a small price to pay for an authentic bagel experience.
Her thoughtful gesture sparked an idea. Why not curate a Bay Area-inspired gift basket for our family on the East Coast? The baskets would be filled with local delicacies my husband and I have come to adore and serve as a way to share a piece of our lives.
Here's my take on a Bay Area foodie gift basket. Maybe it'll inspire you to think about the things you love most from your home.
Chili Crisp To Die For
Chili crisp—the savory, spicy and crunchy condiment with Chinese roots—is having a moment. It transforms a steaming bowl of ramen or a plate of scrambled eggs into a spicy-savory delight. It instantly elevates scoops of plain vanilla ice cream. I love chili crisp, and it was luck that led me to discover Occidental’s Big Spoon Sauce Co., which makes four exquisite versions.
I stumbled across Big Spoon Sauce Co. at Sebastopol’s weekend farmers' market and snagged a jar of its flagship flavor with plans to savor it all summer. Unfortunately, within days, the jar was empty—my husband had taken to eating it by the spoonful. Lately, I've been solving that problem by buying the company’s spicier adaptation, Dragon’s Booty. Made with habanero peppers, apples and orange zest, it possesses a spice level that demands it be enjoyed in small doses. A 6-ounce jar is $18.
Tartine—the award-winning bakery founded by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson in 2002 in the Mission District—has earned a devoted following with its classic offerings, like frangipane croissants, quiches and sourdough loaves.
But it's Tartine’s lesser-known brownies that steal the show in my household. Made with Valrhona chocolate, they are exceptionally rich and have a smooth, luxurious texture that melts in your mouth. A three-pack costs $12.75 and should be consumed within five to seven days.
Shrubs for Seltzer
I discovered Sebastopol’s Little Apple Treats at the Renegade Craft Fair at Fort Mason. On display was an array of granolas, apple ciders and caramels in flavors like Spiced Apple Pie and Toasted Almond.
But it was the colorful variety of shrubs that really drew my attention. I was so intrigued I left with three bottles: Blackberry Lemonade, Strawberry + Pink Peppercorn and Ginger + Hibiscus. These vinegary syrups quickly became a staple in my kitchen, finding their way most often into sparkling water but also salad dressings and marinades. A 374-milliliter bottle costs $24.95.
Herby Dipping Oil
A house guest bought us a bottle of Stonehouse California Olive Oil’s popular dipping oil as a thank-you gift, and we haven’t been the same since. The company sources its olives from farms in Northern California, all within an hour-and-a-half drive from San Francisco, so you’re tasting something truly local. This rich, herb-infused concoction has become an essential in our pantry, perfect for dressing salads or dipping good sourdough bread.
A 375-milliliter bottle costs $20. The dipping oil—and an assortment of other oils—are readily available at Stonehouse’s store in the Ferry Building, which is coincidentally a great spot to build your entire gift basket if you’re short on time this holiday season.
I first discovered Vital Tea Leaf when touring San Francisco’s Chinatown with the acclaimed Bay Area chef Martin Yan. At the end of the gastronomic journey, we piled into the wood-paneled tea shop on Grant Avenue with friendly greetings from owner Uncle Gee. He sat us at the tea bar and immediately began brewing and pouring samples of fresh, steaming teas. We tasted ginseng, white tea and pu-erh—and I departed with a bag of coconut red. Since then, I’ve been refreshing my loose-leaf tea from Vital Tea Leaf. As Yan told our tour, “only the cheap tea is in tea bags.” I’m including a 4-ounce, $15 container of Mango Red Tea in my gift basket.