When it comes to gifting, personal is always best — which is what each gift on this 2019 holiday guide is designed to be. They’re all specific to New York City and what makes it tick, from hustlers who sell unique food jewelry as a side gig to innovators who are trying to up the city’s food game, from coffee to cookies.
Scroll for a locally made ceramic, the hottest new soap, and Japanese cooking classes. All the items on this guide are all locally made or loved and have been hand selected by the Eater New York staff for food lovers of all stripes, whether the person is a passionate home cook or a restaurant obsessive.
If you’re still stumped after this list, check out Eater’s national guide for more ideas. Happy shopping.
Xi’an Famous Foods sneakers
Xi’an Famous Foods has its fair share of obsessive fans of its spicy hand-pulled noodles, and now the most devout can wear their love on their feet. XFF co-owner Jason Wang designed a pair of Nikes that evoke the Chinese chain’s branding with bold red, black, and white swaths. Wang even had some friends in the shoe business help him source even more custom elements, such as the branded insoles and XFF laces. As for why he chose Air Max 90s? He used to breakdance in them, making them club-ready.
Japanese cooking classes at Cha-An
Cha-An Teahouse in the East Village has been a destination for Japanese teas and desserts for 15 years, and now the upstairs room is dedicated to teaching people how to make those sweets. Classes for the new year include strawberry Daifuku mochi making, Japanese bread baking, cream puff stuffing, and cookie icing. Instructors are highly experienced, ranging from Cha-An’s head pastry chef to L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon’s bread baker. Classes are casual, though, and an ideal way to gift an experience to food lovers with any level of cooking skill.
Price: $65 to $95
Byredo suede hand wash and lotion
ICYMI: Aesop is so over. Instead, it’s the somehow-even-more-expensive Byredo that’s turning heads these days. The suede scent is currently hanging out in all Momofuku restaurant bathrooms, and it smells like pure luxury — a mixture of notes like bergamot and violet with soft musks. Gift anyone the high-class duo of the Suede hand wash and lotion for an instant upgrade to their cool quotient.
Isabel Halley challah platter
Though this pinched porcelain serving platter was specifically designed to hold challah, the long braided Jewish egg bread, it’s a gorgeous vessel for any manner of food: cheese and charcuterie, cookies, roasted meats, fruit, and the like. Ceramicist Isabel Halley produces them in Carroll Gardens; she’s been making ceramics for about 10 years and went to art school for sculpture. The hand-done pinches mean no two are alike, and the gold rim adds character and depth, making this a very personal gift.
Gem Spa merchandise
2019 is the second coming of Gem Spa, the historic East Village convenience store-turned-fashion hot spot. When its cigarette and lottery licenses were revoked — the main source of revenue — Gem Spa owner Parul Patel ventured into merchandise to try to save the shop. The former banker started with a simple shirt, and the whole thing blew up. Influencers took notice, and a Gem Spa shirt ($20 to $25) quickly became the ultimate streetwear signifier of cool. Now, Patel has expanded the line to include baseball hats ($15), beanies ($20), hoodies ($40), sweatpants ($40), and even leather coasters ($8). History buffs can also buy prints of a photo of Madonna standing in front of the store while filming Desperately Seeking Susan in 1984. While there, do yourself a favor and order an egg cream.
Price: $8 to $40
Seed + Mill halva set
Chelsea Market-based Seed + Mill’s halva is a flaky, smooth candy made out of Ethiopian sesame butter (tahini) and sugar. The homegrown company has put together a trio of halva, made in Israel, for the holidays, with sea salt dark chocolate, raspberry, and pistachio flavors. Each is highly crushable on its own, or does well paired with sweet breads and crumbled on top of yogurt. The boxes stay fresh for weeks and just so happen to be vegan, gluten-free, and kosher, making them a very safe gifting bet.
Nguyen Coffee Supply phin kit
Over the summer, a hip Vietnamese coffee shop pop-up delighted the Lower East Side with ube iced lattes and sea salt Vietnamese shakeratos. Owner Sahra Nguyen closed the shop to fundraise for a permanent location, but her Nguyen Coffee Supply is still offering New Yorkers a taste of the Vietnamese coffee experience through its Da Lat-sourced single-origin arabica and robusta beans that are roasted in Red Hook and sold online. The phin kit is an ideal gift for coffee lovers; it comes with a phin — a traditional metal filter used in Vietnam that’s a cross between a pour over and a French press and produces a deep brew — and a bag of Vietnamese coffee beans.
Bok choy earrings
NYC-based digital content strategist Rachel Chen started making earrings when she couldn’t find exactly what she wanted to gift her sisters and friends. So she turned to Etsy and local craft stores to source materials, and Ahma Studio (Chinese for “grandma”) was born. Chen’s cheeky earrings incorporate food elements like pearl “oysters” and glass bok choy mixed with chunky gold hoops, but do so in a subtle way that means people don’t realize they’re food items at first. Once they do, Chen hopes they spark conversation.
Ciao, Gloria holiday cookie box
Why go to the trouble of making holiday cookie boxes when Ciao, Gloria’s is so enticing? The new Italian-American bakery in Prospect Heights from the owner of Baked has created a colorful assortment of cookies that is a proven crowd-pleaser. The box contains 12 varieties including tender rainbow, Thin Mint-esque chocolate mint crinkles, comforting gingersnaps, and crispy salted espresso-chocolate shortbread. Call to pre-order or walk in to pick up from a limited number available in shop daily starting December 9.