‘Tis the season of gifting, and for a place like Houston, where food is certainly a love language, it’s no surprise that the city’s many restaurants, chefs, and creatives are packaging up some of their favorite food-focused items for the holidays. Aside from obviously edible goodies, like chocolates, salsas, spices, and smoked meats, there are also the gifts that keep on giving — like cookbooks, cooking classes, dishware, and branded swag that can serve as a standing memory or experience that a beloved recipient won’t want to forget.
Here, Eater Houston has made it easier for you by compiling some of the most intriguing, flavorful, and Houston-centric gifts that food lovers will enjoy.
Kin Dee Hand-Painted Dishware
Lukkaew Srasrisuwan, the restauranteur behind Thai restaurant Kin Dee and the luxe fine-dining establishment MaKiin, has sought to bring a true Thai dining experience to Houston — and it all comes down to the fine details, including dishware. Now, diners who have fallen in love with some of Kin Dee’s signature hand-painted dishes can bring these intricate designs home or gift them for the holiday. Kin Dee’s entire dishware collection, including its golden teapot ($20), its cappuccino cup ($20), its Pad Thai leaf plate ($20), serving tray ($110), gold cutlery set complete with chopsticks ($15), and select glassware, is now on sale. All orders, placed on Kin Dee’s gift website or ordered in person at the restaurant, are shipped directly from Thailand.
Cacao & Cardamom’s Chocolate Gift Sets
Texas chocolatier Annie Rupani expertly melds the world of spice and chocolate, making for chocolatey, almost majestic bliss. Her chocolate enterprise Cacao & Cardamom offers beautiful boxes of hand-painted chocolates — everything from its satisfying sets of eight truffles ($18) to its most decadent, all-inclusive Ultimate Bon Bon Collection, which comes with 80 truffles that include its signature, classic comfort, and dark chocolate collections. Best of all, Rupani stays in tune with the annual calendar, meaning it’s easy to find themed sets, including Diwali, Nutcracker, Candy Cane, and holiday sweater-themed morsels that cater to the holidays.
Goode Company’s Pies, Smoked Meats, and Condiments
Truly harness the Houston holiday with Goode Company’s various Texas treats. The family-owned restaurant group is always selling its iconic Brazos Bottom pecan pie ($54), but this year, Goode’s packaging them in custom keepsake wood boxes that are fire-branded with “Made in Texas” and its motto, “You might give some serious thought to thanking your luck stars you’re in Texas,” so there’s no mistaking its origin.
Tap into the city’s smoking meat culture with Goode’s vacuum-sealed smoked meats, including whole turkeys that are cured in brown sugar and smoked over mesquite, plus jerky, smoky brisket, slow-smoked barbecue ribs, smoked beef tenderloin, and sausage samplers available a la carte, as combination packs, or samplers. For experienced smokers, keep it simple with Goode’s selection of spices, rubs, and barbecue sauces — all of which are available online at Goode’s Hall of Flame website.
A Sushi Class at Aya Sushi
Reap the benefits from this gift that keeps on giving. Aya Sushi offers monthly hands-on sushi classes through the holiday season where guests can learn how to make the classics, including maki, crudo, and nigiri. The entertaining chef Yoshi Katsuyama offers an interactive experience on the Bellaire restaurant’s covered patio, complete with cocktails and a home sushi kit with a cutting board, knife, rolling mat, and chopsticks to take home as a souvenir. Tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite for the next class on Saturday, November 18, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a gift card that can be used for the class.
The holiday season and tamales season in Houston are one and the same. Thankfully, restaurants like Picos understand the high demand. This year, the restaurant is offering up its Norteños-style 3-ounce corn husk tamales, its Oaxaqueños Style 6-ounce banana leaf wrapped tamales, and sweet tamales by the half and full dozen for pick-up, delivery, and shipping nationwide. Flavors include the classic pork or beef in red chile, chicken in green chile, black bean and cheese, portobello mushroom and huitlacoche, and chipilin. Orders can be placed through January 6 in-store, over the phone, or online on the Picos website or on Goldbelly for orders outside of the Houston area.
The Woodlands Resort Gift Box
Offer a taste of Texas with the Woodlands Resorts’ gift basket. This curated package offers a bunch of home-grown goodies, including a Winfields Chocolate Bar, Texas Hill Country Olive Oil, Local Honey Harvested from the resort’s hives, San Saba River Pecan Company preserves, Texas marble charcuterie board, and a candle for $136. Purchase the candles — the Woodlands Candle and Spruce Candle — separately to capture the essence of the Woodlands Resort hotel and a relaxing getaway at home.
Cochinita & Co. Salsa Macha
For those looking for a splash of nutty spice to any (and every) meal, Cochinita & Co. chef Victoria Elizondo’s salsa macha is a dreamy gift. The restaurant, which recently made Eater Houston’s Essential 38, offers the salsa by the jar, plus other goodies like totopos and tostaditos for dipping and dunking. Add Elizondo’s Tacotastic cookbook, which is filled with more than 60 recipes for Taco Tuesday, to seal the deal.
Backstreet Cafe’s Brandy Fruit Cake
There’s a lot of division when it comes to fruit cake’s place on a holiday spread, but Backstreet Cafe’s is not your average recipe. Award-winning pastry chef Ruben Ortega bakes up a lighter, fresher, boozier version with brandy-soaked dried fruits — a combination of apricots, raisins, cherries, figs, pineapple, cranberries, and prunes — plus fresh apples, pecans, ginger, orange zest, lemon zest, and orange juice. The 10-inch cake is also packaged in a cute Backstreet branded tin, which makes for a fun souvenir. Orders can be placed now for shipping in December.
Phat Eatery Swag
Fans of Katy’s Malaysian restaurant Phat Eatery can now show their loyalty with cheeky merchandise, including ball caps ($30), T-shirts ($30), and tumblers ($20) with sayings like “WTF,” Phat’s acronym for “Wow Tasty Food” or its oft sold-out shirt with the pun-ny “Phat People Are Harder to Kidnap.” Gift cards to the restaurant are also available.
Brennan of Houston’s Legendary Pralines
Give those missing a taste of home something sweet to savor. Houston’s iconic restaurant Brennan’s now offers its New Orleans-style soft pralines for order online and ships nationwide, allowing those near and far to enjoy a tradition first launched in 1983. A box of a dozen will run you $25 plus shipping, or you can opt for a box of pralines, with a $50 gift card for $75.
A Hugo’s-themed Gift Set
Houston’s James Beard Award-winning Mexican chef Hugo Ortega is bringing the warmth of Mexican cuisine to kitchens around the country with this gift box ($60). Each box comes complete with a personalized copy of Ortega’s Street Food of Mexico cookbook, plus a molinillo, or traditional Mexican wood wisk, two Hugo’s mugs, and 9-ounce tables of Hugo’s housemade chocolate — perfect for making mole or Mexican hot chocolate in any home kitchen.
Pier 6 Merchandise
This San Leon sea-side seafood restaurant is stepping into its niche with a new line of clothing and swag that’s perfect for fans, fishing enthusiasts, or friends who just love being by the water. Find oversized “Oyster” hoodies, breezy fishing shirts, bikinis, nifty bucket hats, Pier 6-branded baseball caps to shade you from the sun, and so much more.
Sweet treats from Dessert Gallery
This Upper Kirby bakery and cafe has offered some of the most decadent desserts year-round, but it gets particularly festive for the holidays, which makes for easy gifting for loved ones with a sweet tooth. Holiday favorites include its To-Die-Fo Fudge Pecan pies; the Lone Star Sweets set, an assortment of Texas-themed cookies; and the Yule Log, which features layers of chocolate, creamy white filling, and ganache, in 6- or 9-inch sizes. For those looking to gift an interactive experience, try the decorating cookie kits, which come in Hannukah, Christmas, and Interfaith themes, for something for the family to do together. Check out DG’s menu of seemingly endless treats for pick-up and shipping locally and nationwide.