This time last year, the holidays were — well — a little grim. In the height of the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, family gatherings were largely on hold, our favorite restaurants were operating at extremely limited capacity, and by and large, holiday cheer was in short supply in Philly, where usually there’s more than enough to go around.
This year, the mood has much improved. Though the pandemic is not over, and vaccination rates in the city are hovering at 68 percent for people ages 12 and up, it feels like there is reason to celebrate once again. This means that there are gifts to buy for your loved ones — and, of course, for yourself.
Luckily, Philly is full of artisans who love to eat and chefs and restaurants that are selling merch, sauces, coffee, and more just to make the season bright. Shopping for someone who loves food just as much as they love Philly? Start with one of the following Eater Philly-approved gifts.
Nardone Pasta Co. Extreme Pasta Pack
Forget flowers: Few things are better than pasta. James Nardone’s Nardone Pasta Co. was the best pop-up of the pandemic. His signature pasta packs feature fresh pastas, lasagna, broccoli rabe pestos, focaccia, and more, and they were lifesavers for anyone who got tired of cooking. This holiday season, Nardone is upping his pasta game with a special “mega” pack of 10 pastas, 10 sauces, and two “lazanyas,” all sold in a Carhartt insulated bag. Preorder on the NPC website for pickup at three locations around Philly during the month of December. Are they too busy to cook right now? The pastas can be frozen for up to two months.
Everybody Eats Donation
Started by chefs Aziza Young, Gregory Headen, Kurt Evans, Malik Ali, and Stephanie Willis during the pandemic, Everybody Eats’s mission is simple: to fight food insecurity and nourish the community. The organization has been hosting pop-up events with free food, essentials, and music nearly every week for over a year and a half, and with a new operations facility on the horizon, they’ll continue to expand their reach to those who need it most. A donation to Everybody Eats helps keep that mission alive.
Ursa Bakery Tote
Claire Kopp McWilliams cut her teeth as a baker milling grains into breads and pastas at Marc Vetri’s restaurants, eventually writing a cookbook in 2020 with the Philly chef called Mastering Bread. With her small-yet-mighty operation, Ursa Bakery, McWilliams shows that she is indeed a master, selling rye breads, seeded loaves, and baguettes to markets in East Falls and Fairmount every week. Seeking the perfect carry-all for the friend who shops only at the farmers market? An Ursa Bakery tote bag will fit heads of lettuce, crunchy baguettes, and all the fresh essentials.
Second Daughter Baking Co. Brownies
There are few better ways to show someone you love them than by baking brownies. But what if you didn’t have to do the baking yourself? Thanks to the award-winning brownies from Philly’s own Second Daughter Baking Co., you can leave the baking to the experts. Run by sisters Rhonda Saltzman and Mercedes Brooks out of the Bok building, Second Daughter makes a very special kind of brownie, with a fudgy interior and a crackly exterior. Orders of 8x8 trays of brownies are shipped nationwide. Free local delivery is available for orders over $100, so you may as well get some focaccia, cookies, and muffins, too.
Lakay Pikliz Spicy Pickled Vegetables
Chef Chris Paul’s Haitian pikliz — spicy pickled vegetables that are served alongside traditional Haitian dishes — is only one in a line of Paul’s homemade offerings from his pop-up Lakay. Lucky for your wish list, Paul’s Ti Malice hot sauce and pineapple habanero sauce are available at Herman’s Coffee for pickup, too. Want to really improve someone’s spice game? Herman’s keeps sauces like Sunny’s Hot Chili Oil, from Vientiane Cafe’s Sunny Phanthavong, as well as a few other Philly-made products on the cafe’s shelves for pickup.
Uncle Bobbie’s Hoodie
The slogan of Germantown’s Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books is “Cool People. Dope Books. Great Coffee.” for a reason. It’s the destination in the Northwest for books by marginalized folks, with a great lineup of events, a cozy space to hangout, and as anyone will tell you, great coffee. If your loved one is a bookworm, they are no doubt already a fan of Uncle Bobbie’s — gift them this Uncle Bobbie’s logo hoodie and they’ll wear it with pride.
Poi Dog Sauces
Philly chef Kiki Aranita has had a whirlwind decade: She started her Poi Dog food truck in 2013, opened a brick-and-mortar in 2017, and garnered awards and critical praise for her cooking inspired by her youth in Hawaii. Last year, the restaurant closed as a result of the pandemic, but Aranita did what a lot of restaurant folks did at the time and quickly turned lemons into lemonade by launching a sauce business. Aranita sells her signature Hawaiian-style sauces individually or in three-packs — Poi Dog’s chili peppah water, Maui lavender ponzu, and guava katsu will be an upgrade to any friends’ pantry.
Bloomsday Wine Tote
For the generous wine fanatic — you know, the one who always brings like 15 bottles of wine to a 4-person dinner party — they’ll appreciate a more sophisticated carrier than their typical tote bag. This four-pocket wine tote from Bloomsday, Headhouse Square’s destination for natural wine, is the solution. The pocket is retractable so it can be converted to a normal tote, and the front pocket is a good place to store a wine key. Or an issue of Pipette magazine — whatever works.
Sisterfriend Dumpling Pendant
Made to order on Jewelers’ Row in Philly, Sisterfriend is a jewelry brand inspired by founders’ Lisa Maita and Kelli Mercado-Waldron’s childhoods. This delicious dumpling pendant can be made with a tiny diamond surprise, or solo in 10k gold, and Sisterfriend sells three lengths of chains in gold and silver to complete the gift. Add on a rice paddle and spam musubi pendant — or an over-easy egg signet ring — when you really want to show them you care.
Isgro’s Pastries Cookie Tin
It’s the holidays, which means it’s time to eat too many cookies. You don’t have to live near the Italian Market to bring a cookie tin home from century-old Isgro’s Pastries. Anise biscotti, pignoli, chocolate dipped apricot fingers — for $85, plus $20 shipping, you’ll get a mix of all of Isgro’s best shipped right to your door. Sharing is optional.
I Just Wanna Go Outside Water Bottle
For that one cousin who loves a long hike in the Wissahickon followed by an even longer lunch, give them the gift of hydration. With the Thousand Island and Pedazo de Carne Con Ojo collaboration — a customized Nalgene bottle, so you know it’ll last forever — the medium is the message. Go outside, drink up, and they’ll thank you later.
The Arabesque Table by Reem Kassis
One of Eater.com’s favorite cookbooks of spring 2021, The Arabesque Table by Reem Kassis is a journey through recipes in the Arab world. A point of pride for Philadelphians, Kassis lives in the Philly suburbs, and wrote her first cookbook — The Palestinian Table — here, too. That would be reason enough to gift a food-loving Philadelphian The Arabesque Table, but the recipes for labneh, flatbreads, and kebabs make it a gift they’ll truly savor.
Câphé Roasters Coffee Beans
Coffee devotees are a special species. From all the accoutrements to the brands of beans, it can feel impossible to know what to buy a coffee lover. A good place to start is a bag of beans roasted in Kensington by Câphé Roasters. Each bag comes with a description of its origins — the house blend is sourced from Thailand and Vietnam — and subscriptions start at $15 a month.
Lobo Mau Frutas T-shirt
Local Philly designers Nicole Haddad and Jordan Haddad are all about sustainability. From using recycled deadstock fabrics to screen-printing with organic inks by hand, their label Lobo Mau is one worth supporting. Lobo Mau’s oversized unisex frutas T-shirt is inspired by the Haddad’s Brazilian heritage, and in the dead of Philly winter, wearing it will make even the Grinchiest of people turn into the sunglasses emoji incarnate.
Restaurant Gift Card
What do you buy for the person who has everything? A restaurant gift card. Most Philly businesses offer gift cards in some form and at many price points — just give the restaurant a call. Even better, places like South Jazz Kitchen offer online ordering and online gift cards that go right to their e-mail inbox.
Philly Foods Wrapping Paper
No matter what you get them this season, it’s all in the presentation. Jersey-based artist Emily Hendrie’s Philly foods wrapping paper — featuring soft pretzels, cheesesteaks, scrapple, roast pork sandwiches, and water ice — is tempting enough to eat. Just make sure to put your orders in before December 1 — Hendrie is closing up shop for the season at the start of December.
Party Girl Bake Club Party Box
Mallory Valvano’s cakes are for the true ‘90s kid: Made with nostalgic ingredients like Yoo-hoo and Fruity Pebbles, and lavishly decorated in neon colors, her cakes will make you the talk of any holiday party. For December, Valvano is selling a “party box,” which includes Mexican hot cocoa flan, a Cosmic blondie, eggnog cake with cookie butter, and a pecan wheel sticky toffee pudding. Orders are available on Instagram. Looking to bring more than one cake to the party? Julie Saha of Foodbebo accepts commissions for her truly delightful, decadent, and gorgeous cakes, too.
Shira Friedman Painting
Give someone a piece of art and they’ll remember you — and thank you — forever. When you want to buy a luxurious and truly special gift, Philly artist Shira Friedman’s paintings are a great choice. Friedman paints gorgeous still lifes of fruits and vegetables that any home would be happy to have. Want to gift them a full curated collection? Another Philly artist, Mike Geno, is known for his paintings of local foods, cheeses, and breads.