The 'Hopper Holiday Gift Guide

Yup, holiday shopping events are in full swing. But maybe you’re still stumped on what to get your partner in pork, your co-dependent boozehound friend, or your roommate who doesn’t drink your last beer? The ‘hopper is here to help.


The easiest, most affordable, bang-for-the-buck, one-size-fits-all, and under-$20 item is my book. HELLO! And check this out: I just launched an online store, so you can get a SIGNED and personalized copy of The Tablehopper’s Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco sent to you, or your friend, or whoever! It’s a total win-win, because you also end up supporting a local author, yes, yours truly. And you even stand to gain a little something something, because from now until December 31st, anyone who buys three or more copies of my book from me will be entered in a drawing to have dinner on the town in January with me! Yup, all expenses paid (within reason, of course—I’ll be in charge of ordering, ahem).


Um, who wouldn’t be totally thrilled with a holiday gift box from Humphry Slocombe? Exactly. The 2010 “Get Topped” gift box includes their toppings, and more: frosted peanuts, roasted almonds, bourbon caramel sauce, a $5 gift certificate, bacon peanut brittle, the new Tahitian V*nilla Marshmallows in their signature coffee mug, the new Ginger Black and White Bark (Guittard 70% dark and white chocolate with gingersnap crunch), a new pack of Jake’s “Best Butter Cookies Ever!”, and a Humphry Slocombe holiday card. Yeah, you could totally get freaky with your lover with what’s in the box. Anyway, it’s $60 and will be on sale starting Friday!


Since we’re on the gift box theme, I also thought these “locavore boxes” (the other “L” word) from Calico Gifts were pretty clever: they are actually planter boxes made of reclaimed wood, and you can use the enclosed seed packet to plant yourself a little garden in it. As for the treats contained within, the boxes hold everything from Sightglass Coffee to salts from All Star Organics to spirits from Sutton Cellars. (Thanks to for the tip.)


How rad would it be to find a box of chicharrones under your tree? Exactly. 4505 Meats has launched their online store, and you can order everything from fresh sausages to a six-pack of chicharrones ($18) for your favorite carnivore (you will need to swing by the Ferry Plaza farmers’ market to pick up the goods, however). There’s also a Holiday CSA pack ($75), with three types of fresh seasonal sausage (black trumpet cotechino, duck and nutmeg sausage, and boudin noir). Also included is a Christmas pork terrine, Farr family eggnog, and rosemary lard shortbread cookies. Yeah, who’s ready to play Santa now with that big ole belly? Or you can just give your honey a gift certificate for a sausage making class, and I’d confidently say you’ll have some sausage in your future, guaranteed. (Please, help me in my attempt to refrain from making a naughty sausage joke there. Really, I’m trying very hard.)


Okay, one more meaty present. I’m sure there’s someone in your life who would appreciate a “San Francisco is for Carnivores” poster from Drywell on Etsy. (Loving!) And there are other original and quirky pieces of art, from “Inside a Cappuccino” to “Carrot Meat”. And all at a friendly price point.


Sure, chocolates are grand, but let me tell you, getting a box of petit fours in the mail was pretty damned awesome. And decadent. You can order them from Dragonfly Cakes in Sausalito and send them anywhere—they come with a little ice pack, so nothing melts. Let them eat cake!


So, you were wondering when I was going to get to the booze, right? Right. Look, I don’t think any bar is complete without some Carpano Antica Formula, a fantastic vermouth that is part of my favorite Manhattan recipe, among other cocktails. It’s even amazing by itself, or as my friend likes to serve it in the winter, with muddled blood orange. And it comes in a groovy tin. Pure class and the original vermouth (from Turin), made since 1786. You can pick up a bottle at Cask Spirits or John Walker & Co. for $30.

Nothing says “I love you and want to keep you nice and warm this winter” like some special bourbon. Now, sending you on a wild goose chase to find some Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year isn’t cool (besides, I think I got the last bottle at BevMo), so just swing by Cask Spirits, see what they have in stock, and engrave that bottle of whatever you decide on for an extra $20. Classy!


A wine sock monkey. Just because.

Champagne is a very personal thing—some love it toasty, others want it dry, or sweet, or full of red fruit. Whatever, the Henriot Blanc Brut Souverain (a blanc de blancs) that I tasted last week at the Arlequin Champagne tasting totally rocked my world. And I was told it would taste even better in the small 375ml size. Meow. See, I call it the single girl split—sometimes you just want some bubs, but you don’t want to open a whole bottle. And besides, the small size is always more expensive to purchase. So here’s an idea: be a stud and buy some 375ml bottles for the Champagne lover in your life. Arlequin Wine Merchant has an admirable selection to choose from. Cheers.

Lastly, one of my favorite gifts I receive each year is from my literary agent, who makes a donation on my behalf to the local food bank. For every $1 you donate, the Food Bank can distribute $6 worth of food! (Here’s the tribute donation page.) And while you’re at it, you can also take the awesome SF Food Bank quiz right now, and Absinthe Brasserie and Metromint Water will each donate $1 for each quiz taken!

In case you want to check out some more ideas, The Feast did a Bay Area Gastronome Gift List. And yes, my book is in the lineup, thankyouverymuch.