The Best Gifts for Foodies
The holidays are a joyous time, when we all put aside our differences and focus on what’s truly important in life: Eating. For two glorious months, there’s a cheesy dip at every gathering, candy at every reception desk, and a stick of butter in every festive meal. Houses are made out of cookies! It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.
Help your travel-minded foodie friend maintain that holiday high year-round with one of these gifts. Whether you’re hoping to stoke a committed eater’s wanderlust (an at-home clambake is sure to sway your pal into tagging along on a trip to Maine) or give an amateur chef’s travel toolkit an upgrade (hotel room sous vide!), we’ve got something to fit the bill.
This year, Travel + Leisure is offering its most comprehensive gift guide ever. The goal? Make sure you can find the perfect present for everyone (yes, even your mother-in-law) on your list. Below, our top picks for the jetsetting foodie.
For the traveler who likes to spend as much time off the beaten path as possible—without giving up good food—the Wonderbag is a game-changer. Bring a pot of ingredients to a boil over a camping stove, cut the heat, and tuck your cookware into this little sleeping bag-shower cap hybrid for a few hours. The Wonderbag acts as a slow-cooker, so come dinnertime you’ll have perfectly cooked meat that falls off the bone. The best part: For every Wonderbag purchased in the States, the company sends one to the Wonderbag Foundation in Africa, which distributes bags to families in need.
To buy: amazon.com, $45
It might feel like there’s a saturation of subscription food services right now—and there kind of is—but this one has a twist that makes it perfect for globetrotting snackers. Know someone who’s always hitting up the local Japanese grocery for esoteric Pocky flavors? What about that friend who won’t stop talking about the pork-flavored potato chips from their trip to Shanghai last year? Snackoo specializes in snacks from East Asia, working with brands and distributors on the ground to source whimsical candies, packaged pastries, instant noodles, and more. Each box is packed with around twice its price in goodies from Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and beyond.
To buy: snackoo.com, from $20/box
If you give a coffee lover a packable burr grinder, he or she will want a worthy brewing contraption for those freshly-ground beans. That’s where the Aeropress comes in: This little gadget is lightweight, easy to use, and nearly unbreakable—and it makes great coffee. It can only make one cup at a time, so it’s a bit slow going if you’re trying to caffeinate a crowd, but its durability and functionality make it just as suitable for hiking the backcountry as it is for a long weekend in the city.
To buy: amazon.com, $30
Skura Sponge Subscription
Turns out, we’re supposed to change out our kitchen sponges way more often than we actually do. Are you one of those responsible few who swaps out their scrubber every week? Didn’t think so. That’s where Skura comes in. They’ve upgraded the old-school sponge using antimicrobial technology, decidedly un-icky-feeling foam material, and a cutely patterned scrubbing pad that fades when it’s time to throw it away. Better yet: they’ll send them to you on a monthly plan, so it’s impossible to forget that your sponge is past its prime.
To buy: skurastyle.com, from $12/month
Porlex Mini Coffee Grinder
It’s not easy to be a coffee snob and a world traveler. Never mind the dusty prepackaged hotel grounds, or the terrible airport swill—do you know how hard it is to find a cafe with Stumptown beans and subway tiling in, say, the Serengeti? (Very, very hard.) If there’s one thing coffee snobs love more than freshly-roasted beans, it’s telling you how much they could go for like, one good cup of coffee, you know? Buy your favorite coffee snob this tiny, easy-to-pack burr grinder and you’ll never have to hear about crappy coffee again. It’s the best kind of gift: One that is secretly for you, too.
To buy: amazon.com, $57
You may be thinking a meat thermometer is not a sexy gift. That’s usually true, unless a. The recipient loves to cook, and b. The thermometer is the ThermoPro TP03A, the best-selling instant-read thermometer on all of Amazon with a cool 4.6 stars and a league of devotees — not to mention a price tag of all of $11. We could write more, but we'll let the comments speak for themselves:
“I love the fact that this thermometer reads instantly. With the old thermometers I was always waiting and wondering how high it was going to go. This one works as it says it will, instantly. I like it very much.”
“I have this hanging on the hooks with my pot holders because I use it so often. It's small, but does a great job. There is a little switch that lets you change between Celsius and Fahrenheit. If you're like me and can't figure out why your ribs won't get hotter that 47, that's why.”
“I like this thermometer.”
To buy: amazon.com, $11
Carry-On Cocktail Kit
For epicurean travelers, the “cocktails” from an airplane's beverages cart are a watery but necessary evil for surviving long-haul international flights. So this holiday season, give your favorite traveling foodie the gift of a stiff and delicious drink (at 30,000 feet) with a travel-sized mixology kit. These twee carry-on tins contain everything you need to upgrade a mini-bottle of booze and a canned mixer; choose from options like a Bloody Mary, which includes tomato mix, pickles, and rim salt, or an Old Fashioned, with cane sugar and miniature bitters. Each tin also holds a metal mixing spoon and a smart linen coaster to liven up your tray table.
To buy: food52.com, from $48 for two tins
Ceramic Knife Set
If you’ve ever tried to cook a real meal in a vacation rental, you’re familiar with the challenges. The knives are dull, the tools are lacking, and any spices lingering in the cabinet are so stale you might as well be adding sawdust to your dish. We can’t help you with the three-year-old paprika, but toting this set along on the next road trip will circumvent the need for those dull, poorly-balanced blades that seem to be the mainstays of AirBnB kitchens. They won’t replace a workhorse steel chef’s knife for at-home cooking, but for minimal maintenance and portability, ceramic can’t be beat.
To buy: amazon.com, $46
Where To Drink Coffee
The latest installment of Phaidon’s smartly designed, painstakingly researched “Where to Eat and Drink” series is the perfect gift for traveling coffee-lovers. Whether they’re friends who need to know hippest café in every city, family who obsess over international coffee cultures and brewing techniques, or someone who just needs to stave off jet lag with a cup of local joe, they’ll love this. And the subtitle sums up perfectly how they’ll feel about it; this comprehensive coffee guide is truly grounds for celebration. Authors Liz Clayton and Avidan Ross consulted coffee experts around the world, from the founding director of Dubai’s Coffee Museum to the creator of coffee geek website Sprudge, and of course, plenty of café owners of the best coffee shops from Toronto to Tehran.
To buy: amazon.com, $20
Any food lover worth his or her fleur de sel (that’s French for ‘flower of salt’) will admit that for some dishes, no DIY version can ever touch the original. From a Katz pastrami on rye to deep dish from Lou Malnati’s in Chicago to beignets from Cafe du Monde, this rotation of regional favorites is sure to satisfy cravings of homesick locals or nostalgic frequent fliers alike. You can even specify a category, so a beau with a sweet tooth can sample a new pie every month, while your Dagwoodesque dad can look forward to an ever-changing array of sandwiches from across the country.
To buy: goldbely.com, $69
FarmSteady Everything Bagel & Cream Cheese Making Kit
For the homesick New Yorker—or any tourist who’s tried the real thing on a trip to the city—the sad stuff in the frozen food aisle is a poor substitute for a fresh NYC bagel with a slather of cream cheese. Enter FarmSteady: With complete instructions and supplies for making a dozen everything bagels and schmear from scratch, it’s as close to authenticity as you’ll find outside the tri-state area. All you need now is a brusque bald man to hand it to you and the Big Apple experience is complete.
To buy: farmsteady.com, $25
Lobster Place Stove-Top Clambake
In an ideal world, we’d all be able to teleport to New England at least once a year for a day of clambakes, lobster rolls, and panoramic oceanfront views. But until the hyperloop is finally perfected (Elon, buddy, let’s pick up the pace on that, thanks!) mail ordering will have to suffice. Luckily this kit is an acceptable substitute. With Littlenecks, steamers, mussels, lobsters, potatoes, corn, and all the accoutrements from clam juice to lobster bibs, it’s got everything you need for a coastal clambake except the soundtrack of crashing waves—that’s what YouTube is for.
To buy: lobsterplace.com, $200
Joule Sous Vide by ChefSteps
Back in the dark ages, the gourmet chef on the go was forced to leave behind the bulky sous vide cooker and resort to—ugh—regular oven meals when traveling, like some sort of philistine. Luckily, modern technology has solved that problem. ChefSteps’ Joule Sous Vide is sleek, easy-to-use, and yields meat that’s tender, flavorful, and, best of all, won’t require you to babysit the grill while your crew is lounging poolside. And at just 11 inches long and 1.3 pounds, it’s way more packable than your average countertop sous vide cooker.
To buy: chefsteps.com, $200
King’s Row Two Bag Special
Two of any King's Row blend, automatically delivered on your schedule. No obligation: modify or cancel your subscription anytime.
To buy: kingsrowcoffee.com, $28
Eataly: Contemporary Italian Cooking
If Eataly is the church of Italian cooking, consider this is its holy book. Out this October, the Eataly cookbook is more encyclopedia than recipe collection: On top of recipes for every staple dish from Abruzzo to Veneto, it’s got a visual guide to the country’s culinary staples, making it equally fit for the cooking rookie as it is for the pro. And the photos are all frame-worthy, so even if your pal’s stove is mostly used for storage, they’ll appreciate the coffee table food porn.
To buy: amazon.com, $50
Murray’s Cheese of the Month Club
Who among us hasn’t dreamed of retiring at 30 thanks to the largesse of a kind anonymous billionaire so as to travel the world and try every single cheese there is before tragically dying of heart failure at 34 and having doctors clamor to see the autopsy report because such sky-high cholesterol levels (from all the cheese, you see) are completely unprecedented in the entire history of modern medicine? Sadly, there are dreams that cannot be. But a few months of cheese in the mail from some of the world’s best creameries is a pretty decent substitute.
To buy: murrayscheese.com, $275