Los Angeles is the birthplace of so many great brands–from small artisanal companies to big industry like Lawry’s Season Salt, La Victoria, and Knott’s Berry Farm, who actually invented the boysenberry. A gift basket full of home-grown goods is a thoughtful gift for anyone from a die-hard local to a homesick transplant. You can tailor it any way you like, with a collection of teas, honey and jams with a little teapot, or combine products from either The Original Farmers Market or Grand Central Market, which both have awesome cookbooks to include.
There are so many hot sauces that originated in LA–from OG Tapatio and Huang Foy to modern upstarts like Gringo Bandito, you could just make a nice gift basket of exclusively spicy stuff. We also have lots of local chocolatiers, so a candy combo would be nice. Or maybe a nice mix of sweet and spicy–like the city itself.
I once imagined the process of creating these baskets as a little food crawl, wandering through markets, picking up Phillipe’s Hot Mustard along with a French Dip sandwich, and Bludso’s BBQ Sauce along with a half pound of their succulent fatty brisket. But this year is different. If you are in the area, you can order a lot of these products alongside a food order. In addition, all of these companies have mail-order, so you can have gift packs sent directly to your gift recipient, or stay safer at home as you create your basket of goodies. Everything I ordered this month arrived within a few days.
Batch 33 Jam is made by hand in small batches in Venice by founder Amy Neiman, who began making jams at her mother’s knee at the age of seven. There are a few regular jams, and specialty flavors depending on the season and availability of sun-ripened organic fruit. Current jams include Blackberry, Preserved Lemon, Apple Butter, Cherry Plum, Guava, Mulberry, and Nectarine-Plum Jam. Most jams are available in 3.7oz, 6oz, and 9oz jars. I recommend the Rhubarb Red-Cherry Jam because those are my favorite flavors, and it works well on a sandwich made with turkey leftovers. The website also describes it as “a glorious ruby-red, tart, sweet, vivacious and enthusiastic jam,” and how can you resist that? You can also order a variety of marmalades, Tomato Jam, Tea Jam. Cocktail Jams, Rosemary Roasted Cashews, Granola and Granola Bars.
Treat someone to honey infused with local botanicals and help to save the earth while you’re at it. Located in Canoga Park, BEE Green rescues local beehives that might have otherwise fallen prey to an exterminator. The rescue/environmental company was founded in 2014 by Larisa and John, two recent graduate architecture students who wanted to create awareness about the declining bee population.
The honey BEE Green harvests is unfiltered, unheated, unprocessed, 100% pure raw honey. They offer the popular Orange Blossom and Clover Honeys and the lesser-known Avocado, Sunflower, Alfalfa and Raspberry. But I am a big fan of florals, so my choice would be the Lavender Honey. 10oz for $12.00.
Bludso’s is known as THEE barbecue spot in Los Angeles. The Bludso family has been slow-smoking meat in Texas for five generations. Kevin Bludso was saintly to bring their delicious fatty brisket into our lives. We are lucky enough to be able to enjoy the secret recipe Bludso’s Barbeque Sauce in our own homes. Your loved ones will be lucky when they find this awesome, tangy, spicy sauce in their gift baskets. $10 a bottle, mild or hot. The site also sells rubs, T-shirts, and a ready-made gift pack for $38.
Buzzed Honeys sells small batches of hyper-local honey from backyard hives to make some seriously delicious honey. Their hives are spread out all over the Los Angeles area harvesting fresh honey. The Pasadena Honey is one of their most popular Honeys, and Silverlake is dark and intense. They also have some guest raw urban honey spots in Chicago and Denver. You too might have to become an urban forager if you hope to score these honeys. Follow their Instagram for the latest news. luckily for you and me, Laura Ann’s Jams is selling them right now so you can order some along with the jam. You can also order Buckwheat Honey from the Mojave Desert from Plant Material.
Chado sources their teas directly from origin, and makes their own original blends by hand. The company currently operates four stores in Los Angeles with a full selection of premium teas. They are known for their friendly and knowledgeable staff. We are featuring a classic Nilgiri tea blended with beautiful Blue Mallow blossoms and flavored with bergamot. Our resident tea connoisseur, Lori, recommends the Afternoon Blend from the gardens of Darjeeling, and the wine and champagne teas like White Champagne Raspberry, as well as their seasonal offerings. There are more than 300 teas to choose from. Free shipping for the remainder of the year. $13.38
Compartes has been a Los Angeles icon since 1950, when its namesakes created European style confections in their Brentwood home. Compartes’ smooth milk chocolate became a favorite of stars like Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra. The classic brand has remained current by experimenting with modern flavors, innovative chocolate designs, and beautiful patterns and packaging. I recommend their handcrafted artisan chocolate bars, made fresh daily, with exciting flavors like Donuts & Coffee, Cereal Bowl, Salted Pretzel, Birthday Cake, and Caramelized Waffle Cone Chocolate bar. The Potato Chip Crisp Milk Chocolate Bar was surprisingly good, with crisp kettle-style potato chips enrobed in creamy milk chocolate. Personally, I recommend the the Churro & Horchata Bar for this local basket. $9.95.
Remember that episode of I Love Lucy where Lucy and Ethel get a job in a chocolate factory? The conveyor belt in the Edelweiss Chocolate Factory, located right in the center of downtown Beverly Hills, was the inspiration for that scene. If the I Love Lucy connection is not enough of a Hollywood pedigree for you, Edelweiss was a favorite of Katherine Hepburn and Frank Sinatra. Previous shop owners include Marty Engels and Shirley Jones. Edelweiss has a huge selection of chocolate-dipped fruit and marshmallows, including my favorite–chocolate-covered cherries with brandy. You can have a big basket of the cherries sent to your giftee, but for our assortment I am recommending the deep, rich chocolate truffles that come in adorable tiny boxes of one, two or four chocolates. They also cater to diabetics with some delicious sugar-free selections, particularly the English toffee, whose buttery richness makes sugar unnecessary. $12.95 for a box of four truffles. Call for more information 310-275-0341.
Founded by The Offspring front man, Dexter Holland, the Huntington Beach-based Gringo Bandito hot sauce comes in four different flavors including red, super hot, green, and the newest flavor, yellow, made with scorching hot scotch bonnet and habanero peppers. Gringo Bandito has 70% less salt than other major hot sauce brands, contains no preservatives, and is paleo friendly, gluten free and all natural. Try the new yellow hot sauce for a change of pace. (Pace? Scratch that). $10 for two bottles.
Gus’s BBQ has been a South Pasadena mainstay since 1946, when three relatives, Gus, Jack, and Mike, came off of a country-wide tour of BBQ after leaving their family-owned bar in Cleveland, and bought a little place called Hamburger Mac’s. Today Gus’s BBQ in Pasadena is still slingin’ some of the best brisket in town. Anything that comes out of that kitchen is good.
Their smoky dry rub balances spicy and sweet is a mix of brown sugar, garlic, salt and spices. You can also order BBQ sauces or send a gift pack. $4.95.
As a teenager enjoying post-gig eats around Los Angeles, I was always confused as to the source of Huy Fong’s Sriracha hot sauce, which was known as “rooster sauce” or “cock sauce” due to its logo. Because I found it all over town, in Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese and Mexican restaurants. Little did I know it was manufactured right here in L.A. Sriracha chili sauce’s origin was in Viet Nam, but David Tran, a Chinese immigrant from Vietnam, popularized it to the point of ubiquity. In the last 10 years it has become even more popular, showing up everywhere from Michelin restaurants to fast food joints. The garlicky, chile and vinegar-based sauce isn’t too spicy, and is famously versatile. I probably like it best in ramen. No L.A.-themed food roundup would be complete without it. The 9-ounce size is harder to find than the standard 17-ounce, but is the perfect size for a gift basket. You can also send someone a sampler that includes Huy Fong’s Chili Garlic Sauce and Sambal Oelek. $3.99 for a 9-ounce bottle.
Tasha Moon, the founder of La Luna Salt in Agoura Hills, has a wide array of large-grain salts, smoked, or mixed with a variety of flavors and spices. The infused sea salts are non- GMO and free from additives, preservatives, and anti-caking agents. I like the Lemon Salt and the French Blend. But for something truly unique, and a little naughty, place an order for Kitchen Bitch, a proprietary blend of Garlic, Fennel, Paprika, Black pepper, and Himalayan salt. It is advertised as having “authentic, clean, seamless flavor that will have you moaning until the last bite.”
La Monarca is our favorite Mexican bakery. Their pan dulce and cakes are unrivaled. They also have awesome tacos made with the freshest tortillas you might ever eat. They also sell their own coffees, Mexican hot chocolate, café de olla (coffee with cinnamon and raw sugar), and champurrado, a type of atole, a hot drink made with chocolate, milk, masa harina, and piloncillo (those cone-shaped pressed sugars you see in bins in the the market. I’m recommending the more pedestrian Organic Oaxaca Reserve Coffee because it’s a good, medium-bodied, everyday coffee that goes well with pastries. But try any of the other hot drinks if you are looking for something special. 12 ounces of coffee for $16.00. A portion of the proceeds goes towards the preservation of Monarch butterflies.
Laura Ann Masura was a drummer in Chicago punk bands before turning her lifetime love of jam-making into a profession. The skills she learned from her mother and grandmother started her off, and soon she was experimenting with specialty jams, combining fresh produce and herbs. Still a part of the Echo Park/Silver Lake scene, Laura Ann started to get attention from local press end ended up being featured on Oprah. She is now experimenting with using her jams to make cocktails. Try flavors like Apricot Ginger, Blueberry Basil, Raspberry Habanero and Strawberry Vanilla Jam. She also sells lo-fi (low sugar) jams, granola, olive oil, and the Buzzed Honey we raved about earlier. $9.99 a jar.
You can’t visit The Original Farmer’s Market without stopping to watch Michael Graves of Littlejohn’s creating out handmade confections in the window of his little shop. The Toffee is World Famous, “cooked to perfection so it melts in your mouth and covered with the finest milk chocolate and fresh roasted almonds.” You can order a half pound of toffee for $15.50, but a full pound of candy is required for shipping. Might we suggest you fill out your order with a half pound of Marshmallow Delights–homemade marshmallows coated with rich caramel? $30.00 for a half-pound. Worth it.
Pez Cantina has long been one of our favorite places for tacos and ceviches. Pez Powder is a blend of chile and lime, similar to the Tajin for sprinkling on mango, but with the intense smokiness of chipotle. The simple and natural ingredient list is only Sea salt, chipotle chile peppers, citric acid, cane sugar, dehydrated lime powder, and calcium silicate to prevent caking. For something more traditional, try the Original and for something spicier, go for the Green Pez Powder. Besides sprinkling it on fruit, try it on your barbecued steaks, seafood, popcorn, french fries, and eggs. Give your micheladas, margaritas, and Nloody Marys, a real kick!
Philippe’s, also known as “Philippe the Original” first opened in downtown L.A. in 1908, and has been operating in its current location on North Alameda Street, on the edge of Chinatown since 1951. Phillipe’s is known as the originator of the French Dip sandwich, although Cole’s Pacific Electric Buffet also makes that claim. Phillipe’s is, however, the undisputed creator of an awesome hot mustard that pairs perfectly with any one of their French Dip sandwiches. The condiment is so emblematic of our city, whenever I have a meetup with a group of foodies I know from around the country, I always bring Phillipe’s horseradish-based hot mustard. “Hot but Good.”
It just would not be a Los Angeles gift basket without a box of See’s Candy. Mary See, the face of See’s Candies, moved to Pasadena with her son, Charles, and his wife in 1919 after being widowed. Mary made candy in their black and white kitchen, the inspiration for the design of the candy shops. The company still uses many of Mary’s original recipes. A 4-ounce sampler box contains a combination of nuts and chews, truffles, and soft centers, including my mom’s favorite, California Brickle. $8.00 If you want to go big, order the 1/2 pound the silver box for $13.25.
If you would like to include beer, check out Angel Brewery, Monkish brewery, King Harbor Brewery, Eagle Rock Brewery, Angel City, Golden Road, and Craftsman. Or for spirits, try Greenbar Distillery.