This Needs Hot Sauce 2021 Gift Guide
Good stuff for all your favorite people
Hanukkah is fast approaching and Christmas is a few weeks after that so it is officially gift season. I’m back with my second annual gift guide (I still stand by last year’s), which doubles as a favorite things list and can be used for birthdays, registries, housewarmings, treating yourself and more.
I spend a lot of time putting this together. If you find it helpful, share it with a friend or on social media! It helps a lot.
How this works:
Affiliate links are marked with an *. Affiliate links means I earn a small commission or store credit if you click through and buy. I know this isn’t the case for most gift guides, but I really own or intend to gift this stuff (I started writing this in February). This is longer than a typical newsletter so your email app may cut it off. Make sure to click “View Entire Message” to see the whole thing or open in your browser.
We all have too much stuff. I urge you to shop consciously and responsibly and never go into debt to buy gifts. Be kind and patient with customer service workers, postal workers, and anyone else you encounter along the way. I also love experience gifts (my go to is a restaurant or massage gift card, my friend Sarah is offering portrait sessions which you can book in their DMs) and secondhand gifts (hard to link but so special), and believe that a long phone call or handwritten note is a gift in and of itself (I love the stationary selection at Greer, a Black owned gift shop in Chicago). I’m based in New York and so are many of these companies, but if there are local companies that make similar products, I encourage you to support them.
Also, if you’re shopping for yourself, still write a message in the gift field. I started doing this recently and it’s always fun (and hilarious) to see your own well wishes for yourself.
Now, let’s dive in.
A gift from me:
Gift cooking classes! Shameless plug, Erica and I are teaching more meal prep classes in 2022 and the package makes a perfect gift. The Meal Prep Class Pack ($99) is a four part series of live Sunday meal prep classes held in early 2022. We’ll lead participants through 2 hour cooking sessions, always with gluten free and vegetarian options. You’ll leave with meals for the week, tons of new cooking knowledge, and a packet of original recipes to refer back to. Classes include on demand video recordings which work with any schedule and the all virtual option means no shipping delays for a perfect last-minute gift. P.S. This is a fun one to get for yourself and a friend, then you can cook together in the Zoom room!
Omsom Starters ($29 for a sampler pack): I first tried Omsom products this January and I can’t imagine life without them. These proud, loud, and flavor packed starters from sisters Vanessa and Kim Pham make cooking so much easier and more fun and the packaging is bright and gift-worthy. Each starter includes a recipe card and there are so many great recipes on their website. I like the Southeast Asian sampler pack to start and there are also vegan and gluten free sets. Use my link for $5 off your first order* (I get a $5 credit) and use code EARLY for 15% off through Thanksgiving
Red Clay Hot Honey ($12): If you’re someone who likes pizza, you’ve got to try Red Clay Hot Honey. It’s the perfect blend of sweet and spicy and it’s so versatile. Try it on pizza, toast, or add to salad dressings or marinades. Red Clay is a Charleston based company that’s obsessive about sourcing and quality. They have really cute gift sets and you can use code ABIGAIL20 for 20% off your order. (I did an Instagram campaign with them in September, this inclusion is not sponsored)
Diaspora Co Spices ($33 for a trio): Elevating your spices really elevates your cooking and Diaspora Co. is one of the coolest ways to gift that to a friend who loves to cook. The company is dedicated to creating a more equitable spice trade by paying the farmers well above market rate and they source from farmers all over India and Sri Lanka. The spices are released on the harvest schedule so some things are preorders and the packaging and branding are gorgeous (I use their bright yellow tote all the time). The founder Sana Javeri Kadri is building something very special.
Burlap and Barrel (spices start at $8.99) : For a broader selection of single origin spices sourced from around the world, I love Burlap and Barrel, specifically the selection of chili flakes (so many kinds), the cinnamon (I can never go back to regular cinnamon), and the sumac. Alicia Kennedy just launched a pumpkin spice blend with them, perfect for holiday baking. These spices will make you question what you thought an ingredient tasted like, they’re just so much more flavorful than supermarket spices. For gifting, get a set or order a few popular spices for office secret santas and the like.
Brins Jam ($9.99 per jar): Jam is a lovely host gift and Brins Jam is so good. It’s a local Brooklyn brand with the really unique flavors that aren’t too sweet, like banana, cherry chai, and blueberry sumac, a collab with Burlap and Barrel. The small jars mean you can gift a few, maybe with a loaf of sourdough and some good butter if you’re traveling somewhere.
Zach & Zoe Honey ($30 for a gift set): My mom first found this family owned brand, started after their youngest child Zach had food allergies, last year and ordered a big jar for Rosh Hashanah when we eat apples and honey. The honeys are delicious and can be used in so many ways. I love the lavender one and they also make very cute beeswax candles.
Cast Iron Skillet ($21.95 for a 10 inch pan): This might seem like a strange gift but it’s life-changing, especially for a newer cook or someone who just moved. A cast iron skillet will last forever and is one of the most versatile kitchen tools out there. I use mine for baked pastas, fried rice, toast, and so much more. It has a permanent place on my stovetop and is not hard to clean. If you want to round out the gift, this tool is great for cleaning it
Hay rolling pin ($10): Until very recently, I rolled out my dough with a wine bottle (here’s proof). It worked but had some limitations, especially with larger doughs. Julia and Julianne gave me this chic rolling pin for my birthday and I love it. It’s easy to store because it doesn’t have handles and gives a nice even roll.
Nespresso frother ($119): I got this last year in a depth of Covid boredom and it really upgrades your at home coffee or tea or hot cocoa game. It’s easy to clean and has both hot and cold settings (the cold foam on iced coffee is so good). Nespresso also has decent warranties if anything happens (I’ve had no issues).
Citrus juicer ($18): Erica was dismayed I didn’t own this and got me a similar one (I linked a local Brooklyn shop but you can find these at any kitchen supply store). I do love it and you will get way more juice out of your citrus. Pair this with some limes and a bottle of tequila (La Gritona is a good one) for a fun gift.
Hedley & Bennett apron ($85): You’ve probably seen these aprons on Instagram and they are not only cute, but high quality. Made in Los Angeles from thick and durable fabrics, they get softer over time and have a lifetime warranty. There’s a wide range of colors, from simple to more eclectic and the monogramming is a fun personalization option. You can also get a giftcard so the person can pick out their own. They also come in plus sizes, linked here.
Material Kitchen The reBoard ($30): This is a basic cutting board made from recycled plastic and sugarcane and it’s a great gift for someone you might not know that well or someone who has everything (add in a block of cheese because it’s pretty enough to serve things on). There’s also an extremely cute mini version which is so useful for cutting one avocado or a piece of fruit. Bonus: they ship really fast and two of the colors donate proceeds to Heart of Dinner and Drive Change.
Estelle Colored Glass ($160 for six stemless wine glasses): I got to speak with founder Stephanie Summerson Hall for a Food & Wine article and I was blown away. Her glassware line, made by Polish artisans, is inspired by her grandmother’s ceramics collections. The pieces are beautiful and sturdy enough to actually use (and display). I love the stemless wine glasses and they are such a special gift. If you’re picking a color, stalk someone’s Instagram to see their home decor or go for a mixed set, which was created based on customer feedback. This is a more expensive gift so coordinate with some pals to gift it together. They also carry them at Big Night, a store in Greenpoint with an excellent gift selection.
Jamie Beck Posters (Start at $35): Posters are not just for college students and Jamie Beck’s posters are on my personal wishlist. Beck is an artist based in Provence who shoots beautiful still life photographs, many of which involve food, like this citrus one and this Pinot Noir series. A framed poster is a much better gift so order it to your place and then get it framed locally.
Golden Oyster Shell Holders ($15): These are adorable and made by Alicia Kennedy’s mom in Long Island. They’re on my wishlist as a bivalve fan and would be great for storing jewelry on a nightstand or serving salt on the counter. Give one to the friend you always text for oyster happy hour.
Candles: Would it be a gift guide without candles? Nope. The key to gifting candles is knowing the person well enough to have some idea of what scents they like (ask a roommate or partner if needed) and making sure they’re a person who uses candles (some people don’t because of sensitivity to smells, pets, allergies, etc). I love to gift woodsy scents from small businesses in the winter. Queer Candle Company’s candles have great throw and their gin juniper one is so wintery and festive. I lit it almost every night last winter and it still lasted for a long time. We See Stars is a local gift shop that makes candles named for the streets of Williamsburg. Humboldt is my favorite, it’s a blend of spruce, balsam, and cypress (the labels are handwritten on these if that bothers you). Finally, Boy Smells, a queer owned brand in LA, never disappoints, and has very detailed scent profiles on their site. I love their Slow Burn candle, a collab with Kacey Musgraves, Cedar Stack is perfectly woodsy, and Cameo is a gingery rose with a little vanilla. I love gifting these candles (they’re my go-to housewarming present) and I also have their wick trimmer, which really helps candles burn more evenly. I like that the candles have a range of fragrances, great throw and pretty packaging. I reuse the vessels to store makeup or pens. This candle from Lindsay Created is always out of stock but someday I will buy it because it is perfect for any freelancer pals.
Le Tush Mask ($22): Did you expect to see a butt mask on here? Me either. This is not a gift for your boss, but it’s a fun gift for a close friend, sister, or cousin. Megababe is Katie Sturino’s company, known for its thigh rescue and other products for issues we don’t want to talk about. This is a mask you use before showering on your butt, but it’s also great on your upper arms, legs, and any other area you want to exfoliate (it helps with KP as well). You can use it on your face too, after spot testing. I got this in the summer and am still using it as it gets colder and my skin gets dry. I also like their body acne mist. You can order directly or check your local Ulta or Target.
Eu’Genia Shea Butter ($15 for a tin): It’s winter and we all need to moisturize. This shea butter does the job and it comes in lovely tins that last for a long time—they also have a pregnancy strength option. You can order directly or find it at Credo. It’s a mother daughter social enterprise that donates 15% of proceeds back to their workers in Ghana in the form of an education fund (you can hear more of their story here). This is a product I’ve purchased and repurchased.
Dieux Forever Eye Masks ($25): I’ve already gifted these to three people (and I got one for mysefl) and I’m a huge fan. These reusable silicone eye masks can be used with any eye cream or moisturizer and they help with product absorption and depuffing, especially if you store them in the freezer. Of course, they’re also great for taking selfies and they have a new tattoo inspired design.
Portable Charger ($49.99): Everyone needs one of these and this is the best one I’ve ever owned. Here’s why: it charges directly in an outlet so you don’t need to keep track of another cord and it charges phones fast (I once brought it to a bar and revived two friends’ dead phones before last call). If you’re shopping for a teen or college student, they probably need this. And so do you (also this is the only Amazon link on here).
Studs hoops and huggies (between $25 and $60 for most): I wear my Studs hoops all the time and they are so comfortable and lightweight. I also got a piercing at the New York studio last year that healed well (they even shortened the piercing jewelry for free after). They have mostly small earrings, like studs and huggies, and the quality is great for the price. Get a piercing with a friend if you’re near a studio (perfect experience gift) or pick up some fun earrings.
Arizona Essentials Eva Birkenstocks ($44.95): An out of season rec that could inspire a warm weather trip, these extremely comfortable, lightweight and affordable Birkenstocks are winners, as long as you can figure out the recipient’s shoe size. Last summer, I wore them to the beach, where they’re better than a flip flop but just as waterproof and out to dinner, when a thunderstorm is always a possibility. I have the black ones but a pop of color is also fun and they come in regular and wide sizes. Also, I have on good authority that these are more comfortable than Freedom Moses sandals.
Catbird Charms (starting at $44): A Brooklyn classic, Catbird charms are delicate and customizable (the cannoli one is extremely cute). I wear one of their necklaces all the time and it's held up very well and we got my cousin one of the charms for her birthday. They also have beautiful earrings and a few stores in New York if you’d like to go shopping in person.
Masks: Masks are here to stay (I can’t imagine taking a flight or train ride without them, even once Covid is less of a threat) and I have two favorites. First, my barrière disposable masks are the most comfortable ones I’ve worn and they have great designs (they just added KN95 styles too). I wear them multiple times before tossing and am such a fan of the fit and feel. For cloth masks, I like the baggu ones, which have a nose wire perfect for glasses wearers and also come in kids sizes. They are a bit warm in the summer, which is actually a positive in the winter and you can add a paper filter if you’d like. I’m also a longtime baggu bag fan (the bags last for years and fit so many groceries). The masks come in 3 packs so it could be a good gift to split up if you’re putting together gift bags for coworkers, cousins, kids, or a group of friends.
I read a lot so this was hard to narrow down. Books make great gifts, especially if you include a note about why you think they’d like it. These are Bookshop affiliate links, which support Independent Bookstores
The Undocumented Americans*: This book, by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, should be required reading. The author, a DACA recipient who graduated from Harvard, introduces readers to undocumented Americans (anonymized for their safety) and their stories—and often hidden roles in major historical events. There’s a chapter about the role of undocumented workers in the 9/11 cleanup that I think about all the time and another about Hurricane Sandy. Get this book for your friend who listens to news podcasts and reads a lot, I guarantee they’ll learn something.
Simply Julia: 110 Easy Recipes for Healthy Comfort Food: This cookbook, by longtime TNHS favorite, Julia Turshen, is a winner. It’s got the well written, flexible, and approachable recipes you expect from Julia along with essays about everything from diet culture to anxiety to grilling. There are many vegetarian options and Julia’s wife, Grace, is a type 1 diabetic so there are lots of recipes that are carb conscious as well. Make the sesame noodles with mushrooms!
The Idea of You*: The Idea of You is a book that you won’t read just once. It’s the type of book you’ll finish and immediately force someone else to read it so you have a support group (that’s why it became a big pandemic hit). The book, by Robinne Lee, follows a 39 year old divorcee who takes her daughter to a boy band concert and winds up having a romance with the lead singer, inspired by Harry Styles. It is steamy and beautifully written and getting to read it for the first time (I’ve read it at least 4) is a real gift.
Seven Days in June*: I got this book for my birthday and since then my sister has also loved it (my mom is reading it next). Author Tia Williams follows a romance author immersed in the Black Brooklyn literary scene and what happens when she reconnects with her high school love, who is also an author. This one is steamy and also deals with some serious childhood trauma and chronic illness. It’s a beautiful story that I’m already planning to reread.
The Korean Vegan Cookbook: Reflections and Recipes from Omma's Kitchen: Get this for anyone who can’t get off TikTok. Lawyer turned creator Joanne Molinaro found ways to veganize the Korean recipes she grew up with. The photography is gorgeous too, nice and moody, and she’s an incredible storyteller, sharing her family’s immigration story, her own struggles with imposter syndrome and disordered eating, and so much more along with the delicious recipes.
Serving Up: Essays on food, identity and culture: This anthology, edited by Zoe Adjonyoh, is coming out next year, but I have to include it because I’m contributing an essay, which will be the first time my work is in a book! I’m incredibly honored to be part of this and look forward to reading the other essays from contributors like Ashtin Berry, Kevin Vaughn, Preeti Mistry, and Thérèse Nelson.
A donation in someone’s name is a great gift. I’m sharing a few organizations I love, but always encourage a personalized donation (if the group doesn’t have a gifting field, write a note explaining the gift). A Thing or Two also shared a number of great place to give in their gift guide and I also recommend looking up teacher wishlists for schools in your area.
North Brooklyn Mutual Aid: I’ve been volunteering with North Brooklyn Mutual Aid for over a year and remain beyond impressed with the work they’re doing around a number of issues in my community. I’m most active with the free fridges (remember when you all donated almost $400 for me to stock them on my birthday? I do) but they run compost programs, NBK Essentials which works with unhoused neighbors, device drives for students, and so much more. You can donate right here or you can support the fridges via Venmo @nbkfridges. I would personally be thrilled if a friend stocked a fridge instead of getting me something. There are mutual aid groups around the country and I encourage supporting your local network.
Loveland Foundation: Rachel Cargle’s foundation is dedicated to providing therapy for Black women and girls, which can be very expensive. You can support the therapy fund on your own or set up a giving circle with some friends. This would be such a nice gift for the people in your group chat, which is not a substitute for therapy.
Heart of Dinner: Moonlynn Tsai and Yin Chang started Heart of Dinner in the early day of the pandemic to feed Asian elders in New York City culturally appropriate food. In addition to providing nourishment, each meal delivery comes with a handwritten note sending love, which is extra important in a time of rising anti-Asian American violence. The team partners with local restaurants and has dozens of volunteers. Get this for a grandparent or someone who loves and misses their grandparents. If you’d like to volunteer, they’re always looking for folks to write notes.
I asked some friends with excellent taste to share their gifting picks and they did not disappoint. Knowing and following these folks is a gift so show them some love!
Hannah Orenstein, Senior Dating Editor at Elite Daily and author of four novels: Tuscan Herb Organic Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil from The Blue Olive. I found this little olive oil shop on a trip upstate and have since become a passionate fangirl over their Tuscan Herb oil. The flavor is unbelievable. It's fantastic with a baguette, but you can also drizzle it over salads or fish. I ordered two more bottles for myself and now buy them as housewarming gifts for friends.
Hitha Palepu, Author, WE'RE SPEAKING: The Life Lessons of Kamala Harris: A longtime family tradition of ours is to fill stockings with toiletries for the upcoming year. We do a different theme every year (dental one year, skin another year) and I think this year is the health/supplements year. I'm filling my stocking with Beeya Wellness' superfood blends to help balance out my hormones with nutrients (because perimenopause has hit me and it is kind of kicking my butt), and will likely add them to my mom and mother-in-law's stockings as well!
Stephanie Loo, Pastry Cook at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Contributor at Bon Appetit and Food52: Mah-Ze-Dahr Signature Granola - The sleeper hit at one of my all-time favorite New York bakeries, Mah-Ze-Dahr, is their signature granola. It's easy to miss among the beautiful pastries on display, but of all their items, the granola might be my favorite thing they make. As someone who regularly makes granola at my job, this granola is still the one I crave. It's truly addicting, and I can (and often do) eat it by the handful! Food stylist and pastry chef, Kaitlin Wayne, introduced this granola to me and we text about just how good it is. It ships anywhere in the US, so you don't have to live in New York City to get your hands on it. Bonus: it's vegan!
Irina Groushevaia, Food & Culture Writer and Recipe Developer: The Tofudee! An eye-catching tofu press that's not only incredibly functional, but also beautiful. No more playing kitchen hazard by piling up cast iron skillets, cutting boards, and cans on top of tofu... this elegant and easy-to-use tofu press can have a block pressed in less than 15 minutes. For the ultimate chewy tofu texture, fully freeze and defrost a block of firm or extra firm tofu before pressing, you won't regret the extra step!
Erica Adler, Personal chef helping folks get comfy in their kitchens in her newsletter and YouTube Channel: Fog Linen Calendar Cloths: Functional, gorgeous, from a small female-founded brand, and most importantly, loosely food related? These calendar cloths check a lot of my personal gift-giving boxes. I love that they're beautiful enough to hang up and serve as a yearly calendar, but can also be put to work hanging from an oven handle and cleaning up kitchen spills if your gift recipient so chooses. There are multiple festive designs to choose from, making finding one to suit any kitchen aesthetic a breeze. This year, I'm gifting these lovely cloths to foodie friends, family, and will likely treat myself to one as well!
Rachel Wilkerson Miller, author and writer: I love fake foods and things that are the wrong size (either teeny tiny or very big) so these oversized fake pasta kitchen tools are extremely my shit. When my girlfriend bought them, I thought they'd mainly just be fun decorative kitchen tchotchkes, which was honestly enough for me...but the penne turned out to be an effective garlic peeler, which I didn't expect! (I wrote a proper review of the garlic peeler on my blog too, with gifs of it in action, if you're curious!) I like to put together little themed gifts and I think these would pair well with some fancy dried pasta or beautiful canned tomatoes, a nice Italian cookbook (perhaps the new Don Angie one?), and/or Stanley Tucci's memoir.
Oset Babür-Winter, Associate Culture Editor at Food & Wine Magazine: Deux Cranes Best Seller Chocolates Box; I'm constantly floored by Los Gatos-based chocolatier Deux Cranes' ability to master vegan and milk-based chocolate alike in exciting, unexpected flavor combinations like dark chocolate with miso almond (my favorite) or milk chocolate with buckwheat, sesame, and ginger. The packaging is beautiful enough that it makes for a quick, easy gift that feels thoughtful.
Maiah Johnson Dunn, wine writer: Donate to The Urban Grape Wine Studies Award for Students of Color at Boston University. To commemorate 10 years in business, the Black-owned Boston wine shop, The Urban Grape, decided to tackle the lack of industry diversity head on. In June 2020, co-owners TJ and Hadley Douglas self-funded the initial endowment for The Urban Grape Wine Studies Award for Students of Color at Boston University, where TJ started his career. The award provides access for at least one student to a four-level wine certification at the Elizabeth Bishop Wine Resource Center. The program “uses the three-pronged approach of education, work experience, and mentorship to break down barriers to the beverage industry, to create opportunities for career advancement, and to prepare students of color for long and prosperous careers in the wine industry.”
Julianne Simson, Creator of @howtobebrokeinnewyork, NYC law student, and your next clothing swap host!: As a person who needs movement for sanity but also has a lot of physical impairments (ie: back pain), the Le Sweat fitness app has been an incredible light in my life during the pandemic, and will be beyond as well. It has so many class options which are challenging, fun, and VERY clear. There are also programs to follow which are great for achieving fitness goals. I also recommend this for your parents--let's get them off the couch and away from walkers for as long as possible! This is a really affordable platform that gives the most bang for your buck that I've seen!
If you made it this far, thank you and happy gifting!