The best gifts for foodies and people who eat well

Published 11/13/2022 10:25 p.m. EST, Updated 11/15/2022 1:18 p.m. EST

Illustration for The Baltimore Banner's gift guide

As the food reporter for The Baltimore Banner, I’m always on the lookout for local products with a unique story. Here are a few items that have recently come across my plate.

Personally, I love a gift that feels like a splurge, whether it’s an everyday indulgence or a once-in-a-lifetime luxury. You’ll find both here.

The items here would be good for almost anyone on your shopping list. They’re useful, and in some cases, edible, two qualities that make a can’t-go-wrong present.

All options are available at stores and other businesses in the Baltimore area, and many are manufactured locally, too.

J.Q. Dickinson Ramp Salt and salt cellar for the Gift Guide.
(Kirk McKoy/The Baltimore Banner)

For the farm-to-table geek

A few years ago I ate dinner at a quirky farm-to-table restaurant just across the Maryland border called Patowmack Farm. I still think about that fabulous meal, specifically, the salt.

Our server explained that the sea salt from one course came from West Virginia. It originated from a prehistoric ocean trapped beneath the Appalachian Mountains. I later learned about the maker: J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works, a family of seventh-generation salt growers and farmers who use old-school techniques to make this unique seasoning.

“It’s a product people aren’t really aware of,” says Robert Voss, owner of John Brown General & Butchery in Cockeysville, which carries the salt on its shelves ($13). Pop over to neighboring gift shop Hedgerow for a ceramic salt cellar to match ($14).

Kirchmayr chocolatier for the gift guide.
(Kirk McKoy/The Baltimore Banner)

For the chocoholic

Back from its pandemic-era closure under new ownership and at a new location by Aldi on York Road, Kirchmayr Chocolatier continues to impress with its selection of German-style truffles and treats. Wow your closest chocolate lover with a decadent and show-stopping chocolate champagne bottle filled with 14 champagne truffles ($45). For more understated palates, you can’t go wrong with the luscious cocoa ganache chocolates ($21), thin squares that pack a punch of bittersweet chocolate goodness.

Dimitri 18 year Barrel-aged Balsamic Vinegar and Garlic infused Olive Oil for the gift guide.
(Kirk McKoy/The Baltimore Banner)

For the host

Imported straight from the centuries-old family farm in Greece, Dimitri Extra Virgin Olive Oil has become a local favorite for gifting and for everyday use. The two most popular items at the Timonium storefront are pictured here: the 18-year barrel-aged balsamic vinegar ($25) and garlic infused olive oil ($22). Sweet, thick and balanced, the vinegar is the perfect finish for a caprese salad. Or add it to seltzer water to make TikTok’s “healthy Coke.” Infused with herbs, the olive oil is excellent for drizzling over veggies or just dipping with bread.

Serious about picking crabs, opt for the Maryland made durable cast aluminum Salisbury Crab Mallet and Crab knife.
(Kirk McKoy/The Baltimore Banner)

For the crab fiend

For the foodie who’s serious about picking crabs, opt for the Maryland-made Salisbury crab mallet ($13 at Smyth) that’s destined to outlive the standard issue wooden versions. Add on the Carvel Hall crab knife ($13.50) and your recipient will be an unstoppable crab-picking machine. Sold at Popsations Gourmet Popcorn in Timonium as well as at Smyth Jewelers, where you can even get them boxed up in a fancy gift box.

(Left to right) Las Casa De Vaquería Reserva Carmenare 2020; Ercole Barbera Del Monferrato D.O.C.; and Barbera d Alba Superiore 2020 at Bin 604 for the gift guide.
(Kirk McKoy/The Baltimore Banner)

For the wine snob

Who better to ask for this holiday’s wine recommendation than restaurateur Tony Foreman, one-half of the radio show “Foreman and Wolf on Food and Wine”?

To customers who come into his Bin 604 Wine + Spirits above Whole Foods in Harbor East, Foreman recommends thinking of wine in tiers: from everyday all the way up to “mortgage payment” wines. Similarly, when it comes to holiday wines, you might have a bottle you bring to a casual Friendsgiving and another you get for your hard-to-impress father-in-law. For the former, Foreman recommends a 2020 bottle of Las Casas de Vaqueria Reserva Corral A18 Carmenere from Chile. “Its quality is stupid good for $12.” For the latter: go for a Bordeaux like the 2019 Chateau Faugeres. At $51.99, “It’s not cheap, but it’s great.”

For the truly big spenders, Bin 604 even has a 2001 bottle of Chateau D’Yquem Sauternes, what Foreman calls “It’s-been-the-best-year-ever-wine.” The price tag? $1,004.

Students learn at Baltimore Chef Shop.
(Courtesy photo)

For the friend who binge-watched “The Bear”

“Behind!” a fellow student called out as he walked toward the bathroom. I was taking knife skills 101 at Baltimore Chef Shop in Hampden, where I was hoping I could learn to cut vegetables like Carmi, the protagonist of TV’s “The Bear,” whose habit of brunoiseing carrots at his late brother’s greasy spoon inspires much mocking from his fellow cooks. After a few hours under the guidance of the chef instructor, I, too, knew my way around a proper julienne. For friends who, like, me, are eager to up their game in the kitchen, try a gift certificate to one of Baltimore’s many cooking schools, which also include Schola in Mt. Vernon. Classes start at around $80.

The rockfish cutting board from Words with Boards.
(Courtesy photo)

For the newlyweds

Nothing says “I didn’t wait until the last minute” like a personalized gift. I love the selection of personalized boards at Woodberry’s Words with Boards – and I’m not alone. Oprah Winfrey selected them as one of her favorite things in 2015. The company hand-cuts the boards at its shop ($169), and offers a sweet selection for newlyweds or almost-marrieds. Or you can go for one of their laser cut rockfish boards ($129), an attractive choice for the seafood lover who has everything. For a gift sure to make mom cry: You can have a favorite family recipe engraved – in her handwriting! – on a board.

Anyhow, boards are hot right now in food worlds, whether for charcuterie or just plain butter.

Balmuda toaster ovens.
(Courtesy photo)

For the foodie who’s too cool for an air fryer

Steam ovens have become the latest must-have appliance for gourmands the world over. Let your foodie friends test the waters with a Balmuda toaster oven ($295), which incorporates steam to make the perfect toast – moist on the inside with a golden and crunchy exterior. “It’s that perfect marriage of good design, easy to use and enhances the quality of the product,” says Shawn Chopra, whose Good Neighbor coffee shop uses the ovens to make their signature toast. The business also sells the toaster ovens to customers. For home cooks, it can perk up old pizza and toast. “It’s pretty dummy proof,” adds operations manager Rida Shahbaz. “It’s a game-changer for brioches and larger, thicker crusts.”

JIKONI bu Ravinder Bhogal is a book featuring inauthentic recipes from an immigrant kitchen.
(Courtesy photo)

For the third culture kid

Also sold at Good Neighbor is Jikoni, Ravinder Bhogal’s 2020 book of a “proudly inauthentic recipes from an immigrant kitchen.” The book offers vibrant photos and recipes for multicultural dishes like lamb and aubergine fatteh and banana cake with miso butterscotch and Ovaltine kulfi. But Bhogal’s storytelling of her Kenyan upbringing, Indian heritage and London childhood will entice any reader. “The first few pages made me cry,” said Shahbaz.