This year, the holidays are going to feel more like a finish line to cross than a celebration of a year, potentially spent alone or away from family. It’s also a year that has been financially burdensome to so many, including countless restaurant workers, bar owners, and others trying to keep the food and beverage industry alive.
For that reason, spending money at local Portland businesses is almost a no-brainer. Any given year, Oregon is abundant with options when it comes to local gifts, from chocolate to clocks to coasters. This year, however, getting a gift from a local Portland restaurant is an easy way to support the industry at large: So many bars and restaurants have begun offering merch for the first time, or began bottling and selling sauces, syrups, and pickles.
In many cases, shopping local is how the industry itself shops: Sommeliers will buy bottles of wine from local producers, bartenders will stock up on Portland bitters and syrups to give to friends, and chefs will roll through specialty shops, which often look to local Oregon producers when stocking its shelves.
So, as people who know the food industry best, we asked some of Portland’s bartenders, chefs, juicers, and baristas what they would give a friend — or what they would want themselves. Some gifts are local; some gifts can be grabbed online. From cookware to oils to magazine subscriptions, here are just a few gift ideas from Portland’s food service workers.
The Right Tools
“For those who are serious about cooking at home, it starts with the tools. If someone gets a good chef’s knife, they can pretty much do everything with it. I would go to Seisuke Knife, but Portland Knife House is also a good one; it probably has a larger selection. If you really want to go high-end and look for a local maker, you can go to Carter Cutlery. Murray Carter is a master bladesmith here.” -Carlo Lamagna, Magna
“A lot of people ask me for recommendations for home juicers and blenders and food processors. For a juicer, I would recommend the Nama juicer — It’s basically a cold-press juicer, a smaller version, but it does use a little bit of heat. It’s the closest you’d get to a cold-press juicer you can have at home for a reasonable price.” -Cydnie Smith-McCarthy, Drink Mamey
“When it comes to a large gift, there’s always a Finex (cast-iron pan). I got my dad one of those — it’s a chunk of money, but if I were to spend that kind of money, that’s how I’d do it. Or, for something smaller, I’d go to Portland Knife House and get a good oyster shucker.” -Ryley Eckersley, Quaintrelle
“I love to give gadgets as gifts (probably because I love receiving them). It’s the best when they are actually useful though — ideally in multiple ways so that they can be enjoyed on more than just a special occasion. I have gotten a ton of use out of my immersion circulator at home, both for cocktail and dinner preparation. Cooking sous vide allows for precise control of time and temperature while truly multitasking in the kitchen. It’s possible to cook a pork chop, while separately infusing whiskey, all in the same pot at the same time! There are a few brands that even allow the user to control the cooking process via bluetooth from your smart phone. That’s a fun gift.” -Aaron Zieske, Scotch Lodge
“Real Good Food is a really great company to support, during a season where it’s crucial to support small businesses. I’m dorky, not everyone likes these gifts, but I love getting olive oils and vinegars there. They have a great selection, including this great California brand called Katz. The things that last for a really good, long time make for great gifts — a big bottle of olive oil that costs $30, that will last you all year.” -Ryley Eckersley, Quaintrelle
“A really good, unrefined sunflower oil is an absolute must for anyone interested in expanding beyond Western European cookery. I think far too often recipe writers and cooking show personalities push ‘EVOO’ is the only reputable oil to drizzle all over that tomato salad or delicate crudo. There’s nothing wrong with olive oil, but broaden your worldview and try subbing out a raw-pressed sunflower oil from Ukraine or The Republic of Georgia. The best ones are unfortunately not being imported, but Golden Kings is a relatively widely available option that’s quite good.” -Bonnie Morales, Kachka
“There’s an Indian dude making spice blends through a new company, Mumbai Spice Company. He just started this year; I would support him for sure. That, or the woman from One Stripe Chai Company, Farah (Jesani), she has some really cool products — chai, turmeric milks. I’m all about supporting my people.” -Deepak Kaul, Bhuna
“I’m really into herbs, so I love Rise Up Remedies — they’re two ladies, herbalists and farmers in Gresham. They have amazing teas, salves, all that sort of stuff.” -Katy Connors, Hat Yai
“Chocolate from Cloudforest — all of Sebastian (Cisneros)’s chocolate is really, incredibly delicious, but I especially love his Nest bar. It’s a buttermilk bar with warm spices. Those make really special, elegant stocking stuffers.” -Maya Lovelace, Yonder and Mae
A Nice Beverage
“If you are a fan of Scotch but want to keep it local, try any whisky from Westward — the Oregon stout cask or pinot noir cask I especially liked — or Wanderback. Wanderback releases in batches, and they’re currently on batch four; all of them have been great, however. If peaty or smoky is their thing, definitely pick up a bottle of McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt. There are varying expression from each, and even some single-barrel store picks that are worth checking out. If American whiskey is more their thing, you might try a whisky from Stein Distillery, who does everything hands on from growing grains to mashing, distilling, and aging.” -Tommy Klus, Scotch Lodge
“A coffee subscription to Deadstock is a good idea.” -Katy Connors, Hat Yai
“As a chef, a lot of my friends are winemakers. That’s the cool thing about Portland, you can support so many different vineyards if you want to — when you’re going out for a Christmas tree hunt, there are so many out the beaten path where you can get $15 and $30 bottles. Lares Wines, that’s Lük (Allen Wylde)’s label; all of Holden’s wines are so cool; Golden Cluster — there’s tons of stuff.” -Ryley Eckersley, Quaintrelle
Art and Writing
“I’d be over the moon with a gift subscription to The Wine Zine. Led by editor Katherine Clary and an all-women team of editors and designers, the zine focuses on natural wine seen through the lens of a diverse cadre of writers and artists from around the world. I love that the team is showcasing BIPOC voices in natural wine, and it’s more important than ever to support independent journalism. 2021 subscriptions are available now.” -Dana Frank, Bar Norman
“My cousin (Delia Tethong) runs Roux (the local festival celebrating women and femmes in food and beverage), and they have a poster show going right now. I actually bought a bunch of those posters — all of those profits go to charity chosen by the artist.” -Katy Connors, Hat Yai
“I’ve been revisiting the Joy of Cooking. Local writers (John Becker and Megan Scott) living here in Portland edited and updated the book in 2019.” -Cristina Baez, Masia and Ataula
“I’m obsessed with everything that Careen Stoll makes at Luscious Porcelain — she made all the dishware for Mae. She makes these really beautiful fermentation crocks that look really amazing on your countertop, and as many people are stuck at home, it’s a really good time to take on a project like that.” -Maya Lovelace, Yonder and Mae