17 January, 2020, 04:44

The Ultimate Food Lovers Gift Guide with Local Gifts from Tucson

Regardless of who you're buying for, we have food-centric options for you.

It’s that time of year when our thoughts turn to gifting (both giving and receiving). As foodies, we wanted to share some of our favorite local gifts from Tucson. We’ve put together some food-centric collections we hanker for, but anyone would be lucky to have just one item from the abundance of local goods.

In Southern Arizona, we’re fortunate to be surrounded by bountiful offerings from chefs, farms, writers, vineyards, distilleries, confectioners, and artisans. Let’s celebrate our good fortune this holiday season. Whether you acquire products by tacking them on to your tab at the end of a meal — we’re talking about salsas and sauces made in house, visit local stores or farmers markets or add them to your online shopping cart, we have compiled various ways to group products in gift-basket form to simplify your life.

We’re highlighting shelf-stable items so that you can do your planning and gifting early (or even mail them), but always remember that there are fresh items — cookies, breads, cheese, fruit, and vegetables — at our local bakeries and markets that are a welcome bounty as well. For fresh items needed for holiday parties, read our November 2019 article Slay your next holiday potluck with these no-prep local items.

Who are you buying for? Scroll for inspo.

The Homebody

Cozy goods

Local Gifts from Tucson: Cozy goods (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Yes, it has happened, fall has fallen. Time to warm up by the fire with a warm cup of coffee, tea, or cocoa in a beautiful, locally made mug. Perhaps, if you prefer, a lovely glass of wine. Whip up a batch of Chili Chocolate Brownies and cozy up to your favorite festive film.

Here’s what to stock a cozy gift basket with
Coffee from local roasters
  • Adventure Coffee Roasting — Grab your bag at Heirloom Farmers Market in Green Valley or at Rillito Park. They are carried at Whole Foods, too.
  • Arbuckles — get the coffee here.
  • Exo Roast Co. — we love sipping Exo coffee at their cozy spot on Sixth Avenue (and picking up a few bags and goodies to go). If you’re ordering online, do so here.
  • Presta Coffee — get yours at either of Presta’s two local coffee spots, or order online here. Time Market and Rincon Market also stock Presta Coffee.
  • Yellow Brick Coffee — grab some special bags of their locally roasted beans at Ren Coffeehouse, August Rhodes Market, Casa Video, Rillito Park Farmers Market, and even at Ben’s Bells — where they sell their special Be Kind blend. Ordering online is also an option.

Read our article Ultimate Coffee Guide: 16 roasters in Tucson to froth over for more information.

Tea from local purveyors
  • Maya Tea — order the tea here.
  • Prep & Pastry — next time you are having a delicious breakfast/brunch/lunch at Prep, grab a tin or two of their loose-leaf teas along with some of their tasty pastries for a friend in need.
  • Seven Cups — If you’re unsure what to buy, visit on Fridays for a free tea tasting in the afternoon. Otherwise, order online here.

Read our article A Tale of Two Teas: Tucson’s Seven Cups Fine Chinese Tea & Maya Tea for more information.

Delicious noshes
  • Chili Chocolate Brownie Mix from Native Seeds Search — Tucson is lucky to have this amazing organization cultivating our local food heritage. Support them by purchasing delicious items either at their store or on their website.
  • Local sweets from Monsoon Chocolate — did you know these folks are slaying it at international chocolate competitions!? They areOrder online here.
  • Sweet & Savory small-batch popcorn from POPPED Artisan Popcorn — we don’t know anyone who isn’t obsessed with this stuff (and their seasonal flavors are incredible). Order here.
Handmade Ceramics
  • Artisan mugs — Both the beautiful, locally made mugs featured in the guide are available to purchase at 5 Points Market. Shoutout to local artisans Ursula Basinger and Stoneware Wolf.
  • Ceramics — Everything from HF Coors — dinnerware, specialty ware — is special. The products range from simple bowls to festive platters or precious olive oil dipping plates. Next time you are eating at your favorite restaurant, flip the plate and check out one of Tucson’s great local businesses. Get the local ceramics online here.
Wine

Sand-Reckoner Vineyards — grab and gift a bottle of their red blend called 2 (which is predominantly Sangiovese). You can find it online, at their tasting room or from markets like Maynards.

Gift generously and watch the receivers curl up and enjoy!

The Desert Hottie

Hot sauces and salsas

Local Gifts from Tucson: Hot sauces and salsas (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Tucson is mostly associated with heat — and we aren’t just talking about the weather. Give the gift of chile and chips by choosing one (or a variety) of these locally made salsas and hot sauces.

Here’s how to spice up the holidays
Hot Sauces
Salsas
  • BOCA Tacos y Tequila — chef Maria keeps all of her ever-changing salsas interesting. Head to the restaurant and take a few home to share. Small bottles are $5.75 and large go for $9.75.
  • Charro Vida — their pickled salsa verde is one of this year’s breakout salsa stars. Pick it up at the restaurant.
  • El Charro Cafe — get a bottle at the restaurant.
Don’t forget the chips to dip

Alejandro’s Tortilla Chips — this local tortilla factory also makes delicious tamales and breads. Get ’em here.

Your Thirsty Buddy

Wines, spirits, kombucha, and shrub

Local Gifts from Tucson: Wines, spirits, kombucha, and shrub (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Boy, do we love our Southern Arizona vineyards and distilleries (and we even found a couple of local drinks for those who don’t imbibe). Here are a few of our favorite drinks for gift giving — slip the bottle in a decorative bag, throw a bow on it, or, frankly, just show up with a bottle in hand… you will be welcomed at any party. 😉

For a real party starter, gift one of these
Wines
  • Dos Cabezas WineWorks — after a delicious evening out, grab a bottle for yourself and your friends from Ermanos on Fourth Avenue or get it from Rincon Market. Or buy the wine online.
  • Keeling Schaefer Vineyards — grab a bottle from Ermanos on Fourth Avenue or find out where to buy it here.
  • Maynards Arizona Red or White — we love both of these private label wines, available exclusively at Maynards Market. There’s also a pre-wrapped gift box available to purchase for $50 — it includes a bottle of Maynard’s Red Wine, a wine key, a potted succulent, a bar of Monsoon Chocolate, and a soy candle. Festive find: If you subscribe to their wine club, there are a ton of discounts included — only on offer until the end of the year, take advantage here.
  • Rune Wines — Rune has some of our favorite wines out of Southern Arizona and worth the beautiful trip to Sonoita for a tasting day. But, you can purchase them locally at Revel Wine Bar or buy bottles online.
  • Sand-Reckoner Vineyards — Any of their vintages makes a terrific gift. This holiday season, we’re also loving their bubbly and festive Pet-Nat (pétillant naturel if you’re French and/or fancy). Pair it with the new wine salt they’ve created with Desert Provisions if you want to soar to gifting-deity status. Also, if you’re feeling generous, consider gifting your favorite wine-o a membership to the wine club (bottles ship nationally!). Wine can be picked up at their tasting room or at a variety of local shops including Time Market, Maynards Market or Rincon Market. Order online here.
Whiskey
  • Hamilton Distillers, Whiskey del Bac — find out why this locally distilled single malt is changing the perception of American single malts for the better. Expect the distinct flavor of our Sonoran desert using classic Scottish production techniques. If you buy one of these bottles for a whiskey lover, you’ll be friends for life. Find it here.
Booch
  • Fermented Tea Company — we first met FTC in 2016. It’s brewed right here in Tucson, Arizona and you can certainly taste the desert (in a good way). Pick it up on the weekends at Steam Pump Ranch – or Rillito Park Heirloom Farmers Markets, all week long at Whole Foods Market or grab a few bottles online.
  • Wild Tonic Jun-Kombucha — the taste of honey kisses your lips when you open a bright blue bottle of this wild nectar. You can find the kombucha at a variety of supermarkets, but if you’re supporting local businesses, like we know you do, get yours at Hotel Congress, Johnny Gibsons Downtown Market or Tap & Bottle.
Shrub
  • Desert Forager — this prickly pear & grapefruit shrub syrup can either be mixed with mineral water for a crisp sip or as part of a refreshing cocktail. Their locally foraged fruit shrubs can be found online or at any of the local markets (think Maynards Market and 5 Points). All of them are delicious and sustainable.

The Snack Hoarder 

Snacks

Local Gifts from Tucson: Snacks (Credit: Jackie Tran)

We LOVE snacks. Well, who doesn’t?! For a gift to please even the pickiest people, we have put many of our favorite, local sweet-salty-savories in one place. Whether you show up with one or two or bring a large assortment, anyone would be happy to have them (and, if you’re lucky, they might share with you).

Here’s what to stuff your snack basket with
Sweet
  • Cactus Candy — this succulent fruit candy comes with funky, retro packaging. Get yours at Maynards Market or order it online.
  • Cheri’s Desert Harvest — Hello Jelly Candies from the desert — particularly the Prickly Pear Cactus flavor. You can also order a variety of locally sourced/made syrups, jams, jellies, and gift sets online.
  • Monsoon Chocolate — for the chocolate lover (most of us), we recommend local award-winning chocolatier Monsoon Chocolate. Their beautiful bon-bons, chocolate bars, cocoa nibs, and deeelish new Cloud Cookies are all good choices. Get there early for the gift-giving season as they sell out quickly.

Read our article Tucson-based Monsoon Chocolate wins 14 international chocolate awards for more.

Savory
  • Papa Mike’s Homemade Jerky is fabulous. This unusual stocking stuffer can be found at Maynards Market.
  • Queen Creek Olive Mill — we were in despair when Queen Creek Olive Mill boarded up their local store. But, huzzah, they’re still operating up north and have a fabulous website to deliver any Queen Creek Olive Mill snack to your doorstep. Hint: get the Stuffed Olives and Sonoran Spicy Beans.

Read our article Exceptional Cold-Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Olive Products & More at Queen Creek Olive Mill.

Salty
  • Chips and Salsa — Check out our local tortilla chips and salsa suggestions in this article: Guide to 16 places crushing chips & salsa in Tucson.
  • Green Valley Pecans — if you’re big on local (nuts), grab a bag (or five) of delicious Green Valley Pecans. There is a large assortment available from Maynards Market or get them online.
  • SAS-Z-Nuts — With a name like that, you know they’ve got to be good. 😉 Get the tasty Willcox pistachios from Maynards Market.
Sweet, Savory & Salty

POPPED Artisan Popcorn — these local folks hit all of our crunchy cravings with their salty-sweet-hot variety. Kate, our editor, particularly enjoys the Rosemary Salted Caramel “for sure, no question” and the rest of us will happily munch on any of the edible products. Grab seasonal bests (all non-GMO and vegan) at a variety of local markets, including Maynards, Time Market, and Rincon Market and at Tap & Bottle and Pueblo Vida. Or take a look at what’s on offer online.

Read our article [POPPED] Artisan Popcorn: Local Business Bursts with Growth & Flavor in 2019.

The Home Chef

 

We are lucky desert dwellers, surrounded by local farmers, artisans, and purveyors who use and sell flavorful fare. The TF team covets everything displayed in this basket, but even the purchase of only one or two items would make a home chef happy.

Here’s what your home chef needs
Salts & Spices
  • Agave Pantry — the bakery goods from this cottage kitchen have been on our radar for a while now. When Agave Pantry introduced Salt & Spice Blends, we whipped out our Santa wish list. They are all interesting and delicious (and very pretty). The herbed sugars and housewares are terrific, too. Get it at up-and-coming Cultivate Market or online.
  • Chilttepica Products feature the Chiltepin Pepper, a native Sonoran desert pepper. Whether you buy it whole and crush it in one of their gorgeous hand-carved wooden molinitos (spice grinders) or taste it from one of their handy pre-blended chile salts, your foodie friend is going to jump with joy. To peruse their product variety, head to these local purveyors: La Estrella Bakery, Johnny Gibson’s Downtown Market, Food Conspiracy Co-op, Native Seeds/SEARCH, Rincon Market, or Time Market. Or buy them online.

Read our Guide to chili peppers at Mexican markets in Tucson for more information on the chiltepin (18 on the list).

  • Desert Provisions — enjoy Sonoran Sea Salt simply or blend it with chiles. They’ve also recently done a beautiful gift package with their Red Wine Salt (with Sand-Reckoner) along with a locally made clay salt cellar and a beautiful little wooden spoon (we are a bit obsessed with this little spoon). Pick them up at Sand-Reckoner, 5 Points Market or get it online.
  • Ghini’s French Caffe — Coralie Satta, chef/owner of Ghini’s French Caffe, has put together some lovely tins of French-inspired spice blends. The Herbes de Provence will add a special French flavor and aroma to your roast or soups.
  • Mano y Metate — freshly ground spices, nuts, seeds, and chiles are needed as the base for delicious moles (how-to on the package), for rubs, or to spice up your festive cookies, breads, or drinks. The blends can be purchased at Native Seeds/SEARCH, Food Conspiracy Co-op, Time Market, 5 Points Market, or buy them online.
  • Old Pueblo Spice Company is doing great things with their chiltepin peppers. It’s available in sweet tins (and they will even fill a pepper grinder with their signature mix of black peppercorns and chiltepin pepper). Bring on the heat. It’s available at 5 Points Market and at the 5 Points Farmers Market on Sunday mornings.
  • Queen Creek Olive Mill — The Tucson Foodie office always has a bottle of their Arizona EVOO in our pantry. We love dipping our bread in it, drizzling it on salad, and even cooking with it. So will your foodie friends. Their flavored oils and organic, aged balsamic vinegar make great gifts. View their full range of local products and order online.
Local Beans, Fruits & Foods

Native Seed/SEARCHNative Seed/SEARCH is a treasure trove of delicious local ingredients. We have their White Tepary Beans and Cholla Buds in our pantry already. Tucsonans are lucky to have this irreplaceable, passionate library of foods. Check out their variety of local goods, grouped into perfect gifting collections, online or head to their shop on Campbell Avenue.

Local Chefs Tools
  • Don Nguyen Knives — if you are looking for something extra special for the friend who’s always in the kitchen, look no further than these amazing knives designed and created right here in Tucson. They are the type to be handed down to future generations. Commission yours when you can — they are priced according to commission and vary in price.

Read our article Custom Don Nguyen Knives are a Hot Commodity Among Chefs, Locals & International Enthusiasts.

  • Fine Wood Spoons — Get beautifully handcrafted utensils (we love the tongs) made from exotic woods from all over the world here. Bruce will even do a custom job for you — so special.
  • Mrs. Spices & Son — the refinished vintage kitchen tools are beautiful and great to use. Pick them up for $10 apiece from Jennifer English at the 5 Points Farmers Market on Sunday mornings.

The Page-turner

Food books (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Local Gifts from Tucson: Food books (Credit: Jackie Tran)

With a plethora of local bounty, direction on how best to incorporate it into our homes and onto our plates is certainly needed. We have some terrific local book authors that have come to the rescue! Here are some of our favorites, that will put a smile on any foodie’s face.

How’s how to up the game in the kitchen
  • Arizona Chimichangas by Rita Connelly — we love her foodie mind and blog. Her books about Tucson food-lore are available on Amazon. Top tip: Get her book, pick up some chimichangas from around town, and have a holiday party to remember.
  • The Green Southwest Cookbook by Janet E. Taylor — Southwest cooking is brought home with cookbooks focused on using local fare. You can pick her books up at Cheri’s Desert Harvest or on Amazon.
  • Modern Southwest Cooking by Ryan Clark — it opens the door to cooking using local ingredients through the eyes, and practiced hand, of our three-time Iron Chef Tucson champion. Pick up a copy at Native Seed/SEARCH, Cheri’s Desert Harvest, Kartchner Caverns, Casino del Sol Resort, or buy it online.
  • The Prickly Pear Cookbook, New Southwest Cookbook, and Cooking the Wild Southwest by Carolyn Niethammer — the Arizona-born author was raised near Prescott and is currently living in Tucson. Her love for Southern Arizona and great food comes through beautifully in her cookbooks. Many are available on her website or from Cheri’s Desert Harvest.
  • Santa Cruz Chili & Spice Co. Cookbook by Jean England Neubauer — Santa Cruz Chili & Spice Co. in Tumacacori makes great use of local peppers and spices. They also have some terrific ideas on how to use them in their cookbooks. Pick up a copy from their store in Tumacacori (perhaps it’s time for a visit), at Cheri’s Desert Harvest in Tucson or get one online.
  • Saving Seeds in the Southwest is a terrific handbook for a food buddy that’s into gardening. This type of heritage gardening is imperative to our survival as our natural water sources become more depleted. Get your hands on a copy at Native Seed/SEARCH in the store or online (they have an amazing product line with gorgeous gift collections).

The Sweetheart

Jellies and honeys

Local Gifts from Tucson: Jellies and honeys (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Jams, jellies, honey, and syrups make almost everything a bit cheerier (and certainly sweeter). For the ultimate combination, pick up one of your favorite locally baked loaves, pair it with a generous smattering of sweetness, and gift away.

Read our article 15 local bakeries serving fresh bread baked in house.

Sweeten anyone’s day with these
Jams, Jellies & Syrups
  • Arizona Cactus Ranch makes a delicious Prickly Pear Fruit Spread among many other cactus fruit items. They are available at Maynards Market, Aqua Vita Natural Foods, Food Conspiracy Co-op, and you can get them online. P.S. We haven’t tried their Hangover Terminator, but if you have, we want to know about it.
  • Cheri’s Desert Harvest makes delicious jams, jellies, and syrups using local fruits and plants. We love their Arizona Red Lime Marmalade — that is a great pucker! Get online and order a la carte or from their current gift collections.
Honey

Lots of delicious Arizona honey is being created by our industrious Arizona bees. Here are two of our local favorites:

  • Three Little Bees makes a beautiful raw Sonoran Desert Honey, which you can purchase for $16 at Life Energy Wellness Center or for $20 at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. If time escapes you, order it directly from them. These folks are dedicated to supporting our bee population and you can help. Take a look at some ways to be a part of the “bee-movement” on their website.
  • True Love Honey, a local veteran-owned business, has a sweet little shop on Fourth Avenue as well as an online store. Their flavor-infused jars of honey are delightful. If you like to sweeten drinks with honey (tea drinkers, we mean you), get the Creamed Lemon Honey. It’s also good on toast, or, as Pooh would have it, straight from the pot.

Pre-made gift boxes found locally

Hot sauce advent calendar from Casino Del Sol

Local Gifts from Tucson: Hot sauce advent calendar from Casino Del Sol (Credit: Jackie Tran)

For your shopping ease (and ours), some shops have many local gifts from Tucson on their shelves or are putting together gift boxes for you right now.

Find them here
  • 5 Points Market
  • Casino Del Sol — This over-the-top gift of special salsas designed by many of the chefs at Casino Del Sol is just too Tucson to pass on for your favorite salsa lover. The Hot Sauce Advent Calendar ($99) is available for pickup at PY Steakhouse at Casino Del Sol. You can email orders ahead of time to ryan.clark@casinodelsol.com.
  • Native Seed/SEARCH
  • Maynards Market — their “Local Gift Box” is the perfect thing for your foodie friend. At $50 it’s a great pre-wrapped deal featuring a bottle of Maynard’s Red Wine, a wine key, potted succulent, Monsoon Chocolate bar, and a soy candle. Present shopping done.
  • Rincon Market
  • Time Market
Tucson Foodie gift guide

Tucson Foodie gift guide (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Holiday Markets & Events

If holiday markets with lights, live music, festive foods, and local vendors is more your jam, there are plenty of them to peruse this season. You’ll find local gifts from Tucson and seasonal wares (and have a lot of fun doing so).

Read our article Things to do in Tucson this Holiday Season

Quick links

Here are some quick links or your browsing pleasure for places mentioned repetitively throughout the article:
  • 5 Points Market & Restaurant and their Sunday Farmers Market at 750 S. Stone Ave. – Handmade mugs; Desert Provisions Sonoran Sea Salt and Red Wine Salt collab.; Tins of Old Pueblo Spice Company chiltepin and pepper spices; Mano Y Matate freshly ground spices, nuts, seeds, and chiles; Mrs. Spices & Son refinished vintage kitchen tools; Desert Forager prickly pear & grapefruit shrub syrup; pre-made gift boxes
  • Cheri’s Desert Harvest – Hello Jelly Candies; Arizona Red Lime Marmalade  and other jams, jellies, and syrups; books (The Green Southwest Cookbook, Modern Southwest Cooking, The Prickly Pear Cookbook, Santa Cruz Chili & Spice Co. Cookbook)
  • Desert Provisions – Sonoran Sea Salt; a gift package with Red Wine Salt (a collab. with Sand-Reckoner) along with a locally made clay salt cellar and little wooden spoon
  • Maynards Market – Wine; shrub; cactus candy; Monsoon Chocolate bars; Green Valley Pecans; POPPED Artisan Popcorn; SAS-Z-Nuts Willcox Pistachios; Papa Mike’s Homemade Jerky; pre-made gift boxes
  • Native Seed/SEARCH – Chili Chocolate Brownie Mix; Saving Seeds in the Southwest gardening handbook; Modern Southwest Cooking cookbook; local beans, buds, and Chilttepica Products, pre-made gift boxes
  • Queen Creek Olive Mill – EVOO, flavored oils and organic, aged balsamic vinegar; Stuffed Olives and Sonoran Spicy Beans; hot sauces
  • Rincon Market and Time Market – Chilttepica Products; Sand-Reckoner or Des Cabezas WineWorks wine; Presta Coffee; POPPED Artisan Popcorn; pre-made gift boxes
  • Sand-Reckoner – Wine, wine, wine (especially their red blend called 2).

And that’s a wrap. Add a bow and you have yourselves a festive bundle of foodie finds with local gifts from Tucson.

Jenn, who grew up with too many brothers, talks with her mouth full during the movie.

X