Gourmet Gifts

Meal kits for the holidays

The onerous shuttering of Bay Area restaurants during the pandemic offers few restitutions and nearly no rewards—except for the rare opportunity to support local establishments by purchasing last-minute holiday food kits and packages.

Unlocking the pearly gustatory gates of the area’s bountiful offerings with take-home meals or materials means that if you’ve ever waited months to dine at Berkeley’s renowned Chez Panisse or another fine restaurant, hoped to indulge in a special pizza instead of the usual run-of-the-mill pie, dreamed of impressing a lover or in-law with a freshly baked-at-home batch of Dark Chocolate Brownies from Oakland-based Renewal Mill or hankered to serve at home Reem’s California’s Djaj Mahshi (pick up an order of a whole or half roast chicken stuffed with spiced rice, beef and pine nuts at the Fruitvale location), this is your moment to shine.

Following is a short list to get you started; with encouragement to log in to EBX comments with suggestions of your favorite places to support by “bringing home the bacon.”

The food service industry provides numerous, hard-working people with essential jobs, while restaurants pay taxes and attract tourists whose dollars boost the local economy at hotels, arts venues and other businesses. Heck, if nothing else, a good meal or gracious food gift purchased from a local establishment just makes life in the East Bay a little nicer and leaves you feeling virtuous during this public health and economic crisis, right?

Availability, pickup guidelines and other details about holiday offerings remain fluid during the pandemic. It’s best to check websites or call for updates before setting your heart on a specific kit or package.

Local Food Adventures’ Hella Yummy Holiday Baking Box, Sweets & Smiles, Beer & BBQ Lovers kit and other take-away or delivered packages include locally sourced goodies—the aforementioned Oakland brownie mix, from Renewal Mill, coarse Pacific Flake Sea Salt from Oaktown Spice Shop, almonds from Henderson Nut Factory, Oaktown Sweet Heat BBQ Rub, beer steins from Original Pattern Brewing Company and more. Gift certificates or local vouchers for a food tour with owner Lauren McCabe Herpich are welcome. Online orders and expedited shipping or pick-up to meet a Christmas deadline are available until Dec. 23, but kits, tours and local treats remain on tap year round. localfoodadventures.com

DONATO & Co. in Berkeley offers a variety of pasta dishes with its You Be the Chef! packages. Whip up TORTELLI di ZUCCA (homemade kabocha squash & orange ravioli, brown butter, sage & Grana Padano cheese) or LINGUINE alla RAGUSANA (semolina linguine pasta, spicy pulled pork & tomato sugo, Pecorino Romano cheese) for two and store the leftovers up to one month in the freezer. Top the meal off with Classic Tuscan-style biscotti with almonds, Piemonte soft pound mini cakes, chocolate mousse or traditional Sicilian cannoli filled with homemade ricotta, orange peel and chocolate chips. Some holiday kits are sold out, but the online store offers wine, coffee, baked treats, pantry goods and gift certificates for virtual classes and expert-led tastings. donatoandco.com

Top Hatters Kitchen and Bar in San Leandro—near the Oakland border—was once a hat shop. Co-owners DanVy Vu and Matthew Beavers have put up the Grazing Box, Pickles and Pâté Box, and Spring Roll Party Kit. Perfect for parties and picnics, the contents are seasonal and often house-made. The spring roll kit needs only a pan and oil or butter to cook the marinated lemon grass beef; assembly at the table gives hands-on fun for a gathering. Wine is available at a discount, as is a Holiday Feast at Home option that requires a scheduled time for pick-up on or before Wednesday, Dec. 23. tophatterskitchen.com

Reem’s California in Fruitvale is offering Middle Eastern meal kits for pickup at various locations or by delivery, so check the website for the latest updates. Order a sweet box (Baklawa, Mini Walnut & Date Pie and Vegan Halawa Cookies) or a Savory Box (Miniature Mua’jinaat: Spinach & Onion, Kishek & Cheese and Akkawi & Nigella Seed) or a combo package. Check out the meal kit menu for Dec. 23 that includes Djaj Mahshi, Winter Fattoush (Chicories, pomegranate, citrus, persimmon) Ma’amoul Trio (Semolina Cookies) and optional wine pairing and other add-ons. reemscalifornia.com

La Farine Boulangerie Patisserie owner Jeff Dodge is thinking ahead, with the Oakland bakeries accepting orders for Bûche de Noël through New Years Eve (sorry, Dec. 20 was the last day to place Christmas Eve orders). Be of good cheer if you forgot to place an order, because La Farine products are available on a first-come, first-served basis at La Farine’s three bricks-and-mortar locations through the end of the year. Elegant mousse-filled cakes, delicious croissant or scones, fruit and nut tarts, cookies from classic to holiday, brownies and sturdy, savory breads including Christmas features, Panettone and Stollen, are made without preservatives. No worries: we can almost guarantee there won’t be leftovers.

La Farine Dopo on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland closed as of October, but Pollara Pizzeria—run by the same owners, in Berkeley—soldiers on. Pickup phone orders only, for a pie with toppings from the simplest mozzarella or house made ricotta to spicy spreadable pork pate, sausage and Calabrian chillies, prosciutto and more. Sides, salads and beverages—including beer and wine—are available; bump it up for a t-shirt to dress the part. pollarapizzeria.com

Millennium Restaurant has an “order by Dec. 28 and pickup before Dec.-31” offer with a New Years Eve menu to love. For a C-note, you and family can pop a bottle of sparkling bubbly and savor caramelized onion Pissaldiere (a tart), a black rice onigiri, smoky mushroom dashi, yuzu koshu, sea bean & clamshell mushroom salad or winter green & ricotta stuffed Pansotti pasta, topped off by gluten-free Opera cake or mandarin-pomegranate cheesecake. millenniumrestaurant.com

Honorable mentions and worth checking out in the New Year—yes, we’ll get out of this 2020 hell hole soon—go to: Oakland’s Nido’s Backyard, Daughter’s Diner, Temescal Filipino restaurant FOB KITCHEN and Jack London Square’s Souley Vegan. Now, it’s your turn: pitch in, help support the local restaurant industry and send East Bay Express your suggestions. Happy Holiday eating to all!

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