For the Chef in your life, a great food gift can be tricky.  There are ton’s of options out there, but most of what I see are pre-made, packaged foods or gift baskets…which frankly as someone who loves to cook, are always a little disappointing.  Rather than, a “finished” product, I get more excited about getting ingredients, that I can cook with, and create my own recipes..rather than “the best ribs from wherever….”

Below you’ll find my top ten choices.

Fresh Maine Lobster

It’s surprising to many, but live lobsters travel amazing well.  Packed along with some cold packs and seaweed, you can order them to arrive on your door step within 24 hours, alive and kicking.  For the seafood love and foodie, there are a thousand lobster recipes to choose from and getting them this fresh is truly a treat.  Check out The Fresh Lobster Company ( http://www.thefreshlobstercompany.com/) where you can purchase them directly.

Olive Oil & Artisanal Vinegar

The last few years, flavored olive oils and vinegars have exploded in popularity.  With good reason.  Just a little drizzle of a great oil, can really transform a dish into something wonderful and I always have a few on hand.  I shop a local We Olive ( http://www.shopweolive.com/) which literally has hundreds of different options, and I’m sure you can find the perfect match for whomever you’re buying for.

Salami & Cured Meat

When I moved to San Francisco, one of my greatest discoveries was Molinari’s deli http://www.molinarisalame.com/store/ and the incredibly delicious Italian Dry salami.  I started mailing it home to my family, but these days, they can skip the middle man (me) and order it directly from the shop itself.  In addition the salami, there are a ton of other great Italian specialties you gotta try.

Chocolate

Another of my favorite San Francisco treats is Ghirardelli chocolate http://ghirardelli.com/.  I’ve been to the store several times, and always find something that is both delicious and wonderful.  For the baker, a gift of some of their bulk, or flavored chocolates are a great way to go.

Artisanal Jams

Until I came across Union Jam SF http://www.facebook.com/unionjamsf, I never knew how diverse or how delicious Jams could be.  Always matching flavors with the fruits and vegetables that are in season, these folks produce small batches that don’t last long.  Of course the jams are great on their own, but I’m always finding ways to incorporate them into sauces and marinades as well.

Maple Syrup

My family is from New Engjand, and I’ve been having real maple syrup since I was a kid.  It was years before I realized there was “Fake” maple syrup, and frankly I can’t stand the stuff.    These days, I get my syrup from Hanging Mountain Farms http://www.hangingmountainfarms.com/, which is a small producer out of Massachusetts.  The product is great, and so are the people.  Give them try!

Salt

That’s right, Salt.  The word Salary is actually derived from the Latin word for Salt, and as in Roman times, salt is worth every penny.  These days you can find all kinds of artisanal salts, one of my favoraites is Pink Himalayan Salt, which you can get at Salt Works.   http://www.saltworks.us/himalayan-salt.asp Try either already grated packages, or you can buy large blocks, which also make very cool trays, or even cooking surfaces.

Spices

For the home cook/amateur chef spices always make a good gift.  There are literally hundreds of spices to choose from to cover all kinds of cooking styles and passions.  Frankly even every day spices are a welcome gift, that saves a few dollars at the grocery store.  My Spice Sage http://www.myspicesage.com is a great online store where you can find just about anything you’re looking for, and have the spices shipped directly to the chef in your life.

Pasta

Pasta is one of my favorite things to cook, as there are a so many different recipes to choose from.   And in addition to different recipes, there are a ton of artisial, interesting pastas to choose from.  The grocery store isle is great of course, but check out Pappardelles   http://www.pappardellesonline.com/servlet/StoreFront .  They have all kinds of specialty brands that will really make you next dish something special.

Cheese

Cheese is clearly a gift from God.  By far one of my favorite foods, and there are few consumables I know of that come in such a variety of styles, flavors and prices.  Check out Murray Cheese http://www.murrayscheese.com  for a great selection.  Explore around as you can easily find some unusal gems, that are great either straight up, or for cooking with other ingredients.  Give them a try!