Best Food Gifts Of 2017: Your Ultimate Culinary Holiday Gift Guide

As part of my annual series of Holiday Gift Guides, I’m tackling one of my favorite subjects, food. But unlike most magazine gift lists you will see, based on press releases, I have personally tried every one of the items on this list to give you quality assuredness. Please check out my other themed 2017 gift guides for Kitchen & Home and for Cyclists.

Maryland Seafood: Crab cakes are one of America’s favorite luxury foods, and no place is more famous for quality than Maryland, with local blue crab found in Chesapeake Bay considered the world’s best for this dish. But food lovers have to be careful, even in Annapolis and on the shores of the Bay, as there have been numerous instances of stores and restaurants swapping cheaper imported crab from Asia for the pricy real thing. This is just one of many such seafood bait and switch scams I’ve covered here at Forbes before (read this one for more info) and also in great detail in my NY Times Bestseller, Real Food, Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating & What You Can Do About It (it’s just been released in paperback with all new information added, so that is another great holiday gift idea for food lovers!)

Family-owned Cameron’s Seafood Market has been the largest seller of Maryland Blue Crabs and Crab Cakes since 1985 and has an excellent reputation, but they just started shipping nationwide. For more than 30 years they’ve gotten crabs fresh daily for the Bay and they sell over 150,000 crab cakes and 75,000 bushels of live blue crabs each year. I recently had the pleasure of tasting several of their products, not just the knock-out signature crab cakes but also the addictive spiced shrimp, lump crabmeat, and thick, rich, meat-packed crab bisque. You can buy all these things a la carte, along with crabmeat stuffed items, all sorts of shrimp and other shellfish, and it’s all delicious, but they have several excellent sampler packs that make awesome gifts, are very reasonably priced, and include free shipping. Most gourmet mail order food is expensive and pricy to have delivered, but Cameron’s has a reputation for excellent prices that it lives up to no matter where you are. Consider the “Bestsellers Sampler,” full of live whole blue crabs, two crab cakes and a container of the crab bisque, which feeds 2-3 people, all for just $85.Meat Lover’s Fantasy:In this country, the highest grade of beef you can buy is USDA Prime, which accounts for less than 3% of all the red meat in the nation. What makes this rarefied beef even better is lengthy, careful dry aging, which evaporates out water and leaves richer, even more flavorful beef behind. Elsewhere in the world, Japan is the most famous for its legendary melt in your mouth, incredibly marbled beef, and it lives up to its lofty reputation, but the vast majority of the “Wagyu” sold in this country is not from Japan, and much of it tastes nowhere near as good as the real thing. For the meat lover on your list, you can address any or all of these high-end concerns by ordering from specialist New York Prime Beef. I did just that earlier this year, and as someone who has written extensively on Japanese beef, traveled around Japan eating it, and also covered great beef here in this country in depth, I was totally impressed with both the imported Japanese wagyu and excellent domestic beef. All of New York Prime Beef’s bone-in New York strips, porterhouses, T-Bones and some other products are dry-aged for at least 28 days (or custom “aged to order”) in their state of the art temperature-controlled facility in the Bronx, and each steak is shipped fresh, never frozen, with guaranteed free, overnight shipping anywhere in the US. You can also get celebratory larger cuts like 4 or 7 bone standing rib roasts or tenderloin chateaubriand. There are several curated collections like the Strip Sampler, which includes a 28-day dry aged Prime NY Strip, a domestically raised wagyu strip and an imported Japanese wagyu strip for the ultimate meat lover’s taste test ($250). There are several other tempting sampler options as well.