Holiday Food Gift Ideas That Go Beyond Gift Cards

When shopping for delicious holiday gifts, restaurant gift cards are the cheat code. Sharing your favorite place with friends is a guaranteed win, easy as pie.

For you, anyway. As a professional restaurant recommender, giving my friends gift cards for my selections seems rude. If my review didn’t convince them to visit me, bribing them would be too pushy, even for me.

So give all the gift cards you want, but they’re not my cup of tea.

Instead, my gifts generally fall into three categories: treats that liven up any gathering, things that can be mailed to faraway friends, and the darkest coffee ever.

Bring to the Festive Gathering:

Butter Block, 426 Rhode Island St.,

Croissants on Butter Block

Chocolate hazelnut croissants, left, and almonds in the case of Butter Block Bakery & Patisserie on Rhode Island Street.

Buffalo News file photo

Showing up with a case full of Parisian-level viennoiserie is a strong sign that you’re serious about celebrating. Buffalo’s Best Croissants ($4.25 to $5.50), made with expertly imported French butter, are offered in half a dozen flavors, including chocolate, almond, pumpkin seed, and salty pretzel. Kouign amann ($4.50), the layered Breton cake, packs more thickly caramelized buttery satisfaction per microgram than anything I’ve ever known.

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Fresh Arabian Sweets, 560 Amherst St.

eight dollars worth of fresh arabic sweets

Assortment of baklava and Syrian pistachio cake at Fresh Arabic Sweets.

andres galarneau

Syrian-style baklava here is $8 a pound, which means that for around $12 you can load up a big shell full of buns, cups, knots, and other baklava shapes baked that day. They are made with pistachios and a touch of sheep’s milk butter. Other options include syrup-soaked multi-nut spice cake and sometimes knafeh, cheese sandwiched between layers of crushed phyllo.

Flat 12 Mushrooms, 37 Chandler St.,

Mushroom Galette in Flat 12

A flat 12 mushroom galette.

Derek Gee

Mushroom and cheese borek pies ($18 for 4) and mushroom, feta and tomato galettes ($16 for 4) can be ordered in bulk for pickup any weekend at the Buffalo Mushroom Superstore. Thanksgiving brings vegan shiitake dip ($14 quarts) and BreadHive mushroom casseroles and bread filling ($30) in vegan or with cheese.

Grange Outpost, 4236 N. Buffalo St., Orchard Park,

Palmier cakes at Grange Outpost

Palmiers, or glazed pastry hearts, are also offered daily at Grange Outpost.

Mark Mulville

This branch of Grange Community Kitchen, my favorite restaurant in Western New York, has put world-class bakery treats within easy reach of Southtowners. Top-notch efforts include house-baked cinnamon rolls ($18) and specials like the Danish in Hazelnut, Fig and Pear ($5.50) or the pecan pie croissant-muffin hybrid ($5).

Wild Wheat Project,

Each week, $30 gets customers their choice of breads, granolas, treats like brownies or cookies, and a snack, all made to Savage Wheat Project’s exacting standards. That means all-organic grains, mostly ancient varieties, natural sweeteners, and unprocessed oils. Ordering of Thanksgiving pies (pumpkin pecan, pumpkin swirl cheesecake with oatmeal crust) starts soon.

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Buffalo Artisanal Food Traders, 4558 N. Bailey Ave.,

Weber's Horseradish Mustard Among Buffalo Favorites at Buffalo Artisan Food Traders

A freshly grilled Sahlen’s smokehouse hot dog with onions and Weber’s horseradish mustard.

Buffalo News file photo

To see a dizzying array of locally produced foods that can be shipped elsewhere as a Buffalo sampler, check out the website or stop by the store, just south of Sheridan. Weber’s collection of shelf-stable, refrigerated snacks, sauces, jellies, jams, horseradish mustard and more will help ease those nostalgic pangs the best way: by eating. Free shipping within 15 miles of the store on orders over $50.

Dark Forest Chocolate, 11 W. Main St., Lancaster,

Most chocolate shops sell stuff made elsewhere, recast to suit your needs, and there’s no shame in that. But if you know someone who is interested in the nuances of chocolate the way some people are in wine, consider gifting them some made with ground cocoa beans here in Lancaster. Try their award-winning 52% milk dark chocolate with cocoa nibs ($8.50).

Dark coffee:

Underground Cafe, 580 South Park Ave.,

Cobain, Lincoln among the ghosts of the underground cafe

Undergrounds Coffee House was a funeral home. His Roastery Club allows customers to buy a mug made by artist Jody Selin with the face of a dead person they’d like to have coffee with and get deals on food and coffee all year long. Two members would like to have coffee with Kurt Cobain and Abraham Lincoln.

Buffalo News file photo

Tucked away in a former funeral home, this shop adds a darker touch to your cafe by setting up a club where you can have a cuppa with a dead person. Well, your photo on the side of a custom-made mug, that is. Roastery Club ($100) gets someone 10% off, a pound of coffee, and a mug designed by artist Jody Selin. (There are rules. You can’t pick someone who’s already been mugged. Read the list on the site first.)

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