With holidays right around the corner, it’s time to consider gifts for friends and family. Luckily, the Carolinas have a wealth of food and beverage items ready to purchase and ship directly to your loved ones. From dry hot sauce to caramel cake to North Carolina ham, you’ll find something for everyone on your list here. There’s stocking stuffers, extravagant presents, and everything in between. And, if you’re not in the giving mood this year, save a few of these products to stock up your own pantry. Buy local and buy often — here are the Eater Carolinas-approved items for your consideration.
Benny T’s Vesta
Deemed the world’s first “dry hot sauce,” Benny T’s Vesta is a must for heat heads. These spices add all of the heat and flavor, without the addition of vinegar, like most traditional hot sauces. Vesta comes in various heat levels and can be sprinkled on everything, from eggs to pizza to soups. For those with tastebuds of steel, try the Scorpion, made with the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion chili, one of the hottest on the planet.
Oliver Pluff & Co Teas
Oliver Pluff & Co is a line of teas, toddies, wassails, and coffees, hand-packaged in Charleston, South Carolina. For the winter season, it has released its holiday blend, which mixes black tea with orange peel, cinnamon chips, and orange flavoring. It’s an awakening refreshment to start the day cozied up to a fireplace.
Spicewalla “What’s For Dinner?” Package
Seasoning company Spicewalla, from Asheville chef Meherwan Irani, has tons of spice tins to choose from, but for the ultimate gift, try the “What’s For Dinner?” package, which attempts to solve the age-old question of “What’s for dinner?” Flick the dinner spinner for the category and then choose from one of the included 15 recipe cards. Cuisines include Indian, Mexican, breakfast, barbecue, and Italian.
Rewined Cocktail Candles
Charleston-based Rewined has a line of spirited candles scented like popular cocktails. The gin fizz carries whiffs of cucumber, elderflower, and botanical gin. Rewined also has lines of wine-scented candles and holiday favorites, “Wine Under the Tree.”
Chai Masala-Flavored Poppy Hand-Crafted Popcorn
Asheville-based popcorn company Poppy teamed up with Asheville-based spice company Spicewalla to create a super craveable bag of chai masala-spiced popcorn. It’s a bit sweet, a lot crunchy, and full of warming spices like ginger, cinnamon, green cardamom, black pepper, clove, and allspice. The bag pairs nicely with a cup of tea or a glass of champagne.
Big Spoon Roasters Peanut Butters
The name may be Big Spoon, but these peanut butters are made in small batches in Hillsborough, North Carolina. Founders Mark and Megan Overbay only use the best ingredients, and you can taste the difference. The new El Rico chocolate peanut butter is a collaboration with California-based Rancho Gordo — it’s lovely on toast topped with bananas in the morning or straight out of the jar.
Smithey Ironware Dutch Oven
If you really want to impress the home cook in your life, show up with a recently released large-format Dutch oven (it holds 7 1⁄4 quarts) from Charleston-based Smithey Ironware. This big boy can handle cooking for bigger groups — which makes it perfect for the entertainer or sizable family in your life. Smithey’s signature finish will never chip or crack, and it looks great just sitting on the stovetop.
Alley Twenty Six Cocktail Syrups
Durham-based bar Alley Twenty Six received a James Beard Award nomination this year for Outstanding Bar Program. Cocktail lovers can have a bit of that experience at home with fancy syrups from founder Shannon Healy. Fresh flavors like blood orange can really kick up an Old Fashioned made right in your kitchen.
Nine Mile’s The Trinity
For those who love a bit of heat, Asheville-based Caribbean restaurant Nine Mile has bottled its flavors for home consumption. The Trinity package includes bottles of Red-i (chipotles and fire-roasted tomatoes), Hempress Rising (tomatillos and jalapenos), and Sun is Shining (mango, ginger, and curry). Even if your giftee doesn’t cook, these sauces can kick up takeout from Indian fare to tacos.
Alexander’s Ham Co. Ham
Slices of country ham might seem like an odd gift, but if you were to open these on Christmas morning, you would have a grand addition to your biscuit breakfast (assuming someone made biscuits that day). Based in Landis, North Carolina, Alexander’s Ham Co. has cured pork products since 1950. It says it right on the package: “Great for ham biscuits.” Go big and order a whole ham.
Books From Across the Carolinas
Several great books came out of the Carolinas this year. The Lost Southern Chefs by Charleston writer Robert Moss tells stories from the beginning of commercial dining in the nineteenth-century South. Edible North Carolina is a collection of recipes and essays from writers, farmers, and chefs, along with beautiful photography from Baxter Miller, to tell the story of food movements across the state. Gullah Geechee Home Cooking by Edisto Island matriarch Emily Meggett shares the history and recipes of the Gullah Gechee people in the South.
Tonya’s Pecan Crisp Cookies
Entrepreneur Tonya Council is the granddaughter of famed Southern chef Mildred Council, better known as Mama Dip to fans of the Chapel Hill restaurant Mama Dip’s. Tonya has fond memories of cracking pecans with her late grandmother. While working at Mama Dip’s, Tonya tried her hand at making a cookie that tasted like her grandmother’s pecan pie — eventually, the pecan crisp was born. It’s light and crunchy with just the right amount of nuttiness and sugar.
Red Clay Spicy Peach Honey
Peaches are more associated with warmer weather, but who wouldn’t want a taste of the Southern summer in the middle of winter? Charleston-based Red Clay puts out a spicy peach honey and a peach hot sauce. Red Clay recommends the honey for everything from biscuits to ice cream.
South Carolinian Caroline Ragsdale Reutter served her first caramel cake in 1982, and since then, Caroline’s Cakes have become a staple of celebrations in the South and beyond. Based out of Spartanburg, South Carolina, the bakery ships giant confections straight to your door. The famous seven-layer caramel cake is just the beginning — they also make flavors like sweet potato (an Oprah favorite), chocolate peppermint, coconut cloud, and more.
Daysie Simple Syrups
Daysie simple syrups came out of a pandemic project from Charleston entrepreneur Tara Pate. In an attempt to improve her home coffee bar, she couldn’t find any worthy syrups, so she made her own. Now Pate has a line of three flavors: Madagascar vanilla, salted caramel, and coconut almond. The syrups can be used in coffees, teas, and cocktails. The sparkling gold spout makes the bottle worthy of counter space.
Cúrate Charcuterie Box
Can’t make it to Cúrate in Asheville this holiday season? Well, then have chef Katie Button’s food delivered to you (or to a loved one). The charcuterie-tasting box comes with three Cúrate sausages, goat cheese, figs, North Carolina honey, a blend of olives, and crackers — a perfect spread for those who want a restaurant meal but don’t want to cook.