The best gourmet food gifts to buy (and which to skip)
We tried the best gourmet food gifts to find out
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There’s nothing quite as sweet as receiving a delicious treat in the mail, whether you’re getting one as a gift or recovering from surgery. We had heard of popular gourmet gift services like Harry & David and Hickory Farms, but we wanted to find out if they were as good as their reputation claimed—and whether the smaller guys, like Jeni’s and Just Pop In!, were just as good.
We found some of the most popular food gift services and put them to the test. Here’s our verdict on which food gifts are worth your money—and which you should skip:
1. Buy: Harry & David
Our favorite treat: Moose Munch
Harry & David has a solid reputation for delivering high-quality gift baskets and treats—and there’s a reason. We tested a wide variety of treats from Harry & David, from their famous pears to their holiday-themed gift towers. Among all the foods we sampled, we weren’t let down by a single one.
The standout for us was the Pear Express Train Gift (which, ironically, didn’t come with pears). This gift tower just looked impressive when we received it. It’s shaped like a festive train and makes an incredible gift for anyone with little ones, because it can be easily repurposed as a fun new toy.
The box comes with a mix of savory and sweet treats, like white-chocolate covered peppermint pretzels (that I ate immediately), hickory-smoked summer sausage (that my husband ate immediately), and Moose Munch popcorn, which is, frankly, criminally delicious.
2. Buy: Nuts.com
Our favorite treat: The World’s Finest Mixed Nuts
As people who review products for a living, there’s a litmus test for something truly impressive: Would we recommend this to friends and family? Not only have we done just that with the products from Nuts.com, we’ve even gifted them some tins and snacks as a way to send some cheeriness in quarantine.
We’ve sampled dozens of different Nuts.com snacks—check out our in-depth review—and all have consistently impressed us. The packaging is fun (especially these days when cardboard boxes double as wrapping paper), and everything from dried fruit to mixed nuts to organic raw cacao goji energy squares is incredibly fresh and delicious.
We’ve added raw nuts to salads and inhaled peanut butter pretzel bites by the handful, but our very favorite treat is the aptly named World’s Finest Mixed Nuts. Arriving in a gold tin, this 2 lb. treat features cashews, almonds, Brazil nuts, pecans, and hazelnuts mixed in just the right amount of seasoning to make it hard not to eat in one sitting. You’ll probably want to order one for yourself while you’re at it.
3. Buy: Baked by Melissa
Our favorite treat: Holiday Cheer Cupcakes
Baked by Melissa is a boutique bakery based in New York City that specializes in mini cupcakes. And when we say mini, we really mean bite-sized; don't feel embarrassed when you have to look your husband in the eyes and tell him you just ate six cupcakes at 10 a.m. (because that's what I did).
These tiny treats are indescribably good. Each mini cupcake has its own special flavor, which could be anything from chocolate chip pancake to caramel cake batter to even Oreo cheesecake. You can purchase a 25-, 50-, or 100-pack of cupcakes, which is enough to last you about... four days. Each cupcake is individually iced and decorated, with specialty cupcakes even featuring an additional sweet on top (like tiny marshmallows you'll find on top of the caramel hot cocoa cupcake).
We tried two varieties of Baked by Melissa, both of which were tailored for the winter holidays: Holiday Cheer Cupcakes and the Festival of Bites Cupcakes. The Holiday Cheer Cupcakes came with snowball, caramel hot cocoa, candy cane, and snow cap flavors. My husband and I devoured the first tray within 10 hours of receiving it—each bit was powerfully packed with flavor, making it increasingly hard to resist eating another. The standout for me was the peppermint-flavored "candy cane" cupcakes, which had a small piece of peppermint bark on top of each bite.
A pack of 25 cupcakes will cost $30, plus an additional $15 in shipping if you're outside of the New York area. As a gift, I'd absolutely consider sending these cupcakes—and I will be sending a package of gluten-free cupcakes to one of my co-workers this season.
4. Buy: Milkbar
Our favorite treat: Cake truffles
We were very excited to get our hands on Milkbar, which has become so popular in recent years, it was even showcased on the latest season of Netflix’s Chef’s Table. This boutique New York-based bakery sells cookies, cakes, truffles, and something they literally call “crack pie.”
We sampled everything but the pie (which we now regret). The cake was delivered in a small box and wrapped in hard plastic, meaning it kept its shape perfectly throughout the shipping journey. We were worried it’d be dry, but it was surprisingly moist and bursting with flavor. The icing was sweet and well-portioned—and don’t even get us started on the truffles on top (they were incredible).
The standout among the items we tested were the truffles. They were delicately soft, teeming with flavor, and deliciously filling (so you don’t have to worry about gorging on more than you should). We tried the seasonal strawberry shortcake flavor and loved it so much that we immediately ordered a second batch. That’s how good Milkbar was.
5. Buy: Just Pop In!
Our favorite treat: Signature Collection Gift Box
We should probably be embarrassed by how quickly we ate an entire box of Just Pop In! popcorn. But, honestly, there’s no shame in our snack game. The popcorn was fresh and crunchy, and the toppings were on point—flavorful without being overpowering.
Just Pop In! cooks up popcorn covered in everything from spicy pepper pickle to dark chocolate sea salt. We sampled the Signature Collection Gift Box, what we now consider the ultimate crowd-pleaser. The box (tied up with a charmingly old-fashioned red-and-white string) features some of the Indianapolis shop’s most popular flavors: caramel, sharp cheddar, caramel nut crunch, and Indy Style (a mix of caramel and sharp cheddar). Each was better than the next, but we loved the salty-sweet combination of the Indy Style mix.
Should your giftee be a popcorn fanatic, Just Pop In! also offers their popcorn by the gallon. You can fill half- to 3.5-gallon tins (festively decorated for every occasion, including birthdays, Pride, and the ultimate movie night) with up to three flavors. There’s even a scoop to help you really dig in.
6. Buy: Jeni’s
Our favorite treat: Brown Butter Almond Brittle
Jeni’s is a small Columbus-based ice creamery that ships pints nationwide. It’s known for its bold flavors, like Wildberry Lavender, Goat Cheese with Red Cherries, and Brandied Banana Brulee. We built our own box and tested out some of the standout flavors.
Each ice cream shipment comes packed in dry ice, so the ice cream itself stays perfectly chilled. Jeni’s sends frequent shipping updates as well, so you don’t have to panic about your ice cream melting before you can get to it. The ice cream itself is out of this world. The price may seem steep—each pint costs $12—but once you try the flavors, it’s not hard to see why. My mother, who’s lactose intolerant, even swears by their dairy-free collection.
My favorite flavor, which is unsurprisingly one of their most popular, is Brown Butter Almond Brittle. I normally gravitate toward chocolate, but there’s something about this particular blend of butter, almond, and heaven that gets me every time.
7. Buy: Cheryl’s
Our favorite treat: Thank You Gift Tin
We consider ourselves to be cookie connaisseurs—there’s never been a time we’ve said, “Hm, no thanks” when offered a chewy chocolate chip, a crisp ginger molasses, or anything in between. So we were skeptical when we saw the delivery from Cheryl’s featured cookies individually wrapped in plastic. They seemed more mass-produced than we were expecting.
But, boy, were we wrong. Despite looking like a cookie you may grab off a shelf at the store, these babies tasted homemade. The cookies were soft and chewy, and we could’ve eaten the buttercream frosting by the spoonful. The crisp citrus flavor in the Buttercream Frosted Lemon Burst Cookie distinctly reminded me of a lemon bundt cake my grandmother used to make.
We ordered the Thank You Gift Tin for its variety—chocolate, key lime white chip, salted caramel, butter pecan, crunchy sugar, and more—and we’d recommend each one. There are decorative tins available for every occasion so you can find the one that best represents your giftee.
We also tasted the 10-piece Brownie Sampler, which features chocolate fudge, blondie walnut, cashew chocolate chip, raspberry crumb, caramel peanut butter, and more. These were less impressive than the cookies, but still a solid choice. We’d recommend going all-in on cookies though—you can’t go wrong.
8. Buy: Wolferman’s
Our favorite treat: Nutty Sticky Buns
Wolferman’s Bakery sells an assortment of homemade baked goods, including English muffins, cinnamon rolls, scones, and sticky buns. Being an avid home baker, I came to the table with a critical eye to see if Wolferman’s could meet my standards—and it delivered.
We tested the Delicious Delivery, which came with a wide assortment of treats in an adorable cardboard mailbox. The packaging makes it an ideal holiday gift, if not for the novelty alone. The treats inside were as delicious as they looked, from the tangy preserves to the chewy English Muffins.
My favorite of the bunch was the massive sticky bun, which was nearly as large as my head. It was sticky, sweet, and gooey—everything a sticky bun should be. The scones were also chewy and delicious, which we weren’t expecting as they were delivered in individual plastic wrappings. Overall, we were pretty impressed with what Wolferman’s brought to the table.
9. Skip: Hickory Farms
Our favorite treat: Sweet Hot Mustard
We had high hopes for Hickory Farms. Their bestselling Summer Sausage & Cheese Gift Box has nearly 2,000 glowing reviews online, and the presentation of meats and cheeses upon opening the box was impressive. It easily seemed like a gift worth giving.
Looking just like the picture upon arrival, the box, which retails for $49.99, includes two 10-ounce signature beef summer sausages, a 10-ounce smoked cheddar blend, a 10-ounce farmhouse cheddar, a 6-ounce smoked Gouda blend, and 2.5-ounce bottles of honey pineapple mustard and sweet hot mustard.
Unfortunately, we were let down by the taste. The sausage was dry and the cheeses tasted overly processed (a peek at the ingredients label confirmed as such). We did actually really enjoy the mustards, which have earned a spot in the fridge for sandwiches and future charcuterie boards. They’re also sold separately in sets of three 10-ounce squeeze bottles.
- Get Honey Pineapple Mustard (3 bottles) from Hickory Farms for $14.99
- Get Sweet Hot Mustard (3 bottles) from Hickory Farms for $14.99
10. Skip: Simply Chocolate
If I had to rank the things I love most in life, it would go 1. My husband, and 2. Chocolate. We had very high hopes for Simply Chocolate, but in the end, the company fell below our expectations.
We tested the Simply Chocolate Splendid Sweets Basket, which is actually not listed on the Simply Chocolate website anymore. It came with chocolate bark loaded with almonds, chocolate-covered popcorn, pecan clusters, hard caramel candies, and raw almonds and cashews. The bark wasn’t as tasty as it looked and the pecan clusters were merely OK (on par with what you could buy at the supermarket for a much lower price). The chocolate-covered popcorn left much to be desired, especially when compared to Harry & David’s Moose Munch.
Ultimately, Simply Chocolate didn’t really impress us. They have a wide selection of chocolate-covered pretzels and truffles that we didn’t try, but if you’re looking for a delicious chocolate gift, we recommend buying from Harry & David instead.
11. Skip: The Popcorn Factory
Our favorite treat: White cheddar popcorn in the Thanks a Bunch Popcorn Tin
When you’re dealing in gallons of any type of food, you should make sure you really love it. Unfortunately, the tins from The Popcorn Factory don’t quite measure up. The popcorn we sampled was perfectly fine for a small stack, but it tasted a little stale upon arrival, which didn’t bode well considering there’s only so much popcorn a person can eat in one day and some of these offerings can hold a whopping 6.5 gallons.
We ordered the Thanks a Bunch Popcorn Tin, which features butter, cheese, caramel, and white cheddar popcorn. In terms of flavor, there was no beating the white cheddar. It was definitely tasty, just perhaps not the freshest we’ve ever had.
We did enjoy the fact that some tins, like the Framed for the Holidays Popcorn Tins can be customized with a personal photo. It’s a nice touch that’s sure to be appreciated this holiday season especially. Looking for a tin that can double as décor? The holiday gift tins will make a great impression.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.