Check out the ultimate Barefoot Contessa Gift Basket...one can only dare to dream...
1) Good Olive Oil: great olive oil is such a treat to have on hand for everything from simple pasta dishes to dunking fresh bread. You can get a wonderful bottle for anywhere from $15-30, or find an Italian specialty shop, buy a vat of the stuff, and get pretty bottles from someplace like an Ikea or your local craft shop, sterilize them, and create your own bottles tied with festive ribbon for simple gifts or stocking stuffers.
2) Ditto the above with Great Balsamic Vinegar.
3) Jenna at Eat Live Run has a great tutorial up on making vanilla sugar for a gift, and all you need is a couple pounds of the white goodness and some vanilla beans to recreate this idea in your kitchen.
4) Local Jams and Jellies make unique and special gifts. However, even non-local brands can be a delicious treat. We love Bonne Mamon and Crofters Organic jams, both of which are available at large grocery stores. Create a package of four and pair it with a fresh baguette from your favorite bakery, or some new tea towels if you are shipping it farther than bread will travel.
5) Have you seen the vast array of nut butters for sale these days? Everything from hazelnut butter to white chocolate or maple peanut butter to almond butter seem to be proliferating on the supermarket shelves. Nut butters tend to be pricey ($8-10 per jar), and I think most people stick to good old PB to get the most bang for their buck, which makes specialty nut butters a perfect gift. They're special, versatile and a bit of a treat; all hallmarks of good gifty-ness. I've heard great things about all the varieties from Peanut Butter & Co.
6) Most guys I know would be pretty thrilled to receive a case of local, seasonal beer with a bow on it.
7) Why not provide your recipient with an instant party? Buy a bottle of wine (it need not be super-pricey to be good), a hunk of aged cheddar, some fabulous crackers, a jar of olives, and some candied nuts, throw them in a cute reusable grocery bag, and your friend has half their holiday party menu solved, or a damn good dinner for two.
What's your favorite last minute holiday gift?
It's the thought that counts, you know.