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San Diego food gifts for the foodie on your list.


Our gifty little guide to all things San Diego food—made by San Diegans, or in San Diego, or around San Diego—by San Diego people who do San Diego things, like making San Diego food. Get the point? Buy local, especially at Christmas when some retailers depend on the retail infusion to float them through the dark wintery months to follow. We do a little catchup today (apologies—but we hooked up with a couple of mall Santas too early on Friday and the whole processing system at Mexican jails takes a real long time). Our "12 Days of Feastmas" three-day special starts with...




WINE BATTLES: A gluten allergy found local San Diegan Mike O’Brien beerless and thirsty, so he got deeper into wine. Now, he's married America's office-pool love of March Madness with the traditional wine-tasting experience. The concept is called Wine Battles—a tournament-style wine tasting where eight wines are shipped to tasters in pairs each week until a winner is crowned by popular vote. O'Brien hopes that by "gamifying” wine through social media he can break wine’s barriers. Each week winos should become more knowledgeable about their favorite wines and those outside their comfort zone. Sign someone up for a tourney. http://www.winebattles.com/


CARRUTH CELLARS: The Solana Beach urban winery is a killer place to stop by for a taster. And club members and one guest get free tasters every time they stop by the winery (an industrial-cool warehouse behind trendy Cedros Ave.) Their 2009 North Coast Barbera and 09 Alexander Valley Cabernet got big kudos from wine-snob daily, SF Chronicle. See their website here. 

TRIPLE B RANCHES: A Valley Center family winery that's featured on wine lists at The Linkery and Rancho Valencia. Grandson Chris Broomell is winemaker, having worked at Jaffurs Wine Cellars (Santa Barbara). He’s making estate varietals from Viognier to Merlot, plus some funkier selections (like Alcala, a Rhone-style mix of Marsanne and Rousanne) under his own single-vineyard label, Vesper. Check their website here.

LOS PILARES: Admitted bias. San Diego Mag’s account exec Gina Mendola and her husband run this garage winery, made of pure SD country grapes. They’ve just released their 2011 vintage (50% Grenache, 50% Carignane), and the 2010 version hit SF Chronicle’s Top 100 Wines of 2012. There’s no wine club, actually. But you can buy it by the case and knock out six gifts in a single purchase (assuming you’ll keep six bottles for yourself). See their website here. 



DALLMANN CONFECTIONS: Isabella Valencia is one of the city’s top chocolatiers. Her folks got started in the dark arts in Austria in the '50s. Daughter’s carrying on the tradition in Flower Hill Mall in Del Mar. Her sea salt caramels will make your palate do embarrassing dances in your mouth. For the holidays, she’s got a gift box of assorted truffle ornaments: gingerbread, Egg nog, Champagne and cane chocolate. Browse her website here.

JACK FISHER SQUARES: Jack Fisher is yet another chocolate jedi, having worked with James Boyce at Azzura Point and overseeing dessert at Nine-Ten in La Jolla. Now he’s joined the Cucina Urbana team, and he's currently hawking his chocolate caramel squares—caramel wrapped in 70% Valrhona, topped with cocoa nibs and French sea salt. You can buy ‘em at Cucina Urbana in Bankers Hill.

AZUCAR: Ocean Beach’s munchie–prone contingent has a gem in Cuban patisserie, Azucar. The real catnip is chef Vivian Hernandez-Jackson’s chocolate sea salt caramels. At only 50 cents a pop, you can just go ahead and fill stockings with the stuff. Browse her menu here.


TEA GALLERIE: Tea isn’t for grandma. A whole new guard who started at Starbucks has moved onto oolong, white, black, green, even pu-erh. Our favorite little specialist is Tea Gallerie—a San Diego company whose leaves are sold at major outlets and retail (Whole Foods, Hotel Del, Zanzibar, etc.). They also recently opened up a little storefront in Kearny Mesa (7297 Ronson Rd.). You can shop them online at teagallerie.com.



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Restaurant reviews, food trends, top cocktails, wine, beer and generally the best eats and drinks in San Diego, by Food Editor and general good guy Troy Johnson.

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